04 May 2009

The Perfect Hostess Cook Book

Mildred Knopf was married to the film producer, Edwin Knopf. She grew up in the New York City inhabited by doyennes with the servants that Lila Seely sent into their great houses. Actually, Mildred Knopf’s mother ventured to Ellis Island and found her cook on her own. Marie Agress had been an apprentice in the kitchens of Kaiser Franz Josef’s palace. When her paramour drowned, the distraught young woman came to America.

For twenty-five years she cooked for Mildred Knopf’s mother. Only twice, once for a wedding and once for a funeral, did she take a day off. Mildred Knopf learned to cook from Marie. She then ventured around the world, collecting recipes and sharing them with family and friends in a series of cookbooks.

Knopf has rules to make you a “perfect” cook. Her four rules:

FIRST: Enthusiasm.
SECOND: Pride in what you serve.
THIRD: confidence in yourself.
Forth: Confidence once again.

In her book there is recipe for squash purée. As a child I loved summer squash served this way. As a teenager, I opted for a strict vegetarian diet and instead of squash puree, I at summer squash simply sliced and boiled. It was quite bland and I soon grew out of my vegetarian phase. My great-aunts, however, had no recollection of my ending this phase, at least not where squash was concerned. Every time I came home, one of them would bring out a bowl of plain, unseasoned squash floating in a puddle of water. It became a common event that I am sure occurs at many family reunions. The first time, I was touched they remembered, so I said nothing. The next time I hinted it was OK to feed me squash like everyone else. The third time, it would have been rude to mention it as I had not mentioned it before, so for years, I ate boiled, unseasoned squash.

Squash Purée

2 pounds summer squash
1 large onion
2 ounces butter
salt, pepper
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

FIRST Cut young summer squash into quarters. Boil with 1 large onion, also cut in quarters. Salt to taste.

SECOND When the squash is tender, remove and discard the onion. Place the squash in a sieve and drain thoroughly. Press it lightly to remove any excess water. (Squash has a tendency to sponge up water). Rub through the sieve into a bowl. Mash with a potato-masher and stir in 2 ounces of butter. Season to taste.

NOTE Parmesan cheese may be sprinkled on top if desired.

For me, simply drain the squash and onion, add the butter and mash it up with a fork. And remember, if you develop a quirky eating habit or bizarre practice as a child, you may be eating it till kingdom come, so speak up!

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