The Deliciously Dirty Pages

This is the latest installment of a new feature on JustMelanieW.com to showcase old, tried and true, family favorite recipes handed down through the generations. And where are they found? On the dirtiest, most stained pages of beloved old cookbooks.

These aren’t The White Pages. They aren’t the Yellow Pages. They are the Deliciously Dirty Pages, where good cooking and memories of great cooks are forever preserved.

This writer has a collection of old cookbooks, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years old, which were used by her mother. She kept the cookbooks and has beautiful memories of making those favored recipes, as well as spilling ingredients on the pages.

The theory is the dirtier the page, the better the recipe.

Each Wednesday, JustMelanieW is featuring these culinary wonders, sure to still please because they have been made many times with great success – again, identified by being on the dirtiest pages of these archival hard copy treasures.

We would also love to share your family favorite recipes from your own Deliciously Dirty Pages. Just send them to mel@justmelaniew.com. And if you want to share pictures of the end product, or your family making it, or a picture of the dirty cookbook pages where the recipes were found – please send those my way as well!

Some of our greatest memories come from the kitchen . . . and those Deliciously Dirty Pages.

Today’s featured recipe: Homemade noodles

I fully realize it’s super simple to just walk to the pasta aisle in the grocery store, grab a bag or box of whatever type you want and have dinner in a minute for literally only a few dollars.

But I have to say some of my fondest memories of growing up were made on cold weather “noodle days.” Yes, we had noodle days.

My mother always had a lot of eggs because of our chickens and a lot of flour because she bought it in obscene amounts in flowered cloth bags. This was back in the day when everything was made from scratch because it was cheaper and well, that was just what you did. All that said, the ingredients for homemade noodles were always on hand even though we lived far from town.

Of course, we used dried store pasta all the time – but when we had snow days from school (which really happened pretty often back then), Mom would declare noodle day was on. It would start as soon as everyone had eaten breakfast because the process pretty much took up the whole table.

She’d mix up a giant batch of dough, flour the entire dinner table, hand out rolling pins and off we’d go.

We created one hell of a mess, because of all the flour and the short arms rolling stuff. But we also created one heck of a fun day with great culinary reward at the end.

There would be flour in our hair, flour on the linoleum and raw egg/flour would be caked on the fronts of our little shirts. My mother never worried about the mess – she said that could always be cleaned up at the end.

When we were smaller, Mom always cut the noodles into long strips with a knife. When we were older, she handed out scissors so we could help cut the strips that way. Somewhere along the way we got a pizza cutter and of course, that worked fantastic.

She told us stories about her growing up on Grandpa Pete’s pig farm and we told her stories about feeding the baby calves.

The snow would fly around outside and the flour would fly around that tiny little house.

After all the noodles were cut, we would be shuffled into the living room to fold freshly washed diapers while Mom let us watch “All My Children.” She loved the soap opera and we were too young to understand the controversial content. The massive amount of diapers needed to be folded and she needed to see what Erica Kane and Adam Chandler were up to, so it worked out well.

The whole point to taking a break from the noodle making was to allow them to dry. That’s a very important step to making homemade egg noodles, she said.

I even remember her hanging some from clothes hangers hooked to the edge of the kitchen counter. I’m not sure what that technique was about – maybe it was just because we ran out of space.

Eventually, Mom would declare the noodles were fully dried. She handed out spatulas and commanded us to gently pick up the noodles. They’d be placed on a sheet pan for immediate usage or put into large Tupperware containers she bought at a recent neighborhood party.

Of course, that was followed by an hour of cleaning up all the flour and stuck-on dough. We’d scratch and scrub, wipe and mop. That was the worst part of the day, but we knew supper would be decadent because she’d been slow cooking a chicken on the stove all day.

She would strain out all the bones and skin, before adding chopped celery, carrots and onions, as well as the returning the meat to the pot. That would simmer away, creating a heavenly scent.

And then right before it was time to eat, she’d drop in those noodles which soaked up the broth while they became tender. Of course, we had homemade bread to go with it because homemade bread was a staple. It’s so funny how as a kid I longed for “store bread” but now find homemade bread to be a luxury.

We’d slurp up every noodle and Dad would comment how amazing it tasted, always adding, “Then again, I’m as hungry as a bear.”

This week, as I searched for the delicious dirty page of the week, I was overjoyed to find mom’s homemade noodle recipe in the old 1970s 4-H Cookbook on page 77. It has a big X by it and there are little flecks of dried-up flour and raw egg which were left behind decades ago.

Sure, the noodles are great. But I think it was the process of making them which made them even better because of the memories they created.

Homemade noodles by Jayne Zajicek and Mrs. Albert Unger (perfected by Cheri Mueller)

Note: This recipe makes about the right amount for one average family meal. We made huge batches so the math had to be done in order to multiply the recipe. Feel free to do so, if you want to embark on a noodle day.

1 whole egg

4 egg yolks

2 teaspoons cooking oil

2 teaspoons water

1 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

Mix together eggs, cooking oil and water. Add flour and salt. Mix until it forms a smooth ball. Divide dough in half and roll each half out to a very thin circle on a floured board. Leave to dry for about one hour and cut to desired thickness. (Here is where Mom deviated from the recipe, by allowing the strips to dry). Drop into boiling soup or boiling, salted water and cook 10 minutes to be used in casseroles.

 

 

 

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