Plain Talk About Food | Soup/Salad and Let’s Talk

This Reuben sandwich and sliced pickles make for a great picnic lunch. (Contributed)

Having been raised by my elderly aunt who ran a boarding house for the workers at the nearby sawmill in the small town of Aberdeen, Wash., my younger days were spent primarily in the company of older people. Our house was the last house on the block with uncle’s vegetable garden being next to the mill’s lumber yard.

Kids of my age were several blocks away, so I would spend any free time I had at the older couple’s home next door; I called them Aunt Rose and Uncle Ed. Both would tell me stories about themselves when they were my age. How I loved those stories.

When not in school, my primary companions were the older menfolk, men who worked at the mill and lived with us. By the time I was 6 years old, I knew the game of poker, I could roll cigarette papers from loose cans of Phillip Morris tobacco inside just as well as any of the boarders, and some of their language…well, that I “picked up” just as quickly.

A few short years later, when I was placed in the Catholic boarding school, the first task the nuns took on was to “clean up” my language…this happened in “short order,” believe me.

I’m sure my background has led me to my fondness for the elderly who are “rich” in stories and knowledge of the past. While spending time at the Scotts Valley and Highlands Park Senior Centers and reading many of the posts on the Nextdoor website, I have come to realize that so many of the elderly need help with the upkeep of their homes, perhaps a ride to a medical appointment, or even about their confinement to their homes and the loneliness they are experiencing. 

This has led me to the SOUP/SALAD and LET’S TALK luncheons at the Scotts Valley Senior Center, as well as teaching cooking classes at the Highlands Park Senior Center.

Knowing full well that many seniors are living on very low fixed-incomes and battling the high cost of living increases, the only cost involved to attend is a mere $5 to cover the use of the center’s facility, i.e., electricity, maintenance, etc. Perchance if one is unable to pay, no one will be turned away.

Along with lunch, we spend time socializing and talking about our lives, the good and bad things we are experiencing, and what we need to make our lives easier and, perhaps, happier.

Soon, a program will be in place named appropriately, Damian’s Ladder, after the young man Damian Lanctot, who lost his life in an accident just this last year on Alba Road in Ben Lomond. Damian’s life was spent helping others, with no money involved; me included.

Damian’s Ladder project will begin just as soon as we have the men and women who are willing to give up some of their free time to perhaps do a little painting, fix a broken stair, put in a new electrical switch, fix a leaky faucet, change oil or a windshield wiper in a car. Getting to and from the senior center is another issue.

It is time for each of us to remember that senior citizens are the people that built our towns, labored on our roadways, painted our buildings, taught our kids and preached sermons to us on the Sabbath. These seniors are our parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends who have grown older and instead of giving, are now in need of a little help…their arms can no longer hammer, nor shovel, nor lift.

We, each of us, must “step up to the plate” and help. You will be surprised by the rewards you will receive.

Should you wish to be part of the Damian’s Ladder project, simply get in touch with me. You will be happy you did. Email me…[email protected].

I was in Wild Roots Market in Felton last week where I spotted loaves of Marbled Rye bread. That bread, along with slices of Swiss cheese, Sauerkraut and, of course, corned beef, made up one of the best grilled Reuben sandwiches I’ve had in a long time.

Pastrami is a great substitute for corned beef. Aunt’s recipe of Thousand Island Dressing pulled the sandwich all-together along with a Pineapple Coleslaw Salad. This sandwich and salad make for a great picnic lunch. Try it…you’ll like it!

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Thousand Island Dressing

¾ Cup Mayonnaise

¼ cup Chili Sauce

2 Tbsp. Ketchup

2 tsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. finely minced onion

1 Tbsp. sweet relish

Reuben Sandwich

Have the following ingredients at room temperature:

On two slices of Marbled, Dill or Swedish rye bread, spread each with 1 Tbsp. 1000 island dressing. On one slice of bread layer a slice of Swiss cheese the size of the bread, 2 Tbsp. of well-drained sauerkraut and several slices of meat, in that order.

Top with slice of bread and another slice of Swiss Cheese. Butter both outer sides of bread and grill in a frying pan on very low heat. This will allow the cheese to melt. About 5 minutes per side. Serve at room temperature. 

Don’t forget to serve with horseradish, mustard and dill pickles…Claussen’s are the best.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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