Kitchen Archeology – No, This Is NOT About Cleaning My Fridge!

11 08 2010

While hunting for lost recipes my mother sort of remembers writing down twenty years ago, I made a discovery – a tattered old cookbook that was printed in 1882. It has no cover and is really in poor shape. It was way in the back of a drawer in my kitchen and probably hadn’t seen daylight in a dozen years or so. Even reading it is interesting. It really shows what kind of effect 118 years has on a language. It is for that reason that I’ve chosen to share one of its more interesting recipes with you. It is taken, exactly as written, from Successful Housekeeper: A Manuel of Universal Application.

Cottage Beer

Take a peck of good wheat bran and put it into ten gallons of water with three handfuls of good hops, and boil the whole together until the bran and hops sink to the bottom. Then strain it through a hair sieve or a thin cloth into a cooler, and when it is about lukewarm add two quarts of molasses. As soon as the molasses is melted, pour the whole into a ten-gallon cask, with two tablespoonfuls of yeast. When the fermentation has subsided, bung up the cask, and in four days it will be fit to use.

Now, I’m not going to start a micro-brewery in my garage or anything, but I’ll admit the thought did cross my mind briefly. If anyone does try this, let me know how it is.





Family History On a Plate

8 08 2010

Last November my cousin got married and I made her wedding cake, which was actually a collection of gluten-free red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing. This recipe like so many others is on a small card stuffed in a cookbook in my mother’s kitchen. The chances of it getting lost are high and there are plenty of other recipes that my mother and I love and use often that are old, raggedy looking, and in similar random locations just waiting to be misplaced or used as scrap paper by my father who wouldn’t recognize a recipe if it jumped up and did a tap dance on the counter. There are some fragile ones that are decades old and written in my grandmother’s handwriting. She passed away a few years ago and I would be very upset if these old, brittle bits of yesteryear finally crumbled while in my possession. Others are locked securely in recesses of my mother’s mind. I once searched my house for over an hour trying to find her apple pie recipe only to have her tell me that it had never been written down to begin with. We have some beautiful cookbooks that I’d rather not see spattered with oil and stuff because they got in the way when I was making something delicious and messy. In short, this situation has to change.

With this in mind, and because my unemployment gives me nothing but time, I’m copying down all of the favorites old and new and making two archives of them – one for me and one for my mother. It will make sharing them easier and I’m sure my aunts will have a few to add to our collection. This will also give me a chance to make some of my favorite foods for no reason which is always good. I’m always pulling new recipes off the internet and now they won’t end up in some corner of a drawer never to be seen again.

Essentially, I’m writing my own cookbook.





A Brief Note on the Great American Wedding

1 08 2010

In case you’ve been hiding in a cave or lost at sea all week, I’ll fill you in. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former president Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, got married yesterday to her longtime boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, in Rhinebeck, NY and the whole country is talking about it. The total cost, which designer’s gown the bride would be wearing, and the guest list were sources of speculation for weeks and nearly everyone from style columnists to world news organizations to blogs devoted to the possibility of a “Hillary 2012” presidential run all had something to say about the event. Rhinebeck took all of the hullabaloo in stride and seemed to throw a party of its own in honor of the bride and groom.

In the end, the ceremony was not as opulent or star-studded as some had claimed. The bride wore a gown by Vera Wang. Her mother’s dress was by Oscar de la Renta. Chelsea’s 92-year-old grandmother, seen in the background of the photo above with her daughter, the Secretary of State, also looked great and earns a mention for no other reason than she is the bride’s grandmother and must have been very happy for her. Actually, aside from a few notables like Ted Danson and Madeleine Albright, the guests were unknown to the general public – family, friends, and co-workers of the bride and groom. No Oprah. No big political donors. No random stars. This was not about the bride’s famous parents. This was, as a wedding ought to be, about the bride and groom and everyone looked thrilled for them except one person at one moment. Walking his only child down the aisle, the former president vaguely resembled a man being lead to a firing squad, but I think that’s par for the course for fathers of brides. In this article from the New York Post, the Secretary of State/Mother of the Bride made some comments on this very thing.

“You should assume that if he makes it down the aisle in one piece it’s a major accomplishment,” Hillary Clinton said of her husband in comments to NBC broadcast Monday from Pakistan.
“He is going to be so emotional, as am I, but we’re both looking forward to it and very happy about it,” she said.

Mission accomplished, Mr. President.

Weddings are always optimistic affairs. They’re full of hope for the future regardless of who’s getting married. I think the national fascination with the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding is actually good for the Great American Psyche particularly now in the midst of a miserable recession, two long, costly wars, and millions of other more personal problems for those that were paying attention to the news for details of the marriage of two young people in Rhinebeck. The pre-wedding rumors were fairly innocuous considering what has been said about the Clintons over the past twenty years or so. It was mostly about the cost of the event and which rich and famous people would be there. The media coverage was pretty mainstream as opposed to photographers trying to climb fences or repel down from trees – generally a bad idea when the Secret Service is on patrol. Several photos and a statement were released promptly by the family following the ceremony to give the country its fix so those in attendance could party the night away in relative peace. This is that statement which I took from here.

“Today we watched with great pride and overwhelming emotion as Chelsea and Marc wed in a beautiful ceremony at Astor Courts, surrounded by family and their close friends,” the Clintons said in a statement. “We could not have asked for a more perfect day to celebrate the beginning of their life together, and we are so happy to welcome Marc into our family.”

Everyone seemed to respect the views of everyone else. The people of Rhinebeck made a sizable deal out of playing host to what some are calling the wedding of the year but, in the end, they left the family and other guests as alone as they are ever allowed to be. The media didn’t invade Astor Courts , the wedding venue, and the Clintons and Mezvinskys understood and accepted the curiosity of a generally well-intentioned public. The day was beautiful and everything went well and all that’s left to say is congratulations and best wishes to the bride, groom, and their newly-united family.