LIMA — Pat Johnson has many recipes, but one stands out because of the memories it conjures.
She often makes Stuffed Grape Leaves because they’re so well received, even though she admitted they take some time to assemble.
“I’ve made them for a lot of people,” said Johnson, who is 81 years old. “We used to pick (the leaves) ourselves … and then you hang them up to dry. And then you just soak them in water when you’re ready to use them.”
The local grapevine is now long gone, so she instead reaches for jarred grape leaves at the store. They’re salty, so rinse them off and wring them out a little to dry them best you can, Johnson said.
“My Greek mother-in-law taught me that,” she said. “And now I’m trying to teach my daughter-in-law.”
The mother of her husband, Louis, was a Temenoff and came to this country from Greece as a girl. She ended up marrying an American and passing on her Greek dishes to her Greek-American family. This recipe has been made and served by Johnson for at least 30 years, she guessed.
“She was a good cook,” said Johnson, who usually serves this dish with chicken lemon rice soup.
“I’ve probably made hundreds of them,” she said. “The tighter you pack them (in the skillet), the better off they are,” she said.
Johnson, who has lived in Perry Township her whole life, grew up cooking as a way to help her working mother. She laughed when she told the story of her first attempt at bean soup. Johnson ended up cooking way too many beans, not knowing they’d swell.
“And then we’d get a bigger pot, and then we’d get a bigger pot,” she said.
But Johnson was a quick learner and still enjoys cooking for others. She competed at the Allen County Fair this year in baking contests, grain crops from their 80-acre farm, and with produce from the garden. She’s especially proud of her apples earning a blue ribbon.
“I’ve usually got baked goods in my house,” she said.
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