14 June 2009

The New Cookbook for Poor Poets

Ann Rogers wrote A Cookbook for Poor Poets in 1969 and thirteen years later revised and enlarged it as The New Cookbook for Poor Poets. Her original premise featured an ideal called a nickel dinner. As a child of the Depression, Rogers went on Sundays with the father to buy the weeks wine. There was always bread and wine whether there was anything else on the tables. By 1969, there was no such thing as a nickel dinner, certainly not in 1976, and definitely not today. Today a $5 dinner is hard to find. While the financial argument is a bit specious, Rogers rules for dinning are spot on.

Rules for a poor poet’s basic dinner:

1. Always have fresh bread
2. Always use butter
3. Always serve wine
4. Always have a candle on the table

A gala dinner gives hope. The three rule here are:

1. Always have something outrageously expensive
2. Always serve it in the grandest manner
3. Always serve butter

In her revised edition the rules change slightly:

1. Meat is not the only protein
2. Throw out the salt
3. Hide the sugar
4. Cut down on convenience and processed food

Last week after tons of company, I needed to make dinner and I had only bits and pieces of leftover items from my visitors. There were a few potatoes, half a head of cabbage, and one thick Carolina sausage. I was thinking of a modified Bubble and Squeak but that usually works best with cooked leftovers. Since I was starting from scratch, this recipe fit my ingredients perfectly.

Jager Kohl

1/2 pound bacon or sausage
2 or 3 large potatoes
1 small head of cabbage
2 tablespoons flour
salt, cracked pepper, and cider vinegar to taste
1/2 pint sour cream

Fry the bacon in a frying pan with a lid. Drain off most of the fat and add thick slices of peeled potatoes and cabbage. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, add water to barely cover, along with salt and a dash of vinegar. Cover and cook slowly 45 minutes to an hour. Serve along with a bowl of sour cream, cracked pepper, and a little cruet of vinegar for those who like a sharper flavor.

The rules make this one of my favorite cookbooks. The initial rules are true for a poor poet, a poor philosopher or a well-to-do cook. It can be a simple salad, or a can of beans but serve fresh bread, creamy butter and a nice wine, and dinner will be a triumph.

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