Here are some of my memories of the 1960s. Standing on a line that curved around the block as I waited to see West Side Story. Watching American Bandstand on T.V. and then looking on as my sister practiced the dance steps using the refrigerator handle as her dance partner. Seeing the Beatles for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, during which my mother remarked that they would “ruin America.” (I think it had something to do with their long hair) Watching the coverage of the anti-war rallies on the evening news and listening to my father as he ranted against the protesters. It was not surprising that he thought his adopted country could no wrong.
Despite a world that was “rapidly changing,” life in our home moved at a much slower pace. Fads and trends were not supported in the Graf household and certainly our diets did not vary very much over the years. (It was at least 20 years later when my Mom met her very first vegetarian, my husband) With two children and a husband, no car, and few conveniences, my mother was too busy to spend her time worrying whether we needed more vegetables or fewer carbs. Meals were balanced and colorful, dessert was never offered, but fruit was always available. Basically as long as our diet included the two foods that my mother felt were critical to good health, she wasn’t overly concerned. The items were milk and meat, but never served together of course.
Today as I walked through a local Persian market, the summer vegetables were in all their glory. I couldn’t decide what to make so I picked a few vegetables of various colors and made a version of Succotash, a dish I never had growing up but SO American that my father would surely have approved.
Succotash (without the shell beans and adapted from Bobby Flay)
2 pounds Mexican Squash, cut in chunks
3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 ears of corn
3 Tbs lime or lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbs cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion in olive oil till translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for several minutes and then add diced red pepper, turning heat to high, allowing pepper to caramelize. After about 5 minutes add the Mexican squash and cook for an additional 10 minutes on medium heat. Cut kernels off husks and add to pan along with salt, pepper, and cumin. Allow flavors to combine for several minutes and remove from heat. Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Serves 4-6
July 25, 2011 at 12:32 AM
this sounds wonderful, but what is Mexican squash? My father would have said,”only in America a daughter of survivors finds Mexican squash in a Persian market.” Surely they did not have it in Poland
July 25, 2011 at 7:33 AM
You sound just like my Mom!! It is the very pale green oval squash always next to the zucchini.
Easy and pretty!
July 23, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Great writing Irene, keep it up! I have never had succotash, I think it’s time I try it.
July 24, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Add more chili!!
July 23, 2011 at 9:12 AM
Although I do not comment very often, I want you to know that your stories leave me smiling every week because I don’t know whose parents and home you are describing. Not mine, that is for sure. But I guess that our parents and our life at home just made radically different impressions on us and left us with our own memories that the other does not share. It is bizarre. The most important food item in our home, from my memory, was bread. If we had bread, we had sustenance enough. I don’t remember a meal where bread was not the main attraction. Milk was an after school treat with a black and white, a chinese cookie, a devil dog, and all those other Hostess healthy baked goods. You loved milk and I think that is why you are so tall. You finished a quart by yourself every day.
As for succotash, I remember the very first time I ever had it. Esther, whose firm I worked for when I was 14 years old, took me and some other young people out for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in NY at the end of the summer to thank us for doing a good job. I had never been to a restaurant that was so elegant. I noticed something called succotash on the menu and I ordered it with whatever else I had. I don’t remember anything else about what I ate that afternoon but I have never forgotten the succotash. The word itself was so exotic that it made a lifelong impression. The succotash served that day was made solely of bright green lima beans and corn and probably butter. I remember the brightness of the colors of the two vegetables and how beautiful it was. That was 50 years ago this summer and I have not ever been back to the Algonquin. I think it has since closed. It was a every exciting afternoon for a very unsophisticated young woman from the Bronx. I hope I wore something pretty.
I love your stories because they bring back a wonderful time in my life even though our stories are not always the same but who cares. We are entitled to our own memories. That is what makes us “unique” as you have told me many times. The other reason I love your stories is that you really write well. There is a book in the making in these stories. I hope that one day you will do something about it.
With much love, your shvester Anita
July 21, 2011 at 9:26 PM
hi, i love the stories and the dish, i do this sometimes [cilantro or fresh parsley] the dish is already succesfully. it is 8 in the morning in israel and i am reading about your cooking, what a way to start my vacation in israel, take care
July 22, 2011 at 7:27 AM
Boker Tov!! You are so lucky to be there, enjoy every minute. Bring home some new recipes and some interesting spices if you can!!
Shabbat Shalom and thank you Rachel!!
July 21, 2011 at 7:53 PM
Looks good, but do you really need the cilantro? I am looking for more and more vegetable dishes, so I really appreciate this. However, I am not familiar with Mexican squash.
July 21, 2011 at 8:23 PM
It is the pale green oval squash and you can substitute zucchini and also basil for cilantro!!