Childhood Comfort Food Memories

Hot Buttered Popcorn

Hot Buttered Popcorn

Even comfort food can’t always be about popcorn and hotdogs, although they remain not-so-secret favorites of mine still today.  Comfort food, when I was a child, included almost everything my Mom or Dad prepared.  It ranged from Mom’s melt-in-my-mouth whoopee pies to Dad’s cornmeal-crusted (and freshly reeled in from Newfound Lake) white and yellow perch sizzling in a pan of butter.


Family Dinner 1986

Family Dinner 1986

Back in the 1950’s, the family budget may have been stretched to the max, but we always had food on the table.  Usually multiple vegetables were featured, thanks to the huge, bountiful family garden.  Beef, when it appeared, was ground and usually stretched with beans in a chili-con-carne or with bread in meat loaf.  Spam was standard fare, along with other delicious cheap eat, from tuna noodle casserole and American chop suey to macaroni & cheese, sandwich spread sandwiches, and Welsh rarebit.  Everything was made from scratch except for the one packaged mix that showed up now and then as a special treat.  That was a fun little box of the fixin’s homemade pizza from Chef Boyardee .

As an adult, I see ingredients for some of our standards on the store shelves, and I smile.  Kids today probably have no idea what “sandwich spread” even is!  (Okay, it’s a creepy combination of seasoned mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish.)  I vowed to not dine on it again.  I also totally avoid anything resembling creamed chipped beef.

Then again, one such budget-friendly lunch from my childhood remains a comfort food favorite of mine today.  Mom called this warm, tasty, open-faced combination the Fireman’s Sandwich.  She said it made great, easy fare in a firehouse, since it could stay on the stove on low heat for hours till the crew returned from an alarm.  The flavors would just get better and better.

Fireman's Sandwich Ingredients

Fireman’s Sandwich Ingredients

I have no idea where she came up with the idea or the background story.  I’ve never found anything like it elsewhere, even online.  But it’s great, since the ingredients are very easy to have on hand in your kitchen pantry.  I don’t leave it on the stove simmering for hours, but I’ve kept the name Mom  gave it.  On a cool day, give the Fireman’s Sandwich a try on a nice hearty rye toast.  Easy.  Crisp.  Satisfying.

Fireman’s Sandwich

From Glenna Burnham, 1950’s

Chop 3 cups onions.

Melt 4 T butter in large skillet; add onions and fry till light brown.

Add ½ lb corned beef, crumbled.

Stir until the corned beef and onions are well mixed; then add 1 can tomato soup.

Serve hot on toast.

Makes 8 slices.

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Tip: Keep it super simple by using canned corned beef.

In the Pan

In the Pan

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

This is just one of the hundreds of tried and true recipes in “Fifty Years of Fabulous Family Favorites.”  Several of my cookbooks are now available on  You can check out several titles at, the official Quiet Thunder Publishing website.


Oh, and for an updated use for the Fireman’s Sandwich filling, turn it into Super Simple Corny Beef Bites.  Just get 2 or 3 boxes of the frozen mini phyllo pastry cups (15 per box).  Simply mound a spoonful of the hot filling in each and serve as perfect bite-sized tapas.  Instant and super simple for you to enjoy… with love and laughter!

About Cathy Burnham Martin

Author of 20+ books, and counting! A professional voice-over artist, dedicated foodie, and lifelong corporate communications geek, Cathy Burnham Martin has enjoyed a highly eclectic career, ranging from the arts and journalism to finance, telecommunications, and publishing. Along with her husband, Ron Martin, she has passions for entertaining, gardening, volunteering, active and visual arts, GREAT food, and traveling. Cathy often says, "I believe that we all should live with as much contagious enthusiasm as possible... Whether we're with friends or family, taking people along for the ride is more than half the fun."
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