October 21, 2010

Might Mo & Soda Pop Cake Back in Missouri

Country star Sara Evans might enjoy Tennessee, but she sings about missing her mother in Missouri. In her song "Missing Missouri" off her Real Fine Place 2005 album she recalls summers of her youth, driving down backroads with her friends, through tobacco fields and bumblebees. Question of the day: Are bees addicted to tobacco, too?

I don't know Sara, otherwise I'd ask her for a favorite recipe her mom made when she was growing up. Missouri has a distinct flavor in the East with St. Louis style ribs; thin, square-cut pizza; breaded, beef-filled ravioli (not cheese) and gooey butter cake. On the Western side of the state, it's KC Strip Steaks (McConigle's ships), barbecue and povitica bread to name a few. But it's good to remember that Missouri is basically a southern state, and that's reflected in the cooks and their versatility.

Here's what my friend Vana Sweetland recalls about growing up in the middle of Missouri:

"I certainly have some fond memories of my Mother and both my Grandmother’s cooking but frankly, none of them use recipes," Vana says. "I think as 'country girls' it’s just something they grew up with and learned how to do. 

"Basically, I was raised on soul food. My Mother could probably be a chef at 'Papa Lou’s.' Mom and both my Grannies canned, know how to cook wild game and every vegetable imaginable, and they all share Emeril’s love of using lard. My Mother has lard at home in her refrigerator right now. My Granny Meador even made her own butter, butter milk, cottage cheese and milked the cow to get the milk to do it with."

Ah, mentioning Emeril brings back memories. Vana and I stood in line for an hour waiting to have Emeril sign his "Every Day's a Party" cookbook more than a decade ago. Vana stood longer in line and was nice enough to save me a space in line because I got lost driving around trying to find the mall. The cookbook's inscription has "Bam" and Emeril's script in it and that brings up a quick story before I get back to the state at hand -- Missouri!

Joe and I were dining at Emeril's restaurant near Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and it was at the end of a very delicious and promptly served meal. The waiter is bringing out dessert and I ask him about Emeril in the kitchen when he's there at the restaurant.

"Does he say 'Bam' when he's kicking it up a notch?" I ask. The waiter arches his eyebrows every so slightly (as if I've just asked for store-bought ice cream) and says: "That's just TV shtick." So there, now I know better than to ask about famous chefs in the kitchen.

View of the Mighty Mississippi, from the Arch

Close family friend Mechelle Voepel is a big Cards fan and one of the preeminent women's sportswriters in the country. Mechelle shares her recipe for a fun dessert made with soda/pop/cola. (Did you know that 7-up was created in Missouri?) This cake reminds me of a multi-colored birthday cake a friend's mother once served when I was in grade school.

A Western view from the Arch. Can you spot Cardinals Stadium?

Mechelle says: "When I was growing up just north of St. Louis, this is a dessert that my mom made during the summer. (If you're interested, I also have a recipe for something else my parents made ... lye soap! Not to eat, of course.)
We used Fitz's Strawberry Pop, bottled in St. Louis
Mechelle Voepel's Soda Pop Cake
One yellow cake mix
2 small boxes of strawberry Jello
1 bottle of strawberry soda
(You can vary flavors of Jello/soda. We used one strawberry and one mixed berry)

Mix cake according to box and bake in a 9" x 13" pan. While it's cooking, mix Jello, making it with the strawberry soda, not water.

The mixed berry Jello hits the strawberry Jello and soda in a cool fizzy effect

Put in refrigerator until partially set. Let cake cool for 15 minutes ...

... then put holes in cake with a fork and pour Jello mix on cake

Put in refrigerator until Jello sets, about three hours. (It kind of looks like the Missouri Delta — or the Gulf of Mexico — right now, but trust us, it tastes better than it looks!)

One small package of Instant Jello Vanilla pudding mix
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 small tub of Cool Whip

Mix pudding with milk, then add in Cool Whip. Put topping on cake and refrigerate.

It is indeed a great summer treat, no matter which side of the Mississippi you reside.

Remember, we're still searching for NOODLE recipes! Got one to put in comments for a chance to win the enjoyable "Swimming in Noodles" CD?

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