Family Recipe Friday: Sloppy Joe Bunwiches

Having the recipes  my grandmother and her fellow pastors' wives used and cherished is a treasure. Many dishes evoke the 1970s: lots of cream of mushroom/chicken soup, shortcuts popular in that time to get a meal on the table. But I'm not sure things have changed all that much. We're still in a time crunch, we still want to have good food quickly. and so I hope I can find some gems to share.

The first recipe I chose is simple and surprisingly good. I found a pretty major typo in the recipe, so I'm going to give you my version which works better (although if my grandmother were here, she'd probably disagree.) Sloppy Joe Bunwiches can be a great appetizer or quick dinner. 

(And please forgive the food photography quality. I'm a little rusty.)

Note these changes to the recipe:

  • Bake at 350 degrees, not 450 stated in the recipe.
  • Add a chopped green pepper if you like.
  • Use one container of 8 count refrigerated biscuits.
  • Makes 8 servings.

Amanuensis Monday: Parsonage Favorites 1976, Recipes from Pastors' Wives

Over the last few months, I've transcribed my grandmother's diaries from her time in the Belgian Congo in the late 1940s. After their time in Africa, they spent several years as missionaries in the Philippines. I hope to find a few things from that era, but for now, I'm going to jump forward to 1976 when she and my grandfather, Harry, lived in California. By this point, most of their children have left home, and my grandfather became the pastor of several Baptist churches in California.

One of the ways my grandmother, Vickie, spent her time was compiling recipes from other ministers' wives into cookbooks. My grandparents published the first one in 1976, and not only does it contain information about the food trends in the 1970s, it also tells me even more about my grandmother and her character. Never was she at a loss for words, and if she had something to say, she said it without a filter. Quirky, proud, and at times self righteous, my grandmother had a wealth of opinions about everything--even recipes. Some of her comments in this book are absolutely priceless. And I'm overjoyed to share them with you.

The series of cookbooks are called Parsonage Favorites: Choice Recipes of the Wives of the Pastors of the California Association of Regular Baptist Churches. In the introduction, she remarks:

"Last year at the Regular Baptist State Pastors' Wives Retreat as Asilomar some of us were talking in the dining room and exchanging recipes as women do. We were sharing recipes that were quick and easy to make, inexpensive, and delicious to eat. For women who do a lot of entertaining, these ideas were just what we needed. Someone suggested that we ought to make a cookbook so we could all have them.

I said that I would ask my husband to print the book. My offer was accepted, and thus I became the editor. I am sorry that many of our pastors' wives were not included, and some of them didn't even know about the project. I just didn't have the time to write to everyone, but I made a couple attempts to get the word out. If you didn't know about it, it is because you weren't at Asilomar last year, you weren't at the state conference at Santa Maria, and you didn't read the Regular Baptist Messenger last March.

I have also included some helpful hints. May this book be used to help us be better wives and hostesses and to help in the great work that our husbands are doing for their Lord and ours. What a privilege it is to be permitted to serve Him!

Vickie Buerer, February 1976"

As I was opening the cookbook to take a look, a letter fell out. The letter, dated May 1976, contains some additions and corrections as well as recommendations. My favorite part is the first paragraph:

"A few things have come to my attention that I thought you should know about. On page 44 in the recipe for Wacky Chocolate Cake, Mrs. Mann meant to put down baking soda instead of baking powder. You will want to change it. I made it with baking powder and it didn't rise."

In addition to the recipes, the cookbook has Bible verses and comments from my grandmother typed in red. My favorites:

Janet Jarvis, known for her pumpkin bread at Christmas time.

  • When you buy a bottle of grape juice for the communion service, do you wish you could keep the rest of it for the next month? You can. Pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it. When frozen, put the cubes into a plastic bag and save them in the freezer. Take out just as many as you need and they thaw out fast. I got this idea from Janet Jarvis in Rohnert Park.
  • Before molding a gelatin salad, rub the mold with mayonnaise. When you are ready to unmold it, it will come out right.
  • I know from experience that this (a recipe for pumpkin bread) is really good. Mrs. Jarvis serves it at Christmas time and we have been invited to her home to sample the Christmas goodies when my husband was pastor in Rohnert Park. Now her husband is pastor and she can't invite the pastor and his family over.
  • Several times I have heard people say, "I didn't know Baptists ate devils' food cake." Maybe we shouldn't.
  • You will be tempted to pour some of the fruit juice in this batter to moisten it. Don't. (a comment regarding a fruit cocktail dessert.)

What I've decided to do is choose a recipe and post it every Friday for Family Recipe Friday. I will give my critique of the recipe, and I'm right now inclined to post only things that taste good and I think will be enjoyable by others. I believe the cookbooks go all the way to 1990, and once again, I have a wealth of information from the Buerers. Let's get cooking!

Amanuensis Monday: The Buerers Final Year in the Belgian Congo

The Buerer family in 1949: Lois, Harry, Marilyn, Vickie, Peggy Ann & Nancy.

All my grandmother's life, she fully believed there was no higher calling than being a missionary to Africa. I wouldn't be surprised if she started planning even as a young girl how she would eschew the comforts of her sheltered Midwestern upbringing and venture to the harsh climate of the Belgian Congo. But upon arriving in Africa as an adult, she quickly realized the whole experience was more than what she bargained for.

From the time the Buerers left Chicago to begin their journey as missionaries in 1946, my grandmother kept diaries to remember their experiences. And, oh, what adventures they had. From sickness to burglary to giving birth to my aunt in the back of a car, their entire lives turned upside down. I sense frustration and a tremendous amount of homesickness by her words. I also found some lovely things, mainly what a wonderful man my grandfather was. From giving my grandmother perms to delivering their fourth child, he showed an incredible amount of love and responsibility for his family. I cherish him.

And now we've arrived at my grandmother's final entries, mostly dealing with the family's preparations for their return to America. It's much shorter than the other years, and I find the very last bit telling and somewhat heartbreaking. Throughout her diaries, she shows lack of propriety, and her account comes from another time and place. I'm grateful to her for her candor and memories and for sharing this story.  

January 9, 1949

Driver ants got into our house a few nights ago. We had to get out of bed to get away from therm. They were in every room in the house.

Three little boys came here who were infected from being circumcised. They look awful. We've been putting medicine on them every day.

January 16

Art and Harry went antelope hunting but didn't catch anything.

The crazy man has been a nuisance. Harry wrote to the Secretary and he was here to see us.

Harry and I have been taking care of six little boys who were circumcised and got infected.

Our passport came Friday. 

January 30

Ira Cross came here Friday morning and we all went with him to Kimpata to see about putting a new teacher there. Then we went to Luembe and spent the day. We learned how to play Mah Jong. They brought us home after supper and we played again here.

February 6

Harry preached the service there (Luembe). We played Mah Jong in the afternoon and they brought us back this evening.

We've been getting things ready to go to Tshene and Kikwit, taking inventory of our food, etc.

I've been sewing as much as possible to make dresses for the girls and me to wear home.

I had a women's class Friday afternoon. 8 women came and seemed very interested especially in the flannel graph story.

February 13

Minte made a native dress for me to wear home.

We received a telegram giving us reservations on the Del Rio arriving in Matadi about April 6.

February 20

Monday morning we left Tshene for Kikwit arriving there about 2:30. Tuesday morning we shopped, then went to the hospital for yellow fever shots. 

After dinner we got our teeth fixed as Dr. Smith was in Kikwit. Then some more shopping and we started home at 3:30. After dark the lights suddenly went out and we almost landed in the ditch. We waited for the moon but it was too cloudy to do much good. We rode home the rest of the way (about 40 miles) without lights and Harry's eyes were quite sore for days later.

Friday afternoon was my women's class. There were 12 out, all 8 from before and 4 new ones. Ejum was sick so the teacher Josefi interpreted for me.

February 27

I am sewing dresses for the girls to wear on the way home.

March 6

Thursday morning Peggy Ann fell off the bed. We thought she broke her arm and called the doctor. He said it wasn't broken but he thought it was cracked.

We've been selling lots of our things.


March 27

(Lots of packing and getting boxes ready to ship.)

We celebrated Lois' 2nd birthday at Eyeme Friday. Clara Belle baked a cake for her.

Marilyn was sick all week. Last Sunday she got fever and was hot all day Monday. Diarrhea started Tuesday and Thursday she started passing blood. Clara Belle had some dysentery pills and we tried them on her. She is a little better now.

Saturday morning we packed up and about 3 o'clock the suitcases and some of the folks went to Mangai. We went the next load and waited for the river boat. It was about 6:30 when the Luxemburg(sic) came in and we went aboard. We have three cabins. This morning I had to wash our dirty clothes. A cobra came onto Ronk's porch yesterday and the men killed it.

April 3

The river boat got to Leopoldville Wednesday morning about 8:30. Before we got off the boat a lady came and told us we would have to fly to Matadi the next morning to meet the ship. 

(A lot of this diary entry is illegible. I'll try and decipher as best I can.)

The bank and ...were closed because it was Wednesday afternoon and we couldn't get any traveler's checks or American money.

Harry was quite sick but he helped pack and I finished it after 11 o'clock. We got up at 5 as we had to be at the airport at 6. We flew to Matadi in 1 1/2 hours. Our cases will have to go on the next boat. 

In Matadi we came by taxi and went through customs and then onto the boat. Harry was pretty sick but had to go back to turn in the matriculation cars. It was awfully hot.

The boat left Matadi about 1:30. We have 2 nice cabins and the meals are really swell. We stopped at Lagos, Nigeria this morning.

April 10

We left Lagos Monday morning. Sunday evening we got off the ship and took a little walk. Then we left again and arrived at Takoradi on the Gold Coast...Next to us was the Fernglen, a Norwegian ship. The Leland Andersons, missionaries from Congo came over to see us. We had met them in Leo 3 years ago. Mr. & Mrs. Kennedy from Nigeria also came over to see us the first night. The next morning we all got into a row boat and rowed over to visit them. There were two single women missionaries there, too.

Saturday morning we arrived here at Port Bouet, French Ivory Coast. We have been unloading drums of asphalt. 

Two Catholic priests got on at Takoradi along with a native they are taking to America. One of them is certainly a talker.

We have been spending every morning washing and ironing clothes.

The natives on the Gold Coast are on the point of rebellion, trying to get self-government in '49. They are all wearing S.G. signs.

It is so very hot here. We are anxious to get going.

April 17

Monday afternoon a barge sank with 32 drums of asphalt and it took a long time salvaging them. The boat sank again after they almost got it out. That delayed us some more. 

Friday afternoon was Nancy's 6th birthday. We managed to find a few presents for her but will celebrate her birthday again when we get home.

...It is much cooler since we left Africa and a great relief.

Today is Easter Sunday. One of the priests had an Easter egg hunt for Peggy Ann and Nancy and hid candy for them.

April 24

We have had a very calm trip and enjoyed fellowship with Gordon Mellish. The weather has been nice, just cool enough. We've kept busy every morning washing and ironing clothes and usually wash them afternoon and evening, too.

Marilyn pulls herself up by the side of her bed and playpen now to watch us. She fell off a big bed one day and hit her forehead on the corner of a drawer. It is healing nicely.

Nancy got her first "second tooth" way in back of the others which aren't even loose.

We are so anxious to see America and to get home.

Amanuensis Monday: The Thieves Come in the Night: The Buerers in Africa 1947

When you read a person's diaries, the results can be ambiguous. One one hand, the words you see belong to that person alone, and you can catch glimpses into their hearts and minds. But the words and thoughts are also very one-sided. And I'm finding as I read my grandmother's words, I'm conflicted and confused about what she says. Sometimes I get offended. But I think I gain some clues into what their lives were like in the mid to late 1940s in the Belgian Congo.

Nancy, Vickie, and Peggy

Nancy, Vickie, and Peggy

All of her life, my grandmother longed to be a missionary. No calling could rise above sending yourself off into the mission field to win souls to Christ. But I think once she got there, she was stunned and dismayed. They suffered from a lot of sickness. And loneliness. And from what I read, I believe she settled into a depression she never quite got out of. 

I haven't read further in her diaries to see what lies ahead. And I'm just going to let her words stand on their own for now. I do not transcribe everything, as some of the accounts are very mundane. So I'm going to give you the "meat" of everything in the later half of 1947.

In April and May, my grandmother writes a lot about things they received in the mail, visits from other missionaries, and schooling the other missionary children (“I’ve been helping Marjorie with Latin and Algebra every morning.”) She also says: "Harry started work on printing tracts on a multigraph Angus had...We sent the push push to Tshene for our furniture. It came back Thursday with our stove, icy ball, and baby bed. We received eight boxes Monday and Tuesday. Among other things were lots of dried fruit and puddings...I fired our wash boy, Salankango, and hired Mkumbu in his place. He is a lot quieter and seems to do just as well..."

June 1947

The dry season has come. We can even feel our skin getting dryer.

An icy ball

An icy ball

We have been making ice cubes in the icy-ball. Friday we gave one to each of a group of natives. It was comical to watch them dance and yell as they felt the cold in their hands and mouths.

We’ve been having trouble getting enough water. Our water boy was called to Idiofa by the official the end of May and we can’t get anyone to take his place. I’ll be glad when he comes back.

Tuesday night a thief cut the strings around the palm poles of our storeroom and broke in and stole a suitcase full of things I was saving for the girls for Christmas. Harry offered 50 francs to the person who found it and we got it back before Wednesday morning was over. The thief was Montobo, a mason’s helper. He didn’t know how to open the suitcase so he cut the whole bottom out, ruining our best suitcase. For quite a while he said he found it in the grass. Then he admitted stealing it but said the devil entered into him and made him do it.

Friday was Peggy Ann’s sixth birthday. We had fried chicken, birthday cake and jello. We made ice cream but it didn’t get hard until the next day. She got lots of nice presents and Nancy got a few things, too.

July 6, 1947

About 8 o’clock this morning Mr. and Mrs. Kliewer of Kafumba came with their truck to take us to Matende. Mrs. Haller and the Hutchisons from Mangringu went, too. We arrived there about 10 o’clock in time for the morning meeting. The theme for the day was “The Body of Christ.” We enjoyed the meetings very much. We had a big dinner of mashed potatoes and gravy, meatballs, carrots and peas, and apple pie, also applesauce. There were 16 adults and 10 children. In the afternoon Harry was one of the speakers and also spoke at a native meeting following.

We had a good supper of wieners and buns, pickles and baked beans with chocolate cake for dessert.

July 27, 1947

Monday we ate supper at Ronks and Tuesday noon and night we ate with Barbara. Monday evening we played Make-a-Million and Tuesday afternoon we went to the lake again. Nancy threw our camera in the water. In the evening we all went to Ronk’s house and ate popcorn, fudge, divinity, and taffy.

Wednesday morning I visited Aunt Viola’s old people’s class and Clarabelle’s children’s class. We left for Kifwanzondo right after dinner. We brought  home with us our chicken, a bunch of bananas, a basket of manioc, some limes, 8 baskets, four pineapples, a basket of pai pai, some raspberry bushes and bougainvillea plants, and some tapioca. We stopped at Idiofa to buy some food…

August 3, 1947

Peggy Ann lost her first tooth yesterday and I took out Lois’ first chigger today.

Nancy took her second worm treatment which is supposed to clear them up.

August 31, 1947

Friday morning the men started to put a new grass roof on our house.

Tango Andre came Tuesday to work for me. It’s nice to have a full time boy again.

Nancy and Peggy

Nancy and Peggy

September 7, 1947

This is our seventh wedding anniversary. We bought some antelope in the native market yesterday so we were able to celebrate. I made raisin pie for dessert.

September 21, 1947

I made a new rule in school that all time wasted had to be made up by attending school on Saturday. Attendance and attention has been much better since I started it.

September 28, 1947

Just after midnight Monday night Emmie called me and I went with her to Simone’s house. His wife gave birth to a baby boy. I didn’t get home until 4 o’clock. It was my first experience of seeing a baby born. Simone is so proud and excited about it. He made a mattress for the baby and is making a bed for him.

The natives all went to Kifwanzondo Monday to be examined by the doctor. Several of them had shots or lumbar punctures and were limping around for a couple of days.

October 5, 1947

Saturday morning we discovered that someone had broken into the print shop during the night. They had pushed the whole window frame out. They didn’t take much—a little paper and a few pencils. They were probably looking for money as Harry had paid the men from there the afternoon before.

Our movie camera came along with four other boxes from Mamma. We took 100 ft of colored pictures of the children this afternoon. Most of them were of the baby.

October 26, 1947

Peggy Ann is doing well in her embroidery lessons. She finished a bib for Lois on Friday and is going to start an apron for Nancy. They will make nice Christmas presents.

Peggy Ann finished First Grade Tuesday and started Second Grade the next day.

November 2, 1947

Tomorrow we will go to the lake for a week. We looked over the grounds today and watched the monkeys in the trees. It is very hot here.

One morning we woke up and found our clock was missing. It had been on a cupboard by the bed next to an open window. Late we noticed that Lois’ soap was missing, too. We had heard a noise during the night and Harry had gone out with a flashlight but had seen nothing. Our boys found the clock on the porch just outside the kitchen. The thief had evidently returned it earlier in the morning.

I found this picture in my grandmother's things. On the back it states "Anonymous Congo Missionaries (not related)." I found the picture so compelling I had to include it.

I found this picture in my grandmother's things. On the back it states "Anonymous Congo Missionaries (not related)." I found the picture so compelling I had to include it.

November 16, 1947

…our stove and mattresses had arrived. The spring and cots should be here soon. Harry put the stove up Thursday. It certainly is a beauty.

While we were at the lake a lot of Angus’ new house fell down. There was so much rain that week and this week, too.

November 23, 1947

I have had an ulcer in my mouth all week. It is so bad that I haven’t been able to open my mouth to eat the last few days. It even hurts to talk. I sent a note to Dr. Benoit but he was away.

Yesterday Miss Forel came here from Kintshua. She is a nurse. She said I must stop nursing the baby and drink milk for ten days. She thought it would heal in 3 days. She will stay until tomorrow. I had school all but Friday and it was too hard to talk then.

November 30, 1947

I was in bed all week except in the evenings when I sat in the living room by the light. The sore in my mouth improved gradually but is not completely healed yet. I am so weak from not eating that I can’t do much.

We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday but will celebrate it after I am able to eat again.

We got a box from mamma that had been on the way for six months.

Lois is gaining again now that we started feeding her every three hours. She weighed 14lbs. 14oz at 8 months.

December 7, 1947

Last Sunday evening Nancy started to throw up and was very sick for several days. She just lay in bed and wouldn’t talk or eat and got so thin. Her eyes were sunk way in and her stomach hurt. She got up yesterday.

Tuesday night Peggy Ann started to throw up and has been very sick although not quite as bad as Nancy was. She feels a little better this evening and ate a piece of toast. It’s the first she has eaten since Wednesday.

On Monday Dr. Benoit came to examine the natives. He said I could start eating and I got up a little the next day. He said he would send medicine for Nancy but must have forgot.

Mwembe our cook has VD so we are without a cook. I’m trying to get another one from Ishene.

We moved the baby’s bed into the living room so she wouldn’t disturb the sick girls. We borrowed Brower’s phonograph to play music to entertain them.

December 14, 1947

Peggy Ann got up last Monday and seems to be all right now. I have been having school all week.

Tuesday was Harry’s birthday. I made a cake which fell but we ate it anyhow.

I got another new cook. He has never worked in the house before and is rather slow. I don’t know whether he will do or not.

When Peggy Ann was sick she wanted a weiner roast so last night we had a picnic outside.

December 21, 1947

Yesterday harry made a Christmas tree from a cardboard box. Then we covered it with green paper. This afternoon we decorated it. I wrapped some of the presents and put them under the tree.

December 28, 1947

We had a nice Christmas. We didn’t get to open our gifts until after church…Harry had three teeth filled and I had one.