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Foods rooted in tradition

Betsy Anderson embraces old-fashioned basics of cooking

Betsy Anderson embraces old-fashioned basics of cooking

June 06, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

The kitchen is the focal point of Betsy Anderson's home.

With a love for the culinary art, Anderson is a cook in total command of the old-fashioned basics.

She and her husband, Stanley "Andy" Anderson, moved to Falling Waters, W.Va., in April, after 20 years in the Mount Aetna area of Hagerstown. Their previous home was too big, Betsy Anderson said. Both of their daughters are grown, and the couple shares a new house with a blue-eyed cat, Toshi.

The Andersons' new home is far from small, with plenty of room for visits from family, including six granddaughters. There's also room for Betsy Anderson's grandmother's table and potholders hand-quilted by her mother.

Many of her family memories are linked to food.

She grew up in Blairs Valley and attended Huyetts Elementary School.

Her parents, Don and Delva Rinehart, both loved to cook. They bought the Del Mar Inn in 1948 and owned it for eight years.

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Anderson said her mother was known for her pies, especially lemon meringue. She recalls her father's made-from-scratch French fries soaking in water before he cooked them.

Anderson shared a recipe for Peach Upside-down Cake, a favorite on her father's peach-orchard-owning side of the family and a source of memories for her.

She made cookies with her Aunt Mae, and she spent a lot of time with her maternal grandmother, Bessie Gruber Conley. She remembers going to "Mamaw's" kitchen in Williamsport on Sunday mornings after church and fixing a late lunch together - fried chicken shaken in a brown grocery bag with flour and a bit of salt and pepper.

She also recalls her grandmother's words as she made her baked macaroni and cheese: "Remember. It takes two kinds of cheese to make this good, and you must have your milk covering the noodles prior to putting it in the oven."

Anderson's grandmother also told her it was important to bake it slowly.

"Oh, my," she said. "I can still smell her kitchen on Sunday afternoon."

Anderson's kitchen recently was fragrant with Mamaw's Macaroni and Cheese, still a family favorite. Her oldest granddaughter, Katie Wagner, 15, told her that she plans to carry on the tradition.

The "circle of life" continues, Anderson said. She tries to give her granddaughters what her grandmother gave her.

Do you cook dinner every night?

I do, most every night. Especially since we moved. I'm just really enjoying this kitchen. If we go out for dinner, it's usually one evening a week.

Where did you learn to cook?

I guess from my mother. She did help with some things. I remember going to Strayer Junior College (in Washington, D.C.) right out of high school. The first three months we were in the dorm at DuPont Circle. Then they moved us out to Alexandria, Va., and we had a little kitchenette. One Sunday, all of us wanted a roast chicken. I didn't know how to roast a chicken and had to call home and say, "Mom, what do you do?"

But in high school I made things from home ec - we had never made a roast chicken. ... I took probably four - three years of home ec.

Did you cook with your mom as a kid?

Not much. She didn't want that mess in the kitchen.

But Aunt Mae left me mess.

When was the first time you remember making the macaroni and cheese?

Let me see. How long have I been housekeeping? Maybe 1970, I'd say I experimented with it.

Why do you keep making it? What makes it successful?

Everybody just loves it. Everybody. I've never had anybody say "Oh, this isn't good." It's easy to prepare. It feeds a lot. And it's very nostalgic I take a trip back in time with this.

Does your husband cook at all?

No. I think he would like to, but he doesn't.

Let him!

He'll make a salad.

Do you have a favorite thing to eat?

Fried chicken.

Do your friends or family have a favorite recipe?

The macaroni and cheese. My grandchildren love my fried ice cream balls. Grandma didn't do that.

I like to bake, I like to cook.

People enjoy my soup and my chicken salad. I am Pennsylvania Dutch through and through. ... We buy 100 ears of corn, cook it, throw it in ice water, cut it off, bag it in pint bags and freeze it. And that's the only way I know to get good chicken noodle corn soup - with rivvles. (Rivvles are little balls of dough in the soup.)

(For chicken salad) I only use the white meat and a little dab of sour cream in the chicken salad will change the flavor entirely.

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