The Story of Food

When I am home I love hanging out with two couples who are major foodies. We love going to dinner at current hot spots and discussing each thing ordered. These dinners can stretch to almost 3-3.5 hours. The stories flow and the laughter is headier than the best wine. I adore these times.

Recently we started discussing our favorite childhood dishes. I immediately thought of my mom’s Chicken Plantation.  When she made that dish she could ask my dad for anything…and get it.

I loved watching her make it. 

With a flick of her wrist she would fan flour onto the counter, then roll out the dough into a large square, sprinkle it with fresh parsley and onion, then roll it up and slice the dough into big fat biscuits. The she'd carefully place them, pinwheel side up, in a deep square dish baptizing them in rich, made from scratch gravy and fresh picked chicken. Into the oven it went. In minutes the whole house smelled heavenly. 

We would gather around the table and mom would present the food with love and pride. I'd scoop out a steaming biscuit and I swear, as a little girl, those biscuits where the closest thing to spring clouds that I could imagine. It is still one of my favorite dishes.

Another dish I loved as a kid was Shoo Fly Pie, a local dish that was a tradition especially in the spring. I grew up in Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Talk about good food. The south thinks they own comfort food but oh my, Dutch cooking and Amish
cooking in Pennsylvania cannot be beat for comfort.  
Yummm. Just made and already half gone

Shoo Fly Pie is basically just a molasses pie. I like mine wet bottomed, which mean super gooey.  It’s called Shoo Fly Pie because it is such a sugary treat that at potlucks you have to constantly shoo away the flies (that's a yummy picture).  

The best thing about these recipes, actually all recipes that bring us comfort, are the stories that go with them. Dinner table stories, helping mom in the kitchen stories, cooking with the kids stories; all things that are becoming a rarity.
I hope you enjoy these childhood dishes and I hope many stories are spoken over each bite, around your dinner table, with those you love.

(I am giving you my version of Chicken Plantation which I have switched up to be easier than my moms but just as delicious.  Please feel free, in the comment section, to share your favorite storied dish).

Chicken Plantation (Kim’s way)
4 cups fully cooked chicken.  Shredded or cubed.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup 2% milk (or, if you are in a party mood go with whole milk - we grew up on goats milk from the farm)
2 cups fresh peas (frozen thawed is fine. You can add cooked carrots too)
2 cups biscuit/baking mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1. In a large skillet sauté chicken (or boil a whole chicken, pick it clean then add to skillet) and onion in butter until onion is tender. Combine soup and milk, stir into chicken mixture. Add veggies; heat through. Pour into an ungreased shallow 2.5 quart baking dish.
2. Combine biscuit mix and water until a soft dough forms. On a lightly floured surface knead dough 10 times. Roll out into a 12 inch square. Sprinkle with parsley (and fresh onion if you prefer).
3. Roll up jelly roll style. Cut jelly roll into 12 pieces, place over chicken mixture, pinwheel side up. Bake, uncovered at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until biscuits are golden and chicken mixture is heated through and bubbly. 
Serve with warm, homemade, chunky applesauce and strawberry short cake for desert and you have one of my childhood meals on your own table.

Wet Bottom Shoo Fly Pie
1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (or unsalted butter)
1 egg
8 ounces molasses (good and dark)
6 ounces boiling water
1 tspn baking soda
1 9 inch unbaked pastry shell (make your own or store bought if in hurry)
Use a deep pie plate, those little aluminum things from the store will not suffice.

Mix together the flour, brown sugar and shortening
Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture for the topping
Add remaining flour mixture with the egg, molasses, baking soda, and boiling water.
Gently mix
Pour into pie shell
Sprinkle the crumb topping over pie
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 350 and bake for 30 more minutes.

This pie is good warm, but it gets better if it sits for a day...but I guarantee it won't last that long. 

Apollo 8 and Genealogy? Yes.

On December 21, 1968 Apollo 8 was launched into space.

This would be the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit.  The astronauts were able to see the far side of the moon, orbiting it 10 times. Finally, mankind’s longing to reach space and see the moon up close and personal had come to fruition. But an amazing
thing happened along the way. Once the astronauts entered space, they could not stop looking back, gazing at planet Earth.  Their desire to look upon where they had come from became more powerful than looking ahead to where they had not yet been.  It became such an overwhelming desire that they named it Earth Gazing.

I think life is a lot like that.   

In our youth and in our quest for new and exciting things, we propel forward with great passion and excitement, hoping to discover new worlds but then, we hit a certain place where we realize that where we've come from is just as amazing and awe inspiring as where we are going.

I am always searching for new experiences, creating new things and trying to discover new worlds but a year and a half ago I realized that my personal history is just as fascinating as the unknown that lies ahead.

I guess I have reached a place where, as I float among the years of my life, I have decided to turn and look back. It is addictive. I cannot stop gazing into the history of me. This is not narcissistic; it’s a natural human desire, to feel a part of something bigger.

I have always told personal/family stories, it’s how I make my living, but a year and a half ago I decided to start digging into my family history. Using online resources, Family Search and, I started to uncover information, documents, and pictures that helped me see the whole picture of where I come from.

One hour turned into two hours turned into 8 hours turned into a yearlong project and now, an ongoing expedition. I can’t stop. I've uncovered pictures of my great, great grandfather. I've found documentation of my grandmothers addresses, which gave me a map of her life.  I've found my great grandfathers marriage certificate, my grandmothers marriage certificate and...her divorce records. I learned about aunts and uncles and I learned things about my mom and dad.  Slowly, my whole world is coming into focus.

Doing this family research led to some deep and meaningful conversations with my parents.  They are at the time of life when all they do is look back.  When I started sharing with them what I found, they sounded young again…thirsty for information. No matter how many times I called and told them about the latest family puzzle piece I had found, they wanted more.

How sad it is that I was in my late 40’s and my parents in their late 70’s when we began this journey.  I wish we had started when I was younger.

Recently Parade Magazine had an article titled, The Secrets to a Happy Family.

Get this.

When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who knew the most about their family history were best able to handle stress.  The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of “ inter-generational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.

I wonder if that is what the astronauts were feeling.  We all know we are a part of something bigger, but they actually got to gaze on it.

Your family knows they belong to something bigger, but knowing it and actually hearing about it…seeing it, are two very different things.

Whether you share your family history by doing genealogy/family research or by sharing family stories at the dinner table…who cares?  Just do it. Better yet, do both. Here is the best part; your family isn't looking for fairy tale endings. Share with them the good, the bad and the ugly. It will help them through their own good, bad and ugly times. Let them gaze upon where they came from.

The main word in history is story. Share your stories. You were designed to. 

Recently I had the honor of presenting and keynoting at Story@Home/Rootstech, a beautiful melding of story, genealogy  and technology. It was a fabulous experience. I highly recommend that you either attend next years event or at least sign up for their live streaming.