Which one you make depends on the noodles you use.  What's pictured is technically neither, but is what I grew up calling 'chow mein'.  I think if you add the chow mein noodles, that then it is.  "Mein" means 'noodles', "lo" means "tossed", and "chow" means "fried.  Got it?   However you make the veggies & sauce, you can serve it with rice, cooked noodles, or fried noodles.    A package or two of Ramen works here, too: cook it for Lo Mein, or crumble the uncooked noodles and serve them as a crunchy topper.

During my senior year in high school, it occurred to me that I'd soon be in charge of feeding myself, and recipes would sure come in handy.  I asked my mom if she would compile her recipes for me, as a graduation present.   

She did it: a plastic 3x5 card file box filled with recipes for what we'd eaten most often during the past couple decades.  She must have typed during the day while I was at school; I don't remember seeing her work on it.  She fit it inbetween raising seven children, tending a huge garden, canning, two preschoolers still at home, serving on our town's volunteer fire department, and taking EMT classes. And then she typed them all up again for the next siblings to graduate.  Only that time, she bought a computer!

We didn't have a computer that first time around.  Mom typed every one of those recipes, inserting each card by hand into just the right spot in the typewriter.  Every now and then, a card has a little bit of White-Out on it underneath a letter.  You can't buy a cookbook as valuable as that. 

Some recipes were more about instruction than quantity.  This is one of them.  My addition to it are what's in parenthesis.

Chow Mein

Take any cooked meat that is chopped or ground (1-2 cups, burger, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, crab...).  Chop about a cup of celery (2 stalks) and cook in about 2 cups of water (simmer in a skillet).  Drain liquid from a (14 oz. or bigger) can of Chinese vegetables and add to celery.  Make this thick with about 1/4 c. cornstarch which has been made into a paste then gradually added to celery and water (mix 1/4 c. water with the cornstarch until smooth, then stir into the vegetables).  Cook (boil) until clear, stirring often.  Add cooked meat, vegetables and heat well.  Add soy sauce to taste.  Serve over hot rice and sprinkle with chow mein noodles.

A little ginger is good in this, as is 1-2 Tbsp. vinegar with 2-3 Tbsp. brownYou can add any other vegetables you like when cooking the celery... the version in the photo used a cup or two of diced & peeled watermelon rind, plus a handful of baby carrots, sliced,  that had started to dry out.  Chow Mein is like soup that way:  see what vegetables are starting to go, or random bits sitting around, and add them right in!  


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