THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING

“The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten. In the words of the New Yorker is “so well prepared, so expertly seasoned, so full of flavorsome surprises that if it were a meal, even Mr. Steingarten would have difficulty finding fault with it….it is a book worth celebrating” – and I agree!

Mr. Steingarten, who has been a food critic for VOGUE Magazine since 1989, is, in my words – a hoot! I have often laughed out loud, whether reading alone or with someone else in the room, in which case I usually have to read aloud, to share.

“the Man Who Ate Everything” was the 1997 winner of the Julia Child book award and a finalist, also in 1997, of the James Beard Book Award.

Mr.Steingarden trained to be a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the HARVARD LAMPOON. For over eight years has been a food critic of Vogue Magazine.

When I leafed through THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING, my attention was riveted to a chapter called The Smith Family Cookbook….I thought “wait a minute—I’ve read this before….somewhere else” and of course I had. It was a chapter included in a charming little book called “Favorite Cookbooks” by Moira Hodgson for whom I wrote about in the CCE (Cookbook Collectors Exchange) some years ago, earning myself a few new fruitcake penpals along the way.

Mr. Steingarten’s book is a collection of essays, not a cookbook (although you may find a few recipes interspersed throughout the book, as when he writes about his challenge to find the perfect pie crust). The author writes with great humor while providing food for thought. (*I could have told him, there isn’t a perfect pie crust and saved him all the work)

If you are the kind of cookbook person who often wonders how something in the culinary world came about, this is the book for you.

“When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, observe the publishers, Vintage Books, which is a division of Random House, “he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is ‘fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad’. Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called “dinner.” As I tend to agree with Mr. Steingarten’s gut feeling about blue food, with perhaps the exception of blueberries, I felt I had met up with a kindred spirit.

Take, for example, his essay called “PRIMAL BREAD”. “The world is divided” explains the author “Into two camps: those who can live happily on bread alone and those who also need vegetables, meat and dairy products…bread is the only food I know what satisfied completely all by itself. It comforts the body, charms the senses, gratifies the soul and excites the mind. A little butter also helps…”
What follows is a day by day account of Mr. Steingarten’s pilgrimage to make the perfect loaf of bread.

Introducing a chapter called “Playing Ketchup”, the author writes “When rumor recently reached my ears that U.S. sales of salsa would soon eclipse those of ketchup, catsup and catchup (these words all mean the same thing) he rushed down to his local supermarket, planting himself in the ketchup department and stood a lonely vigil as though my presence alone could stanch the tide of chunky piquant salsa that menaced from the opposite of aisle 5…”

Jeffrey Steingarten is a funny man although sometimes so droll that you aren’t sure whether he is being amusing or sarcastic. I laugh anyway.

All of you cookbook collectors who love to curl up at night with a good cookbook, “THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING is a delightful diversion from strictly reading recipes (although the ones included in this book are treasures!)

Additionally, this is the kind of book you can carry around with you going to the doctor or the dentist or waiting for kids to get out of school.

Although printed some time ago, THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING can be found on Amazon.com with a wide variety of copies, both new and pre-owned, starting around $3 or $4.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith@sandychatter

THE MEANING OF HOLIDAYS, THEN AND NOW

Just before Thanksgiving (2016), my older brother, Jim, texted me to ask what I was doing for Thanksgiving. They, he wrote, were going out for dinner with another couple.
We, I texted back to him, are having a roast chicken dinner, here at my place, along with salad, mashed potatoes*, green beans and choice of pumpkin pie or angel food cake. My youngest son, Kelly, is on a restricted diet and can’t eat turkey. However, he can eat chicken. He can’t eat pumpkin pie (no milk or dairy products including no butter) He can eat margarine, such as Imperial, which we can put in with the mashed potatoes. He can’t have milk or dairy products in the mashed potatoes. My daughter in law, through trial and error, has discovered she can drain off the potatoes when they are soft enough to mash, and then put the potato water back in with the potatoes to get a desired mashed texture (plus margarine, not butter).

Not long ago, my daughter in law, Keara, sent me her recipe for roasting chickens with 4” lengths of celery stuffed into the cavity, salt and pepper inside and out and some onion powder. I roasted two chickens on Thanksgiving Day and sent them home with the leftover angel food cake (something Kelly can eat) and the leftover chicken to go in one of my daughter in law’s many recipes like burritos and tostados made with shredded leftover chicken. Oddly enough, none of us missed having turkey. Time was when I would have made turkey and rice soup with the leftover turkey carcass, which was my son Steve’s favorite soup. But Steve and his wife live in South Dakota now. Son Chris and his family live in the San Fernando Valley. (Kelly and Keara live around the corner from me).

There was a time, also, when I would have trekked out on Black Friday to find some wonderful discounts—but my bad knees and feet keep me from venturing very far. I will try to order as many gifts on the Internet as possible. Amazon.com knows when I am coming.

Now, let me back up to a time when I DID roast a turkey on Thanksgiving. I was a bride at the age of 18. I tried my best to make a decent Thanksgiving dinner but my then-husband found fault with every meal Holiday or not. “Potatoes didn’t have enough salt” he would say.

Then around in the mid-1960s we became friends with a Hungarian man and his wife who, along with her extended family, came from Missouri. We were invited to the wife’s family’s huge Thanksgiving dinner which included ham, turkey, a wide assortment of pies and cakes—all I was asked to bring were homemade biscuits. We enjoyed being a part of this family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t think I cooked another Thanksgiving dinner after that. (in the 1980s, when our marriage was on its last legs, my husband and I took marital counseling. Inevitably, the salt or lack of salt in my potatoes came up.

Our counselor was baffled. “Couldn’t you just add salt to the potatoes on your own plate?” she asked.

“That’s not the point my then-husband said, “Then how would she LEARN that the meal wasn’t well prepared?” I think our counselor saw the handwriting on the wall before I did. My husband dropped counseling. I continued for another seven months, trying to save something that HE, OBVIOUSLY, DIDN’T WANT TO SAVE.

Getting back to my brother’s text messages my brother Jim lamented when we were children how a huge dinner would be prepared on Thanksgiving. Sometimes we went to my grandmother’s for dinner, sometimes my grandmother came to our house. When we were very young, after a hearty meal, the adults would play cards while we children were given enough money for a movie and either a coke or popcorn (I think a quarter per child was usually enough for everything) – and I think our Uncle Al gave us each a quarter (we thought he was rich) and one of the adults took us to the West Hills Theatre where, hopefully, we would stay for hours.

I remember Thanksgiving dinners at both my mother’s and my grandmother’s homes, and I just barely remember being shuffled off to a movie theatre. When I was very young, there was a movie theater on Carl Street, walking distance from Grandma’s or our house on Sutter Street. The only movie I can remember seeing there was something called Johnny Belinda. I was too young to understand the plot.

I can just barely remember holiday dinners at my grandparent’s home on the second floor of their house on Baltimore Street where, after dinner, the adults played cards. I would try to fall asleep on a day bed in that room—hopefully where I would fall asleep and be allowed to spend the night.

Holiday events changed when my grandfather became ill and passed away on February 18, 1950. I was nine years old at the time.

My grandmother moved downstairs in two rooms at the front of the house; she rented out the two rooms at the back of the house and the entire second floor as well. (our Uncle John (Hans to the family) and his wife and sons lived in the rooms on the third floor.

We children went to grandma’s almost every school day for lunch. On Mondays after school, my sister Becky and her children as well as I would go to Grandma’s for dinner and I would spend the night with her. We were all terribly spoiled on good food – a combination of German and Hungarian. Whatever it was, we called it German food, not having any knowledge of the distinction between German and Hungarian cuisine. All we knew and maybe it wasn’t until later, was that my grandmother came from Germany and my grandfather from Hungary.

I continued having one night a week spent at my grandmother’s, all the way through high school. Regretfully, I married in December of 1958; my grandmother passed away about a year later. I didn’t see her before she died; my brother in law came to tell me and take me to good Samaritan Hospital but she had already passed away by the time we got there. Grandma’s recipes were never written down—she could barely write anything in English. I have tried to resurrect her wonderful strudel recipes but the exact recipes passed away with her.

My Aunt Evelyn (whom we called Aunt Dolly) learned Grandma’s recipes by standing by her and watching how grandma made everything. But those recipes died along with Aunt Dolly who passed away in 2012. My sister, Becky, managed to copy some of those recipes but there are precious few that have survived. Becky and I compiled a family cookbook and managed to get it published before Becky died in October of 2004.

We called it “Grandma’s Favorite” as a nod to our beloved grandmother who managed to make us all believe, growing up, that each one of us was Grandma’s favorite. It was not something ever spoken, but each of us knew that “I was grandma’s favorite”

We discovered this one day at my sister Becky’s house, all of us sitting around the kitchen table where we were discussing favorite memories and one of us spoke up an said “well, you know, I was grandma’s favorite”.

“Like heck you were,” someone disputed . “I was grandma’s favorite” and so on until everyone at the table had laid claim to being grandma’s favorite. (I didn’t enter the dispute, knowing only too well that I was really grandma’s favorite.

Years later my sister and I reflected on this wonderful gift our grandmother had given to all of us—and how we were endeavoring to be the same kind of grandmother to our grandchildren.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I began taking my two younger brothers Biff and Bill, downtown to do our Christmas shopping at the 5&10 cent stores. We also checked out the Santa Clauses in the department stores—you got a free candy cane by waiting in line to see Santa Claus. (We figured that we increased our chances of getting what we wanted for Christmas, if we stood in line to see all of Santa’s helpers. (We KNEW that the real Santa Claus was busy making toys in the North Pole).

After we completed our shopping for presents for our parents, grandparents and siblings, we took our gifts upstairs where we wrapped our presents in ironed-out gift wrap. I think my favorite gift, from my older brother Jim, was five brand new Nancy Drew mysteries. It was the start of a collection of books (from which I have never recovered).

Downtown Cincinnati was awash with all the decorated department store windows— and I remember going to see a “living nativity” – that I think was held in Garfield Park. I haven’t been downtown at Christmas time in many years. I wonder if any of my brothers have been downtown during the Christmas holidays—I don’t know the answer to that. –

Sandra Lee Smith

AUGUST 5, 1962 MARILYN MONROE WAS FOUND DEAD IN HER BEDROOM

August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom, face down, with a telephone in her hand.

It was on the front page of the L.A. Times. I was working at Household Finance at the time, taking buses to and from work. We had rented an apartment on Sarah Street in North Hollywood; it took me several buses trips, with transfers, to get to work or back home again. I decided to walk the last lap down Hollywood Boulevard, and there it was, in a newspaper rack, front page, Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn’s death had a profound effect on me; it was my first experience with the death of someone famous, who lived not far from where I worked in Hollywood.

I became acquainted with a coworker who began giving me trips to and from work—it didn’t occur to me to offer to pay her for it – I really was naïve about a lot of things when I was not yet twenty two years old. Friendships came and went in my early years of living in Southern California. In early 1963, I flew back to Cincinnati with Michael, when I became pregnant and wanted my own OB-GYN to take care of me, following a serious miscarriage in 1962. Jim followed a month later. I went back to the office where I was working, along with my sister in law, Dee, Williams Directory, before we went to California. I asked for my old job back – the manager asked when I could start. “Right now!” I said and was given a typewriter to work on. I worked until 2 weeks before Steve’s birth. Then I developed a blood clot in my right leg and was unable to do Anything for six weeks. A girlfriend came to help take care of me and Steve. My sister in law, two doors down, took care of Michael when Jim couldn’t.

Meanwhile, Jim worked briefly at a job and was laid off. One day I had $5 for baby food. We went to my mother’s and she gave us half of what was in her freezer. Then we went to my sister Becky’s, and she gave me half of everything in her pantry. I cried all the way home.

“I’m NOT going to live this way,” I told Jim on our way home. “We need to go back to California (where I knew he could find a job). Steve was born in August. In December we were driving across country over icy roads even on the expressway. It didn’t cross my mind that we were risking the lives of two young children—I had faith in Jim’s capability behind the wheel.

We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and both of us found jobs at Weber Aircraft. That’s where 1964 found us living and working.

I didn’t drive yet – a coworker at Weber Aircraft, a few years later, taught me how to drive on our lunch hours. It took me a few years to grasp that going to and from work on a bus wasn’t very easy to do. Once I had my driver’s license I began driving a 1956 Chevrolet that Jim had bought. I shook with fear every time I got behind the wheel of the car; I was a nervous Nellie for a long time. When I was taking my driver’s test with a DMV employee in the car with me, I shook with fear. He asked me what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said, “I’m just nervous about taking this test” – I think he passed me out of compassion for my fear.
This was one small segment of my life-of our lives–in the 1960s.

–Sandra Lee Smith

PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FAMILY

At almost any family get together, half a dozen or more people will be taking pictures—often of the same thing. Before the Internet and I-phones, it made sense to have a bunch of us taking the same pictures at the same time.

At the wedding of a great-niece last April (2016), I toted along two of my cameras—one a Canon rebel that uses film (yes, the real thing) and the canon Rebel digital that I had coveted for over a decade—I finally bought one for myself, figuring no one was ever going to buy it for me.

I was at my brother Bill’s for the weekend and as he looked over my camera, he said to his wife, “Su, this is the same camera we have” – “Well, GREAT!” I said, “you can take the pictures of the wedding party and I can be IN the pictures for a change!” So, that was what we did all weekend—at the wedding on Friday, then a get together with some classmates from St Leo’s class of 1954 on Saturday, as well as a family get-together, primarily nieces and nephews, at my nephew Scott’s Bar & Grill, Crosley’s, on Saturday afternoon. We also managed to get in more than a few pix of my great-niece, Olivia, my brother’s first granddaughter who was not yet a year old in April.

As it turned out, the canon that uses film used less than a roll of film; I am pretty much converted to the digital camera. And I owe my younger brother Bill such a huge thank you, for picking me up at the airport in Columbus, schlepping me all over the place, and then getting me back to the airport on Monday morning long before daylight.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the different cameras and all the photographs we have been taking, year in and year out. This started, for the Schmidt family, back when my parents, Viola and Pete Schmidt, were newly weds in 1935, sharing a Brownie camera. My parents were both avid photographers—for some reason I thought my mother was the chief photographer in the family until I realized that she is in so many of the pictures taken by my parents; my father isn’t IN many of those early pictures.

In the beginning, my mother mounted all those black and white brownie pictures in the men’s clothing albums that my paternal grandfather used to show potential customers. My Grandpa Schmidt was a tailor and made men’s suits. When new catalogs of suits came out, the old catalogs would have been discarded if not for my mother, who was an avid hoarder of paper, such as old envelopes, and she found a use for those catalogs of suits—she mounted the photographs they had developed onto the pages of those suits. I think it had as much to do with the depression and a scarcity of just about everything.

Then, after WW11 was over, she began tearing the photographs out of the suit catalogs, and mounting them in albums with customary black paper. Still, hundreds of photographs were packed into boxes and kept in my mother’s Hope Chest. She wouldn’t let me have any of the pictures.

When I was about thirteen and really getting “into” photography, I dug through my mother’s huge collection of negatives which were as large as the photographs, and having reprints made of any that I was in. It’s to my forever regret and sorrow that I didn’t just TAKE the negatives.

Years later, when a girlfriend and I were taking B&W photography classes one night a week at a community college, I realized that I could reprint all of those old negatives; I questioned our photo instructor about making reprints from old negatives. All I needed, he told me, was to fit the negative to a right size negative holder and the lab had an assortment of negative holder sizes. And I discovered that, due to the high silver content in those negatives, I could make sharp 8×10 reprints with very little adjustment.

I reprinted those that I HAD taken but knew my mother had hundreds that I had not taken. I called my mother one day to ask her what she had done with all those negatives. There was a silence on the line, then she said “Oh, Sandy, I think I burned all those before we moved to Florida” –I wanted to cry. it was incomprehensible – this woman who saved everything from empty lipstick tubes to the backs of envelopes, old pencils, rubber bands, and dozens of margarine tubs—did not keep those wonderful negatives.

So I did the next best thing; I asked family members to send me their old photographs, that I would return them unharmed, and I spent weeks setting up my tripod and with the help of a macro lens that took sharp close ups of the photographs, I re-created as many family pictures as I possibly could.

When I was a teenager, I put together my first photo album. By the time Jim* & I got married, I had created half a dozen photo albums.

(*Jim Smith & I got married in December, 1958. Divorced April, 1986)

For many years, my photography was limited to point-and-shoot cameras. When my dad died, my brother Jim suggested to our mother that I should have Dad’s Nikon camera that was still in a box. He told mom that I was the only person in the family who didn’t have a good camera.

Not long after this, my girlfriend Mandy suggested that the two of us take classes at Glendale Community College. God bless Mr. Liota, our teacher, he taught us so much about photography!

You can be sure that, in our family, many cameras will be busy snapping pictures—although now many of the pictures being taken are on I-phones.

As for me, I still have photographs printed and then mount them in my albums that I started buying in the 1970s. When I bought a house in the Antelope Valley in 2008, I converted the linen closet into a photo album closet. Makes sense to me – I don’t have a lot of towels and linens, but I do have a lot of photo albums!

–Sandra Lee Smith

THE JOY OF PENPALS IN 2016

My Very first penpal was a distant cousin that I met when my family visited hers in Detroit; I was 9 or 10 at the time. Pat & I became friends and exchanged addresses and corresponded for a while. My next penpal, I believe, was a Vietnamese girl who was attending high school in New York State. During my freshman year, teachers asked if we wanted to exchange addresses with girls attending the NY school. Anne’s family were political refugees–in the mid 50s! and sought sanctuary in the United States. We corresponded until after graduating from high school.

I don’t think I thought a lot about penpals for a few years, while getting married and becoming a mother I married in December of 19 58 and my first son Michael was born in September of 1960. . We moved to California in 1961 and I began corresponding with friends and family in Ohio.

I began subscribing to Women’s Circle in the mid 1960s. Specifically, I think I “discovered” WC in 1965. I think I began finding the magazine on the magazine racks of the supermarket where we shopped. Around that same time, I became interested in collecting cookbooks. Simultaneously, a friend of mine told me about a Culinary Arts Institute cookbook on Hungarian cuisine that she was searching for.

“I bet I know where we can find it!” I told her. I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle, asking for the cookbook, offering to pay cash. As an afterthought, I added that I was interested in buying/exchanging for old cookbooks, particularly club-and-church cookbooks. Little did I suspect what an avalanche of mail would fill my mailbox when my letter was published! I received over 250 letters. We purchased several of the Hungarian cookbooks and I began buying/trading for many other cookbooks which formed the nucleus of my cookbook collection. And I have to tell you something that I think was pretty spectacular—I was never “cheated” or short-changed by anyone. Even more spectacular were the friendships that I formed, as a result of that one letter, which still exist to this day.

One of the first letters I received was from another cookbook collector, a woman who lived in Michigan. Betsy and I—both young mothers at the time (now both grandmothers)—have remained pen-pals for over fifty years, while our children grew up, married, and had children of their own.

The first time I met Betsy and her husband, Jim, they drove from Michigan to Cincinnati, where I was visiting my parents, to pick up me and my children, so that we could spend a week visiting them in Michigan. A few years later, my friends repeated the gesture – driving hundreds of miles to Cincinnati to pick us up and then returning us to my parents a week or so later. On one of those trips, I took my younger sister Susie along with us and we all have fond memories of going blueberry picking at a berry farm. We visited the Kellogg factory and went to some of the flea markets where you could find hundreds of club-and-church cookbooks for as little as ten cents each (remember, this was the 1960s!). On one of those visits, I met Betsy’s British pen-pal, Margaret, who was also visiting. We had such a wonderful time together.

Around this same time, I responded to a letter written to “WOMEN’S CIRCLE” by an Australian woman (whose name I no longer can recall). She received such a flood of letters from the USA that she took them to her tennis club, spread them out and said “If anyone would like an American pen-friend, here you are!” A young woman named Eileen—who was, like myself, married to a man named Jim, and—like me—also had a son named Steven—chose my letter. We’ve been corresponding ever since. In 1980, when we were living in Florida, we met Eileen and Jim for the first time and from the time they got off the plane and walked up to us, it was just like greeting an old friend or relative. (We liked—and trusted—them so much that we lent them our camper to drive around the USA). When they reached Los Angeles, they contacted, and met, friends of ours who lived in the San Fernando Valley. About a year later, our friends from California were visiting us, when the best friends of my Aussie friends’ (who lived in London) contacted us in Miami and paid us a visit. The following year, when my California friends visited London, they paid a return visit to their new London acquaintances.

(I hope you have followed all of this). I think during those decades when penpals became fast and lasting friends with one another it was sort of like belonging to a particularly friendly club, whether you MET in person or not.

Another young woman who wrote to me (around 1974, we think) was a housewife/mother who lives near Salem, Oregon. She wrote in response to a letter that I had written to Tower Press, noting that we shared the same birthday. In 1978, my husband and children and I drove to Oregon in our camper, where we met my pen-pal and her family. I’ve lost count of the number of times they have visited us in California. And yes, we’re still penpals.

Another pen-pal acquired in the 1960s was my friend Penny, who lives in Oklahoma. We first visited Penny and her husband Charles and their three sons in 1971, on our way to Cincinnati for a summer vacation. We spent a night at Penny’s and were sent on our way the next morning with a bagful of her special chocolate chip cookies. What I remember most about that visit was my father’s reaction when we arrived in Cincinnati. He kept asking, “How do you know these people in Oklahoma?” (The concept of pen-pals was a foreign one to both my parents. I think they sometimes wondered what planet their middle daughter was from!)

Two other pen-pals were acquired when we moved to Florida. Lonesome and homesick, I wrote yet another letter to Women’s Circle, and mentioned my love of Christmas (and preparing for it all year long). One of these was a woman in Louisiana and the other was an elderly widowed lady who lived in my home state of Ohio. Years later, I think both ladies passed away and had no one to notify me.

Before everyone owned a computer and Internet services flooded the market – we had Prodigy. The concept of Prodigy, at that time, was to offer bulletin boards to which you could write, asking for friends, recipes, whatever. It was through Prodigy that I became acquainted with my friend Pat and her husband Stan. We met for the first time when Bob & I went to the L.A. County Fair one year. Pat & Stan came to visit us at our motel in Pomona; they lived in nearby Covina. Eventually, Prodigy would be overcome by AOL, Earthlink, Juno—and the dozens of other Internet services which have changed our lives so drastically. I think the one greatest thing about the Internet is that it has brought so many of our family members and friends back together again.

I don’t know when I acquired a penpal in Ithica, New York—a girlfriend named Lisa, who, at this time, still doesn’t have a computer and writes all handwritten letters to me. (sometimes I respond in pen and ink and sometimes I type letters).

In 2006, I acquired two Canadian penpal girlfriends—ten years later, our friendships are going strong, whether by handwritten letters, emails—or visits in person. One thing these two friends and I have done is provide names and phone numbers of family members—just in case one of us falls out of contact for whatever reason. These two friends are as near and dear to me as sisters but none of us are spring chickens anymore.

You would be surprised to know that writing letters is NOT a forgotten art—there are many of us alive and well and a handwritten letter is such a welcome sight in our mail boxes.

Sincerely Yours,

Sandra Lee Smith

BROWNIES…HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

BROWNIES…HOW DO I LOVE THEE?
LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!

I love thee made with walnuts
Or a cup of chocolate chips,
I love thee made with chocolate syrup
Or those toffee bits;
I love thee with a glass of milk
Or a cup of tea,
I love thee when you’re hot or cold;
It’s all agrees with me;
Brownies that are cake-like or
Brownies fudgy, dark and dense,
Flavored with vanilla too,
Makes a lot of sense;
Nobody knows from whence you came,
Or who was your creator
You’ve been around a hundred years,
And just keep getting better;
You’ve changed a lot since way back when
Though some parts are the same
But since you were invented,
Baking hasn’t been the same!
— Sandra Lee Smith

Brownies…I’ve been making them since I was about 10 years old. Who doesn’t love brownies?

Personally, I like my brownies best loaded with ingredients – chopped nuts, chocolate chips, some chopped up Hershey’s miniatures if I am out of chocolate chips, some dried cherries – I love it all. (If I am making brownies for my sons, I have to leave out the chopped nuts. They all LIKE nuts but not in their food. Go figure – they didn’t get that from me). I made a great discovery not long ago; I keep a candy jar filled with Hershey miniatures but the little Mr. Goodbars are always the last to get eaten – so one day when I was out of chocolate chips, I chopped up about a dozen little Mr.Goodbars and tossed them into the brownie batter. Oh, yum! For special occasions, my brownies are topped off with a dark chocolate glaze .

I have been working on my recipe file collection while watching the Olympic Coverage in Vancouver this month—if you clip recipes, chances are you stick them into a junk drawer and then forget about them. Well, I don’t stick the clippings into a drawer – but I collect them in a box, one of those fairly large boxes that reams of computer paper come in. The box is overflowing; when the Olympics roll around so I take it out, stock up on 3×5” or 4×6” file cards and buy a lot of Elmer’s glue—and start pasting the recipes onto cards. One of the fringe benefits of doing this – aside from watching all the Olympic events – is reading through recipes and setting aside interesting ones to try and maybe write about as well. I get a lot of inspiration this way. I knew I didn’t have enough recipe boxes for all the newly pasted cards so today we went to Michael’s and I bought 3 of those boxes designed to hold 4×6” photographs. They’re just the right size for 4×6” recipe cards too! (And the boxes were on sale, 3 for $5.00 – whoohoo!)

You may know that I collect recipe boxes – and love finding a “filled” recipe box (one filled with the previous owner’s recipe collection) but I don’t like to change anything about those collections, even if they have space to hold more recipe cards. I think I will have to go back on Ebay and search for some more small recipe boxes—meantime, I will be busy as long as the Olympics are on, pasting clippings onto cards.

So, today I have been setting aside brownie recipes even though I think my fudgy-wudgy brownie recipe, previously posted on my Blog, is about as good a brownie as you can make. But you may not care for a brownie that is more like candy than cake.

One of the things I love about brownies is that the ingredients are all pretty basic, generally what you would already have in your kitchen cupboard. But as much as we love our delicious brownies, the history of brownies is somewhat obscure. And although they are baked in a cake pan, we think of the brownie as a bar cookie. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes for brownies—just going through some recipe cards this afternoon I found about 40 brownie recipe cards. This doesn’t include all the brownie recipes in my cookie cookbooks. Just for the heck of it, I checked some of my earliest cookbooks—one of the first I owned was my mother’s copy of Meta Given’s Modern Family Cookbook first published in 1942, and as a wedding present I received a copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. Both provide basic Brownie recipes that are fairly similar. Also in my possession is one of the very FIRST Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks published in 1950. This is in slipcase and was one of a limited edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks presented to General Mills Employees. The father of a friend of mine worked at General Mills and received the cookbook, as did other employees. The point I want to make is that the brownie recipe in the 1950 edition is the same as the one published in a ring binder a decade later. **

There are a number of stories explaining the history of brownies–Extensive information about brownies can be found in my favorite cookbook author Jean Anderson’s 1997 “The American Century Cookbook”, and a little blurb of information is in John Mariani’s “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOOD & DRINK”. What is particularly intriguing is a paragraph in James Trager’s FOOD CHRONOLOGY which provides a timeline for food going back to prehistoric times. Trager’s comment on Brownies can be found on page 354, under the year 1897. He writes “The first known published recipe for brownies appears in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. Probably created when a careless cook failed to add baking power to a chocolate-cake batter; the dense, fudgy squares have been made for some time by housewives who received the recipe by word of mouth…”

But then a brownie recipe was published in the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is not as rich and chocolaty as the brownie we know today, using two squares of melted Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares. No one knows if Fanny Farmer obtained the recipe from another source and food historians will probably continue to debate the issue ad nauseum. As for Fannie Farmer! That’s another story I have been planning to share with you! Look for it in an upcoming post on my blog! She was a most interesting woman.

Jean Anderson refers to Lowney’s Cook Book, another cookbook in my collection, written by Maria Willet Howard and published by the Walter M. Lowney Company of Boston in 1907. Ms. Howard was a protégé of Ms. Farmer and added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe, creating a richer, more chocolaty brownie. For reasons only known to Ms. Howard, she called her recipe Bangor Brownies. Anderson also notes that Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics, published in 1979, credits Bangor Brownies as the original chocolate brownie—in any case, Lowney’s brownie recipe was richer and perhaps tastier. You can decide for yourself –

To make Bangor Brownies, you will need:

¼ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
½ to ¾ cup flour
1 cup nut meats

Put all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well mixed. Spread evenly in a greased baking pan. Bake and cut in strips.

To make Lowney’s Brownies, you will need

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 squares Lowney’s premium chocolate (use 2 squares of any unsweetened chocolate. I usually have a box of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares on my pantry shelf)
2 eggs
½ cup nutmeats
½ cup flour
¼ tsp salt

Cream butter; add remaining ingredients; spread on buttered sheets and bake 10 to 15 minutes. Cut in squares as soon as taken from the oven*.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: The above is typed as originally directed; most brownie recipes today suggest you let the pan cool completely before cutting the brownies into bars.
**
Jean Anderson also notes that in 1916, Maria Parloa, one of the founders of the Boston Cooking School, developed a number of recipes for Walter Baker & Company (of chocolate fame), with all the ingredients worked out by Fannie Farmer in level measurements* to meet the needs of the demands of the time;. (*Fannie Farmer is credited with being the originator of level measurements. Prior to her creating exact measurements, such as 3 teaspoons equal one tablespoon and 8 ounces equals one cup) – early cookbooks might call for “butter the size of a walnut” or “a tea cup” of flour. Before Fannie Farmer, measurements were terribly imprecise).

In any case, brownies became enormously popular—possibly because they were so easy to make with ingredients commonly found on any pantry shelf, and now we have brownies to suit everybody’s palate.

So, here are some of my favorite Brownie recipes. This first one is a recipe I have been making ever since my sons were little boys.

SAUCEPAN BROWNIES

To make saucepan brownies, you will need:

4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter or margarine (but don’t use a soft spread)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour

Grease a 9” square pan and dust with flour. Set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat. Remove from heat, add sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in walnuts. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Pour into prepared pan and bake in pre heated 350 degree oven about 50 minutes. Cool thoroughly in pan on wire rack before cutting into 16 squares. Store, covered, in a cool place.

This next recipe has been in my files for so many years, I no longer remember where I found it. One bone of contention – her name is misspelled in the original printed recipe. MOST people misspelled her name. It was KATHARINE with an “A” not an “E”. The recipe is great.

KATHARINE HEPBURN’S BROWNIES

To make Katharine Hepburn’s brownies, you will need:

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
¼ lb sweet butter*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add
Eggs and vanilla and beat like mad. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well. Pour into a buttered 8×8” pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and then cut into 1 ½” squares. NOTE: Because the recipe calls for only ¼ cup flour rather than ½ or ¾ cup most brownie recipes call for, these brownies have a wonderful pudding-like texture.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: ¼ pound = 1 stick of butter. I assume sweet butter means unsalted. Also, Hepburn’s brownies are similar in preparation to saucepan brownies which translates into less cleanup in the kitchen.

Baker’s Chocolate One-Bowl Brownie Recipe, prepped in the microwave, only requires a bowl and a baking pan – and something to stir with. Another easy recipe. To make

BAKER’S CHOCOLATE ONE-BOWL BROWNIES, you will need:

4 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

Microwave chocolate and margarine in a large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and nuts. Spread in greased 13×9” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (DO NOT OVERBAKE). Cool. Makes 24.

*Rangetop: Stirring constantly, melt chocolate and margarine in a 3 quart saucepan over very low heat. To make CAKELIKE brownies, stir in ½ cup milk with the eggs and vanilla. Use 1 ½ cups flour.

The following cookie recipe is my friend Mary Jaynne’s signature dessert dish, often requested by friends and family. WE request it when there is a cookie exchange.

To make MJs Meltaway Brownies, you will need:

1 package brownie mix
½ cup each coconut and walnuts

Prepare brownies according to package directions, adding coconut and walnuts. Bake and cool thoroughly. To make 1st topping you will need:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 TBSP milk

Mix together powdered sugar, margarine or butter, and vanilla. Add milk a little at a time until spreading consistency. Frost brownies and refrigerate until firm.

To make 2nd topping you will need

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 TBSP margarine

Heat chocolate and margarine to melt. Pour over frosted brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate until cool and firm.
**

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES.

To make peanut butter brownies you will need:

¾ cup shortening
¾ cup peanut butter
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips*
¾ cup chopped peanuts

In mixing bowl, cream shortening and peanut butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts. Spread into a greased 15x10x1” baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen.

*Sandy’s cooknote: For a more intense peanut butter taste, try substituting peanut butter chips for the semisweet chocolate chips—or use half and half, ¾ cup of peanut butter chips, ¾ cup of chocolate chips.

To make Hershey’s Syrup Snacking Brownies, you will need:

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup Hershey’s syrup
4 eggs
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 cup Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9x2” baking pan. Beat butter and eggs in large bowl; add chocolate syrup, eggs and flour; beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minute o until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes about 36 brownies.

To make BROWNIE MACAROONIES you will need:

Bar:
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa

Topping:
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
8 ounce package (2 2/3 cups) coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 15×10” jelly roll pan. Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add flour and cocoa to sugar mixture and mix well. Spread in prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and coconut. Spread over batter, spreading evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until coconut topping is lightly browned. Makes 48 bars.

Philly Marble Brownies also starts out with a box of brownie mix but dresses it up for special occasions.

To make Philly Marble Brownies, you will need:

1 pkg (21 ½ oz) brownie mix
1 pkg Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Prepare brownie mix as directed on package. Spread batter in greased 13×9” pan. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Blend in egg. Pour over brownie batter; cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect. Sprinkle with chips. Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned. Cool n pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. Makes 2 dozen.

There is one more brownie recipe I want to share with you—and I admit, I haven’t tried making these yet, but I WILL very soon. I found this while working on my recipe collection and was intrigued by the addition of a particular ingredient – PEPPER!
To make Black Pepper Brownies, you will need:

¾ cup butter or margarine*, softened
1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp EACH: instant coffee, black pepper, and vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
4 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ cup flour
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped coarse

In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, coffee, pepper, vanilla and salt; beat until well blended, scraping bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each only until incorporated. Slowly beat in chocolate, then flour, scraping bowl and beating only until blended. Stir in nuts. Turn into greased foil-lined 9” square pan; smooth top. Bake in lower third of preheated 375 degree oven 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out only barely moist. Remove from oven; cool in pan 15 minutes; remove from pan. Peel off foil; cool completely on rack. Chill slightly before cutting into 32 small brownies or 16 cake squares.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: I almost always bake with real butter. If you are using margarine always make sure it is a solid stick good for baking. The soft spreads won’t work and I am telling you this from personal experience. Also want to mention, the previous recipe is the only one that requires using a foil-lined pan but I always make my brownies in foil lined pans. It’s so much easier to remove them from the pan and then cut into nice tidy squares.

Happy Cooking!

*this was previously posted on my blog–I accidentally came across the recipe today and thought it would make good reading in 2016!

THE BEST OF THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

You know, I am constantly trying new or different chocolate chip cookies and I have read about my quest on my blog. Not long ago I found the following recipe & decided IT is the best yet.

I have gotten in the habit of putting all the dry ingredients together—I line up the flour and other dry ingredients and put them through the sifter, then set it aside.(and I put away those ingredients so that I know I am finished with them. You may say well, duh, who doesn’t do that but I am well into my 70s and it’s a reminder for me.)

I have the room temperature butter and eggs set aside with the two kinds of sugar and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla. The chocolate chips and, if I am adding them– finely chopped walnuts or pecans are set aside to go in last. I am now ready to prepare the cookie dough.

To make these cookies you will need the following ingredients:

2¾ cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder ( yes, both baking soda and baking powder)
1 tsp cinnamon (this wasn’t in the original recipe; I added it).

Put all of these ingredients in your sifter in the order given so you will have a good distribution of the ingredients. Sift and set aside.

You will need 2 ½ sticks of unsweetened butter, softened to room temperature
1 ¾ cups dark brown sugar*
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 tsp real vanilla extract (I have learned over time to use good authentic vanilla extract)

*if you can’t find dark brown sugar, use the regular golden light brown sugar. for some reason I was unable to find dark brown for several months. When I did find it, I loaded up the grocery cart.

Beat the butter until it is well blended, then begin adding the dark brown sugar, then the granulated sugar. Next add the eggs, one at a time until blended. Lastly, add the vanilla. Now you begin adding the flour, usually about a cup at a time, until all the flour has been incorporated. Now remove the bowl from your electric mixer.

You will need to hand mix in the final ingredients.

When all the flour is mixed into the wet ingredients, stir in the chocolate chips. OK, the recipe says 2 cups of chips. I add a lot of chocolate chips (the good semi-sweet chocolate chips. I probably double the amount of chips to the recipe. If I am adding chopped pecans, I generally bake about half of the chocolate chip dough and then add the chopped pecans, because my family loves just plain chocolate chip cookies & they aren’t about to change their taste buds any time soon. I add pecans when the cookies are for the women I bowl with or anyone else who likes pecans.

Bake the cookies on parchment paper in a preheated 350 degree oven. If I am not in a hurry, I will do one tray at a time, 6 cookies to a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. I use a scoop that is the equivalent of two tablespoons, leveled. I bake the cookies for 5 minutes, then turn the tray around for another 5 minutes. If I am baking two trays of cookie dough at a time, I switch the trays, top to lower and front to back, for another five minutes of baking==in which case, you need to adjust the two racks as best fits your oven.

BEST thing you can do is bake a couple test cookies to see what works best for your oven. I have a very old 1940s stove that I love. and just so you know, I can still burn a tray of cookies, if I forget to set the timer–this usually happens around the end of the cookie baking when I start to clean up my baking materials. I have been doing this since my sons were young boys, so it has nothing to do with AGE, just a matter of paying attention to what I am doing.

I have been baking cookies once a week for the ladies I bowl with–they like them so much that when the league ended at the end of the year, the ladies gave me a big basket filled with flour, butter, chocolate chips, baking powder, 4 pounds of granulated sugar, 2 pounds of brown sugar, a bottle of vanilla extract–everything you need to make chocolate chip cookies! (how SWEET was THAT?)

I like to buy new cookie sheets about every 2 or 3 years but if you line the cookie sheets with parchment paper, the cookie sheets will last a lot longer. Just saying!

Sandra Smith aka the cookie lady