This is the era I grew up in. Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best. Moms cooked in kitchens with linoleum floors, metal cabinets, and Formica tables. No microwaves, no immersion blenders, no crockpots, let alone any insta pots! But man oh man, I’m telling you the food cranked out of those kitchens was amazing. Best ever.
I was a skinny, nerdy kid and I lived for my dad’s company picnic every Fourth of July. I reveled in wearing my baggy old orange bathing suit from morning til bedtime. We played in the warm shallow water of the slow moving river catching minnows and toads. The annual affair was held on a little island in the middle of the Platte River in south central Nebraska and the day lazied along from late morning until the last s’mores were devoured and the fireworks all faded away.
There was a pint-size cabin with electricity and all the company wives brought food. Just outside the cabin door was a sort of shanty-like picnic area constructed of tall fence posts and chicken wire, shaded by a jungle of five leaf ivy. There had to be mosquitos, ticks, and sand flies but I don’t remember.
My mom always made her homemade clover leaf rolls and brought them in a fabric sack from flour. Everyone was waiting to snatch one when she arrived. There were all kinds of salads and pickles, potato chips, pies and cakes but my favorite was the electric roaster full of Blanche Matthews’ sloppy joes!
I’m sure Blanche used the vegetables to stretch the hamburger, thrifty woman that she was. But in all my years of eating sloppy joes, maid-rites, taverns, yum-yums, barbecues, Manwiches and loose meat sandwiches-of-many-names, there has never been anything to compare. Simple but amazingly good. If you want to push it right over the top, be sure to choose a really great bun and add a slice of cheddar cheese!
Blanche Matthews’ Sloppy Joes
Chock full of celery, peppers and onion and a perfect balance of tomato. Not too sharp, not too sweet. Great way to sneak veggies into a kid-friendly favorite!
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 cups celery chopped or sliced very thin
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 1/2 cup green pepper or sweet red pepper or some of each diced fine
- 1 can tomato soup
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp vinegar apple cider vinegar preferred
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
- pepper to taste
Break up and lightly brown ground beef in skillet then add chopped vegetables and saute until they’re soft and fragrant. Drain any excess fat. Mix in all other ingredients and cook, covered, until celery is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Spoon onto split bun. Add a slice of cheese if you like. (Cheddar is our favorite!)
Freezes and reheats well. Like soup, it’s even better the next day.
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