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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Chicken and Noodles

Chuck Hinman: Chicken and Noodles: the Good Ol' Homemade Kind. Chuck notes that both his mom and his wife were experts at making noodles and that he never saw a store-bought package of egg-noodles in a Hinman pantry.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Leaving the nest and early days of flying: Bird 1 -- Bob Hinman

By Chuck Hinman

Chicken and Noodles: the Good Ol' Homemade Kind

My mom and my wife shared one expertise; both were experts at making home-made noodles but in very different ways. In all my years of living, I never saw a store-bought package of egg-noodles in a Hinman pantry. Skinners or American Beauty would have gone bankrupt if they had depended on the Hinmans keeping them in the noodle business.


I woke up last night and didn't go back to sleep immediately. I was thinking about food, (of course). Two long-ago pictures came to mind: Mom making and rolling out her noodles on our enamel porcelain-top kitchen utility table and then her drying this round sheet of noodles over the back of a chair placed next to the hot furnace in the living-dining room. To complete the picture, you have to know that this sheet of noodles was laying on top of the day's newspaper. That newspaper was unfolded over the back of the chair pulled up to the very edge of the hot furnace.

Chicken and noodles was a staple in my early days growing up on a Nebraska farm during the depression -- the early 1930's. The Hinmans weren't plush with money. Mom learned the art of 'making do' with what we had in abundance. We ate well!

From young fryers to cash flow layers to chicken and noodle dinners

We always had a large flock of Leghorn and/or Rhode Island Red chickens. Besides supplying a young fryer for many summertime delicious meals, as the chickens aged and laid eggs, they provided the cash-flow for most everything in the household. That ranged from the store-bought food items to an occasional piece of new clothing or music lessons for the Hinman kids.

When 'setting hens' had reached the final days of their egg-making capabilities, they didn't fool my savvy Mom. She could gently lift an old mother-hen off the nest, and feel between her legs up next to where the eggs exited her body. She could tell if her egg-laying equipment was worn out. If so, she was on the endangered list and a candidate for Mom's next chicken and noodle dinner. Sad? Yes, but a fact of life.

Money not wasted on store-bought noodles

For the noodle part of this delicacy, Mom would have dropped dead before she would have wasted her hard to come by money on store-bought noodles. To tell you the truth, I don't know if packaged noodles were available then as they are now.

Even though we were poor, Mom had a state-of-the-art kitchen; however, kitchens in those days (the early 1930's) were not equipped with endless counter space on which to prepare foods items.

All purpose kitchen utility table

In one corner of our large square kitchen was a white enamel porcelain top kitchen utility table -- now a pricey antique. Mom used that table for everything from rolling out noodles, making an apple pie, cutting up a young fryer, to attaching a grinder to the edge of the table and grinding up a bunch of fresh horseradish, or grinding up the leftovers of the roast beef for some yummy sandwich spread. That utility table was her 'right hand man' and she made good use of it in preparing meals. I've seen her use the table to sprinkle down the clean laundry on Monday afternoon for the next day's ironing party with the kitchen stove heated irons. Precious memories -- how they linger!

On frigid winter days, a blazing fire was usually going on in the furnace between the colonnades in the living-dining room. Mom would pull up a dining room chair next to the hot furnace and unfold the current issue of the Beatrice Daily Sun over the back of the chair. Then she would unfold her noodle pastry on the newspaper to dry a little faster for supper.

The question of newspaper ink and noodles

When I questioned some lady at breakfast here at Tallgrass Estates this morning about the efficacy of putting a food item on top of a newspaper with all its ink, she added that every house wife did it in those days and never looked back. No one is known to have died from consuming printers ink off homemade noodles!

In a couple of hours, the drying process was finished and Mom took the dried sheet of noodle pastry back to the porcelain utility work table in the kitchen. There she would complete the process by cutting the pastry in bite size pieces with her well used paring knife.

Chicken boiled off the bone and prepared for noodles

In the meantime, the setting hen du jour was boiling off the bone on the nearby wood-burning kitchen stove. After all the bones and skin were removed, the chicken was cut up in bite size pieces and placed back in the large pan of broth. The broth was brought to a slow boil. The homemade noodles were added slowly and left to stew until the noodles were fully cooked.

I have seen Mom add some flour to lightly thicken the broth but not too much. I have also seen my wife Connie add just a smidgen of yellow food coloring at this stage of the preparation so the finished chicken and noodles didn't have a watered down or anemic look. Oh, you culinary experts! How did you get so smart? Probably from lots of experience!

A finished meal appealing to the eye

Both Mom and Connie presented a finished product that not only tasted fantastic but was also appealing to your eyes, a secret of cooking known only by a few. Connie and Mom Hinman were in that elite group when it came to Homemade Chicken and Noodles.

Pass the chicken and noodles, please!

Written by Chuck Hinman, 23 December 2006 with slight revisions from a version emailed Wednesday, 3 November 2010.

Editorial Note: Chuck wrote that his wife added a 'smidgeon' of food coloring. The standard word is smidgen and I don't know if he meant to indicate something special by his spelling. The original title was 'Good Ol' Fashioned Chicken and Noodles.' The revised title was just 'Chicken and Noodles.' RHS



This story was posted on 2013-12-01 00:51:58
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