Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stuffed Peppers circa 1939

Jennifer Reese's new cookbook Make The Bread, Buy the Butter inspired us to actually open some of the vintage cookbooks we inherited years ago from Grandma Ott (a.k.a. Tutu -- grandmother in Hawaiian).

This one was published in 1939 and, honestly, I was a little afraid to crack it.  Many years ago, when the kids were young, we were guardians of one of Jason's students - a 17 year old whose parents lived in the Dominican Republic. Adding a nearly grown teenager to our house was quite an adjustment for us (curfews? dating? We were barely out of that territory ourselves!) and for Tom.

One of the most surprising challenges for Tom was food.  The first week he lived with us we made a pot roast. We sat down at the table to eat and Tom just stared at the plate. Finally, he timidly spoke up, "What is it?"

"It's a pot roast! You know, meat, potatoes, carrots, onions... Pot Roast!"

"Um... I've never had one."  He tried it. And liked it (not so much the crawfish we served a couple weeks later.)

But it got me thinking. Maybe we should try to make some Dominican food to ease the transition. I channeled my high school Spanish teachers and wrote Tom's mother a letter. I explained that he was a little homesick, and I thought that making some of her favorite dishes might help.

She wrote back and sent a small cookbook. The first chapter: How to pick and slaughter your dinner.

Um. Yeah. I wasn't going any further.

I guess I assumed Grandma's cookbooks would also take cooking to a level of DIY this former flexitarian wanted no part of. And yes, there are plenty of references to lard (sorry, I know I've lived most of my life in the south, but I just can't get on the lard boat) and too many photos of ring molds (here are some more modern versions with Coke and spinach and - wow! - look at this Hawaiian mold featuring Ahi, Avocado, and Crab. Definitely not your grandma's ring mold!).

But back to our 73 year old cookbook. We also found this gem...

Stuffed Peppers


  • 6 green peppers
  • 1 cup cooked meat, chopped fine and seasoned (the cookbook suggests that "potted meats that come in cans are excellent for this purpose". Um, yeah, we'll be using ground beef - one pound -  seasoned with a dash of salt and a liberal sprinkling of pepper)
  • 1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs (make your own... it's easy!)
  • milk or cream (the original recipe doesn't say how much. use enough to moisten, but not soak)
A note: Jason was really skeptical. For him, stuffed peppers has always meant tomato paste and cheese and rice.  He was convinced this dish would be dry and bland. I had to bribe him with promises of Mr. Chen's if the recipe didn't work out. 

  1. Cut off tops of peppers or cut them in two lengthwise. Remove the inner fibers and seeds. Drop into boiling water, remove ("from the fire" ... says the cookbook!), let stand 10 to 12 minutes, then drain. 
  2. Meanwhile, mix the meat with the bread or cracker-crumbs and moisten with a little milk or cream. 
  3. Fill the peppers with the mixture and serve at once or cover with buttered crumbs and set in the oven (400 degrees) for ten minutes to brown. 
We did the browning route and the results were ...


The girls loved them and Jason ate his words. Thanks Grandma Ott! 


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