By Anna Dantoni –
Trying to manage her emotions as her beloved mother slips farther away into dementia, Lee Clayton Roper decided to collaborate on a book of recipes called A Well-Seasoned Kitchen along with mom, Sally Clayton, who died just as this book was in its final pre-publication phase. Consequently, this beautifully photographed hard cover book is more than the sum of its culinary ingredients. It’s a memoir and an homage to Sally Clayton, whom her daughter admires as a first-rate hostess, home cook, party planner and wonderful mother who made every family meal a special occasion and every birthday truly a celebration to remember.
And remember the author does. This book contains a section on her mother’s menus, party tips, international travel notes, photos of mother in action in the kitchen or dining room. And, of course, there are those time-tested recipes that Roper’s mother relied on for holiday gatherings, entertaining dad’s clients, bridge luncheons, Sunday buffets, and more.
Because of the time period that Sally Clayton (Kentucky born, raised her family in Colorado) was active in her kitchen, there’s a retro aspect to many of her recipes (canned soups, frozen vegetables) that include golden oldies such as Chicken Kiev, stuffed tomatoes, layered salads with lots of mayonnaise, Pavlova, green bean casserole and Veal Stroganoff. But then daughter takes over with recipes for Parmesan polenta, new potatoes with truffle oil, smoothies and other more contemporary-sounding preparations.
So the book is a truly a combined effort that stretches across generations and includes favorite dishes from aunts and grandmothers too. The reader of A Well-Seasoned Kitchen truly gets the sense of how enjoyable and important was this loving process for mother and daughter. A portion of the proceeds from A Well-Seasoned Kitchen cookbook sales are being donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Kentucky Corn Pudding
2 cups corn (4 ears fresh corn or 2 packages frozen, thawed slightly)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place eggs, corn, sugar, salt and flour in a blender and blend until barely blended (you should have some whole corn kernels). Pour in to 7×11-inch glass baking dish. Heat milk over high heat until slightly scalded and add to casserole, mixing well. Pour melted butter over the top (do not stir). Place casserole dish in a larger glass dish that is half full of hot water. Bake for 1 to 1/½ hours, stirring from 2 or 3 times from the bottom during baking.
(Note: If pudding gets watery at the end, leave in the oven for a few more minutes. Take out and let sit for a few minutes, stir, then let it sit a minute or two more. Most of the excess water should be absorbed.)
(A Well-Seasoned Kitchen by Lee Clayton Roper. Photographs by Laurie Smith and food styling by Erica McNeish. MCL Publishing. $34.95. www.seasonedkitchen.com)