My debut novel, Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace, set in a small town in the early 1950s, features Mrs. Minerva Place, a prickly widow who would prefer to be left alone. Completely. But even the most disagreeable people have to eat.
Minerva isn’t much of a cook. She’ll make a pumpkin pie if she gets invited somewhere for Thanksgiving (which, she assuredly would prefer to avoid), but she keeps her meals on the simple side. She’ll boil cabbage and fry a pork chop for dinner or let a small roast slow-cook with potatoes and carrots. The local grocery store, Myrick’s, offers the best meat in town, and, even if it’s a little on the expensive side, she’s willing to wait in line to get the cuts she prefers.
One of her favorite meals is white beans simmered all day with ham hock. It’s perfect with her neighbor Nella’s homemade chow-chow, a slice of yellow onion, and a hot chunk of cornbread liberally covered in butter. Another meal she adores, but seldom makes is fried chicken livers. She loves to order those when she eats out because they’re such a mess to cook at home. But not everyone knows the secret of a good batter that will result in a crunchy exterior and soft interior—much like a perfect cookie, come to think of it.
Hands down, Minerva’s favorite lunch is a pimiento cheese sandwich. Once again, she prefers Myrick’s recipe. It’s the perfect blend of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimientos, vinegar, and a touch of sugar. It miffs her just a tad that she can’t figure out the recipe, but nobody else in town has been able to replicate it either. That’s a small consolation.
Her neighbor Nella loves to experiment in the kitchen and often shares her dishes with Minerva. Unfortunately, Nella’s experiments include meals like Tuna Fritters and Fritos Veal Rolls. Not exactly what Minerva would prefer. Why mess with your basic meat and potato? What meat has ever been enhanced by Fritos?
On the other hand, Minerva always welcomes Nella’s sweet treats. Sugar, preferably blended with flour, butter, and eggs that results in the form of a cake is Minerva’s favorite visitor. Nella makes a delicious cherry pie, and her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is to die for. Moist, super chocolatey, and smothered in a rich, fudgy icing—what’s not to like?
When I was writing the book, I made a point of finding recipes that made their debut in the ‘50s. If you visit my website, https://www.traceybuchanan.com, you’ll find recipes for Nella’s Tuna Fritters, Nella’s Frito Veal Roll, Minerva’s Pumpkin Pie, and Nella’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. I can’t vouch for the tuna fritters, but I can highly recommend the chocolate cake. Give it a try—maybe you have a cranky neighbor who would thaw just a little if you shared a piece.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Tracey!
Tracey Buchanan crashed into the literary world when she was six and won her first writing award. Fast forward through years as a journalist, mom, volunteer, freelance writer, editor, artist, and circus performer (not really, but wouldn’t that be something?) and you find her happily planted in the world of fiction with her debut novel, Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace (Regal House Publishing, June 20, 2023). She and her husband Kent live in the UNESCO Creative City of Paducah, Ky. They have two married sons, seven perfect grandchildren, and one very mixed-up dog. She’s busy working on her next novel but you can still catch her on her website, where she likes to putter around changing commas and so forth… https://www.traceybuchanan.com