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Bob Lind, Published October 07 2012

Lind: ND man loved to cook ‘strange’ food

His name was Alphonsus Joseph Von Bank. But you didn’t want to call him Alphonse to his face; he hated it.

So people around Buffalo, N.D., called him “Fonse,” which was fine, although he really preferred just being called A.J.

He ran a garage/bulk business in Buffalo from the time he was 25 until he was 79. And he loved to cook, including some foods his daughter, Rita Halland, terms “strange.”

Actually, he was “pretty good at cooking,” Rita, of Tower City, N.D., writes. One of his specialties that rated high with her was pancakes.

“He made buckwheat pancakes,” she says, “and potato pancakes and, of course, regular pancakes. They were good. To this day, I can’t eat pancakes from a box.”

A.J. also made buckwheat dumplings floating in bacon-flavored milk.

“But one of the strangest things he made was a springtime salad,” Rita says.

“When he came home for lunch, he got out of his gas truck after delivering gas to farmers, got out his jackknife and dug dandelions out of the yard.

“They couldn’t be blooming; they were too tough.

“He’d take them in the house, cut off the roots, wash the leaves and put a dressing on made of Carnation milk, vinegar, a little salt and a little sugar. Actually, it didn’t taste bad.”

Rita says she was reading a women’s magazine in a doctor’s office waiting room recently and found a recipe for (ta da!) dandelion salad.

It wasn’t like her dad’s, though. This recipe included toasted pine nuts (“whatever they are,” Rita wonders), crumbled goat cheese and freshly ground pepper.

The dressing was made of garlic heads drizzled with virgin oil and roasted at 400 degrees, then topped with red wine vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Then it was covered, refrigerated for three days and eaten.

Rita doesn’t say if she preferred this recipe to her dad’s.

There are limits

One day Rita’s oldest son asked her what the “white sour stuff” was that Grandma Von Bank put on lime Jell-O.

It was mayonnaise mixed with vinegar, Carnation milk “and, of course, salt,” Rita says. “That was the way he (A.J.) liked it. Anything to please your man, right?”

Well, except for one thing.

A.J. loved salt, and he put it on everything even before he tasted it.

“But when he added more salt to Mother’s bread dough, that wasn’t good, and she let him know it: ‘Keep your hands off my dough,’ she told him.”

Still, with all this, A.J. lived until two months before his 85th birthday in 1979, “so I guess all that salt didn’t affect his health,” Rita concludes.

OK, let’s take a break and go have some dandelion salad – maybe without the salt, however.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com