Friday, November 20, 2009

20 November 1955 “Realizations and New Books”

woman ironing in kitchen This morning, as I was ironing my linen tablecloth and keeping an eye on my ‘mock hollandaise’ on the stove, I had to laugh. “Just think of yourself a year ago” I said to my alter ego. “You could barely boil water and now you are making homemade white sauce, ironing tablecloths and think it ‘normal’ to eat with linen napkins in girdles and petticoats”. Times, they are a changing.woman ironing in kitchen with hubby (this picture really makes me think of Hubby and I)

It is funny how we can adapt, isn’t it?  I am glad for it, I must say. It gives a gal hope. It makes one realize you can honestly change your environment and really, who you are. If you feel akin to someone or a time period or you admire a person, you can emulate their path and then, while doing so, find your own. You then realize how the day to day can really become an adventure. We become the heroines in our own story.

Sometimes I forget to mention here, when I am making things such as the Fish Chowder for my MIL’s birthday, that it is often the first time I am doing it. Many things I have and am doing this year are really quite new to me. Yet, somehow, in this new mode of thinking, the role of the homemaker, I feel a confidence in their attempts. Sometimes I imagine I am drawing on all those who have gone before me.

As I have increased my skills this year, I find that to open the page of a cookbook, or to dream up what might be nice to try, a dress a piece of needlework, is now just an adventure or a matter of fact. It matters little rather or not I have made it before, because I am HOMEMAKER and I can conquer all!

I think I really wanted to remind all of you of my own inabilities before this year in case any of you out there are new at it or have not even tried. Or, maybe you think, “Oh, that is too much work, or too hard”, when quite honestly, it isn’t. Well, that’s not true, sometimes it is hard ,but then you work through it and think, “Hmmm, next time I will try it like this” and before you know it you are a cook/chef and you are inventing your own recipes! Even in the challenge of the thing you see the joy. I mean, yes it is easy to open a box, add water, microwave and eat. But, to me it is the difference between just being born, facing forward and marching to the grave. That is being alive, but it is not living.

So much of what media shows us has us all longing or wishing for silly things or things which might be out of our grasp. Certainly there are those out there who do go on wild adventures, marry millionaires and become movie stars, but their percentage is very low to the general populace. What I have discovered this year is not only the contentment of place ( a place I can change or choose differently if I WANT to as we do live in Modern times) but also the adventure of living itself.

I will use the kitchen and food as an example again. Yes, we can easily whip things up from packaged foods, but the kitchen is like a mad scientists lab or a wonderful surgery or magical room to which we have the keys. Think of being a child and the joy you had playing house, or thinking of ‘being a grownup’. Well, we ARE grownups, so we can play all we like! I think the adventure of cooking is an amazing journey. Why just buy Miracle Whip when you can ‘whip up’ your own mayonnaise?

Speaking of cooking, I found a new book I am SO excited to delve into. I will share the results and recipes with all of you, of course. As I mentioned, this is my hubby’s vacation week, so we have been playing at tourist in the various towns that dot our little island here called Cape Cod.

parnassus The other day we were travelling up the historic road that traverses the cape (sometimes still referred to as the Old Kings’ Highway from our time as a British Colony) and came upon an antique/used book store that we had forgot about. We often frequented this bookstore years ago and having come upon it again, it was like a gift. Yes, in that picture you DO see books outside and many of those do ‘winter over’. It is a unique place. parnassus inside Here is an example of the inside. This is the ‘office’ as you walk in and turn to your right. When you are ready to purchase your books, a lovely bibliophile of a woman stroles out and takes your money. This was an old early 1800’s house and it has done little to let go of that visage. The crooked floors are the old wood planks. The walls, between the makeshift bookshelves and areas where books are missing or perhaps toppled over, show their old wainscot. Perhaps you will spy a bit of faded wallpaper that will wink at you from between the shelves like some old grand dame rocking away her life among the ancient walls. There are two more floors which you can only glimpse when you leave. You see shelves of books through the wavy old single paned glass windows, like a locked up hermit wondering what you are up to in their yard.  It is an interesting place and yet, very much a ‘normal’ aspect of New England and Cape Cod. It is moments like these that I do really appreciate where I live.

I suppose we all love our locales for various reasons. I think, for me, New England is such a nice fit because it wears its history with a certain casual aplomb. In Boston, there are three hundred year old buildings who lean with their aged bricks in Dikensonian patterns mingled with the cobble and brick streets. With this antiquity comes the no-nonsense attitude of the New Englander; The Yankee. Hard winters, stone filled earth, changing tides, having battled it all with out much complaint, a New Englander will tackle a problem without a word, but save the complaining for wonderful old tales to spin around the fire on the cold dark winter night. The brave stoic, the silent lover of beauty with the common sense to come out of the rain and put up what is needed for the coming winter. Do any of you feel particularly akin to your areas or environments? Do they suit you or really, upon reflection, mirror who you are? Let’s hear about it?

Well, back to the point of my story (Did I forget to mention the Yankee yen to spinning tales?)I found two wonderful new books there. Well, they are not new, but new to me. So, for the grand total of 11 dollars U.S. I acquired two wonderful books.

cordon bleu book This is the first and the one I am very excited about. This book is by a woman I am just now learning about, Dione Lucas. She was the first woman ever to graduate from the famous Paris cooking school the Cordon Bleu. Here is a quick blurb about her:

dione_lucas Dione Lucas (1909 - 1971)

The first woman to graduate from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute in Paris, Englishwoman Dione Lucas opened her own restaurant in London in the 1930s and began the Cordon Bleu restaurant and cooking school in New York in 1942. That quickly made her the talk of the town and won her a television show in 1948 — making her the first woman featured on a television cooking show and an even earlier pioneer of French cooking than Julia Child. Onscreen, she concocted delicious dishes for her celebrity guests; offscreen, she gave private lessons to luminaries including Salvador Dali and actress Helen Hayes. While working at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany, Lucas claimed, she had once cooked squab for Adolf Hitler, disputing the belief that he was a vegetarian. "I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab, but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite with Mr. Hitler, who dined at the hotel often," she wrote in one of her books. "Let us not hold that against a fine recipe though." 

Until I found this book I had not heard of her. It was interesting, as I was perusing the cookbooks, there was (as is evidenced in interior photo of the bookstore) a stack of books next to where I was looking. There, right on top, was this blue book. I could see by the artwork it was old. I opened the front pages and saw it was copyrighted in 1947 and thought, “Wow, I would have most assuredly purchased this book”.

The book so very thorough and includes a wine serving list with what temperature and what dish wines should be served with. The contents are SO exciting. Here are some of the headings: Hors D’oeuvres, Soups, Fish, Game poultry and Meats, Eggs, Vegetables, Desserts. I am so excited to delve into this book! There is even a chapter on utensils!

I already have dreams of old copper sauce pots swimming in my head. I have now, in my possession, a small set of real old French metal clad aluminum sauce pans that are very small. From one cup size to about a pint and a half. They are PERFECT when I make a white sauce. I promise myself, however, that only a new (and by new I mean a food safe vintage copper pot/pan) will only enter my kitchen by the removal of the one it replaces. I will donate the old for the new.

I really do want to cook and learn my way through this book. I was thinking, if I can successfully manage my ‘website’ by 1956 then I might have a section of it just showing and sharing my progress as I work my way through it with recipes and pictures etc. Would that be of interest to any of you? Before then, of course, I will share what I try here as well.

Now, the second book is Good Housekeeping’s “Complete book of Needlecraft”. It is very thorough and was published in 1956. So, technically, it does not come out for another month and half, but I could not resist it. It has so many wonderful tips and techniques on everything from making of clothes, embroidery, knitting, sewing for the home.

dress embroidery Look at this lovely color photo showing how to use the ‘modern technology’ of machine embroidery and my machine does these stitches as well!

Well, there is so much more I want to talk about, but I have to save more for my next post. A hint is that I want to tackle some trousers, which I have never made. We will have to discuss that next time, now lets talk cooking and books and such…

 Search The Apron Revolution