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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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.





Old Enmities, New Violence

13 07 2010

There was violence in the streets in Belfast yesterday. It was the same old grievances being acted upon by a new generation of fighters. I just don’t get it.

As a small child, I remember watching the news as Ireland and North Ireland fought bitterly on the screen. It really upset me because the place where the fighting was going on didn’t look very “foreign” to me. The buildings and homes looked just like areas of the city in which I lived at the time. The people didn’t look very “foreign” either with their jeans and sweatshirts and baseball caps and sneakers. I asked my grandmother why they were fighting and she tried to explain the split between Protestants and Catholics and how two groups who were so similar could hate each other so much and for so long. She did a pretty good job, but that didn’t make the fighting any more sensible to me. I must have been being a pain because my grandmother finally looked at me and said “Every little boy and girl in the world is born the same. No one is better or worse than anyone else. Those people weren’t taught that.” I remember that so well I can almost hear and see her saying it.
Time marches on – I’m now an adult, or should be anyway, with a great interest in world events and foreign policy and my grandmother has been gone for several years now, but this conflict makes no more sense to me now than it did all those years ago in the kitchen of our small, old house. It’s so senseless and it’s been going on as long as I’ve been alive and for ages before that. There are plenty of conflicts that are older than me – Israel/Palestine springs immediately to mind – but, while I find it hard to justify any of them, this one strikes a particular chord with me. I’ve read about it and talked about it and learned about for years, but at the end of the day, I’m just as confused and disgusted as I was when I was following my grandmother around our kitchen peppering her with an endless stream of questions.

There are some articles from the BBC here, here, here, here, and here. I’m sure there will be a statement made by someone of governmental importance and I’ll update with that once I find it.