Cookbooks as time capsules and why we collect them. Current title holder for Guinness World Records for largest collection of cookbooks (2,970 as of July 14, 2013) Current (unofficial) total (February, 2018) is 6,291.
Music – “What’s Cooking” from What’s Cooking by The Wolfe Gang. Released: 2010
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
“The Vintage Cookbookery” website is up and a work in progress! Please visit it at http://www.vintagecookbookery.com. I will be posting a series of articles about cookbooks as time capsules, why we collect them, and how they reflect cultures, trends, technology and food history. Please join in and add your comments! On October 23rd, 2015, I surpassed the 5,000 mark. What’s left? Just keep collecting! (As of February, 2018, the collection has grown to 6,291)
From Cindy Renfrow’s “Take a Thousand Eggs”, to Gil Partington’s “The Punk Vegan Cookbook”, cookbooks run the gamut and are packed with social history. Forget ‘Social Studies”….just read cookbooks if you really want some history!
2013 Guinness World Record title for Largest Collection of Cookbooks
Music – “That Old Recipe” from Pat-a-Cake Baby (Songs from the Show) by Tom Gray. Released: 2017
One of the cookbooks in my collection, published in 1910, is “A Year’s Dinners – 365 Seasonable Dinners with Instructions for Cooking“, by May Little. Well, little did May know (pardon the pun), that, while she was slaving over a six course family dinner in 1910, a hundred years hence, she could have “cooked” a (possibly) nutritious meal in less than 15 minutes, thanks to fast food and instant heat and serve technology! What a difference a generation makes!
“A Year’s Dinners”, by May Little, published in 1910
According to Human Progress (2017), in 1910, approximately 6 hours a day were involved in cooking meals, including cleanup. And, given these “typical” weeknight family dinners from “A Year’s Dinners“, I’d bet more than 6 hours were dedicated just to cooking! Not to mention procuring the food, stoking the stove, hand washing dirty pots and pans, etc.
By the mid-1960’s, that number dropped to 1.5hours and by 2008, on average, only 1 hour was engaged in food preparation. The USDA, in 2016, reports that in 2014, Americans aged 18 and over spent only 37 minutes in food preparation, including cleanup (as in “put it in the dishwasher”). As Roberto Ferdman says in his article “The slow death of the home-cooked meal”, 2015, “Cooking isn’t dead in this country. But it isn’t exactly alive and well either“.
And, although cookbooks are still good sellers, most cookbook purchases are for reasons other than cooking. In addition, bestselling cookbooks seem to be “personality driven, not recipe driven” As Diane Jacob says, “Cookbooks still sell well. As cookbook authors, do we not care if our readers ever make a recipe, as long they buy the book?”
According to Publishers Weekly, in 2016, cookbook sales were up 6% from the previous year, and most are print books, not e-books. So, although cookbooks are still alive and well, their usage as cooking guides seems to be less important than, perhaps, celebrity appeal. The dearth of “celebrity chefs” has increased tremendously in recent years, a term I had never heard, even when Julia Child was whipping up a storm in her kitchen in the 1960’s.
In “A Year’s Dinners“, the author points out that “Great care has been taken to avoid monotony, which so frequently occurs in the everyday household“. For fun, I decided to randomly select a day of the year and peruse (note: I said “peruse”, not “cook”) the recipes for that day, May 9, 1910 (which happened to be a Monday, and the day on which George V was formally proclaimed king, three days after his father’s death). So, cooks, gear up for this typical 1910 Monday evening dinner for the family, if you are brave enough and have a day or so to spare:
Consomme Brunoise Lobster Patties Grilled Lamb Cutlets Minced Veal and Poached Eggs Potatoes Cabbage Rum Omelet Marrow Toasts
Now, the recipe for the Consomme Brunoise is fairly time-consuming.
Even prior to beginning it, you must have already created your basic stock (in which meat soaks for 1 hour and simmers for another 5), to which you then shred beef, remove the fat, add egg whites and the crushed shells, whisk, add vegetables and boil gently for 20 minutes.
“I had a dream last night that one day, there will be instant soup and I won’t be breaking my back over this Consomme Brunoise!” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
Then, you must pour the stock through a clean cloth, pouring sherry through it first, adding the garnish and the rinsed vegetables (small cubes in Brunoise), etc., etc., etc. Tired already? Too bad. You’ve got a whole lot more to do.
Grilled Lamb Cutlets need no recipe (figure it out!).
Simple Grilled Lamb Cutlets is the easiest thing on the May 9th, 1910 dinner for the family! (Photo Credit: http://www.manusmenu.com)
For the Minced Veal and Poached Eggs, you must first cook the veal in white stock, with herbs and spices, then mince it finely and make a white sauce (see page 411). Serve in the centre of a potato border (yup, another recipe), and garnish with cut lemon and parsley.
“Well, for the Minced Veal and Poached Eggs, first you have to butcher the meat…” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
As for the potatoes and cabbage, you have artistic license here.
Rum Omelet requires separating yolks from whites of eggs, beating with sugar, melting some butter, pouring in the eggs, stirring until the mixture begins to set, shaping the omelet, spreading a little jam of your choice over it, blah, blah, blah, dousing it with rum and setting fire to it just as you serve it.
Just the thing to wrap up the Monday night dinner with Hubby and the kids. A nice, flaming rum omelet (made with the good stuff!) (Photo Credit: http://www.recipesmy.com)
The author notes that cheap rum will not do: “Good rum is necessary or it will not burn“.
And, for the finale to your mundane Monday night dinner (Marrow Toasts), butter some neat rounds of toast, put beef marrow into a pan with salt, boil, drain and spread on the toast and season with salt and pepper: if you’re very bold, you might add a bit of cayenne to it.
There you go: Bob’s your uncle, as we say in Canada! Just in case you’re not Canadian, “Bob’s your uncle“ is a way of saying “you’re all set” or “you’ve got it made. But, don’t think you can rest on your laurels (or your derriere). There’s May 10th dinner to start planning: American Tomato Soup, Stuffed and Baked Fillets of Plaice, Fried Sweetbread, Fricandeaux of Beef, Potatoes, Asparagus, Maltese Pudding, and Cheese Pyramids. However, if all else fails, there’s always:
Music – “I Can Eat a Lot” from Best of Kids’ Songs, Vol. 2 by Dream English. Released: 2012
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Competitive eating competitions are nothing new. According to an article in a 2008 issue of Time, “Face-stuffing” has been part of the human condition for a long time. A collection of 13th century Norse myths tells of such a contest between a god (Loki) and his servant. allegedly, the servant won the contest by eating the plate.
The Norse God “Loki”, challenging his servant to an eating contest. The servant supposedly won the challenge by consuming the plate as well as the food. (Photo Credit: http://www.hurstwic.org)
In 1963, a gentleman named Eddie “Bozo” Miller ate 27 chickens (presumably cooked) at a Trader Vic’s restaurant in San Francisco, and took the Guinness World Record Title of “world’s greatest trencherman”.
Eddie “Bozo” Miller, consuming an entire chicken plus assorted extras. (Photo Credit: http://www.sfgate.com)
There are books and websites devoted to the subject of how to prepare for competitive eating, along with tips and strategies: practice by increasing your stomach capacity, start off by eating as fast as you possibly can, have “manners”, but don’t eat one fry at a time, how to increase your jaw strength, etc.
This gentleman will never win a french fry eating competition for obvious reasons. (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
But, aside from what such gluttony one indulges in, in an extremely short period of time, often mere minutes, and the obvious (ahem!) and perhaps, not so obvious side effects of such eating challenges, there is the simple caloric intake, not to mention sodium, fat, carbohydrates, etc.
I recently acquired a fascinating book, “What I Eat – Around the World in 80 Diets“, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, published in 2010. The book details portraits of 80individuals from around the globe, with the food they consume in a single day.
“What I Eat” details the eating habits of 80 people from around the globe.
Individuals from more than 30 countries and a dozen US states were included in this fascinating photo essay. The extremes are remarkable: from the 800 calorie a day diet of a Maasai Herder in Kenya, to the 12,300 calorie a day diet of British “Snacker Mom”, Jill McTighe.
There are numerous well-known competitive eaters out there today, and if you’ve ever watched any food competitions on TV, you’ve probably seen the likes of Joey Chestnut. By example, consider that in July, 2017 at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog competition, Mr. Chestnut ate 72 hot dogs (including the buns), in 10 minutes. And he didn’t choke to death!
Joey Chesnut at the 2017 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition, demonstrating a plateful of 72 hotdogs (with buns), which he managed to choke down in 10 minutes. (Photo Credit: http://www.yahoo.com)
But to put things into perspective, in a mere 10 minutes, he consumed 20,160 calories(about 18,000 more than the daily recommendations for an adult male), along with a lot of fat, carbs and cholesterol, not to mention 56,160 mg of sodium! The recommended daily sodium ingestion for an American male is no more than 1,500 mg, and even lower if you’re on a sodium restricted diet. Whew! Another seasoned veteran of the competitive eating circuit is Takeru Kobayashi, an agressive competitor in both hot dog and chicken wing eating.
By comparison, in “What I Eat“, the book “…represents 80 people around the world and what they ate in one ordinary day. It is organized according to the number of calories consumed, from least to most”. The book begins with Noolkisaruni Tarakuai, a Maasai Herder in Kenya. In an average day, the slender 103 pound gentleman consumes approximately 800 calories: a thick cornmeal porridge, one banana, black tea with whole milk and sugar, and about 2 quarts of water, hauled from a reservoir and boiled.
Noolkisaruni Tarakuai, a Maasai Herder in Kenya. Photo from “What I Eat”
Contrast this with 230 pound Jill McTighe (aka “Snacker Mom”), mentioned above, whose daily intake of calories averages 12,300. Her daily routine includes breakfast, a midmorning snack, lunch, tea, dinner, evening TV snacks and “snacks and other”.
Jill McTighe and an assortment of her daily food items (Photo from “What I Eat”)
Adam Richmanwas formerly the host/star of the Food Network TV series, “Man vs. Food“. Mr. Richman ate a lot and ate it very fast. I’m not sure how long he was on the series, but he is no longer hosting it. One might speculate on the reasons for his departure from the show, but my guess is he simply couldn’t stomach (pardon the pun) any more binges. His replacement, Casey Webb, seems to be doing a good job and thoroughly enjoying it. Long may he eat (and live to tell about it).
Kate Ovens tackles a 3 foot long sausage roll in the UK. She is a regular at food eating competitions (where DOES she put it all??) (Photo Credit: http://www.metro.co.uk)
As long as there is an abundance of food available, there will be people around to eat it…in huge quantities and in record time. There are Guinness World Recordholders everywhere. I even happen to be one of them, however, my acquisition of the title took considerably longer than 3 minutes and did not wreak havoc with my digestive system.
This gentleman took the Guinness World Record for the most chicken nuggets eaten in 3 minutes (642 grams, or approximately 37 nuggets) (Photo Credit: http://www.youtube.com)
And, finally, a word to the wise: “We discourage anyone from doing contests without emergency medical technicians,” George Shea, chair of MLE, told Time in 2014. Well said.
Music – “What’s to Eat?” from I Am Just a Kid: Songs for Kids + Parents by Rod Owens. Released: 2007.
Among my cookbooks, I have several catering to the care and nurturing of children, through food. “Food & Fun for Daughter and Son“, by Lila Erminger and Marjorie Hopkins, was published in 1946 and has chapters including “Timely Tips”, “The Careful Parent” and “Daily Dietary Pattern”.
In their book, the authors point out that one should “Never serve meals carelessly – they should look, smell and taste good“.
Carelessly served meals tend to be a bit off-putting to the appetite (Photo Credit: http://www.paulstravel blog.com)
In addition, they also suggest that “For the sake of novelty eat in new places about the house“.
Of course, it goes without saying that “…a taste for new dishes may need cultivating” and don’t forget that one should occasionally allow a child “…to dress as he pleases for supper and pretend it is a special event”
Jennie Burdick, author of “What Shall we Have to Eat?”, published in 1922, suggests that it would be a good thing “….if all food could be locked up in the intervals (between meals) so that no one would be tempted“.
Irma Rombauer, in addition to her famous “Joy of Cooking”, also authored “A Cookbook for Girls and Boys“, first published in 1946. Irma takes a novel approach in attempting to teach children how to cook, by relating lively stories along with the recipes.
“A Cookbook for Girls and Boys” by Irma Rombauer, first published in 1946 and this revised edition in 1952.
Before the children can learn to cook eggs, they are regaled with Irma’s story about chickens and eggs:
“I was once motoring with three friends along an Illinois highway. A hen started to cross the road, hesitated, stopped, then changed its mind and made a fatal dash. Our car struck it amidships and we proceeded on our way through a light flurry of feathers.
When we stopped for oil shortly after this roadside tragedy, the gas-station attendant asked in surprise: “What is this you have on your radiator?” What indeed! A fried egg! However, I recommend a less complicated method for everyday use…”
Now, I don’t know about children in 1946, old enough to read and use Irma’s cookbook, but I have my doubts that they will be enthusiastic about her advice on the amounts of meats to purchase if planning a meal for the rest of the family. In my youth, although I learned to cook, I never had any desire to prepare liver, heart, kidneys, brains and sweetbreads to serve to my family (and I still don’t!), however, Irma seems to think that girls and boys would be amenable to these fine dishes (not). Find me a child today, who can cook “Shrimp in Creole Sauce” or “Scalloped Oysters“, if they were even affordable.
We all know by now that fast food is detrimental to growing children and is associated with obesity, diabetes, allergies and a host of other nasty things. So, parents, if you want your children to grow up to be healthy adults, start’em off early. Replace the burgers with a plateful of clams. Ditch the white bread for farina biscuits heaped with fried liver. Hide the candy and bring on the stewed prunes. And, for goodness sake, don’t forget to lock the refrigerator!
Music – “A Life Well Lived” from A Life Well Lived by Earth Mama. Released: 2012
This is not a Walt Disney production, but rather it is a brief story about a genteel lady, who recently passed away at the age of 101 years and 5 months. She was a very dear friend of my late mother, who died in 2006 at the age of 89. Although this ladywas born in the USA, her family moved to Canada in the early 1930’s, where she grew up and spent the rest of her very long life.
When I heard from her daughter that this lady had died, I started to think of all of the innovations in food and technology she must have experienced since her birth in 1916, and also those witnessed by my own mother, who was born in 1917. What most of us take for granted now wouldn’t be on the dinner table or in our households for many years to come.
In the year of this genteel lady’s birth, the first mass-produced electric refrigerators were available to the general public, for $900. DOMELRE (The name DOMELRE is a contraction of DOMestic ELectric REfrigerator) was a very early model. Given inflation, in 2017, that same refrigerator would be worth $21,096 ! No wonder not many families could afford them in 1916!
However, her parents might have been able to purchase the first commercially available automatic dishwasher, which Josephine Cochrane created as an improvement on an earlier version from the late 19th century. She showed the dishwasher at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, but only restaurants and hotels showed an interest in it. Cochrane founded a company to manufacture her dishwashers, which eventually became KitchenAid®.
The first “electric cook stove”, invented by The Hughes Electric Heating Company was founded in Chicago by George A. Hughes (1871-1944) and was displayed at a convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1910. Whether our ladygrew up with one as a child is unknown.
In 1916, her parents would be paying $.07 for a loaf of bread and $0.15 per pound for coffee. Eggs were $.34 a dozen (available to be supplied in egg cartons, which were invented in 1911by a Canadian), sugar was $.04 per pound, a quart of milk was $.09 and a pound of steak was $.26 (cheaper than eggs!)
Her mother would not have had a copy of “The Boston Cooking School Cookbook”, by Fannie Farmer, on her kitchen shelf. It wasn’t published until 1918.
The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, published in 1918
Although she was too young to imbibe, if our lady had been “of age”, she would not have been able to purchase alcoholic beverages. In 1920, Prohibition began in the USA, which banned the sale of all alcoholic beverages. This grand lady was 8 years of age, when Caesar Cardini, of Tijuana, Mexico, “invented” the Caesar Salad in 1924.
While she spent the majority of her life in Canada, American products were, for the most part, available to Canadians. She probably had home-baked bread, since “Wonder Bread” did not debut in the USA until 1921.
Early ad for “Wonder Bread” (Photo Credit: www. wikipedia. com)
There were no “Birds Eye Frosted Foods” in her mother’s freezer in the 1920’s (if she had a freezer). Charles Birdseye didn’t patent his products until the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.
It was not until this grand lady was 7 years old, in 1923, when she might have been able to taste Welch’s Grape Jelly or Sanka Coffee (which her parents probably prohibited her from sampling!) However, she likely wouldn’t have been able to put jelly on her toast until the “Toastmaster”, a pop-up toaster for households, was available in 1926.
In 1927, at the age of 11, she would have been too old to slurp up the newly marketed Gerber’s Baby Foods, but she might have been able to purchase a Pez Candy Dispenser for a few pennies.
Between the ages of 14 through 23, this grand ladywould have witnessed a plethora of foods available to consumers, that for most of us, have been around “forever”: Hostess Twinkies (1930), Bisquick (1931), Skippy Peanut Butter (1932), Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup (1933), and Ritz Crackers (1934). It was not until this young lady was 20 would she have ever heard of Betty Crocker. Betty wasn’t born until 1936. And Lifesavers candy was available in Canada, using the famous Dionne Quintuplets in their advertising.
She would not have been given a TV dinner by her mother, and parked in front of the TV set, at least not until she was 37 years old! Swanson’s “TV Brand Frozen Dinner” was not available until 1953 and television sets were expensive and generally not really marketed in Canada until the early 1950’s.
In her 51st year, 1967, this grand lady would have been able to purchase the first countertop microwave oven available to residential kitchens, by the Amana Corporation. That year, she would also have been able to sample the offerings at the opening of the first McDonald’s in Canada, however, she would have had to travel across the country to Richmond, BC to do so!
Some of the many utilitarian and household items we now take for granted were simply unavailable to this grand lady until later, for example, “Tupperware” and similar containers weren’t patented until 1948. Paper towels weren’t sold for general household use until the 1930’s.
Imagine…paper towels for household use! (Photo Credit: www. pinterest.com)
If you or I were to take a look around our homes at our possessions, so many of the items were just a twinkle in some inventors’ eye at one time, so to speak. This grand lady would not even have seen a home computer until she was 61, and even then, they were not generally available until she was about 65 years old. Until her later years, there was no e-mail, no IPads or IPods, no Instagram or Facebook, no Internet, no online shopping, no cell phones or laptop computers.
A “smart” fridge, quite a bit different from the models of the early 20th century! (Photo Credit: www. pinterest.com)
Imagine a time when people grew up without these devices, if you can. Imagine not having a mega-TV screen (let alone a TV!), a smart phone, or a car that can brake automatically and park itself. Imagine no intelligent refrigerator, no LED lights, no jumbo jets, no space station, no vacuum food sealer, no Costco or Sam’s Club, no slow cooker or air fryers. Can you even remember a time when you couldn’t run to just about any local grocery store and have access to more than 35,000 items from around the globe? This grand lady and my own Mom saw it all, the best and the worst. What a time to have lived!
Music – “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” from Classic Christmas Party by Kay Kyser & His Orchestra. Released: 2012.
This is a copy of my post from December, 2013. The prices have probably gone up!
1913 New Years Card
Ah….imagine New Year’s Eve at the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The glitz, the glam, the booze! Where the beautiful people go to see and be seen.
One hundred years ago this 2013 New Year’s Eve, fashionable and wealthy New Yorkers probably dined in style for a 1913 New Year’s Eve dinner at the hotel, most likely accompanied by the musical stylings of some band or orchestra, perhaps even the Waldorf Astoria Orchestra, although little information about the evening at the hotel on that date is available.
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City
They might have danced to the likes of popular 1913 songs like “Peg O’ My Heart” by Al Bryan, or “The International Rag” by Irving Berlin. Also popular in 1913 were “I’m On My Way to Mandalay” by Al Bryan and “Snookey Ookums”, by Irving Berlin. Oh, the excitement! The festivities! The dancing! The tuxedos and top hats! The champagne! The champagne!
I located a vintage menu from the Waldorf Astoria, and although not New Year’s Eve, was dated March 9th, 1913. One could assume that the prices a few months later, especially for New Year’s Eve, would have escalated accordingly, nevertheless, here is a selection of what was available on a 1913 dinner menu at the Waldorf Astoria. Just to put things into perspective, I included the 2013 equivalent prices, (if the same menu still exists, which I doubt), adjusted for inflation, and calculated using the 2013 CPI (Consumer Price Index):
Rack of Lamb, Renaissance
1913 $1.10 2013 $25.17
Galantine of Capon
1913 $ .75 2013 $17.16
Bisque of Clams
1913 $ .30 2013 $ 6.86
1913 $1.30 2013 $29.74
Roast Turkey with Giblet Sauce
1913 $ .65 2013 $14.87
If our 1913 diner selected the soup (Bisque of Clams, $.30), Venison ($1.30), Peach Melba ($.60), and washed it down with a shared bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial Crown Champagne ($1.83 per bottle), add a bit more for a side dish of potatoes or another vegetable (about $.30), the grand total without champagne would be about $2.50. Sharing a bottle of champagne would add another $.45 to the tab, for a grand total of $2.95 for a luxurious dinner, with music AND dancing!
If our 2013 reveler selected the same items, if available, Bisque of Clams ($6.86), Venison ($29.74), Peach Melba ($13.73), a side dish of potatoes or another vegetable ($6.86), the grand total without champagne would be about $57.19. Add on the glass of champagne, shared with friends, of course ($10.75), our 2013 reveler will have to spend at least $67.94 to enjoy the same meal as his 1913 predecessors did, and probably a good deal more.
I looked at the venue for next week’s New Year’s Eve bash at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. They are offering the “Peacock Alley Dinner Buffet”, on Tuesday, December 31st, 2013, commencing at 7:00 p.m. (with a maximum seating time of 2 hours per customer, thank you very much).
Peacock Alley Buffet at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City (undated)
The buffet includes one (1) champagne toast (probably a thimbleful, but perhaps I’m being unfair), however, it does NOT permit access to after dinner dancing. Per adult, you will pay $275.00 plus a $16.12 processing fee to reserve your New Year’s Eve dinner. For that, you will have the privilege of grazing for two solid hours on whatever their buffet offers (for the full meal deal including dancing, you’d better be prepared to fork over $500 per adult – if you bring your aged 12 and under child, it’s a mere $200 per kid).
New Years at a fancy restaurant, ca. 1910 – 1913
Imagine, though, if you were at the Peacock Alley Dinner Buffet on New Year’s Eve, 1913. You would have to fork out the princely sum of $11.68, plus $.68 handling fee for a wallet-busting $12.36. Your name better be Astor or Rockefeller to splurge like that! But music, dancing and revelry were probably part and parcel of the deal and I’ll bet party hats and favours were also included.
Well, I suppose it’s all relative, but you can bet that in 1913, if you didn’t have a wad full of cash in your pocket, you’d be out of luck paying for your New Year’s Eve dinner. The earliest credit cards didn’t materialize in this country, for general use, until 1950, when Diner’s Club came out with their card, which could be used at participating restaurants.
For all of those revelers celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Waldorf Astoria, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy (but only for 2 hours). The rest of us will probably be eating pizza and having just as much fun.
Music – “Fruitcake Rag” from Big Mama by Funky Butt. Released: 2005
Having spent the last 23 years of my life in New Mexico, I now feel qualified to comment on the differences between holidays in Canada and holidays celebrated in the USA. First of all, Americans (well, at least some of them) celebrate “Columbus Day“, on the second Monday of October. Calling this day “Columbus Day“, however, has recently fallen out of favour. Although Christopher Columbus is regarded as having “found” America, the country was already populated by indigenous people, who were subsequently annihilated in large numbers by European colonists wanting to claim the land for themselves.
However, as every Canadian worth his or her salt knows, the second Monday in October is THANKSGIVING! Of course, there are a million ways cultures in Canada celebrate the holiday, but the dyed-in-the-wool Canucks partake of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. One thing I have learned living in New Mexico: it is nigh impossible to find fresh cranberries on “Columbus Day“.
No way you will find these in New Mexico on Thanksgiving Day (aka “Columbus Day” in this country) (Photo Credit: http://www.dreamstime.com)
One year, there was an exception, and the cranberry gods were good to me. That, however, was an anomaly. I have learned to buy and freeze, although the texture 12 months later suffers somewhat in the translation. The good people at Ocean Spray tell me that they start harvesting cranberries in early October, so I don’t know why they can’t manage a small shipment to New Mexico, for “Columbus Day“. I shall have to take them at task for that oversight.
Now, speaking of “Thanksgiving” (the American one), just about everybody has heard of “Black Friday“, that day of unbridled sales, short tempers, long queues (that’s “long lines” in Canuckspeak) and great bargains galore. Not to be confused with “Black Tuesday“, which marked the disastrous fall of the New York Stock Exchange on October 29th, 1929. Even Canadians know about “Black Friday“, and have even recently been staging some on the day after American Thanksgiving. But, I ask you, how many Americans are familiar with “Boxing Day“?
(Boxing Day in Canada) “I’m so sorry that I took the last big screen TV. Will you be OK?” (Photo Credit: http://www.usatoday.com)
It follows the day after Christmas (which both Amercuns and Canucksacknowledge to be December 25th) and December 26th is the equivalent of “Black Friday“, except, Canadians, being ever so polite, do not push, shove or otherwise tackle other bargain hunters, even apologizing if they take the last item in stock (“sorry!“). “Boxing Day” is common in the commonwealth countries, and there are several schools of thought as to the origin: in Feudal times, it was customary for the land owners to “gift” their peons leftover Christmas food on the day after the big eat-down, in (obviously), boxes. Another school of thought suggests that Anglican parishes collected money and food in their churches on Christmas Day, which were subsequently distributed to the poor on the following day in (obviously), boxes. So, there you have it.
There are some things in New Mexico, which I never witnessed in all of my years in Canada (some should not be mentioned here!). The lighting of thousands of luminarias, which are votive candles placed in paper lunch bags, filled with sand, and lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Luminarias in Old Town, Albuquerque, on Christmas Eve. Never saw these back home in Canada! (Photo Credit: http://www.tripadvisor.com)
Residences and businesses alike sport them, but alas, technology has diminished the excitement of lighting each candle…..it’s a lot easier to just plug in a chain of plastic replicas, linked together, although the thrill is gone. No peering out the window to see how many have to be relit after the wind dies down or how many were catapulted across the street into your neighbour’s yard, which is now on fire. That’s progress.
At least in southern Ontario, where I grew up, I never saw a tumbleweed, although I know they are prevalent in the western provinces. New Mexico, being a desert, has an abundance of these huge, spiny creatures and they pile up against fences, in parks, on the sides of highways and any open space. There was an enormous one growing in the front yard of our residence, when we moved in 2015, but I was ill-versed in the proper way to dispose of it. Armed with a shovel and a lot of pull (they have very deep roots when they are still growing), I grappled with it for some time before it gave up. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize was that the stems exude a very caustic substance, which combined with scratches on my arms from wrestling with it, caused an extensive and long-lasting rash.
But, in New Mexico, the locals use the same analogy as “if you have lemons, make lemonade“. In Albuquerque, every year, employees of the Water Authority scour the local terrain for the biggest and best tumbleweeds, which are then assembled on a large steel frame, spray painted white, and adorned with appropriate facial appendages….even a knit red scarf and a pipe are included. The 12 foot tumbleweed snowman stands at attention on the side of I-40 just west of the city limits. A+ to recycling!
The 12 foot tall tumbleweed snowman at the side of I-40 just outside Albuquerque. Re-cycling at its best. (Photo Credit: http://www.KRQE.com)
Despite the fact that there are several cultures that use “mincemeat“, both sweet and savoury, my attempts at Walmart last week to procure some bottles of the sweet stuff met with puzzled looks from the shelf stockers. “Mishmeat ?” queried one young lady. “Mincemeash ?” queried another.
A third stocker was pointed out to me, who was apparently the authority on such esoteric items. She directed me to a Christmas display, full of candies, sugar cookies, and the like, and in the midst were a few bottles of sweet mincemeat. It was a learning experience (perhaps for the other shelf stockers).
I had never heard of “Zozobra” before moving to New Mexico. As far as I know, there is no Canadian equivalent. “Zozobra” is the 50 foot marionette effigy known as “old man gloom” and is burned every September at the Fiestas de Santa Fe. “Zozobra” means “anxiety” in Spanish and the burning of Zozobra is a way for the celebrants to alleviate the stresses and worries of life, watching them burn away in the night. Sounds good to me, except that we should have one at least a couple of times of year. By the time September rolls around, the stress levels are too high!
Holidays aside, “Canadian” stuff, which I have never seen in New Mexico include Butter Tarts, Poutine, milk in plastic bags, nor is there any sign of a Tim Horton’s, Harvey’s Hamburgersor Swiss Chalet. Some other things I’ve never seen in New Mexico around the holidays:
Tobogganing is a Canadian pastime (in the winter!), but I’ve never witnessed it in New Mexico. (Photo Credit: http://www.alamy.com)
Plum Pudding is another Canadian tradition at Christmas, but you’d be hard pressed to find one in Albuquerque. (Photo Credit: http://www.hongkiat.com)
Holiday “crackers” were always a feature of a Christmas and New Year’s celebration. When the ends of the cardboard tube are pulled, a kind of cap gun snaps, producing a wisp of acrid smoke. Inside are small candies, a paper hat, perhaps a fortune and riddles. (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
Ice skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa is a huge event in winter (I’ve never even see ice on the Rio Grande!) (Photo Credit: http://www.ottawatourism.ca)
But, when push comes to shove, there is one common theme that binds Canadians and Americans together at one holiday. Fruitcake! Fruitcake is the symbol of Christmas feasting, whether you like it or despise it. My spouse adores it. I can choke down a piece once a year.
Ah, the beloved (or despised) fruitcake, the tradition that binds Americans and Canadians together. (Photo Credit: www. pinterest.com)
So, “Canada” is not really an international country, despite the fact that many Americansseem to think so (so does the Post Office and the IRS). Who knew that, despite our numerous differences, it would be fruitcake that binds us together (you may interpret “bind” in any way you prefer)! But, next year, can someone please arrange for some fresh cranberries for “Columbus Day“, in Albuquerque, so that I can celebrate Thanksgiving properly? It would be appreciated.
Well, the dust has finally settled after the mega kitchen remodel(mostly on every piece of furniture outside of the kitchen!) From start to finish (with the exception of a tile problem, which is being resolved as I write this), we endured 18 days of smashing, ripping, crashing, banging and all of the other myriad sounds emanating from a kitchen in the process of being demolished.
Part of the old kitchen, with the doors removed. The microwave lurketh.
This does not include, however, the intervening 6 weekend days in between work days, in which we were essentially held hostage in the sense that the kitchen was a barren wasteland, nor does it include approximately 5 days pre and 5 days post, for me to “deconstruct” the contents of my kitchen and pack them up, and the “reconstruction” phase, in which I emptied all of those packed cartons and assigned the contents to their spots in the new kitchen (I have a lot of “stuff”). I think this is what is akin to people saying, “….once in a lifetime event“, which I most heartily endorse.
As we had no kitchen sink, no stovetop, no dishwasher, and no oven, for several weeks, we “camped” out using a small wet bar adjacent to our family room. Trying to do dishes in an 8″ by 10″ sink is not fun. Luckily, loving to cook, I had a good selection of back-up appliances to cook with, so we weren’t entirely roughing it in the wild.
Our “kitchen away from kitchen”, during the demolition.
The old kitchen was the original, built on-site, when the house was constructed in 1970. Some of the plywood cabinet doors were warped (much to our cat, Tux’s delight!), all of the shelves were fixed and there was wasted space in dark, faraway and inaccessible places in some of them. In addition, there were two tacky flourescent lights, reminiscent of a stroll through Walmart. The kitchen had to go, including the old double-ovens.
The old double ovens were literally falling apart and had an impossible inside width of 15 inches! Time to go.
One of Tux’s favourites of the older cabinets…it was sufficiently warped that he was very skilled at opening it frequently to have a look-see. He subsequently passed on this knowledge to his brother, Shadow.
Which brings me, now, to the microwave, that obstinate, mulish, stubborn techno-marvel, which refused to budge from its’ comfortable little niche above my cooktop, wedged between cabinets. It was there, when we moved into our residence in January, 2015, and, according to popular wisdom, it was a 1990’s model.
Demolition in progress. The microwave is still hanging on the wall to the left.
Having spent a goodly number of years in situ might account for its intractable and tenacious hold on the kitchen wall, even in the midst of chaos, when everything around it was being torn asunder.
“It won’t budge!”
Still hanging on…
“It just HAS to come off of this wall!”
The microwave, last bastion of the old kitchen, reluctant to be moved.
Three collective contractor heads (whose anonymity is preserved here) pondered the situation, and failing to budge it, destruction went on around it, until it was left hanging starkly alone on the wall, which had previously been filled with old, worn, and warped cabinets. The mulish microwave was not going down without a fight.
Eventually, but not without a fight, it gave up its secret and was finally freed.
Gone at last, but not for long.
There were a few other surprises in the old kitchen. Two nicely mummified mice were found wedged between the back of a floor cabinet and the wall in a cardboard trap, a couple of old coupons for cigarette promotions, ca 1970, and a slew of assorted seeds, which came cascading down from the hole left in the ceiling, when the old flourescent fixture was removed. If there were any active critters up there at the time, their fate is now sealed.
Seeds of unknown origin, which were lurking above the old flourescent light fixture
In addition, what the contractor initially thought to be a faux-brick plastic backsplash turned out to be real brick. Like the mulish microwave, it was also determined to stay in place.
What was thought to be a faux brick backsplash (easily removable), was, in fact, real brick. So reluctant was it to surrender, the whole backsplash had to be sawed out from the rest of the wall.
Sawing out the “faux” brick backsplash.
The new cabinets duly arrived and were subsequently put in place, but the mulish microwave now had to be reinstalled. Once again, it took the collective heads and brute force of several contractors to replace it. The tolerances on either side of the new cabinets were negligible, so it was a real struggle to get it back into its home. Still stubborn, it fought back with some obstinacy.
The arrival of the new cabinets
However, at long last, it was over. Shiny new cabinets with soft-close doors, a Lazy-Susan, slide out trays and more, a brand-spanking new Corian countertop, a new oven (wider than 15 inches), a re-installed stove top and dishwasher, new sink and faucet, new lights, fresh paint and of course, the mulish microwave back in place, we were finally up and running just in time for Thanksgiving (the Amercun’ one). Only one more hurdle to go: soon, the finance man cometh.
The new kitchen. Mulish microwave restored to its original glory!
Music : “Food Glorious Food” from On Top Of Spaghetti by Juice Music. Released: 2008.
Attorney jokes aside, there is probably a law on the books against eating Dublin Lawyers. However, apparently there is no such law in France, as you can easily eat “avocat”, which translates into both “lawyer” and “avocado”. “Je suis avocat” means “I am a lawyer”, versus “Je suis un avocat“, which means “I am an avocado”. Take your pick.
So, what then, is a “Dublin Lawyer“? According to Georgina Campbell, author of “Good Food from Ireland“, a Dublin Lawyer is a rich dish of lobster, butter, double cream and Irish whiskey. Whew!
How about digging into “Skirts and Bodices“? Monica Sheridan, in “My Irish Cook Book” indicates that “Bodices” is the local name for pickled spareribs, akin to the boned bodices grandmothers used to wear. The “Skirts” are the trimmings cut away from pork steak. So there you have it: Skirts and Bodices.
Fancy some “Punchnep“? No, there is no alcohol in it. “Nep” was an old name for root vegetables such as parsnips or turnips, according to Theodora Fitzgibbon, in “A Taste of Wales in Food and in Pictures“. I assume the “punch” comes from the fact that the vegetables are beaten with butter and cream. Ever dined on a “Bookmaker’s Sandwich“? According to Theodora Fitzgibbon, in “A Taste of Ireland“, it is essentially a steak sandwich on a long crusty loaf, akin to a submarine sandwich (or Po Boy, or Hoagie, or whatever you want to call it).
Kiddleywinks, however, stems from “kiddley”, or kettle broth, a sort of whatever-you-have-in-your-kitchen soup, with the addition of winkles or periwinkles, a shellfish. Vida Heard in “Cornish Cookery” says that Kiddleywink soup“…had to provide something to fill alcohol-enfeebled stomachs and at a minimum cost“. According to Wikipedia, Kiddleywinks is also known as Kiddlywink and is an old name for a Cornish beer shop or beer house, which became popular after the 1830 beer act. They were licensed to sell beer or cider by the Customs & Excise rather than by a Magistrate’s Licence which was required by traditional Taverns and Inns.
Ever eaten “Kidneys in their Overcoats“? How sensible.
In Ireland, is there a “Champ” of “Boxty“? Is that the winner of a boxing match? No, “Champ” is similar to mashed potatoes, with milk, salt, pepper, butter, and chives. “Boxty” is a tad more difficult to explain. According to Georgina Campbell, “Boxty” falls into three categories: bread or cakes (“boxty on the griddle”), pancakes “boxty on the pan”), or boxtydumplings. All contain potatoes and milk.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no rocks in “Glengarvie Rock Cakes“, according to author of “Highland Fling Cookbook“, Sara Walker. Rather, these small cakes, when out of the oven, will have little lumps sticking out all over them. Care to take a wild guess what “Achiltibuie Skirlie” is? (hint: it has onions and oatmeal in it and Achiltibuie is a small village on the west coast of Coigach in the Highland region of Scotland). What about “Katt Pie“? (note: no cats were harmed in the making of this dish).
One just has to ask about “Thunder and Lightning“. According to Vida Heard, “Thunder and Lightning” is the “…name given to splits eaten with a spreading of treacle...” Well, that certainly clarifies things, doesn’t it?
“Poor Knights” contains bread, jam, cream, egg and milk. The origin of this name is unknown, at least to this writer.
Now, being Canadian, I took objection to the recipe for “Canadian Salad” in “Cooking in a Bedsitter” by Katharine Whitehorn. The recipe: “Two tomatoes and an orange sliced up and covered with a dessertspoon of tomato ketchup mixed with a little of the orange juice“. No self-respecting Canadian would ever make such a concoction, I’m certain, and it certainly doesn’t appear in any of the many Canadian cookbooks I have in my collection.
But, no matter where you go, no matter what culture’s food you are sampling, there is probably one universal recipe that everyone can relate to. Katherine Whitehorn refers to it as “Spam Fritters“. Need I say more?
Music – “Don’t Sit On a Cactus” from Don’t Sit on a Cactus by Joel Frankel. Released: 1997
It’s that time of year around New Mexico, when the Prickly Pear cactus fruits begin to ripen to their luscious deep red colour and you only have one chance a year to make Prickly Pear Jelly. So, don your elbow high leather garden gloves, long-handled barbecue tongs and a couple of paper bags and trip carefully through the cactus in your yard!
When I first moved to New Mexico in 1994, I didn’t realize that those beautiful fruits that ripened on our cactus in the fall were edible. The second year, I caught on and made my first batch of jelly. Over the past few years, even though all cacti species are drought tolerant / drought resistant, even our 20-year-old Prickly Pear patches suffered and produced very little fruit. This season, however, there were enough fruits to whip up a batch of jelly, and so I did just that.
The recipe I used, “Prickly Pear Jelly” is from “Fruits of the Desert” by Sandal English, published by The Arizona Star in 1981. The book contains recipes for a multitude of desert fruits, berries and seeds, including numerous pages for using cactus fruits. The recipes are gathered from readers of the newspaper and the recipe I used was contributed by Gloria Thomasson of Tucson, AZ. The instructions follow below the photos:
“Fruits of the Desert” by Sandal English
Ripe Prickly Pear Cactus from my garden
Several patches have more shade and the fruits are not yet ripe
About 5 or 6 quarts of Prickly Pear Cactus fruits from my yard
Washing the cactus fruits
Carefully measure out 3 quarts of fruit
Put the cactus fruit and water into a large pot
Bring the fruit and water to a boil
Briefly remove from the heat and mash the fruits with a potato masher
Bring the fruits and the water to a rolling boil
Strain the pulp through several layers of cheesecloth
The juice after straining the mixture through cheesecloth
Boil the strained mixture down after adding the pectin until reaching the “gel” stage
Pouring the jelly into the jars
Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and let cool before refrigerating
Some of the finished products
NOTE: for this season (2017), I used a different approach. I blanched the fruits in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then speared each with a fork, and peeled. This way, the skin comes off easily, without any of the million tiny prickly spines. Then, I just followed the rest of the steps, above, however, I didn’t need to strain through cheesecloth this time. Just a strainer to capture the seeds. Much easier in the long run, but more labour intensive!)
Gather and wash 3 quarts of fruit, using gloves and tongs. Place the washed fruit into a large 6 quart kettle with 3 quarts of water. Cook for 20 minutes (I cooked mine for about 40 minutes, due to the altitude adjustments needed). Briefly remove from the heat and mash the fruits with a potato masher. Strain the juice through several layers of cheesecloth.
Although the recipe indicates that you should be able to obtain about 8 cups of juice, it wasn’t enough, so I proceeded with another batch in order to get enough juice.
Measure 4 cups of juice into a large kettle and add juice of ½ lemon and 3 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil. Add another 3 cups of sugar and bring to a boil again, stirring until it reaches a full boil. Add 2 packets of liquid pectin (or 1 bottle) and continue cooking over high heat for 15 minutes (I cooked mine for 30 minutes)(In addition, I located an article in an old edition of The Albuquerque Journal, about making Prickly Pear Jelly. The author indicates that Prickly Pear fruits, like pineapple and kiwi, contain enzymes, which can cause the proteins in gelatin to break down. Sure enough, my jelly was not truly at the point of being able to gel, so I added 2 additional teaspoons of granulated pectin and this seemed to do the trick) Although the recipe indicates that the 4 cups of juice makes 6 glasses of jelly, my fruits were not as juicy, I think, and my two batches of 4 cups each made a total of 7 jars of jelly.
After all is said and done, the jelly with all of that sugar, is not surprisingly, extraordinarily sweet, although you can still taste the prickly pear fruit through the sugar. Next time, I’m going to cut back on the sugar or use a substitute, such as blue agave nectar and adjust the recipe accordingly.
Whoever said that nothing worthwhile grows in the desert was just plain wrong!