Alabama Memories of Julia Child
October 27, 2009

Hughes Kennedy and Julia, 1973I’m freshly back from ‘bama, where I had a great visit with my Mom, one of my sisters, one nephew, one brother-in-law, two sisters-in law, and my Father-in-law and his new love. It was one of those somewhat hectic visits where there is sooooo much more that you’d like to do and see, but there are lots of people to get to and only so many hours in the day. You know what I mean…

And my Mother is still an avid reader of the Birmingham News…wouldn’t go a day without reading it cover to cover, though as with many newspapers these days (including the venerable Baltimore Sun) it doesn’t take as long as it used to. But she had saved a couple of things she thought I’d like…and she was dead on, both times.

The program from Julia's program in B'ham.....The first was an article about Julia Child, and a visit she made to Birmingham 36 years ago to give a series of cooking demonstrations at the Civic Center. She stayed with a Dr. Hughes Kennedy (seen with Julia in the top photo)at his home. My Mom asked, “Do you recognize him?”…and both my sister and I were clueless….”Nope…who is he?” She replied, almost scandalized that we didn’t know, “But he was your pediatrician!” Seriously, I don’t remember him at all, but she does.

And he must have done pretty darn well in the kid doctor business, because he had not one, but three kitchens in his home, and a dining room that would seat 100 guests. Good Lord. Dr. Kennedy hosted a dinner party for Julia while she was his guest, for about 125 people… he said he was too naive to be intimidated by cooking for the great Julia Child…they just dove in.

7 ingredients...how easy is that??He made his signature dish, a pretty simple chicken casserole with celery, onion, cheddar cheese and slivered almonds called Chicken Riggins. And even though it calls for only seven ingredients, Julia was impressed by it, so much so that she later requested the recipe for her garden club and named the dish, after Dr. Kennedy’s partner Wendell Riggins

My Mom said a group at church years ago saw the recipe long ago and made it for a Christmas party…it was such a hit  that they served the same thing year after year. And I plan to give it a try, though my mind reader Mother(who knows me well) said, “And don’t change any of the ingredients!” I was secretly  thinking…TWO CUPS of mayonnaise?? I can only imagine Dr. Kennedy didn’t eat this too often, as he’s now 85 and still kicking it. But I’ve provided the recipe below…and it does sound sinfully delicious. Let me know if you make it and how it was. Just loosen the belt buckle.

CHICKEN RIGGINS (Serves 10)

3 cups diced chicken

2 cups diced celery

1 cup diced onions

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese

1 can slivered almonds

2 cups mayonnaise

Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 4 chicken breasts and 4 thighs with salt, pepper and celery tops until tender, about 20 minutes. Cool and dice. Dice 2 cups celery. Saute onions and cube 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese. Mix above with 2 cups mayonnaise and almonds. Place in 3-quart casserole, sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and golden on top (approximately 20 minutes).

Taciturn emails….
April 25, 2008

My son is a lamentably infrequent emailer (and caller)….I know, he’s really busy, got his own life, he’s a guy..I get all that. But for Pete’s sake how long does it take to answer an email? You type some info out, maybe a little extra, after all it is your Mother, and press send. Maybe she’d like to know something…anything…about your life.

I’ve been trying to get Jesse to tell me what his girlfriend, the lovely Jennifer, would like for her birthday as  it rapidly approacheth. (Sometimes I break into Biblical-speak when anxious.) I asked would a gift certificate to her favorite yoga studio be good? And what else might she like. After several days of silence(obviously giving it great thought), I get “Yeah, yoga is always a good go-to.”) That’s it.

SOOOOO, I email back , “It’s the Kula Yoga Project?  Right?”

He replies again a day or two later, “Kula project“. That’s it. A two word sentence. Actually a phrase. No more. No less. Wow.

So I sent him a return email saying “You my friend are taciturn. That’s  a great crossword word for you (he & Jen love NY Times crossword puzzles), and in the rare case you don’t know what it means…oh, go look it up.”

Take that.( Another great two word sentence.) Oh, and for the the few, oh so few of you who don’t know what  taciturn means….it decribes someone of few words. The opposite of verbose. Hey, there’s another good crossword word.

Some years ago I was interviewing Mel Gibson about his latest movie, and had not too long before that interviewed Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan…they both had little to say to almost any question, and hey, I can usually get people to talk, ok? So to Gibson I finally said, “Are all Australian men so taciturn?” To which he looked at me for a couple of seconds and then yelled a single word over his shoulder…”Dictionary!”