Food to DIE FOR is presently on my list of top three favorite spiral-bound cookbooks. Compiled by Jessica Bemis Ward and sponsored by the Southern Memorial Association, it is an engaging stroll through the Old City Cemetery of Lynchburg, Virginia. The cemetery is a remarkably faceted, beloved treasure of the town. Aside from some dependable recipes, I mean that simple home-cooked “damn, that was good” goodness; the cookbook is peppered with practical funerary tips and traditions. “Dying Order” is where most of us want to be, as Ms. Ward suggests this means no loose ends. Think I’ll need a little more time . . .
The thing that endears me to this cookbook (aside from some reliable recipes) is that it assumes a community-based funeral. The sort of event where friends call back and forth to plan, coordinate, contribute and share to show their love and respect for the deceased and the bereaved.
The first time I made Mina Wood’s Broccoli-Bacon Salad was for a grave digging. Quite seriously. While my husband, Timmy, built his old friend’s casket I made vegetable beef stew and this dish. It seemed appropriate sustenance for a cool March day of demanding efforts. I have since made it for a luncheon where a polite tablespoon was left. Again for a family gathering, a smidge left. Then my step-daughter asked for the recipe (this in itself is an indicator) for a little get-together and was disgruntled there were no lefties. Got the picture? It is satisfying on that salty-tiny-bit-sweet, crunchy-need-another-bite level. The recipe as it appears in Food to Die For with some notes I made on preparation following:
Broccoli Bacon Salad
2 Large Heads Broccoli, chopped
1 ½ Cups Cheddar Cheese (White Cheddar is recommended), shredded
¼ Cup Red Onion, chopped
1 Cup Mayonnaise
¼ Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
12 Slices Bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (or Real Bacon from a jar)
In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar. Mix well. Add broccoli, cheese, and onion to bowl. Toss with mayonnaise mixture. Bacon can be added at this point or just before serving. Cover and chill several hours, or overnight.
Mina advises that for a slightly softer texture to the salad, that the broccoli can be blanched for one minute in boiling water and then plunged into ice water before mixing with other ingredients.
Notes from Victoria
- I like to bake bacon, less demanding than frying when you have other things to do. Use a cookie sheet with sides, either non-stick or spray pan with non-stick spray. Place strips of cold bacon on tray and place in cold oven. The cold start keeps the bacon from curling. Turn oven on to 350°F. In about 10-12 minutes you will start to smell the bacon. Turn once and pluck off the browner outer pieces to waiting paper towels or brown bags to drain grease. For this recipe use thick cut.
- Easy on the sugar. The mayo has sweetness to it already. I think it is preferable for your taste buds to be looking for the sweetness. Maybe an 1/8 cup. Taste once you have made the mayo mix.
- I prefer this recipe with the broccoli lightly steamed. Steaming is fast and holds the color and nutrients better than blanching. It also makes the broccoli more flavorful, not so chalky. When you turn the water on to boil, immediately prep your ice water bowl. Then cut the crowns into about 6 large florets apiece. When the water is at a hard boil put the first bunch of florets into the steamer basket. Put the lid on and ready your oven mitts, rubber gloves, what works for you. Take a deep breath. This should take 20-30 seconds. Remove the lid and dash that (still cooking) broccoli from the basket into the water. Now go get a bowl of ice. Return to the cool broccoli and with a slotted spoon, remove florets to a colander. Dump out half of the water; add some more cold water and ice. Repeat steaming/chilling process with second head.
- My go-to extra-sharp cheddar is 3 Year Aged Cabot from Vermont. I do a fine grate using my Kitchen Aid mixer grater attachment. Easy enough to use a box grater’s medium side.
- Add salt (prudently, remember the cheese and bacon!) and fresh ground pepper to taste.
- Add the bacon just before serving. If you have some vegetarians you can portion some of the salad separately for them. It’s still quite good without the meat.
If you would like to order a copy of Food to Die For, which I highly recommend, you can do so by contacting:
Old City Cemetery
401 Taylor Street
Lynchburg, Virginia 24501
Telephone: (434) 847-1465
Fax (434) 856-2004
Or place your order online at www.gravegarden.org
It is also available at Farm Basket, 2008 Langhorne Rd, Lynchburg, VA 24501
Food to Die For was published by the Southern Memorial Association to benefit the Old City Cemetery of Lynchburg, VA