Cookin' Good for the Holidays With the Cola Sisters
The Colas on Christmas, cyanide, and serial killers
Ah, Christmastime. For some, it brings back fine memories of feasting on oyster stuffing, mincemeat pie, roast goose, wassail, and plum pudding. Merriment, singing, presents, stockings by the mantel, and everyone is in the best of spirits sitting by the fire.
For some, however, it's a painful reminder of what could or should have been. For the Cola Sisters, it's a bit of a hot topic. In fact, most Jewish children probably grew up with better meals on Dec. 25 than Arcie and Shasta Cola, stars of the popular Austin cable-access TV show Cookin' Good.
"We didn't have traditional Christmases," says Shasta. "We had traditional Christmas fights, the traditional 'somebody is not going to get their present' or 'someone is going to steal someone's money.' Somebody's going to do too many pills. Someone is going to drop the baby. And somebody is going to drop the baby again."
Arcie says there were times when money for gifts was gambled away. "Then the bookie comes right away to get the money. Growing up, we usually got a charity box from one of the local churches. There was always turkey and some kind of Stove Top Stuffing. There was always the basics, but it was all processed. There wasn't a lot of fresh vegetables. I liked the candy," she says. Arcie remembers the occasional corn pudding. "It's like a casserole with creamed corn and eggs, and it's gets all puffy from cooking in the oven. I should make it on the show." The sisters also like traditional Christmas ham.
This holiday season, the Cola Sisters are going with the flow. "I try to not plan holidays," says Arcie. "I just try to let them wash upon me, because if I try to make plans, it ends up being a disaster."
"That's pretty true," says Shasta. "I think the idea is to survive through the new year. You just have to squeeze through, because it's going to be family, lots of parties. But that being said, there is a lot of good eating."
In fact, Shasta recalls the holiday season is sometimes a time for just staying alive. "This one is a Memaw special: Almond extract hides the taste of cyanide in your dish. And it is best when used in fudge. Holiday food is designed so you can poison your relatives, clog up their arteries, and get their inheritance. Sometimes you can get multiple family members. It's good to do it all in one dose in one meal."
Shasta adds that she doesn't see their Christmases as being so bad. "I think it's pretty typical of what most people experience. That shit they put on TV and in the movies about Christmas – nobody lives those lives."
The Cola Sisters recalled a favorite Austin story about the Servant Girl Annihilator, which coincidentally coincides with the holiday season. The serial killer (or killers) terrorized Austin in 1884 and 1885 by killing mainly servant girls. His first victim was Mollie Smith, who was killed on New Year's Eve 1884, which predated Jack the Ripper by three years. "He would take an axe from the premises and would go in and slaughter them, basically, cut them apart and mutilate them," says Shasta. "That is absolutely why the Austin moon towers came in to existence, because people were afraid to go out without electric lights. Nobody wants to talk about it, because it was unsolved."
Despite their negative experiences during the holiday season, the Cola Sisters had a couple of recipes they wanted to share. Although they usually make them around the holidays, fortunately, they're the kind of recipes you can use year-round.
Cola Sisters' Corn Pudding
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
20-30 ounces fresh, canned (drained), or frozen (thawed and drained) corn
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and cream well, then gradually beat in melted butter, sugar, flour, salt, and pepper. Fold in corn and cheese, then pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake 45-60 minutes until center is set and top is golden brown. Let stand a few minutes before serving.
Cola Sisters' Basic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
1 stick of butter
8 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
4 cups shredded cheddar or favorite cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt most of the butter in a pan (save some for buttering baking dish) and add flour, salt, and pepper to make roux; gradually add milk and cream until blended, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add most of the cheese gradually (put some aside for topping) until melted, and remove from heat. Stir in macaroni and pour into buttered baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs that have been mixed with butter or oil and any remaining shredded cheese. Bake 20 to 30 minutes until top is golden brown. If needed, let stand for several minutes to give cheese time to congeal.
Cola Sisters' Sugar Cookies
2¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup very soft butter
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, beat in egg and vanilla gradually. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Drop a teaspoon of batter onto cookie sheet and bake 8 minutes. If you wish colored sugar cookies, set aside extra sugar, and add food coloring to preferred color. Roll cookie batter in sugar first before baking.
Cola Sisters' Sausage Stuffing
1 pound bulk sausage
Chop all of the following:
Four large onions
Four cloves garlic
Two stalks celery
One small green apple
One cup dried cranberries
One cup toasted pecans
3-4 cups stock
½ cup melted butter
3-5 cups dried bread cubes or breadcrumbs
salt, pepper, seasonings to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté sausage, onion, garlic, and celery until sausage is cooked. Stir in remaining dried ingredients except for the breadcrumbs. Stir in butter, then alternate adding the breadcrumbs and the stock until the desired consistency is reached. Add seasonings to taste. Pour into greased casserole dish, cover and bake 30 minutes, remove cover and bake another 15-20 minutes until stuffing is set and top is golden brown. Let stand before serving.
Note: For firmer stuffing, replace some of the stock with two beaten eggs.