Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cookbook find

At a used bookstore I promise I'll take Heather to next time she's here, I found a real treasure. The American Woman's Cook Book with a green frosted vinyl style cover, published in 1940. Eight hundred and fifteen pages of advice and recipes, with labeled thumb indents for each section.

As much as I'd love to, I won't quote from it extensively because you can download it yourself, kitschy pictures and all.

On the sticks: we won't even talk about it, since these sticks haven't clicked in some time.

In the glass: water as an antidote for the Brewer's Fest we were at yesterday. There is a chocolate vanilla beer from Montreal that I am going to hunt down next time we're there. Thick, rich, cold heaven in a glass.

Under the needle: Using up ribbon and scrap fabric for lanyards for our various sets of keys. I feel like I'm at summer camp, but they stitch up quickly and the colors are loud enough it should take real effort to misplace them. Or so I hope.

Pie update: Successfully made my mother's apple sheet pie for a big 4th of July celebration. A little bit of crushed cereal sprinkled on the bottom crust soaks up the juice nicely, and the pieces can be picked up in your hand for easy eating. Pie Fest 2008 planning is in the works! A friend I've known for more than half my life, is moving to Portland, OR at the end of the summer. We'll be having a pieluck dinner in his honor.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Baking therapy

On an average day, I find myself juggling (despite my childless, apartmented existence) a handful of issues that blur the lines between work and not-work. I can't tell anymore what's my baggage, and what's someone else's baggage dumped in my lap. Whether it's family, friends or coworkers, it aaalll adds up. Good jugglers make it seem like their hands just graze objects that are inherently airborne. I am not always a good juggler, sometimes treating issues like they were mosquitos, cream pies, or rotten tomatoes.

Generally, there's some kind of crash, and serious readjustment has to be scheduled. In this rural state where town is two streets, and the weather isn't always conducive to going out to play, I resort to complex kitchen behavior. It wears me out, but if I want to banish annoyances from my mind, AND there's good food when I'm done, it's just fine.

Bless a fresh hot roll from the oven with a pat of butter tucked into it. Bless my grandmother for her bread machine that makes that (and two dozen other rolls) possible with only 10 minutes of actual work on my part. No one cares whether your dough was kneaded by hand or by machine when you pull rolls out of their oven from being rewarmed. They decide to invite you over again very soon, they roll their eyes heavenward, they remember their own grandmothers.

Thanks be for the solid thump of a maple rolling pin as it lands. Picked up at an antique shop for a song by my mother, and oiled and babied by my father before it came to me at Christmas. It's sturdy and can cowboy up to wrangle pie dough like nobody's business. It sets a good example that I try to live up to...

Digital schmigital. I prefer my chicken timer and its little anticipatory ticks, like soft chicken clucks. Its ring sounds very much like the old rotary telephone at my folk's house when I was a kid. I have a digital timer, but it's more bossy than helpful, and gets used during lunch break to let me know when it's time to put my book down and walk back up the hill to work. My chicken sits on my stove top and does her thing in a most comforting manner.

Chicken pot pie... roasted chicken and vegetables, creamy gravy and a sour cream pie crust baked in my big cast iron skillet. The recipe from Cook's Illustrated is the best I've ever tried. When I am feeling pretty darn sorry for myself, this pot pie makes it all okay - both the labor and the eating of it.

I don't know how Steve feels about the general frenzy of flour and potholders in our teeny kitchen. I know he eats the outcomes quite happily. He is kind enough to go back to the store when I do something smart like pour half baked pumpkin pie all over the kitchen floor, and he often cuts butter into flour for pie crust or biscuits. His skills at "disposing of" baked goods that are cosmetically challenged are unparalleled. There is nothing quite like the impromptu (and sympathetic) sous chef.