for Vegetable Lovers
From the Beulah Karney
©1984 by Ann K Elliott
© 2005 CLC Press
The Seasoning of Experience
The Beulah Karney Recipe Archives span a 28-year career in food journalism, beginning in 1927 when Beulah married the owner-publisher of the Holden Enterprise and became its "Homemaker's Corner" editor. From this small town beginning she became known throughout the Midwest not only for “knowing her onions” but a lot of other things about food—secrets she had garnered growing up in a California ranch kitchen with a Bavarian mother and an Irish father. From her mother she had learned the secrets of “Old Country” herb lore, and from her father – a round-the world gallery cook in his youth—about curries and other exotic Far East Spice-magic. But it was in Holden and through sharing her knowledge of seasoning that she became friends with some of the world's best cooks who, in turn, shared their “seasoning of experience” with her.
In those depression days, vegetable gardens were important, and good nutrition a serious consideration. Beulah’s column, “How to Make the Most of your Garden,” grew in popularity and the Missouri Press Association syndicated it throughout the Middle West. Newspaper food advertisers persuaded the Kansas City Star to enlist her for their annual Food Fair. This led to her “Happy Kitchen,” radio program over KMBC [Kansas City] until her move in the early 1940s to WENR [Chicago] and her network “What’s Cooking?” show. With the coming of television Beulah was a natural pioneer. A number of her food sponsors from cooking school and radio days followed her, including Schilling/McCormick seasonings. In the early 1950's, still doing daily radio and television shows, she also became food editor of Liberty Magazine. From 1927 to 1955, Beulah's treasury of recipes grew. And then, feeling that phase of her life was complete she retired and returned to her native California to spend the remaining of her 92 years writing and teaching .
Back in the early thirties, when I was a preschooler and while Beulah (who was my mother ) would be “putting the paper to bed,” I would entertain myself making paper chains in the Holden Enterprise editorial office. After I was grown and my mother had become Woman’s Editor for ABC in Chicago, I became her secretary, handling the thousands upon thousands of listener’s requests for recipes, and also acknowledging the large number of “favorites” Beulah’s radio and television friends shared with her. Even after I married, moved to California, had six children, I continued working with the recipes—organizing, reorganizing, indexing—watching the files of tested, proven recipes grow into the thousands.
Then in the spring of 1978, Beulah--with her entire treasury of recipes –moved to Creative Living Center in the California Mother Lode. Gold country! And together we began mining the gold contained in her files … notebooks…old scripts…but also, and nearly daily, that which came off the top of her head in answer to my questions about how to cook or season this or that. One day it occurred to me that such dependency could not go on forever, and I had better learn from this incredible lady what were the basics of her art. How did she know or decide what herb or spice to use for the particular flavor-effect she wanted.
That was when we began to talk about seasonings as families and as branches of a tree that both depend upon and support one anther. One of my notes from these conversations summed it up:
The art of seasoning is a matter of match-making from among the family branches of the Seasoning Tree. It is learning how to wed flavors. It is also giving thought to texture, color, and aroma—to tantalizing the palate.
The reason for focusing on vegetables came about just as naturally. For one reason or another our family and friends were eating meat less and less, and looking instead to a diet largely of whole grains, beans and fresh vegetables. In 1980, as this change in diet was being made and with help from Beulah and her files, I compiled Eight Grains/Eight Legumes, a book on how to prepare, complement and season “the most humble of staples” in their whole, life-force containing states. About this same time, members of the larger, cooperating community of which we were a part were reading and discussing a book on Perma Culture which considered it good fortune to have rocky, hilly soil—exactly what we had, plus a limited summer water supply. As we began applying perma-culture methods, drip irrigation, and also the manure and straw from the goat barn, we began to get vegetables of such quality and quantity we were both awed and overwhelmed. The garden became the main focus of our energies, while our enthusiasm for growing vegetables was matched only by Beulah’s imaginative and versatile ideas for seasoning and serving them. Even our grown children—not particularly fond of vegetables while growing up--began asking, on visits home, for copies of such recipes as Grandmother Beulah’s Beautiful [zucchini] Soup, and, “How did you say you made those Corn Oysters?”
What began first as a record for myself of my mother’s secrets for “seasoning match-making” and second as a legacy for her grand and great grandchildren, become something I wanted to share also with friends—friends here and those everywhere who are learning to live interdependently and in greater harmony with our mother the earth.
If this legacy of Seasoning Secrets is able to enrich your life or your health in any way, then kindly accept it as Beulah's gift to you.
Ann K Elliott
San Andreas CA
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