Depression Recipes with Clara

I love this lady. I love the fact that in her 90′s she is still cooking and taking on new challenges. Look at how comfortable she seems before a video camera! And check out her website and wares.

We all should be so ripe and ready when we are in our 90′s!

Here Clara, then age 91, (look at her beautiful, unlined skin!) is making Pasta with Peas, what people in my family used to call “Italian Soul Food.” She relates stories about bootleggers, too, so while the pasta is cooking, you get a little historical flavor!

I could watch her all day!

Clara reminds me of the older ladies in my family and the way they cooked (and I often still cook). If you need a cup of rice, you measure with a coffee cup. If you’re scrambling eggs, a fork is as good as a whisk. You’re dicing a potato or an onion? You do it over the pot! And always wear the wedding rings!

My Auntie Lillie would have loved Clara, and granny and mom; I like that so many of her recipes involve one pot, or one skillet!

One of the videos has Clara (she’s in her 90′s remember) demonstrating how to dig up dandelion roots for salad. That may explain, in a nutshell her vigor and longevity. Consider that for the first half of her life Clara likely ate mostly whole foods with few preservatives, and she talks about her garden, so we know her vegetables were fresh and not hothouse-grown.

When I was a little girl, there was a German couple in the neighborhood. They only passed within the last ten years, having lived to 99 and 100, respectively. They ate pork, butter and eggs and drank whole milk (and a glass of beer) every day of their lives. When I would visit, the wife would serve me a delicious lunch that included a ham sandwich (butter on one slice of bread, mayo on the other), deviled eggs and a healthy slice of her made-from-scratch cake. Dandelion salad was sometimes on the menu in summer, because there was a woods nearby, untouched by chemistry, and they were plentiful. “A good liver tonic,” they would say. “Dandelion roots cleanse the liver and the blood.”

According to this site they do more than that. I probably should have eaten them instead of bitching about their bitterness. I haven’t seen a dandelion root for salad in decades, but I would try them, again. Likely my childhood horror would be stilled.

They always had a garden. “Pop” would go outside to smoke his cigar and he’d pull a few weeds while he was out there. She would make her own puddings, her own jellies and cakes, and she always said that if you just make your own food -rather than rely on packaged goods- you can eat anything you want, and not get fat.

She never was the least bit heavy, but “Pop” grew a bit of a gut in old-age.

Clara has a cookbook, and, of course, the whole series on video which I’m thinking my MIL would enjoy. I’m also thinking that one SIL, who doesn’t allow her girls to watch commercial television, might be parking her kids in front of Clara, who is very easy to watch:

Go Clara! How utterly adorable is that little treasure of a woman? As I watch her, I realize I am smiling.

Excuse me while I go watch her two-parter on Peppers and Eggs!

[FTC Disclaimer - if you buy either of the Clara items though these Amazon links, I may make sixty cents a book or so from the sale, for which I thank you. I would recommend Clara to you, anyway, because I love her -admin]

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Gerry

    Congratulations – since I see no disclaimer, you must have finally gotten the FTC off your back!

    [Oops - thanks for the reminder! -admin]

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  • Maria

    How perfectly delightful! Thank you.

  • F

    Wow, I could watch her just to get my minimum daily Gramma quotient. I feel loved just watching her. Never had a Granny or a Nonni. How sweet.

    Well, just goes to show that the euthanasia types are all wrong about snuffing out the aged among us. They are some of our greatest treasures. Talk about a natural resource! It would be a cold world without our elders.

    Bless you for posting Clara…The Pioneer Woman’s big competition! Ha!


  • TNP

    Depression era? I just made this for lunch yesterday. This is considered a delicacy in my family. We’ve been eating this stuff since I was a little girl.

  • Joi

    Anchoress, I think you would love the blog “Life Advice from Old People”: A young man in Hollywood has taken to recording his encounters with seniors, and passing along their stories and advice.

    Oh, and don’t forget My Mom the Style Icon! About time moms got to be seen

  • Elaine

    “Depression era? I just made this for lunch yesterday. This is considered a delicacy in my family.”

    Interesting how things that past generations made out of poverty and/or a desire to avoid waste — from quilts to French toast (which the French call “pain de perdu,” or literally “lost bread”) — are now considered trendy and upscale!

  • Susan K.

    My dear MIL, who was whisked away to Heaven almost two years ago, and was a fantastic Pennsylvania Dutch cook, once said that all one needed to make a meal was potatoes, onion, celery,and milk. And she was right.

  • Alice DeMerse

    I am so pleased for Clara and her book. I am only 82 but I still cook from scratch (also quickies) and make the holidays like they were when I was a child. Having survived “29 Crash”, I know that the most important thing is being a Survivor. Have faith and stick together as Americans. IRISH45

  • dick

    Love dandelion greens. I remember well going to the park in our little town with my grandmother to gather dandelion greens. She would cook up a big pot of them with ham hocks and onion. We had that with home made chicken and dumplings and home made bread. She would make a big jug of iced tea to go along with it. Dessert would usually be a nice bowl of fresh berries from her garden. She was from the Appalachian mountains moved to central Ohio and never changed her cooking. Good old fashioned country cooking with loads of fresh veggies and home made noodles and biscuits.

    She had a huge garden in her back yard. I think the yard must have been about 250 feet deep and about half of it was garden along with a couple of apple trees and a peach tree and cherry tree. It all got eaten.

  • Anglican Peggy

    My first thought was of my own Grandma who, God bless her, didn’t live to be 91 (how I wish!), but boy could she could some Ukrainian soul food. No one could ever fill me up like my Baba did.

    My second thought was of how this woman speaks. She is either from the same area as my Baba ie. Western PA, or there is maybe something to the cadence of speech of that generation. We know that the way people speak and pronouce words changes over time, but I don’t think that I ever thought that the way the older generation speaks is in fact something generational. I wonder.

    Anyway, for those who might be wondering since Ukrainians are a bit underrepresented on such an Italian/Irish heavy blog ;-) Ukrainian soul food is golubki, kielbasa & pierogies (with butter and mushrooms on top) and of course it can’t be the genuine article unless it is cooked with lots of love!

    Lastly, what a doll this lady is. Thanks Elizabeth for sharing this with us. Since i love pasta enough to be Italian myself, I will be making this sometime in the very near future. I love simple filling dishes like this.

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  • Joan Mooew

    I am just eating this – Pasta with Peas, cooked as per the video! It’s good! Thanks, this will now be a regular for me. I’m sure it would also be good with meatballs on the side!

  • Sharon

    I have watched only one Clara programme; the one where she cooks potatoes, onions and frankfurts. I cooked this for my family but instead of the frankfurts I grilled some sausages and sliced them into the meal. My husband and son now say that this is one of their favourite meals. Now that I know Clara has more programmes I will watch them and I am sure I will add her meals to my repertoire.

    She is the grandmother everyone wants to have. I am happy for her that she is so fit.

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