WHIDBEY RECIPES | Our family, and our country, hit the road with General Motors

My father, who is now 100 years old (and still has a valid driver’s license though he doesn’t drive anymore), always drove GM automobiles.

The first one I remember was a black, unimpressive but massive beast which went with us on a train to Fernandina Beach, Fla., and was later driven back across the country to Seattle.

It was, in fact, driven to its last possible mile because it came through World War II with my dad and wasn’t replaceable for a few years after the war. When my older brother finally put it in a ditch one afternoon, we then acquired the much snazzier Chevy I would later abuse as I learned to drive.

As I recall, all but one of my various high school boyfriends drove Chevys; the one exception had a Ford, but that was excusable because it was a convertible.

And later, as a newly married young working woman who needed transportation, our “other” car was a “previously owned” (and how) but very handsome green and white Chevy. I called it Emancipator and drove it far past its allotted time on any reasonable auto life timeline.

My parents, meanwhile, moved up to Oldsmobiles and, as we prospered, so did my then-husband and I. His was a brand new company car; mine was, once again, a previously owned but much loved deep blue tank of a car, in which both our children learned to drive before it, too, had to be retired.

When I returned home to my beloved Seattle after the years of my exile in the Midwest, my grandfather was still driving his ancient 1948 Chevy, minus most of the upholstery thanks to two adored wire-haired terriers who went berserk whenever he left them alone in the car. My dad was tooling around in an Olds ’88, and I felt guilty and very much out of place in my Volkswagen Dasher.

Hubby John was driving an elderly green Ford truck named Maxwell when I first met him, and it was his favorite vehicle until he needed to upgrade so he could pull a boat trailer. He found a not-so-gently used Chevrolet truck which was the love of his life for many years, until one dark day, on the way into town, it coughed up a thick, black cloud and exploded. He still misses it.

So, it is with no small amount of sorrow that we, third-generation Chevy lovers, read of the imminent bankruptcy, possibly even total collapse, of General Motors.

Do you recall, as I do, the time when there was a saying in this country that went, “As General Motors goes, so goes the nation?”


Here we go, for old-time’s sake, back to those wonderful Chevy years, when General Motors was the bellwether of the automobile industry. These recipes are among many that were very popular back in the ’40s and ’50s, from my grandmother’s and mother’s old cookbooks. Just as I still remember the feel of that Chevy I first learned to drive, I recall the tastes and aromas of these beloved dishes.


2-4 venison shanks (about 3 ½ – 4 lbs.) Note: My mother and grandmother used venison shanks for this dish; when I can get them, so do I, but more often I substitute lamb shanks, which are a typically cheaper cut of lamb and excellent for this dish.

3-4 cloves garlic

Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 T. vegetable oil or olive oil

2 T. diced onion

2 cups venison or beef stock, heated just to boiling

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ bayleaf

1 sprig fresh rosemary

3 cups diced vegetables of choice (potatoes, carrots, celery, turnips, etc.)

Cornstarch/water mixture, to thicken sauce

Mash a clove of garlic and rub it over the surface of the shanks. Roll the shanks in the seasoned flour (or put the flour mixture in a plastic bag and shake the shanks in the bag until well-coated.)

In a skillet, heat the oil until fragrant.

Sear the shanks briefly in the oil then add the onion and cook until just translucent; add the remaining garlic, minced, and continue to cook until the meat is browned on all sides, being careful not to burn the garlic. Remove from heat and drain off the fat.

Place the shanks on a rack in a Dutch oven or lidded pan. Add 1 ½ cups of the heated stock, salt and ground pepper to taste and the bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer, or place in a 325-degree oven; cook about 1½ hrs., or until tender.

For the last ½ hr. of cooking, add the vegetables and remaining ½ cup stock. When vegetables are tender, remove pan from the oven or stove, strain, keeping vegetables and shanks warm in the oven while you make the sauce.

Degrease the juices, and add a cornstarch/water slurry to slightly thicken the stock. Remove the rosemary sprig and bay leaf from the shank/vegetable mixture and serve the shanks and vegetables with the gravy poured over the top or served on the side, as preferred. Serves 4.

My mother made outstanding cabbage rolls, a fine way to make a bit of ground meat go a long way when she was feeding a family of six.


8 large cabbage leaves, washed, blanched in boiling water and drained

1 lb. ground beef

3/4 cup cooked white rice

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

2 T. finely chopped parsley

3/4 t. salt

½ t. thyme

¼ t. ground nutmeg

1/4 t. black pepper

2 egg whites*

1½ cups stewed tomatoes (Mom’s were homemade from the garden; I use canned)

3 T. brown sugar

1 t. lemon juice, or to taste

If you wish, you can cut out the heavy center vein of each cabbage leaf, but it makes them a bit harder to work with. In a bowl, combine the meat, onion, garlic, parsley, salt, thyme, nutmeg, pepper and egg whites.

Divide the filling mixture into 8 equal parts, probably about a scant 1/3 cup each. Place one part on each of the cabbage leaves, fold in the sides and roll up. You can secure them with toothpicks or tie them, or simply put them closely together seam side down in a buttered baking dish.

In a med. saucepan, combine the tomatoes, brown sugar and lemon juice. Bring just to a boil then pour over the cabbage rolls. Bake, covered, in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 1 hr. or until the cabbage leaves are very tender. Serve with a small dollop of sour cream, if desired. Serves 4-6.

*I found at least three handwritten recipes in Mom’s cookbook for cabbage rolls; in only one of them were egg whites used. I seldom use them but they do help to hold the filling mixture together. It’s up to you.

Remember porcupines? I loved them when I was a kid, and still like them once in awhile, although I spice mine up a bit more. It’s another great way to stretch some ground meat a long way.


1 lb. ground beef

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

3/4 t. salt

¼ t. paprika

2 T. chopped green or red pepper (optional)

1/3 cup white rice, uncooked

Tomato sauce, homemade or canned

1 t. chili powder (optional, depending upon desired “heat” of tomato sauced

In a bowl, combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, paprika and green pepper (if using). Divide the mixture into balls slightly larger than golf balls and pat them into a sort of a slightly rounded oval shape (the porcupine), or simply pat them into cakes. Roll these in the rice (making the “quills” of the porcupine).

In a heavy pot, heat the tomato sauce and chili powder, if using. Add the “porcupines”, cover the pot and simmer the porcupines for about 45 min. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary before serving. Serves 6.

Note: For some reason, my mother often served these with cooked spinach (wilted with a bit of oil, salt and pepper on it.)