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My father shared few childhood experiences from the past and one day I wondered why. Growing up for me had been so much fun and it seemed only natural that he might have interesting stories to share with me. But times were different back then and there was so much to learn and understand.

In 1910, as a 4-year-old, he left Palermo, Sicily with his parents, arriving in this country through Ellis Island and living in New York City. A year later they headed west to Madison, Wisconsin to join relatives and friends who had already settled there near a lake in a neighborhood remembered as Greenbush.

It wasn’t until 1985 when my thoughts began to simmer about capturing his old neighborhood in Greenbush cookbooks that I’d hear his stories about my grandmother’s canned peaches freezing on a shelf one winter in their apartment on Gwinnett Court. He shared how he and his friends toasted chestnuts around self-made neighborhood bonfires, pulling his little brother, Joe, by his hair after he fell off a pier in Brittingham Park, serving Mass as an altar boy at St. Joseph’s, picking “carduni” along the railroad tracks for his mother to prepare for supper, the sauce she made by drying fresh tomatoes on wooden boards placed outside during the heat of summer, and his love for sports.

Being a small running back wearing a helmet lacking padding inside, he remembered tucking the ball under his arm and polished his skills to avoid being tackled by the “big guys from East High.” He excelled in sports at Central High, graduating in 1925 with plans to become a teacher and football coach. Along the way, the Depression dismantled his plans, forcing him to return home where he was hired by Oscar Mayer & Company in 1930 and proudly served in beef sales until 1969 when he retired.

My father, Mike (Tripolino) Tripalin, also known as “Trip,” became my fishing buddy on a lake up north where he’d reminisce between bites and action with innocent and priceless stories from the past for me to remember forever.

Oscar Mayer memories included finding four brand new tires at his front door one morning that Phil Salamone, one of his out of town meat customers left for him after hearing about the condition of his tires.

Here is a recipe he just loved. It’s simple and stirs delicious memories from the past.

Antipasto

½ small head of cauliflower, cut into flowerets

2 carrots, cut in 2-inch strips

2 celery stalks, cut in 1-inch pieces

1 green pepper, cut in 2-inch strips

3-ounce jar pimento olives, drained

½ cup pitted black olives

¾ cup wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves

¼ teaspoon pepper

In large skillet, combine ingredients with ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate, turning often, at least 24 hours. Drain well and serve.

Here is another one of his favorite dishes, thanks to Rose Troia McCormick whose husband, Roy McCormick was a founder of Paisan’s and Porta Bella restaurants here in Madison.

Caponatina

½-¾ cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups diced celery

1 large eggplant, pared, sliced and cut into small cubes, about 3 cups

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

¼ cup parsley

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon oregano

¼ teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1 cup tomato paste

2 large tomatoes, peeled, diced

1 cup water

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup small pitted green and black olives

Mushrooms, optional

Heat oil and saute garlic and celery. Remove and set aside. Saute eggplant, onion, green pepper, parsley, sugar, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, tomatoes and remaining ingredients and cook until soft. Chill until needed.

A request from Lou Rae Kremer of Beloit has stirred many memories from readers about “Dutch babies.” Described as being similar to a “fluffy” pancake, here is the first recipe that arrived from Lynn Ansfield.

Dutch babies

¼ cup butter

4 eggs

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium baking apples (reader uses Honey Crisp) peeled and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs, vanilla, flour, milk and salt on medium speed for 1 minute. In separate bowl, toss sliced apples with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.

Place 2 tablespoons butter in each of two 9-inch pie pans and put them in the oven to melt the butter. Remove from oven and use a pastry brush to coat bottom and sides of pans. Arrange half the apple slices in each buttered pan so they cover the bottom in a single layer. Pour half of the egg mixture over the apple slices in each pan (a little less than one cup per pan). Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar over the batter. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately, while still puffy. The pancakes will begin to collapse as they cool, but they will still taste just as good. Serve 4 or more.

An hour later, a second Dutch Baby recipe arrived from Kathy Madden, Stoughton, mentioning that the pancake remains available in some local restaurants and the Maddens originally had it years ago at an Original Pancake House in Madison.

Dutch baby pancakes

3 large eggs

¾ cup milk

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh is best

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ teaspoons lemon juice

Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and milk until blended. Add flour and salt and stir until batter is barely blended (should be lumpy). Toss apple slices into a bowl with 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and cinnamon. Melt unsalted butter in an 8- or 10-inch pan over high heat. Add apple mixture and saute 4 minutes until slightly softened. Spread out apples in even layer. Pour batter over. Bake 20 minutes to golden brown and puffed. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon lemon juice and dust with powdered sugar.

Serve immediately. Serves 2-4

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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