Ortense Winslow’s Sour Cream Dressing for Slaw

This is a short and fast one ( I’ve been so busy planning my #CowboyDayCookalong) just in time for your 4th of July festivities…  A real  taste of that Indiana home cooking that James Dean loved so much.

James Dean (seated with his back to the camera) with (l to r) Charles Dean ( his grandfather), Marcus Winslow Sr. (his uncle), Ortense Winslow (his aunt), Emma Dean (his grandmother), and young Markie (his cousin). Photo by Dennis Stock, 1955.

James Dean (seated with his back to the camera) at the Winslow farm house with (l to r) Charles Dean ( his grandfather), Marcus Winslow Sr. (his uncle), Ortense Winslow (his aunt), Emma Dean (his grandmother), and young Markie (his cousin). Photo by Dennis Stock, 1955.  (Click to enlarge)

 

 

A handful of recipes fell into my lap within a week of sending Recipes for Rebels off to the printer…they never made it into the book, and have never been published.  This is one of them!  (Another is a recipe that James actually cooked himself for Sammy Davis Jr., but I’m saving that for a different time.)  This one came from Aunt Ortense’s hand-written recipe book and is one she most assuredly made often.  Perfect if you’re planning to barbecue over the holiday weekend!

One of my best 4th of July memories is the one I spent in Fairmount, IN many years ago…  The James Dean Gallery was festooned in vintage red, white, and blue bunting (hand made by Lenny…possibly the same ones he still uses today), the Skinner household just a few doors up was dressed to the nines for the holiday, and Main Street was lined with flags that periodically fluttered in the irregular hot, dry July 3rd breeze.  I don’t remember what I did that morning…probably relaxing on the Gallery porch with a dark cup of morning coffee, watching the occasional decorated golf cart or souped-up pickup truck rumble by…probably making a mental grocery list for Driscoll’s a little bit later…I don’t even remember what we made for supper.

The Winslow farm house.

The Winslow farm house.

Photo by Dennis Stock, 1955

Photo by Dennis Stock, 1955

Jim with his uncle Marcus.

Jim with his uncle Marcus.

What I do remember from later in the day is David saying, “…hop in the truck, we have to go.  We have to hurry.”  We drove across town to Playacres Park, stopping at a house that bordered the green space.  On the side of the house, facing the park was a medium-sized bush with small green leaves.  “That’s nice, I guess,” I thought to myself, “but we hurried for this?”  It was covered in tight, tiny flower buds.  THEN SUDDENLY it started to MOVE!  The WHOLE BUSH was writhing…one-by-one and faster and faster each bud visibly unfurled to a deep yellow bloom.  Each flower took only a few seconds…I stood flabbergasted while a few more people joined to watch the nightly show.  Within half an hour the performance was over and the stark green bush was a blazing showpiece.  Night-blooming Primrose I later learned.  Of all my years of living in the Midwest (and at times I had a small patch of ground where I might have planted), I was never able to find that plant to call my own.   In subsequent years, I’ve never been able to locate that bush in Fairmount…perhaps a particularly harsh Indiana winter did it in…or the residents moved and took their favorite plantings with them…

We strolled across the street and laid claim to patch of grass for viewing the evenings festivities.  Fairmount celebrated on the 3rd, so as not to compete with surrounding larger municipalities for a 4th of July crowd.   There were speeches, someone singing, and everyone arose from their spot in the grass or lawn chair for the National Anthem.  The Madison-Grant High School Band painfully labored through it’s repertoire of patriotic numbers (it was blatantly obvious that a majority of them could think of at least a dozen other places they’d rather be)… as the sun started to sink below the horizon of cornfields and fireworks cut a blazing swath through the thick night air.  This wasn’t the grandiose shows of cutting-edge pyrotechnics that I had come to love in Chicago and St. Louis…this humble, charming celebration transported me back to a 5-year old boy in small town Illinois.  It was perfect!

 

Wise and Gentle

Ortense Winslow

Ortense Winslow

Ortense Winslow was born April 1, 1901.  She was the older sister to James Dean’s father, Winton.  In her early years, Ortense was employed as a secretary.  She married Marcus Winslow and became a full-time mother and farm wife.   Ortense and Marcus had a daughter, Joan ( pronounced Jo-Ann), a son, Marcus Jr. (whom everyone called Markie), and cared for young 9-year old James (after his mother passed from cancer).   Shortly after his arrival, Jim started referring to them as “mom” and “dad.”  Ortense was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and church organist at the Back Creek Friends Meeting House.

Jim’s grandmother Emma Dean described the Winlow’s as, “…wise and gentle and have a gift for loving.  Theirs is like a Quaker home should be.  You never hear a harsh word.  Best of all they are happy as well as good— and that’s what Jimmy needed most after the shock of losing his mother.”

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The Recipe

(Click to enlarge for printing...)

(Click to enlarge for printing…)

Aunt Ortense’s Sour Cream Dressing for Slaw is a breeze to throw together…it’s a sweet and tangy crowd-pleaser with an interesting “vintage” tasting variation on the typical mayonnaise-based recipes.  From her notes, she only lists shredded cabbage for her slaw base…but this recipe is versatile, so you can add-in any of your traditional favorites; carrots, onion, scallions, bell pepper, radish, fennel, etc…

This recipe makes plenty of dressing (2 cups) to cover at least one large head of cabbage…you may decide to use more or less depending on your preference for a more or less wet slaw.  Keeps nicely (refrigerated) for a couple of days.

Those of you who already own Recipes for Rebels may want to print this recipe card out and paste it on one of the notes pages within your book (or hand copy it)…more unpublished recipes like this will be coming periodically.

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Happy Independence Day America!  I hope your celebrations are safe and memorable!

Ortense Winslow's Sour Cream Dressing for Slaw.

Ortense Winslow’s Sour Cream Dressing for Slaw.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this great. I’m going to make this this 4th of July weekend.

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