Real Cooking

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how our family was toying around with ideas for a summer vacation. In that column, I mentioned that Keith had nixed the idea of going to some areas of the country because he didn’t want to go to anyplace “where there are hillbillies.”

I then went on to say that he didn’t want to go to Missouri or Arkansas, so that ruled out places like Branson and Dollywood.

A co-worker, Judy Pryor, caught up with me one day at the elementary school.

“I’ve got a message for your husband,” she said with an affected twang. “I’m originally from Arkansas and I ain’t no hillbilly. I wear shoes and everything.”

I assured her that neither my husband nor myself were trying to slur the image of the good folks of Missouri or Arkansas. Perhaps I should have made it clearer that Keith was speaking about going to those theme parks whose theatrical productions seem to center around hicks from the hills.

After some good-natured bantering, Judy walked away. But I did notice she was leaning slightly to one side. Walked too many hills in her youth, I reckon. Ha.

So, there Judy. Happy now? You got your name in the paper and everything.

(And, no folks, we aren’t unhappy with each other. This is all done in fun…and she knew it was coming. So please, no letters, calls, e-mails or comments behind my back about how I write about private individuals without their permission.)

Since that column, I can’t tell you how many people have asked if we have determined where our vacation will take us. I think we have finally settled on traveling Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The idea came from my son, Alex.

One evening, we all gathered at the kitchen table to share ideas.

“If you could choose, where would you like to go for vacation?” Keith asked our 13-year-old twins.

I thought they would say, “Back to Florida,” or, “We’ve never been to Hawaii.” But without hesitation, Alex answered matter of factly, “Hershey, Pennsylvania.”

My husband was incredulous. “Hershey, Pennsylvania?” Keith looked at me.

“Why, son?” I asked. “Why Hershey?”

“Because the air smells like chocolate. You would know that if you watched the Travel Channel or Food Network. I’ve seen Hershey on TV and it’s really sweet. In fact, they call it the ‘sweetest place on earth.”‘

“Well, if we go to Pennsylvania, I want to go to Gettysburg.” That came from Meg, who’s friend Suzy had visited the Civil War battlefield last summer. “I want to go on the ghost tour that Suzy took when she was there. She said it was fun.”

“Pennsylvania, huh? That’s a long way to go to smell air and see ghosts. Let’s think about it.”

And with that, Keith disbanded the meeting.

But the next day the subject was brought up again when my brother, Doug, and his wife, Kathy, came from Wichita to have dinner with us.

“Hershey’s a great place to visit,” my brother began.

“And I think you’ll be surprised to see how close Gettysburg is,” my sister-in-law finished.

We found the atlas and spread it open. Doug found Hershey and then showed us that within an hour or so we could be in Gettysburg. Another two and half-hours would put us in Washington, D.C.

“Look, Keith. Lancaster County is right on the way. We could visit the Amish.” I pointed out the route that would take us through the Pennsylvania countryside.

And then remembering this year’s list of things to avoid while on vacation, I quickly added, “We wouldn’t interfere. We could just wave as we pass by.”

My brother looked somewhat puzzled by my comment, but he went on to say, “If you went to the D.C. area, you could visit The Smithsonian Museums, tour the city, see the White House….”

“No…. no White House,” I said.

“Why not?”

“It’s on the avoidance list,” I answered.


Doug is familiar with my quirks, so he just continued, not wanting to delve too deeply into a subject he might not want to know about.

“You could go to Mount Vernon,” he said.

“Uh, no…. Revolutionary War…it’s on the list.”

“What list?” Kathy couldn’t take it any longer; her interest had been piqued.

“Anything that involves hillbillies, Revolutionary War sights, White House tours, or interfering with the Amish are things that Keith refuses to participate in doing while on vacation,” I said.

“Oh, I can understand the Revolutionary War sights,” said Kathy, who hails from Massachussets. “I grew up with ‘on this rock…’ kind of stuff. You see one, you’ve seen them all. If you aren’t a serious history buff, it can be really boring.”

So, for now, it looks like we are going to Pennsylvania to smell the air, visit a Civil War battlefield, and to wave at the Amish on our way to not see the White House.

I just hope we can avoid any run ins with hillbillies.

* * *

In honor of the “sweetest place on earth.”

Hershey’s Chocolate

Thumbprint Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

1/2 cup softened butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg, separated

2 tbs. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped nuts

Vanilla filling (recipe follows)

26 unwrapped Hershey chocolate kisses

Cream together butter, sugar, egg yolk, milk and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually stir in dry ingredients, beating until blended. Refrigerate dough at least one hour or until firm enough to handle.

When ready, shape dough into 1-inch balls. With a fork, beat egg white slightly, and then dip each ball into egg white. Roll in chipped nuts and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Press thumb gently into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set. Meanwhile prepare the vanilla filling. When done, remove cookies from oven and transfer to wire rack. Let cool for five minutes. Spoon about 1.4 tsp. vanilla filling into each thumbprint. Gently press chocolate kiss into center of each cookie. Cool completely.

Vanilla filling: Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbs. softened butter, 2 tsp. milk and1/4 tsp. vanilla extract in small bowl. Beat until smooth.

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