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Dateline: April 1, 2007

Happy Easter Bunnies to all. I hope your baskets are filled with treats. I remember the enchantment of making colored eggs to hide in the tall grass. Learning to make a two-colored egg bordered on the discovery of the atom. I wonder if anyone still makes colored eggs at home?

One of the great treats of my young days was getting to go visit my Uncle Henry and Aunt Alma Raven in Austin on Easter Sunday. They had three or four kids, and Uncle Henry would buy a LOT of Easter candy. We never did get on a sugar high like you hear about now days. The sugar tended to make us sluggish and prone to dropping off into a nap frequently. Of course, the big dinner of ham and the trimmings had nothing to do with inducing the napping. Nothing makes a house smell as good as a nice ham in the oven.

Enough of that. Lets see what kind of problems the Good Doctor is being called upon to solve this month.

Jody writes:
My fourth grade son is doing his California Mission project specifically Mission San Francisco Solano. He signed up to do Mission Foods. I have been all over the web, and cant find anything. I finally came upon your early Texan foods that referenced Spanish mission influence. Can you steer me in the direction I could take to get some recipes for Mission foods? In our research, we found that they produced sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, wheat, barley, beans, peas, corn, frijoles and garbanzos. Historic recipes which were made with these ingredients would be helpful. Thank you so much for any help you can give us.

Hi Jody: The Spanish era foods in California would have been pretty much the same as we had here in Texas. In those days you ate what you hunted or raised or found in the wild. The three staples were corn, beans and squash. These crops were cultivated by the Indians who farmed for thousands of years. Wild game and fish supplemented the diet.

The corn was dried and ground into meal or it was boiled with wood ash to make hominy, which was dried and ground into flour to make tortillas. I'm sure they also used fresh corn and dried whole corn cooked in stews. The squash was eaten fresh or dried for preservation. You know about the beans. Wild game was eaten very soon after it was obtained or dried to preserve it. Fish were also preserved by drying.

You can find a lot of recipes in Grandma's Cookbook on Texas Cooking. The basic recipes would have been for boiled beans and tortillas. Tamales, too, are an ancient recipe. Those three recipes will keep a person alive.

The rest of it was just treats they had when they could find them. Everything was either baked, boiled or eaten raw. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Janet and husband are shopping for a new grill:
My husband and I are almost ready to get our new gas grill for our outdoor kitchen. I thought I knew what I wanted until I saw the new infrared grills. Is this something you would recommend? Is this just a new fad? Would you want one?

Dear Janet: I think an infrared grill would be a great new toy. My take on the process is that the infrared is most suitable for quick grilling at very high temperature for something like beefsteak.

There are grills that offer a combination of cooking systems. They say you can sear the food on the infrared and then move it to the conventional grill for slow finishing. That sounds like the best idea to me. If you get one give me a report on how it works out for you. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

[Note: Janet wrote that after talking to several people who had the infrared grills she and her husband decided against getting one as the owners of them said they ran way too hot for most cooking operations]

Heres a good one from Lorrie:
Hi. I was just reading the pages of your blog. I just want to know how I can sort of turn my spaghetti sauce into BBQ sauce, instead of making a whole big batch. Thanks.

Hi Lorrie: Well gosh, that's a new one on me. I've seen chili made into spaghetti sauce, but never spaghetti sauce into barbecue sauce.

I would add some lemon juice and Worchester sauce and maybe a little mustard. If it gets too tart, you can add some sugar. There are no rules for this so just try something. Don't add a whole lot of anything at one time. Use a little at a time until it tastes good. If you put in too much of something it's really, really hard to remove it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

[Note: Lorrie reported back that she had doctored a batch of her spaghetti sauce and it was just fine, thank you.]

Bob has thin sauce:
My name is Bob. I have been working on a barbecue sauce for five or six years now. The flavor of my sauce is excellent, but I struggle with the thickness. I would appreciate if you could give me some feedback on the best thickening agent for barbecue sauce.

Hi Bob: Try using some arrowroot powder. Check the instructions as it does not take a whole lot to get the job done. If this doesn't work, get back to me and I'll find something else for you to try. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

Traditional Texas Food Articles
By Dr. John, Ph.B.

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