Christmas isn’t Christmas without some special foods. Today, author Judy Nickels shares a version of an old favorite most of us have probably made every year. I know I usually make a version of this recipe. I have to say, though, I never heard it named …
Chickenfeed-A Holiday Tradition
“Mom, you are making chickenfeed this year, aren’t you?”
The ancient 3×5 index card written in my grandmother’s rounded hand, the blue-black real ink now faded almost to obscurity in some places, reposes in a plastic sleeve for the sake of preservation. I could re-copy the recipe I know by heart, but taking out this one every year brings my grandmother close.
Call it “chickenfeed”
The title reads “Lurline’s Mix”, Lurline being the wife of my mother’s second brother. Whether the recipe was original to her or simply something she read and passed on, I don’t know. You may know it as “Chex Mix” or “Trash” or some other name, but we called–and still call it today–“Chickenfeed”.
In the days of Green Stamps, my mother and grandmother saved together until each could purchase a large electric cooker. This appliance served as the chickenfeed maker because of convenience and storage. The one I was still using probably 50+ years after the fact, went to its just reward several years ago. It still worked, but the flaking enamel lining seemed to justify sending it to recycling. Now I use two large aluminum foil baking pans.
The secret’s in the sauce and the stirring
In those days–the mellow 1950s–women regularly saved bacon grease for flavoring vegetables and greasing pans and casserole dishes. These days, I must make a concerted effort to fry up enough bacon to provide the required amount of bacon grease for the sauce–and that’s the secret of the whole thing.
The second secret is making sure all the ingredients are well blended. Adding the sugar, salt, garlic salt, chili powder, and Worcestershire to the melted butter and bacon grease and heating until everything is pretty much dissolved into a liquid will equal perfection when it comes time to add it to the cereal, pretzels, and nuts.
All that being said. . .
1 box each: Cheerios, Kix, Wheat Chex, Rice Chex
Pretzels, pecans, and peanuts to suit (We like lots of nuts!)
1 T salt
2 T chili powder (1 suffices unless you like it!)
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 C “oleo” (real butter is best)
1/2 C bacon grease
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
Cook 2 hours at 250
Stir every 20 minutes
Now for the real story. . .
Early in December my now-grown sons innocently ask, “Are you making chickenfeed this year?” They know I will because neither of their wives want to do it. Then they remind me, “Double sauce, Mom.” Which means, of course, doubling the entire recipe above EXCEPT for the cereal, pretzels, and nuts. One son wants pretzels, but the other doesn’t. One wants lots of peanuts but no pecans. So using the two separate baking pans instead of the now-defunct electric cooker is helpful.
“Chickenfeed” is more than a delectable treat–it’s time-honored tradition. My grandmother made it for years. Then my mother took over. Eventually it became my job. I guess I’m good for another few years, but then. . .well, perhaps a granddaughter will take over.
I feel quite sure their daddies will insist.
About the Author
Judy Nickles, also writing as Gwyneth Greer, has been making Chickenfeed for years and spinning tales since she could hold a #2 pencil. She is both traditionally (The Wild Rose Press, Champagne Books) and independently published. She also has stories and articles in several magazines and anthologies and won the Editor’s Choice Award for “A Very Kate Christmas” (short story) for the Words of Belief Christmas anthology in 2009. Available at Amazon
A retired teacher, avid genealogist, and traveler, she has acquired 5 grandchildren in the 8 years since retirement. She loves classical and southern gospel music, her Kindle fire and iPhone, and the memory of a glorious ride in the restored B-24 bomber built the year she was born!
To learn more about Judy, check out her other posts on this blog. A Very Kate Christmas Excerpt