Monthly Archives: January 2012

THE KITCHEN DIARIES – COLLECTING RECIPE BOXES

I began collecting cookbooks (primarily church-and-club type) over 45 years ago. Soon after, I discovered a “manuscript” cookbook – or more accurately, it discovered me. I was rummaging around in a used book store in Hollywood when the owner said “I have something interesting in a cookbook – let me show it to you”. It was a small 3-ring binder with an old leather cover and it was filled with hand written recipes as well as hundreds of clipped-and-pasted on recipes. Its owner had kept her notebook cookbook for decades – and I bought it for about $10.00 (which doesn’t sound like much, now, but at the time I was raising my family and it was a lot) – but I had to have it. Over the years, I’ve found a few more manuscript-type cookbooks but they’re really scarce. My theory is that this type of cookbook remains in the family. I don’t believe that the owner of that first manuscript cookbook, whose name, I discovered, was Helen, had any children. Surely, one’s children would never allow something so precious to end up in a used book store.

Then I became interested in recipe boxes when I found an old, green, wooden recipe box in Ventura, California, at an antique store. It was packed with the former owner’s collection of recipes. I was so intrigued by this type of collection – what I think of as a kitchen diary – that I began a diligent search for filled recipe boxes. These are just about as scarce and hard to find as handwritten cookbooks. Often, you can find recipe boxes – in thrift stores or antique shops –but they are usually empty. I think the storekeepers don’t imagine anyone would be interested in the contents, which are often scrappy little pieces of paper, recipes clipped from the back of a bag of macaroni or flour, recipes written on a piece of envelope, – but over the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve managed to find quite a few of these filled recipe boxes. One time my niece, who lives in Palm Springs, found three of them for me at a yard sale; it helps that so many people know about my fascination with old, filled recipe boxes.

Another time, a girlfriend of mine was telling me about helping a friend of hers clear out her mother’s apartment, after her mother had passed away. “Oh,” I said “Ask your friend if her mother had any recipe boxes”. She did – and I got it. She also had, and gave to me, several cookbook autographed by cookbook author Mike Roy, with whom her mother had been acquainted. On yet another occasion, I was given half a dozen filled recipe boxes that had belonged to the aunt of a woman I worked with.

Now, I collect all types of recipe boxes but the ones I cherish the most are those filled with someone else’s recipe collection. One of these boxes is so old that the contents are extremely fragile and bits of paper disintegrate whenever you handle them.

Yard sales where I live rarely yield such treasures although once we were at an estate sale and I happened to find a cardboard box – shaped like a file drawer – filled with handwritten recipe cards on oversize cards, about a 4×6” size. I was able to buy it for $2.00. Part of the charm, or intrigue, of owning these boxes is going through them piece by piece, and trying to learn something about the person who compiled the box. I leave all of these boxes exactly “as is” because I feel to change them would change the integrity of the collection.

What makes these recipe boxes so enticing? I think old recipe boxes, filled with someone’s collection of recipes, are a window into our culinary past. Eventually, no doubt, someone else will discover these treasures, too, but in the meantime, I like to think that what I have is a fairly unique collection.

– Sandra Lee Smith

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH DOLLHOUSES

(Originally titled “Something about Doll Houses 2006” and featured in the Inky Trail News Newsletter)

When I was a little girl, Santa brought me a dollhouse for Christmas one year. I think I was about five years old. It was one of those 40s tin-dollhouses, furnished with Bakelite furniture and a bendable family of four. I loved that dollhouse and spent many hours playing with it and rearranging the furniture. Then when I was about twelve, I came home from school one day to discover that my mother had given my dollhouse to an acquaintance for her daughter. I was horrified.

“You never played with it anymore!” my mother claimed. (It was the bane of my existence, as well as that of my siblings, that our mother would arbitrarily decide which of your possessions you could keep and which she would decide to give away. While she kept things like used envelopes (to make lists), all shapes and sizes of plastic containers, empty lipstick tubes and all string and rubber bands—she gave away my brothers’ baseball card collections and collections of comic books—or equally perversely, she would decide to burn those things. If something was in her basement or under her roof, it was hers to dispose of. That was my mother. One time my son Steve asked her if he could have a few of the comic books that were stored in the basement. She said no, and later got rid of all of them.)

She was mistaken about the dollhouse. I did play with it. I never tired of rearranging the furniture and moving the dolls around. I had a tiny little lamp that you could hold close to an actual light and then the tiny lamp glowed in the dark. (Needless to say, this dollhouse didn’t have real, working lights!)

I never quite got over my mother giving away that dollhouse.

Obviously, I was ripe for collecting dollhouses. I didn’t intend to collect dollhouses but I’ve heard that if you have more than three of something, it’s a collection.

I found the first dollhouse in a thrift store in Burbank. It was in five or six pieces and the price was ten dollars. A girlfriend helped me carry the pieces to my car. Bob put the frame back together and it sat on a coffee table in the living room for several years without any additional remodeling. We began collecting an assortment of tiny dolls and dollhouse furniture. My niece and nephews and grandchildren played with it whenever they visited.

But I wanted a Christmas Dollhouse. Bob began working on the dollhouse in his spare time. It became his hobby.

In 1997, we finally got the dollhouse up and decorated. It turned out too cute for words. We bought some strings of itty bitty lights and put up a Christmas tree in the living room of the doll house along with a Santa and his sleigh on the rooftop, taking off with his reindeer.

We spent two weeks adding fine touches; one night I was laying on the floor in front of the doll house, sticking furniture inside, and Bob was handing me pieces from a basket of “stuff” we had collected..when he suddenly says, “You know, we could be committed for this. Most people would say we’re crazy.” But we had such a good time with the dollhouse – not just the decorating and remodeling, but spending hours poring over miniature catalogs we received in the mail. It became our joint hobby.

Another time, he said to me, “You should take that bed out of the master bedroom” and I said “well, gee, then we wouldn’t have a BED in the master bedroom” and HE says “yeah, and then you wouldn’t have all those BABIES in the nursery.” (Our nursery had about 10 little babydolls in it. I think 3 are triplets. They started taking on a life of their own).

That house looked darling alongside the tree! The following year we began to finish off the 3rd floor, creating a teen-age girls room and a bathroom. One time I found miniature ball gowns at a shop in Disneyland—creations patterned after the various Disney princesses; I bought two of the dresses which I think were intended to be Christmas ornaments—and then decided that, since we had those dresses, the two teenage girls were going to a ball that night. Since the two teenage girls were getting ready to go to a dance, a girlfriend made petticoats for them to have on.

The Christmas doll house became an on-going project for many years. The dollhouse mother is in the kitchen putting finishing touches on a gingerbread house; the dollhouse father is about to eat a Dagwood sandwich and sits in the living room which has a Christmas tree and a lot of presents and toys – the babies are all snug in their beds while Santa Claus is taking off in his sleigh, on the rooftop.

Every so often I’d find something perfect for the dollhouse–one year a Hallmark ornament that is a refrigerator, just the right size for the dollhouse—another year a Hallmark stove.

The rooms light up and we calculate that some of the lamps, and the chandelier, cost more than some of our real household lamps. That Christmas dollhouse became our pride and joy.

But, I still longed for that 50s tin-dollhouse. Some years ago while on vacation and visiting relatives, we found one in an antique store in northern Ohio. Those tin dollhouses had tabs and could be taken apart and laid flat, so, we took it apart and laid it inside one of our suitcases to bring home. Meanwhile, a girlfriend found another tin dollhouse for us, complete with furniture, at a shop near her home and bought it for me. Ok, I now had three dollhouses. A collection.

Then another friend found “Grandma’s cottage”, a little dollhouse constructed from one of those kits. It was perfect for a grandmother’s house. Grandma is sitting in her rocking chair while two grandchildren play at her feet.

The piece de resistance is a huge, heavy dollhouse that we learned about from a doctor friend. It once belonged to the daughter of an artist who lived in the nearby Hollywood Hills. The artist had built it for his daughter. He had passed away; the daughter had outgrown the dollhouse, and her mother was moving to Santa Barbara. Did we want to buy the dollhouse? Of course we did! We lugged it home in the trunk of my car, tied down with rope.

This dollhouse shows obvious wear from being played with for so many years and requires paint, wallpaper, wiring—the works. The neat thing about this hobby is that it was a joint venture; Bob did all the actual work while I’d stand back and make suggestions. We’d both study hobby catalogs choosing wallpaper and bathroom tile flooring.

We acquired a respectable collection of books about dollhouses, including some that are hundreds of years old—fascinating! There are actually tours you can take to visit those dollhouses throughout Europe.

I searched constantly for just the right dollhouse furniture. Another neat thing is that now my best friend has gotten into dollhouses too—she’s refurbished and furnished one and is working on her second. When we are together, we can always go antiquing and search for anything suitable for our dollhouses. Another friend found some 1930s oak bedroom dollhouse furniture and gave it to me one year for my birthday. Another time a niece sent me a boxful of ornate dollhouse furniture that I have since seen featured in a Hobby magazine. Who knew?

And since the Christmas dollhouse was now furnished (expensively, I might add) it was no longer suitable for the grandchildren to play with. We solved this by first buying a Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse for the kids to play with when they were here visiting. And, the tin dollhouses are furnished and children are allowed to play with them. The original children to play with our dollhouses were my sister’s children – now grown. Then along came my grandchildren, all of whom – including the boys – would make a beeline for the dollhouses when they visited. Now those children are “too old” for dollhouses … and we have two more little girls ready to play with these houses when they visit Grammy.

*This post was originally written some years ago, for Inky Trail News, a newsletter for women and seniors. Since writing the original version, Bob passed away, on September 22, 2011. That last dollhouse we purchased from the woman who was moving to Santa Barbara? It’s in Bob’s workshop, incomplete. He was shingling the roof when he became too sick to work on it anymore. Our oldest granddaughter says she is going to finish it but that may take a long time, considering how busy she is with school and other interests.

–Sandra Lee Smith

January, 2012, in memory of Robert Fend, who loved the dollhouses as much as I did.

WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT/THE LIGHTER SIDE OF THE OZARKS

“WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT/THE LIGHTER SIDE OF THE OZARKS” compiled by the Junior League of Springfield, Missouri, was originally published in 1997 by the Wimmer Company. However, it is a new acquisition of Favorite Recipes Press and will be featured in the new Marketplace Catalog, soon to be available for those who love cookbook catalogs and delight in being able to find so many different choice cookbooks to add to their collections. Meantime, you can find it listed on the FRP website, http://www.cookbookmarkeplace.com.

The Favorite Recipes Press Marketplace is a great source for finding many of your favorite community cookbooks (southern and otherwise). They have nearly 300 titles from which to choose and color illustrations of the covers. You can get a catalog by writing to the Cookbook Marketplace at 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214 OR call them toll free at 1-800-269-6839.
“WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT” quickly went through 15,000 copies of it first printing in 1997, and 20,000 copies of the second printing in 1998.

The Junior League of Springfield notes that they are dishing it out again with the perfect complement to their successful cookbook “SASSAFRAS! THE OZARKS COOKBOOK”. (* “SASSAFRAS!” was originally published in 1985 and went through seven printings by 1997. My copy was a 10th Anniversary special edition).

In their introduction, the league members note that “THE OZARKS COOKBOOK, WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT” says it all, as the women of the Junior League are doing just that, dishing up deliciously light recipes while dishing out age-old myths about Ozark foods and lifestyles. “For instance,” they comment, “no matter what you might have heard, a seven course meal in the Ozarks does not consist of a pork fritter and a six pack. Let our comical retort about exaggerated stereotypes of unrefined etiquette and dietary habits enlighten and entertain you while our great tasting recipes tempt you. The fact is healthy recipes can taste sinful. And Ozarkians do not believe that pie a la mode is best served with ice cream. This is truly a unique book…”

The Junior Leaguers novel approach to Ozarks’ humor and whimsical illustrations makes for easy reading. Eight great sections feature more than 300 triple-tested recipes and helpful nutritional information is provided for each.

Chapters include Breads & Brunch, Appetizers & Beverages, Soups and Salads, Entrees, Pastas, Vegetables & Rice, Desserts, and Just Kiddin’, a special section of recipes especially for children which includes a section of crafts that your children (or as in my case, grandchildren) will be sure to love.

I was delighted to find, in the very first chapter, a recipe for making Cool-Rise French Bread (I have been making a cool rise cinnamon roll recipe for many years), but there are many other fantastic bread recipes – ranging from Ozark Wheat Bread to a Buttermilk Cheese Bread that is for use with a bread maker. Here you will also find a recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread, Pineapple-Carrot Bread, muffin recipes such as Branberry Muffins, Banana Raisin Bran Muffins, Carrot Patch Muffins, and Double Apple Bran Muffins. But don’t over look Egg Brunch Casserole or Vegetable Quiche. And, true to their promise, all of the recipes provide complete nutritional information—as well as prep time and cooking time guidelines.

Under Appetizers & Beverages you will find the lighter versions for making Dreamy Creamy Fruit Dip, or Dill Dip, Creamy Spinach Dip or Chunky Chili Dip and—bless me! –a lighter version of Seven Layer Dip!

There are recipes for making Spinach Balls and Zesty Tortilla Pinwheels, Vegetable Nachos and Black Bean Quesadillas, Stuffed Mushrooms and Deli-Wrapped Pickles—to name a few. For something different in the way of beverages, you may want to try Red Velvet Punch or for a winter evening during the holidays, how about Hot Cinnamon Punch or Ozark Mountain Mulled Cider?

In the chapter devoted to Soups and Salads, you will find such tantalizing recipes as Black Bean Soup and Cabbage Soup (take note! Only 32 calories per serving and NO fat!) There is a recipe for Chili-Chicken Soup as well as one for Gazpacho; another for Vegetable Beef Soup and Minestrone…but the one I am planning to make next is a New England Clam Chowder—this is one of my favorite chowders and I am tempted by the ability to make a lighter version.

But there are recipes for Southwest Bean Soup, Old Fashioned Potato Soup, French Onion Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup (one of my favorites) and oh, so many more. You may want to try Boxcar Willie’s Hobo Stew, Chicken-Chili Stew or Chili Supreme (take note—Chili Supreme is only 147 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving. There is also a vegetarian chili recipe that has 143 calories and only 2 grams of fat per serving. (I am a lifetime member of weight watchers so recipes such as these make my heart (and tummy) sing.

Then come the salads—so many from which to choose! There is a creamy coleslaw, black bean salad, pickled coleslaw, a layered summer salad, Dilled Broccoli-Potato Salad, a Mandarin Spinach salad or Wild Rice Salad—plus a wealth of more substantial salads that can double up as light dinners—Aloha Chicken Salad, for instance, or Caribbean Chicken Salad, a Ziti salmon Salad or Shrimp and Rice Salad…any of these would be great for a ladies luncheon or a simple, light dinner when it’s too hot to cook.

Under the Chapter titled “Entrees”, while there are some for beef, a couple for turkey, eight for pork, four for seafood—Chicken reigns supreme in “WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT” which makes good sense since chicken can be so light in calories and fat content, depending on how you cook it. You can enjoy Fiesta Chicken Fajitas or Chicken with Artichoke Hearts, Chicken Enchiladas, Teriyaki Chicken or Swiss Chicken over Rice, Chicken Stroganoff or Orange Curry Chicken. There is Oven Fried Chicken and Lemon Chicken; Think Cranberry Glazed Chicken or Chicken Divan…the list goes on and on. I like that there is even a recipe for making your own chicken stock. (I have been doing this for years by saving up the less desirable chicken parts such as the backs and necks of chickens in the freezer until I have enough to make stock. You can freeze the stock and have it ready whenever you need it. The recipe in WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT makes 2 quarts of stock. You’ll never go back to buying canned chicken stock again.

Beef recipes in WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT include Fiesta Meat Loaf or Beef and Cheese with Egg Noodles Casserole. Try Green Pepper and Tomato Steak or Beef Tenderloin Au Poivre. There is Beef Stroganoff and Roast Beef with Pesto, as well as a recipe for making Madeira Sauce to serve warm with meat. (I love recipes for sauces—it always elevates a meal from “nice” to gourmet).

When pork is on your menu, the Junior Leaguers in Springfield have shared their recipes for Sage Pork Chops, a Pork Chop casserole, Apricot Pork Medallions, BANANA Pork Chops (which sound so good, I will have to make this), as well as Apple Orchard Pork Chops—and you know what a good accompaniment apples are with pork—but you may want to try Pork Tenderloins with Pineapple Stuffing.

If something new and different with fish appeals to you, try Radical Roughy, made with orange Roughy, or Salmon Dijon, Ozark Trout Doria, or perhaps Poached Shrimp and Scallops. These last two recipes were contributions from chefs at restaurants in Springfield.

WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT offers a section just for pasta and don’t disappoint. For openers, there is a recipe for Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes and Black Beans, Chicken Marsala Fettuccine, Fajita Fettuccine, Shrimp Scampi and Easy Oven Lasagna, Vegetable Lasagna and Linguine with White Clam Sauce—there is also a recipe for making Alfredo Sauce. You can try their Stuffed Manicotti or Pine Nut Stuffed Manicotti, or maybe Spinach and Chicken Mostaccioli Casserole. This section goes on and on—and even includes a recipe for making your own basic tomato sauce, which, it should be noted has only 60 calories, zero fat grams per serving. This could easily become one of your favorite go-to recipes when pasta is on the menu.

The chapter titled Vegetable & Rice will impress you, I think, ranging from Italian Baked Asparagus or (a favorite of mine) Red Cabbage with Apples & Wine. There is a simple recipe for glazed carrots or pineapple carrots, Fiesta Corn ‘n Peppers, or Spicy Lime Corn on the Cob. You can make Twice Baked Potatoes or Herbed Potato Wedges. Try your hand at Broiled Fries or Easy Zucchini Bake, Italian-Style Zucchini or Yellow Squash Casserole—Orange Pineapple Couscous or Mexican Rice…and need I remind everyone, ALL of the recipes in WOMEN WHO CAKE DISH IT OUT—and there are three hundred from which to choose—have been lightened up to make them healthy choices.
And oh, the desserts! All of our favorites – from Deep Dish Apple Pie to Key Lime Pie (made with fat-free condensed milk). Other pies include Angel Pie, Chilled Blueberry Pie, Pumpkin Pie and a Yogurt-Fruit Pie.

I smiled over the title “Died and Went to Heaven” Chocolate Cake and I bet you will want to make it; there is also Hawaiian Ice-Box Cake as well as Anita Bryant’s Florida Citrus Cake.

I am greatly impressed with two carrot cakes from which to choose (I stopped making carrot cakes years ago because of the huge amount of oil that went into making one) –Golden Carrot-Pineapple Cake does not contain any oil or butter although there is some low-fat cream cheese in the frosting. The other recipe, Cinnamon Carrot Bundt Cake does contain one third of a cup of oil—but compare that to the 1½ cups of oil in my old carrot cake recipes! I have attached post-it notes to these two recipes; my daughter in law’s birthday is coming up in April and carrot cake is her favorite. I’ll be making one of these recipes.

There are a lot more dessert recipes – from Raisin Spice to Lemon-Poppy Seed Cakes, Chocolate Éclair Cake or Lemon Angel Food Cake with Berries, Pumpkin Flan or Cheesecake a l’Orange. Other cheesecake recipes include Chocolate Mint Cheesecake, Chocolate Cookie Cheesecake, Black Forest Cheesecake and Stars and Stripes Cheesecake. I found a recipe for Cream Puffs (one of my favorites) and Chewy Cocoa Brownies, as well as your choice of Chocolate Chip Cookies or Oatmeal Raisin (which I promise to make—that’s my favorite cookie) but you can also make Ginger Snaps or Walnut Clusters.

For what I consider “dessert” desserts there is a Creamy Fruit Layer Dessert or Orange Trifle, or you may want to surprise the family with Raspberry Whip or Strawberry Whip, Strawberry Trifle, or Peach Angel Dream. There are recipes for Cranberry Ice and Tiramisu as well as a super easy Fresh Peach Freeze.

The final chapter, “Just Kiddin’” provides a wealth of recipes, many of which they could make themselves, and a separate section of crafts for kids, sure to please especially on a rainy day when they complain there’s “nothing to do” (in my mother’s household, no one ever complained of “having nothing to do” for she would certainly give you something to do—dusting furniture or scrubbing the bathroom floors! But today’s kids can enjoy making “Salty Crawling Crystals” or “Ooey Gooey” (something like play do) “Handy Dandy Salt dough” or “fruit scented playdough” as well as “Homemade Playdough”—generally all recipes have ingredients you most likely have on hand. There is a recipe for Apple-Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments that we have made a couple of times with my grandchildren…we made dozens of little bear ornaments that kept their scent for several years. These and other kid friendly recipes can be found in WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT.

To order WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT/The Lighter Side of the Ozarks from FAVORITE RECIPES PRESS/THE COOKBOOK MARKETPLACE, the cost is $19.95.

WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT contains 300 recipes and has concealed wire binding.

From now until January 31, 2012, the Favorite Recipes Press Cookbook Marketplace is offering a 50% discount on the cookbooks of your choice, to Sandychatter readers. You must enter the code SCHAT-HOL at checkout. The books ship from Nashville, UPS ground. (Only a few more days left to take advantage of this offer!)

The Favorite Recipes Press Marketplace is a great source for finding many of your favorite community cookbooks (southern and otherwise). They have nearly 300 titles from which to choose and color illustrations of the covers. You can get a catalog by writing to the Cookbook Marketplace at 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214 OR call them toll free at 1-800-269-6839. This discount offer is good to Sandychatter readers ONLY until January 31, 2012 – so this may still be a perfect opportunity to obtain some of your most coveted cookbook titles.

Happy Cooking – and Happy Cookbook Collecting!

Sandy

SQUARE TABLE-A COLLECTION OF RECIPES FROM OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI

Are you ready to read about another southern cookbook? SQUARE TABLE is a lovely hidden-spiral bound cookbook that was compiled by Yoknapatawpha Arts Council in 2005, but was a regional winner of the coveted Tabasco Community Cookbook award in 2006. (with the hidden spiral binding the book will lie perfectly flat or can easily be propped up in the kitchen).

Well, I will be first to admit I had never before heard of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC). The YAC is a non-profit agency for the city and county with the mission of promoting the arts to all people in the region. YAC enriches the community by providing opportunities to participate in artistic and cultural activities.
But where does the word Yoknapatawapha come from? I turned to Google for some answers:

Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional county created by the American author William Faulkner, based upon and inspired by Lafayette County, Mississippi, and its county seat of Oxford, Mississippi.

Faulkner would often refer to Yoknapatawpha County as “my apocryphal county.” From Sartoris, onwards, Faulkner would set all but three of his novels in the county (Pylon, The Wild Palms, and A Fable were set elsewhere).

Faulkner added a map of Yoknapatawpha County at the end of Absalom, Absalom!

Yoknapatawpha County is located in northwestern Mississippi and its seat is the town of Jefferson. This fictional county is bounded on the north by the Tallahatchie River and on the south by the Yoknapatawpha River and has an area of 2,400 miles (6,200 km). Most of the eastern half (as well as a small part of the southwest corner) of the county is pine hill country.

The word Yoknapatawpha is pronounced “Yok’na pa TAW pha”). It is derived from two Chickasaw words—Yocona and petopha, meaning “split land.” Faulkner claimed to a University of Virginia audience that the compound means “water flows slow through flat land.”

Yoknapatawpha was the original name for the actual Yocona River, a tributary of the Tallahatchie which runs through the southern part of Lafayette County, of which Oxford is the seat.

So now we know where the word comes from—and have famed author William Faulkner to thank for its creation. And now you may want learn a bit about the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council which was founded in 1975.

Cookbook author and columnist John T. Edge provided a lovely introduction “Welcome to the Neighborhood” in which he notes that “Works of the sort you hold in your hands are generally called community cookbooks, the idea being that they are products of people living in the same locality who share common interests—those interests being some sort of charity or arts endeavor or other selfless work. The aim of these books is to raise dollars and to render the raising of said dollars painless…”

John T. Edge, you may know, is a cookbook author/food historian whose works include TRUCK FOOD, published by Workman Publishing in 2011, DONUTS, An American Passion, (2004) HAMBURGERS & FRIES, AN AMERICAN STORY, (2003), FRIED CHICKEN, AN AMERICAN STORY, (2002), APPLE PIE, AN AMERICAN STORY, (2002), and A GRACIOUS PLENTY, RECIPES AND RECOLECTIONS FROM THE AMERICAN SOUTH, (2000). Edge is also the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. (He also writes for a number of food magazines and I believe I have seen him on the Food Network on various occasions.

All this being said, Mr. Edge wrote the introduction to SQUARE TABLE, in which he writes, “The organization—in this case the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council—gets funds, but it must also give of itself. And it must give with such gusto that parting with thirty-odd dollars is of no account.

The customary analgesic offered contributors to the cause is a cache of recipes, some good stories, a few pretty pictures. And SQUARE TABLE delivers the drugs of choice. No doubt about that. The art alone is worth the fare. But don’t just this book by a thumb-through, even if you’re swooning by page thirty-seven. Save a space for SQUARE TABLE on your kitchen shelf. Dog-ear the pages, edit the recipes to suit your palate. Make the book your own…”

He persuades that “a year may pass before you come to truly appreciate the effort. By then your repertoire will include smothered doves and marmalade sweet potatoes, not to mention cream cheese jalapeno venison rolls and cornbread salad….”

He also comments, with regard to the non-recipe entries in SQUARE TABLE, that by then you will have lingered over Larry Brown’s chicken stew essay, and John Grisham’s Ode to Brunswick stew…You will read what William Faulkner had to say about trout and chicken, and you will have reveled in his description of the “thin plume of supper smoke windless above the chimney” from GO DOWN, MOSES.

Indeed, the selection of Faulkner food quotes will prove so compelling that you may wonder why the editors left out that passage from THE HAMLET wherein he describes a sweet potato as a ‘moist blast of spring’s liquorish corruption’…” (For those of us who “read cookbooks like other people read novels” – SQUARE TABLE is right up our alley.)

Edge admits he is getting carried away—and hungry, so he adds that by way of this book, the people of Oxford swing wide their doors and invite you to take a seat at their collective table. These are the artworks they craft, the stories they tell, the dishes they cook—and this is how the members of Yoknapatawpha Arts Council see themselves.

The food illustrations in SQUARE TABLE are sure to make your mouth water – and it’s a tossup which you should begin reading first – the recipes? Have a couple of packages of little yellow post-its handy to mark your favorite pages—or the wealth of short historical comments interspersed throughout the cookbook. The photography, by Langdon Clay, is exquisite . I love Julia Reed’s story about her mother’s “V.D. Dinner” (the VD not an abbreviation for a venereal disease but for “Visiting Dignitaries” who her parents entertained frequently as Julia was growing up. (My own “VD” dinner for many years, the meal I could fall back on with short notice, was a Beef Burgundy over rice or noodles).

There is also a wonderful story by Larry Brown, titled “LB’s Chicken Stew”- I’ve made some hearty large pots of chili in my day, but nothing to compare with Larry’s Chicken Stew and you’ll love his story. Then there is John Grisham’s (yes, THAT John Grisham) essay “Brunswick Stew from Indiana Jones”

As for the recipes – oh, boy, are you in for a treat! In Appetizers you will find Black Bean Salsa (can’t wait to make this one) and a Five Fruit Salsa, a Roasted Red Pepper Dip and Spicy Spinach Artichoke Dip; there is a recipe for Mushrooms in Burgundy that I am looking forward to making, as well as a Stuffed Mushrooms (stuffed with artichoke hearts) and a Chutney Cheesecake; a Tex-Mex Cranberry Salsa and Crispy Asian Chicken Wings, Shrimp in Mustard Sauce and Jamaican Shrimp Spread, Mango Shrimp, and Pickled Shrimp, Tempura Shrimp with Soy-Lime Dipping Sauce and Party Smoked Salmon, Crab Cakes and Lella’s Pimiento Cheese – plus plenty of other appetizers to whet your appetite.

Under the chapter dedicated to SOUPS you will find Black Bean Soup (made with canned black beans but the cookbook committee also provides directions for converting dried black beans to use in this recipe); there is Tomato Bisque, Creamy Artichoke Soup and Pumpkin Curry Soup, Mushroom Bisque and Butchie’s Favorite Chili—I am looking forward to making the latter recipe. In my family we all have a favorite recipe for making chili but I have never tried one that calls for celery but that sounds interesting enough to try.

There is a Roasted Eggplant Soup you may want to try when you have a glut of eggplant in your garden, Baked Potato Soup and Brie soup; you will surely want to make Seafood Gumbo and Crab and Corn Bisque. There is a French Onion Soup recipe that is such a departure from my own recipe that I’ve GOT to make it. And Do read Lisa Howorth essay about her Grandmothers’ Soups.

Under SALADS, you will find an authentic recipe for Caesar Salad (which isn’t authentic unless you have anchovy fillets in it), Crunchy Apple Walnut Salad or Horseradish Salad, Red Potato Salad or Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad, Fresh Baby Tomato Salad and Asparagus Bundles, Mandarin Chicken Salad or Creole Crabmeat Salad, Lemon Caper Vinaigrette (which I am REALLY looking forward to making—I have been keeping capers on hand ever since discovering how good they are sprinkled on a white fish that you have cooking in the oven or the broiler.

There is a chapter titled PASTA & GRAINS which I think is a little unusual in a community cookbook—but I look forward to trying a recipe for Shrimp Spaghetti and Pasta A La Vodka, the Yocona River Inn’s recipe for Roasted Marinara Sauce and Angel Hair Flan, Cajun Shrimp and Pasta, and Sauteed Rice and Vegetables and Cheese Grits.

I love seafood and so will you; try Baked Shrimp or Marinated Shrimp, Shrimp Creole for a Crowd or Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp and Grits or Jambalaya, Jack’s Catfish or Catfish Cakes. Also in FISH & SEAFOOD you will find four salmon recipes—Walnut Crusted Salmon, Salmon in Dill Pepperoncini Sauce, or try Pan Roasted Salmon with Maple Glaze, a feature of the Yocona River Inn – or for a simple meal with few ingredients, try Grilled Salmon Fillets. (I was given a beautiful large fillet of salmon by my Oregon friends a few days ago—the Mister and his son had gone salmon fishing and caught two big salmons. I am leaning heavily toward the Pan Roasted Salmon with Maple glaze—but the Walnut-Crusted Salmon sounds delish too!)

Other fish entrees include Pecan Crunch Grouper*, Fillets with Parmesan Sauce and Paneed Redfish, Crawfish Fettuccini and Crawfish Delicacy. (*I began cooking with grouper when we lived in Florida. It isn’t available here in California so if you want to try making Pecan Crunch Grouper—and can’t get it, I suggest a white fish such as halibut as a substitute.

For poultry recipes, you may want to try Teriyaki Cornish Hens (I stock up on Cornish hens when they are on sale). Or Tuscan Chicken, Chicken Curry, or Marinated Chicken Breasts. There is a Cranberry Chutney Chicken that sounds delish as well as an authentic Country Captain Chicken, Homemade Chicken Pie, Chicken in Puff Pastry – and even Chicken Enchiladas!

For meat lovers, there is Chargrilled Beef Tenderloin, or Beef Fillets with Blue Cheese-Portobello Sauce, Sabbath Brisket, and Missy’s Pot Roast. If you are feeling ambitious try making Beef Bourguignonne which could easily become your favorite entrée for company. Other meat recipes include Tamale Pie or Smoked Ham, Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Southern Pork Roast.

And if you are looking for something new and different in the way of vegetables, try SQUARE TABLE’s Asparagus Stir-Fry or Zesty Carrot Casserole, Red Cabbage Casserole, Butternut Squash Casserole or Spaghetti Squash Parmesan. You may also want to try Marmalade Sweet Potatoes or Spinach Wild Rice. A good one to try when tomatoes begin ripening on the vine would be Tomato Pie or Italian Tomato Tart as served by The Flaky Bakery. Two I have marked with Post-it notes are Roasted Tomatoes and Green Tomato Casserole.

Under Breakfast & Breads look for Heirloom Tomato, Leek And Cheese Tart, or French Toast Souffle, Tomato Bread Pudding or Bundt Bread. There are also easy recipes for making Buttermilk Biscuits and Sweet Potato Biscuits, Cheese Biscuits and Hushpuppies—along with a variety of other recipes.

For Desserts you have a nice choice of recipes from which to choose –from the decadent Bourbon Chocolate Cake that boasts of ganache chocolate frosting to Le Gateau Au Chocolat cake made with some rum, or Carrot Cake, Harold’s Coconut Cake or Red Velvet Cake, all southern favorites.

For a change of pace, you may want to make Dinner Party Apple pie or Blackberry Cobbler or Caramel Cobbler. There is a recipe for Upside-Down Apple Pecan Pie, as well as White Chocolate Mousse with Strawberries, just to name a few and whet your appetite.

Cookie recipes are probably my favorite and SQUARE TABLE offers a nice variety – from Chocolate Toffee Cookies to Snickers Surprise, Rosemary Orange Shortbread and Rosemary Pepper Sugar Cookies, your choice of Raspberry Brownies or The Ultimate Ganache Brownies OR Kahlua Brownies. You can make Almond Cookie Brittle or Cranberry Date Bars…and before you reach the end of this book you will find some pages of Children Celebrations – surely, something for everybody.

To order “SQUARE TABLE from FAVORITE RECIPES PRESS/THE COOKBOOK MARKETPLACE, the cost is $35.00.

From now until January 31, 2012, the Favorite Recipes Press Cookbook Marketplace is offering a 50% discount on the cookbooks of your choice, just for Sandychatter readers. You must enter the code SCHAT-HOL at checkout. The books ship from Nashville, UPS ground.

The Favorite Recipes Press Marketplace is a great source for finding many of your favorite community cookbooks (southern and otherwise). They have nearly 300 titles from which to choose and color illustrations of the covers. You can get a catalog by writing to the Cookbook Marketplace at 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214 OR call them toll free at 1-800-269-6839. This discount offer is good to Sandychatter readers ONLY until January 31, 2012 – so this may be a perfect opportunity to obtain some of your most coveted cookbook titles.

Happy Cooking – and Happy Cookbook Collecting!
Sandy

MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE

“MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE” is a cookbook of festive favorites from the Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana. Published in 2007, it holds the distinction of the Tabasco Community Cookbook Award for 2007.

In the Foreword, Neil Johnson (also the cookbook photographer) writes, “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its destruction of New Orleans, the population of Baton Rouge almost doubled and Shreveport was surprised to find itself the second largest city in Louisiana, a state known the world over for its dining habits. With the sad and hopefully temporary loss of New Orleans, one of the food capitals of the world, Shreveport has the profound duty to step up to the plate, so to speak, and help the State of Louisiana live up to its culinary reputation, and, yes, even raise the bar locally. In my experience, it is doing just that. Take this cookbook as evidence.”

Johnson notes, “They say Japanese eat with their eyes and Americans eat with their noses. This may be true, but, personally, I eat with a fork, spoon, my fingers, or whatever is put before me. I also enjoy photographing whatever is put before me. It’s like a big puzzle. Assemble all the pieces and then find the best way to put them together, piece b pieces, into an attractive imagine—foreground, food, flowers, background, lights. Prop that pheasant up. Fluff the flag a big more. Move those beans a bit to the right. There are myriad ways to frame each image and a shoot could go on forever, but you see where our creative muses led us.”

Johnson also comments “The capable team and I could have gone in one of two directions with these food illustrations. The first would have been to focus on the food up tight. The second, and the one we chose, was to back off and illustrate the food and the settings, i.e., tablescapes. Thus, we included the food, but also some distinctly Northwestern Louisiana scenery and Junior League members’ homes as backgrounds: azalea bushes in the elegant backyard of Minou Fritze, the hunt room of Judy Chidlow, the Cross Lake pier of Monica Davenport-Wesley, and the stately home of Kim Campbell and Teresa Meldrum. Also,” he adds, “because we were not up close and personal with the food, we did not have to use the fine art of food styling. In other words, we avoided most of the trickery that makes food more presentable to the camera, but at the same time, inedible…”

Johnson asks, “Why do I mention this?” and provides the answer, “Because after we wrapped each shoot, much of the food could still be consumed…and consumed it was. Oh, the Grilled Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce was delicious as was the Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Pie, Fall Beam Salad, Shrimp Pastry Shells and Crawfish and Corn Soup!”

In the Introduction to MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE, the cookbook committee writes, “Whether you were born in Northwest Louisiana, transplanted from somewhere else, or are just a visitor passing through, you will most likely notice that there’s something special about our area. While you may not be able to put your finger on it, you will probably agree that it’s a good thing. Few things define the culture of a region like its festivals and food, and that is exactly what we have attempted to capture in the pages of MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE. This cookbook is a collection of favorite recipes intermingled with the time-honored festivals and celebrations that represent the traditions and soul of our home…the name Louisiana rolls off the tongue with a lilt that tickles the soul and conjures up imagines of a unique and fascinating culture and lifestyle well known for its deep, fun-loving French Creole influence. The heritage of the people of the Northwest portion of the state make up a rich cultural gumbo, which includes early American pioneers, African Americans, French Canadian exiles, European settlers, Native Americans and many others. With this mixture it’s no wonder that the people, traditions, and festivals of modern-day Northwest Louisiana are also unique and colorful…”

And because one of the purposes of the Junior League is to help make this community a better place, the decision was made to show off this community. Says Neil Johnson, “Thus we have interspersed images of tablescapes with images of the beauty and events that make this community wonderfully unique things, like Pumpkin Shine on Line, The Barksdale Air Force Base Air Show, Mardi Gras Parades, and the spring explosion of azalea blossoms….”

Johnson says it has been his distinct opportunity to photograph every facet of this community since the mid-1970s. Sharing these imaged with viewers makes the effort to create them worth it.

He also says “it should make the community proud to consider what the Junior League has accomplished, and continues to accomplish, generation after generation. This may seem like simply an attractive and helpful cookbook, but if you look closely and breathe deeply, you will realize it has been carefully and lovingly marinated with the message and goals of the Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier…” He adds that he hopes this cookbook will inspire cooks through this corner of the state and far outside, to continue the culinary traditions of Louisiana and to instill in its users continuing pride in Northwest Louisiana and the Junior League.

And in the Preface (some information we have shared with blog readers in the past but some things are worth repeating) – it is noted that “since the 1940s, Junior Leagues from across the nation have been raising funds with their cookbooks. The Junior League of Minneapolis published the first one in 1943. By the 1950s, Junior League Cookbooks were recognized as key fund-raising tools throughout the organization. Presently, there are more than two hundred such cookbooks in print, raising funds for the various Leagues and their community projects.

The Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier began its cookbook fund-raising with A COOK’S TOUR, in 1964 (which I have; I went right to it on my Louisiana cookbook shelf). The success of this cookbook and the introduction of the Red River Revel Arts Festival prompted the publishing of the REVEL cookbook in 1979. (I have this one too). Now, in the new millennium, the Junior League is proud to present their new cookbook, MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE.

As the title suggests, MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE pays tribute to the festivals and traditions celebrated by the people of Northwest Louisiana. League members, their families, and favorite local restaurants donated recipes, which were then tirelessly tested to make sure they were as easy to prepare as they were tasty.* To complement the festive recipes, a talented and well known local photographer, Neil Johnson, was recruited to bring visual flair to the cookbook. Finally, months of research and editing tied it all together.

(*Sandy’s cooknote – just so you know, not ALL recipes for community cookbooks are tested beforehand—the major exception to this is probably the Junior League committees who take so much pride in presenting letter-perfect and thoroughly tested recipes. Yeah, you will probably pay a little more for a Junior League cookbook—but in the long run you will find that it’s really worth it).

Each of the twelve chapters in “Mardi Gras to Mistletoe” highlights a particular month of the year and begins with a brief narrative of the history, festivals, and traditions celebrated in that month. The chapters are then filled with recipes that can be used to create a seasonal menu or a stand alone special dish.

And, (also from the Introduction), we learn that Northwest Louisiana likes to celebrate and you can find a festival in honor of almost anything, from flowers indigenous to the region to the fruits and vegetables harvested in the area. You can also attend festivals that honor the people who have contributed to the culture and history of Northwest Louisiana, ranging from the famous such as guitarist James Burton, to the infamous, such as Bonnie and Clyde. There is no denying, though, that food always seems to be the center of any Northwest Louisiana celebration.

This is such a fantastic cookbook that I can’t decide where to begin—the photographs! The holidays and festivals! And OH! The recipes!

For all of us who read cookbooks like novels (and our number is legend), MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE is right up our alley. Some you may want to check out? Vodka Snow or Champagne sorbet (serves 6 to 8) are perfect for a holiday party or any time. If you love asparagus (as do I and my youngest son), Asparagus Party Rolls is a great appetizer for your next shing-dig and the recipe makes 40 rolls. Jack Quesadillas with Cranberry Pear Relish makes 8 quesadillas and each one can be cut into six wedges and the relish can be made in advance. (I love cranberry relish and enjoy experimenting with them to make something different – this recipe uses canned cranberry sauce so you don’t have to wait for fresh cranberries to become available (*Although, I suspect most cooks do as I do and stock up on fresh cranberries when they are on sale and then freeze them). There is a recipe called Derby Cheese Torta that contains spinach and some chutney that is sure to become a favorite and serves 15 to 20. And for something different in a dip you may want to try Black-Eyed Pea dip (especially good to serve for a New Year’s Eve party if you believe in eating black eyed peas for good luck in the coming year. In my family that good luck food was – sauerkraut. But I digress).

For chocolate lovers you will surely want to make Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake or the Mabry House* White and dark Chocolate Torte. (*The Mabry House is an upscale restaurant but the house itself was built in 1902 and is on the National Register of historic places—what fun it would be to go there for dinner. Another decadent recipe for chocolate lovers is German Chocolate Fondue—only three ingredients go into making the fondue and then you can serve it with an assortment of chunks of fresh fruit—yum! Other chocolate recipes include Oreo Balls and White Chocolate Macadamia Crème Brulee, Black Forest Brownies, and for the children (or as in my case, grandchildren) there is a sure to please recipe for making chocolate play dough. The kids can play with the chocolate play dough and when they get hungry for a snack—eat it! And, only 5 ingredients go into making chocolate play dough –most of which I generally have on hand in the frig or in the pantry. (Also included is a recipe for making homemade non-edible play dough that you can keep on hand in a plastic bag or an airtight container).
Another white chocolate recipe is White Chocolate Raspberry Tart—only 6 ingredients but oh, it does sound yummy. (My two favorite fruits are blackberries and raspberries). And, look for Chocolate Zucchini Bread—sure to be a winner and great to make when you have a glut of zucchinis growing in your garden (This is a great recipe to make in small loaves that you can freeze when you have more zucchinis than you know what to do with—and have them on hand to give away at Christmas, with a little jar of jelly or jam). A few other chocolate recipes include Chocolate Chip Pound Cake, and Grand Chocolate Pie, and Andes chocolate Mint Cookies.

Now, I may have misled you into thinking this is just a cookbook of chocolate recipes—my bad! Such is not the case. MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE is packed with recipes sure to become family favorites—Heavenly Chicken Casserole, for instance, great for a small dinner party, Layered Crab Meat Spread, which can be made in advance, Pepper Jelly-Glazed Carrots (only 4 ingredients but what a great idea—one I am looking forward to trying.

There recipes for Louisiana favorites—Shrimp Etouffee, Jambalaya, Cajun Strata, and the famous traditional Mardi Gras King Cake. The cookbook committee notes that this recipe has a lot of steps but none of them are difficult. They also note that hundreds of thousands of Mardi Gras cakes are consumed at parties worldwide every year and a Mardi Gras party would not be complete without one.

There are salad recipes such as Spring Pea Salad and Orzo and Shrimp Salad, Layered Green Salad (one of my favorites—I’ve been making this for years) – there is Almond Mandarin Salad, and Rice and Peach Salad, or you may want to try Pear and Blue Cheese Salad. There is a Marinated Artichoke Salad or Oriental Asparagus Salad—just a sampling of the many fruit or vegetable salads for you to try. There are also some salads to serve as a main dish, such as Brown Rice Chicken Cranberry Salad and Pasta Salad with Steak.

I have an ongoing love affair going with salsas (you may have noted this on my blog from some of the salsa recipes I have shared with you) – but MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE has some that are new to me – such as Blueberry Salsa and a Cranberry Salsa…and in Sauces there is a Blueberry Sauce that I have made, and love This one can be served with Blueberry Sausage Breakfast Cake which is sure to become a favorite. In my family we do several brunches a year—I will serve this recipe when it’s my turn to do a breakfast or brunch. And how about Salmon with Peach Jam? Only a few ingredients (4 not counting the salmon fillets) and it sounds divine. And I almost always have homemade peach jam in my jelly cupboard.

One of the features I like and appreciate about MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE is that—as I have noted along the way—many of the recipes don’t contain too many ingredients and are easy enough for a novice cook to prepare. I think there was a period of time in our cookbook history when the committees compiling a cookbook seemed to think “more was better” – as in more ingredients, a lot of directions. Today’s cook is usually someone raising a family and holding down a job…yes, you know I am retired now but I spent 27 years at my last job, before retiring and by then my children were grown. I have the utmost sympathy for young mothers, such as my nieces and daughters in law, who work long hours and then come home to make dinner. MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE is sure to become one of your favorite go-to cookbooks. This is a well designed, heavily endowed cookbook containing over four hundred recipes. Isn’t that fantastic?

To order “MARDI GRAS TO MISTLETOE” from THE COOKBOOK MARKETPLACE, the cost is $26.95.
From now until January 31, 2012, the Favorite Recipes Press Cookbook Marketplace is offering a 50% discount on the cookbooks of your choice, to Sandychatter readers. You must enter the code SCHAT-HOL at checkout. The books ship from Nashville, UPS ground.

The Favorite Recipes Press Marketplace is a great source for finding many of your favorite community cookbooks (southern and otherwise). They have nearly 300 titles from which to choose and color illustrations of the covers. You can get a catalog by writing to the Cookbook Marketplace at 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214 OR call them toll free at 1-800-269-6839. This discount offer is good to Sandychatter readers ONLY until January 31, 2012 – so this may be a perfect opportunity to obtain some of your most coveted cookbook titles.

REVEL and A COOK’S TOUR are also both available at Favorite Recipes Press, through the Cookbook Marketplace and are $19.95 each-however! You can obtain all three of these cookbooks @ 50% off if you order by January 31, 2012 and enter the code SCHAT-HOL at checkout. This is a golden opportunity to get some of the cookbooks you want at a great discount price; to order by phone call 1-800-269-6839 or visit the Marketplace website at http://www.cookbookmarketplace.com.

Happy cookbook collecting!

Sandy

JANUARY 1, 2012 – NEW BEGINNINGS

Day 1, JANUARY 1, 2012 “NEW BEGINNINGS”

In 2008, when we learned we would have to move and I bought a house in Quartz Hill, around the corner from my youngest son and his family, although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was a new beginning. It took us many months to completely unpack and settle into our new surroundings.

From the onset, Bob chose a long room built behind the garage but attached to the structure for his workshop. He had his desk, drafting table, television, coffee maker and shelves of books and magazines at his fingertips and it may have been his favorite place/retreat. In 2010, Bob rebuilt our secret garden, a gazebo, and found a perfect spot for it under trees and behind a wall that divides part of our back yard from another section of back yard. We planted fruit trees in the far back yard and found grape vines growing there, suffering from years of neglect. Then after rebuilding the secret garden, Bob built a library for me out of half of the garage. As quickly as he put up shelves, I unpacked boxes of books and filled them.

It was a crowning achievement.

Sometime in 2010 he began having problems swallowing. We thought it might be acid reflux. It wasn’t until after we had gone to a dinner in Gorman for a friend’s birthday, and Bob was unable to eat a steak, that he conceded he needed to see a doctor. Then, for just over a year, we went through a rollercoaster ride of trips to doctors and hospitals until it all culminated in his death September 21-22 when he began to spit up blood. It wasn’t the cancer in his esophagus that killed him. I believe it was scarring from radiation in his esophagus and the stretching procedure that his gastroenterologist did while doing endoscopies, to open his esophagus back up.

Bob had a brief respite after a stent was implanted in July. He began to eat again and regained ten pounds. It gave us a false hope. The morning of September 21, he wakened me, telling me he was spitting up blood. We didn’t know it, but it was the beginning of the end.

September 22 in the hospital I said my goodbyes holding one of his hands while Keara held the other. I had him cremated and went for five days on a long postponed trip to Cincinnati to see some cousins. It was another brief respite.

It crossed my mind that for the first time in my life I am truly living alone (even though Ethan and Savannah have spent many nights here keeping me company since their grandpa died). I lived at home with my parents until I married at the age of 18. When he and I divorced in 1985-86 I had one or more of my sons always living with me. Chris & Kelly were teenagers and took turns living with me or their father. I rented a house in Van Nuys, the first time I undertook finding a place of my own in which to live. In 1986 I met Bob and he lived in an apartment nearby but was always nearby and often spent the night at my place.

In 1989, Bob and Kelly and I moved into the Arleta house. (I had lived there with Jim and the boys from 1974-79 until we bought a house in Florida). It became available and with help from Gary, a new friend of Bob’s, we moved back to 9187 Arleta Avenue. I didn’t think of the move from Wyandotte Street to Arleta Avenue as a new beginning even though, I suppose it was.

For the first time in my life I am living alone. I am still struggling with the loss of my partner of twenty six years but suspect I may adapt before too long. This week, I returned to bowling – the league secretary called me a few days ago to tell me of an opening on the Grandmas and Grandpas league. A few weeks ago, I returned to Weight Watchers on Wednesday Evenings. I HOPE I can find my way back into writing on a regular basis.

January, 2012 is my month for new beginnings.

Sandra Lee Smith

LEFTOVER CAKE

LEFTOVER CAKE

When I was a little girl,
perhaps once or twice a year
my parents would have a party,
sometimes it was a New Years Eve celebration
to which children were not invited;
I’m not sure what we did
to occupy ourselves in our rooms on the second floor,
but what I remember is
the next morning
there were many tumblers
with an inch or two of liquid
at the bottom—but which did not taste very good.
I suspect my brothers may have
poured all the dregs together
to see what they had missed,
but what I remember best
is the remains of a cake
Left laying out on the table
now crusty and dried out–
but cake…was cake….no matter what its condition
so while my parents slept
We polished off the cake.

–Sandra Lee Smith