In his 240-square-foot plot in the community garden at Leisure World, Lloyd Southworth raises vegetables from seed--which leaves his wife, Mabel, with the formidable task of figuring out what to do with the crop. A harvest of red cabbage turns into big batches of sweet-and-sour German-style cabbage; leeks are braised or made into a creamy soup; carrots get company treatment with brandy and butter, and a crop of creamy, white butternut squash becomes the inspiration for the delicious squash pie shown here.
"Lloyd is a New Englander and is fond of squash pie," Mabel says, "so two years ago, when he grew the butternuts, I went through my cookbooks and studied the typical regional pies. I found that molasses is a traditional ingredient, and I experimented with the spices to get the right amounts."
This type of experimentation is nothing new to Mabel. As the first home economist at Lawry's Foods, she started the test kitchen there. "Most of the time, I cook simply," she says, "but I borrow ideas from many sources. I give each dish a special touch, but I concentrate on fresh, well-prepared food,--things that are, as Lloyd says, 'not gussied up.' "
Travel is another source of inspiration for Southworth menus; Mabel keeps a notebook of food combinations, descriptions and comments whenever they're on the go. A trip to Italy last spring inspired her to make amaretto ice cream, and an English vacation helped solve the problem of too many fresh tomatoes; they were given an English touch and broiled to accompany scrambled eggs.