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Chef Mom to the Rescue

If I’m stuck on a recipe, I know just who to call.

When Harriet Washburn Priska needs culinary inspiration, she calls mom Winnie.

I’ve heard there’s a website where you can enter all the ingredients you have on hand and it will list recipes you can make with them.

But all the collective wisdom of the internet can’t measure up to my mom, Winnie, when it comes to being inventive in the kitchen.

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I live in Escalante, Utah, 50 miles east of Bryce Canyon National Park and a long way from a supermarket. I often have to make do with a depleted pantry. When I’m stuck on what to make, all it takes is a phone call to Mom in Cedar City, Utah, to produce the most astonishing and delicious results.

Mom learned how to cook during the Depression. She had to be creative with limited resources. It was a skill that came in handy after Mom married my father, Harry. He was a minister, and at the Lord’s leading we moved often. The ingredients available in one town weren’t always in another. But what Mom whipped up in the kitchen always made us feel at home wherever we were. She even won the Pillsbury Bake-Off—twice!—with her pumpkin cookies and pumpkin cake.

Not long ago, though, I thought I’d stumped even Mom. I was supposed to bring a salad to a baby shower, but I had next to nothing in the fridge.

“You have any lettuce?” Mom asked.

“Not much,” I sighed.

“Cabbage?”

“Half a head.”

“What about a slaw?” Mom suggested. No mayonnaise or vinegar. “Ranch dressing,” she said. “That’ll work.”

Next I looked through my cabinets, reciting items to Mom till something struck her. “Dried papaya chunks…”

“Papaya, that’s good,” she replied. “Soak it in orange juice—it will absorb the juice and the flavors will mix well.” Raisins. An apple. A bag of pecans. “Keep those handy,” Mom said. “The slaw still needs something else.”

“All I’ve got left is a Cup of Noodles.”

“Ramen?” she asked. “Perfect.”

As I chopped cabbage, diced apples and mixed everything together I wondered if these random ingredients could come together to make something good. I put the slaw in the fridge. After it marinated a few hours, I took it out and tasted it. Mmm. Sweet, creamy and totally delicious. The flavors came together and the noodles and nuts added crunch. I called my husband in to try it. “You can fix that for me anytime,” he said, grinning.

The guests at the baby shower loved my special fruit slaw. “Where’d you get the recipe?” the host asked. “A website?”

“Well,” I said, “there is this award-winning chef that I call…”   

Try Harriet’s Fruit Slaw!

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