Sharing grandmother’s love of cooking

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2007

One of my favorite pastimes in the summer, believe it or not, is cooking.

It’s not an activity many would consider a summer-like leisure, stuck over a hot stove or grill when the temperatures are just as hot as the appliances’ surfaces, but the fresh produce in the summertime can not be beat.

While in the South farmers, can get a few crops out of one season, in the North the farmers have one shot to get the right crop.

Summer to late autumn is when the crops are typically harvested, so farmers’ stands during this time are filled with all kinds of vegetables and fruits.

Another reason why I enjoy cooking so much is because of my mom and grandmother. It always gave us an excuse to do something together.

My mom, over the years, has become an avid cook, learning my grandmother’s recipes, picking up recipes of others and perfecting ones of her own.

My mom and I were often the students when it came to my grandmother’s cooking, one of my favorite family recipes, a concoction that has become a traditional summer dish for our family.

We usually make Mexican rarebit mid-summer through late autumn when the ingredients are in season and produce is fresh.

Even if it is a warm dish for typically warm season, it includes all the right ingredients to make a colorful meal consisting of corn, tomatoes, onion, green peppers and Frankie’s cheese. Frankie’s cheese is not a cheese you’ll see in your everyday grocery shop. It’s a soft white sharp New York State cheddar sold in a store located in Sodus Point, NY.

My family coined the name “Frankie’s cheese” namely because of where it’s sold—Shirtz grocery formally owned by some family friends named Frank and Emma Shirtz.

Frankie’s shop was a staple in the village. It was the place everyone went to get gas, pick up a gallon of milk and get tomorrow’s lunch meat all at the same time.

Frank and Emma were always the smiling faces behind the counter to greet customers or give visitors directions to the local beach.

As a kid it was a destination for my summer bicycle trips, mom and grandma’s shopping lists in hand, and my grandfather always took me there in the afternoon after my Pre-K classes for a root beer popsicle.

Frankie would keep a large block of the New York cheddar in a special place on his deli case under a plastic cover.

For my grandmother, the cheese had to be handled a certain way. It couldn’t be refrigerated and it had to be stored in a cool, dry place on the counter top. Sometimes a block of it could be found in the bread box, hidden from hungry relative’s view.

My grandmother would always buy a big block of cheese to cut up into pieces. Some would be left out for recipes and others would be placed in the freezer.

The cheese is a vital ingredient to the Mexican rarebit. Others have tried to substitute other cheese for the New York cheddar, but to no avail—it’s always got to be Frankie’s cheese.

In order for the cheese to melt in the Mexican rarebit, my grandmother would cut the blocks into small pieces and add them to the finished product.

Though the recipe is fairly easy to make, the most time consuming part of it is slicing and dicing all of the vegetables for it.

I could always tell when it was being made because the smell would permeate through out the house.

Different family members have their various ways of eating the finished product, some prefer it on toast, some on white rice, while others prefer it as is.

But whatever way it is, it’s all good.

Grandma Joyce’s Mexican Rarebit

Recipe can be doubled or cut as desired. This serves 4 to 6 people.


2 medium onions-chopped

2 medium green bell peppers-chopped

6-8 large tomatoes-diced or 4-6 cans of diced tomatoes

4-5 ears of steamed corn cut from cob or 2 cans of corn drained and rinsed

11/2 to 2 pounds of white New York Sharp Cheddar-chopped into small pieces (make sure it’s a melting cheese if you get something else)

Water (only if canned tomatoes used)

Salt and pepper

Cooking directions: Put tomatoes, onion and pepper into large pot. Cover and let simmer until peppers and onions are tender. Salt and pepper to taste Add corn to pot and let it warm up for five to 10 minutes. Add cheese and cover. Turn off burner when cheese begins to melt, cover and let cheese continue to melt. After cheese has thoroughly melted. Serve over toast, rice or eat as is.

For a more traditional Mexican rarebit you can add chilies or jalapenos.