When checking my list of special designations for each month, I discovered that May is “National Share A Story Month.” I have written about it in the past, but it is not something I recall from year to year. I tried to think of a story that has not appeared in Cooks’ Corner before; it was hard to do since I have already told so many of them. One popped into my head, but I was sure that I had related it in the past. However, a file search through past columns and even all my documents did not reveal it except in a couple of speeches I had put together on family stories, plus I used it once in a devotion.
One of the tales my sisters and I begged our Mom to tell took place in the late 1800s. Here it is:
When my maternal grandfather was a child, the boys in his neighborhood decided to have a hat parade. Each of them would find something to place on his head, and then they would all march down the street. They agreed that the person who could come up with the tallest “hat” would be the leader of the parade. A certain young man was positive that he would get to be the leader; however, one of the smallest boys wanted to lead the parade pretty badly himself. This young lad searched for something fairly tall that he could put on his head. When he reached his home, he spotted the chamber pot sitting in the sun. His mother had scrubbed it that morning and was letting it air out. (For those who need “chamber pot” defined: it was used when there was no indoor plumbing – especially at night when people did not want to make a trip to the outhouse. Chamber pots were often enamelware, as was the case here.) The boy tried it on top of his head; it sat there just fine. He had his tall hat! He marched with pride back to the place where the parade was going to start. Sure enough, he won the contest and got to be the leader.
The parade wound its way down the street; the boy who had intended to be the leader grew more and more jealous. He was second in line instead of being first. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He reached out and gave a big THUMP on top of the little fellow’s “hat.” Balanced precariously on his ears, it popped down over his head.
Try as they might, the children could not get the makeshift hat over the boy’s head. They led him home; his mother could not get it off, either. At her wits’ end, she took the boy downtown to his father to see if he could help. They boarded a streetcar to go to the main Knoxville post office – the boy’s dad was the postmaster. During the whole ride, the boy kept yelling, “It stinks in here! Hurry, Momma! It stinks in here!” When the young lad and his mother arrived at the post office, his father was quite embarrassed. “What did you bring him here for?” he was heard to exclaim. Meanwhile, the postal employees were enjoying a good laugh. The parents finally had to find someone who could saw the chamber pot off of their son’s head because no matter what they tried, it would not come off.
Part of the fun of listening to Mom tell this story was her reaction to it. Even though she had told it often, she would always get so tickled at the end that it was hard to understand what she was saying. I hope my readers enjoy the story even without Mom’s hand motions and voice inflections that always made it so much fun to hear.
As I was searching old columns, I ran across a recipe I used several years ago that looked to be well worth repeating. Since I wasn’t too chicken to tell the hat parade story, I decided to stick with a chicken theme.
1 teaspoon olive or canola oil
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1-1/2 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; sauté for 5 minutes. Sprinkle thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt over chicken. Add chicken to pan; sauté 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, preserves, vinegar, and pepper to pan, stirring constantly until preserves melt. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings.
Maple Dijon Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 or 6 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
In a large skillet, cook chicken in hot oil for 12 minutes or until browned and juices run clear. Remove chicken and keep warm. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender. Add broth, syrup, and mustard. Bring to a boil. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to about 1 cup. Serve over chicken. Yield: 4 servings.
Marmalade Chicken for Two
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to even thickness
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 small sweet onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
In a medium bowl, whisk together first five ingredients.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate; cover with foil to keep warm.
Add remaining oil and onion to pan; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 30 seconds. Whisk broth mixture; add it to pan. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Add chicken; return to a simmer. Cook, turning once, until the chicken is heated through. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest.