Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Nobody forgot that Easter, not even with therapy...

Happy Easter to all and to all a good chocolate bunny!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Full Worm Moon

March brings with it a moon of many names, including one of the strangest on the calendar. March is the month of the Full Worm Moon, so named for the fact that earthworms reappear as the ground begins to thaw and the returning robins that feed on them are a herald of spring. Northern Native American tribes called March’s full moon the Full Crow Moon, seeing the cawing of the crows as a sign of winter’s end or sometimes the Full Crust Moon for the crusting-over of the snow that occurs from thawing and re-freezing. It is also sometimes called the Full Sap Moon for the rising sap in maple trees or the Lenten Moon. Regardless of its name, March’s full moon is often considered the last full moon of winter and a welcome sign of spring’s arrival.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Soup of the Evening

The middle of March is here and that means it’s time for another dive into the gastro-catastrophe known as the Gourmet Cookbook Volume II…or what I’ve come to call The Crazy Stuff People will Eat. Yes, that’s right, a look at all that’s unfit to serve – or at least strange to our modern eyes from the venerable 1957 cookbook that catered to the crustiest of the uppers. Today we’re dishing out a tureen of soup. Soup, the innocuous meal starter, soup the partner of nuts in describing all that could possibly be contained in a hardware store, soup the cheap mealtime companion of sandwiches across the continent and (so far as I know) beyond.

I’m actually a little excited about the soup section of the cookbook. I enjoy cooking and lately Kelly and I have been on a bit of a soup tear, working our way through another cookbook that goes by the unassuming title of The Ultimate Soup Bible (I’m actively seeking The Penultimate Soup Bible, but so far no luck). Most of the heathen soups that are found in Gourmet’s cookbook don’t appear in the soup bible. It’s as if the Gourmet chapter is mostly composed of soup Canaanites, prone to worshiping the golden soup calf or something. Then again, if you look at some of the recopies it’s pretty obvious why they’ve fallen out of favor. The modern palate isn’t ready for an Easter soup of lamb heart and lung, okra chowder, or jellied wine consume. Take the following example…

I have to admit that I can’t look at the name of this soup without thinking of Rose Marie who played Sally on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Definitely not an image that piques the appetite. If you can get past the name, though, the idea of sorrel combined with cream of tomato soup isn’t unappealing. We just finished a cream of tomato soup that had a nice, spicy flavor and adding the sharpness of something like common sorrel wouldn’t be bad. Maybe I’ll have to rename this one and try it this summer when tomatoes are in season. 

The second soup that caught my attention was Senate Bean Soup, described in Gourmet as follows…

I checked the US Senate website and it contains the same recipe along with a little bit of history. Not surprising that the Senate would have its own soup – they can make soup out of just about anything. I guess it’s even less surprising that their soup would be filled with beans…

All in all, organ meats and poor period photography aside, this wasn't a bad chapter. I've made a few of the soups featured in Gourmet from other recipe books and had good luck and they provide an extensive stock and soup starter section that is missing from many modern cookbooks. I'll keep you up to date on any of the Gourmet recipes we decide to try.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's wishing everyone a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hors d'Oeuvres

I grew up in a very blue collar household, a meat and potatoes household where a term like hors d’oeuvres would have been as out of place as a soufflé. In fact, I think learning the world hors d’oeuvres was part of my introduction to the idea that a larger world lay somewhere beyond the confines of my small suburban home. It sounded exotic, mysterious, and propelled me into what has become one of my many hobbies.

The literal translation of hors d’oeuvres is “outside of the work”, a term that doesn’t sound like it has much to do with cooking until you consider it references the small dishes served before or “outside of” (hors) a meal (the oeuvres).  The French claim hors d’oeuvres but they borrowed the concept from the early Greeks and Romans. In ancient times, wealthy Athenians would offer their guests an array of small dishes to begin a meal. These most usually contained containing garlic, fish and other morsels meant to enhance the meal to come. Similarly, the Romans began their extravagant banquets with sausages, eggs, shellfish, vegetables, herbs and olives.

Volume 2 of the Gourmet Cookbook elects to discard all this history and background, sticking to the remark that “even the most modestly situated French family will begin luncheon with hors d’oeuvre…” Perhaps the Greeks and Romans were too swarthy for the waspy 1957 sensibilities of the time. After all, only a dozen years before the US had been embroiled in a war in which Italy was an enemy. The omission seems odd when the authors decided to go back to biblical times in their search for wine quotes.

When I think back on my childhood (mind you, that was in the late 60’s and early 70’s), I can’t remember a single person who served hors d’oeuvres. I remember a lot of chips, bean dip, and eventually salsa, but no trays of savory meats and vegetables brought to me on a tray.

Enough dwelling on the times, the Gourmet Cookbook lavishes the subject of hors d’oeuvres with 45 pages and the recipes range from mundane to bizarre. Consider the following:

As much as I'm enjoying making fun of this cookbook, I don’t want to give the impression all it contains are disgusting recepies that I would steer clear of unless threatened. Gourmet offers a lot of staples, recipes I would try such as:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Quote for March

March is a month of considerable frustration - it is so near spring and yet across a great deal of the country the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light years away.

~ Thalassa Cruso

Mad as a March Hare

March and spring are in the air and in spite of winter’s best efforts, good old Mother Earth is tilting on her axis and bringing warmth and rejuvenation back to the northern hemisphere. As an aficionado of winter’s frozen wonders I always feel a little sorry to see the snow melt away and the greening of the grass, but I’m in the marked minority. Most people have been pent up in their homes and heavy woolen overcoats long enough, and they’re just bursting to get outside and do something.
Each year, when the first blush of real warmth washes over the Midwest, the garden centers fill with the eager. For the anxious amateur gardener its flats of pansies and good intentions that will surely be dashed by the bitter fact that the last frost date in our particular zone comes in mid April. Ah, how the hopes and dreams of youth so often flounder on the frozen rocks of reality.
Young men will cruise the city streets, windows down and tunes turned up to perform as their mating call. The heart will beat ardently. Sweaters and long underwear will be mothballed, replaced by shorts and tees. All will seem verdant and sweet, and then the late frost will nip the buds.
In 1546 John Heywood published a collection of proverbs, one of which illustrates the mesmerizing powers of March:

Thanne þey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare.

For those of you who don't read much old English, that roughly translates to:

Then they begin to swerve and stare, And be as brainless as a March hare.

The phrase “mad as a March hare” has been popularly used since the mid 16th century, but reached new popularity with the publication Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which featured the character of the March Hare.

Unlike the wise fool of Carroll’s story, the madness of the hares isn’t so much a display of an altered world view as an outward sign of getting hot and bothered with the spirit of the season. The “madness” of hares during March is linked to a folk interpretation of mating season leaping, rearing, “boxing”, and general cavorting. Still, when you really think of it, it’s a very apt term for the madness that infects all of us during this time of year.