When You’re Cooking for a Crowd

Archived | September 30, 2008 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. The kids and I were in the car on the way home from a spontaneous day-long road trip, and we were the kind of worn out it feels good to be. Seems every few weeks I get it in me to have an adventure, and this time around it started early after I checked the weather and saw it would be a cool day with little sun and lots of wind. Want to have some fun? I whispered to each of the kids while they were still asleep. Within an hour we were crossing the bridge into Hudson, Wisconsin, toward the grocery store where the fresh donuts await.
Choosing a donut was probably the most stressful part of Saturday. There must have been at least thirty different kinds to pick from, and I told the kids they could each have one. Not to be cruel, mind you. It’s good to practice some degree of self-restraint along the way, I told them, and, of course, there’s always next time. We ended up with one apple fritter, one glazed donut, one cherry cream cheese Danish, and of course, a Bismarck for me. We ate them in the car on the way to the Next Place, and there really are few things as wonderful as watching one’s children eat donuts in the rear-view mirror.
There was a visit to Great-grandma Verlene, my mother’s mother, alive and well in Eau Claire, whose hibiscus plant has become a tree in her backyard and who likes nothing more than to go out for lunch, which we did. We ate salmon and quesadillas and apple pie while Verlene told stories about the war and about her husband Arlo, who proposed to her the day he left for five long years. “I still have his letters,” she said, “somewhere I have them.” Verlene got quiet then and said she’d had a lovely time but would we take her home now as she’d be needing her nap.
After that it was off to Owatonna and a pontoon ride on my father’s old old boat under a sky filled with clouds and seagulls. We talked about the election coming up and he advised me on how much meatloaf to make for Lord-knows-how-many people this coming weekend at the Fitz. How much to make is always a crapshoot. “You’d be better off having leftovers,” he said, as he cranked the pontoon toward the dock. “Nothing like looking forward all day to a plate of meatloaf and then there isn’t any.” So bring on the bowls and the bread pans and the ketchup. Bring on the bread crumbs and the parsley and the eggs.
Self-restraint certainly is a blessing, I told the kids as we drove on home, but toss it out the window when you’re cooking for a crowd. I don’t think they heard me. No one replied, and when I looked in the rear-view mirror, all I could see were three small silhouettes in the way back seat, all tipped gently against each other, all sound asleep.
This recipe is hearty and simple, and good for grey days when you’ve been out all day raking leaves and cutting wood. I’d suggest an apple cobbler to follow.
Autumn Casserole
1 small head of cabbage
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 medium sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
1 can tomato soup
Shred cabbage and set aside. Brown ground beef
with onion and add salt and pepper to your liking.
Spread about half of the cabbage in a lightly-greased
casserole, spread meat and onion mixture over, and cover with
remaining cabbage. Pour the can of tomato soup over the whole
shebang. Cover with foil and bake for an hour at 375.
Serve with homemade bread.