Etcetera - 12/6/11

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From soup to nuts, drinks to desserts and hugs and dishes, Walla Walla native Shannon Smith-McKeown's new old-timey cookbook, "Eat Eat Walla Walla," has something for discerning tastebuds of every ilk.

Shannon's been collecting recipes for years. The 1979 Walla Walla High School graduate began amassing her collection as a child. She buries her nose inside cookbooks the way others plow through novels and she isn't shy about resurrecting outdated dishes. They appeal because they contain "simple ingredients that will make a hearty dish."

"One of my favorite things to do is listen to my mother (Sharon Smith) and aunts (Janis Nysoe and Dwyla Donohue) talk about the food they remembered growing up with on their ranch, especially their picnics, potlucks and Saturday night ‘Kitchen Dances.' This was a time when neighbors would bring homemade cakes with ‘Seven-Minute' frosting that was whipped by hand and not by an electric mixer," Shannon recalls in the book's forward.

While she'll experiment with new dishes, she keeps her favorites close. Friends and family have helped by donating some of their favorites, such as Shannon's grandmothers, sisters, nieces and a sister-in-law are also included.

"I don't consider myself a ‘gourmet' cook, but I have been known to be able to ‘throw it down' every now and then."

Along with her mother, and sister Chele Smith Guess, Shannon fixes Minestrone Soup for Tuesday Lent lunches at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. "The recipe is in my cookbook on page 29 and serves 375 people. No, really, so you better have a lot of soup bowls around," she said.

Fans of her cooking look forward to and expect her to show up with such confections as her Vanilla Caramels and Butter-Crunch Candy, Shannon added.

She prepares such dishes as breakfast casseroles on pages 85 and 86 and Huckleberry Pull-Aparts on page 92 for family at Christmas for the morning brunch before they open gifts.

For a while during her 31 years away from the Walla Walla Valley, Shannon lived on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was a casting agent at Disney and a manager at Nordstrom. It was when she came home that she found love when reconnecting with former high school classmate Pat McKeown, a lieutenant at the Washington State Penitentiary.

"I love cooking for my husband and 11-year-old step-son Patrick McKeown." She's fond of fixing "Dixie Stew" on page 62 and "Maple Bar Cake."

Because she didn't want her name on every recipe in the book, some are authored by such fictional cooks as "Bea Hive," "Murr Chants," "Baker Boil," "Mel Rose" and "Millie Creek," punny takes on place names locals will recognize.

Real live contributors include women around whom Shannon grew up, including Marilyn Noble, Dottie Cox, Margy McDonald, Mary Bell, Ruthie Hartley and Tilly Roop.

The $15 book is for sale at My Grandmother's Garden, 2922 S. Third Ave., Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman, 19 N. Second Ave., or through Shannon, owner-licensed massage therapist at 2 UnWind Massage Therapy, 800 Sprague Ave., Suite 105.

•••

It's evident the Christmas season has descended when Santa Claus begins making local appearances. Elves at Home Loan Center and Coldwell Banker First Realtors conspired to bring St. Nick to Main Street on Nov. 25 via a horse-drawn chariot commandeered by Elf Bob Westergard.

If one could have seen under Santa's beard, one would have recognized Gary Pierce. Wife Liz Pierce, with Home Loan Center, 1 E. Main St., donned the guise of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and their niece Elysa Hoekman played The Grinch.

Carolers led by Kayla Crain followed Head Elf Tim Applebee, who drove Rudolph, The Grinch, Charles Martin as Frosty the Snowman and elf Kaetlyn Crowson in his 1951 Chevy truck, which trailed behind the chariot.

"Nothing like this had been done in years and years and Tim (owner-manager of Home Loan Center) and I wanted to bring the magic of Christmas back to Walla Walla," Liz said.

Tim and Liz joined with Dennis Ledford of Coldwell Banker to bring the magic back to the kids in the community. "You know that magical feeling of Santa coming, seeing just Santa," Liz said. "You should have seen the kids. It brought goose bumps to us. We talked about it for a year. We threw it all together in a week."

So on Nov. 25 and 26, Santa presided in a gigantic chair at Coldwell Banker, 218 W. Main St.

Several people volunteered to take free pictures of Santa with nearly 200 children.

There was also a cookie crew: Tim, wife Rhonda Applebee, Tim's brother Don Applebee Jr. and Liz baked dozens of cookies under their outdoor canopy for the dozens of visitors and Starbucks donated hot coffee to visitors.

A Santa at the North Pole mailbox is currently situated outside the Home Loan Center.

Any children who leave letters for Santa before Christmas Eve will receive a response from Santa, Liz said.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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