Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
Well, school ended on Friday and Meg had a softball tournament on Saturday, so we were off to the races-so to speak. The Hillsboro Crush traveled to Clay Center for a one-day tourney that got off to a late start due to rain delays.

After playing four games, battling chilling winds, avoiding mud and splashing around in the puddles that dotted the outfield, the team and their families where ready for a hot meal on the way home after a long day of activity.

With the team huddled for a post-game meeting, it was unanimously agreed that on this trip to Clay Center, we wouldn’t be stopping for our traditional picnic with food picked up and carried out from the Brookeville Hotel Restaurant in Abilene.

(If you’ve forgotten from past columns, the restaurant offers its delicious home-style chicken dinners at a fraction of the sit-down price if the meals are carried out. We have found that one dinner can easily feed two people.)

Anyway, it was way too cold for a picnic; we would eat chicken at a later date. So, when we left the ball diamonds at Clay Center, we agreed to meet at the Sirloin Stockade in Abilene for a late supper before heading back to Hillsboro.

But guess what? Abilene’s Sirloin Stockade is no longer in business. I have a sneaking suspicion that Brookville chicken killed the fatted calf.

It was almost 9 o’clock when we found ourselves holding another meeting about a place to dine. Where to eat in Abilene when you’re looking for cheap eats for a group of 30, half of them kids with decidedly big, yet somewhat selective appetites? Where could that be? Hmmm?

Becky Lindsay came up with the answer. “The bowling alley has good food.”

The bowling alley? Hey, it sounded crazy enough to get my vote. Besides, the other choice was the Pizza Hut and-well-we get enough pizza.

We drove the short distance and were surprised that the bowling alley does indeed have a full-service restaurant attached. We were warmly greeted at the door by two waitresses and shown to our tables.

OK, at the time we were the only people there so we just sort of took over. But in a few minutes we were happily perusing the menus that offered everything from burgers and fries to 12 oz. steaks and smoked pork chops. The waitresses also pointed out there were two evening specials: smothered chicken and Salisbury steak.

Soon the drinks were ordered and served and the waitresses were writing up the tickets for orders of fried mozzarella sticks, smoked chops, and chicken fried steak-with real mashed potatoes.

It was when the orders were half taken that a strange thing happened. The cook came out from behind the partition that separated the kitchen from the dining room and asked-actually demanded- that we all order the same thing.

“I guarantee I’ll mess up your orders if you all ask for something different,” the cook said. “I can only do so much and I have more orders from the other counter I need to fill. So, if you could all have chicken strips, it would be easier.”

Never in my life have I seen anything like that. I’ve worked in restaurants during my high school and college years, and that would have never, never happened. I catered for 13 years and I wouldn’t have ever treated a client in that manner.

“Order what you want, please,” our waitress said. “He has help in the kitchen.” So we did.

In a short time, the orders were up and served-and I’m not aware of a single mishap. The “Bowler Burger Basket,” with its huge double hamburger and golden fries looked just as appetizing as the “Chisholm Trail Steak” topped with grilled onions and mushrooms that I enjoyed.

Plates heaped with light, crispy onion rings, rich Salisbury steak, wonderful hot dinner rolls and-yes-even a few orders of chicken strips were greedily devoured and the conversation turned from “the rude cook” to jobs, kids, summer vacations, and making plans for the team’s Krispy Kreme doughnut fundraiser in front of Vogt’s IGA, Friday, June 6.

And yes, that’s a shameless plug.

We paid our tabs, making sure the attentive and pleasant waitresses were compensated for their work. Their attitudes and conscientious service easily made up for the cook’s bad behavior. I think he just panicked.

So, if you’re ever in Abilene needing a good dinner on a budget -my steak served with baked potato, vegetable and a roll was $7.99-head for the bowling alley.

Just don’t rattle the cook.

* * *

USD 410 and MCSEC recently hosted a retirement party for school psychologist Mary Ann Jones. One of my jobs was to make the punch. The Simple Pink Punch recipe that follows went over well and was simple to prepare. The ingredients are readily available, relatively inexpensive and because it is made as needed, there is little waste. And it’s really pretty-perfect for a summer wedding or reception.

I also threw in a variation using cherries. These two recipes might be good ones to keep on file for future events.

Simple Pink Punch

Makes about 70 (4-oz.) servings

2 (46-oz.) cans of fruit punch, like Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C

1 (2-liter) bottle of lemon-lime pop, like 7-Up, Sprite, etc.

1/2-gallon French vanilla ice cream, cut or scooped into fist sized pieces

Chill liquid ingredients well before serving. In a large punch bowl, combine fruit punch and pop. Gently slide in ice cream. Stir gently to blend. Punch will be light and foamy. Serve.

Cherries on a Cloud Punch

Makes about 70 (4-oz.) servings

2 (46-oz.) cans of fruit punch, like Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C

1/4 cup grenadine syrup

1 (2-liter) bottle of lemon-lime pop, like 7-Up or Sprite

1/2-gallon French vanilla ice cream, scooped or cut into fist sized pieces

Chill liquid ingredients well before serving. In a large punch bowl, combine fruit punch, grenadine syrup, and lemon-lime pop together. Gently slide the ice cream into the punch. Float cherries on top of foamy clouds.

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