I've often written about our farm neighbors from my youth, the Skuderna Family.
Bill and Marie Skuderna, whose farm fields border our farm fields, continued the same neighborly friendship that started with Bill's parents, who helped my Grandpa and Grandma Potempa when they first moved from Chicago as new immigrants to purchase our family farm.
Bill died at 70 on Aug. 3, 1990 and Marie followed on Nov. 30, 1997, at age 71. Their two sons, Donny and younger brother Charlie, were good friends with my two oldest siblings, Carol and Tom, while Donny's three daughters were my great friends, since Donny and his wife Linda built their home on their family farm property just down the road.
I give Tracy, who is my age, and her sisters Heather and Tanya, credit for helping me cultivate a great imagination that I value today, from the countless hours we spent dreaming up games and pretend fun to pass the time while surrounded by cornfields and woods.
Their father Donny passed away last week on Monday, March 31, at age 65 at his home after fighting a form of cancer called Myelodysplastic Syndrome. I grew up observing how he, along with wife Linda, were such hard workers, always tending large vegetable gardens and instilling the same work ethic and ambition for their daughters. (I've written in my previous columns and cookbooks how the three Skuderna sisters could always out-pick me at our summer jobs at the neighboring strawberry and blueberry farm).
Donny worked for 24 years at the Valparaiso Post Office, and spent his weekends hunting and fishing. And in later years, he also had a passion for motorcycles. His younger brother Charlie preceded him in death in 1991 at age 37. Now, Bill and Marie and their beloved boys are once again reunited.
When selecting a recipe to feature this week, I wanted to showcase something that rivaled Donny Skuderna's rebel spirit and passion for wild game.
Today's recipe is compliments of Clarissa Dickson Wright, a kitchen rebel who also shared a passion for motorcycles, who passed away March 15 at age 66 at her home in Edinburgh, Scotland. She rose to "middle-aged fame" as the co-star and co-chef of "Two Fat Ladies," the popular British television show featuring this duo of eccentric hosts.
A trained lawyer, Wright was paired with equally hefty and happy Jennifer Paterson, the latter who sported bright red lipstick and round, thick glasses, for a cooking show that launched on BBC network in 1996 and was soon picked up as a popular program hit on the fledgling Food Network, which was started in 1993. Long before Paula Deen sang the praises of cooking with excesses of butter and lard, Wright and Paterson already praised such key ingredients as a prized cooking practice. Each episode began with the ladies arriving to their kitchen on a Triumph Thunderbird motorbike with sidecar driven by Paterson.
When Paterson died at age 71 in August 1999, "Two Fat Ladies" ceased production. This same year, Wright, who also served as a food historian and owner of The Cooks' Bookshop in Edinburgh, penned her own cookbook called "Heiland Foodie: A Scottish Culinary Journey with Clarissa" (NMS Publishing $25). In addition to 32 history-based recipes, she shared some great tidbits like the fact potatoes were originally forbidden in Scotland by ministers because they are not mentioned in the Bible.
An avid hunter, in October 2012, she caused a stir by appearing on British television and discussing her belief that badgers should be eaten, extolling their nutritional value, saying: "There's going to be a cull, so rather than just throw them in the landfill site, why not eat them?"
Today's recipe for "Bacon Stovie" aka "Bacon Stew" is from her cookbook "Heiland Foodie: A Scottish Culinary Journey with Clarissa."
Bacon Stovie aka Scottish Bacon Stew
1/2 pound pork belly or forehock bacon
1 pound onions, chopped
2 pounds sliced potatoes
Black pepper, sprinkling
Dry mustard, scattering
1 Bay leaf
1 cup of whole milk, possibly more
DIRECTIONS: Cut bacon into 1-inch cubes and arrange in alternate layers with the potatoes and onions in a large cooking skillet with a cover, making certain to add a sprinkling of the dry mustard and black pepper over each layer. The top layer should be of sliced potatoes. Place the Bay leaf on the very top and cover with enough milk to come nearly to the top layer. Cover with lid and simmer gently for 2 hours. Makes 10 servings.
• Recipe courtesy of "Heiland Foodie: A Scottish Culinary Journey with Clarissa" (NMS Publishing $25)