27 June 2011

The French Cookie Book

I ran across The French Cookie Book looking for cornmeal. Several people have made the recipe in this book for cornmeal cookies. I admit I am not a big "cookie" person. For me there is peanut butter and chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chunk and peanut butter blossoms and...well, you understand. French cookies are macaroons. Period. I asked my friend and fellow foodie Francophile, Anne, and she said basically the same thing -- French cookies? Really not something one thinks of off the top of ones tête.

Bruce Healy has thought about it a lot -- excessively, in fact. Healy is or was a theoretical physicist before he became consumed with pastry. His science background comes through in his exhaustive research of the French cookie. Combine the physicist with and actual baker in Paul Bugat and you have a cookie compendium of grand proportion.

According to Healy , and I am not one to argue with a theoretical physicist, these are very rare French cookies. They probably originated in the Bresse region of southern Burgundy. They are piped to resemble little ears of corn. Of course the cornmeal cookies would come from the South of Burgundy.

Cornmeal Cookies

1 3/4 ounces (50g), or 3 1/2 tablespoons, unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces (60 g0, or about 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 2/3 ounces (75 g), or 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons, all-purpose flour
2 ounces (60 g), or 7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon, yellow cornmeal

Preheated oven to 475F

1 Place the butter in a small stainless steel bowl and beat with a wooden spatula, warming it up over low heat as needed to make it smooth, white, and creamy. Sift the sugar over the creamed butter and beat it in. Beat in 1 egg yolk with the wooden spatula. Then beating in the remaining yolk with a wire whisk. Whisk in the lemon zest. Sift the flour and cornmeal over the batter and mix them with the wooden spatula.

2. Scoop the batter into the pastry bag, and pipe the batter in 1/2 inch-(12 mm) wide fluted strips the length of the baking sheets, separating them by 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2 1/4 -4 cm). Score each strip crosswise at 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) intervals by pressing through the batter with a small pallet knife or the back edge of a paring knife. wipe off the blade after each three to four cuts to remove any batter that sticks to it.

3. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies begin to brown on the bottoms but are still pale yellow on the top, about 5 minutes.

4.Transfer the baking sheet o a wire rack and let the cookies cool to room temperature.

%. When the cookies are cool, separate them at the scored intervals.

These remind me of little sweet "cheese straw" like cookies. If you like this book, you will love Healy's others. He has put his exacting detail into another book on French pastry and one on cakes.

20 June 2011

An Appetite For Passion

Sometime people write cookbooks because they love the food and sometimes because they get paid.

Today at Lucindaville, we wrote about Ivana Lowell's memoir. Lowell is the daughter of Caroline Blackwood. An Appetite For Passion was written because Lowell got paid... here is the story.

Ivana Lowell worked for Harvey Weinstein (oh yes and she was dating his brother, Bob). Miramax, the Weinsteins company had acquired the movie, Like Water for Chocolate and they were about to do a special-edition DVD release. Harvey wanted a cookbook tie-in and he enlisted Ivana Lowell.

"I had loved the movie, and the idea of a cookbook seemed like a terrific one until I looked at a copy of [Laura] Esquivel's book... The book was divided into twelve sections, one for each month of the year, and each section began with a recipe.
I went back to Harvey with the bad news. "It already is a cookbook, " I told him. He flew into a rage. "I don't care if it's already a fucking cookbook! Write another one. Call it a sequel! I want a Miramax book to tie in with the movie."
Like her mother before her, Lowell collected recipes from friends and other sources to compile the book. Her sense of humor was always at the forefront as she presented dishes like Root Vegetable Ménage à Trois, Spice Massaged Tuna in Bed with Greens and her mother's recipe for lamb meatballs, Lady Caroline's Lamb with Three Byronic Sauces. Here is a recipe from The Four Seasons:

Lush Peach soup

6 ripe peaches, peeled and pitted
1 small orange, halved and seeds removed
1/2 lemon, seeds removed
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (You may substitute 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
4 whole cloves
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons peach brandy
7 ounces ginger ale

Place the peaches, orange, and lemon in a large saucepan and add the bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, wine, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 1 hour, or until the ingredients are very tender.

In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch into the brandy. Stir the brandy mixture into the peach mixture and return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove and discard the orange and lemon rinds, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cloves. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Push the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Divide 1 cup of the soup into 4 small ramekins and freeze. Chill the rest of the soup and add ginger ale just before serving. Serve in chilled bowls and float the frozen soup on top.
Check out Caroline Blackwood's cookbook, Darling, You Should'nt Have Gone To So Much Trouble.

17 June 2011

Sumptuous Dining in Gaslight San Francisco

San Francisco has always had its share of fine dining and debauched behavior. This is by no means a recent phenomenon. If fact, much of the high jinks of the past 50 years seems downright timid compared to the era ending the nineteenth and beginning the twentieth century.

Saloons, restaurants and houses of ill repute were rampant until 1921 when the Clubwomen’s Vigilance Committee foisted a respectability, coinciding with Prohibition, on the city.

Sumptuous Dining in Gaslight San Francisco by Frances de Talavera Berger and John Parke Custis is a glorious reliving of gaslight San Francisco in its heyday. The book is a biography, cookbook, culinary history, architectural history, cultural history and plain old entertaining history of San Francisco’s eateries and the people who made them from 1875-1915.

They are a colorful lot. There is “Irish” Dan O’Connell who confounded the Bohemian Club. He was brash, charismatic a bit of a poet:

Fill me a brimming goblet,
I said to my winsome wife,
Let me read in its bubbles reflected,
The story of its life.

Much to our sadness, “Irish” Dan failed to leave behind a recipe book, but a few of his recipes exist with some help from his friends.

Fricassee of Veal Bohemian

2 pounds of veal, cut into 2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2-teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons bacon fat
3 tablespoons chopped fresh celery leaves
1/2 boiling water as needed

Dredge the chunks of veal in a mixture of arrowroot and dried seasonings. Brown the dredged meat in the hot bacon fat, and add the celery leaves. Cover the skillet and cook the meat slowly, in the same skillet, just until tender. Do not overcook it. If the skillet becomes dry during the cooking, add as much as 1/2 cup of boiling water.

A San Francisco chef who did leave behind his recipes was victor Hirtzel. The chef at the famed St. Francis Hotel, Hirtzel collected recipes and menus into the appropriately titled Hotel St Francis Book of Recipes and Menus, first published in 1910. With numerous printings, copies of his book are still prized among chefs and cookbook collectors alike.

San Francisco boasts inventing Peach Melba for the singer Nellie Melba,

Nellie Melba

Chicken Tetrazzini for the singer Luisa Tetrazzini,

Luisa Tetrazzini

and Pisco Punch for everyone else. Duncan Nichol of the Bank Exchange Saloon invented the Pisco Punch and it soon became the most popular and most copied drink in San Francisco. Nichol died with his recipe and with another of his Pisco punches, the Button punch. Pisco is an Italian brandy made from a grape known as the Rose of Peru. It is colorless, fragrant, and strong. It has been described as tasting like a fruity Scotch.

Pisco Punch

1 tablespoon Pernod
1 1/4 ounces Pisco Peruvian or other brandy
1-ounce Meyer’s Catawba or any grape juice
Shaved ice
6 ounces chilled pineapple juice

Coat the inside of an ample fizz glass with Pernod by swirling the liquor around the glass. Discard any of the liquid that does not cling. Pour the brandy into the glass and add the grape juice. Fill the glass with shaved ice and pour chilled pineapple juice to the brim.

Of a similar Pisco punch, the writer Rudyard Kipling said:

“It is the highest and noblest product of the age. I have a theory it is compounded of cherub’s wings, the glory of the tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”

The tales are tall and they continue throughout this book. It is thoroughly delightful. There is however one hugely egregious, if not fatal flaw in this book – there is no bibliography. How can that be? Who cold possibly gather such a delightful band of stories and recipes and fail to provide a list of further reading. I am shocked.

Still, it makes me want to pack my bags and go to San Francisco.

Famous Food Friday

Mrs. Marquis de Sade Cookbook

We couldn't resist Roz Chast's New Yorker cartoon depicting Mrs. Marquis de Sade making her favorite dishes including:

World of Hurt Broccoli

Chop up a bunch of raw broccoli, throw it on a platter, and serve without dip. Invite people over, stand back, and enjoy.

Indeed, enjoy.

15 June 2011

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home

We finally got our copy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. It has been on order since she stated writing the book. Lucindaville is the land of ice cream. We have quite the repertoire of favorite flavors including our Berries and Balsamic, Pimm's Cup, Red Velvet (hey we can turn any recipe into Red Velvet --it's a Southern thing), Pumpkin, Bloody Mary, if you can eat it, we can make it into ice cream. We recently ran across a recipe for asparagus ice cream and it is on our summer experiments list.

It is no wonder that our cookbook shelf is has an entire ice cream section. Bauer uses an interesting technique for making her ice cream. Instead of eggs to thicken it, she uses a corn starch. At Lucindaville where eggs are a mainstay, we were a bit shocked by this. So we were beyond anxious to give this corn starch thing a try. (Please don't tell our chickens about this cookbook. They are firm believers in offering up fresh eggs for ice cream and the thought that Jeni doesn't like that eggy taste in her ice cream will leave the girls miffed.)

Here at Lucindaville, the ice cream maker is a 1982 Simac Il Gelataio that was 20 years old when we got it. It is slightly smaller than a VW Beetle and weighs about the same. During the summer it sits on an old milk crate in the middle of the floor, close to the fridge. The freezing bowl does not come out. Generally it takes 40 minutes to make ice cream and 2 hours to clean it, but I still haven't found an ice cream maker that I would trade it for.

We were glad to see some of our staples in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home, like Sweet Potato and Olive Oil. We have been experimenting with a number of olive oil ice cream recipes, so we are adding Jeni's to our trial list. Another ice cream in the book that has us all aglow is the Oakvale Young Gouda with Vodka-plumped Cranberries. But let us begin with vanilla.

Ugandan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 1/2 ounces
(3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. fill a large bowl with ice water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla seeds and bean in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag into the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Of course it is Ugandan vanilla, but you can use plain old vanilla beans if you don't have the ones from Uganda. But then you will have to drop the "Ugandan" from the name. Now you need to go out right now and get yourself a copy of this book so that you, too, can make ice cream. If you live close to Jeni, just grab a pint. She's opening up a new store in Nashville real soon. Jeni is always on the prowl for new ice cream ideas, so check out her blog, salty caramel to follow more Jeni updates.

So now we have the ice cream machine sitting on the milk crate, the corn starch and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home, let the summer begin.

14 June 2011

Good Egg Dishes

We were thrilled to hear that Angry Bird is coming out with own egg cookbook. As you know, egg cookbooks are a favorite here at Cookbook Of The Day. Until the Angry Bird hatches, you will have to settle for this gem, Good Egg Dishes by Ambrose Heath. Heath wrote and translated more than one hundred works on food, this being the fourth of his books we have reviewed.

Like many egg cookery books, this is not so much a "cookbook" as a list of how to treat the eggs after they have been cooked. It is more of an egg "decorating" book.

Eggs Sur Le Plat Clamart

The bottom of the dish is garnished with green peas
à la française, and the egg is broken on to these and baked.

How many peas? How high the oven? You are left to the imagination.

The most favorite thing about this book is the clever use of recipe titles. Heath wallows in his French providing the most decadent titles for the most simple of dishes. Think about it-- eggs cooked over peas -- I don't think so. But Eggs Sur Le Plat Clamart, I am so making this dish.

How about scrambled eggs? Heath makes a mere scrambled egg a vision of poetry.

Eggs Scrambled Chatillon

The scrambled eggs are served in a border
with minced fried mushrooms in the middle, surrounded by a heap
of fried parsley, and little fleurons of puff pastry round the outside.

Again, if you have to ask how to scramble and egg or make a puff pastry or fry mushrooms or parsley, this book is not for you.

Chatillon is a French town or family or battle, one would guess depending upon how you perceive your eggs.

A border is a small platter with slightly raised edges. Now days a square plate would work nicely.

Fleurons are literally florets. In typography they are those curly cues around type, the frilly bits, which accurately describe the exact way those little bits of puff pastry should adorn the boarder.

Here is his cooking instruction for Eggs Mollets.

"There is no English word to describe this kind of egg, which might perhaps be called a soft hard-boiled one, for it is cooked enough for the white to to be firm enough for the shell to be removed, while the yolk remains quite soft inside."

Let's go out a limb here and and say that in English we would call eggs mollets "soft-boiled" eggs. Again we must point out that a soft-boiled egg doesen't hold a verbal candle to eggs mollets. And, as a added bonus, Heath points out that for every recipe that calls for poached egg, eggs mollets can be substitute and there would, of course, be a name change:

"In any recipe for Poached Eggs that follow, an Egg Mollet can be substituted where convenient. The name would then run: Oeufs Mollets So-and-So."
Next time you are in restaurant and the waiter says, "How would you like your eggs?" You know what to say!

Requiescat in Pace -- Kathryn Tucker Windham

The great storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, died 12 June 2011. She was 93. In addition to many volumes of ghost stories, she also wrote two cookbooks. One of our early Lucindaville posts featured Southern Cooking To Remember. We have reprinted it below.

Here at Cookbook Of The Day, we featured her book, Treasured Alabama Recipes.

She was a lovely lady who constantly reminded people of the importance of listening. In 1940, after writing movie reviews for her hometown paper, she began a career as a police reporter for the Alabama Journal in Montgomery. At the time newspaper women were generally confined to the society pages. She gained the respect of the police by following the most grisly of stories, even scrambling down a steep ravine to get to the body of murdered child. Of the incident Windham wrote:
“When they saw me stay with them on that one, they accepted me. They knew I could do a good job, just like our male reporters."

But storytelling would always be her greatest gift -- storytelling and playing the comb. Here is a short video, in honor of her 90th birthday, describing an early comb playing class.

She will be missed. But don;t be surprised if you see her now and then, strolling down an Alabama road, or waving from a high, dark window...

REPRINTED from 27 February 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Kathryn Tucker Windham

If you were a child in Alabama, you know Kathryn Tucker Windham. She is a quintessential storyteller who made ghost stories a way of life. It all started in 1966 when a "friendly" ghost named "Jeffery " took up residence in the Windham house. When a group of kids came over and tried to "contact" Jeffery with a Ouija board, they succeeded and Jeffery was photographed. Jeffery became a kind of spirit world collaborator as Mrs. Windham collected stories that became 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. My favorite is the Red Lady of Huntingdon College. Kathryn Tucker Windham began collecting ghost stories and other tall tales from around the South. Now 90, she is still in demand as a storyteller. She founded the Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival, held each year in Selma, Alabama.

What people may not know is Kathryn Tucker Windham's first book was a cookbook. Later she published a second cookbook, Southern Cooking To Remember. In November, I was in a large, well stocked grocery store and found a lovely bag of sunchokes, which I thought was funny since they looked like Jerusalem artichokes to me. Actually, Jerusalem Artichokes are not from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes. They are indeed, sunchokes, tubers from a sunflower like plant. When an early explorer to America sent the tubers back to an Italian friend, he dubbed them, "girasole articicco," quite literally, "sunflower artichoke" or sunchoke. The Italian pronunciation was corrupted and "Jerusalem artichoke" stuck. What do you do with them, my friend asked and Kathryn Tucker Windham knew the answer. Most Southern larders have at least one jar of Jerusalem artichokes pickled in some way.

Jerusalem Artichoke Relish

2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes
4 yellow onions
3 red peppers
1 cup salt
1 quart cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed

Use a stiff brush to scrub artichokes well. chop coarsely. Chop onions and peppers coarsely. Put chopped vegetables and salt in a large bowl and cover with cold water. put in the refrigerator overnight. being sure to cover it tightly. Next day, pour off the water and place vegetables in a large kettle. Add other ingredients and cook over moderate heat, stirring , until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture boils. Reduce the hear and simmer for half an hour or until relish is thick. Stir right often during the simmering. ladle into sterilized pint or half-pint jars and seal. This makes four pints.

Grab yourself a sous chef, spectral or not, and make a batch of this relish. And afterwards, I'll tell you the story of the Red Lady...

05 June 2011

Food Graphics

Today we are not looking at a cookbook, but at the changing ideas of food and nutrition. This was, of course prompted by the unveiling of the new USDA food "plate." This whole idea started back in the 1900's when then director, W. O Atwater published his booklet, Principles of Nutrition and Nutritive Values of Food. The gauntlet was picked up by Caroline Hunt who quantified the process by recognising five food groups and how they should be divided. Hunt recommended a diet consisting of 10 percent daily calories from milk; 10 percent from meat; 20 percent from breads and other starches; 30 percent from fruits and veggies; and 30 percent from all else, including fats and sugars.

The 1930's brought diversity and H.K. Stiebeling. His guide to buying groceries gave consumers the Basic 12. this included milk; eggs; flours; cereals; potatoes fruits; veggies; tomato or citrus; lean meat; beans/nuts; leafy greens; sugar and other fats. Though there seemed to be some overlap in his categories. These detailed booklets fell flat, and by the 1940's zippy graphics were employed to better explain what one should be eating.

1942 took the Daily 12 to the Daily 8.

1943 brought us several variations on the new "Basic 7"

Including suggestion on how to arrange the Basic 7 into meals.

And even this patriotic graphic in Red,White and Blue.

1949 continued the Basic 7.

1956 saw the the rise of Basic 4, not only to provide nutrition, but fitness, also.

There was the 1979 Hassle-Free food Guide

Even the Red Cross got involved in 1984.

After carefully looking at Sweden's food pyramid, the USDA adopted their own in 1992.

The pyramid's proportions and directionality were updated in 2005.

This week, we saw our new USDA graphic. The friendly plate.

I don't know about you, but I am ready to go grab a bag of Cheetos.

03 June 2011

In Defence of English Cooking

I am going to take this Famous Food Friday to namedrop. No, I do not know George Orwell, but I am friends with Christopher Hitchens who has often written about Orwell. In fact, Christopher Hitchens is often credited with inspiring a kind of “Orwell Revival” as it were. Though for, some of us, the revival was preaching to the choir. Still anyone who fosters a further reading of Orwell is peaches in my book.

Now let me clarify: When I say Christopher Hitchens and I are friend, I don’t mean in that -- Graydon-Carter-and-I-are-headed-to-the-Waverly-Inn-do-you-want-to-join-us-for-lunch -- way, but more in the way that we would say hello if meeting on the street.

About a year ago, I was doing some research and ran across an unpublished essay of Orwell’s entitled British Cookery. It was complete with several recipes and I was totally enamored. It was one of those moments you really wanted to share with someone. (Yes, people, finding an obscure, unpublished essay by George Orwell is definitely a Hallmark moment for many of us. The card would say: Reading Orwell and Thinking of You – Keep The Aspidistra Flying!) Alas, I had no one to share it with. Several weeks later I was to see Mr. Hitchens and I made him a copy of the article. When I saw him I handed him the article and he promptly left the room. I was undaunted by this behavior and rightly so. A few minutes later, he returned bearing a large book. For one of his speaking engagements, he was given a multi-volume hardback collection purporting to be EVERYTHING that George Orwell ever wrote. He had ducked out to check this collection to make sure that British Cookery was included. It was and all was well.

For Penguin’s 70th birthday, they published works from 70 of their authors for 70p. One of these titles was a collection of Orwell essays featuring In Defense of English Cooking. Had I been the editor, I would have compiled all or Orwell’s writing about food into a single volume. It would be scant but very interesting. After all, In Defense of English Cooking has nary a recipe included just the best of English cookery.

"We have heard a good deal of talk in recent years about the desirability of attracting foreign tourists to this country. It is well known that England’s two worst faults, from a foreign visitor’s point of view, are the gloom of our Sundays and the difficulty of buying a drink. Both of these are due of fanatical minorities who will need a lot of quelling, including extensive legislation. But there is one point on which public opinion could bring about a rapid change for the better: I mean cooking. It is commonly said, even by the English themselves, that English cooking is the worst in the world. It is supposed to be not merely incompetent, but also imitative, and I even read quite recently, in a book by a French writer, the remark: ‘The best English cooking is, of course, simply French cooking.’"

Nonsense says Orwell. His list of British culinary accomplishments are vast. There is bread sauce, horse-radish sauce, mint sauce and apple sauce along with redcurrant jelly. Sweet pickles which are he says, "in greater profusion than most countries." All the bread is good. Stilton cheese and Cox’s Orange Pippin apple would go great with the bread.

I am more taken with his unpublished British Cookery that begin with the French:

"When Voltaire made his often-quoted statement that the country of Britain has “a hundred religions and only one sauce”, he was saying something which was untrue and which is equally untrue today, but which might still be echoed in good faith by a foreign visitor who made only a brief stay and drew his impressions from hotels and restaurants."

It ends with a flurry of recipes for British culinary favorites, including an orange marmalade that Orwell cites as a bad recipe with too much sugar. It is nice to know he cooked his recipes before publishing them, or attempting to publish them. I am sorry, after the Voltaire quote, that Orwell did not include his recipes for sauces that he speaks so highly of in The Defence of English Cooking. We will have to settle for puddings. Here are two examples (one savory, one sweet) from British Cookery and the recipes to go with them.

"Most characteristic of all is roast beef, and of all the cuts of beef, the sirloin is the best. It is always roasted lightly enough to be red in the middle: pork and mutton are roasted more thoroughly. Beef is carved in wafer-thin slices, mutton in thick slices. With beef there nearly always goes Yorkshire pudding, which is a sort of crisp pancake made of milk flour and eggs and which is delicious when sodden with gravy."

Yorkshire Pudding


4 ounces flour
1 or 2 eggs
½ teaspoonful salt
½ pint milk (or milk and water)

Method. Put the flour into a basin with the salt. Make a well in the centre, break in the eggs; beat well, adding the milk to make a think batter; allow this to stand for 2 hours. Melt some dripping in a baking-tin and when quite hot pour in the batter. Make for half an hour in a hot oven.

"Far and away the best of all suet puddings is plum pudding, which is an extremely rich, elaborate and expensive dish, and is eaten by everyone in Britain at Christmas time, though not often at other times of the year."

Christmas Pudding

1 lb each of currants, sultanas & raisins
2 ounces sweet almonds
1 ounce bitter almonds
4 ounces mixed peel
1/2 lb brown sugar
1/2 lb flour
1/4 lb breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoonful salt
1/2 teaspoonful grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoonful powdered cinnamon
6 ounces suet
The rind and juice of 1 lemon
5 eggs
A little milk
1/8 of a pint of brandy, or a little beer.

Wash the fruit. Chop the suet, shred and chop the peel, stone and chop the raisins, blanch and chop the almonds. Prepare the breadcrumbs. Sift the spices and salt into the flour. Mix all the dry ingredients into a basin. Beat the eggs, mix them with the lemon juice and the other liquids. Add to the dry ingredients and stir well. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little more milk. Allow the mixture to stand for a few hours in a covered basin. Then mix well again and place in well-greased basins of about 8 inches diameter. Cover with rounds of greased paper. Then tie the tops of the basins over [with] the floured cloths if the puddings are to be boiled, or with thick greased paper if they are to be steamed. Boil or steam them for 5 or 6 hours. On the day when the pudding is to be eaten, re-heat it by steaming it for 3 hours. When serving, pour a large spoonful of warm brandy over it and set fire to it.

In Britain it is usual to mix into each pudding one or two small coins, tiny china dolls or silver charms which are supposed to bring luck.

In addition to these essays, Orwell wrote a lovely piece on tea. A Nice Cup of Tea outlines Orwell's eleven rules of making tea. (Read Christopher Hitchens' article on making tea the Orwell way, here.) In Moon Under Water, Orwell waxes poetic about his favorite public-house, or pub, discussing its decor, its beer and its food. How nice would it have been if Penguin had collected all these essays into a single volume.

P.S. As you know, Christopher Hitchens has been very sick. The last time we saw him on television we noticed that he was building new bookshelves. Always a good sign! From the Hallmark/Orwell collection we say:

Hope You Are Feeling Better -- Keep the Aspidistra Flying!

P.P.S. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a rather dismal book to have such a zippy title. I am not suggesting you read it, but it is an excellent charades clue.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin