There is nothing like receiving a letter. Sometimes the letter writer sets me straight, or angers me, or makes me laugh.
But a letter always gets my blood up. The only drawback to receiving a letter is the accompanying obligation to send one back. I am not a faithful correspondent, as friends and family who have not received a written note from me for years, can attest.
The other day in a cleaning binge, I found a Christmas card I started writing in December and a 3-year-old letter from a former colleague that I have been meaning to answer. Those I found in my briefcase. But in the family fridge, I found a Christmas fruitcake hiding under the butter.
Now I am going to take care of business. I am going to respond to some letters, and then attack the homemade fruitcake.
How to keep rice hot and kids quiet
From: Maravene Hamburger, Lutherville.
Re: Column on trying to get eaters to the table while rice is still hot.
Dear Happy Eater,
Rice dishes are always hot here. Five or six servings of rice are cooked at one time. Then they are divided into individual servings, put in Saran Wrap and frozen.
As needed individual servings are unwrapped, dropped into an oiled Pyrex dish and heated in convection or regular oven.
Regarding the slow-moving kids, give them a five-minute warning, "Wash hands, come to table." Banning television was the only punishment I ever needed. Or put them to work setting the table and helping with the meal prep.
Eater Replies: The rice idea sounds good. However it requires one ingredient I'm often short of, forethought. As for banning television, that gives me a real problem. Some of my kids' favorite shows, "The Simpsons" and "The Wonder Years," are also mine.
Quick food from old book
From: Virginia L. Bennett , Baltimore.
Re: Call for convenient recipes.
Dear Happy Eater,
. . . Years ago I sent for the cookbook, "Cook Young," put together in the 1960s by Clementine Paddleford, former food editor of This Week, a Sunday magazine. Her idea was to use "convenient foods" as time-saving ingredients. She wrote a request . . . looking for young cooking ideas. The response was 50,000 recipes.
. . . I pulled the Paddleford book from the shelf a couple of weeks ago, looking for a scalloped oyster recipe. It is absolutely delicious and very easy.
Maybe some day you or someone in your department will try for a sequel to "Cook Young," a concept especially appealing to working women and lazy (but good) cooks like me.
Clementine Paddleford's scalloped oysters (adapted)
1 1/2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 pint oysters, strained, keep liquor
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon chives
1/4 teaspoon dill
1/4 cup milk
Combine stuffing mix and butter. Spread half the stuffing in the bottom of a greased 11-by-7-by-1 1/2 -inch casserole. Add oysters. Sprinkle on parsley flakes, chives and dill. Top with remaining stuffing. Pour on milk. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Eater replies: I'll think about it. I like oysters. I like good cooks. And I too am lazy.
Hometown update: the banana bread is still hot
From: Robert G. Powell, St. Joseph, Mo.
Re: Column on reading cookbook from my old hometown.
Dear Happy Eater,
I would like to bring you up to date on the eating establishments you mentioned. . . . The mainstay of really good food in St. Joe, Jerre Anne cafeteria, is still serving food that everybody loves. . . . But they are now closed on Sunday's, quite a disappointment for churchgoers.
Eater Replies: I am shocked. You should go to church to seek a reward in heaven, not the hot banana bread at Jerre Anne's. But if the former is as sensational as the latter, you'll have a happy afterlife.
I am licking my lips waiting for the publication of another St. Joe cookbook, "Heartland Baking from the Jerre Anne" due in October from Doubleday.