Category Archives: CULINARY HISTORY

REDISCOVERING BREAD PUDDING

Bread pudding was one of the few desserts that we grew up on, Although we might have that or rice pudding just as easily for breakfast as we did for dessert.  Dessert just wasn’t a part of my mother’s repertoire, except for special occasions like Christmas.

 It’s easy to understand how the bread pudding (or rice pudding) managed to make it to the table. We always had bread; my mother baked homemade bread twice a week in large roasting pans. We rarely had “store bought bread” in the house until much later, after my mother began working at Crosley’s over in Camp Washington.  (My sister Barbara recalled that we had the only mother in the neighborhood who worked full time—mind you, this was a time, in the 1940s and 1950s, when most mothers stayed at home).  It doesn’t surprise me that we might have left over rice from any meal; my mother’s rice was like library paste.  The most you could hope for was to break down the pasty consistency by spooning on a lot of chicken broth.  We always had mom’s library paste rice with stewed chicken for Sunday dinner. I was an adult living in California before I discovered that I really do like rice. (and my brother Bill has confessed to liking mom’s  library paste rice.)

I don’t think my mother had a recipe for making bread pudding although it’s entirely possible that she may have followed the recipe for Bread Puff Pudding that I found in her Ida Bailey Allen Service Cookbook.  The recipe is a simple combination of milk, bread crumbs, a bit of butter, small amount of sugar, vanilla, and a couple of eggs.  These would have been all ingredients on hand in my mother’s kitchen. Mom’s bread pudding sometimes contained some raisins, too.

What got me thinking about bread pudding was a surgery my daughter-in-law had one year.  Keara was recuperating from a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, and was able to eat only soft foods.  I sent home to her a double batch of creamy tapioca pudding. She requested another comfort food; bread pudding.  Then, while searching through my box of newspaper clippings, I came across an article that appeared in the December 10, 1987 edition of the Los Angeles Times – and the subject was – you guessed it – bread puddings.

One of the recipes sounded so good that I decided it was the one to make; I just had to go out and buy a loaf of white bread, which we seldom have on hand, and then “make it stale” by letting the slices set out on the kitchen counter for half a day.

Well, I want you to know, this was a great bread pudding recipe—I did have to sample it, of course, to make sure I wasn’t sending Keara something she wouldn’t be able to eat!

Betty Balsley, the author of this particular article in the Los Angeles Times, explains her love for leftovers (something I can really relate to) and says that she’s always fascinated by the way home cooks as well as professional chefs adeptly handle flavors and texture to produce unforgettable culinary creations.

“Thus it was,” she writes, “that when attending the Newspaper Food Editors and Writers Assn. Conference in New Orleans in October, I gained an unmentionable number of pounds sampling an almost amazing variety of these classic American sweets (i.e., bread puddings). “None,” she claims, “were bad. A few were so-so but the majority were worth every calorie they added to my frame…”

What followed was an assortment of bread pudding recipes, ranging from Omni Royal Orleans Bread Pudding to Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding souffle with Whiskey Sauce.  I chose to make “Allie And Etell’s Bread Pudding. The Allie, I presume, is Paul Prudhomme’s sister Allie.  I added raisins to my batch of bread pudding, because what is bread pudding without raisins?

By now, as you might suspect, my curiosity was piqued. Do only the chefs of Louisiana know how to make bread pudding? Sylvia Lovegren, in “FASHIONABLE FOOD” writes of it “Bread pudding was another one of those old-fashioned all-American dishes that were de rigueur for trendy chefs. Although bread puddings were made around the country with every sort of ‘regional accent’, one of the most popular was one with a Southern, especially southern Louisiana, twang….”

Lovegren then offers a recipe for Bread Pudding with Pecan Bourbon Sauce.

Since the topic of bread pudding appears in Lovegren’s chapter for the 1980s, possibly this also explains how an article devoted to bread puddings ended up in a 1987 edition of the Los Angeles Times. Most food historians whose works I consulted don’t mention bread pudding at all.  So, what’s the story?

Even my tried-and-true “WISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOKERY” has disappointingly little to say about bread pudding, other than suggesting they are an excellent way of using slightly dry bread and offering two recipes. Numerous “Americana” cookbooks fail to mention bread pudding at all, whereas, – at least – in “THE BEST OF SHAKER COOKING”, authors provide ten recipes for the dessert, ranging from Shaker Mountain Blueberry Pudding to Maple Bread Pudding. All sound delicious.

A Good Housekeeping cookbook published in 1942-43 offers ten bread pudding recipes as well, including one for the Queen of Puddings which is mentioned in “PIONEER POTLUCK”, stories an recipes of Early Colorado, collected by the State Historical Society of Colorado. “THE PIONEER COOK BOOK” published by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers provides one recipe for Grandma Taylor’s Milton Pudding or Bread Pudding.  Queens Pudding is also mentioned in the “LINCOLN HERITAGE TRAIL COOKBOOK” by Marian French. (It seems that bread pudding was elevated to Queen’ Pudding by spreading the top with a layer of jelly or preserves after it was baked. Then you made a meringue with the whites of a couple of eggs and two tablespoons of sugar, and spread that over the top. Finally, you baked it again until the meringue was a light brown.

“THE PRACTICAL RECEIPT BOOK” published in 1897 by the Young Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Sewickley, Pennsylvania offers no less than sixty-five pudding recipes, two of which are for the Queen Pudding.

However, finding recipes for Bread Pudding doesn’t answer my original question—nor does it explain to me why or how this delicious dessert disappeared from the American culinary landscape.  Have we all become so busy that the only kind of puddings we have anymore are of the instant packaged variety that require only the addition of milk—or, equally tasteless — a pre-made item that you pick up in the dairy section of the supermarket, which only requires peeling off a foil cover? Ew, ew!

Perhaps we have to search into the much more distant past for the answer to the origin of bread pudding, or desserts in general as we know them.

Not much is known about desserts in the middle ages.  Patricia Bunning Stevens writes about desserts in “RARE BITS” subtitled “Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes”.

Describing the middle ages, she states, “…at the end of the meal, the table was cleared and spiced wine served, with sweet wafers, raisins, nuts, and ‘comfits,’ as sugared caraway seeds and anise seeds were called. It is from these simple beginnings that our modern ‘dessert’ stems, for the word comes from the French desservir and, ultimately, from the Latin dis servir, to remove what has been served, to clear (the table).

As time went by, the idea of true desserts spread and various countries developed their own preferences. “To Englishmen” writes Ms. Stevens, “the only dessert that ever really counted was the pudding….”  She continues with a rather detailed explanation of the English Pudding which contains dried fruit and spices; however, Ms. Stevens has nothing to add on the subject of bread pudding.

Until around 1800, the word pudding nearly always signified a sausage of some kind—i.e., a meat-filled casing. In “FRUITCAKES & COUCH POTATOES,” author Christine Ammer also notes that, “In Britain, the word ‘pudding’ alone often signifies the dessert course of a meal, whether or not it consists of the thick, soft, sweet mixture so called by Americans”.

Writing about plum puddings, Betty Wason, in “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS,” notes that it was during the reign of Henry VIII that the Christmas feast came about.  “Plum Pudding,” says Wason, “originated as ‘plum soup’ made of mutton stock, currants, prunes, raisins and sherry; then bread was added to thicken it, and it was called ‘plum porridge’.  Eventually it became mostly meat with suet, wheat, raisins, currants, and spices added. Even the stews of England in those days were sweet and gooey, so spiced no one knew quite what the meat tasted like. (I think the main reason for that may have been that the meat was bad or tainted—the heavy spices would have masked the actual taste of the meat. It was for the same reason that the French concocted so many sauces to put over meats. But I digress).

“Plum Puddings,” Wason explains, “were made by the dozens—literally—because according to superstition, it was good luck to eat a plum pudding on each of the days between Christmas and Epiphany, ‘making a wish on the first mouthful each day.’  But woe to anyone who nibbled at a holiday pudding before the Christmas feast began—he would be in trouble for twelve months to come…”  (Sounds like something someone’s mother would have come up with to make sure no one was getting into the feast day food too soon!)

While doing a search on Google.com, I found a short but illuminating clue to the history of bread pudding. To make bread pudding, an oven is necessary; you can’t make it very well in a pot on top of the stove.  In early pioneer times, as we know, food was cooked over an open fire. The English version of foods like plum pudding were cooked on top of a stove but the whole mess was put into a pudding cloth that was suspended into a pot of water. The English pudding came into its own only with the invention of the cloth pudding bag at the end of the sixteenth century (before that, animal organs were used to encase the pudding process).

Another clue—centuries ago, women might mix up their own loaves of bread but they usually had to take it to something like a communal oven or to a professional baker–to have it baked. The lady of the house might mark her bread with the letter of their name or her own special design (from which we have the Patty Cake nursery rhyme line, “roll it and shape it, mark it with a “b” and put it in the oven for baby and me”.

To make something like bread pudding, as we know it, stoves—with ovens—had to be invented and make their way into ordinary households.

Having found no definitive answer to my initial question—who created or invented the first bread pudding—I feel compelled to make an assumption or two.

Bread pudding as we know it is most likely a creation of the mid-or-late 1800s, devised during frugal periods, to make use of stale bread. And there were, indeed, many austere periods in American history. It was one of the primary reasons so many men and women headed west in the mid 1800s, searching for a better life.

**

Louisiana chefs have, unquestionably, elevated the status of bread pudding to new heights while modern day cooks have come up with new and delicious creations using croissants, dried cranberries, day old cinnamon rolls or cinnamon bread. (type in bread pudding on Google.Com and you will come up with literally thousands of websites and bread pudding recipes galore.

Here for you to try is one of the recipes that appeared in the Los Angeles Times article. I’ve made a few minor changes to the original recipe because, as most people who know me are aware, I can’t leave a recipe alone.

¼ lb (1 stick)  unsalted butter (should be softened, room temperature)

1 cup sugar

2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk (undiluted)

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

7 slices stale white sandwich bread, toasted

½ cup seedless raisins or dried cranberries

Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium speed until mix is well creamed, about 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cream of tartar and ginger. Beat on low speed until well-blended, about 3 minutes.

Break toasted bread into small pieces and arrange in even layer in bottom of ungreased 8×8” baking pan. Sprinkle on raisins. Pour milk mixture over the bread and let it stand for about 1 hour, occasionally patting down any bread that floats to the top.

Bake 450 degrees 20-25 minutes or until top is very well browned and mixture shakes like a bowl of jelly when pan is shaken. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.   Makes 8-10 servings

Note: raisins, roasted pecans or other nuts or coconut can be added to recipe if desired.  I’ve discovered that dried blueberries also makes a nice addition.

I’ll leave you with this quotation, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, in which he writes, “Hallo!  A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day!  That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other…”

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE …The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking…by Joseph E. Dabny, is a monumental work, presenting Appalachian cuisine from pioneer days to the present.

Author Joseph Dabny is a retired newspaperman and public relationships executive who has studied Appalachian and hill-country food traditions for many years.

A beautifully written foreword is provided by noted food historian and cookbook author, John Egerton. He states, in part, “In place of the denigrating mythologies of Appalachia—the buffoonish Snuffy Smith-Lil’ Abner-Beverly Hllbillies stereotypes—we see these salt-of-the-earth citizens for what they truly area: smart, industrious, creative, frugal, good-humored, and highly skilled, especially when it comes to putting great meals on the table.

Because he grew up at tables such as these in the southern arc of the Appalachian highlands—and remains close by even now—Joe Dabney knows how to recreate the atmosphere and the characters and the food…Dabney is unquestionably the right person to pull together a patchwork quilt of a book such as this…”

The author was born in South Carolina in 1929; when his father, a merchant, went bankrupt by a wave of customer credit caused by the Great Depression, the family—which included six other children—left their home in the Piedmont for a rented farm in Greneville County, a hundred miles to the northwest.  “There,” writes Egerton, “just below the eastern shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Dabneys rode out the Depression with unwavering faith, hope and charity—in God, Franklin Roosevelt, and a support group of relatives and friends…”

“Back in Kershaw at the age of seven” says Egerton, “Joe had already learned the code of the hills and it would serve him well from then on…and it is those people, the ancients and his own more recent kin and neighbors, whose voices echo through Dabny’s smooth-flowing narrative. To be sure, this is a cookbook and most of the talk is about food—or over it, at the table, –but it is much more than that. It’s about characters like whiskey-maker Theodore (Thee) King of Gum Log, Georgia, and Simmie Free of Tiger, Georgia and ninety year old Nina Garrett of Near Cartecay, another Georgia hill-country community…Dabney’s book is also about hog-killing and smokehouses, about making lye hominy and gathering greens, about ramps and cushaws and leather britches [dried green beans], about cracklin’ bread and corncob jelly*, whistle pig and poke sallet, apple butter and stack cakes…”  (I made corncob jelly last year when my youngest son had a beautiful crop of corn on the cob. I removed most of the corn from the cobs, to blanch and freeze it – and not wanting to waste all those cobs, I made corncob jelly. It’s delicious!).

Mr. Dabney acknowledges that many people helped with the creation of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE,” which includes a bibliography of more than two hundred books.

I feel as though I should know Mr. Dabney; many familiar names jump off the pages of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE. My dearly-loved Georgian columnist Celestine Sibley, who died not long before I wrote my first review of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE in 1999 for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and had the delight of being featured in one of her newspaper articles…author Nathalie Dupree,  another favorite cookbook author, and author Janice  Holt Giles—whose books I have dearly loved my entire adult life, featuring pioneer history often centered around her home deep in a Kentucky ‘holler’ and made me love American pioneer history forever after—these are just a few of the American authors whose work I admire and relish and wish I had the ability to write like they do…they all recreate and make us familiar with the foodways and people of places such as Appalachia. Here, I noticed also, comments about Mark Sohn, whose great cookbook MOUNTAIN COUNTRY COOKING that I reviewed for CCE members some time ago.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE is not a cookbook you will breeze through…it should be savored, page by page, like a fine…scuppernong wine. Here is a history of a people and their food; a celebration of foodlore handed down from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and the Cherokee Nation.  As Celestine Sibley would have said, “This one’s a keeper”.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE was published by Cumberland House in Nashville in 1998. It is widely available on Amazon.com and other sites, starting at $3.33 for a pre-owned copy with a wide range of prices for new copies.

Mr. Dabney is also the author of THE FOOD, FOLKLORE AND ART OF LOWCOUNTRY COOKING, A CELEBRATION OF THE FOODS, HISTORY AND ROMANCE…

Another favorite of mine is BISCUITS, SPOONBREAD, AND SWEET POTATO PIE, by Bill Neal and if your interest is piqued to continue on a quest along these lines, you may want to also read John Egerton’s SOUTHERN FOOD, AT HOME, ON THE ROAD, IN HISTORY, originally published by Alfred Knopf in 1987.  Visit Amazon.com and Alibris.com for an extended list of titles by the author, not all are cookbooks.

For a more-in depth look at some of my favorite southern cookbooks, please refer to THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH, PARTS 1 AND II, posted on this blog in 2011.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

VISITING THE FARMER’S MARKET – PART ONE

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, dancing a jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.
- Mother Goose nursery rhyme

And one other that I have loved for a long time:

MARKET DAY

White, glittering sunlight fills the market square,
Spotted and sprigged with shadows. Double rows
Of bartering booths spread out their tempting shows
Of globed and golden fruit, the morning air
Smells sweet with ripeness, on the pavement there
A wicker basket gapes and overflows
Spilling out cool, blue plums. The market glows,
And flaunts, and clatters in its busy care.
A stately minster at the northern side
Lifts its twin spires to the distant sky,
Pinnacled, carved and buttressed; through the wide
Arched doorway peals an organ, suddenly –
Crashing, triumphant in its pregnant tide,
Quenching the square in vibrant harmony.
–Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

The children’s nursery rhyme, “to market, to market…” reminds of us a time when it was customary throughout the country to “go to market” on certain days of the week, in particular Saturday mornings, to purchase groceries and produce, before the advent of the corner grocery stores and, later on, supermarkets.

Happily, we have had a resurgence of farmer’s markets throughout the United States. Market day is Thursday afternoon on Lancaster Boulevard in the Antelope Valley, but the market of my childhood was Findlay Market, near downtown Cincinnati. When I was a child, I – or one of my siblings – would accompany our Grandma Schmidt on the street car toting hand-sewn oilcloth shopping bags which we would fill with melons, oranges, lettuce, parsley, onions, and tomatoes – and sometimes a freshly killed hen from a butcher shop at Findlay Market. I wasn’t especially fond of the butcher shop (which remains in business to this day) but found the sawdust strewn on the floor interesting to slide around on, or make patterns in with my shoes.

Mary Anna DuSablon provided a bit of historical background to Findlay Market in her wonderful book CINCINNATI RECIPE TREASURY/THE QUEEN CITY’S CULINARY HERITAGE.

“Findlay Market,” she writes, “the first suburb to be annexed to Cincinnati was named after General James Findlay, who owned the property. Findlay was a proprietor of a prosperous log cabin store, which was founded in 1793…”

Originally, Ms. DuSablon explains, “the area was simply designed as an open air market for farmers, but in 1852, a cornerstone was laid for an open-sided cast iron market building, which would cost $12,000. It was an immense success.

In 1902 the market house was enclosed and refrigeration was added. With its colorful vegetable, fruit and flower stands along the curbs, and stores of every description around the square, Findlay Market became Cincinnati’s first shopping center, reflecting its German heritage later intermingled with the Italian.”

Dick Perry mentions Findlay Market in his book VAS YOU EVER IN ZINZINNATI? published by Doubleday in 1966, describing it this way, “The market itself is located in the dilapidated Mohawk district on an Elder Street esplanade between Elm and Race. But the esplanade can’t contain it. The market is so gregarious it spills out of the market place itself, and vendors line both sides of Elder Street between Elm and Vine, both sides of Race Street from Green to Elder, and the east side of Race Street from Elder to Findlay. Stalls, vendors, and seeming disorder are everywhere. On market days, the din, confusion and scents are beautiful. What can be bought there? Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, flowers and special delicacies…”.

That was in 1966 and possibly Findlay Market’s heyday. In more recent years, whenever I have made a trip to Cincinnati, my nephew Russ and I have gone down to Findlay Market to shop and look around. For a few years reconstruction was going on and only a few shops were open and doing business. I had the good fortune to be in Cincinnati shortly after Findlay Market reopened a few years ago, with one long enclosed building where private vendors offer everything imaginable from soup to nuts – but especially meat. We found many different sausages and were invited to taste some of them, when I mentioned to the butcher going to Findlay Market with my grandmother in the 1940s and 1950s. Findlay Market has undergone a facelift but the produce and meat and poultry being offered is still top notch.

Farmers markets are as old as this country itself; indeed, the practice of farmers taking their produce, chickens, and eggs to town to sell is centuries old, dating back to medieval times. Didn’t we learn that even President Jefferson often accompanied his French steward to the Georgetown market on his daily trip to pick fresh vegetables and fruit for that day’s meals? According to Kenneth Leish in his book THE WHITE HOUSE, they sometimes spent as much as $50 in a single grocery shopping expedition—certainly a vast amount of money for those times.

As a matter of record, Thomas Jefferson had this to say about markets, “I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden.”

Describing the marketplaces of the middle ages, author Reay Tannahill writes in her book, FOOD IN HISTORY (published by Stein and Day, 1973), “As the towns grew, small markets which had beg8un for the friendly bartering of produce, grew into important trading events, where coinage, spices, wine, and silks, replaced baskets of apples and day-old chicks as currency. Frequently, so much of a town’s prosperity revolved around the market that stringent precautions had to be taken to guard the stallholders against robbery, violence, and the medieval equivalent of the protection racket. A “market peace” similar to that of ancient Greece was established, symbolized in this new Christian world by a cross set up in the market place.”

“Later,” explains Tannahill, “Every great city had its great markets, and control over these became, in every sense, a royal headache. Exacting obedience from the merchants and ensuring the ‘market peace’ were feasible only if the place of sale was subject to regulation. It became the custom to establish different areas of the city, in which different types of merchants could offer their wares” (This has long been usual in the markets of Asia and the custom had also been adopted in Byzantium).
Other rules and regulations grew, says Tannahill, as merchant associations and guilds became more powerful. As an example, Ms. Tannahill tells us, “In early 14th century London, out of town poulterers* found it profitable to wander the streets selling their goods to housewives who had neither the time
nor the inclination to go to market. The guilds resented this freelance competition and in 1345, an edict was passed which flatly prohibited “folks bringing poultry to the city, to “sell it in landes, (sic) in the hostels of their hosts, and elsewhere in secret” and commanded them to take it “to the Leaden Hall and there sell it, and nowhere else.”

*A poulterer was an old term for a poultry man.

In another book titled PUBLIC MARKETS AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION, the author states that the public market as a type of building was firmly established by the seventeenth century. In England they continued to be the economic and social centers of urban life until the early 20th century; they still play an important role in many English cities.

One fact stands clear: the market place, as a custom, has been with us for centuries. European immigrants brought this custom to the United States, where it has flourished for several hundred years.

And the topic of farmers markets obviously makes good copy—you can find newspaper articles throughout the USA, devoted to farmers markets; I can count on one or two a year from the L.A. Times and the San Fernando Valley’s Daily News. Since I first started researching material for this article, I have been collecting both magazine and newspaper articles on farmer’s markets. Some of these markets, such as the Farmer’s Market in Hollywood, California, and the 200-year old French Market in New Orleans, the Soulard Market in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Pike Market in Seattle, Washington, are so well known that they attract millions of tourists every year.

Which market place may have been first in this country seems to be open to debate. According to PUBLIC MARKETS AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION, “Among the first records of market activity in the colonies, is a 1634 entry in the diary of Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts, showing that a court order had established a market in Boston, to be held every Thursday. Some years later, Boston constructed its first public market building in the center of t own, leading to the town dock. Around the same time, New York City centralized food retailing into public markets. As new cities developed the pattern continued. In Columbus Ohio, local leaders erected the first public market building even before the city received its corporate charter from the state—a reflection, perhaps, of the relative important of food and government. By 1918, the U.S. Census Bureau found that more than half of American cities with 30,000 inhabitants or more had municipal markets.

The Central Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, also claims to be the Nation’s oldest Farmer’s Market. (In 1730 when Lancaster began as a town, a market place was established).

The Baltimore, Maryland’s public market system dates back to 1763 when the first market was erected at Gay and Market Streets, with funds raised from a lottery. Eleven markets eventually encircled the heart of the city, each serving a distinct neighborhood and clientele.

Lexington, Market, in Baltimore, began in 1783 with the permission of Colonel John Eager Howard who allowed a farmer’s market to be placed upon Howard’s Hill. Thirty years later, the city erected a building on Howard’s Hill and officially named the market Western Precinct Market. However, in 1818, after the city of Baltimore expanded its boundaries, the market changed its name to Lexington Market. By 1822, Lexington Market was so famous that U.S. Attorney General William Wirt described it in a letter, “You may conceive the vast quantity of provisions that must be brought to this market when you are told that 60,000 people draw their daily supplies from it, which is more than twice as many people as there are in Washington, Alexandria and Richmond.”

And, Ralph Waldo Emerson, while visiting the Lexington market, described Baltimore as “the Gastronomical Capital of the Universe”.

In 1949, the Lexington Market burned to the ground; the market was rebuilt with a bond issue. Today, this farmer’s market holds many food stalls that have been in the same families for three, four and even five generations.

For a few decades in recent times, the popularity of farmers markets spiraled downward in decline, as American housewives discovered supermarkets and prepackaged cellophane-wrapped mushrooms and tomatoes, frozen TV dinners and microwave ovens. (And what brought people back to farmers markets and fresh produce? Could it be that the very same generation of children who grew up on TV dinners—of which I was one—tired of and became disenchanted with frozen tv dinners and shopping at supermarkets where prepackaged tomatoes and mushrooms usually concealed dark spots and bruises on the undersides of the vegetables, hidden from view?)

Some markets survived despite the efforts of cities to abolish them. The city of Chicago, for example began trying to disband the Maxwell Street Market soon after officially designating the area as a public market in 1912. Government efforts to close the open-air market occurred regularly in the decades that followed, including the removal of all site management functions in the 1970s, but the market miraculously survived to this day with over 800 vendors and perhaps 30,000 customers on a peak Sunday…

By the early 1970s, a number of cities began to re-evaluate their public, or farmer’s markets. Certainly, Central Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was one of the first recipients of federal funds for historical preservation when it was restored in the early 1970s.

In her cookbook titled THE FARM MARKET COOKBOOK (Doubleday, published in 1991) Judith Olney writes, “That I am not alone in my need for honest food, for a sense of community and change, became startlingly clear when I began to work on this book. In my travels, editors told me of new markets started in their cities. An Iowa government worker report that every town in the state with a population of over 5000 seemed to have generated a market in the past three years. Bellweather, California, was booming – 5 markets ten years ago, 120 markets in 1989. All across America, behind city halls, in parking lots of malls, in refurbished deserted warehouses, farm markets were springing up like a bountiful nationwide crop of wild edible mushrooms..those wonderful institutions, many of them established by waves of immigrants who had maintstreamed into American society in the stalls of the markets, were coming back to life…”

“And,” she continues, “so life spins around. The booming markets of our agrarian past, those links to our foreign born heritage that we rejected in the 1960s and 1970s like brash teenagers disowning embarrassing parents, we now embraced in our wiser maturity….”

Ms. Olney visited heartland markets in over a third of this country’s states while researching her book and even provides a geographical index to markets across the country and a listing of mail order market items.

An important factor to all of this, explain Richard Sax and Sandra Gluck, in their book FROM THE FARMERS’ MARKET, is not just the ability of the consumer to be able to obtain fresh produce, but that it also provides one solution to agriculture’s financial problems, allowing the farmer direct market of his produce, thereby eliminating the middleman and some of his profits.

This has become a crucial outlet for the small family-run farm, at a time when conglomerates and supermarket chains have forced many such farms to close down. In 1820, according to a recent report in Newsweek, nearly 75 percent of the United States population lived on farms. Today only 3 percent do. (FROM THE FARMERS MARKET by Sax & Gluck.

END OF PART ONE – Next I will share with you some of the Farmer’s Market cookbooks in my own collection.

–Sandra Lee Smith

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

Cookbooks are piling up again – time to get some cookbook reviews written–and I was thinking (yet again) how much diversity and incredible wealth of knowledge goes into  creating cookbooks. It doesn’t matter what state you live in, or what kind of cookbooks you find yourself collecting—with cookbooks there is something for everyone. I became interested in the beginning with church-and-club cookbooks because my father had given me one of those in the early 1960s after he bought them from a coworker at Formica. I was enchanted with that cookbook and wondered if there might be more of those “out there”. Now generally referred to as community cookbooks, these have a history that dates back to the American Civil War when women began collecting recipes to create cookbooks to raise money to help the war effort. It wasn’t very long before the  concept of collecting recipes for a church or club cookbook took off like a wild fire. I have written about these cookbooks before on my blog so I won’t dwell overlong on that topic except where it’s relevant to this post.

Even though I have never had the opportunity to travel along the American east coast- line (aside from living in Florida for a few years)—I am enchanted with lighthouses and what better place to find them than the east coast? (There are a pretty good number of them on the WEST coast too, some of which I have visited).  The problem has always been—much as I love to travel—almost every year, vacations have been planned around the graduations and weddings of my many nieces and nephews.

Much of what I have learned about the history of the East Coast of the United States has been gleaned from cookbooks.  “Cookbooks?” you ask. “Cookbooks” I affirm. When you pick up a cookbook titled COASTAL NEW ENGLAND FALL HARVEST COOKING by Sherri Eldridge, you just know you will be rewarded with some local history.

In the preface, Sherri Eldridge writes, “Like most of America, our origins are from different cultures, all adapting to the same environment and available foods of this unique settling ground.  People of the European continent brought not only their traditions, but also the willingness to make a home In an unknown land, where the first arrivals couldn’t even recognize edible vegetation. Intercultural cooperation and the pooling of resources contributed to the creation of the New England cuisine…”

Sherri adds that with the publication of this second edition, a nutritional analysis has been added and recipes have been adapted to meet the guidelines of the American Heart Association for healthy adults.

Under a recipe for cranapple salad with honey sauce, she writes ”The Pilgrims, a small sect of English Puritans, had been exiled to the Netherlands in 1606. In exchange for the promise of religious freedom, they agreed to establish a trading post in the New World for a group of London investors. In 1620 the Pilgrims set sail in the Mayflower, landing in November at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod”  (We ALL learned about the pilgrims and the Mayflower in grade school-but I had never read about the English Puritans being exiled to the Netherlands—have you?—or that in exchange for a promise of religious freedom, those Puritans agreed to establish a Trading Post in the New World for London investors!) This is all news to me,

Eldridge writes elsewhere “The Pilgrims settled in “Plimouth Harbor” in the early winter of 1620. Without appropriate protection from the elements, little food, and knowledge of the local vegetation and wildlife, half did not survive the first winter”. (Probably senselessly dying without knowing or trying some of the local vegetation or wildlife to survive). But, writes Eldgridge, “Just 5 years later, the resiliency and determination of the Pilgrims had established ‘Plimouth’ (sic) as a permanent colony”

Elsewhere she writes, “Up until the late 1800s, the kitchen, where the fire was kept going 24 hours a day, was the center of living in most New England homes. Some family members even slept in the kitchen, where the house was always warmest.  In a deep cubbyhole at the side of the fireplace was a brick oven, used to bake pies, breads, gems and  muffins.”

In the chapter for Breads and Baked Goods, Eldridge provides yummy recipes for light raspberry muffins, Pumpkin Bran muffins, Carrot-raisin muffins, Beer Biscuits and many other bread recipes. Other chapters include  one on salads and fresh greens—some unusual combinations you will want to try, such as Chilled Beet and Apple Salad, Ginger Cole Slaw, Boston Bean Salad, Spinach and Blood Orange Salad—and others.

Main Meal Dishes is lengthy, offering many recipes reflecting fish and seafood from the Atlantic ocean – a New England Clam Bake, How to Eat Lobster & Clams (good one for many of us!), shrimp brochettes and Downeast Deviled Crab, Savory Braised Fish and Poached Salmon in Vermouth with Artichoke Cream as well as recipes for trout, scallops and shrimp. Eldridge offers a handy tip on cooking fish – she writes “Any fish cooked by any means, generally only requires only 10 minutes of cooking time  for each inch of thickness at its thickest part” (that’s one I will want to remember!)

There are many other interesting chapters and recipes in this spiral bound cookbook – including, I’m happy to say, some recipes for jam, jelly, preserves, relish, chutney and – not to be overlooked one for Pickled Zucchini (my son has a bumper crop of squashes coming along in his garden).

Amazon.com has copies of COASTAL NEW ENGLAND FALL HARVEST COOKING starting at one cent for pre-owned copies.  **

One of the more interesting cookbooks to cross my line of vision recently is one titled THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK, by Bill Kurtis with Michelle M. Martin. Subtitled THE   REVOLUTION TOWARDS HEALTHY BEEF, FROM THE TRAIL TO GOURMET KITCHENS provides some clues to the content.  Also listed on the cover is another sub title, WITH RECIPES FROM: *CHEF Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, *Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and PBS’s MEXICO – ONE PLATE AT A TIME, *Executive Chef Paul Katz of Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, *Will Rogers, Gene Autry and Dale Evans, *Chef David Burns o the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field, and (last but not least *Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Dodge City May Jim Sherer.

This is a most unusual cookbook and one I wish I had owned when I was writing about American pioneers some years ago. Chapter 1 entices with Native American recipes, fried meat pies—even a recipe for pemmican. Included in Chapter 1 is a fascinating story of the tallgrass cattle drive. Equally fascinating is the explanation for an old American saying – “The real McCoy”. Here’s how it came about:

“In 1867 entrepreneur Joseph McCoy had a bold idea. It came to him when he was a livestock trader in Chicago witnessing the new technology of the day—railroads—transform the American West. If he could attract the great cattle herds moving out of Texas to an intersection with the railroads through Kansas, he could multiply his business ten-fold, maybe a hundredfold.

The intersecting point on the plains of Kansas was in Abilene, in the grass-rich Flint Hills. McCoy spent $5,000 on advertising and riders to carry promotional posters to the Texas herds of longhorns already heading north. He promised that he would pay more per head in Abilene. He was so true to his word that eventually the whole nation would adopt the phrase “That’s the real McCoy!” One cattleman brought six hundred cows for which he had paid $5,400 and sold them to McCoy for $16,800….” (and now you know the rest of the story for the real McCoy but there is a great deal more to read about in the Prairie Table cookbook.

In the chapter “Prairie Cooking Today” we read that the recipes reproduced in this book are exactly as originally worded, even if they appear incorrect by today’s standards of grammar. And while researching this book, the authors learned that beef has always been an American tradition. The recipes and cooking methods may have changed but the desire for fresh, tender, succulent beef has not.

We also learn that the historical chapters will give us a glimpse of American lie in the West during the great cattle era, as well as a better appreciation of our modern conveniences.

When I was researching and writing about the American cowboy I deliberately didn’t dwell on the great cattle drives—my focus was on the individual cowboy. And there were many cookbooks and non-cookbooks to draw on. I just didn’t have THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK – it wasn’t published until 2008.

Included as well in chapter 1 of THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK is The American Indian Prairie Table—another aspect of the development of this great country that I wrote about in “Kitchens West” but co-authors Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin take the American Indian farther. (Before I go on, I just want to go on the record as saying that I believe the USA did the American Indians a great injustice. You can’t read about them without becoming drawn in, feeling their despair as all that they loved was taken away from them by the white man.    From the Journal of William Clark, dated June 10, 1804, we read his entry, “I walked out three miles, found the prairie composed of good land and plenty of water, roleing (sic) and interspursed (sic) with points of timbered land.  Those prairies are not open like those, or a number of those E. of the Mississippi void of everything except grass , they abound with Hasel (hazel) grapes and a wild plumb of a superior size and quality called the Osages Plumb, gross on a bush the hight of a Hasel and is three times the sise of other plumbs, and hang in great quantities on the bushes  I saw great numbers of deer in the prairies, the evening is cloudy, our party in high spirits…” (*I did not correct the misspelled words—these are as  they were written by the Lewis and Clark expedition!)

It continues, “With the stroke of a pen, President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the young American nation when he purchased the untapped Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte of France. He couldn’t explore it himself so he dispatched Captain William Clark and Lieutenant Meriwether Lewis to be his eyes and ears.  Carrying peace medals, blankets, beads, and assorted trinkets they kept detailed journals of their daily progress and observation of the vast lands that would become the American West.

Needless to say, no one consulted any of the American Indian tribes about the Louisiana Purchase.  Among the most striking of these people were the Osage, located in present day Kansas and Oklahoma. Even before Lewis and Clark, explorers like John Bradbury, an Englishman, described them in mythical terms:

The Osages are so tall and robust as almost to warrant the application of the term gigantic; few of them appear to be under six feet, and many are above it. Their shoulders and visages are broad which tend to strengthen the idea of their being giants”.

There are some interesting easy Indian recipes which include a Cherokee recipe for Egg Soup and Wild Grape Dumplings, as well as a “Gritted Sweet Potatoes” – “Gritted” had nothing to do with southern grits—“gritted” was a word for peeled.  Some pioneer recipes offer a recipe for Scrapple which isn’t all that easy to find anymore, except in some very old cookbooks

Chapter 2 is titled DINING WITH THE ARMY and this is another area not-much explored by food historians, aside from some very good books about what soldiers existed on throughout the Civil War. Authors Bill Kurtis and Michelle M. Martin write “Army life was built around the bugle call. It woke men in the morning, guided posting of the colors and told men when to eat, work, and sleep. The army also understood that food, one of the soldier’s few enjoyments, needed to be regimented. Each soldier in garrison received a daily ration of bread, salt pork, vegetables, if available and other items provided by the army through the Quartermaster. These rations were supposed to last a man for an entire month. Once a soldier’s rations ran out, he would be expected to procure supplies for himself from the post sutler.

(I immediately had to google “sutler” as this was a term with which I was unfamiliar. Wikipedia tells us:

sutler or victualer was a civilian merchant who sold provisions to an army in the field or in camp or quarters. Sutlers sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent allowing them to travel along with an army to remote military posts. Sutler’s wagons were associated with the military while chuck wagons served a similar purpose for civilian wagon trains. (And were undoubtedly the first “general stores” in a region).

Google also tells us that the word, sutler, like numerous other naval and military terms, came into English from Dutch where it appears as soetelaar or zoetelaar.  Originally, it meant “one who does dirty work, a drudge, a scullion, and derives from zoetelen (to foul, sully modern Dutch bezoedelen, a word cognate with “suds” (hot soapy water) “seethe” (to boil) and sodden. I have the feeling that the word – sutler – however it originated, may have drifted far afield.

Returning to Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin, “The sutler on any military post sold everything from fabric to food stuffs and had a monopoly over the sale of goods not provided to soldier by the Quartermaster supply. Any soldier could purchase goods against his meager salary. Nuts, fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, sugars, meats, wild game, cheese, crackers, grits, olive oil, oysters in cans and jars, pickles, licorice, rock candy and liquor were all to be found at the sutler’s store on post…”

The Kitchen philosophy from the United States Army manual for cooks, dated 1883, stresses “Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets, and fats more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than anything else in the world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer and scour are the true secrets of cooking…”

Imagine my surprise, finding a recipe in The Prairie Table Cookbook for Fort Laramie Slumgullion! (My blog post for slumgullion stew is still one of my readers’ favorite articles. I posted it in 2009 and it still receives messages—slumgullion stew is many different things to many different people throughout the country.

To make Fort Laramie Slumgullion, you will need stew meat, potatoes, turnips, onions, any additional foraged vegetables, pepper and salt and water. Parboil the meat until tender. Add to boiling pot vegetables cut into pieces. Add water to sufficiently cover ingredients. Pepper and salt mixture and then boil until done, about 1 hour.

Chapter 3 is titled “Moving West” and this is a topic I have delved deeply in, in the past—but I appreciate and enjoy getting a new “take” on prairie settlers. There are recipes for roast beef, spiced beef, another roast beef and beef steaks as well as Fried Rabbit, Baked Prairie Chicken and French Stew. What I found most interesting is a page dedicated to a topic we have been writing about ever since I started a blog. It shows a close up of a couple of recipes and the authors write “Many housewives kept books in which they clipped recipes from newspapers, wrote down household hints, wrote their own poems and daily reflections, and crafted their own unique recipes for their families. Kitty Hayes Houghton was one such woman. Her notes, ideas on self-improvement, newspaper clippings on important issues, and recipes provide a glimpse   into the Flint Hills ranching lifestyle. The…recipes from Kitty and other pioneer wives, were found on tattered pages in between self-help columns, advertisements for dyspepsia cures, notes on hospitality, and poetry, and short stories written by women with much imagination and creativity”  (Haven’t I written about manuscript cookbooks and battered, tattered pages of an old church cookbook—possibly ad nauseum since this is a favorite topic.

Chapter 4 is the Cowboy Table on the Trail and this is another topic I have explored with you on my blog – but books like The Prairie Table Cookbook bring fresh outlooks on these subjects, along with photographs. New recipes and text offer readers a new take on what may be an old subject – but it’s never boring. Check out Helava Chili and Chuck Wagon Scrapple. You may want to try Ranch House Pot Roast and don’t overlook Squirrel Can Stew (no squirrel—it’s made with a sirloin steak but the “Squirrel can, I discovered was the name given to an empty lard can that sat next to the chuck wagon.    Cowboys scraped their plates into this can before putting their dishes in the “wreck” pan (a dish pan for washing). This was used to keep the camp more sanitary and clean. Cowboys would make remarks and crack jokes about food and coffee tasting as if the cookie had just dipped from the squirrel can. Joking aside, there was a code of conduct that cowboys were to observe with respect to eating and etiquette in camp. Breaking these camp commandments could get you in trouble with cookie and every cowboy knew that cookie was the one man everyone respected and wanted to please. If cookie wasn’t happy, no one was happy! – from the Prairie Table Cookbook.

The foregoing is just a sample of what you will find in The Prairie Table Cookbook.  THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK was published in 2008 is available on Amazon.com with prices starting at one cent for a pre owned copy, or $2.47 for a new copy.   **

Next on my list of cookbooks (as we make our way from Sea to Shining Sea, is one titled THE BEST OF SIMPLY COLORADO COOKBOOK published by the Colorado Dietetic Association. This is a beautiful spiral bound cookbook with concealed rings (not visible from the outside of the book). In the 1980s, members of the Colorado Dietetic Association embarked on a fantastic journey into the world of cookbook publishing. The result and final destination: Simply Colorado: Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, published in 1989. The overwhelming success of Simply Colorado led to a second book, called Simply Colorado, Too! More Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, released in 1999. (Not surprisingly) sales of these books scored above the 150,000 mark. Simply Colorado led with more than 125,000 copies sold—a milestone for any coobook.

To celebrate their success, the members of the Colorado Dietetic Association did what any  successful fundraising group will do—they published a third cookbook, titled The Best of Simply Colorado. In this cookbook, which I am reading through now, the Association combined favorite recipes from both cookbooks. Reflecting changes in dietary guidelines, eating habits and food choices, The Best of Simply Colorado offers  the quick and easy tasty and healthy recipes you expect from Colorado’s food and nutrition experts (registered dietitians)

Also, recognizing that Colorado continues to be a cultural crossroads, The Best of Simply Colorado includes an assortment of recipes from the desert Southwest to the fragrant and flavorful Orient.

Published in 2006, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are those for 2005—not too drastic of a change for us in 2013.  There is even a page on modifying your favorite recipes. Now, I know pretty well how to modify most of my favorite recipes, but do you?

There are charts for substitutions, which you will find useful – and from there venture forth into a wide selection of appetizers, snacks and beverages, ranging from interesting recipes such as Cripple Creek Caviar (can you guess what the secret ingredient is?) tp Smoked Salmon Pate, beverages such as Mock Sangria and hot appetizers like savory stuffed mushrooms and stuffed mushrooms Florentine.

There is a recipe I can’t wait to try, called Southwestern Layered Dip—perfect for your next party.  Next chapter is simply titled “Brunch” but the  twenty-five brunch recipes are anything but—I don’t mean to imply that the recipes are “simple” – but rather simply wonderful—a glorious presentation of brunch casserole and crustless vegetable cheese pie, breakfast burritos to an assortment of coffee cakes and pancakes, waffles and smoothies.  These will become your instant go-to cookbook recipes every time you plan a brunch or breakfast. (I used to do a lot of these when my sons were younger—not so much anymore but it’s always good to know where to turn when a brunch beckons.  Or, if you are invited to a brunch and wanted to contribute something.—perhaps French Coffee Cake or Rhubarb Coffee Cake!

This is just a sampling of the Best of Simply Colorado; there are chapters on Soups and Stews, Salads, Vegetables, Breads, Muffins & Scones, Grains & Legumes, Fish & Seafood, Poultry, Meats, Vegetarian Entrees—and Desserts. Get out a package of those little square post-it notes to mark the pages you want to try. You will surely need an entire package of post-its.

The Best of Simply Colorado is available brand-new from Amazon.com for $12.42.  Pre-owned copies are available starting at $1.58 and up.  **

Lastly, arriving on the Pacific coast, I want to share with you a cookbook that I reviewed previously for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange—it was a joy to review. I love, love, love that part of California and would love to live there. Maybe in another life? **

FEAST OF EDEN

Regional winner of the 1994 Tabasco Cookbook Award is a beautifully composed cookbook titled FEAST OF EDEN, from the Junior League of Monterey County, California.

The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc., is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc. reaches out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to voluntarism. Currently there are 140 active members and 302 sustaining members of the Junior League.

The Junior League has been actively working to improve Monterey County for 60 years. Our hands-on approach has enriched our community through the development of past League projects, including The Family Service Agency (started as the Family Resource Center), The Salinas Adult Day Care Center, the Monterey County Youth Museum (MY Museum), and the Silent Witness Exhibit. JLMC is also represented on the executive board of the United Way of Monterey County’s Success By 6 project.

FEAST OF EDEN is a lovely and appropriate play on names since its famous native son, John Steinbeck, wrote EAST of EDEN and a number of other wonderful books about the Monterey Peninsula.  If you are not familiar with them, DO read CANNERY ROW, TORTILLA FLATS, OF MICE AND MEN, SWEET THURSDAY and, of course, EAST OF EDEN. You will come to love, as did I, the village of Carmel by the Sea, the town of Monterey, Carmel Valley and Salinas, all places Steinbeck loved and wrote about.

I visited the Monterey Peninsula for the very first time in 1979 with a girlfriend who had spent summer vacations there as a very young child. We wandered the cobblestone streets of Carmel, with its old-fashioned street lights, meandering in and out of hundreds of cubby-hole shops and stores. We dined in tiny little restaurants, some with fireplaces, and sometimes at little street-side tables, people-watching while we dined on shrimp or pasta.

The village of Carmel is indescribable. It has been, for decades, an artists’ colony, but it is also a great tourist attraction, and once you visit, you will know why. I’d give my eyeteeth to be able to live there.

Meanwhile, share with me, for a few minutes, a love of Monterey and the presentation by the Junior League of Monterey County.

I confess to being partial; the Monterey Peninsula is one of my favorite spots on earth. Whenever possible, Bob and I would head north to camp in Carmel Valley and shop in the quaint village of Carmel. I have several black and white framed photographs of Point Pinos, the lighthouse on the Monterey Peninsula, that I printed and framed myself. They are on my bedroom walls, always beckoning.  When I am there, I feel like I am at home.

I can easily visualize, when – in the Introduction – the compilers of FEAST
OF EDEN tell us “Where the Santa Lucia Mountains separate the fields of Salinas from the Pacific Ocean, lies the garden paradise of Monterey County, California….life in Monterey County is highly textured. From the rocky cliffs of the agriculture fields of Salinas, to the thatched roofs of story book Carmel, to the diamond sparkle of the aquamarine waters of Pebble Beach..”

Accompanying  a rich array  of recipes which range from the elegant–Custard Baked French Toast…Spicy Grilled London Broil…Crab Cakes with Charon* sauce,  to the sublime—Baked Salmon with Tomato, Cucumber and Basil, Scallop Lasagna, or Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake…are colorful vignettes of life in Monterey county, which will enable you to understand a bit my love of this particular region  in California.  (*Charon Sauce is made with egg yolks, lemon juice and fresh Tarragon. I’m guessing it is closely related to Hollandaise sauce but with the addition of Tarragon. I was unable to find Charon Sauce on Google.com,).

Other recipes you might want to try – Zesty Crab and Artichoke Dip,  Eggplant Bruschetta, or perhaps the Tomato and Bacon Bruschetta – Monterey Phyllo Triangles, Thai Meatballs, Pastures of Heaven Salad or Steinbeck Country Salad. Feast on Praline Breakfast Rolls or Apple Spice Muffins—or try the Chocolate Zucchini Cake that I think I am going to make with the zucchini my sister brought over.

FEAST OF EDEN provides many vignettes about life in Monterey County.  Read, for instance, that “Early Carmel-by-the Sea had few telephones, no electricity, no paved roads and the rudimentary wooden sidewalks lined only Ocean Avenue…but to many it was a refuge from an increasingly technological world…” or that “Life in Carmel in the 1920s and 1930s was both carefree and communal. Villagers might meet each other at all times of the day or night in all kinds of dress.

Author Mary Austin would roam the woods dressed as an Indian Princess in Greek robes. Each day, city residents would greet each other in their bathrobes at the milk stations – sets of shelves set up where residents would leave money at night and pick up their milk in the morning”.

FEAST OF EDEN with over 225 triple-tested recipes featuring healthy, fresh ingredients, is beautifully done, with wonderful color photographs of various dishes, and many of the historical sites for which Monterey County is so famous.

SANDY’S COOKNOTE:  The above was written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, probably in 1994 or 1995. When the cookbook was first published in 1994, it sold for $19.95.  It is available on Amazon.com new starting at $4.83, and pre-owned starting at one cent (remember that  book purchases from private vendors always carry a $3.99 shipping & handling charge.)

Since 1994, I don’t remember how many more trips Bob & I would make to Monterey. Once, we made the trip in a Chinook I had bought, and we camped in Carmel Valley. It was our favorite place to visit.

Now we have traveled from coast to coast, from Sea to Shining Sea–computer style!

–Sandra Lee Smith

 

BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE…LET THEM EAT SOUP

WHITE HOUSE COOKBOOKS 002

 

“Beautiful soup so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen

Who for dainties would not stoop

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”

–the Mock Turtle  in Alice in Wonderland

Is there anything quite like a bowl of hot soup? It nourishes and sustains us on a cold and wintry day. Nothing restores us quite like a bowl of hot soup. On a hot summer day, it’s a marvelously light meal that cools us off, and what could be tastier, then, than a chilled bowl of gazpacho!

French peasant for many centuries recognized the value of having a soup pot simmering on the back of the stove every day. Any leftover bits of meat or vegetables were tossed into the soup kettle. Nothing was ever wasted. A bowl of nourishing soup was available, then, at any time.

Decades ago, housewives knew the value of feeding a nourishing beef bouillon (sometimes called beef tea) or chicken broth to an invalid. A pot or kettle of soup can be very simple—beef broth, for instance or consommé,  or it can be hearty, like a clam chowder or beef stew.  Today’s thrifty cook knows that he or she can toss bits and pieces of leftover meat or vegetables into a container and FREEZE them; when she is ready to make a pot of soup she can just toss the saved beef and vegetables into the soup pot. My sister Becky called it “CLEANING OUT THE FRIG SOUP” – when the plastic container was full, she started out with whatever she found in the frig and added the frozen container of meat & vegetables. I was non-plussed when she decided to add leftover spaghetti to the soup pot – but she cut the spaghetti into bite size pieces and it was wonderful. And I learned a new lesson about spaghetti.

If you think of soup as just something that comes out of a can, are you in for a surprise! Homemade soup is one of the easiest, most nourishing foods you can possibly serve to your family and it can be very, very inexpensive, made from leftovers in your refrigerator–the remains of a pot roast or a ham bone can get you started. If I have leftover roast, carrots and potatoes and some beef gravy or au jus—it  can all go into the pot for stew.  If all you have is some roast beef, into the pot it can go, with fresh vegetables – carrots, onion, potatoes – or to make it easier on yourself – skip the fresh vegetables and add canned mix vegetables or  a package of frozen mixed vegetables. In the office where I worked for many years, some of my coworkers lost a lot of excess weight and maintained their weight loss by mixing up batches of a simple “diet soup” over the weekend and then having it for lunches through the week. The recipe couldn’t be any simpler (it was mostly made up of all kinds of green vegetables) and the soup could be eaten anytime, in any amount.

When I was a little girl, vegetable soup was served at dinner first as a broth  sometimes with homemade noodles added to it, then as an entrée we had the potatoes, carrots and meat from the soup pot—while my father and brothers spread the cooked marrow from the soup bones onto crackers. (NOW marrow bones are roasted and served as a fancy dish on the Food Network).

It may surprise you to know that many American presidents were very partial to soups—enough so that history has left us a legacy of their soup preferences!

Our first president, George Washington, loved seafood and was especially partial to wife Martha’s crab soup. According to Poppy Cannon in her book “The PRESIDENTS COOKBOOK” it also became a favorite recipe of FDR’s as well as that of President Eisenhower and Mrs. Eisenhower. Many decades later, Martha Washington’s Crab Soup was served at the Senate Wives Red Cross luncheon.  First Lady Mrs. Ford liked it so much that the recipe was sent to the White House chefs to reproduce the crab soup to Mrs. Ford’s satisfaction, whereupon it became a Ford family favorite. (I would imagine that President Washington, with his ill-fitting dentures, found soups easier to eat and digest, too!)  George Washington also had a favorite vegetable soup.

To make Martha Washington’s Crab Bisque, you will need the following:

Enough crab to make ½ pound crabmeat

1 TBSP butter

1½ TBSP flour

3 hard-cooked eggs, mashed

Rind of 1 lemon, grated

Salt & pepper to taste

2 ½ cups milk

½ cup sherry

½ cup heavy cream

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Boil enough crabs in salted water* to make ½ pound crab meat (or use canned crab or frozen). Combine the butter, flour, eggs, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour it slowly into the egg mixture. Now combine the crab meat with the milk mixture and boil gently 5 minutes. Add the cream and take it off the stove before it comes to a full boil. Now add the sherry and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Serves 4-5.

Sandy’s Cooknote* whenever I cook shrimp or crab—any kind of seafood – I store the liquid from the seafood in a jar in the refrigerator—for a future batch of clam chowder.

Martha Washington also favored a Mexican Black Bean soup; these recipes found their way into Martha’s manuscript cookbook.  Quite possibly her recipe was given to her by President Jefferson, as he, too, had a favorite Mexican Black Bean Soup. Martha did obtain recipes from other notables of her time. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, many decades later, were also partial to the black bean soup.

To make President Jefferson’s Mexican Black Bean Soup you will need:

2 cups dried black beans

2 ½ quarts water

2 lbs short ribs of beef

Salt & pepper

1 cup wine

3 slices toast made into croutons

Wash a quart of black beans; add them to a pot with a gallon of cold water. Add 2 or 3 pounds of stewing veal or beef or soup bones and cook the mixture 2 or 3 hours or until the beans have become soft.   (letting the dry beans soak overnight is recommended). Pour off the liquid from the cooked beans and save; mash the beans through a sieve season with salt and pepper. Add them to the soup liquid and simmer 15 minutes. Serve the soup with small squares of bread that has been browned and toasted in melted butter. Makes about 2 quarts. (or use some croutons))

There is a more elegant black bean soup recipe in the Mount Vernon cookbook but the above recipe is simple and nourishing. We have all become familiar with black bean—they are now readily available in dry or canned. I had never eaten black beans until I became friends with a woman from Puerto Rico, when we lived in Florida. It was traditional in her family to have a meal of ham and black beans for good luck on New Year’s Day. That was my introduction to black beans which were also called turtle beans but only in connection with dried, not canned, black beans.

President Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and fittingly one of his favorite soup recipes was Gumbo. Another favorite soup of President Jefferson was potato soup, as prepared by his cook at Monticello.

Yet another well-liked soup recipe of President Jefferson was pea soup—made, of course, with peas from his own garden. Every Monday at Monticello, tomato soup was served. Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, who shared his interest in recipes (called “receipts” back then) gave the recipe to Martha Washington. Yet another favorite recipe written by President Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, was a recipe for okra soup. Per Poppy Cannon, okra soup was more or less a simple forerunner of Brunswick Stew which was later to become a favorite in Brunswick, Virginia, as well as other places in the south. This recipe is listed in Martha Jefferson Randolph’s name at Monticello;

Okra

Water lima beans

Fresh meat or chicken

Tomatoes

Butter

flour

Add 1 quart chopped okra, young and crisp, to 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook 1 hour. Add 1 cup of lima beans (fresh or dried), a pound of fresh meat or chicken cut in serving size pieces. Simmer gently for 1 hour.  Add 5 tomatoes, cut into small pieces. Add more water if needed. Let simmer slowly. When almost done, add 2 tbsp butter rolled in 1 tablespoon flour. The soup should not be too thick. (Fresh corn, cut from the cob, may be added at the same time as the lima beans, if desired). And a thicker version may be made by simmering longer, until the meat and vegetables are a porridge-like mass. Makes about 2 quarts. – From The Presidents’ Cookbook by Poppy Cannon

John Adams, like all early pioneering Americans, learned to use corn in many different ways. It was a legacy give to us by the American Indians. A favorite soup of President Adams was corn soup. Another favorite dish was succotash soup. Perhaps the Adams’ who spent some years living in Philadelphia, developed a taste for the Pennsylvania-Dutch corn soup. The following corn and tomato soup with dumplings is credited with Ohio origins but it might have originated in Pennsylvania.

To make Corn and tomato Soup with Dumplings you will need

A meaty soup bone

½ onion, sliced,

Salt & pepper to taste

1 dozen ears of corn

1 dozen tomatoes

Dumplings

Cover bone with cold water; add seasonings and onion. Shave off the grains of corn and also scrap out the pulp and add to the soup pot. Peel, then cut up the tomatoes and let it come to a boil. Then reduce  the heat and cook slowly 3 hours.

To make dumplings:

1 egg

1 cup sour milk*

½ tsp salt

Flour

½ tsp baking soda

Beat egg slightly; stir soda into milk and add. Mix in enough salted flour to make a very stiff batter.  Drop into boiling soup from a tablespoon. Cover and cook 20 minutes.  Serve at once.

*I take it for granted that everybody knows these things but in case you don’t know how to make sour milk just add a tablespoon of white vinegar to regular milk. Wait a little bit…and it will become “sour milk”.

**

Many presidents have enjoyed turtle or terrapin. According to history, one of the first presidents to receive a gift of turtle was President John Adams. A friend bestowed a 114 pound turtle upon the president.

In his diary, his son – John Quincy Adams – mentions that at a July 4th dinner served at the White House during the Tyler’s Administration, turtle soup was served, made from a turtle weighing “three hundred pounds” – a present from Key West. It is said that John Quincy Adams never failed to mention with whom he dined, or how often, but seldom made mention of the food itself—so that when he mentioned in his diary having eaten turtle soup at a dinner it must have been an impressive occasion.

I can’t resist mentioning that many species of turtles are on the brink of extinction if not already extinct. Like buffalo, early Americans could not imagine that reckless killing of animals would eventually make many of them extinct. In 2003, National Geographic said that leatherneck turtles were on the brink of extinction.

More about turtles later!

Dolley Madison, considered for many decades to be the quintessential Washington hostess served as hostess for Thomas Jefferson, who was widowed.

Dolley Madison was First Lady in her own right when James Madison was president. Dolly, who left neatly handwritten notes containing her favorite recipes and home remedies, treated visitors—even drop-ins—with a bouillon laced with sherry at her afternoon  receptions. “When the weather was  cold and  dreary,” wrote one observer, “it was a comforting practice”. Perhaps it was such small but thoughtful gestures as this that gave                                                                                                 such luster to Dolley Madison’s reputation for hospitality.

To make Dolley Madison’s Hospitable Bouillon you will need:

4 lbs beef

1 veal knuckle

3 small carrots

2 turnits

1 good hot pepper

3 small white onions

1 bunch parsley

8 quarts water

Sherry

Put 4 pounds of juicy beef, a knuckle of veal and a bouquet garni of herbs tied in cheesecloth into a large kettle along with 6 quarts of water. Add remaining ingredients, except sherry, and simmer together for 6 hours. When finished strain the bouillon through a fine sieve. Allow the soup to stand overnight to congeal. Skim off all the grease. Put the soup back into the kettle to heat. Just before serving, add sherry to taste (made with stock instead of water it is even better although Dolley’s recipe says simply water.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I imagine that Dolley had a kettle of beef bouillon cooking every day in order to serve all the guests in cold weather. She would have to have one kettle of soup cooking while another was being reheated to serve to guests.

Chef Rysavy in A TREASURY OF WHITE HOUSE COOKING also mentions Dolley liked to let her bouillon stand overnight before skimming off the fat. She would store the bouillon in a cool place and heat a portion of it as needed. Just before the bouillon was server, a little sherry was added.

As someone who makes large batches of different soups as well as my own beef and chicken stocks, I have been chilling these soups in gallon jars for years. I have a second refrigerator in the garage in which to keep these things (as well as soft drinks and juices for the grandchildren) – so that I am able to remove the fats from any stock before continuing on with a soup recipe. I’ve been doing this so long that I no longer remember where I learned it – quite possibly from reading my White House cookbooks!

President Fillmore may not be well remembered by American historians, or school children, but he did install the first real bathtub with centrally heated running water and his wife installed the first library in the White House. In  addition, President  Fillmore installed the first  real STOVE in the White House kitchen. Prior to that time, all the Fillmore cooking was done over open fireplaces. There is a story that the Fillmore cook was horrified at the idea of cooking on such a “thing” [as a stove] and the President had to go visit the patent office to get detailed directions for operating it. But, like all new contraptions, once the White House staff got used to it, they couldn’t imagine how they had gotten along without it.

President Fillmore was a thrifty man—it seems only natural that one of HIS favorite soup recipes was an old fashioned vegetable beef soup, which was more like a stew. Again, according to Ms. Cannon’s book THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK, WHEN President Fillmore’s soup was ready to serve, the solids were removed from the soup kettle to a platter.  The soup was served, consumed, then the soup bowls filled with the meat and vegetables from the platter. (I wonder if my mother could have known that an American President enjoyed vegetable soup served just like hers—I was curious about Fillmore’s birthplace and wondered if it was Ohio, where my parents were born—but no, President Fillmore was born in New York).

A favorite soup of Andrew Jackson’s was “Old Hickory Nut Soup”, also a favorite with natives of Jackson’s North Carolina home state. The recipe begins with “Crack one gallon hickory nuts…” (I found directions for making hickory nut soup but it is far too convoluted to type, much less re-create). However, in Poppy Cannon’s THE PRESIDENT’S COOKBOOK, she provides a simpler recipe for making Hickory Nut Soup.  You need

Hickory nuts

Sugar

Hot water

Crack a gallon of hickory nuts;  remove the hulls and crush together [the   nuts]  into a mass. Pour a quart of hot water over the nuts ; allow to stand for 10  minutes. Strain, add 4 tablespoons of sugar and serve hot.

Julia Tyler seems to have been partial to a “torup” stew, torups being a variation of huge turtles that were native to the Eastern Shore of Long Island, where Julie grew up. (Julia was President Tyler’s second wife and many years younger than he. The marriage created something of a stir in Washington). The torup stew was said to taste a lot like chicken.

Oyster stew and Terrapin Stew were amongst the many dishes listed on President Lincoln’s second inaugural ball menu. This was a bit of a far cry from President Lincoln’s first inaugural ball menu at which mock turtle soup was served. While most food historians claim that the President was not interested in food or eating, it seems that President Lincoln actually  planned the menu for his second inaugural luncheon and it seems that President Lincoln loved fruit pies.  Some of the ladies in Springfield shipped fruit pies to him—no small feat in the mid 1800s.  (I sometimes wonder if the President just didn’t like the way most foods were prepared for him.  I grew up thinking I hated rice and cabbage, I hated rabbit—what I really didn’t like was the way these foods were prepared. My mother’s rice was a lump of sticky glue and cabbage was cooked from 9 am until 6 pm until it bore no resemblance to a vegetable…and rabbit? The only rabbit I was ever acquainted with as a child was a wild rabbit killed by my father during hunting season and cleaned in the kitchen sink in front of impressionable eyes. It was then soaked in a vinegar and spice concoction for 3 days to create “hasenpfeffer” – a dish that was the bane of my childhood).

The Benjamin Harrisons were a soup-loving family with corn soup and fish chowder amongst their favorites.

Another favorite served by Mrs. Harrison was “Amber Soup” which was a hot, clear soup that she served at White House teas and receptions. It was  made from both chicken and ham, along with assorted vegetables. Poppy Cannon writes that we may serve it under different occasions today but it is still a splendid soup.

To make Amber soup you will need

Chicken

Water

Ham

Soup Bone

Bouquet Garni

Celery

Carrot

Onion

Parsnip

Parsley

Cloves

Egg Whites

Ground salt & pepper

Put cleaned and washed stewing chicken in 4 quarts of water, along with a small slice of ham and a soup bone. Boil together over a low fire for about 3½ hours. Then add a bouquet garni,* 2 stalks celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 small parsnip, 2 or 3 sprigs of parsley, and 3 cloves.  Cook another half hour, then strain the liquid and chill in a glass jar in the refrigerator overnight. Shortly before serving time, remove the wedge of grease that has formed at the top of the jar and pour the jellied broth in a saucepan (omit the sediment on the bottom). Beat 2 egg whites and add to the jellied mixture. Boil quickly for one minute and then pour the soup through a jelly bag. (or a cheesecloth sieve if you don’t have a jelly bag) add one teaspoon caramel made by mixing brown sugar with a little water over a low fire until browned but not burned. Add salt & pepper to taste.  Makes 2 quarts.

(Sandy’s cooknote: if I were making this soup I would add a jalapeno pepper or another mild green pepper to the original mixture of vegetables –but only briefly; I would remove the jalapeno   after 1 or 20 minutes, just to get a bit of heat in the amber soup).

TO MAKE A BOUQUET GARNI (which is a French term for a bundle of herbs): There are numerous versions of bouquet garni, which is an assortment of fresh herbs. A simple traditional bouquet garni is 3 sprigs (long stems) parsley 2 sprigs thyme, and 1 bay leaf. Put it all together in a small bag – 2 or 3 thicknesses of cheesecloth, then tie it all together to go into the soup pot but can easily be removed.

Moving forward to the administration of Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt—one of the first things the president did  after looking around his new home was to pitch potted palms out of the reception rooms. Notes Poppy Cannon in The Presidents’ Cookbook, that small action was symbolic of Teddy Roosevelt’s desire to change and simplify what had become what had become a most unwieldy structure, both socially and decoratively. The Roosevelts were an attractive, ebullient family. In addition to the President and his wife Edith, there were six children, ranging from the baby Quentin to seventeen year old Alice. Theodore Jr was away at school most of the time but Archie, Kermit and Ethel were natural, noisy youngsters. These      youngsters, roller skating in the upstairs corridors and playing leapfrog over the satin upholstery, had to be daunting for White House employees. There were many ways in which the Roosevelts brought fresh air into the White House.

One guest at the White  House table recalled a delicious luncheon of bouillon, salt fish, chicken in rice and fresh rolls (Dolley Madison’s recipe for bouillon, perhaps?)

The president’s daughter Alice dominated the newspapers  during the years of the Roosevelt administration,  probably more so than any other single member of the family except for the president himself. She was dubbed “Princess Alice” by the press. She made her debut not long after the Roosevelts moved into the White  House, and four years later, her wedding was considered to be the biggest White House social news since Nellie Grant’s wedding, decades before.

As for soups, there was a corn chowder with “bear’s paw” popcorn that the president tasted at an old country inn in Vermont and obviously obtained the recipe, how else would we know what it was? To make the Windham County Hotel’s recipe for corn chowder with Bear’s Paw Popcorn:

You will need

Salt pork

Onion

Potatoes

Water

Soda crackers

Milk

Corn (fresh, frozen or canned)

Salt & paprika

Popcorn

Cube 3 sliced of salt pork and sauté them in a skillet until crisp but not too brown. Add  one large sliced onion and sauté until golden. Add 3 sliced potatoes  and 2 cups water and continue cooking until potatoes become tender. Place 8 soda crackers in a large bowl. Pour 1 cup milk over them to soak. When the crackers have absorbed the milk, add to the skillet. Also add 2 ½  cups fresh corn or thawed frozen corn or whole kernel canned corn   along with 1 tsp salt and 1½ tsp paprika. Simmer the mixture over the same low heat for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with popped corn. Serves   4

The Roosevelt family, addicted as its various members were to foreign travel, had a special interest in India and the Far East. Though normally partial to relatively simple foods, they were fond of certain dishes from the East, such as this delicious curried soup;

To make Chilled Senegalese Soup you will need:

Chicken stock

Curry powder

Chicken (cooked)

Egg yolks

Cream

Salt & pepper

Put 3 ½ cups chicken stock into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then add half teaspoon curry powder and 1 ½ cups finely chopped cooked chicken and  simmer gently. (More curry powder can be added if you like a stronger flavor) Blend 4 slightly beaten egg yolks with a tablespoon of the hot chicken stock and slowly add 2 cups warm cream to the yolks. Slowly add  into the simmering chicken and stock. Keep stirring while the soup thickens over a very low heat. Do not let the soup come to a boil. Add ½ tsp each salt and pepper to taste. Remove the soup from the fire, cool, and then put it into the refrigerator until chilled. Serve cold. Serves 6.

Not too many years went by following the administration of Teddy Roosevelt before another member of the Roosevelt family descended upon Washington and the White House. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to the presidency in 1932 and has the distinction of being elected to 4 terms. (later, a law was passed prohibiting anyone from serving more than 2 terms as president—but at the time, FDR, his wife, and children brought a ray of hope to America at a time when the country had been for some time in the throes of the great depression. FDR was Teddy Roosevelt’s cousin.  The Roosevelts enjoyed many plain dishes, such as ceamed chipped beef, bread pudding and fried cornmeal when they were alone (which wasn’t often). Mrs. Roosevelt did not cook, aside from making scrambled eggs in a chafing dish on Sunday nights—she was a busy person in her own right and traveled throughout the country, returning to report to the president what she had seen and heard. She was his eyes and ears. However, Mrs. Roosevelt – although not interested in redecorating the White House, did redesign the kitchens, equipping them with electric stoves and dishwashers to lighten the work of the staff. Her attitude towards servants was deeply considerate. Mrs. Roosevelt disliked making too much work for the cooks with highly elaborate menus. Another reason for this, of course, was that the Roosevelt regime spanned some of the hardest years the country has known—the depression, war, and rationing. She undertook to have served at the White House the series of low priced menus prepared by the Department of Agriculture during the depression.

The Roosevelt family loved soups (a good thing—what is more economical than soup?) All during their White House years, big steel soup kettles were steaming away in the kitchen and soup was served twice a day. The soups were of many varieties, good planning at a time when food was scarce. A presidential favorite was Pepper Pot, a White House tradition since the days of George Washington.  To make Philadelphia Pepper Pot you will need:

Tripe

Water

Veal joint

Bay leaves

Onions

Potatoes

Parsley

Mixed herbs (Bouquet Garni)

Red pepper

Salt

Cayenne pepper

Flour

Beef suet

This recipe takes 2 days to prepare. Scrap 4 pounds of tripe and wash in 3 waters. Put into cold water to cover and boil gently for 7 or 8 hours. Cool in its own liquid, then cut into ½” squares. The next day, simmer a veal joint with its meat on it, for 3 hours in 3 quarts of cold water. Skim off the scum as it cooks. When it is cooked, cool and then separate the meat from the bones and simmer another hour.  Strain the soup and add 2 bay leaves and 2 onions, chopped coarsely, and simmer another hour. Strain the soup and add 4 diced potatoes, 2 teaspoons minced parsley, a bunch of mixed herbs (a bouquet garni) and 1 red pepper cut into dice. Also add the meats, 2 tsp salt, ½ tsp cayenne and dumplings which you have made out of   2 cups flour, ½ lb beef suet and salt. Make these dumplings small , about ½” in diameter. Drop them into the simmering soup, cover tightly and cook about 5 minutes longer.  Serve at once. Serves 6.

(I don’t know anyone who would go to all the work of making Philadelphia Pepper Pot nowadays.

President Roosevelt was extremely partial to fish sops. His mother supplied the Roosevelt cook with recipes for her son’s favorites. One was this excellent fish chowder.

To make Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Fish Chowder you will need:

Salt pork

Onions

Flour

Milk

Salt & pepper

Whitefish

Cut 3 slices of salt pork into cubes and brown in frying pan. Skim off excess fat and add 4 sliced onions. Fry until onions are clear. Skim out the  pork and onions and set aside. Make 1 cup of white sauce using the fat in the  pan and enough flour to make a  thin paste. When white sauce is smooth, add 1 quart milk. Return pork and onions to pot  along with a pound or more of raw white fish, boned, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or until fish has turned white and flakes easily. This serves 4 hearty or 6 as a first course.

For some reason, Poppy Cannon reports, Mongole soup was an inaugural day favorite during the Roosevelt Administration. A number of these occasions were rainy as well as cold, and the hoards who showed up for lunch found this to be a satisfying and warming addition to the standard cold cuts, salads and rolls. It also made a hearty midnight snack for the Roosevelt guests who were often a little peckish (hungry) in the late hours.

To make Mongole Soup you will need:

Yellow split peas

Tomato juice

Onion

Salt & pepper

Soak overnight ½ cup yellow split peas. In the morning, drain the peas and    set over low heat with 2 cans tomato juice. Simmer several hours or until peas disintegrate. Season with 1 tsp grated onion and salt and pepper to taste.

Another midnight favorite was oxtail soup while green gumbo was a luncheon favorite for  FDR—but what I want to share with you is FDR’s GREEN TURTLE SOUP  recipe.

Like many American presidents, FDR loved turtle and terrapin soup. Soon after his inauguration, some terrapin was sent to the White House. Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt, the  housekeeper the Roosevelts had brought with them from Hyde Park, was entirely unaccustomed to turtle life “and the huge brute” as she told it “would crawl around in the cellar”. When Mrs. Nesbitt spoiled the first terrapin, FDR was furious. The next time a terrapin arrived, he arranged to have someone from the Metropolitan Club to prepare it.

Despite the fact that terrapin appeared not infrequently at the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt never liked it.  This turtle soup recipe always created a great fuss in the kitchen of the White House when special cooks came in to prepare it. Nevertheless it was trotted out for a number of appreciative visitors, among them Will Rogers. (When you read the directions for obtaining turtle meat, you may never want to make it yourself,

To make FDR’s Green Turtle Soup  you will need

Turtles

Pickling spices

Celery

Onions

Carrots

Green peppers

Mace

Cream (light)

Butter

Flour

Salt & pepper

Sherry

Plunge 2 turtles into boiling water to kill. (if you are using snapping turtles, scrub and then scald them).  (ew, ew) Boil turtles whole, with ½ pound of pickling spices tied into a bag, 2 stick celery, 2 onions, 3 carrots, 2 green peppers and a blade of mace (or powdered mace) for 40 minutes until skin turns white on legs and head and it separates and can be slipped off. Another ew, ew. Cool and remove turtles. Separate the meat from the bones and can be slipped off.  Cool and remove turtles. Strain the broth.    Mix 2 quarts  light cream with ½ cup butter and ½ cup flour to make a white sauce. Add the bits of meat and 2 quarts of liquid reduced by boiling for an hour. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 cup sherry. Serves 16.

Sandy’s cooknote: I know there is no chance at all that I would ever kill and cook a turtle—and reading the directions for making turtle soup only confirms my aversion for cooking them. It’s amazing that so many species of turtles are on the brink of being extinct!   However, I have had mock turtle soup many times growing up – made with ground beef (although the original recipes for mock turtle soup called for cooking one calf’s head. Ew, ew.  I think I have a family recipe for mock turtle soup that is made with ground beef.

The Truman family followed FDR and were adamant about guarding their privacy. This was a whole new ballgame in the White House. The Trumans treasured their privacy  and resisted attempts to change it. Surely no family before or since zealously  protected their privacy, which extended to family recipes, to the extent of the Trumans. I did find a recipe of Mrs. Truman’s for Ozark Pudding in a Key West cookbook (their summer White House was located there) there and Poppy Cannon managed to include some recipes that may or may not have been authentic recipes of Mrs. Truman).

That being said, when the Trumans took over as the First Family Mrs. Truman very quickly made herself loved by the entire White House Staff. She knew what she wanted; she knew how things should be done, and she knew how to give orders in a pleasant way. President Truman referred to her as “The Boss”. She hid, whenever possible, from the press. The Truman ways were not the Roosevelt ways. Mrs. Truman took the household bookkeeping in hand and ran it herself. She ruled out breakfast  for the daily sleep-out employees*, to cut the huge food bills. Every day she sat at her desk and tried to run the White House like a business. (*I am unable to find a definition for “daily sleep-out employees” This appears to be an expression used in the 1940s).

Mrs. Truman’s attention to detail was typical towards food. She gained the reputation of serving the best of home cooked food even for guests who came to the White House teas. But no one was ever able to penetrate the Trumans’ insistence on protecting their privacy and that included Mrs. Truman’s collection of recipes.

Despite Mrs. Truman’s intense dislike of having to be in the spotlight, she went about the duties of being First Lady with a dignity which soon commanded the public’s respect.  If Mrs. Truman had a favorite soup recipe, it remained private.  Not even the First Ladies Cook Book published by Parents Magazine Press offers a soup recipe. The Ozark Pudding recipe is included, however.  After serving as President 3 years following the death of FDR (Truman was vice president when FDR died), Truman was elected to another 4 years which was a huge surprise victory as everyone expected Dewey to be elected—Truman served those four years and then (certainly to Mrs. Truman’s relief) they went back home to Missouri.

General Eisenhower was elected President and moved into the White House with wife, Mamie, in 1953. The Eisenhower Administration was notable for entertaining more royalty and heads of state than any other president and soups were a favorite dish of the Eisenhowers—the president himself sometimes cooked them if he was in the mood.  Other times he and the First Lady enjoyed the excellent soups that the White House chefs prepared for them.

Here is a Cold Curry Soup recipe that was served to Nikita Khrushchev and his wife enjoyed when they visited the White House—Mr. Khrushchev even brought along his own taster.  To make Cold Curry Soup you will need

Butter

Onion

Celery

Salt & pepper

Flour

Curry powder

Milk
Chicken Bouillon Cubes

Coconut

Melt 1/3 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. In it sauté ¼ cup of minced onion and ¼ cup diced celery. Continue cooking over low heat until transparent. Blend in a teaspoon of salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, ¼ cup flour and 1½  to 4 tablespoons curry power (depending on the strength of the curry powder and the durability of your palate). Add 1 quart of milk stirring constantly. Cook until smooth and thickened. Add a chicken bouillon cube and stir until blended. Chill thoroughly. Serve in chilled bowls sprinkled with freshly grated coconut. Serves 6.

Chicken Noodle Soup was a favorite of the Eisenhowers. This is what you need to make the Eisenhower’s Chicken Noodle soup:

Stewing chicken

Water

Carrots

Celery

Onions

Salt & white pepper

Noodles

Parsley

Stew a chicken in cold water to cover, until tender, with 3 sliced carrots, 3 stalks of celery, sliced, 1 sliced onion, 1 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp white pepper. Remove chicken and strain the stock. Take the chicken liver and slice it fine and add it to the soup. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley. Serves 6. This chicken recipe was also used for sandwiches or creamed chicken.

It’s just a guess but I am inclined to surmise that the Eisenhowers may have enjoyed soups more than any other president—if Poppy Cannon’s book THE PRESIDENTS’ COOK BOOK is any kind of indicator. Included in her book are five more recipes for different kinds of soups. Along with Oxtail Soup and Stone Crab Bisque, there are recipes for Cream of Almond Soup and a Cream of Celery Soup that was renamed by Mrs. Eisenhower (Cream of Celery-Clam Soup Rysavy) in honor of Chef Rysavy in his second month at the White House.  Chef Rysavy said the recipe was one he invented in France, which he thought would please the Eisenhowers.

To make Cream of Celery-Clam Soup Rysavy, you will need

Canned cream of celery soup

Bottled clam juice

Chicken Consomme

Chives

To one can undiluted celery soup, add twice as much clam juice and half a can of chicken consommé. Whir in blender until creamy. Heat thoroughly and serve in small cups. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Serves 6.

(forgive me if I am rolling on the floor laughing – the thought of a White House French chef making a soup for the President and  First lady using canned cream of celery—cracks me up).

But  before I finish writing about the Eisenhowers, I would like to include the President’s recipe for old fashioned beef stew. Poppy Cannon writes (and I believe I read this somewhere else a long time ago) – while President Eisenhower left the running of the house to his wife, there was one exception. He was fond of cooking an occasional dish of a homely variety. Beef soup was one of his specialties and he would leave the soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen for hours, causing much mouth-watering among the kitchen staff.  As the president and First Lady differed on the subject of onions (he loved them; she hated them) this was an opportunity for him to indulge in one of his favorite tastes. Quantity didn’t faze the president. His beef stew recipe serves sixty and although he had help from the staff preparing the vegetables, he was there in the kitchen, in his favorite apron, stirring, tasting and seasoning.  To make President Eisenhower’s Beef Stew for Sixty, you will need:

Beef cut for stew

Beef stock

Small Irish potatoes

Small carrots

White onions

Fresh tomatoes

Bouquet Garni

Flour

Salt & pepper

Stew 20 pounds of beef in  3 gallons beef stock until partially tender, about 2 ½ hours. Season and add 8 pounds peeled potatoes, 6 bunches scraped carrots, 5 pounds peeled onions, 15 quartered tomatoes, and a bouquet garni (bay leaf, parsley, garlic, thyme tied in a cheesecloth bag). When vegetables are tender, strain off 2 gallons of stock and thicken with enough flour to make a medium thick sauce. Remove cheesecloth bag; add thickened gravy to the meat and vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for another half hour.

I’ve included President Eisenhower’s recipe for beef stew to serve 60 just for fun although I can think of occasions when I would be inclined to make this recipe,  if I wasn’t making Cincinnati Chili for a large crowd.  Poppy Cannon does provide Eisenhower’s Beef Stew for SIX that you might want to try instead!

Poppy Cannon’s book goes on to include recipes of achievements of the Kennedy’s and the Johnsons—and I have numerous other books by or about White House chefs and presidential favorites—if my readers enjoyed reading this blog post, then I hope you will let me know and I will do a second part.  – Sandy

EATING GERMAN FOOD IN GRANDMA’S KITCHEN

When I was a child, growing up in a predominately German-immigrant neighborhood, we all ate whatever my grandmother cooked and we called it all “German food”. Little did we know!

It wasn’t until many years later that I began discovering that Grandma’s cooking was really a hodgepodge of German and Hungarian cuisine with some influence from a Jewish family Grandma cooked for, before she got married and had children of her own.

One of the first indications that what we were eating wasn’t just “German” cuisine was my grandmother’s pancakes. We called them pancakes and sometimes had them for lunch at Grandma’s.  She would put jelly on a big thin pancake and roll it up for one of us to eat on our way back to school – her house was just up the street from St. Leo’s church and school.

In the mid 1960s, my husband and I, now living in Southern California,  became acquainted with a group of Hungarian political refugees from the Hungarian uprising in 1956. One of their American-wives would make a dessert called Palascinta— a stack of paper thin pancakes with a filling, such as poppyseed. When the stack was tall enough, the palascinta would be cut into thin wedges. “Hmmm!” I said, “These palascintas look and taste just like my grandmother’s German pancakes…”  (I had not yet begun to collect cookbooks).

A few years later, I became friends with a Jewish girlfriend whose youngest daughter was in the same class as one of my sons. I attended the wake and funeral of her father when he passed away.  While at the Wake, I watched her aunt making blintzes–particularly cheese blintzes!. When I tasted one of these I said “Oh, this filling tastes just like my grandmother’s German Cheese Strudel”.

I was beginning to learn that what my siblings and I loosely referred to as “Grandma’s German cooking” was far more than that. Grandpa was Hungarian, so she learned to make a lot of Hungarian recipes—especially Hungarian Goulash!

As a young single woman, Grandma had worked as a cook for a Jewish family, acquiring knowledge of many foods and recipes that are served in traditional Jewish families. And then, of course, there was Grandma’s own German heritage.

I think of all the things we ever enjoyed eating as we were growing up and having many meals at Grandma’s was the German sausage, wurst, that would be fried in a skillet and eaten with homemade salt bread. When my grandfather was still alive, the family would butcher a pig once a year; Grandpa and his sons would make hams and sausages and Grandpa converted one of the garages next to the house into a smoke house!  My sister Becky remembered sitting on the basement steps watching the men make the sausages.

While most of our childhood memories were intertwined, in some instances one sibling’s memories differed somewhat from another’s. For instance, I only remembered watching Grandma Schmidt make diamond shaped Christmas cookies, that were studded with a mixture of sugar and finely chopped walnuts (and always thought those were the only kind Grandma made.) Becky chastised me, saying that Grandma made lots of different cookies for Christmas. Grandma baked, Becky recalled, thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam, and a fold-over cookie filled with apricot or peach jam. Grandma made Springerle cookies that were so hard you could not even bite into them, and a small pill-shaped cookie with colored sprinkles on top. Every family member got a dress box full of cookies for Christmas. All I could say was…I only saw Grandma make the diamond shaped cookies and someone else must have eaten up all those other cookies!

To the best of my knowledge, there are no Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors in my family tree—and yet, my grandmother, who cooked and baked an array of foodstuffs ranging from German to Hungarian, did include some Pennsylvania Dutch recipes in her culinary repertoire. For instance, I have often wondered why it was that grandma—who made hundreds, if not thousands—of butter cutout cookies for Christmas – always made many of those diamond-shaped cookies with a diamond shaped cookie cutter that I now own. There, on page 167 of PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY COOKING is a recipe for Mahantongo diamond doughnuts – with the information that the diamond shape for All Saints cakes can be traced to the ninth century.  I can’t help but wonder if that’s not the answer. I vaguely remember us going to Pennsylvania and visiting some distant relatives one time. Grandma often traveled with us (or anyone else in the family going somewhere and inviting her along.) My brother Jim has speculated that we must all have some gypsy blood somewhere in our background

In any case, these were some of our memories, of being children growing up in Fairmount, a suburb of Cincinnati, when Fairmount was still a nice neighborhood in which to live, of our relationships with Grandma Schmidt and each other, of going to St. Leo’s – where even our father, Uncle Hans, and Aunt Annie went to school and where we all had the same First Grade teacher, Sister Taursisius, who taught first graders for 50 years, until she retired to the  convent in Oldenburg, Indiana.

Fairmount was at that time a stable, friendly neighborhood, heavily populated with German and Italian immigrants, where it was safe for children to play in the streets on summer nights or walk to the pony keg to get a bottle of “pop”, where you knew families for blocks around and very often, the children you went to school with had gone to school with your parents.

Adding to my curiosity about the dishes Grandma served to all of her adult children and grandchildren was a chicken broth which contained something WE called “rivillies” but which, I discovered in one of William Woys Weaver’s books—was a tiny Pennsylvania Dutch dumpling called Rivels or Riwweles which is probably much the same as my grandmother’s Rivellies. We also grew up on Spatzle and homemade noodles, dumplings, sauerkraut and hasenpfeffer. I have a distinct memory of going to Grandma’s and finding noodles drying on all the backs of the wooden kitchen chairs. Ok, I never liked hasenpfeffer—a sweet and sour rabbit that you could smell from the bottom of the steps coming home from school. I don’t recall my grandmother ever making hasenpfeffer but my mother did, when my father went rabbit hunting once a year. I don’t know which was worse—seeing him clean the rabbit in the kitchen sink or finding BBs in the gravy. I loathed the smell of hasenpfeffer cooking on the stove.

When we had this chicken soup with Rivels, we would have hunks of hot homemade salt bread to go with it.

Anytime we had a stew at Grandma’s, it would be Hungarian Goulash. (My mother made a stew that always had a tomato base but it wasn’t goulash).  Possibly the most famous of all Hungarian recipes is Hungarian Goulash. Authentic gulyás (Goulash) is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian Paprika, tomatoes, and some green pepper. Potato and/or noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) may also be added according to some recipes.  Authentic Hungarian Goulash is Hungary’s national dish and is probably the most famous of all Hungarian meat dishes. Its origin can be traced back, over a thousand years ago, to the Magyar migration across the Great Plains. The origin of the word “gulyas” meant cowherd or cowboy.  The men and boys gathered around an open fire under an open sky in the evening and created a meal with meat and vegetables in large kettles suspended over the campfires. The soup was referred to, in Hungary, as “gulyasleves” meaning cowboy soup. Another interesting fact is that the use of paprika was introduced to Hungarian kitchens during the years of Turkish rule and was first referred to as “Torok bors” meaning Turkish pepper. It was only in the 18th century that the name paprika was used.

Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew; it’s somewhere in between. However, in Hungary it’s considered more a soup than a stew, so look for it among Soups on Hungarian restaurant menus.

When cooked properly, goulash will have a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce. In Hungary gulyás is eaten as a main dish. Even in Hungary, most housewives and chefs have their own way of cooking it, by adding or omitting some of the ingredients, or changing something in the preparation process; however they would all say their gulyás is authentic.

This first recipe is an adaptation from one I found on the Budapest Tourist Guide website (the website is no longer valid).  To make this Goulash you will need:

  • 1-2      pounds of  chuck, or any tender cut      of  beef cut into small cubes
  • 2      tablespoons oil or lard
  • 2 medium      onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves      of garlic
  • 1-2      carrots, diced
  • 1      parsnip, diced (*I consider this optional. Grandma’s goulash never had parsnips in it to the best of my knowledge)
  • 1-2      celery leaves
  • 2 medium  tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 fresh green peppers (sweet bell peppers, not hot peppers)
  • 2-3      medium potatoes, sliced
  • 1  tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder*
  • 1  teaspoon ground caraway seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground black pepper and salt according to taste
  • water
  1. Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions until they are a nice golden brown color.
  2. Sprinkle      the braised onions with paprika powder      while stirring, to prevent the paprika from burning.
  3. Add the beef cubes and sauté until they turn white and get a bit of brownish color as well. The meat will      probably let out its own juice. Allow      the beef cubes to simmer in it      while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavor), the ground caraway seed, some salt and ground black pepper, and the bay leaf. Pour water enough to cover the contents of the pan and let it simmer over low heat for a while.
  4. When the meat is half-cooked  (approximately 1 1/2 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots, parsnip and the potatoes, the celery leaves and additional salt if necessary. Taste and then adjust seasonings. You may have to add additional (2-3 cups) water too.
  5. When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the      cubed tomato and the sliced green peppers.  Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes. You can remove the lid of      the pan if you want the soup to thicken.
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and add (if you are including it) the csipetke dough; allow about 5  minutes for it to cook.

Csipetke (Pinched noodles added to goulash or bean soup in Hungary) comes from the word csípni, meaning pinch in English, referring to the way of making this noodle. Goulash is hearty enough without csipetke, especially if you eat it with bread, so you can skip making csipetke. (I believe that csipetke is similar to my grandmother’s rivels). We didn’t have Rivels, or Csipetke with Goulash; however, the tiny dumplings were always included in Grandma’s home made chicken soup.

TO MAKE CSIPETKE

You will need:

  • 1 small egg,
  • flour,
  • a pinch of salt,
  • 1  teaspoon water

To make the tiny dumplings, beat up a small egg, add a pinch of salt and as much flour as needed to make a stiff dough (you can add some water if necessary). Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1 cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it and add them to the boiling soup. They need about 5 minutes to cook.

*One final word about paprika – don’t even bother with commercial American-made paprika. It won’t be the same as authentic Hungarian paprika, which I have been finding more and more frequently in major supermarkets. Look for a red and white and green tin labeled “Pride of Szeged Hungarian Hot Paprika”. The last paprika I purchased was from World Market and a 5 ounce tin was only $3.19.

The following recipe is my Aunt Annie’s Hungarian Goulash – and I am assuming, since she was the daughter of my paternal grandmother, that this was the way Grandma made Hungarian Goulash also:

To make Aunt Annie’s Hungarian Goulash you will need:

  • 2 lbs cubed beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup beef broth or 1 cup water & 1 bouillon cube
  • 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

Brown beef, add chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt & parsley. Then add juice and broth. Simmer 1 hour. Add sliced carrots. Simmer ½ hour. Add diced potatoes. Simmer 1 hour.

My grandmother frequently made pans of strudel (generally a fruit strudel) – she had sour apple trees which often became the filling for apple strudel. I remember a cherry strudel and my absolute favorite—one I have never been able to duplicate—was a pumpkin strudel. The raw pumpkin slices were seasoned heavily with pepper, I think. There were enough apples to enlist the help of Grandma’s daughter and daughters-in-law to peel and cook apples to make apple sauce. Any overflow of apples would be loaded into a wagon and Grandma would have one of the grandchildren tote the wagonload of apples to the nun’s house behind St. Leo’s school. The sister who was cook might (or might not) reward you with a cookie. During World War II when sugar was rationed, the apple sauce was made without sugar! When a jar was opened to be eaten, we were allowed to sprinkle a little sugar on our helping of applesauce—we ate it like this for many years after the war (and rationing) ended.

Sometimes Grandma made Sacher Torte; sometimes Dobosh torte. I think we all loved the Dobosh torte the most – seven thin layers of sponge cake with layers of bittersweet chocolate frosting between each layer; the whole thing encased afterwards in the same chocolate frosting.

My grandmother often made doughnuts and on the Feast of the Three Kings, you could expect to find a coin – a nickel or dime – inside your doughnut. One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandfather’s lap in the kitchen on the second floor, overlooking the back yard, while Grandma fried doughnuts.

Most of my grandmother’s recipes died with her – she never wrote anything down…but her youngest daughter in law wanted to learn from Grandma and stood by her elbow watching, repeatedly, to see how things were made. My aunt was the only person left who remembered how some of these dishes were made. In January, 2012, my Aunt Dolly (whose name was actually Evelyn) passed away.

One of my best memories of sitting at the table with my grandmother didn’t involve an elaborate meal, however. Often, when I was spending the night with her, we would have tea with lemon and some buttered saltine crackers as a snack before going to bed.

To this day hot tea and lemon and some buttered crackers are one of my comfort foods.

So this is what eating “German Food” means to me.

–Sandra Lee Smith

LOST ARTs

Perhaps, to some people, they weren’t “arts” at all. To the people who lived and worked in those decades where “conveniences” were far and few in between, things like growing your own herbs or making your own soap simply fell into the vast cauldron of work that had to be done.

About a decade ago, Bob and I embarked on a quest to learn how to do some of those mostly forgotten tasks, such as making our own soap and having our own herb garden.  As you may know, we had been doing a lot of canning for more than ten years—growing and canning (or freezing) our own tomatoes, beans, corn, peaches and other fruits and vegetables. We had a small grape arbor in Arleta, which yielded plenty of grapes from which to make unsweetened grape juice or grape jelly. We also had peach, orange, tangerine, lemon, fig, and olive trees.  Several times we’ve made our own sauerkraut. Bob backed the car into my huge crock one day, so I sauerkraut making was put on a back burner until we could acquire another one—and the replacement crock is far  more superior than the old one had been. If anyone is seriously interested in making your own sauerkraut and obtaining a worthwhile crock, write to me and I will dig out the booklet about the crock. It was rather expensive – however, shipping was free so that was a plus.

My sister’s mother-in-law had given me that first crock, which I deeply regretted  losing. Mostly, I make a lot of jellies and jams, coming up with some of my own original combinations (like Hunka Hunka berry jam and Grammy’s Christmas Jammy that we give to friends and relatives at Christmas). I also make a lot of chutneys, relishes, conserves, fruit butters—and apple sauce.  We had a young apple tree that began producing tart green apples, like a Granny Smith. It was hard to leave that tree behind when we moved to the Antelope Valley, but a few years ago, we bought a new apple tree and last year it began to produce a nice green tart apple, also similar to granny smiths.

More recently, I began experimenting with concocting my own herb/spice mixtures from things like parsley, carrot leaves, celery leaves, tomatoes, chives, cilantro, garlic, and chili peppers, dehydrating and then crushing the mixture so that I could use it as a seasoning substitute for salt. (It started when I began wondering just how much of a vegetable could be dehydrated. I bought carrots with the fern-like green tops still attached to them, and dried them in my dehydrator. It worked!

Bob made grape wine a time or two and one of our friends made a special label for us. (I confess, I was not really very impressed with the home brew. I’d rather stick to White Zinfandel—but Bob drank it.

My Grandpa Schmidt had a small grape arbor and made his own wine. I couldn’t be in our little arbor, picking grapes, without thinking about my grandfather, tending his grape vines. (My brother tells the story about how, after grandpa died, my father, uncle and aunt found some very old bottles of grandpa’s wine in his wine cellar and proceeded to get blitzed on it).  Even though my grandfather passed away when I was only eight years old, when I am in our grape arbor, I feel connected to him.  **

A lot of people would say “why bother?”  Why go to all of that work when you can just go to the local supermarket and buy a jar of applesauce, or jam, or jelly or a bottle of grape juice?  Why, indeed?  As I sit here at the computer, I am asking myself that very question. Why did we do it? Why am I continuing to make jams and jellies, apple sauce and apple butter?

I think part of the answer to this question has to do with soap making. Yes, soap. But not your ordinary scented body-and-bath soap. The soap I am talking about is a brownish- colored heavy duty soap, sort of like bars of Fels Naptha or LAVA. As far back as I can remember, my mother made this lye-based soap once a year. It was used for many different things—scrubbing floors or our bare feet, after we’d been running barefoot all day during the summertime. During World War II and long after, my mother would shave up bits of this soap to do the wash. She never purchased store-bought laundry detergent.  We called it “work soap” and I always thought that just meant it could be used to do a lot of different jobs.

However, a few years ago, I made a curious discovery; years ago, in Cincinnati, there was a heavy-duty soap similar to this called Werk’s Tag Soap.  As a matter of fact, there is even a Werk Road in Cincinnati, where my high school was located. Our “work” soap was actually named after the Werk soap which, I believe, was named after the family that manufactured it.

My mother continued making her work soap even long after she and my father retired at a mobile home park in Largo, Florida. She’d save all bits of grease – bacon grease, chicken fat – until she had enough to make a batch of soap.  When my mother passed away in September, 2000, her “recipe” for making soap went with her. I couldn’t find directions written down anywhere in her recipe box. No one else in the family seems to know exactly how it was made.   For a time, I thought perhaps she learned how to make soap from her mother, my Grandma Beckman – but recently, one of my cousins set me straight. “Grandma Schmidt made that soap, too” he recalled.

I saved cans of grease in the freezer until I thought I had enough, then one day perhaps five or six winters ago, we followed the directions for making lye soap that I had found in a cookbook. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly until it separated – one of the common problems with soap-making (generally caused by stirring it too fast—and the faster we stirred, the more it separated) – but even so, we finally poured the finished product into shallow wax-lined box lids (I am not sure what my mother used for molds), and after it had “set”, we cut it into bars. I left it on the front porch for about two weeks to ‘age’.  As a final test, I sent a couple of bars to my brother, Jim—who declared it a close clone to mom’s “work” soap.

Why did I feel obligated to make a batch of this soap?  Because, if I didn’t, the art of making “work soap” would have died with my mother. Since then, I discovered (thanks to the Internet) that soap making is far from really being a “lost art”—but it’s comforting to me, and my siblings, to hold a bar of this soap in our hands, and recall how our mother made it, once a year—and how we used it for everything, from scrubbing floors to washing the dog.  And, I think I will attempt to make another batch but will follow some of the directions that I found on the Internet, next time.

Incidentally, Bob thought it was the best thing in the world for washing really grubby hands after you’d been working under the car or out in the garden.

Then I began experimenting with making my own ‘from scratch’ salad dressings.  I’ve made Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings by the quart, for years – but was interested in a red wine vinaigrette that I could season with my dried-veggie-concoction.  It took several batches to get the vinaigrette just the way I like it—but more importantly, it tastes so much better than commercial dressings.  I feel the same way about Ranch dressing. What you buy in a bottle doesn’t begin to compare with making it with the powdered Hidden Valley Ranch dressing made with buttermilk. Ok, so I’m cheating a little bit by using the powdered mix and I “doctor” the whole thing a bit to suit us.

One day my sister called, saying she was making tacos and didn’t have any taco seasoning mix. Hold on, I told her – I think I have the directions for making that from scratch. I did and I emailed the recipe to her. She says she makes ‘her own’ mix all of the time now.

My grandmother made all of her own noodles—she’d have them drying on the backs of all her wooden kitchen chairs (I haven’t gotten into noodle making just yet – and think I just might have to invest in a pasta machine for this)—but we often make beef jerky, from London Broil when it’s on sale. (A dehydrator is a handy thing to have, and we own two of them—Bob found the second one at a yard sale and bought it for a dollar).

Some of you are undoubtedly too young to remember this, but in the 70s, everyone began making sourdough starter to make their own sourdough bread. We also had yogurt makers to make homemade yogurt. I still have a sourdough starter in my refrigerator.

I discovered a book called “Lost Arts” by Lynn Alley. It’s a guide to making vinegar, curing olives, crafting fresh goat cheese, making simple mustards, baking bread and growing herbs. We had several olive trees in our home in Arleta, and attempted to cure our own olives one year.

As for baking bread – well, I’ve been baking bread most of my adult life and I’ve written about it a few times. When I was a child, my mother made her own bread, two large loaves, twice weekly. She baked the bread in large turkey roaster pans and we took homemade bread so completely for granted that having a sandwich made with Wonder Bread was something of a novelty. When my sons were small, I began experimenting with making various kinds of bread – my favorite being pumpernickel –and I often put the dough, in a large Tupperware container, inside the car to “rise”.

Lynn Alley’s chapter on bread making is a great deal more creative than even I  want to be – she includes information on growing your own grain, milling grains at home, and creating your own leavening (I’ve done the leavening – that’s easy enough and there are a lot of recipes for making sour dough starters) – but if you are just starting out and don’t have a bread machine, try your hand at one of the many recipes for making quick breads – pumpkin, zucchini, banana nut. They’re easy to make and a freshly baked loaf of banana nut bread is so rewarding.  Small loaves of homemade fruit breads accompanied by a small jar of homemade jelly make a nice gift, too. When I was in Ohio one year, I made fresh banana nut bread for my nephew and his son – they didn’t even wait for it to cool off and polished off the entire loaf in a few minutes. You’d have thought I’d given them the crown jewels.  (My nephew, Russ, was stationed in San Diego when he was in the navy, in the early 1980s. Whenever he had a free weekend, he got on a Greyhound Bus and came to visit us in the San Fernando Valley. I often made banana nut bread for him to take back with him to the ship, to share with his friends. He has the fondest memories of those loaves of bread!)

I’m going to share one more of my “lost arts” with you and I am sure you’ll think I’m one brick short of a full load when I tell you this. I asked Bob to put up a clothes line for me and it was one of the things he accomplished before he became too sick to do anything but sleep.  (The hardest part of this project was finding some of the plastic-coated clothes line—most stores no longer carry clothesline!  But we persisted and did eventually find clothes line, and at the local hardware store, bought a bag of spring-type clothes pins (first we bought a package of peg-type clothes pins, the kind being used mostly, these days, for craft projects. As a matter of fact, that package came from a craft store). But I discovered that the peg-type clothes pins were hard to work with. Maybe they really aren’t made to hang clothes with, anymore!  Plastic spring-type clothes pins have a tendency to break apart easily. Initially, I wanted a clothes line to hang things of mine that shouldn’t go into the dryer – and my little area rugs that have rubber backings. I also wanted to be able to hang sheets and pillowcases on the line.  But the wonderful smell of air-dried laundry soon converted me – I began hanging most of the laundry out on the line (weather permitting). It takes a few minutes. It smells great. And – I was curious to see how much I might be able to save on our gas bill.

A lot has been written in recent years about old-time ways of doing things, forgotten recipes, lost arts.  Why the great interest? Obviously, given the number of books dedicated to these subjects, I’m not alone in my interest. And, I don’t have a burning desire to be a child again – our childhood, that of myself and my siblings, friends and cousins, wasn’t always all that easy. (My son Steve likes to roll his eyes and say “yeah, ma, tell us again how you had to walk ten miles to school in the snow, barefoot…”)

I never said we walked ten miles. We did walk—all the time, everywhere. (And, in the summertime, we were barefoot).  A couple of years ago, when my youngest brother Scott drove me around my childhood neighborhood of Fairmount, I was shocked and dismayed how much it had shrunk in size, and diminished in grandeur. The distance between our house and the school is probably not more than a mile but it was up hill and down, and seemed a long way for a child’s short legs. We walked to and from school in any kind of weather and I sometimes ran home for lunch, or else we walked to my grandmother’s house on Baltimore Avenue, up the street from St. Leo’s, and had lunch there. There was very little money for anything but you could always get fed at Grandma’s. I think food was her universal remedy for everything that ailed you.

One of the things that kids did around the neighborhood was to go around and collect soda pop bottles which could be redeemed at a corner grocery store for two cents each. Rarely did any of us have any spending money. Allowance? What was that? No one received an allowance.  When I became old enough to babysit, most of my spending money came from babysitting the neighbors’ children. And allowance or no, children were always expected to help with household chores. One of my earliest childhood chores was hanging socks on a wooden rack (in bad weather the rack could be propped open over a floor register, where the heat came up from the furnace. You also stood over a register to get warm while you got dressed on cold winter mornings). We were expected to wash and dry and put away dinner dishes, scrub floors, and—for the boys—mow the lawn, shovel snow, and clear the sidewalks in bad weather. My brother Jim had several part time jobs by the time he was about 12. One of these early jobs was “setting pins” at St. Bonaventure’s Bowling Alley in South Fairmount. Before automated pin setters were invented, young boys would have the job of setting up the bowling pins. There was a space between two alleys where a boy could sit, and set up the pins on either side of him. I’m amazed just thinking about it. Can you imagine a young boy being allowed to do something like that today? He could have easily gotten knocked silly by one of those bowling pins. I imagine many boys did get hurt doing this job.

Jim also delivered newspapers and in his early ‘teens, began working as a box boy at a food distribution company where one of our uncles was employed.  The neat thing about this was that my brother was allowed to bring home certain foods which had expired dates on them. We got a lot of canned biscuits that often exploded when we opened them—canned biscuits were a new thing in the early 1950s, and we didn’t care if they exploded. We baked them and ate them anyway.  There was also a new cookie mix that only required the addition of water and maybe an egg – I loved those cookie mixes.

Perhaps this explains the popularity of books such as Marguerite Patten’s “We’ll Eat Again”, a memoir of rationing in Great Britain during World War II, and cookbooks such as “Forgotten Recipes” and “Depression Era Recipes”, and magazines like “Reminisce”. It’s not so much that we long to relive those days as it is that we don’t want them to be forgotten. Who will remember these things when we are gone?
If you are interested in finding copies of any of these books – Lost Arts can be purchased on Amazon.com, pre-owned, for $5.00.  Forgotten Recipes can be found on Alibris.com starting at 99c for a pre-owned copy. Amazon.com has copies of Forgotten Recipes starting at one cent. You will pay $3.99 for shipping and handling but have the book for $4.00. Depression Era Recipes is on Alibris.com priced at 99c and up for a pre-owned copy. Amazon.com has copies starting at one cent & up for a pre-owned copy. Amazon also has new copies priced at $6.74. “We’ll Eat Again” by Marguerite Patten is higher priced at most websites although I did see one paperback copy on Amazon for 99c. My copy was a gift from a penpal.

A word of caution – when you type in any of these titles at either Amazon or Alibris, similar titles by other authors crop up and I could easily go on a wild spending spree and buy dozens of books.  It appears I am not alone in my quest to keep Lost Arts from becoming lost forever.

Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

 

 

MORE CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPES -ICE BOX COOKIES

Someone sent me a blog message the other day requesting more cookie recipes.  So, that’s what I am going to work on today; I will go through my recipe files and search for my favorite tried-and-true ice box cookies.

Now, for anyone who doesn’t know what an “ice box” cookie is, let me explain a little. Decades ago, refrigerators were commonly known as “ice boxes”. This is because, before refrigeration, perishable foods were kept in a box (that looked pretty much like an old-time refrigerator,) but without electricity, the food was kept on a block of ice. You bought a block of ice from a man who delivered it to your kitchen door, quite rightly called the ice man. A large block of ice might last as long as a week or if the weather was very hot, perhaps only a few days. You couldn’t keep very much food on this block of ice – there wasn’t enough space inside.

I turned to Google for a little more information. Here, I learned that the icebox was invented in 1840 for use in the home by Thomas Moore. Shortly thereafter, NYC saw the establishment of regular delivery routes for Natural ice.

In 1911, GE, made the first mechanical icebox. It wasn’t until the early 1930′s, that the usefulness of the “electric icebox” was realized when newly discovered Freon was introduced as the refrigerant.

And from Wikipedia that I discovered iceboxes had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed. A large block of ice was held in a tray or compartment near the top of the box. Cold air circulated down and around storage compartments in the lower section. Some finer models had spigots for draining ice water from a catch pan or holding tank. In cheaper models a drip pan was placed under the box and had to be emptied at least daily. The user had to replenish the melted ice, normally by obtaining new ice from the iceman.

Commonly iceboxes were made of wood, most probably for ease of construction, insulation, and aesthetics: many were handsome pieces of furniture. (You can find illustrations of these ice boxes on Google).

Iceboxes date back to the days of ice harvesting, which had hit an industrial high that ran from the mid-19th century to the 1930s, when the refrigerator was introduced into the home. Most municipally consumed ice was harvested in winter from snow-packed areas or frozen lakes, stored in ice houses, and delivered domestically as iceboxes became more common. (What I find baffling is that I remember large blocks of ice being delivered to a few homes, when I was a very young child in the 1940s. It seems odd to me that some homes might have still been using an íce box when the refrigerator had been available for about a decade. We would crowd around the ice man, who would break off slivers of ice with an ice pick, for each of us, on a hot summer day. The term “ice box cookies” has hung on although it is now synonymous with Refrigerator cookies.  I’ve tried to pin down when slice & bake cookie dough became available to the public. I don’t remember ever using it in the 1960s or 1970s – it could have been manufactured in the 1980s. If anyone knows the answer to this, let me know!

I have a little ice box cookie story. When I was about ten years ago, my girlfriend Carol and I returned to her house after playing; it was early on a summer evening, and her mother was making ice box cookies and listening to a Baptist minister on the radio. Carol’s mother turned to me, after hearing something the minister said, and she said to me “You see, Sandy, why your religion is wrong on this issue?”  I didn’t know how to respond to this—my family was Catholic—so I left and went home and sat on my own front porch steps, feeling sad.

A short while later, Carol came up to me and handed me a brown paper bag containing warm ice box cookies, right from the oven. It was her mother’s apology. That was probably my first introduction to ice box cookies and one I’ve never forgotten.

Meantime, the following are some of my favorite ice box cookies, a kind of cookie I began baking in the 1960s.

Featured in this post are:

Pistachio-Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Lemon Rounds Icebox Cookies

Fruit Slices (Ice Box Cookies)

Maple Pecan Icebox Cookies

BASIC VANILLA DOUGH WITH THREE VARIATIONS

 

PISTACHIO-CRANBERRY ICEBOX COOKIES

Makes about 3 dozen cookies  Oven temperature for baking 350 degrees

1½ CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR

½ TSP GROUND CINNAMON

¼ TSP SALT

1½ STICKS (3/4 CUP) UNSALTED BUTTER, SOFTENED

¼ CUP PLUS 2 TBSP GRANULATED SUGAR

½ TSP FINELY GRATED ORANGE ZEST

½ CUP SHELLED PISTACHIOS (2½ OZ NOT DYED RED) – CHOPPED

1/3 CUP DRIED CRANBERRIES

1 LARGE EGG LIGHTLY BEATEN*

¼ CUP DECORATIVE SUGAR (PREFERABLY COARSE)

Stir together flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar and orange zest in a large bowl at medium high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1½” in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a ball*, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap until very firm, at least 2 hours**

Slice and Bake Cookies: Put oven rack sin upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle with decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper.  Cut each bar crosswise into ¼” thick slices. (if dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm again). Arrange cookies about ½” apart on lined baking sheets.  Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a slotted spatula, to cool completely.

Sandy’s cooknotes:

*Egg does not go into the cookie dough. You won’t need it until you are about to bake the cookies.

**If you are planning to keep the cookie dough in the refrigerator or freezer for a few weeks or a month, don’t use the egg wash until you are about to bake the cookies.  I wrap the cookie dough in plastic or wax paper and then use a foil wrap over it. Then you can use a Sharpee pen to write the name of the cookie and the baking time on the foil.   Recipe can be doubled!                                     **

LEMON ROUNDS ICE BOX COOKIES

½ CUPS SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

½ TSP BAKING SODA

½ TSP SALT

½ CUP SHORTENING

1 EGG

1 CUP SUGAR

1 TBSP LEMON JUICE

2 TSP GRATED LEMON RIND

½ CUP FINELY CHOPPED PECANS

Measure flour, baking soda and salt into sifter.  Cream shortening & sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon juice and rind and pecans. Sift in flour mixture. Blend well. Shape into 2 long rolls; wrap in wax paper and again in aluminum foil. Chill overnight or until ready to bake. To bake, slice dough ¼” thick and bake on parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees 8 minutes or until golden around edges. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.

FRUIT SLICES (ICE BOX COOKIE)

1 CUP BUTTER, SOFTENED

1 CUP POWDERED SUGAR

1 EGG, BEATEN SLIGHTLY

1 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

2 CUPS FLOUR

1 CUP PECAN HALVES

2 CUPS MARASCHINO CHERRIES, WELL DRAINED AND CUT IN HALF

2 CUP MIXED CANDIED FRUIT, CHOPPED

¼ CUP FLOUR

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla. Add 2 cups flour and mix well. Stir in pecans, cherries and candied fruit which has been dredged in the ¼ cup flour. Divide dough into thirds. Shape into rolls each 12” long. Wrap in plastic wrap and then foil, and chill several hours or until you are ready to bake (the dough will keep for a month in the refrigerator, indefinitely in the freezer.  To bake, cut  dough in ¼” slices and bake on ungreased baking sheets (I always line the baking sheets with parchment paper).  Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven 13-15 minutes. Makes 5-6 dozen cookies.

MAPLE PECAN ICE BOX COOKIES

8 OZ UNSALTED BUTTER (2 STICKS)

½ CUP GRANULATED SUGAR

1 EGG YOLK

2 TBSP REAL MAPLE SYRUP

½ TSP VANILLA

2 CUPS MINUS 2 TBSP FLOUR

1¼ CUPS PECAN HALVES

Beat butter at medium speed on electric mixer until it whitens and holds soft peaks (3-5 minutes). Beat in sugar until well blended. Whisk together egg yolk and maple syrup and beat into the butter with the vanilla. Add flour and mix only enough to combine.  Beat in pecans just to mix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm. Shape into 4 logs.  At this point you can rewrap the cookie dough logs and cover with foil. Keep in freezer or refrigerator until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice and bake cookies 12-15 minutes until firm and lightly & evenly browned. Must be cooked through to be tender.  Cool on wire racks. **

BASIC VANILLA DOUGH

This is a versatile cookie dough with which you can make 30 kinds of cookies. Since we are focusing on ice box cookies today, that is what I will present to you.

To make Basic Vanilla Dough you will need:

3 cups all purpose flour

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter and granulate sugar with a mixer on medium high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and beat until well combined.  Now you are ready to make one of the following variations:

1) To make Almond Cherry Coins; you will need 1 batch of vanilla dough and ¾ cup each chopped toasted blanched almonds and dried cherries + ½ cup sanding sugar (for rolling).

2) To make Apricot Pistachio Ice Box slices, you will need 1 batch of vanilla dough and ¾ cup each chopped dried apricots and pistachios.

3) To make Almond and Candied Orange Zest Bars, you will need 1 batch of vanilla dough and 1 cup blanched toasted almonds and ½ cup chopped candied orange peel.

Once the flour is incorporated into the dough, beat in the mix-ins. Divide dough into 2 pieces. Shape each piece into a 10” long log. Coat each log with ground nuts or sanding sugar, if using. Wrap in plastic wrap and cover with foil. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or freeze until ready to bake. When baking, slice dough crosswise  into ¼” thick slices. Bake on parchment paper in a preheated 350 degree oven until firm, about 12 minutes.

Want more ice box cookie recipes? Let me know!  This is just a sampling of what I have in my collection.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Sandy

THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK BY JEAN ANDERSON

Imagine this, if you can – spending ten years searching for the most popular recipes of the century!  Cookbook author, Jean Anderson, a name you should recognize, did just that. It was Ms. Anderson’s quest to search for the most popular recipes of the 20th century, and to chronicle one hundred years of culinary changes in America.

The result? THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK/The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, published in 1997 by Clarkson N. Potter/Publishers, containing over five hundred cherished recipes, ranging from California Dip to Buffalo Chicken Wings, from Chiffon Cake to classic green bean bake.  This must surely be the crowning achievement of Ms. Anderson’s illustrious career as a cookbook author. (I wrote about Ms. Anderson in January, 2011—please refer to “WHO IS JEAN ANDERSON, COOKBOOK AUTHOR” posted on my blog January 15, 2011, and a cookbook review, “FALLING OFF THE BONE” by Jean Anderson, posted June 23, 2011).

Jean Anderson, a member of the James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Wine in America, is the author of more than twenty cookbooks, including FOOD OF PORTUGAL (which won a Seagram Award for best international cookbook of the year, in 1986), the best-selling DOUBLEDAY COOKBOOK (with Elaine  Hanna) which was named cookbook of the year, in the R.T. French Tastemaker Awards in 1975 (and incidentally, is a two-volume set), as well as HALF A CAN OF TOMATO PASTE AND OTHER DILEMMAS, also an R.T. French Tastemaker Award winner in 1980. This versatile writer also wrote several non-cookbooks, including one about ghosts, titled THE HAUNTING OF AMERICA.

Jean Anderson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  She obtained her B.S. Degree from Cornell University and a few years later, obtained her M.S. Degree from Columbia University.

Among Anderson’s other published accomplishments are RECIPES FROM AMERICA’S RESTORED VILLAGES, published by Doubleday in 1975, and THE GRASS ROOTS COOKBOOK, published by Times books in 1977. I mention these especially as I think they demonstrate the author’s skill in writing—and writing admirably—about our country’s culinary history. And, although she doesn’t say so, I suspect that these two particular books may have provided some of the inspiration for THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK. She is also the author of THE ART OF AMERICAN INDIAN COOKING published by Doubleday in 1976 (I didn’t know I had this cookbook until I was writing about the American Indian’s foodways in my article KITCHENS WEST—it was a happy discovery since I was attempting to complete my collection of her books).

Anderson has also written, over the years, numerous magazine articles. She also worked as an editor on various women’s magazines before turning free-lance.

“For the past ten years,” writes Anderson in the Introduction, “I have been traveling backward in time, back across the decades to 1900 and beyond. My  quest:   to trace this century’s role in our culinary coming of age. To track the recipes, foods, food trends, food people, appliances, and gadgets that have had an impact on our lives from 1900 onward…”

(I understand how it feel to travel back in time, to attempt to get a feel for a different time and place—it took over a year of research for me to write the original KITCHENS WEST in the 1990s; it’s almost incomprehensible to me that a cookbook writer could compile, in one volume, a book as extensive as the AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK. Anderson admits she had a lot of help and that her book would never have seen the light of day without the generous cooperation of archivists, home economists, and media people at major food companies and manufactures of appliances, large and small. Even so, someone had to bring it all together – and Jean Anderson has done just that.

Explain the publishers, “Beyond this collection is Jean’s exploration of the diversity of our nation’s cuisine and our adoption of such ‘foreign’ dishes as pizza, gazpacho, lasagna, moussaka and tarte tatin. Her painstakingly researched text includes extensive headnotes, thumbnail profiles of important people and products…and a timeline of major 20th century food firsts….”

“Has any century done more to revolutionize the way we cook, the way we eat, than the twentieth?” Jean asks. “Take the home kitchen. At the beginning of this century, women were still cooking on stoves fueled by wood coal or petroleum, cantankerous behemoths that demanded constant stoking, cleaning, prodding and pleading.

Fast forward to 1939 and the New York World’s Fair. Women were dazzled by General Electric’s ‘Kitchen of Tomorrow’. A G. East Fair booklet ad read:

With a dishwasher so very fast and sanitary

She’d never break another dish—‘twas plain

and the work she most despised was completely modernized

when the garbage went like magic—down the drain…”

Anderson notes that “the Twentieth century also gave us the pressure cooker, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, national cook offs (from chicken and chili to cake and cookies), food magazines, the TV chef, and not least, the twenty four hour television Food Network…”

“Food advances were no less revolutionary,” Anderson continues, “Ice cream cones, ‘hot dogs and hamburgers all the way’ entered our lives as did salad and sushi bars, fast-food chains, frozen and freeze-dried foods and TV dinners—to say nothing of instants and mixes galore. There was a proliferation, too, of the kinds of food put into cans, of herbs and spice blends, of ersatz salts and powders…”

This is the kind of book you can either read from start to finish or pick up and start reading anywhere within. The author delves into the history of everything we’ve been eating for the past one hundred years, provides background material for the many cookbook writers and teachers of the past century—from Fanny Farmer to Julia Child – and all along the way are recipes – all of our favorites!

Jean began her research for this book by writing to editors of food magazines, major women’s magazines and newspapers throughout the country, as well as home economists at major food companies, asking for their 10 most requested recipes of the century. The response, she reports, was overwhelming. It was logical, I think, for Jean to start with these resources. We know that food editors have their fingertips on the pulse of American cookery. Who knows better what recipes are most requested by their readers? And, it was a role that Jean herself had played for a number of years. (As a young adult, I was strongly influenced in my love for recipes and the stories behind them, by Fern Storer, who was for many years a food editor of the Cincinnati Post. After we moved to California, whenever my mother was getting ready to mail a box of favorite things to me and would ask what I would like, I’d reply “Ruble’s Rye bread and the food sections from the Cincinnati post”. After we settled in Los Angeles, I collected the S.O.S. columns in the L.A. Times for many years).

Having spent a fair amount of time researching some of these topics myself, I read Anderson’s viewpoint with great interest. I was particularly intrigued with what she had to say on the subject of soups—as you may know by now, I love soups, especially homemade soups and I have written about them in the past.

“Great-Grandma had a farm,” writes Anderson as she introduces her chapter on soups, “Grandma had a garden, mother had a can-opener.

When it comes to soup, that pretty much sums up this century…”

Anderson goes into great depth in her dissertation on soups and writes “It may seem that I have devoted too much attention in this chapter to canned soups and ‘instants’. Well, like it or not, heat-and-eat soups have revolutionized our lives this century, and mass America still depends on them, as a thumb through any community cookbook or trundle down any supermarket aisle quickly proves…”

But, she adds that there are plenty of “from scratch” soups here, too, ones that have made their mark during the last hundred years.

“Many of the recipes our mothers and grandmothers loved were product-driver: canned soup casseroles, molded salads, mayonnaise cakes, graham cracker crusts, even chocolate chip cookies. We may scoff at the hokier of these today but they belong to this century’s culinary history and cannot be ignored. Moreover, as a riffle through any regional cookbook quickly provides, they remain popular over much of the country…”

(Anderson doesn’t say, but wouldn’t you suspect that part of the reason product-driven recipes were so popular is that the recipes were printed on the packages and cans, and booklets touting the product were generally distributed free. My own mother had only one cookbook. I don’t think women had access to a wealth of recipes like we do today, especially during the poverty-stricken depression years. During my teenage years, I often bought a handful of penny postcards and sent away for free recipe booklets. These free booklets formed the nucleus of my cookbook collection, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Anderson takes nothing for granted in her research and writing style. She doesn’t always accept at face valu8e what other cookbook authors have to say on a subject; her own research often takes her farther back in time to prove or disprove another writer’s research. It’s this kind of attention to detail that catches my attention and approval. (It didn’t hurt to have great research resources at her disposal, I’m sure—but as I have noted previously, it’s one thing to unearth material, another to put it all together cohesively in one place—actually, I am a bit chagrined that THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK was not available to me when I was writing food-related articles for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in the 1990s.  I have several bookcases filled with books on the history of food and can often spend hours going through all of those books searching for answers to my food related questions).

And remember War Cake, which I have commented on when writing about rationing during  WW2? (See HARD TIMES, April 2011). Anderson includes it in THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK on page 440.  Her research came to the same conclusion as mine, that War Cake actually dates back to World War ONE.  In fact, it’s a delight to find the answers to many different questions about food and culinary objects we now take so much for granted. (and after the wars were over, savvy women renamed War Cake, calling it eggless, butterless, sugarless cake. It appeared in a Taste of Home magazine in 2004 as Eggless, Butterless, Sugarless, and Milkless cake.

I love the style and illustrations of THE AMERCIAN CENTURY COOKBOO  K as well as the wealth of recipes and fascinating sidebars.

This is one of my favorite books—and although it’s called a Cookbook, I keep it with my food-reference books, within reach of my computer.

Bibliography

  • § GRASS ROOTS COOKBOOK, DOUBLEDAY DELL PUBLISHING, 1974, 75, 76, 77, 92 (*The Grass Roots Cookbook is a outgrowth of magazine pieces originally features in Family Circle magazine)
    § The Doubleday Cookbook VOL 1 & 2 (with Elaine Hanna). Doubleday: 1975. R.T. French Tastemaker Cookbook-of- the-Year as well as Best Basic Cookbook
    § RECIPES FROM AMERICA’S RESTORED VILLAGES, Doubleday, 1975
    § THE GREEN THUMB PRESERVING GUIDE, WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY, 1976
    § JEAN ANDERSON’S PROCESSOR COOKING, WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY, 1979
    § Half a Can of Tomato Paste & Other Culinary Dilemmas (with Ruth Buchan). Harper & Row, 1980. Seagram/International Association of Culinary Professionals Award, Best Specialty Cookbook of the Year.
    § JEAN ANDERSON COOKS, WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY, 1982
    § JEAN ANDERSON’S NEW PROCESSOR COOKING, WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY, 1983
    § The New Doubleday Cookbook (with Elaine Hanna). Doubleday: 1985.
    § The Food of Portugal. William Morrow: 1986. Seagram/International Association of Culinary Professionals Award, Best Foreign Cookbook of the Year
    § The New German Cookbook (with Hedy Würz). HarperCollins: 1993
    § The American Century Cookbook. Clarkson Potter: 1997
    § The Good Morning America Cut the Calories Cookbook (co-edited with Sara Moulton). Hyperion: 2000
    § Dinners in a Dish or a Dash. William Morrow: 2000§
    § Process This! New Recipes for the New Generation of Food Processors. William Morrow: 2002. James Beard Best Cookbook, Tools & Techniques Category
    § Quick Loaves. William Morrow: 2005
    § A Love Affair with Southern Cooking: Recipes and Recollections. Foreword by Sara Moulton. William Morrow: 2007
    § Falling Off the Bone, Wiley Publishing, published October 19, 2010

Also by Jean Anderson:

THE ART OF AMERICAN INDIAN COOKING (with Yeffe Kimball)
FOOD IS MORE THAN COOKING
HENRY, THE NAVIGATOLR, PRINCE OF PORTUGAL
THE HAUNTING OF AMERICA
THE FAMILY CIRCLE COOKBOOK (with the Food Editors of Family Circle Magazine)

This list is as comprehensive as I could make it, based largely on the dozen or so Jean Anderson cookbooks in my personal collection. I also checked with Google.com and Amazon.com for titles. I ordered “Quick Loaves” and “Falling off the Bone” which has also been reviewed on my blog.

My copy of the American Century Cookbook is a first edition, published in 1997. This cover is shown on Amazon.com new for $17.12 or pre owned for $2.48. Apparently, the book was republished in 2005 and has a different cover. Pre owned copies are available for $1.31 on Amazon.com.  Alibris.com has the original priced at 99c or new for $9.99.

Happy Cooking! And when you aren’t cooking, read a good cookbook!

–Sandra Lee Smith

 

SOME KIND OF CHRISTMAS FOOL

SOME KIND OF CHRISTMAS FOOL

(The following, with some changes, was previously posted on my blog Nov 11. 2011).

“When we were young, there were moments of such perfectly crystallized happiness that we stood stock still and silently promised ourselves that we would remember them always. And we did.” (From the “FOUR MIDWESTERN SISTERS’ CHRISTMAS BOOK”, published in 1991 by Holly Burkhalter, with Kathy Lockard, Karol Crospie and Ruth Bosley.)

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. (From “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.

This is the wonder of Christmas,

Sleigh bells and holly and snow,

Church chimes and mittens and pine cones,

Warmth from a fireside’s glow.

This is the wonder of Christmas,

Trinkets bedecking a tree,

Tinsel and strings of cranberries,

Children, all shouting with glee.

This is the wonder of Christmas,

Merriment, loving and caring,

This is the wonder of Christmas,

The happiness that comes from sharing.

This is the wonder of Christmas,

See the manger, there, under the tree,

With small statues symbolic of all that

The Christ child would want it to be.

Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes. I have various friends and acquaintances that enjoy hiking, horse-back riding, camping, and/or bowling. Some people collect stamps and call it a hobby, although to my mind, collecting something takes it out of the realm of hobbying and into the jurisdiction of collecting. Or perhaps the two are synonymous. I consulted my trusty friend, Webster, and was advised that “A hobby is something that a person likes to do or study in his spare time or avocation”. Another rare definition of hobby offered by Webster is “A subject that a person constantly talks about or returns to”.  I like the latter definition; it describes how I feel about Christmas.  Christmas is my hobby.

Back in medieval times, preparation for Christmas feasting began months in advance even though the common folk might only a few hours away from their duties, working for the upper classes and royalty Christmas celebrations would last two weeks, until the Feast of the Epiphany, on January 6th. It’s said that King Henry VIII of England raised revelry to a new high—few kinds could party as hearty as Henry.

Curiously, however, most historians agree that it’s very unlikely that Jesus Christ was actually born on December 25th. There is an interesting book titled “Christmas Feasts from History” by Lorna Sass, (published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Irena Chalmer’s Cookbooks, Inc. 1981), in which the first chapter is devoted entirely to the Roman Saturnalia Banquet. Ms. Sass quotes the poet, Virgil, (70-19 BC) who described the Saturnalia as a merry festival that was the traditional culmination of the ancient Roman year. “Named for Saturnus, the Roman god of seeds and sowing, the celebration probably began to commemorate the end of the autumn sowing season in southern Italy, a time of brief respite from the yearly round of farm chores, a time to pause and exchange good will with neighbors and friends..”

Saturnalia began around December 17 and all work was suspended for seven days…“Romans took to the streets with carnival-like abandon, shouting ‘To Saturnalia”. Slaves were free to do and say what they pleased and a mock king was chosen ruler. Characteristics of what was to become Christmas were already in evidence: halls festooned with laurel leaves, gifts exchanged—often little dolls made of clay or dough—and small wax tapers lit as protection against the hovering spirits of darkness…the week-long festival reached its peak on or about December 25, a day set aside for special reverence to the sun..”

Early church leaders often attempted to substitute  a Christian holiday for a pagan one and it is thought that Christmas became the substitute for Saturnalia. (Personally, I have often speculated that Jesus was born around in March—I think it’s plausible that He was a Pisces, the sign of the fish – for the fisher of men). In any event, the early church habit of substituting pagan holidays for Christian ones does not detract in the least from what it is that we are actually observing.

In medieval times, the court jester, or fool, was often called upon to entertain guests while they enjoyed their meal, along with tumblers and minstrels, and other paid entertainers.  Maggie Black, in her book “THE MEDIEVAL COOKBOOK” tells is that “Entertainment was the main part of any feast, especially a great one, and at the end when the alms baskets were carried out to the poor, and the last Twelfth Night toast was drunk, it was to be hoped that one and all could say “that was a good feast. The year ahead will go well!”

Centuries later, I find that I am some other kind of Christmas fool. I’m not likely to wait until Thanksgiving or after to start thinking about Christmas. It’s on my mind all year long.

My childhood Christmases are cherished memories. It seems that our holiday season began with the Feast of St Nicholas, on December 6th. We hung stockings (usually long white stockings of my father’s) and the next day found them filled with walnuts and tangerines and hard candies…sometimes a little toy. I had my own tangerine tree in Arleta, where we lived for 19 years and tangerines always remind me of the Feast of St Nicholas (I don’t remember ever having tangerines at any other time of the year, when I was growing up).

Many years later I had all but forgotten our family observation of the Feast of St Nicholas, part of our Dutch heritage, until one year when my sons were something like 8,5, 2, and 1 years old and turning into unholy terrors as Christmas approached and television commercials assaulted their impressionable little minds with the wonders and glories of toys that every-kid-just-had-to-have. The momentum continued to grow until I was ready to disown all four of them, whose every sentence began with “I want—“. Then I remembered the Feast of St Nicholas. We reinstated the tradition of stockings being hung on December 5th and observed this tradition for many years after. It was something to tide the children over until Christmas finally arrived.

Snow flakes. Pine needles. My grandma’s diamond shaped walnut and sugar studded butter cookies*. Grandma’s homemade pumpkin strudel (with Filo dough made from scratch!); A Christmas tree glowing with bubble lights. Weeks of rehearsing Christmas carols at school, which took on new meaning when I joined the choir. As a small child, the shivering anticipation of being allowed, one a week, to put away pencils and books, while we made cards and calendars and “tie racks” out of construction paper, library paste and cardboard tubes. On Friday afternoons, song books were passed out to the students and we learned the words to “Jolly Old St Nicholas” and “Up on the House Top”, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night”.  At home, we bought sheet music and learned the words and music to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”. I sang “Rudolph” with two clowns at a Christmas party sponsored by my Grandma Beckman’s club that year.

We took piano lessons and flute and clarinet, and practiced our favorite Christmas songs until everyone in hearing range was tired of hearing them. When we tired of listening to each other, my mother would sit down at our old upright piano and play “Silver Bells” which was, I think the only Christmas song she knew how to play. (My mother never learned to read music; she played entirely “by ear” and was really quite good).

I will always remember the Christmas that my older brother gave me five brand-spanking new Nancy Drew books—the first books of my very own. Such bounty! The first book that my mother ever bought for me was, incidentally, “Little Women”, which I practically memorized from reading it so often.

One year my mother was terribly sick in the hospital—but came home long enough to spend Christmas with us.

We children ironed the wrinkles out of the previous year’s gift wrap; we ironed out old ribbons too. We made our own gift tags out of index cards and those little glue on stickers—the kind that never stuck to anything else. (I wouldn’t say that we were poor, exactly, but we certainly were frugal.)

We did all our own Christmas shopping—my two younger brothers and I, making a once-a-year shopping excursion to downtown Cincinnati where we prudently shopped for cards of bobby pins or lilac splash cologne—or handkerchiefs with our daddy’s initial on them, or one of our favorites, “Midnight in Paris” which came in a distinctive blue bottle that we loved. We managed to see all of the Department store Santas (as much motivated by free candy canes as the desire to cover all our bases since you never could e sure which one might be the REAL Santa.)  We carefully guarded our meager pennies against potential shoplifters we had been warned about, and somehow bought presents for our parents, grandparents, siblings and dearest friends. Most incredibly, we usually managed to have some lunch at the Woolworth’s lunch counter—a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickle slices, and a coca cola, split three ways—was, I think, about twenty-five cents. I should add, we did ALL of our shopping in Woolworth’s, Newberry’s and Kresge’s five and ten cent stores. They had the best “stuff”.  (Once, my childhood friend Carol confessed that she had always been jealous of me on those shopping trips.

“Me?” I exclaimed. “Whatever FOR?”

“Because,” she replied, “You could buy so much more with a dollar than anyone else”)

Over the years I have thought long and hard about those shopping trips which, incidentally, also cost us five cents bus fare to and from downtown Cincinnati.  How did we manage to do it?  I often think of loaves and fishes in the bible. That was the three Schmidt children shopping for Christmas presents for at least ten people, not counting anything for friends. We always, somehow, managed to have just enough. And, let me add – we didn’t have allowances or anything that frivolous in our lives. Every penny was a penny earned or money from cashing in pop bottles for the two cent refund.

We loved downtown Cincinnati during the holidays, the lights of Fountain Square, the “living crèche” in Garfield Park, all of the sidewalk Salvation Army Santas ringing their bells, and the gorgeous window displays in all of the department stores.

When we got back home with our treasures, we smuggled everything upstairs to my bedroom where we engaged in a frenzy of wrapping. We often ended up at my grandmother’s on Christmas Eve day; eventually my father would arrive with his cousin – my godmother, Barbara, who I only saw during those holidays and always seemed to me to be something like a fairy godmother. We would pile into the car to go home; we would see the lit tree from the street—for we NEVER had a Christmas tree before Christmas—and seeing the brightly lit tree, framed by the living room window, we would just know that Christmas had arrived. We would rush through the front door only to be told by our mother that we had “just missed Santa—he just went out the back door” whereupon we rushed to the back door to try to catch a glimpse.

We’d open the presents handed out to us one at a time by my mother and later, if you could stay awake, you might be able to go to midnight mass with the adults.

What I remember most clearly about Christmas mass is the crèche—the statues of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, finally uncovered (for they had been draped with cloths throughout Advent.)

There was singing and incense and the smell of wet coats and gloves—for it seems that it almost always started to snow on Christmas Eve. The choir sang “Silent Night” and “Adeste Fideles” and “Away in the Manger” – and IF the Baby Jesus was not actually born on December 25, it matters not a whit for we believed in Him and we believed in His birth.

Christmas Day—when I was a young child—usually found us having dinner at my paternal grandmother’s—it’s a wonder to me that in later years when she lived in the two front rooms of the first floor of her apartment house, she somehow managed to fit all of us—my parents, siblings, two aunts, two uncles and various cousins ALL into those two rooms. As soon as we had eaten, my Uncle Al gave us each a quarter for the movies—fifteen cents for admission, ten cents to spend—and then would drive us all to the movie theatre. (We thought Uncle Al was rich—handing all those quarters out so freely!) and by the time we got back, everything would be brought back to the table for a late supper. (While we were gone, the adults all played cards. You knew you were “of age” when you were allowed to join the adults playing cards).

So, is it any wonder that the love of Christmas spilled over into my adult life?  That we, in my household, think about Christmas all year long—beginning with the after Christmas sales but gaining momentum around in May when the first strawberries and blackberries ripened and could be made into jams and preserves, cordials and jellies. By August, the first Black Mission figs were ripening on our trees and the grapes in my arbor were slowly turning purple. Around in October, pomegranates turned ruby red and could be converted into pomegranate jelly  or a luscious liqueur. Pumpkins began to be displayed at produce stands (and now my youngest son and his son—my nine year old grandson, Ethan—have taken to growing their own pumpkins). From the pumpkins we made pumpkin bread and pumpkin butter.

We searched for just the right presents for everyone on our gift list, all through the year, and I discovered that Christmas shopping while on vacation in July could be a lot of fun, especially if you were doing it with a sister. We were all catalogue buffs and carried bundles of Christmassy mail order books all over the house, dropping thinly veiled hints in our wake. By September, some of my packages had to be wrapped and mailed to meet overseas deadlines—so September was never too soon to drag everything out of the Christmas closet and do an inventory.  I make up lists. Extra rolls of film (I DO still take photographs using actual FILM). Sugar and flour and jars of molasses go onto my list. Lots of scotch tape! (and WHAT do you suppose people did before Scotch tape was invented?)

I remember one year—in the 1970s, I think—when the price of sugar skyrocketed to something like $5.00 for a 5-lb bag of granulated sugar—even as I write this, the price sounds astronomical (even though a FOUR pound bag of sugar, on sale, now, is about $2.50). I hardly baked a thing that year and it was a terrible disappointment. For years after, I stockpiled sugar months in advance to safeguard against it ever happening again.

Sometime in August, maybe as early as July, I would be digging through cookbooks and recipe files, pulling out the favorite cookie and candy and confection recipes.  October is not too soon to start mixing cookie dough, If you have a freezer to store it in and you have a lot of favorite cookie recipes. Some cookies can be baked well in advance—the ones that thrive on aging in a tightly fitted tin or Tupperware container—the Springerle and Pfeffernusse and cut out gingerbread cookies and those decadent rum balls. I try to get all of the cookies made a few weeks before Christmas, so that I can make up gift baskets and fill tins with cookies for neighbors and friends—and nowadays my favorite post office clerks and our mail lady, my manicurist and our family mechanic.  When Christmas is getting close, THEN it’s time to make the delicate Spritz cookies, lemon Madelines, and Russian Tea Cakes.

Back in the day – when my sons were growing up – we’d often make several dozen different kinds of cookies; they’d take them to school for their teachers, I’d take them to work for coworkers.  We’d make fruitcake bars and peanut brittle, Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge, and English Toffee, and my favorite New Orleans pecan pralines, Sherried walnuts and my Aunt Annie’s Opera Creams, my sister’s Buckeye Balls, Truffles, Caramel Corn—and the family favorites; Kelly’s M&M party cookies, Chris’ oatmeal raisin, Michael’s Butter Cut Out Cookies (*When Michael was five years old, I stayed up one night until about 4 am decorating each and every Butter Cut out cookie with frosting. I had them spread out to dry on every counter and table top. When I got up the next        morning, Michael had eaten the frosting off every single cookie. I’m not sure what happened after that—but Michael told me years later that the sight of frosting on butter cookies made him feel slightly queasy.

I believe it was that same year that Michael, then in kindergarten, questioned me persistently about reindeer.

“Mom,” he said “Can reindeer fly?”
“Hmm,” I hedged, “Well, I’ve always heard…certainly Santa’s reindeer—you know, Dasher and Dancer and then there’s Rudolph—why do you want to know, son?” to which he replied, matter-of-factly, leaving no room for doubt, “m TEACHER says they CAN’T!” and as anyone who has ever had a kindergartener knows, if teacher says they can’t, that’s the end of it.

When I was an 18 year old bride, in 1958, I clipped some cookie recipes out of a woman’s magazine and then into a 3-ring binder, and a tradition was born. Now, fifty-something years later, I have seven or eight 3-ring binders filled with JUST the cookie recipes, most clipped out of magazines. (I also began using those 3 ring binders for many other recipes as well—there are four or five just for my canning recipes—jellies, jams, chutneys, pickles, preserves, two for cakes, and so on.  Now there are over 50 of those 3 ring binders stuffed with recipes.

We built our own memories, my children and I.  We laughingly recall the year my husband & I stayed up until 4 am putting together a hot-wheels-type of racetrack that Michael, then about four years old, had dismantled by 5 am. There was the year that my girlfriend and I and our children made bread dough ornaments that didn’t quite turn out. We had bits of dough in our hair, clothing and all over the floor. (You may have discovered, as did we, that not everything turns out quite like the magazine illustrations, does it?)

One of my favorite stories involves my dear friend, Neva. She wanted to make a candyland house with me one year, such as I would make using a cardboard frame taped together to look like a cottage. Then I would liberally spread the exterior of the house with royal frosting and decorate it with small candies before the frosting dried. (Writing about how I made the candyland houses was one of the first articles I sold to Tower Press magazines). It would be some years before I worked up enough nerve to actually make a real gingerbread house. Anyway, Neva wanted to make a candyland house too – except for one thing – she wanted to make hers a castle. (it actually went with her house that looked somewhat like a miniature castle). No problem, I assured her. We could make a castle. I whipped up batch after batch of royal frosting, running around the house digging up cardboard tubes and digging through kitchen drawers for suitable accessories – while Neva, her daughter and my sons constructed and decorated a castle. It was truly an impressive work of art but I confess to being nonplussed when, some weeks later, the local Valley News ran a story (with photographs!) about Neva and her candyland castle, which – according to the newspaper story—was her “family tradition”.

One year when we lived in Florida, I was tearfully distraught trying to make one of our favorite Christmas cookies – like lace cookies, which wouldn’t harden, or stained glass cookies – that dripped away the stained glass part as they hung on a tree. I also set the oven on fire trying to make graham cracker houses  (which we had made successfully in California) because the melted sugar wasn’t hardening. I had a vague notion that putting them into the oven would help them dry out. Instead, the melted sugar dropped all over the coils of the electric oven and caught fire.

Somewhere along the way I began collecting Christmas ornaments. Like Topsy, it just grew and grew, until the time came when we needed a second tree for all the ornaments. I began searching for ornaments where ever I went on vacation and more than once found a Christmas store.  My favorite one is in Carmel California. The store is filled with year-round trees decorated with ornaments made by local artisans. Some of these are my absolute favorites.

One year my sister and I were there oohing and ahhing over the ornaments.

“Will you take a check?” I asked the owner.

“Of course,” she replied.

“Do you need to see some identification?” I asked.

“No,” she said, complacently, “Christmas people don’t cheat.”

These are some of my stories; if I thought long and hard I could come up with many more—but I want to tell you about some of my favorite Christmas cookbooks.  As you know, I collect cookbooks – and possibly my favorite topic in my cookbook collection are the Christmas cookbooks – along with cookies. A few years ago, a friend set up a database for me and I managed to get all of the Christmas cookbooks logged on before we had to move. There are over 500 of them.  But some are really FAVORITES—the cookbooks I turn to, year in and year out. If you need to get into the holiday mood, I guarantee that reading Christmas cookbooks will get you there. Maybe you can write to me and tell me about your favorite holiday recipes or your favorite Christmas cookbook!

I like THE FRUGAL GOURMET CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS and MYSTIC SEAPORT’S CHRISTMAS MEMORIES COOKBOOK; There’s MARTHA STEWART’S CHRISTMAS, (with directions for creating a gingerbread mansion) and 365 WAYS TO PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS. I like John Clancy’s CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK and A YANKEE CHRISTMAS by Sally Ryder Brady; ROSE’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES by Rose Levy Barenbaum, and my beloved LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK OF CHRISTMAS ENTERTAINING by Dawn Navarro and Betsy Balsley. I love re-reading Mimi Sheraton’s VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS and Virginia Pasley’s THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BOOK (1949).

I need to mention the Farm Journal’s HOMEMADE COOKIES compiled by the Food Journal’s food editors and published in 1971—back when I didn’t have hundreds of cookbooks, this was my favorite go-to cookbook for baking Christmas cookies. (In fact, we collected all of the Farm Journal cookbooks back then. I think it was my penpal Penny who got me started on those).

Years ago, the Junior League of the City of Washington published a book titled THINK CHRISTMAS (originally published in 1970 but often reprinted); the Junior League must have done well with their first effort since in 1983, they published JOY OF CHRISTMAS, both filled with great holiday entertainment ideas. One of my well thumbed and spattered Christmas cookbooks is titled TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, compiled in 1974 by the Junior Women’s Group Pioneer Museum up in Stockton, California. I no longer remember where or how I found my copy which was already well worn and spattered when I acquired it – I DO know I have been making their recipe for Spinach Delight for over thirty years. Another favorite is THE GREATER CINCINNATI CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK compiled by the Greater Cincinnati Citizens Council in 1984; my sister Becky learned about it and we both invited to submit recipes—we both sent in many of our favorite Christmas recipes, congratulating ourselves for finding a way to get them all in one book. Of course, one downside to all of this is that some of your favorite recipes have a tendency to change from year to year. In 1984 I was making Texas fruitcake and “five pounds of fudge” while in more recent years I find myself reaching for the recipes of my youth—the Lebkuchen and Springerle my grandmother would make, or those wafer-thin Moravian Ginger cookies and Pfeffernusse.

More up to date Christmas cookbooks that you may want to search for might include CHRISTMAS WITH PAULA DEEN, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster, or The Goodhousekeeping little book THE GREAT CHRISTMAS COOKIE SWAP COOKBOOK, published in 2008 (and offering 60 large batch       recipes to cook and share) or you might want to look for a Favorite Brand Name 100 BEST HOLIDAY COOKIES published in 2007 by Publications International—both of these cookbooks are well illustrated with hidden spiral binding so they will lay flat on your kitchen counter. Personally, I don’t like having cookbooks in the kitchen so I usually copy the recipe on my  printer and stick it on the refrigerator door when I am baking.

Another 2007 cookbook is SANTA’S NORTH POLE COOKBOOK  by Jeff Guinn  who also wrote THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SANTA CLAUS, HOW MRS CLAUS SAVED CHRISTMAS and THE GREAT SANTA SEARCH.

These are a few of my favorite Christmas cookbooks—there are so many more! And amongst my treasures are pamphlets and leaflets published by the various gas companies in many different states—some of these were very well done and are so collectible!

And then there are all the gift-giving cookbooks and candy-making cookbooks!  But I see this post has grown very lengthy!  However, before I close I wanted to let you know about previous “Christmassy” posts on my blog.

Look for –

Christmas is Right Around the Corner 9/13/09

Homemade Christmas Candies 9/20/09

Oh, Fudge! Making Christmas Candy 9/16/09

Make Mine Light – Fruitcake 10/1/09

It’s Christmas Cookie Time, posted 11/22/09

Christmas 2009 Cookies 12/31/09 (PHOTOS)

MEMORIES OF CHRISTMASES IN CINCINNATI (ARTICLE) 12/9/09

A Few of my Favorite Things, Part 2 Cookies 12/16/09

Christmas Memories 2010

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting—Sandy