Real Cooking

Repository or depository? I can’t decide which word would be better to use in trying to properly describe how our front porch is being currently utilized. Repository or depository? Hmmm….

Oh, let’s just get real and call it what it is-a dumping ground. Right now our front porch is not what the home beautification magazines might call “warm and welcoming.”

No, it conjures up a memory of a run-down farmhouse we drove by several years ago while traveling in rural Southern Idaho.

We had driven by this place and had been so taken aback that Keith actually turned the car around and drove back to get a second look. What had once been a glorious, spacious home featuring a broad front porch with carved, majestic pillars that reached clear to the top of the second story balconies, was now all chipping paint and sagging roof.

A pitiful swaybacked horse and a couple of bony cows stood in the grass-less front yard, which was strewn with scavenging chickens, red and yellow plastic kid’s toys and various rusting pieces of scrap metal. Scrap perhaps taken from some of the rusting vehicles that set around the outskirts of the property.

Once upon a time, this house was cherished. Once upon a long, long time ago.

So now, as I look at my front porch with its cache of plywood scraps (from the house remodeling), it’s overturned coolers and thermoses (from wheat harvest) and it’s pen of chickens (from Mr. Rod Just’s classroom project), I can’t help but think we’ve sunk as low as that unloved house in Idaho.

I know that with a little spare time and a little elbow grease our porch will come back to being at least serviceable if not warm and welcoming. We have one of those concrete slabs of a porch that sits in front of most ranch-style houses. Not a lot of charm, not a lot of room.

Which is too bad, because I have this thing for sweeping wrap-around front porches that have gingerbread fretwork and painted wooden floors. Ideally, there should be baskets of airy ferns and terra cotta pots filled with red geraniums. And a porch swing where one can curl up with a glass of icy lemonade and a good book at the end of a summer’s day.

My masseuse, Carolan McFarland of Marion, has a front porch like that. Jack and Betty Price of Hillsboro transformed a nondescript house on a corner lot into the beautiful Carousel Bed & Breakfast with a porch like the one I would like to have. I would love to have Richard and JoAnn Wall’s porch, too.

Oh, it’s true. I have porch envy. And maybe I should. Maybe we all should.

The other night, I grabbed Donna Jost and Lynn Just and we went driving through Hillsboro in search of porches.

“I have this thing for porches,” I explained to them. “And I want to share it through my column with the world…or at least Marion County. Besides, I have to write about something and it’s either porches or yogurt.

“Actually, I recently heard something very interesting about porches and how our society is effected by new houses not being built with porches out in front.”

That was from Donna, who went on to say-and this is a paraphrase-that in earlier times, the front porch was a place for socialization. In the evenings, people would sit on their front porches and welcome visits from their neighbors and others out for an evening stroll.

In contrast, today’s “porches” have become our backyard decks and patios and only those who have formally been invited into our homes are welcomed to “come by and sit a spell.” As a society we’ve gone from community to privatization.

I found this interesting because the last time we were in Florida we had made a visit to Disney’s residential village, Celebration. There the homes are deliberately built with oversized front porches and verandas so that “neighbors can actually talk.”

Yes, that quote is taken directly from their marketing package.

So, I’m not the only one with a “thing” for porches.

Anyway, the three of us had a good time looking at porches. And do you know what we found? There are some folks in Hillsboro who still enjoy sitting out front to greet the world on a cool summer’s evening.

And there are some great porches -porches with lovely architectural features, porches that have been decorated with just the right touch, porches that invite the visitor to “come on in.”

Even if they weren’t friends of mine, I would still like Marlin and Cheryl Bartel’s front porch. And I like the curvature of Laverne and Linda Esau’s front entry.

Jerry and Joan Jost have done a wonderful job with the kind of porch I have (love the flowerpots on the railing). It inspires me to do something.

My all-time favorite house in Hillsboro is located at 217 S. Madison. I find everything about this home charming. And my second favorite, at 301 E. Grand, has a porch that I find architecturally stunning.

Darrel and Paula Kohlman have a lovely front porch-and it’s for sale, along with the house, of course. Wendell and Raye Dirks have a good front porch as do Don and Marilyn Ratzlaff. And Larry and Elaine Nikkel have done a marvelous job of decorating a small, enclosed porch on a new house.

The Knaaks have just added a really pretty wrap-around porch to their home and the Barkmans’ home on U.S. Highway 56 is absolutely beautiful with its wrap-around porch and matching gazebo.

But my absolute favorite front porch in Hillsboro is-ta da-the one that graces the home of Paul and Chris Unruh. There it is, my ideal.

It has everything I like. And there’s not a chicken in sight.

* * *

This recipe can be made in about 20 minutes and doesn’t heat up the whole kitchen in the process.

Chicken ala Orange

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 flour

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 cup butter (you can use less)

2 cups orange juice or 1 cup each of orange juice and white wine

1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained

Dust chicken in mixture of flour, salt and paprika. Saute in butter until golden brown. Pour in orange juice, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, turning pieces once or twice. Uncover and reduce liquid to a slightly thickened sauce. Add oranges and heat through. Serve with rice.

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