Category Archives: Food

James W. Baker, Thanksgiving Cookery

(2014-03-07 004)Title: Thanksgiving Cookery

Author: James W. Baker; with Elizabeth Brabb

Series: Traditional Country Life Recipe Series

Publication Information: New York, NY: The Brick Tower Press, c1998 (2nd ed.)

ISBN: 978-18-8328303-2 (1-883283-03-5)

Library of Congress Classification: TX739.2.T45

Dewey Decimal Classification: 641

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Thanksgiving cooking
Thanksgiving Day—History

Did you know that the 1621 celebration we base Thanksgiving on was not considered a day of Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims, but only a harvest festival celebrated with the Native Americans that was never repeated?

That’s just one of the facts this interesting cookbook has to offer. the First third of the book gives the history of American Thanksgiving and how the entire holiday originated out of the New England colonies. Several Congresses and presidents from Washington on tried to start a Thanksgiving holiday, but they were only isolated; no national holiday was started until Abraham Lincoln, and it traditionally became fixed on the third Thursday in November until FDR tried to make it the last Thursday in November in an effort to extend the shopping season for Christmas by one week.

Sarah Josepha Hale was the mover behind the Thanksgiving holiday.  She advocated for a return to a much simpler time befor  industrialization started separating parents and children. She believed that a day set aside could strengthen the family. Of course, the South resisted the holiday for years because it had been introduced by Lincoln and it had come from the New England “Yankees.” The holiday was celebrated  by custom until 1941, when FDR signed a law that officially created the third Thursday in November as Thanksgiving.

How ironic that FDR attempted to create an extra week for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it was the REPUBLICANS who killed the idea. I think an extra week would be preferable to having people work on Thanksgiving, which started with Wal-Mart and is now copied by Target and other heartless corporates. Sarah Hale would be horrified to see what has become of her holiday. So much for the day dedicated to family and food.

The rest of the book has recipes on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There’s several recipes for stuffing as well as gravy. (For some reason I always have trouble with the gravy. I never make enough, and it’s usually lumpy.) It’s got everything from the turkey to the dessert. Unfortunately, no pics of the food. (I always like looking at pictures.)

A nice book about a wonderful holiday that’s being ruined.

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(2014-03-07 002)Title: Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook

Publication Information: Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, c2012

ISBN: 978-1-118-38894-5

Library of Congress Classification: TX739.2.H34

Dewey Decimal Classification: 641

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Halloween cooking

This is a fun cookbook.

I love everything Halloween, and this book has some good suggestions for party ideas.

Some of the recipes are how to cook something and, more importantly, how to dress-up food for the holiday. The Spiderweb Black Bean Burgers (p. 64-65), Chicken Enchilada Mummies (p. 66-67), Taco Monster Mouths (p. 68-69), Serpent Subs (p. 72-73) and Spooky Shepherd’s Pie (p. 88-89) are variations on recipes that most of us probably have or know where to get them, as well as how to make the food look spooky.

There are some good recipes. I like the Candy Corn Cookies (p. 156-157) and Scary Cat Cookies (p. 158-159); these are clever and good-tasting cookies. The ideas on how to create candy-corn-shaped cookies with the same candy colors is very inventive. Some of the recipes are for simple, yet clever, snacks. Witches’ Brooms (p. 166-167), Grilled Ham and Cheese Boo Bites (p. 74-75), Scarecrow-d Taco Dip (p. 42-43), and Graveyard Bones with Dip (p. 36-37) are simple ways to celebrate Halloween without going to a lot of trouble. Meanwihile, Scary Pancakes (p. 94-95) and Spiderweb Pot Pies (p. 84-85) look delicious. These are definitely comfort foods.

With these types of cookbooks, you have to remember that the brand names, in this case Pillsbury, are going to be mentioned. However, it’s easy to find a recipe to make the product that is the brand name. For example, for the Spooky Spiderweb Pizza (p. 78-79), a can of Pillsbury pizza crust is needed. There are so many recipes on the Internet for pizza dough that you can easily replace the can with your own (or someone else’s) dough.

So, if you like celebrating Halloween and like food, this book is for you. You’ll get a lot of ideas here.

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(2014-07-12 004)Author: Tom Mueller

Title: Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Publication Information: New York: W.W. Norton, c2012 (1st ed.)

ISBN: 978-0-393-07021-7 (0393070212)

Library of Congress Classification: TP683

Dewey Decimal Classification: 664

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Olive oil–History
Olive oil industry
Olive–History
Olive–Folklore
Food adulteration and inspection

This is a very interesting book, and one that should be read by anyone who is interested in eating real olive oil.

Those barbarian tribes that overran the Western Roman Empire did more than just conquer the land. They changed the diet of the former Romans. From bread, wine and oil, the new masters introduced meat, beer and animal fat, which quickly caught on. As Mueller goes on to say (p. 70), forests were no longer measured in hectares but in hogs (amount of land that could be grazed in a day), the images of the oil harvest in December gave way to hogs fattening on acorns and slaughterhouses, and the descendants of those ancient writers who wrote with disgust and fascination at the barbarian diet now celebrated it. Ironically, only the Church preserved the ancient respect for olive oil through the rites and rituals.

And just what makes good, virgin olive oil? After reading this book, anything that actually IS virgin olive oil. The olive oil industry is a big market for forgery and deception. The European Union was cracking down on the “watering down” (oiling down?) of olive oil with other oils–vegetable, cotton, etc.–that are easier to make and can be doctored to taste like real virgin olive oil. Sometimes it’s only in a laboratory that the truth about an olive oil is discovered. Olive oil fraud is big business in the EU, and in a country where olive oil is in no way regulated–everyone together, the United States–you really don’t know what you are buying.

Buying from big olive oil companies doesn’t guarantee you purity; most of these companies get their oil from different distributors who get their oil from different fields as well as countries that produce olive oil: Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Tunisia. Getting all this different oil from all over is an easy way to introduce impurities (read: adulterated oil) into the process. Price doesn’t always guarantee you quality or purity, either, although cheap olive oil is probably always made from what is called lampaste–traditionally whatever is left from the olive oil process that was used in lamps. Now lampaste is being turned into olive oil. There are now chemical solvents and processes that can draw out the residue oil and destroy the bad taste to make it palpable to humans.

Problem with all this adulteration and processing is that the benefits of olive oil–what makes it so good for humanity–begins to be destroyed. What’s the point of buying what is supposed to be olive oil when it isn’t it and that most of the benefits from the olive have been destroyed? There’s evidence that even in Roman times there were attempts to falsify olive oil by adulterating it with cheaper oils–perhaps where the Latin saying Caveat emptor, “Let the buyer beware,” comes from.

Mueller travels all over the world to talk to different olive oil producers about their product. There’s a lot here, not only about corruption but about laboratories and people attempting to raise the quality of olive oil and stop those who are just trying to make a quick buck. Mueller met with people who can sample olive oil and tell what harvest, where it’s from, if it has any impurities–although he also admits that sometimes even tasters can be fooled.

It’s a very good book (one that really needed an index), and one that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning about the world of olive oil.

 

 

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Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. There’s a big browsing section of what new books the library bought.

(2014-03-07 001)Title: Biscuits and Scones: 62 Recipes from Breakfast Biscuits to Homey Desserts

Author: Elizabeth Alston

Publication Information: New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. ; Distributed by Crown Publishers, c1988

ISBN: 0-517-56345-2

Library of Congress Classification: TX770.B55

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Biscuits
Scones

I’ve always loved the idea of having tea. Tea time is one custom that the United States should have kept, but it was dumped with the British crown after the Revolution.

This cookbook’s name says it all. I love scones. I made three recipes from this book, Peggy’s Cheese Scones (p. 42-43), the Fresh Herb-Olive Oil Scones (p. 48-49), and Hot Cross Scones (p. 30-31). I did not use all white flour but mixed it with whole wheat flour. I’m not a baker, but I’m sure this changed the consistency. However, the cheese scones turned out well as did the herb-olive oil ones, which I made two batches. The hot cross scones were okay; the consistency threw me, since hot cross buns are much lighter than scones.

There are some great recipes. Besides scones, there are recipes for biscuits as well as shortcakes and a variety of other types of baked goods, both savory and sweet: Ham or Smoked Turkey Biscuits (p. 35); Biscuit Pissaladiere (p. 36-37); Dried Fruit Biscuit Strudel (p. 61-63); Coffee-Hazelnut Scones (p. 70-71); and instructions on how to enjoy A Devonshire Cream Tea (p. 86).

There should be something for everyone in this collection. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

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Zombie Ate My Cupcake (2013-11-22 001)Title: A Zombie Ate My Cupcake!: 25 Delicious Cupcake Recipes

Author: Lily Vanilli [AKA Lily Jones]; starring Paul Parker

Publication Information: London, New York: Cico Books, 2010

ISBN: 978-1908862068

Library of Congress Classification: TX771

Dewey Decimal Classification: 641

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Cupcakes
Cake decorating
Halloween cooking

This is a little book with a lot of recipes for cupcakes—cupcakes for the dead! Seriously, it’s got some interesting ideas on making and decorating cupcakes with a spooky theme.

There are some clever cupcake recipes in here. The Blood-Stained Brains (p. 47) looked like an actual human brain, and the Bleeding Hearts (p. 53) actually looked like real hearts. (No Valentine’s Day-shaped hearts here.) The Devil’s Food Cupcake (p. 57) was clever: it had horns sticking out on either side!

I really liked the Rainbow Cupcakes (p. 49 & 51), which were colorful and could be used for any parties needing a little color. The Day of the Dead Skull Cupcakes (p. 8 and cover) were really nice. They looked like the stylized, decorated skulls used in the Day of the Dead celebrations. These skulls are everywhere, and not just limited to the Day of the Dead. Recently I’ve seen one as an ornament for a tree, which I was tempted to buy.

I’m one of those people who love looking at photos of food and the ingredients, so the color pictures of the various cupcakes and their recipes got me thinking. I would try and substitute some of the ingredients used in the decorations. Marzipan is used in some of the decorating. For example, Sweeny Todd’s Surprise, which looked like a pie only with a finger sticking out. That finger was made of marzipan.

I’ve never understood marzipan. I know that it’s used in decorating, and it allows for some very interesting creations, but it either has no taste or tastes bad. If eating it isn’t going to be pleasurable, what’s the point of using it on a cupcake or cake? Sorry, in my book aesthetics are always sacrificed for yumminess.

The Black Roses Cupcakes (p. 36) had the roses made out of gum paste. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted gum paste, but I was wondering if roses made of buttercream icing would work just as well? Experimenting, at least for me, is part of the fun.

Books like this spark creativity, which is always a good thing.