“Lovin’ don’t last — cookin’ do!”
I remember the first time I saw that quirky little saying. Attributed to the Amish (which I seriously doubt was true, since there were virtually no Amish anywhere in the South at that time), the words were cast into the top of an iron trivet for sale in a roadside convenience store.
The gas pumps were located out front and the cash register at the back of the store, along with the “conveniences.” Credit cards? Pay at the pump? Not back then. You had to go inside to pay with cash.
The customers would have to pass by shelves of packaged “fast food” and inexpensive impulse merchandise to pay for their gas. The bathroom was also located at the back of the store. This was a slick way to generate extra sales.
Children bored silly after riding for miles in a sedan without air conditioning were probably the gas stations’ best customers. Who didn’t need a laugh (or at least a snicker) hours into a two-day trip?
As a child, I thought the trivet was hilarious and so did daddy. Mother managed a very tight little smile and said she had enough trivets.
Some entrepreneur soon caught onto the fact that the average family needed just so many cast-iron trivets. Thus, the funny-phrase-on-a-magnet was born. One of my favorites announces: “Smiley’s Rest Stop Just Ahead: Eat and Get Gas!”
Apparently, I inherited my father’s irreverent sense of humor. I recognize that fun is where you find it and if you keep your eyes open, you find it nearly everywhere. The same can be said for food it’s everywhere.
Pralines are a fond memory from those long trips in the car. Every rest stop south of the Mason-Dixon line offered packaged pralines (a ridiculously sweet caramel-tasting candy loaded with pecans and shaped into a patty). I looked for them as soon as I cleared the door of the convenience store, always left with some, and busied myself with them in the back seat of the car for the next 50 miles or so. There’s nothing like a kid on a 100-mile sugar high.
Recreating good food at home is a fun challenge for me even 50 years after the fact. These pralines are every bit as good as I remember them being when I was a child. The recipe is an old one, and I’ve written it just as it came to me.
Try them, enjoy them, and remember another old phrase — “everything in moderation.”
DR. CARVER’S PRALINES
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 cups pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/16 teaspoon salt (a pinch)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cook sugar, cream, salt and syrup in a saucepan, using a wooden spoon to stir mixture while it cooks. Cook for about 10 minutes, until it reaches the soft ball stage. To test, drop a small piece of the mixture in a cup of cold water. If a soft ball forms, which can be picked up with the fingers, it is done.
Remove from heat, add butter, pecans and vanilla. Beat until mixture begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased wax paper. If mixture becomes too thick, beat in an additional teaspoonful of cream.
Makes a little over three cups. Don’t make them too big they are very rich.
Scientist Dr. George Washington Carver is well known today as the “father of the peanut.” This is a recipe is from the collection of The Tuskeegee Institute in Tuskeegee, Alabama.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.