Category Archives: KITCHEN TALK

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 KITCHEN DIARIES

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

Then I became interested in recipe boxes when I found an old, green, wooden recipe box in Ventura, California, at an antique store. It was packed with the former owner’s collection of recipes. I was so intrigued by this type of collection – what I think of as a kitchen diary – that I began a diligent search for filled recipe boxes. These are just about as scarce and hard to find as handwritten cookbooks. Often, you can find recipe boxes – in thrift stores or antique shops – but they are usually empty. I think the storekeepers don’t imagine anyone would be interested in the contents, which are often scrappy little pieces of paper, recipes clipped from the back of a bag of macaroni or flour, recipes written on a piece of envelope, – but over the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve managed to find quite a few of these filled recipe boxes. One time my niece, who lives in Palm Springs, found three of them for me at a yard sale; it helps that so many people know about my fascination with old, filled recipe boxes. Another time, a girlfriend of mine was telling me about helping a friend of hers clear out her mother’s apartment, after her mother had passed away. “Oh,” I said “Ask your friend if her mother had any recipe boxes”. She did – and I got it. She also had, and gave to me, several cookbook autographed by cookbook author Mike Roy, with whom her mother had been acquainted. On yet another occasion, I was given half a dozen filled recipe boxes that had belonged to the aunt of a woman I worked with.

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted 4/2011

APRONS

The following was written–and posted–in 2011; since then I have added more full size aprons to my collection and aprons are just as hot four years later as they were in 2011.

A few years ago, a girlfriend and I were in an antique store when I came across a “vintage” bib apron, perhaps 1940s, – and fell in love.
“Could you make something like this for me?” I asked my girlfriend, who sews (I don’t sew. I cook. We can’t all do everything!)

She said she could, and she did–and now I have three of these big aprons, with big roomy pockets and I am seldom without one.
I found myself re-discovering aprons and wondering why, when you watch the chefs on the Food Network – none of them ever wears an apron! (I have ruined many a blouse or dress from cooking sans an apron–but these days you’ll seldom find me without one).

The aprons of my childhood bring to mind the voluminous ones worn by my Grandma Schmidt, who was as round as she was tall. Her dresses reached her ankles and her aprons were equally long and wide with huge pockets. I discovered, a few years ago, how handy aprons with pockets are when you go out to check the tomatoes in the garden and find yourself with handfuls of ripe tomatoes and no basket to put them into. The apron pockets work well. I also fill the pockets with clothespins when I am hanging linens or sheets on the clothesline. (Yes, some of us do still hang things on the line-but that’s another story).

Years ago, people didn’t have wardrobes the size of ours, today–and aprons, which could be easily washed, protected good dresses which might not have all been washable (never mind that everything had to be ironed too–perma-press hadn’t been invented yet) . I think the only times I ever saw Grandma without an apron were when she was going downtown (plus hat, dressy shoes, her handbag, and stockings) or to church. My mother also wore aprons but most of the ones in which she was photographed, were the half-size aprons. I, myself, need a bib apron because the spills and splashes usually land somewhere on my chest.

Aprons have a respectably long history, too – the earliest mention of an apron is in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve discovered they were naked and fashioned aprons from fig leaves. In the middle ages aprons became especially well known, as European craftsmen wore aprons as part of their everyday garments–old paintings of blacksmiths invariably picture them wearing a big old leather apron of some kind. I remember, as a child, the big white (well, originally it was white) aprons worn by the butcher in the butcher shops where my grandma went to buy a chicken or a cut of beef. There are also aprons used by carpenters which have many pockets to hold necessary tools. (hmmm, I think I would like to have one like that).

The apron worn in the kitchen was a fixture for more than a century, until the late 1970s–when it seems to have disappeared from our culinary landscape. Perhaps it has something to do with the perfect housewife image portrayed by the fifties–you know, “Father knows Best” and mother is always pictured wearing an apron with a wooden spatula in one hand, standing over the stove (Shades of Ozzie and Harriet?) Then women became liberated and burned not only their bras but also their aprons.

I always had a few aprons but they had been relegated to a seldom used linen drawer. Now, I have aprons within easy reach on several hangers on doors in the kitchen and I am not in the least embarrassed to be seen wearing one. (Some of them are really quite stylish, I think – and I love the pockets. Along with clothespins and Kleenex, I am usually carrying around my cell phone and digital camera).

For Christmas, my penpal/friend/and computer guru, Wendy, sent me two wonderful very retro looking aprons. Then my penpal Bev brought me a neat apron that she bought on a recent trip to Alaska – it has chocolate moose all over the print – and the her daughter brought me a new very-valentine-ish apron when she visited. Four new aprons in one year…can life get any better than this?

And not long ago I discovered a really great website dedicated to aprons after it was written about in the Los Angeles Times. Everything old is new again! I love it.

I am still mystified, however – how do all those people on the Food Network manage to cook entire meals (without wearing an apron) and without getting any of it on themselves?

If you Google “aprons” you will find a whole lot more websites devoted to this topic!

Happy cooking!

Sandy

WOK PRESENCE – OR LEAVING YOUR THUMPRINT

I presented this to my readers a couple years ago–while I am trying to figure out how to find some things, I have been repeating myself here and there, with apologies.

WOK PRESENCE – OR LEAVING YOUR THUMPRINT
Culinary Alchemy
or
THE COOK’S THUMBPRINT

For maybe over five years—maybe more like seven or eight now–I have been searching for a quote – a particular food quote. I KNOW you will forgive me for rehashing this topic once again but one of these days SOMEBODY is going to know the exact quote.

I searched high and low and far and wide, somewhat under the impression that it was something that perhaps M.F.K. Fisher or Elizabeth David had written. Needless to say I didn’t find it in either of their books that I have on my shelves. I searched through three books of food related quotes and did an extensive search on Google without having any success.

What the quote related to is the name of that “thing” – the subtle changes that occur when cooks trained in the same kitchen making the same dish, following the same recipe–end up with different results.

Also got to thinking one day as I was watching “Chopped” on the Food Network – that what they are doing is a take-off on this quote I am searching for. On Chopped, the contestants are given 3 or 4 of the same ingredients and in a specific amount of time (sometimes only 20 minutes!), have to create a dish–appetizer or an entrée or a dessert. They present their dish to the judges who decide which dish is the best and one contestant at a time is “chopped” or eliminated from the competition until finally one chef is declared the winner.

You all are probably familiar with this show so perhaps I am unnecessarily digressing. But what they are actually doing is WOK PRESENCE.

I accidentally found a quote while searching for something else. It was something Karen Hess wrote about in her outstanding book “THE CAROLINA RICE KITCHEN….THE AFRICAN CONNECTION”. Ms. Hess was referring specifically to African American women who, during the times of slavery, left their thumbprint on everything they cooked. They were a part of the south but they brought with them African influences which eventually changed the palate of southerners. Ms. Hess writes that the Chinese have a name for this, those subtle changes, and they call it Wok Presence.

(*I wrote an article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange years ago, titled “OUR AFRICAN HERITAGE” which appeared in the Feb/March 1996 issue of the CCE – which was how I was led to The Carolina Rice Connection by Ms. Hess).

Another cookbook author, Rosa Lewis, had a somewhat different take on the same concept and wrote, “Some people’s food always tastes better than others, even if they are cooking the same dish at the same dinner. Now I will tell you why–because one person has more life in them–more fire, more vitality, more guts–than others. A person without these things can never make food taste right, no matter what materials you give them, it is not use Turn in the whole cow full of cream instead of milk, and all the fresh butter and ingredients in the world, and still the cooking will taste dull and flabby–just because they have nothing in themselves to give. You have got to throw feeling into cooking.” – and no, this is not the quote I have been looking for.

I have been aware of these subtle changes for most of my adult life. It’s why a recipe can be published in a cookbook with exact directions and measurements and my results may not be the same as your results. And there may be a dozen reasons why not.

In the early 1980s, when I was living in Florida, I became even more acutely aware of this difference as I tried to share some favorite recipes with my next door neighbor. She would come crying to me “My cookies burn! They don’t turn out like yours!” – I was baffled – after all, it was the famous Toll House cookie recipe on the back of every package of Nestle’s semi sweet morsels. How could it be different? I went over to her house to watch her bake the cookies and discovered that she would put two cookie trays, side by side – wedged in really, on a rack. The air couldn’t flow; the bottoms of the cookies burned.

I have been a great proponent, ever since, for baking two trays of cookies on two separate racks and switching them, top to bottom, bottom to top half way through baking to assure even baking, so the hot air circulates. And when I am baking and time is not an issue, I bake one tray of cookies at a time. I have a very old stove so I pamper it a lot.

But “Wok Presence” can affect us in many other different ways. For instance – a girlfriend of mine says my ranch dressing tastes better than hers. I discovered she uses Kraft Miracle Whip salad dressing. I use Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman’s if you are East of the Mississippi). Another time I discovered that a friend used a Polish Kolbasz for the Hungarian Layered potato recipe. You really need Hungarian Kolbasz to make an authentic Hungarian Layered potato casserole. That’s not to say that your dish won’t taste good. It just won’t taste AS good. It’s like – the difference you will get if you use margarine instead of real butter in a recipe. It will be ok. It just won’t be great.

Wok presence can be affected by the type of baking pans you use and the length of time something, such as a drop cookie, remains in the oven. I had this girlfriend at work who made such wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I asked her what the secret was. She replied that she under- baked the cookies; she would take them out of the oven a few minutes early and let them stand on the cookie sheet on a counter until they were cool enough to remove.
Such a small change but it made the difference between soft and chewy – and crisp.

I adopted her under baking rule with most butter cut out cookies that I make – when they are brown around the edges yet firm enough – I take them out and let them stand on the cookie sheets for a while before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. And cookie sheets! The kind of cookie sheets you use can make all the difference in the world with your finished product. Now I replace cookie sheets every few years – and I use parchment paper on all of them, all of the time. It works better than the aluminum foil I used on the cookie sheets for years.

The more I think about this – the more certain I am that someone else, a famous cookbook author (and I am still leaning heavily towards Elizabeth David) said that the FRENCH have a name for it, those subtle differences that take place when two chefs – cook the same recipe, with the same ingredients – but each will turn out differently. There is a NAME for this and I am going crazy trying to pin it down.

My curiosity was piqued when someone sent me a food section from the San Jose Mercury News, published in September, 1994. The story was written by Kathie Jenkins of the Los Angeles Times, whose name I recognized. Jenkins opens the article, titled “IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THE RECIPE” by relating the story of a lady whose hobby is trying recipes until she finds the perfect one. In her quest for the perfect crab cake, this cook tried many different versions including several provided by notable cookbook authors. “They were soggy little balls of yuck,” she reported. “Even my husband wouldn’t touch them, which is really amazing. They were too disgusting.”

All of this came as no surprise, Jenkins reports, “to the owner of the Cook’s Library, Los Angeles’ only all-cookbook shop. “More than half the books in my store have at least one recipe that doesn’t work” reported the storeowner.

And John Taylor, who owns a culinary bookstore in South Carolina and is the author of “Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking” observed that, if he only sold books where the recipes worked, he wouldn’t have any books on his shelves.

The trouble is, writes Kathie Jenkins, that recipe testing is nearly always left to authors who must do it or pay for it. “For cookbook authors,” Jenkins notes, “slaving over a test kitchen stove can pay big dividends. The most popular personalities can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Added to this are revenues from product endorsements, consultant fees, sponsorships, television shows, and video cassettes.”
Or,” she continues, “in the case of style czarina Martha Stewart, your very own magazine. She started out as a Connecticut caterer, wrote the book, “Entertaining,” and parlayed that into a reported $2 million empire – plus a stream of royalties from television shows, videos, CDs and all those Martha Stewart products sold at Kmart…”

Jenkins notes that a famous name is no guarantee that the recipes work, however. Hoppin’ John Taylor commented, “Nobody in their right mind buys a Martha Stewart Book for a recipe. They buy them for her ideas and great pictures. If a recipe works in a Martha Stewart book, it’s somebody else’s.”
In defense of Martha Stewart and apologies to any Martha Stewart fans, a spokesperson for Martha Stewart commented, “That quote sounds like somebody in the cookbook business who wrote a book and it didn’t sell. I think those are just sour grapes.”

Whether it’s sour grapes or not, I’ll leave that for all of you to decide. What is relevant to the subject at hand is that cookbook publishers have no test kitchens. Most newspapers don’t either and consequently, they can’t test every recipe they print from a cookbook. Most recipes are printed as they appear in cookbooks or from wire services. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Times does have a test kitchen and a staff to cook in it. All of the recipes in the “Best of the Best” cookbooks published by Quail Ridge Press are pre-tested. You can generally expect a well-prepared Junior League cookbook to have tested recipes and they will often tell you so in their book by thanking the committee of testers who worked on the recipes (sometimes testing recipes three or four times). Jenkins notes that, unlike newspapers, which can correct a recipe the following week, if necessary, cookbook publishers can’t correct even the mistakes they’ll admit to, short of a recall or waiting until the next printing. And while cookbook publishers claim to care about accuracy in recipes, Jenkins notes, most are unwilling to spend the money to make sure the recipes actually work. In a standard publishing contract, the responsibility of recipe testing is left up to the writers.

Added to the mistakes that may be made somewhere between the writing of the cookbook and its publication, there is another important element to all of this. It translates to the difference between the kitchen of the cookbook author and the kitchen of the person who purchased the cookbook.

Author Paul Reidinger has written, “But the curious truth about recipes is that they often produce dramatically different results in different hands in different kitchens. Many times over the years I’ve told interested parties how I roast my chickens and make my salsa, and I am always convinced that my methods are simple and bulletproof – until I am advised that somebody else used one of my recipes exactly and still ended up with a mess. These admonishments remind me that recipes are only partly science; following a recipe is not like solving a quadratic equation. There is play involved, wiggle room, variance, uncertainty, and the person in charge has to know how to adjust.”

It’s also fairly well known that famed cookbook author Elizabeth David disliked giving exact measurements in her recipes. John Thorne, editor of a cooking newsletter called Simple Cooking, in writing about Elizabeth David, commented, “This – although contemporary food writers (or at least their editors) consider it (i.e., David’s distaste for exact measurements) an inexplicable even reader-hostile failing – expresses a direct truth. The responsibility for a dish must finally lie not with the writer but with the cook. Too much instruction muddles the reality of his responsibility. Cookbooks cannot hold hands; their task is to make the reader think. In Elizabeth David’s books, reader and writer face this fact across the page….”

And, not to run this subject to the ground, there are so many variables when it comes to cooking. The cookbook author’s oven is probably not the same as yours (and do you even know if your oven temperature is completely accurate? Have you ever tested it with an oven thermometer?). Are you using the right size pan? You are probably not using the same kind of flour or baking powder as the cookbook author used. Most recipes don’t specifically state what brand of flour is used, and a lot of people are unaware that baking powder has a limited shelf life. The same goes for spices and herbs. A lot of people don’t know that herbs and spices should be stored in a cool place, away from the stove. I was horrified to see, in a nationally circulated, well- known magazine, the photograph of a kitchen with a spice rack built right over the stove. I wrote to them to complain – that’s the worst place to put a spice rack. They did not respond to my letter. If your herbs and spices have been languishing on a shelf near the stove for a year or two, chances are they’ll have very little potency. That could affect your recipe.

Recently, my granddaughter Savannah and I flew to Sioux Falls South Dakota where we spent a week visiting my son and his wife. One day I baked chocolate chip cookies for him. I used a Silpat sheet on the cookie sheet (at home I use parchment paper) and within a day they were rock-hard even though I under baked them. Another day I baked two cakes – one a chocolate cake, from a mix, in a Bundt pan. The other cake was an angel food cake in a new pan that did NOT come out of the Teflon coated pan easily. I covered my mistakes with chocolate glaze. I have no explanation for the difficulties I encountered using their kitchen—I would blame it on the stove but it’s a very expensive stove that they bought only a year ago. I don’t think Sioux Falls is at any elevation different from Ohio (correct me if I’m wrong). The chocolate cake did not rise as much as it should have. I felt like a failure even though I recognize that the problem was not having my own kitchen to bake in.

Consequently, the skill and expertise of the cook is an important factor to the outcome of recipes. And what do you blame it on if it’s a recipe you have been baking in your home for over forty years? I would undoubtedly be a disaster in one of those Pillsbury Bake-Off kitchens.

But, as Kathie Jenkins reported in her newspaper article, there are a lot of bad recipes that have appeared in cookbooks. The test crew at the Los Angeles Times did a lot of research on their own and discovered there were some real losers (including two lemon pies from Martha Stewart’s “Pies and Tarts” cookbook). Says Jenkins, “Many of the reportedly faulty recipes not only worked but tasted wonderful. One award-winning cookbook author griped that he could never get Rose Levy Beranbaum’s genoise to work. We did. Another complained of far too much chile oil in the spicy soba noodles in Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s ‘City Cuisine’. The noodles were delicious. And Marion Cunningham’s gingerbread did not run all over the oven the way one authority claimed it would.”

“So many things,” Jenkins notes, “affect how well a recipe works—equipment, weather, ingredients, personal taste. So what’s a cookbook author to do? Vigilance and thorough working knowledge of one’s recipes are probably the best insurance..”

Jenkins comment on weather struck a chord. When we lived in Florida for three years, I discovered that some of my favorite recipes were simply impossible to make. The Stained Glass Window cookies simply dripped all the “stained glass” after a day or two and when I couldn’t get melted sugar to set up for the kids’ graham cracker houses, I put them into the oven thinking they would dry out. I set the oven on fire. You simply couldn’t make any kind of meringue cookie, due to the humidity–and I discovered that the beet sugar in Florida was much grainier than the Hawaiian sugar cane sugar we were so accustomed to using. For about two years, I had a girlfriend shipping me bags of C&H sugar from California. (This is probably not a major problem for someone who has central air conditioning in their home but that was a luxury we didn’t have, at the time. I was so happy when we moved back to
California where—despite the intense heat of summers—we seldom have humidity to deal with.

“Good cooking”, wrote Yuan Mei, “does not depend on whether the dish is large or small, expensive or economical. If one has the art, then a piece of celery or salted cabbage can be made into a marvelous delicacy whereas if one has not the art, not all the greatest delicate rarities of land, sea or sky are of any avail.”

Since wok presence is boiled down to leaving your thumbprint – it seems logical to share a thumbprint cookie recipe with you:

Cranberry thumbprints (From the LA TIMES COOKIE CONTEST)

Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Note: Adapted from a recipe by Kim Gerber.

Cranberry jam

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 (10-ounce) package frozen cranberries

1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons corn starch

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together one-fourth cup of water, the sugar and orange zest. Stir in the cranberries and cinnamon stick and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of water with the cornstarch to form a slurry. Thoroughly stir the slurry in with the cranberry mixture and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. This makes a scant 1½ cups jam, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The jam will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Cookies and assembly

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup coarse raw sugar (for rolling)

About 3/4 cup cranberry jam

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat pastry flour and the all-purpose flour, along with the flax meal and salt.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the orange zest and juice. Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined to form a dough.

3. Roll about 1½ teaspoons of dough into balls. Roll each ball in the raw sugar, then place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2½ inches apart. Press an indentation into the center of each ball using your thumb or finger.

4. Refrigerate the sheets until the dough is hardened, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake each sheet of cookies for 7 minutes. Remove each sheet, and quickly re-press the indentation in the center of each cookie using the handle of a wooden spoon. Continue baking the cookies until set and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on wire racks.

6. To assemble the cookies, place a small dollop (about one-half teaspoon) of the jam in the indentation of each cookie. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies, if desired, before serving.

Each of 6 dozen cookies: 62 calories; 1 gram protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 5 grams sugar; 13 mg sodium.

Happy Cooking & Happy cookbook collecting! – Sandy

MORE COOKIE RECIPES FROM THE COOKIE LADY–OATMEAL COOKIES ANYONE?

I’ve been going through my files looking for cookie recipes that I want to share with my Canadian penpals–and there are loads of files – five boxes of cookie recipes in recipe boxes alone; about 15 3-ring binders of cookie recipes going back to 1958 when I got married; I didn’t have cookbooks except for one Betty Crocker cookbook that was a wedding present–I began that year cutting out the Christmas recipes that were in the 1958 women’s magazines. Plus a lot of cookie cookbooks! So, I am trying to share–starting with some oatmeal cookie recipes; there may be as many oatmeal cookie recipes as there are brownie recipes!

To make Outstanding Oatmeal cookies, you will need:

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened (make sure its a solid stick margarine, like Imperial – those spreads have a high water content)
1 egg
2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup M&Ms plain chocolate candies
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut, if desired
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix brown sugar, margarine or butter. vanilla an egg in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsfull about 2″ apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Press 3 or 4 more dandies into each cookie, if desired. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly; remove to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies **

OLD FASHTIONED OATMEAL COOKIES – to make these cookies you will need:
2 1/2 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening (shortening is something like Crisco, a solid type of shortening)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1/2 cup = 1 stick butter, softened, or 1 stick solid margarine, such as Imperial)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (or else lightly grease two cookie sheets)
In a bowl combine oats, flour, walnuts, baking soda, salt & cinnamon. set aside.
In mixer bowl cream shortening, butter or margarine and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. gradually beat in dry ingredients just until combined. Drop by level tablespoons 2″ apart on prepared cookie sheets. bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen.
**

Just a couple suggestions–if you are serious about making cookies and you don’t want to spend all that money on oats, nuts, eggs, etc and not have really nice cookies to show for it, buy parchment paper – I see it every where now. Stock up on it. Also invest in a set of measuring spoons–get a nice stainless set of spoons; they’ll last forever. I bought the long handled type which makes it easier to measure baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon.

When you buy walnuts or pecans (or any kind of nuts for that matter) – take them out of the bags they came in as soon as you get home with them and pour each kind of nuts into glass quart jars–or Tupperware containers–but the main thing is–refrigerate them until you are ready to bake something. Refrigerated walnuts or pecans–or any other kind of nut–have a much longer “shelf” life if kept in the frig. Where I live there is a Trader Joes that always stocks fresh nuts. We also have a store called Smart & Final which carries large quantities of baking ingredients. I like buying molasses in a gallon container (and transfer a pint or so into a glass container) and large quantities of real vanilla extract. Costco and Sam’s Club also carry large sizes of baking ingredients. It’s a good investment .

Another thing I really like are new baking sheets–I like to replace them about once a year but I do a lot of baking. Around Christmas time, a lot of stores–even Penney’s and Kohl’s carry nice new baking sheets and other baking equipment like muffin pans. (and watch for the sales at all of these stores–a few years ago I bought a Wilton chocolate melting pot–and got it for 40% off. My daughter in law was so impressed that she and her sister also bought chocolate pots on sale at Michael’s. Watch for their sale coupons in the mail! They also carry parchment paper.

If you use just parchment paper on your cookie sheets, the cookie sheets will last for a much longer time. And shiny cookie sheets bake much nicer cookies. You can re-use the parchment paper–maybe about half a dozen times or more.

I apologize if this is too much information but these are tips that I learned the hard way by myself over many years. We were pretty poor most of the years my sons were growing up and I didn’t always have the money to invest in new baking sheets. Just saying….

if you are serious about baking, be serious about your equipment. And electric mixers? Get a good one! – I bought a bright red Sunbeam mixer when I retired; I also have a bright blue Kitchen Aid mixer that I get out when I start the heavy duty baking but its too big and bulky for my every day kitchen. I am also serious about sturdy different sized spatulas–I think I have half a dozen in different sizes.

Just one more suggestion—when you buy oatmeal, flour, chocolate chips, various ingredients–I store them in other containers–mostly Tupperware from decades ago–and when you are stocking flour–put a bay leaf into the container. It’s a trick I learned from my mother; flour, cornmeal–any pantry item that can get buggy–WON’T if you have a bay leaf or two in the container with it. A few years ago I bought several large tubs from Walmart after Christmas one year when they are on sale—I keep a lot of pantry supplies in those tubs–particularly cake mixes–and pantry items that won’t fit in my small pantry.

Feel free to write to me if you have any questions–I began working on these cookie recipes because I have a lot of nieces (and some nephews)–as well as friends– who are serious about baking.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Another Recipe from the Cookie Lady

I didn’t get very far with my last post about cookie recipes–and when I am having a baking marathon, like baking cookies for Christmas, or making up batches of cookie dough for ice box cookie recipes or other ways to keep cookie dough chilled or refrigerated–I spend hours going through my cookie recipe collections. Oftentimes, I fall back on tried & true recipes –like my favorite recipe for butter cutout cookies. Either last year or the year before, I wasn’t able to use up all the butter cutout cookie dough. That might have been around early 2014 when I became sick and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks with kidney failure. Anyway, some months later when I was back on my own (my son Steve flew to California to take care of me for the month of March)–I found a double batch of White Christmas cookie dough at the bottom of the freezer. So, one day, I took it out and defrosted the dough–and I began baking cookies with it. I might have used the dough to make Easter cookies. So, why would I play around with any other cutout cookie dough recipe when I KNOW that White Christmas cookie dough is better than any other cutout cookie I have ever found. And admittedly, I bake some cookies year in and year out because a family member or a friend likes them–it makes a great gift to give someone their favorite cookies. I have been making cookies to give to friends and family members as far back as I can remember. I remember when we were living on Terra Bella Street in Arleta in the early 70s – my girlfriend Doreen and I would make up batches of cookie dough independently but when it got close to Christmas, we’d start baking cookies, together – her house or mine – batch after batch, dividing them up between the two of us—baking at night, when her kids and mine were asleep and we were free to focus on cookie baking. She lived around the corner from me and we were in and out of each other’s homes all the time. But baking cookies together is a fond memory. We were such good friends that she and her husband were my son Chris’ godparents at the church we both attended. so I can’t close without sharing my White Christmas cookie recipe with you: To make White Christmas cookies you will need: 1 cup butter 2 cups granulated sugar 4 large eggs 4 cups flour–sifted with 1/8 tsp each nutmeg and cinnamon Cream butter (softened beforehand) gradually adding sugar and beating with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Store overnight in a covered container overnight (or longer in the refrigerator). Roll dough very thin (I like doing this between two sheets of wax paper that has been dusted with flour) and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Cool on cookie sheets a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks. This makes a lot of cookies – how many depends on the size of the cookie cutters but you should get 8 or 10 dozen cookies. Store in tight fitting containers (old Tupperware containers are my favorite for storage) and when it gets closer to Christmas, start decorating cookies–OR you can brush a little egg white onto unbaked cookies and then sprinkle them with holiday sprinkles (Hundreds & Thousands in Canada) – and your cookies will be already decorated and ready to hide from the family until Christmas gets here. Christmas cookie recipes in June! Am I nuts or what? –Sandra Lee Smith

PLAYING RESTAURANT

As a child growing up in the 1940s, there were five children(including myself) and two adults to be fed. My mother baked bread in large turkey roasting pans twice a week and that supplemented our meals. She once told me she had ten dollars a week to spend on groceries during that period of time and for the most part, meals were repeated every two weeks or so. It is baffling to me that there were ever left overs–we were always a hungry bunch of kids – unless whatever was cooking on the stove was something one of us didn’t like. I didn’t like rice or cabbage but mostly I loathed Hasenpferrer–stewed rabbit that had been soaking for 3 days in vinegar and spices. The rabbit was one my father killed going hunting once a year. Once, when I was a very young child, I saw my father clean the rabbit in the kitchen sink. I dreaded supper anytime I came home and smelled that sickening sweet-and-sour mixture cooking on the stove. I wasn’t as clever as my brother Bill who would go to Aunt Dolly’s after school (not far from his school) and would call home to find out what was for dinner. If it was something he didn’t like, he would morosely hang around until Aunt Dolly would say “Billy, would you like to stay for dinner?” Of course he would! Aunt Dolly was a fabulous cook. It wasn’t until I was an adult and living in California that I had an enormous realization–it wasn’t the cabbage or the rice that I hated — it was the way my mother cooked things; cabbage would go on the stove at 9 am for supper at 6 pm. It was always a slimy mess. Rice, which we had with stewed chicken on a Sunday, was a sticky ball of goo. (Billy says he LIKED that kind of rice) I had to be introduced to Rice Pilaf and other great rice dishes to understand that my dislikes were due not to the food itself but to the way my mother cooked them. (and I think THAT was because she cooked the way HER mother cooked and food out of a can was cooked for an hour to be on the safe side and protect you from botulism).

Well, that was us in the 1940s and going into the 1950s. If there was ANY amount of a leftover item–even a tablespoonful – it would go into small covered dishes and into the frig. (I think aluminum foil was unavailable during the War. All we had to wrap anything in was wax paper. Mom never threw out anything.

Well, from around the time I was about 9 or 10 years old, I looked after my younger brothers all the time. In the summertime, when mom was working, I had to figure out what we could eat for lunch–and playing restaurant was born. I would dig through the refrigerator for any kind of leftovers and write everything down on a “menu”. Then Biff and Bill could choose their lunch which I would reheat and serve. Voila! no more leftovers and the next day I would have to come up with something different – unless we had more leftovers from the night before. It was just something that I dreamed up to make leftovers an interesting game for my siblings. And you know–I never resented or disliked looking after my younger brothers–they were just my brothers to look after.

Sandra Lee Smith