My computer isn’t compatible with the one used by the newspaper; however, the one in my son Doug’s room works just fine. So each week I use his to enter my column. With me not being computer literate, Doug asks me just what my subject will be and what the to use for a title.
This week, when asked the usual questions, I told Doug I’d be writing about the weather. I got a huge sigh, rolling of the eyes and a look that said “oh, no, not again.” Shaking off his negativity, I reminded him that the headlines, one day last week, said a lot about the heat, and that if it was good enough for Steve, the newspaper’s editor, it was good enough for me.
Then I asked Doug to be quiet and get the heading printed. Of course, when I said something about bierocks, Doug stopped dead in his tracks, shook his head and sighed again. Now everybody that does the family cooking knows that it is not easy to figure out what to make for dinner when it’s ridiculously hot outside. Nobody wants a big meal with a roast and all of the fixings.
Instead, we tend to hunger for picnic food like potato salad and tuna fish. Hamburgers or hot dogs also come to mind, and I’m a macaroni salad or deviled eggs lover. All of these things were options as I opened our refrigerator looking, you know that “gee, what’s in here I can use while peering into the vegetable bin. There, to my surprise, was most of a head of cabbage left over from my making coleslaw.
Then an idea hit me, one that would take some cooking. But my mouth began to water at the very idea. I was going to make bierocks! Many years ago, when my husband, Van and I lived in Fresno, Calif., and had just moved to our first home, I stopped at a supermarket in our new neighborhood. I was admiring the goodies at the bakery counter when I spied a tray of what looked like round rolls with shiny tops.
Asking what they were, I learned from the young lady that they were “bierocks.” I smiled, she smiled, and then the usual question. “What in the world is a bierock?” She explained that they were buns made of bread dough and filled with a cooked combination of ground beef, onions, cabbage, cheese and seasoning, dusted with melted butter and baked. Wow! I bought a half dozen and a love affair with bierocks began.
Now we come to making bierocks in this century. They take some work, but I had a box of hot roll mix. Why start from scratch folks, this mix is just fine. Pulling out a container of frozen hamburger, I defrosted it while the roll mix was rising, sautéed an onion in oil and chopped up that cabbage. An hour later I had a dozen bierocks baking while I made up a fresh pot of iced tea.
I began to think about what we would have the next day for dinner? So while busy in the kitchen I made a container of tuna salad, cooked some macaroni and eggs for salad and deviled eggs. All of this would mean that for a couple of days; through this heat; I wouldn’t have to think about what to cook. It can be a real problem when it ‘s so hot.
Dean, another son of mine, called just as I was taking the bierocks out of the oven. When I told him what I was doing, he jokingly said he was going take the next plane out of Irvine, Calif., and come for dinner. This got our talking about those “dog days of summer” in Pennsylvania when he was young. Dean then reminded me of what I did on those days when my three youngest sons were still small.
I’d call them in from the back yard just before lunch, have them take a bath and change into clean underwear. They would have their lunch and rest on a quilt and pillows in the family room and watch a little television. Pennsylvania heat can be worse than anything we ever get here, because of its very high humidity. Those little guys of mine stayed inside during those terrible afternoons.
I was surprised that Dean would remember something from so long ago. He then said, “Gee, mom, I wish back then you had known how to make bierocks.”
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.