J is for Jell-O and other culinary delights. Tenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
My elementary years in the late 1950s and early 1960s spanned a time when home cooking gave way to the first glimmers of fast food. Thus I went from homemade Jell-O to other culinary delights during my Endwell childhood.
Jell-O had been a mainstay in the home kitchen since 1897. But as the 1960s dawned, there were new flavors and colors and various ways to prepare it — all of them embraced by my mother and maternal grandmother.
My mom favored red Jell-O with a can of fruit cocktail dumped into it — which would sink to the bottom in a colorful hodgepodge. I think she served it with whipped cream as a sort of dessert. There always seemed to be a bowl of it jiggling away in the fridge.
Boom, my grandmother, was a lime Jell-O connoisseur. She fixed it as a fruit salad with crushed pineapple at the bottom served with a dollop of mayonnaise. Sometimes she even used clear gelatin to make aspic with tomato juice — but we kids preferred sweet Jell-O.
Southern Tier spiedies
As a main dish, the signature local delight was spiedies (pronounced SPEE-dees) — still popular all over New York’s Sounthern Tier. One commercial purveyor of spiedies and the marinade to make them was Lupo’s Char Pit — which was walking/biking distance from my house and is still open today.
Spiedies are basically marinaded meat chunks (you can soak them in Italian dressing in a pinch). They are cooked on a grill then pulled off their skewer by wrapping a slice of soft Italian bread around them (although Lupo’s serves them with a studier bun).
Even though Lupo’s was nearby, my mom and other mothers on the block made spiedies at home — soaking lamb, beef, pork or chicken in a big bowl of marinade in the fridge or on the counter.
What our moms didn’t know is that we kids loved them so much, we would sneak the meat cubes out of the savory liquid and eat them raw! At a street reunion last year some of us “kids,” now retired, laughed about surviving this experience.
Hot Pie: An Endicott specialty
Another quick meal for our growing family was Sicilian pizza — known locally in the Endwell area as “hot pie.” There were Italian bakeries all over Endicott, the next town over — and all of them served hot pie.
My family often made round pizza from scratch at home. But in a a pinch, hot pie — always in a rectangular pan and mostly bread with a bit of pizza sauce and cheese — was a special treat.
Grover’s Pig Stand
My parents were frugal, so we seldom ate out at restaurants. But one that we sometimes went to for all things pork was Grover’s Pig Stand on Main Street.
I remember the Pig Stand having sandwiches and French fries, which must have been affordable.
And nearby was the local distributor of Charles Chips — the fancy, perfectly cooked chips that were sold for pickup or delivery in beige and brown tins that I think might have been refillable. I loved to eat them with a cold glass of milk while watching TV.
Carvel for dessert
One store we did frequent was the local Carvel up the block from the Pig Stand. Once in a while we should stop for a soft ice cream cones.
But usually it was to pick up a package of Flying Saucer® ice cream sandwiches — those large chocolate cookies stuffed with chocolate or vanilla ice cream — to put in our big freezer in the garage.
We seemed to always have a package on hand — especially in the summer — and the trick was to let the sandwich thaw slightly so the cookie mixed in with the ice cream as you ate it.
Yum! They truly were “out of this world” — just as Carvel promised.
Up next: K is for KDKA and radio mania. Please stop back!
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