Memories of my grandmother are rooted deeply in the kitchen, around the food she made with love, and the conversations we had as the apple pie baked or the creamy potato soup simmered. Her German accent never left her, and her hands never forgot how to make homemade bread. Making her Chicken Chow Mein last week, straight from the handwritten recipe card she had passed on, brought me as much joy as any meal I’ve ever made.
Ruby Jane made things from scratch, and that was her specialty. She used real cream, the lard she rendered, rhubarb jam from the plants alongside her garage, and sought out fresh peas & sweet corn from farmer friends.
When my parents would leave for a vacation, I packed my bags with excitement knowing I was going on my own vacation to grandma’s. I couldn’t wait for us to play lots of cards, spend time at the park and cook together.
Since my grandfather passed quite early, she enjoyed having another hungry tummy to feed when I came to visit. Instead of meals for one, we could make some of her family favorites like Chicken Chow Mein. (Even my 10 year old self found it ironic that her German palate loved this americanized Japanese dish that became popular in the 1950’s.)
While I stood at my GE stove sautéing the garlic and mushrooms in lard, just like she had, I thought about what the kitchen embraces for everyone, in all parts of the world. We live, play, cook and celebrate in these parts of our home, and they shape who we are. It’s one of the most honest forms of gathering we have, a place where traditions and memories are created.
The kitchen is the heart of the home – and so much of life plays out in it, in its least studied, most honest forms.
There is so much beauty in that.
There is so much beauty in taking a recipe from the past and letting the handwriting and abridged notes tell stories.
I garnished the plate with green onions and cilantro for a burst of freshness, and served it over a bed of cauliflower rice.The classic flavors were just right, the crunch from the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots the perfect texture contrast.
As I sat and savored this powerful comfort dish, I couldn’t help but wish Grandma and I could cook together just one more time. But that’s what kitchen memories are for.
Thanks to GE for sponsoring this post and, and reminding us all how much the kitchen influences our lives. They’ve done a great job of documenting other American kitchen stories, which bring us all together through one common bond – Watch the Richards Family story here!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of GE Appliances. The opinions and text are all mine.
Little was needed to adapt this Retro Chicken Chow Mein to be both AIP/Paleo. (I chuckled as I prepared to make it, the instructions not telling when to add the molasses, and the ingredient list called for water, but it was unclear how much.) I switched coconut aminos for soy sauce, tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, and spinach instead of bean sprouts.
2 tablespoons lard or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic
1 cup diced celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 (5 ounce can) water chestnuts, drained
1 (5 ounce can) bamboo shoots, drained
2 cups cooked, diced chicken
2 cups homemade chicken broth
1/4 cup coconut aminos (or soy sauce/tamari if not following AIP/paleo)
2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
2 teaspoons molasses
2 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced green onions
Bring the lard or coconut oil to medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add garlic, and cook for 1 minute, then add celery and mushrooms. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 5-6 minutes, until mushrooms are wilted down.
Stir in water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, chicken, remaining salt and 1 cup broth. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 8 minutes. In a small bowl stir together remaining broth, coconut aminos, tapioca starch and molasses. Stir to dissolve the tapioca starch, then add to chow mein.
Leave heat on medium and continually stir, which will result in the mixture thickening. Let cook for 4 minutes, then stir in stir in spinach, cilantro, and green onions. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until spinach is wilted.
Serve hot over cauliflower rice. Leftovers will keep in refrigerator for 4 days.