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Let’s Cook

By Staff | May 4, 2012

May, without a doubt, is my favorite month. This is due to the fact that my very favorite flowers bloom in May-yellow and orange ruffle-cupped daffodils, chaliced tulips arriving in a kaleidoscope of tones, and four-lobed flowering lilacs which are heavenly and display implausible tones from heliotrope to deep violet.

For years, I have believed that all men who want to start a war should first behold the sight and smell of a fantastic lilac. I do believe it could change their mind. So is it the power that a flower holds that I want to share with you today? No, that may come with a later column.

Today, however, I want to share with you another delight of May- and that is May Day which brings May baskets. I can remember making May baskets for my classmates, neighbors and my grandpa, as a youth in Underwood. Taking them to school or dropping them off at the neighbors: Mrs. Mummert, Mrs. Bertha Koening, Carol and Don Oie and Leroy and Millie Hoff. We would sometimes set them on the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and then run! Being of Norwegian and Danish decent, however, we did adapt this method to more suit our heritage. This was done by ringing the doorbell and presenting the May basket and then being invited in for a visit. This was way better than running off; and besides, it was usually another chance to enjoy coffee and treats as well!

My mom enjoyed making May baskets. They were usually done with Dixie cups and pipe cleaners which were fashioned into a curved handle. I can recall, however, one year when mom went over the top with May baskets. It was perhaps because she was helping host a bridal shower for my second grade teacher, Miss Cook. Without a doubt, the baskets were elaborate, labor intensive, and impressive. It was the one and only time I witnessed her creating ruffles with crepe paper on her sewing machine. She created two sets of ruffles that covered the cups like a bridal skirt. They were done shades of mint green, soft yellow, and white. Just when I thought she had finished the masterpiece, she crowned it with braided handles fashioned in deep brown and warm tan crepe paper. Each basket was filled with pastel mints, and since our plum tree was blooming, a flowering plum sprig finished off this handiwork.

You may ask yourself, “What is the importance of this May basket story?” For me, it is a connection-a steeping-if you will, to my past. Like a marinade, I am quickly immersed with memories not only of mom and May baskets but my first grade teacher, Mrs. Hepper. Mrs. Hepper was a classic teacher. She made sure we made May baskets. She not only helped us create a sweet square paper May basket, but she explained that flowers are always a great connection for May baskets. She let our class know that the month of May is the crossroads for spring and all the jewels that it brings forth like daffodils.

Last week I found the May basket that I gave my parents 45 years ago. It is faded and worn, yet still handsome, and possesses a vault of kind and happy memories. I took that basket and realized this was the perfect time to unlock the May basket combination for Lydia. After all, she has the visiting aspect of our heritage down to a science! After a bit of time at my art table, I refashioned Mrs. Hepper’s May basket with vivid orange and yellow daffodils swimming in a garden of vivid greens. Lydia has currently a love for the color teal. So with that in mind, a teal napkin had been placed in each colorful basket before our treats were dropped in. I wonder if she liked creating the baskets better or the hugs and kisses she received as she distributed her May joy!

In a day when texting and Facebook are all the rage to connect with others, it is nice to get one up on face-to-face communication! You cannot text a homemade May basket. So Happy May Day! I hope you take the time to revitalize an honorable tradition.

Keeping with the theme of baskets I share with you a recipe for stuffed green pepper baskets. This recipe came from Maxine Strand. It originated with Curt’s mother and their restaurant at Edmore.

Stuffed Green Peppers

6 large green peppers

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoons salt

3 cups diced or coarsely ground cooked ham

1 cups cooked rice

teaspoon black pepper

cup butter

1 cup sliced onions

4 peppercorns

6 whole cloves

1 cup condensed tomato soup, undiluted

2 cups canned tomatoes

Wash peppers; cut thin slices from stem end; remove all seeds. Cook peppers in boiling salted water in Dutch Oven 5 minutes. Drain; reserve liquid. Combine ham, rice, pepper. Fill drained green peppers with this mixture. Melt butter in Dutch Oven; add onion; saut until golden brown. Tie peppercorns, cloves in small piece of cheesecloth. Add tomato soup, canned tomatoes, spice bag, liquid in which peppers were boil onions, mix. Stand peppers upright in sauce. Cover, simmer over low heat 30 minutes. Makes six servings.

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