15 June 2015

The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits

After watching The Lee Bros.' new show Southern Uncovered, set this week in Charleston, we were kind of in a Charleston mood, so we pulled out The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits.  Though it may not seem exactly self-explanatory, the book is really a jam packed recipe book with etiquette tips interspersed.  Suzanne Pollak and Lee Manigault have put together a great collection of recipes and some tips on just how easy entertaining can be. They do not always agree with each other, which is a refreshing.  Many books that purport to be about entertaining give the impression that there is only one way to go...the authors often choose differing paths such as where one places one's dessert cutlery.

Now we just love "entertaining" books ; in fact, we would probably rather read entertaining books than actually entertain, but if need be, we are good to go for most any occasion.  No matter how much one entertain, however, there is that moment when you think, "What am I going to do?" This is the perfect book to pull off the shelf.  It is familiar enough to ease you into that party planning mode with recipes for spicy nuts, deviled eggs, angels on horseback, and a fine old-fashioned. 

On the other hand, there is the element of surprise, that item one would never think of as entertaining fare that will leave your guests blown away, like my fave, oxtail. There are also sautéed carrots and peaches, crunchy shallots, and ginger cheesecake for an unforgettable dinner party.

Here is a piece of advice we can get behind: "Two or three bacon appetizers are not overkill."
Indeed!

Candied Bacon

1/2 pound of your favorite sliced bacon
Turbinado sugar or light brown sugar
Freshly cracked black pepper
Cayenne

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Halve the bacon slices crosswise and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets so that the pieces don't touch. Sprinkle the sugar liberally on top to cover the bacon; season with black pepper and cayenne to taste. Bake, rotating once, until the sugar is caramelized, about 20 minutes.

There were a couple of reviews that implied this book was a bit old fashioned or that it was geared to wealthy housewives, like only rich people cared about such things as etiquette and entertaining.  Yes, for years we have been told, politely that one should chew with ones mouth closed and still, go to any fine dining establishment and you are likely to find a gentleman who wants you to remember him for his $10,000 Rolex, but all you will remember is seeing the food in his mouth!  Truth be told, one does not need a Victorian townhouse in Charleston, grandmama's collection of Francis 1 silverware, nor a Viking stove to host an elegant dinner party.  Even the girls down at the trailer park can tell you which side of the plate the fork goes on! 

Everyone can benefit from a little guidance on the domestic sciences.  The world is a better place with manners and a good candied bacon. The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits is a fine place to get your party started.



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