“Just bring an old family recipe,” my host said. Unfortunately, my family has no such recipes.
Once, I asked my grandfather what they used to eat on the old Florida celery farm, back in the 1930s, and he said, “celery.” I pushed him for some celery-based recipes, and he told me this: Cut up some celery, then microwave it so it’s soft. Salt to taste.
If the Dingfelders have no culinary heritage, we do have a tradition of very bad teeth. My grandpa never grew any adult teeth, so he’s been wearing dentures since he was 16. My dad makes regular visits to the dentist where he endures some terrible procedure called “scaling,” which leaves him a shaken shell of a man. He used to call to harass me about going to law school or to deliver lectures on the importance of saving for retirement.
Now he calls and says, “You need to start flossing. I’m serious. You’ll thank me later.”
Waging my own harassment campaign, I finally cajoled my grandpa into coming up with a family recipe for that side-dish competition. In spidery handwriting on an index card, he wrote down directions for “cornbread soufflé.”
The ingredients mostly came from cans or boxes. The full ingredient list is: creamed corn, canned corn kernels, cornbread mix, sour cream, eggs, an entire stick of butter. Stir together, bake and serve hot.
I didn’t think this concoction would stand a chance against my friends’ dishes -- which involved seasonal ingredients prepared with French verbs. But it turns out that salt and fat trumps healthy and fresh every time.
My cornbread soufflé won first place.
I emailed the directions to my brother, Saul, who made it for Thanksgiving with his wife and in-laws. “It’s an old Dingfelder recipe,” Saul said, proudly. “No it’s not,” his wife replied. “It’s the recipe from the Jiffy Cornbread box.”
And so it was.
Sadie Fechter Dingfelder is a humor writer with a very funny name. @SadieDing