Real Cooking

My grandmother’s china hutch, the one her brothers built for her as a wedding present, has found a new place to stand. For years it had been in our bedroom, holding everything from sweaters to gloves to picture albums to stashes of paper plates and plastic cups.

But now it’s stationed in an alcove of our living room, empty for the time being. I’m not sure what I want to display in the top shelves with the glass doors.

Perhaps some of the kid’s school projects might find a home there. I’ve kept every lopsided clay pot and misshapen ceramic bunny that they have toted home from Mrs. Loewen’s art classes but have never had a really good place to display such fine examples of, uh, primitive…pottery.

I thought about putting the hutch to use as it was meant to be utilized-displaying dishes. But my set of stoneware doesn’t fit on the shelves. And by that I don’t mean that I have too many plates, cups and saucers. No, I mean that my modern dishes, mainly the plates, are too big in diameter to either stand upright or to lie in stacks on the narrow shelves.

So, I guess the stoneware will stay in the cupboard in the kitchen taking up much needed space. Maybe I should just give it away. By last count, we have seven sets of dishes. That’s just too many, isn’t it?

I have one set of every-day Corelle that we use, well, every day. Then there is a partial set of Corelle that has only three dinner plates-the rest broke in a rash of accidents over the past six months-but cups and saucers for 12.

When we were in China, we bought a dinner set for 12 of hand-painted porcelain and had it shipped back to the states.

Then there is the set of beautiful holiday china my mother- and father-in-law gave to me as Christmas presents and a set of snowman pottery that they gave to me as well.

The oversized Pflazgraff stoneware that Keith and I bought shortly after our marriage served for several years as our “good dishes” and many a dinner party were graced by their presence.

And then there’s a set of dishes that came from my grandmother. It’s the dinnerware that we kids always ate off of when we gathered around her big kitchen table for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July. Pink, green, blue and yellow. The colors are still as vibrant as they were 40 years ago.

Those plates, those dishes fit in the china hutch. They made plates smaller in the olden days.

Dressers, too.

When Keith married me, he not only got a wife and a canary yellow Toyota, but a couple of nifty antique chests of drawers. We’ve used them in our bedroom for the past 23 years. Even though they are well made and visually appealing, their capacity for holding clothes is rather limited.

Many a day I have left the fresh laundry sitting on top of the dressers, too tired to fight again with the overstuffed, oddly shaped, narrow drawers.

But a month of Sundays ago, I hatched a plan I thought might solve several problems and get me a new bedroom suite to boot. I knew I had to approach Keith in a non-threatening (meaning “this won’t cost a lot”) way.

“Keith, I’ve been thinking….”

“Oh, no.”

“Just hear me out. With the remodeling done upstairs, we’re in need of something for the television to set on, right?”

“Yeah. Do you want an entertainment center or something?”

My husband was turning on the calculator in his mind.

“No, not really. Now stay with me until I’m through. First, we need something for the TV and then, since we’re moving the stereo system downstairs, we need something to fill up that space in the living room alcove. And have you seen Meg’s room lately? She doesn’t have enough dresser space. Her antique bedroom set is great, but those drawers are so small on her bureau.”

About this time, Keith’s eyes started to roll back into his head.

“How much,” he stammered. “What do you want and how much is it going to cost?”

“Come with me,” I said as I beckoned over my shoulder for him to follow me into our bedroom.

That got his attention.

As we stepped through the door, I continued. “What if we put Grandma’s hutch in the living room, give Meg our big chest of drawers, since it would match with her pieces, and take the other dresser for the television to set on?”

“Then we wouldn’t have any bedroom furniture.”

“Yeah, that’s true. It was just a thought,” I demurred.

But over the next hour, my husband determined that if we shuffled our old furniture into meeting our present needs and bought a new bedroom set instead of an entertainment center, storage units for Meghan and something for the living room’s empty space, we’d be ahead of the game.

He’s so smart. The bedroom set is being delivered next week.

And Grandma’s china hutch, the one that her brothers built for her as a wedding present, has found a new place to stand.

* * *

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

Round Steak Parmesan

11/4 pounds tenderized round steak (or cube steaks)

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg beaten

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. marjoram

Salt and pepper to taste

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

11/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Trim fat from steak and cut into serving pieces. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dip meat into egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Brown meat in oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Remove meat and place in a baking dish. Saute onion in meat drippings. Stir in sugar, marjoram, salt, pepper, water and tomato paste. Boil five minutes, stirring constantly. Pour two-third of the sauce* over meat. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

*You may use less sauce if that is your preference.

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