Confession: I am a forager. I just realized this while rereading The Backyard Homestead.
What fun! I now have a hip title for the otherwise hillbilly practice of scrounging iffy edibles from the wild. In my early years we went mushroom hunting—morel, fairy ring, meadow, puffball and shaggy mane. And berrying—blackberries, raspberries, and wild strawberries. We ate quail if it wandered by, and fish and deer and bear meat.
But perhaps the king of unlikely foraging feasts was this one: an “endive” supper. New dandelion leaves make a wonderful mock endive about this time of year—before the plants bud and turn too bitter.
Way back fifty years ago, my dad* and his siblings were eating this for supper in the spring. Then my parents served it to me. Now I serve it to my kids, and they turn up their noses at the endive, just like I did thirty years ago, but I have grown up. I love it.
You build a stack with boiled potatoes, new dandelion leaves, slices of hard-boiled egg, and crumbles of bacon—and pour a thin sweet-and-sour gravy over the top. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and you have yourself a feast. Anybody gagging yet?
[My egg slicer is currently MIA, and sends regrets.]
The gravy is made by stirring flour into the bacon drippings. Add a little water and boil till quite thick. Stir in equal amounts of brown sugar and vinegar until the gravy is thin and tart.
*My dad thinks, but is not sure, that he remembers his mother talking about the frustration of not getting the gravy just right, after learning it from her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother.
I’m curious—did anybody else grow up eating this? Believe me, it’s the least of the food oddities I’ve inherited by direct descent; and yes, I’m proud of every single one. Even bean soup, which is hot salted milk with pinto beans and pieces of soggy bread. (Proud doesn’t mean I actually cook it.)
What food eccentricities came down your family line?
oh yes, my mom used to serve this as well! But she would mix the bacon and eggs in with the gravy. I Loved the gravy part of it, but not the Dandelion leaves! There is a Global Food store close to my house that sells food from all over the world. One day I noticed they were SELLING the dandelion leaves.
WOW. I have known that you are I are quite different individuals but I guess I did not realize exactly HOW different………….
-I dislike endive (once I accidentally bought some and promptly gifted it to my next door neighbor)
-I hate dandelion leaves. My mom tried serving a dandelion salad once when I was young. Maybe I should try it again, but I do not have any pleasant memories from my previous encounter.
Family Food eccentricities??!!!
-a TON of soggy saltines in just about any kind of soup(esp. tomato soup)
-saltines in applesauce
(both of which my husband thinks are supremely gross)
Oh DEAR! Can our friendship even go on??
I think we should consult our mentors on this issue.
I grew up thinking everyone ate Rival soup with red beets, creamed eggs over toast, warm applesauce with cookies and Dutch Babies. We loved Grits! After I got married I learned that some eat pancakes with tomato gravy but none of the above.
I’ve never had dandelion leaves…out west here I’m not sure I could find enough in the country to even eat. But I might try and have an “endive” supper. 🙂
Ahhh, pancakes with tomato gravy. My grandmother made the pancakes with cornmeal….. sooooo good. That’s what I always wanted for breakfast at her house.
And we ate watercress salad, but without the potatoes. Dandelions too, but only rarely. I’ve been making a spinach salad version that my daughters and I love. Something about the warm sweet and sour dressing makes it so good.
favorite meal at our house. we use spinach when the dandelions aren’t in season.
Oooh! I am loving the spinach idea!
Yes, I ate dandelion salad growing up. My grandpa would dig up dandelions from the yard and give them to mom to make the salad for supper. I never had potatoes underneath the pile though. That is a new one for me.
A refreshing drink in the summer as well as the thrill in making it was – homemade root beer. I have many fond memories of stirring up a batch. It meant for a great deal of stirring. First the extract needed to be thoroughly mixed into the mound of sugar – at least as a young girl I thought it was a mound of sugar. The aroma of the extract is tickling my sensors right now in memory. Once the extract and sugar was well mixed then came the adding of water and the dissolving of the sugar. Finally the mixture was ready for putting into jars capping tightly before laying them in the sun to cure. It was hard to wait until the day Mom would say it is ready to drink. This was what we knew as soda back on the farm during the hot days of baling hay. After unloading a wagon load of hay bales – not much was more refreshing than an ice cold drink of homemade root beer. It was particularly special if you were allowed to have your own bottle of it.
I have since tried it when visiting in Lancaster County one summer and I wondered why I liked the stuff.
Oh yes, this was a spring meal at my house growing up. Now I try to make it least one time when dandelion is in season. Our version was slightly different. We used ham chunks instead of bacon. We also put all the ingredients in the gravy and served it over mashed potatoes.
Cornmeal mush for supper. With frozen peaches on top to cool it off. I can’t believe we actually ate it, but there was probably the threat of “the rod” hanging over our heads. 😀 Far better was fried cornmeal mush for breakfast the next morning.
We just made dandelion salad for supper the other night. My 8 year old wanted to try it and helped me wash up the leaves (I remembered why I normally don’t “get around” to making it in the spring, I never have an hour available to wash them!!) She is a bit picky but sat up and ate them and everyone else gobbled them up, too. No potatoes with it for us, just plenty of bacon, eggs and the hot dressing poured over and mixed in.
Other things we grew up on…lamb’s quarter (a wild weed) cooked and served with browned butter and salt (yum), wild mint tea from the ditches of Canada, fried slices of puff balls, or sauted and made into mushroom soup, saskatoons and wild huckleberries, cranberrries and blueberries. My mom even tried rose hip jam once which was not a real hit.
I take after her…nothing I love much better than scouting the wild for huckeberries or mushrooms!
OUR dandelion supper is still coming up. .. tonight. Yum!
Aside from the dandelion leaves, it sounds just like a spinach salad with the eggs and the sweet & sour(ish) warm bacon dressing. I would definitely try this – only I’d have to get to the dandelions before my husband put something on them, in which case I’d be eating a dandelion-killer salad. It’s so funny when you grow up eating something and you don’t find out it’s weird until somebody else says, “HUH??”
Unless my memory is bulking on me, I don’t think I’ve ever had dandelion. Maybe I need to change that.
Anything with bacon grease is good.
And I don’t think my family has any odd food traditions. But if I grew up eating it, I wouldn’t know it is unusual.
Maybe I need to ask my husband.