Wednesday, February 21, 2018

McClellan: Cooking — and shopping — change over the years

By Barbara McClellan
Feb. 7, 2018 at 4 a.m.

When Retta Kelly, a former publisher of the Longview News-Journal several moons ago, said to me, in French, that the more things change, the more they stay the same, I agreed with her whole-heartedly, and still do for the most part.

There is, though, one area in which very little has remained the same over the years — grocery shopping. If you are old enough to have been welcomed by AARP, think with me for a moment about the local grocery store in your hometown when you were a child. My husband and I grew up in Tyler.

There, we had some "large stores" that were not by any means the size of today's supermarkets, but we also had little neighborhood stores.

The ones in our neighborhood were Solenger's and Crownover's. They were about the size of a small modern-day convenience store. Longview had the well-known Norton and Barbee's, and Culver's, and I have talked to my friend Diana Rushing who has vivid memories of both those stores.

My friend Martha Rutherford grew up in Baytown where her family had Cooke's Grocery Store. It is wonderful to hear about those days of yore when personal service, charge "books" and home delivery were part of the shopping experience.

I remember that there were not dozens of varieties of anything. We had Red Delicious and Winesap apples, oranges, lemons and bananas, and not many other kinds of fruit.

Now, you can choose from dozens of varieties of apples and almost any fruit you can imagine all year long. I love to remember these long-ago days when almost every customer was called by name when he or she walked into the store.

I have to admit, though, that I prefer to keep the choices and varieties that we have now, along with the convenience of being able to buy milk, flour, nails, clothes, tools and medicine all in the same place.

Wait a minute. That might be the similarity. Didn't the "general stores" in the Wild West Days have all of these necessities in one location?

I was going to share some recipes from these "good old times" with you, but after perusing a few of my antique cookbooks — especially one, "Everyday Foods," copyright 1933, from Jane McBride of Jefferson, and a 1925 "Boston Cooking School" by Fannie Farmer, I decided that we would just stick to some fairly recent, somewhat modern recipes. I guess you're not really interested in catching, wringing the neck of and plucking the chicken before you start to cook it today, are you?

When I look at old cookbooks, I am a little surprised that we depended so much on canned, cream soups and canned vegetables. We had not yet, I guess, begun to be label readers (because no nutritional information was on products until 1990 when the National Labeling and Education Act came about), nor did we realize the nutritional value of fresh or frozen foods.

The following recipe comes from a cookbook published in 1968.

Baked Chicken Casserole

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 4 tablespoons flour

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken

  • 1 cup diced celery

  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions

  • 1/2 chopped pecans

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced

  • 1 cup crushed potato chips (divided)

Melt butter. Stir in flour and cook until light brown. Gradually add in broth. Add remaining ingredients, except potato chips.

Place half of chips in a 2-quart casserole dish. Pour in chicken mixture. Top with remaining chips. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist and has written three self-published cookbooks. Her column appears in the News-Journal's Taste section each Wednesday. Write her at or in care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.



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