By KEVIN FRISCH
WHEN MOST PEOPLE EAT, they evaluate how good the food tastes by things like texture, taste, smell, and other sensual characteristics. From a fairly young age, however, it seemed to me that my father used some mysterious additional criteria for his judgment. I had no idea what it could be, and when I asked my father what it was, he just looked at me funny.
It was only a couple of years ago that I began to get an inkling as to what it might be. And, after some time (and comparing notes with my mother), I was sure I had it. My father (whom I always thought was a little on the thrifty side) actually liked food better if he knew it was inexpensive to make. The opposite of this I'd heard of, but only liking cheap food, I could hardly believe it. But, sure enough, that's what his top 10 favorite foods had in common.
And, thinking back, it does explain some things. I remember, for example, my father used to make this very tasty bean soup, and naturally my mother and I would comment on how yummy it was. My father, would then start mumbling something like, "One dollar plus 50 cents plus about . . . say, 63 cents is about two dollars. It makes about 30 bowl fulls . . . [turning to me and my mother] so what you just ate cost only seven cents!" Now, of course, this seemingly odd behavior makes sense. By telling us how cheap it was to make this he was (subconsciously, I suppose) trying to enhance our enjoyment of it. We just thought he was being weird.
This recipe is one of his favorites, and not surprisingly, it is made up of ingredients that are incredibly cheap (in California at any rate). It has its origins among the Hungarian peasantry and, like most Hungarian foods, makes a very hearty, simple, good tasting meal. (Notice the lack of comment on the cholesterol and fat content.)
4 lbs. medium potatoes
10 oz. bread crumbs
2 pints sour cream
Hard boil eggs (about 15 minutes) and let cool. Peel and boil the potatoes whole for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350@#F.
Cut boiled potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Cut the cooled eggs into slices as thin as you can get them (1/8 inch). Grease pan lightly and start with a single layer of potato slices, followed by a layer of egg slices, a good slathering of sour cream, and a light sprinkling of salt. Repeat this until you run out of stuff (about four layers). The final layer of sour cream should be about twice as thick as the others. Top this final thick layer off with the bread crumbs. Bake for half an hour in a preheated oven.
This dish can be heated up numerous times, can be eaten cold, and keeps for days. It's a good thing to make on the weekend to have around for the rest of the week.
Good luck and good eating.
Please write to kevinf@athena if you would like to see more recipes of a certain type in this column, or if you have any comments or suggestions. -- KF