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Dr. Carrot Brightens Winter Days

Natural Parent, Natural Child Series

January 7, 2014
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Contributing Writer , OVParent

Are you a recipe hoarder? Do you actually use the recipes you clip from the newspaper, rip out of the magazines, and print from the Internet or put them in an "I'll get around to trying these someday folder"?

Sorting and organizing recipes is an easy pick-up-and-put-down winter project. The kids can help categorize: vegetables, deserts, casseroles. Your subcategories may include "This looks good" and "What was I thinking?" I got as far as organizing into color-coded folders: red for Christmas, blue for frequently used and plain manila for all the others. I had visions of creating an organized, categorized folder by scanning recipes into my computer. That's what the television organizational experts recommend in the name of reducing paper clutter.

My scan-and-pitch plan collapsed when I located the old recipe box with cards in my grandmother's handwriting. The little blue box also has recipes in my mom's familiar script. As I looked through the recipes for dishes with artery-clogging shortenings and loaded with salt, I knew I would probably never make any of them. Nevertheless, I could not throw these cards away ... not yet.

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My son-in-law recommended a delightful website of scanned recipe cards: Many cards showed the loving stains of use. Now I do feel better about scanning, yet there is something about holding the old stained cards.

As I sorted through the cards, I found a preponderance of carrot recipes. Creamed carrots. The serving suggestion was to add green peas and serve over a biscuit or salmon croquettes. There were curried carrots, copper penny carrots, julienne carrots, carrot relish, carrot cake, carrot bread and carrot-oatmeal cookies. Grated carrot salad made with gelatin called "congealed salad" by my grandmother. Memories of childhood meals came roaring back. Why did we eat so many carrots?

Always interested in nutritional values, I checked for information about carrots in cookbooks and finally on the Internet. It was there that I found the mother lode - a website of anything and everything I would ever want to learn about carrots. Check for a real adventure. This site has not only nutritional information, but also the history of carrots literally from caveman times to the present. There are interesting carrot illustrations from centuries-old books.

I was fascinated by the information in the World War ll section. It was while browsing the wartime section that I met Dr. Carrot. I began to have a deeper understanding why the English and Americans ate so many carrots during wartime. According to the Carrot Museum information, carrots are packed with beta carotene and other nutrients as well as being easy to grow and to store, so the Ministry of Agriculture introduced Dr. Carrot to the British folks in 1941. Dr. Carrot's mission was to encourage people to grow and eat carrots in place of other veggies. The Carrot Museum told of the British "Dig for Victory" carrot gardens. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in a similar patriotic gesture, Americans planted "Victory Gardens." Fresh vegetables were scarce in wartime England, but carrots were not. The Carrot Museum information also indicates that to support the Ministry of Agriculture's wartime carrot eating effort, BBC introduced Kitchen Smart radio broadcasts, brief daily cooking shows often featuring carrot recipes.

Dr. Alan Fletcher, an elderly British friend of mine who lived in England during war time, said that children were told to eat carrots so they could see during the blackouts. According to Dr. Fletcher, there was a miraculous secret, perhaps planted by parents, circulating throughout his bunch of carrot-eating friends. The reason the RAF pilots were so successful during night raids was that they were required to eat three carrots a day. So he and his buddies were inspired to eat three carrots a day!

On special occasions when they had bread, his mother served a very special treat: a sandwich with grated carrot, shredded cabbage bound with pickle relish.

Many recipes offered by the Carrot Museum closely parallel those of my grandmother. However, I don't recall carrot juice as a sweetener. I do remember the delicious aroma as I watched her grate nutmeg on top of creamed carrots cut into nickel shapes. A favorite winter lunch was curried creamed carrots cut into short carrot sticks and served over toast. Sometimes there was grated egg on top.

My children preferred raw carrot strips to dip in peanut butter. During gray old winter we had sunshine potatoes: grated carrots stirred into mashed potatoes. Their favorite recipe for cooked carrots is our family-created, go-to favorite, copper penny carrots. This is not the usual one with green pepper, onions and tomato sauce etc. Sweet wins every time. Figuring two carrots per person, I peeled and sliced carrot rounds, put them in a buttered baking dish and sprinkled a mixture of orange juice, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg, then dotted the carrots with butter. The carrots baked in the covered casserole at 325 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Sometimes I added pineapple chunks.

The ultimate winter comfort food for me is carrot soup. In addition to cheering the soul, this easy- to-make soup is so comforting during cold season. To make the soup, you will need: 3/4 pound of chopped carrots, 1 medium onion chopped, 1 cup uncooked brown rice, 4 cups of veggie or chicken broth. Saute carrots and onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until semi soft. Add rice and broth, then simmer until rice is done. Whirl in the blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 4-6 servings.

So embrace dark days of winter with a cup of carrot soup and a long-term, family-friendly project. Sorting recipes may take you on unexpected adventures in wonderfully weird directions. Who knows? The kids may try new foods or turn scientific. Perhaps your kitchen will be home to a host of sprouting things like carrot tops, sweet potato plants or dried beans sprouting on moist sponge in a glass.

- Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is the author of six books, including her most recent, a novel titled "Fire in Progress." She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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