I feel lucky to have experienced the value that comes from the presence of grandparents. All four of mine lived until I was well into my twenties. My maternal Grandmother – the one I emulated the most, lived the longest and even into her later years, I marveled at her creativity. Many, many times, I watched as she transformed a scrap of material into a beautiful scarf or table runner, and a few servings leftover from last night’s dinner into today’s delicious lunch.
My grandparents grew many of the fruits and vegetables they consumed. In the spring, summer and autumn months when their garden plots were brimming and their fruit trees heavy, we savored the produce. When the bounty was at its peak, the women of my family would spend long days preserving it, jar after jar, shelf by shelf, until my grandparents’ pantry was full. During the winter months, we enjoyed the tomatoes, the various jams, hand-churned apple butter, pickled cucumbers, peaches, beets and the various other foods that had been “put up.” Sharing family meals was a big part of my grandparents’ lives, and most of their days centered on the three meals they prepared – simple, wholesome, balanced and flavorful meals -- shared with their children and grandchildren. Food was respected and the bounty was relished. The evening blessing was a sign of our gratitude.
As a tribute to my grandparents, I’m sharing a recipe known in our family for generations as the boiled dinner. The combination of cooked kale, fork-tender potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and crispy bacon – this last the only ingredient not boiled -- may seem unusual and perhaps even unlikely, but it’s delicious and is always enthusiastically devoured.
Just before the boiled dinner is served, a warm mixture of bacon-infused, sweet and sour apple cider vinegar dressing is poured over the mixture. The hearty ingredients absorb the warm dressing to perfection.
Recently when kale won the crown for trendiest vegetable, I wondered what my grandparents would think of this longtime staple’s new-found popularity. Kale has quite a history: It was farmed in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and by the Middle Ages, it had become so popular in England and Scotland the word actually meant dinner! During World War II, Britain urged home gardeners to grow kale for its Dig for Victory campaign. And now there are kalettes to consider -- as a hybrid of kale and Brussels sprouts, they might have impressed my grandparents as more enticing than the “old standard” that does so well in this recipe.
HOT BACON AND POTATO DINNER
AKA THE BOILED DINNER
- 8 eggs
- 4 medium potatoes, quartered (peeling is a matter of preference)
- 1 pound dinosaur kale, washed, inner rib removed
- 12 slices of bacon
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add eggs and cook for about 15 minutes.
- Transfer cooked eggs to a bowl. Once eggs are cool enough to handle, peel off shells.
- Refill the pot with water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain potato water and transfer potatoes to a covered dish to keep warm.
- Boil kale until tender.
- Fry bacon until crispy. Pour excess bacon fat from pan or not depending on your desire for bacon fat. (I confess the original recipe uses all the bacon grease as part of the mixture.) Add apple cider vinegar and sugar to the still-warm bacon pan. Stir until mixture is combined and sugar has dissolved. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
- Evenly distribute kale into four wide, shallow bowls. Top kale with one potato (4 quarters), two eggs and three slices of bacon. Drizzle warm dressing over the mixture. Serve immediately. To get a bit of every bite, advise your diners to vigorously mix and chop their serving.