November 18, 2008

Cooking Without Looking?

I think I owned about 3 cookbooks in the first 15 years of my cooking life.
~A 1940's Betty Crocker handed down from my mum, splattered and stained, lots of her notations.
~A community cookbook my dad got me for Christmas one year,with a handwritten inscription. The recipes aren't that great, but I grew up around the knees of lots of the women who submitted the recipes so it is a very special book.
~A slim soft cover that was a wedding shower gift from Grama Pearl, along with her own gravy ladle. She indicated that if I would learn to make good gravy Rob would never stray. I never make gravy and he is still here, my talents must lie in other directions.

Then in the early 80's I quit smoking and suddenly food tasted wonderful..imagine the concept! So I took more interest in cooking and started picking up cookbooks, both new and used. I generally had one or two cookbooks for my bedside reading, so many are fun to just thumb through. I've been working toward downsizing for a number of years now so just have a short shelf of specials left rather than an entire bookcase full. The following are a few of my favorites, some just for reading, some for really using.

Anita Stewart's Country Inn Cookbook - Truly Authentic Canadian Recipes. I purchased this book on a trip to Victoria, BC and it's a favorite for several reasons. #1, if I were to write a cookbook this is the format I would like to see the publisher use. On the right of the recipe ingredients are the US weights and measures, in the center are the ingredients and on the left are the metric measurements. Very clean and easy to read. #2, the recipes all come from the Innkeepers at Bed and Breakfasts. This is a fairly common concept now, but Anita did a great job of creating clear and interesting visual images of the Inns and their owners. And the recipes are good too!

Another Canadian entry and favorite is one Rob picked up when working in Canada, Vicki Gabereau's Cooking Without Looking. This has become the key description of my cooking, usually followed by the words, "well, if it's smokin' it's cooking, if it's black it's done".

A fun read is The White House Family Cookbook by White House Executive Chef Henry Haller. Chef Haller served at the White House through the administration of 5 presidents, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Could there be 5 more different families in the world? Lots of photos and each presidency is written in 5 parts, the first 4 are actual family meal recipes and the 5th part consists of Meals of State.

A beautiful little book and reflection of my love of tea pots and all things tea is Having Tea, by Catherine Calvert. The photos are exquisite and the recipes are well written; using this book always makes me feel like I'm being good to myself. A well used recipe is Mrs. Foley's Shortbread Squares, although I mess with the recipe and add vanilla and almond.

A cookbook that contains my favorite cornbread recipe is A Thousand Ways To Please A Husband with Bettina's Best Recipes, by Weaver and LeCron. This is a 1932 book and follows the courtship and marriage of Bettina and Bob...absolutely charming period piece.

Some other carefully read favorites are from the 1800's. An American Family Cook Book by "a Boston Housekeeper" published 1865 gives this recipe:
Fried Toasts--cut the crumb of a twopenny loaf into round or oblong pieces, nearly one inch thick, and soak them for four or five hours in a pint of cream, mixed with three well-beaten eggs, half a pint of white wine, a little grated nutmeg, and sweetened with pounded loaf sugar. Fry them in butter, till of a light brown color, and serve with wine and sugar sauce. Now doesn't that sound better than boring old French Toast? Antique cookbooks often exhort us to 'build a strong fire'; and 'boil the carrots for four hours until tender'.

Scanners and printers
White cats with big blue eyes
zippers and elastic


Anonymous said...

Love the carrot cooking time. But are there the requisite number of rumpus in the kitchen? How did I miss these?

Numismatist Facts said...

Grama Pearl's philosophy was great, but I'm with you. Never made gravy in my life and at age 54 don't intend to start now! My son-in-law knows how so he is the designated gravy-maker at family dinners.

Two cookbooks in my cupboard, Better Homes and Gardens and Betty Crocker. Rarely used. I do have a folder with various recipes that have been cut out over the years.

As you can tell, cooking is not my specialty.

Sharyn said...

RumpusMaximus...believe me! ((elle)) come home!!

GRACE said...

if not the gravy then must be the mashed potatoes, right? LOL

Pieceful Afternoon said...

That must have been some stout bread. But it does sound good.

My favorite recipe in an old cookbook was for boiled lettuce - in the Crisco cookbook my cousin had. Boil head lettuce for 1/2 hour - drain and dress with 2 Tablespoons of Crisco. We nearly laughed ourselves silly one night taking turns reading the recipes that were supposed to be good for us - from the inventors of Crisco. Another was to spread Crisco "abundandtly" over the top of macaroni and cheese before baking.