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.

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My Quest for Books…

18 03 2010

… is unending and increasingly difficult. Allow me to explain.

I like books NOBODY reads.

Life would be so much more simple if I enjoyed those ever-present romance novels with the half-naked, kilt-clad, long-haired men on the cover, but by and large, I’m not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I’ll pick one up, but I really have to be in the mood for a paper-thin plot and gratuitous euphemisms for body parts. I prefer more substantive reading – philosophy, biographies – most of them international political figures and even more of them liberal in ideology, and fiction thats plot can’t be summed up in diagrams. This all sounds easy enough to find and it was until I decided to complicate my life by reading in Italian and French. I’ve studied French, though not very seriously, for many years and I have a reasonable amount of skill with Italian – mostly thanks to my study of music but I did take some classes. If, and given my current financial status that is a huge if, I ever have the slightest hope of furthering my educational goals by studying for my Master’s and possibly even contemplating a Ph. D in my chosen field of music history, I have to be able to read and understand German, French, and/or Italian. Teaching myself German – the written language and grammar as well as the spoken word – seems like too much to ask, so I’ve decided to continue with what trained teachers have started. I have always been better at reading than writing and worlds better at both of those than I am at speaking, so this task is not as hard as it sounds. I had talked about my musically based goals with Tony Amato, the artistic director of the Amato Opera Company, before it closed and he suggested that, before spending a bunch of money to relearn things I have already been taught, I should buy a few books – even if I have to start with children’s books – in Italian and French and read them. He said that, at the very least, I would be able to better gauge my skill level so I didn’t sign up for the wrong class. That all sounds great, but there’s one problem with this blissfully simple plan – where do you find books in the US that aren’t in English, Spanish, or Japanese?
English and Spanish are spoken everywhere and Japanese is “the cool language” to study, (Yes, I have heard it described that way.) but finding books written in French and more so with those in Italian – even on Amazon.com – is a lesson in patience coupled with a dose of luck. Once you find them, they’re also expensive which is no fun. Amazon.fr (French Amazon) is well-stocked and has good prices, but shipping costs are kind of high since it’s an international order and it takes a while. I found one site – IBS.it – that specializes in Italian books, but it’s expensive and also an international order. In short, this is proving harder than I’d first anticipated. That’s why my quest is now a blog post. I figured that if anyone happens to read this, maybe that someone might be able to point me in the direction of some livres and romanzi. Let me know if you have a possible source.

I’ll also see if there are any well-stocked international bookstore in Manhattan that carry French and Italian contemporary fiction – my quarry of choice. I can think of three Japanese bookstores, but none that stock any western european languages other than Spanish which, as I mentioned before, is everywhere. I would love a trip to the city and books are as good an excuse as any.