Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Not Thanksgiving Without ...

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My darling readers,

Every family has something that is a staple of the most festive Thursday in November.

"It's not Thanksgiving without Auntie Rachel's butterflake rolls!"

"How can it even be Thanksgiving without the broccoli salad Grandma always makes?"

"I don't think it counts as a holiday unless the uncles are bickering about politics."

Every year, for eons, my Grandma Oregon (we called her that when we were little because she lived in Oregon ... she's since moved, but the name stuck like flies on flypaper) would make this traditional family recipe - Frog-Eye Salad.  There are lots of variations of this on the web, but I am not sure what the origination of the recipe is.  I just know that there was a little index card once upon a time, and since those days it has been typed up and emailed to all the family cooks.

One year, the baton of the Frog-Eye Salad was passed on to me.  I don't remember how it happened, but suddenly I was the Keeper of the Salad!  It was my special baby.  Nobody else could make it.  I made sure of that.  Every Thanksgiving, I proudly went through the mysterious process of cooking the recipe, a process I shrouded in mystery to keep from other household cooks (not that anybody wanted the recipe, it would just give them one more chore at Thanksgiving ... so it was pretty easy to keep it "secret").

Then came a staggering blow - I was about 18, and it was two days before Thanksgiving.  I fell victim to a mysterious, horrible illness that had me sleeping on the couch for upwards of twenty hours a day.  My body was covered in rashes, I couldn't eat, and I had the strength of a former alcoholic in a bar on free-drinks day.

This was devastating!  In our family, the women would cook for days before Thanksgiving, and almost all night on Wednesday, and I considered myself a central part of this with all my "expertise" in the kitchen.  I was missing school, work, and cooking - unheard of!!  The day before Thanksgiving I lay frail on the couch while my sisters ran in and out of the kitchen with bowls for me to examine, textures for me to approve, and - they had to make the Frog-Eye Salad.

Now that the secret is out, I see no reason why not to share this treasured recipe.  It's probably my favorite pasta salad in the world.  It is sweet, has a mysterious aura, the texture is phenomenal, the aroma is magical, and it has nothing to do with frogs.  The day after Thanksgiving, you have to be quick to try and get some leftovers for breakfast - this is always the first thing to go!

We've tried unsuccessfully to change the name a few times, but we always end up accidentally coming back to Frog-Eye Salad!

Traditional Frog-Eye Salad
No frogs were harmed in the making of this recipe!  When a friend of mine was getting married, friends and family provided a potluck dinner and I made a septupled version of this recipe.  It disappeared immediately!  We usually make the first part of the recipe on Wednesday, and then on Thanksgiving morning we finish off with the additional mix-ins.  

1       large can crushed pineapple
1       can mandarin oranges
                         -drain and save the juice from both cans.  
Put fruit in fridge.  (If you want, after draining and reserving the majority of the juice, refrigerate the fruit in a mesh strainer to allow fruit to drain even more.)  

Cook according to package:
1       cup of Acini de Pepe, rinse and drain in a fine-mesh sieve.  (You will find acini de pepe in the pasta section.)  

Combine the reserved juice with
1       cup sugar
2       tablespoons flour

Cook, stirring continuously, until thick, then slowly drizzle in 
3       beaten eggs*

Cook until thickened. 

Add the acini de pepe, refrigerate for several hours or overnight to cool. 

In the morning, add drained fruit and: 
½       10 oz bag miniature marshmallows
8       oz tub Cool Whip

Stir and refrigerate until dinner. 

Will hold up to one week, but you'll be lucky if it lasts two days.

*If you pour the eggs in all at once, they will cook and you'll have scrambled eggs in your sauce.  Alternatively, I suggest beating your eggs in a small bowl, then gradually adding spoonfuls of the hot syrup to the eggs while you continue beating.  Then pour everything back into the pan and continue with the recipe.  

What is something you just can't imagine Thanksgiving without?  Is it a special dish, or is it a particular tradition that your family loves?  Maybe you can think of more than one thing!  In our family there are some special whole wheat rolls, the frog-eye salad, deviled eggs ... it just wouldn't be the same!  And on Thanksgiving morning, we attend a one-hour service at our church.  Everybody brings bags of food and supplies for the food-bank, and I can hardly picture a real Thanksgiving without this special service.  

What do you treasure?  

Thankful for traditions, 

Mrs H

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