And we're not having hot mush today...we're having cold mush

My original plan for this week was "History Week," as I have a small collection of cookbooks ranging from late-19th to mid-20th century and thought we could just skip and hop amusingly through the years. But as soon as I started flipping through Cookbook #33: Fannie Farmer's seminal Boston Cooking-School Cookbook (1896), I became utterly smitten and knew that it deserved its own entire entry. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Balance of actual awesomeness and hilarious old-timeyness: excellent.

I do want to note that I will not be mocking Fannie Farmer, because Fannie Farmer was a badass. Born in the 1850s, she was partly paralyzed by a stroke at age 16 and was unable to walk (for a time) or attend college (as she had planned). So obviously she did what anyone would do and just sat around taking it easy oh wait no she became president of the Boston Cooking School, lectured at Harvard, figured out that food was pretty important for helping sick people get better, and straight-up invented standardized measurements in American cooking, NBD. Next time you follow a recipe and see a bunch of "cups" and "teaspoons" as opposed to "enough cabbage to fill a gentleman's bowler hat" or "bacon the size of a muttonchop," you can just go ahead and thank Ms. Farmer for that. Note that some people still have not heard the good news, Jamie Oliver. Anyway! Not making fun of Fannie. Might be questioning the year 1896 a bit.

The first recipe I chose was Lenten salad, primarily because this week was my last shot at making that at a seasonally appropriate time. Lenten salad consists of lettuce with a chopped hard-boiled egg on top of it. Recommended dressing: French. Recipe for French dressing: oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. You're starting to get the idea of the general tone of this thing. (Is it nonsense? No. It is the opposite of that.) As name-appropriately sparse as the salad was, I picked something a little froufier to go alongside it: chicken soufflé.

Here is what I like about Farmer's approach to soufflé: it's exactly like her approach to everything else. Which is to say, it's about a paragraph, few ingredients, basic instructions, lots of flour/butter/milk. There's no "oh, don't be scared of soufflés, I'll know it's tricky but we'll get through it" because why would you be scared of soufflés she overcame a paralytic stroke at 16 this is just whipping some egg whites, come on. Not a coddler. Just make the soufflé.

That's Mushroom White Sauce on top. Recipe: add a can of mushrooms to White Sauce. 
Here's what I didn't like about Farmer's approach to soufflé: her nineteenth century lack of an electric temperature sensor and the resulting instruction of "cook in a slow oven." I'm really, really grateful for the level tablespoon and whatnot, but the actual cooking directions are a little vague for delicate dishes, and there was some soupiness in the middle. (Oh, what's that? The last time I made a soufflé in a modern oven it was soupy in the middle? Curious.)

Her it's-just-a-recipe-deal-with-it attitude toward things that I find intimidating also extends to homemade pasta. Mix it up! Cut it up! Boil it up!

Serve it as a vegetable!
 Next up: pork chops with fried apples and spinach a la béchamel. Recipe for pork chops with fried apples: uh, cook them in hot a pan, basically. Recipe for spinach a la béchamel: take some spinach; add flour, butter, and milk.

Also, Dan liked this and doesn't usually like pork chops. Cook in hot pan. Now I know.

Did I mention that Fannie has an entire chapter on eggs and that I love her? Curried eggs, even! I MAKE CURRIED EGGS ON THE REGULAR. Usually with less flour, butter, and milk, but who's counting?

Okay, I cheated here and combined Cucumber Salad with Cheese Salad. I'm going to let you work out what those recipes entail. Serve with French dressing.

I didn't want to wrap this thing up without something more obviously old-fashioned, so I threw together a St. John's pudding, which is flour, baking soda, spices, molasses, and dates. I had to steam it! I've never steamed bread before. Fannie was not specific as to how one steams a pudding, but the internet told me to use my crockpot.

Soooooort of authentic.

I was really pleased with our menu this week. Turns out flour/butter/milk can sustain you for a while without really bringing in too many other agents. There are definitely some things that I'd still like to try:

Why have I never had my potatoes in marble form? WHY?

Some things I would not like to try:

You know what Fannie, I'm just going to let you remove those tongue roots.

Some things that sound really disturbing at first blush but thankfully do not turn out to be literal:

No voodoo involved.

And some things that are just crazy. Why on earth would you ruin a nice citrus drink with a bunch of trendy health-food seeds?

1896, you are drunk.

As surprisingly solid and normal-sounding as I found the food overall, I'd have to say things go slightly awry when invalids get involved. I know you're all mad I didn't attempt to make Frozen Beef Tea this week, but what was I supposed to do? No one here was sick! It's not like I didn't want to make Clam Water. (Seriously though, ask me if I would rather drink that or Russian Spiced Tea.)

I do respect the wide variety of gruels and mushes, not least because it's been Miss-Hannigan-ing around in my brain since I saw this list. 

I think Fannie definitely has a few missteps. It's one thing to make those pitiful convalescents drink Irish Moss Tea, but are we really going to put moss in our dessert, Fan? Are we?

Oh, what's that you say now? Irish moss is considered a superfood and adds a gelatinous effect to a wide variety of foods with hardly any flavor and I should probably stop questioning Fannie and her wisdom? Curious.

As if all that weren't enough, the selection of hundred-year-old advertisements in the back are probably worth the price of admission.

Here I've been using non-sparkling calves-foot like a sucker.

I'm going to tape this lady to my pantry door as inspiration.

Oh, thanks a lot for not changing your logo in over 100 years and being utterly un-hilarious, King Arthur Flour.

This is exactly the kind of thing that happened before FF standardized measurements.

Verdict: there's really nothing not to love about this. I am going to use it. And I am going to track down some sparkling calves-foot. Recommended for: anyone with flour, butter, and milk in their larder.

Hey, we went to Kiddie Acres today and Anna got to visit her favorite bench!

Meanwhile, Ivy has gotten significantly worse at hiding.


Uh, Soup Week? Some more.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everybody! That just happened, right? There wasn't a terrible black hole of a week in the interim? Good. Sláinte! First let's wrap up Soup Week, which at this point has extended to Soup Nearly A Month Or So. Imagine my delight when friends Matt and Suzi had us over for lunch and there was SOUP THERE.

With POTATOES in it.
Hard not to feel like this was the universe telling me that Extended Period of Soups had its blessing. And why shouldn't it? What's better than soup? Other than soup with an egg on top of it? Do you think my endless queries are a sign that I missed my internet humans? I did. I missed you, internet humans. Let's talk about soup some more.

Cookbook #31: The Whole Foods Market Cookbook (Steve Petusevsky, 2002). Provenance: Dan received this as a Christmas present several years ago. Previous recipes on this blog: whole wheat pasta with broccoli. Number of times I have thought "tofu with rainbow peppers" sounded like a good idea only to be proven wrong: about three. Recipe: Swiss chard and white bean soup.

Healthy floating things.

Verdict: I've used this one quite a bit. No pictures. Not really as healthy as you might assume. But some good stuff in there.

Obviously I wasn't going to get through St. Patrick's Day without making Guinness stew. I mean, I'm pretty sure we all knew that was going to happen.

Also added mashed potatoes on the side ERIN GO BRAUGH
But did you see Hot Reuben Dip coming? Did you?

If so, good call.
Of course, we started the day with this lump of authenticity: Irish morning bread.

Doesn't look like much, but it's good for soaking up whisky.
In non-thematic news, I made use of Cookbook #32: The Great Big Cookie Book (Hilaire Walden, 1998) in order to make butterscotch bars to take to the above-metioned friend lunch. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Point at which I realized this book was extremely British: "30 ml of golden syrup."

Verdict: a lot of good-looking pictures in this one. It's surprisingly easy to find caster sugar. Keeper.

Anyway, after the week that we're pretending didn't happen, green chile chicken macaroni and cheese sounded like the best possible balm.

And it was. Oh, it was.

And now I am exhausted so I'm just going to photo blast you with pictures of the girls. We'll call it a "caption contest."


Message in a bottle

I have no way of knowing whether this letter will reach you, coming as it does from a tiny and unfamiliar platform. Today is my fifth day stranded on No Laptop Island. Things here are deteriorating. Yesterday in my explorations I stumbled into Broken Toddler Lagoon, a loud and terrible place. And I was awoken in the middle of the night by a violent swarm of That 10K In Two Weeks Is Going To Kill Yous. There are faint rays of hope--both the laptop an the toddler are going into the shop soon. There's a chance that salvage is possible in both cases.

There is no such chance for the 10K.

I hope this parcel finds you well and that we will soon be reunited through a 13-inch screen.



There was EVEN MORE SOUP, if you can believe it

Hey! Uncool news: my computer is dead. Or, as Dan keeps saying, the hard drive "took a dump," which sounds like a normal and healthy process but apparently is pretty bad. Anyway, I am clumsily poking at my phone in order to send you this very important transmission, but I'm definitely not going to manage any "pictures" or "actual content," I mean come on. Anyway, I am fine! Things are being cooked! Just briefly living without a laptop. Like a cave person.


Wherein I interrupt Soup Week in order to make a strikingly unattractive pie

I snuck two re-run cookbooks into Soup Week, #29 and #7. I know that's not a very efficient way to get through the collection, but they both had a LOT of soups that I really wanted to make and whatever, this is my show, okay?

As you can tell, soups are a mood booster.
Up above is Thai Chicken and Noodle from The Soup Bible. I'm having a leftover bowl of it right now and it's actually making it kind of hard to type out this post because my brain is completely full of the word "noooooooooodles." And just a big smiley face.

Below is Sauerkraut Soup from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Not sure why I was drawn to this one, except that I really like cabbage? You know what, that's a good enough reason.

Heeeeeeeeey, guess who forgot to plan ahead for Pi Day again? Luckily I received a text from eagle-eyed reader My Father in time to discover the frozen pie dough I still had leftover from last 3-14. So already we're starting off with a pretty stunning level of freshness. I turned to Cookbook #30 The Baker's Bible (Deborah Gray, 1998) to find an appropriately hideous-looking filling that wouldn't require a trip to the store, and what do you know! This Butterscotch Pie sure fit the bill.

For when you want a custard that tastes like vanilla but looks like ground beef.

Verdict: I'm not sure what I did to the custard to cause...that to happen, but beautiful desserts aren't really my strong suit, so it's not especially shocking. It still tastes good! I do not blame the cookbook for this. I have already marked Pi Day 2014 on my calendar in ALLCAPS.

Ivy seemed a little listless this morning, so I thought it might be good to get out of the house for a while. A nice sunny morning at the park should do the trick!

It definitely helped.



Soup Week

I figured Soup Week would be a fun, exotic thing to do for Spring Break, since you hardly ever catch me making soups around here. Time to shake things up, I say! See what eating out of bowls is like! (Here is where you pretend that I have bothered to humorously link to all 8 pages of "soup" search results for this blog.) Where better to start than Cookbook #29: The Soup Bible (Debra Mayhew, 2000)? Provenance: Mom, I think? Previous recipes on this blog: none. Recipe: Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup. Garnish: 1/4 cup of bacon per bowl. Justification for wanting to devour this: unnecessary.

The single advantage to DST is better lighting for dinner photography.
Verdict: Soup that tastes like blue cheese is delicious, as is soup that calls for a decent handful of bacon. This book has almost 300 soup recipes in it AND color pictures. It might be the perfect book, is what I'm saying. I did notice that one of the five star reviews on Goodreads included the fact that she is "slowly trying to make them all" and I had a sharp pang of project-envy. A WHOLE YEAR OF SOUPS, WHAT A GLORIOUS VISION. I mostly include this tidbit in order to make Dan appreciate his sentence of one measly week of nothing but soup.

Hey, it's March! Time for our biannual weekend of garden work. Note that this time last year we were...having soup. Some things have changed, though! Anna is way more resigned to her duties.

I also broke out the kiddie tent this weekend, but it's hard to tell if Ivy likes it.

Of course, she's pretty hard to read in general. Not too feisty these days.


Luck of the Irish, etc.


(It was for her lungs. They are not broken.)
So, uh, that was a minor bump in the road on Wednesday, but as you are well aware, the hosting of St. Patrick's Day-themed Bunko waits for no one. Particularly when one has already cleared all the shelves in Austin of their green and/or vaguely Irish consumables. So even with one member of my Party Prep Team down for the count, I bravely pressed on, tackling such exhausting hurdles as cutting up a veggie tray and putting grapes on a plate.

I also transferred those dips from their plastic containers into real bowls. All by myself.

I revisisted a couple of recipes from last year, including this inexplicably popular white chocolate Frito popcorn and emerald eggs.

"Emerald" = "spinach." Just trying to fancy this thing up a little bit, guys.

I also tried a couple of new dips, the green hummus and appallingly unhealthy caramel apple dip from this site.

But it LOOKS so good for you!
And I stuffed the tiniest potatoes in all of creation with white beans and spinach. These things were seriously wee.

Even the leprechauns are all "Damn, that's dainty."

Seriously. LOOK HOW WEE.

*Not an ostrich egg.

Two different people assumed that I somehow dyed that cauliflower and one person asked if I made the mint chocolate malt balls, so I think my reputation as an insane person a great hostess is pretty solid. I must be doing something right, based on this sweet hostess gift from Regan.

Note the "8 Hour Scent System." That means I'm going to smell like Celtic Rapids for like 16 hours a week!

If that's not enough proof, I think the fact that we accidentally invoked the St. Patrick's Day Spectre means that it was a pretty good party beyond a doubt.

Roaming the earth in traditional plastic robes.