Best Li’l Cookin’ Show….

I was reminded, while on the trip to Florida, of one of the most unique, funny, and downright odd cookin’ shows ever – Cookin’ Cheap.  It was produced in Roanoke, VA on their public TV channel and aired from 1981-2002. The “cooks” were two local archetypical Southern mama’s boys.   Those of you from the South know what I am saying here. It was not haute cuisine but it was cookin’ and it was cheap.

Laban Johnson and Larry Bly were truly, truly….well, they just were. Antics o’plenty, asides that would make you spew your morning coffee if you were brave enough to drink while the show aired, questionable knife skills (did he really need that HUGE dull chef’s knife to peel that small onion?), strange concoctions from the viewers (potato bud chicken, bean pie, crabby potatoes, hamburger soup. Hi-waiian hotdogs, beer sprout soup, sandwiches al la leftovers), lots of stuff made with cream of something soup, and sugar – lots and lots of sugar (with this much sugar in it, you know it has to be good). Every Saturday, my roomie and I were there in front of the tube guffawing, applauding, appalled. Laban and Larry were amateurs, often struggling to open a box of cake mix. The food was often awful and often looked and sounded like glop.

What made this show so wonderful was the chemistry between these two friends.  One tall, the other one short. They bicker, giggle, josh, and…sometimes dress like old Southern ladies.  The Cook Sisters visited every week.  And what a strange trip they were. Tootsie Cook was Larry and based upon the old maid aunt that raised him.  Sister Cook was Laban and I swear, based on our next door neighbor when I was a kid, Mrs. Goldie.

What reminded me of these halcyon days was being served….Hamburger Soup one night for supper. I remember the boys liked it when they fixed it and years later, after having finally had it, I agree. It is cheap, easy, tasty, and comforting. I am posting a recipe for it and I hope you will hang around long enough to watch one of the few surving segments of this show posted at the end of this. This is the one where Laban wrestles with a pack of chicken thighs to produce the dreaded Potato Bud Chicken. Larry fixes a cobbler and talks about his Aunt Tootsie’s cobbler.

There are some segments, blessedly videotaped and preserved years ago, surviving on You Tube, Please, y’all, check them out. This is an easy way to go Visitin’ Cheap into the South.  Not perfect cookin’ but, Perfection belongs to God, not us, the Southern author Flannery O’Connor would have told you, her eyes boring holes in yours as she poured Coca-Cola in her coffee.

Hamburger Soup1 lb. ground beef
1 c. chopped onion
1 cup diced potato
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. shredded cabbage (optional)
1 c. sliced celery
4 c. v-8 juice (I use store brand, low sodium)
¼ c. rice I use brown)
3 tsp salt
¼ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
Cook ground beef and Onion until brown Drain fat. Add other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer one hour.

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