Cheese straws and lies

imagesIn my novel in progress, set in Tennessee, 1919, the cook makes cheese straws for a garden party that never happens. Too bad. They’re easy, addictive, and very southern. The recipe follows, adapted from Nathalie Dupree’s New Southern Cooking.

I got her book years ago through work desperation. I was offered a job writing a video script on New Southern Cooking. Needing a job, I assured the producer that nothing passed my lips that wasn’t New Southern Cooking. Then I hurried out to get Ms Dupree’s excellent book and study up on Southern cooking, new and old. I didn’t know much.

Funny, because my mother grew up on a poor Texas farm, which she fled at age 18 for the sophistication of New York. To her dismay, as a young parent, all she could afford were down home dishes. When our finances improved, she dropped her culinary roots like a hot potato.

A family story has me at age 3, being served roast beef by my relatively (to my parents) wealthy German-American grandmother. Noting my curiosity, she asked slyly if I had ever eaten roast beef. I must have seen my parents cringe, so I helped them out by earnestly assuring my grandmother that, oh, we ate roast beef at home “all the time, every day. We just call it different things: rice and beans, pancakes, bacon and eggs, creamed corn . . . ”

Anyway, here are Cheese Straws, from Nathalie Dupree and my Texas grandmother.

2 C white flour (soft wheat if possible)
2 C grated sharp Cheddar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 C butter
2 well-beaten eggs
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

Mix flour, salt, paprika, & cheese. Cut in butter very well, but without mashing. Mix beaten eggs and W sauce. Add to other ingredients, mixing lightly, as for biscuits. Turn on floured board, kneading sightly, adding a bit of water if needed. Roll out about 1/2 inch. Cut into finger-size strips and put on greased cookie sheet. They don’t spread much. Cook at 425 until slightly brown. This should be about 8 min but watch carefully. Remove from oven. Push around slightly on the sheet so they don’t stick. Let cool. Store air-tight, freeze, or eat right away. Makes about 4 dozen.


Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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