Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On Gingerbread and One Humped Camels

My how things have changed.

According to the Food Timeline, gingerbread has been around for centuries, but has shifted and changed with the times, as most things do. 

For example, in the 1930s it was credited with saving marriages.

All Alice had to do was buy a little black satin number and make the dessert her questionably devoted husband enjoyed as a boy in his plantation home. Whoosh! All lustful thoughts of Bonbon Betty Thornton fly out the window!

Here's another happy couple thanking Brer Rabbit for their marital bliss.

The creepy bunny seems to have pulled the kids in too.

Rabbits are not the only animals to be associated with molasses, and therefore, with gingerbread.

Enter the dromedary. 

And not just ANY one humped camel. This one is an angelic dromedary who talks to pictures of the mothers of dead presidents.

Good old George just can't resist Momma Washington's gingerbread.

Apparently Queen Elizabeth  liked gingerbread men, which eventually increased their popularity, and changed the recipe. This waving gingie interested me because of the mysterious holes in his hands:

Why does he have holes in his hands?

Gingerbread houses appeared on the scene after Hansel and Gretel were popularized. What child wouldn't love a book with a cover like this:

(Night terrors anyone?)

Here's a version that I might really try:

It's made from the real stuff rather than the cardboard slabs of "gingerbread" bought in a kit at Le Boutique Big Box. 

Humans could actually consume it.

And that brings us to today. Or at least, to 2006, when the world's largest gingerbread house was constructed.

I brought a plus-sized roll of Pillsbury Gingerbread Cookie dough the other day, with no plans for what to do with it. Maybe I'll create a mini replica. I think Brer Rabbit, the Dromedary, and the Doughboy would all be proud.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hot Gazpacho à la Alice B. Toklas

I've been reading The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book which I bought a few months ago at an estate sale. I thought the title sounded familiar, but had no idea what I was actually buying.

The book is a fascinating memoir about Alice's life as friend, lover, and aide-de-camp to Gertrude Stein. Each chapter centers around a set of their adventures, transporting medical supplies during war time, wrangling persnickety vehicles named Aunt Pauline and Godiva, and traveling here and there around the Continent and elsewhere. All the stories conclude with a description of a meal they ate on these travels, along with a recipe or two.

There are many interesting things about the book. Alice always refers to her companion as "Gertrude Stein", never as merely Gertrude. Use of punctuation is spotty. Questions are often ended with periods rather than question marks. Recipes are introduced in the middle of sentences. Names like Picasso are dropped in the midst of stories about friends and acquaintances.

I'm not sure how many of the recipes I'll include in this blog. It tends not to be my style of cooking. Most of it is very French, both literally and by my own use of the term, meaning: multi-stepped and fussy. But I did want to include this passage on gazpacho. It concludes a chapter on variations of this cold soup, and was added as a sort of epilogue. She writes:
Senora Marta Brunet, a distinguished Chilean writer, is of Spanish or rather Catalan descent and she describes gazpacho as a meal of the Spanish muleteers. And meal it seems, in this version, rather than soup. These muleteers, she says, carry with them on their journeyings a flat earthenware dish--and garlic, olive, oil, tomatoes and cucumbers, also dry bread which they crumble. Between two stones by the wayside they grind the garlic with a little salt and then add the oil. This mixture is rubbed all round the inside of the earthenware vessel. Then they slice the tomatoes and cucumbers and put alternating layers of each in the dish, interspersing the layers with layers of breadcrumbs and topping off the four tiers with more breadcrubms and more oil. This done and prepared, they take a wet cloth, wrap it round the dish and leave it in a sunny place. The evaporation cooks the contents and when the cloth is dry the meal is ready. Too simple, my dear Watson.
Now I don't claim to be a scientist of any kind. Brain or otherwise. But my understanding of the evaporation process is that it cools, rather than heats. A quick googling confirmed that, and led me to an interesting link about a self-cooling Spanish clay water vessel called a Botijo.

So that leaves me wondering if the word "cooks" in the passage was a typo inflicted during the publishing process, or if Alice simply got the story wrong.

Interesting, no?

This little book is a priceless window into a particular era, social milieu, and personality. Definitely worth the read.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Food Poems for National Poetry Day

A few years ago, Saveur Magazine published a story called A Feast for Bards: 13 Favorite Food Poems, which opened by saying: "Scratch a poet, find a gourmand. Every aspect of gastronomy, from planting to harvest to cooking to eating, has inspired poets for centuries; poets are sensualists, and these are among life's most sensual experiences."

My lovely wife concurs, and she's been dying to get me to publish some of my poems, a number of which center around food.

Here's one for openers:

If you'd like to read a few more poems in this style, written under my nom de plume Chantelle Franc, you can check them out by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Subliminal Bananas for a Better Finale

"Nothing is smarter, nothing more pleasing, than a fruit finale to a meal."
Clearly he agrees.

She, however, cannot bring herself to meet his gaze:

This disquiets me, and makes me wonder if an even more pleasing finale might be needed.

Might the downturned bananas be a subliminal message for hubby?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Viva le Hot Dog!

Cookbook Love loves hot dogs!

And so does Cutco. And so does their illustrator, Frank Marcello. Just look at this fine fellow fencing, confident in his meat selection:

Why he's parried and thrust her burger nearly down to the handle!

Consider his form. And his jaunty shirt. Wish I could find curtains in that fabric.

But on to the recipe:

Check out the loooong arm of this Pisan!

I like that Frank Marcello put the leaning tower in the picture, as a play on "pizza". But he must not have read the recipe because it includes no bun, and his illustration includes no bacon.

Which is a major violation: BACON MUST BE RESPECTED.

Or maybe he was on to something. After all, putting the canino in a bun after grilling would make it more pizza-like.

I guess Frank knows franks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pies of Intimidating Beauty

In the spring I wrote a HuffPost Food piece titled 8 Crusts to Cure Your Fear of Pie-ing because so many of us are intimidated by pie crust. My premise is that pretty doesn't really matter. But then I saw these.

Sigh. Now I'm intimidated again.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Toast! Photocopy style.

Check out this darling, yellow and yellowing paperback for kids, published by...


I love finding children's cookbooks because they take me back to my own childhood, and the books given to me as gifts. The ones I had contained recipes for things like handmade soft pretzels, ants on a log, and tuna boats.

This little guy came out a little later than the ones in my mom's kitchen. Look at the cuteness:

It is copyrighted 1972, and was given as a gift three years later.

Instead of handmade pretzels, ants on a log, and tuna boats, this book contains deviled eggs, pomanders, and Miracle Pie.

More importantly, it has multiple recipes for toast. Three to be exact, and none of them made in the toaster. Here are two, in case you are hungry. Something sweet, and something savory.

Now I'm off to Google why XEROX published a cookbook for kids.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Coffee 2 ways

Here are two recipes for coffee from Meals for Small Families. The second one is both fascinating and revolting.

For 1 person:
2 tablespoonfuls ground coffee
1 cup cold water

Mix the coffee and water together, cover closely and let stand all night. In the morning bring this to a boil and serve. When poured carefully it will be as clear as amber.

For a small pot:
1 cup ground coffee
1 egg and shell

This amount will make 3 pots for 3 successive mornings, by using one third and keeping the remainder closely covered. Take one-third of the mixture (the egg and coffee mixed together) and add 1/3 cup of water, mixing well; pour into coffee pot and add 1 pint boiling water. Let the coffee boil 3 minutes. Remove from fire and keep hot on stove for 5 minutes (not boiling) and serve.

Canning as art?

Canning as art form! And I can't manage to make a batch of refrigerator pickles.