“Fiddlesticks!!” is Katy Johnson’s rumored retort to those who say they can’t fix a good home-cooked meal. But help for the culinary challenged has finally arrived via Fiddlesticks: Johnson Family Cookbook, a collection of “grandma classics” compiled by Johnson’s family. Now there’s no excuse; we all can fix a good home-cooked meal … with a little help from Katy.
Fiddlesticks begins with a forward by Johnson’s family, providing the reader with a feel for Johnson’s love of cooking and her life on the farm in Lyford, where she lives with her husband, Alden Nels Johnson. In addition to family photos, personal notes accompany recipes, explaining such things as how the dish is used. For example, Johnson makes Frijoles a la Charra Beans for the family’s annual fish fry at South Padre Island. Daughter-in-law Susan Rhea Johnson depicts special memories using folk-art illustrations.
Fiddlesticks is a convenient size (no bigger than two recipe cards taped together), and with its spiral binding, it won’t close during use. The cookbook is chockfull of recipes, offering 310 pages of recipes for home-cooked meals—and special events—organized under the following headings: Appetizers & Beverages, Soups & Salads, Vegetables & Side Dishes, Main Dishes, Breads & Breakfasts, Desserts, Cookies & Candy, and This & That. Each section begins with a list of practical tips that Johnson has gleaned from years of experience. In Vegetables & Side Dishes, she says, “A few drops of lemon juice added to simmering rice will keep the grains separated.” In Breads & Breakfasts, she suggests, “Dust a bread pan or work surface with flour by filling an empty glass salt shaker with flour.” Fiddlesticks concludes with such useful information as how to keep a well-stocked pantry and what to look for when selecting particular fresh fruits and vegetables. Here’s a sampling of recipes and corresponding notes:
Grandma’s Baked Barbeque Chicken
Growing up Ann [Johnson Jud] always requested this dish on her birthday. She always doubles the sauce when she makes it today.
Appetizers & Beverages
Jan Hunter gave Ann [Johnson Jud] this recipe and it is very easy and good. It can be used for a brunch since it has bacon, but the Johnsons eat bacon any time of the day.
Soups & Salads
Tex Mex Chicken Salad
When Karyn [Jud Hatch] makes this low-cal salad she uses light mayonnaise and sour cream.
Breads & Breakfasts
Grandma’s Cinnamon Bread
This delicious bread is a staple at all of Grandma’s family holiday gatherings.
Susan’s Coconut Pie
Any time a dessert is needed for a get together, Susan [Rhea Johnson] is required to bring her coconut pie.