I love to find a recipe and think, “That sounds good, I want something sweet. And you know what, Charlotte? There is a years old package of left over coconut, tightly sealed in the freezer—I have all the ingredients!” Oh, Joy! All the ingredients! This is what comes of not throwing away leftovers, and of stocking your can cabinet and your pantry shelves, whether you need anything or not.
Years ago when I was a young woman with three or four children and a strict budget, I shopped on Friday, and only on Friday. We ate well over the weekend, but come Wednesday night it was leftovers and clean-out-the-fridge night. The next night, Thursday before grocery shopping day was What Can I Make From Nothing night. That’s when you found the package of chicken backs and necks you had been saving for a rainy day. Boil that up with some onions and celery if you have it and you have the basis for chicken pot pie. Any leftover vegetables in the fridge, drained could be used up. By this time we were out of bread, but no worries, there is always flour and baking powder and a little Crisco, add some water and Hey, Presto! It’s biscuits! Continue reading
In this day and time of fast food, dining out and the occasional cooking for the family, the time has come to be thankful that we can still find natural ingredients to make things out of. There is nothing, nothing I say, as satisfactory as seeing, feeling, admiring the products of your own labor. This applied to handwork of all kinds: sewing, embroidery, crochet and knitting, to name a few. These products can be useful—to keep you or yours warm, they can be decorative and useful—intricate little doilies that serve as coasters to preserve your furniture’s finish, or strictly decorative as the many framed examples of needlework that have adorned American walls our whole history. Cotton, linen and bamboo are some of the natural products we work with.
At other times the products of our labor and materials smell good, have texture ranging from silky smooth to chewy to crunchy, taste sweet, tart, spicy, ¬rich, or all the way from meaty to vegan: in a word, Food! Have you ever perused the recipes your grandmother followed? We Twenty-first Century cooks don’t have all day. Few of us (though I know of one) buy our own grain and mill our own flour. We are spoiled by all the convenience foods available, and processed ingredients, and cake mixes. There, I’ve said it: cake mixes. I used to make cakes from scratch, sixty years ago. I sifted the flour three times before measuring. I separated eggs, and beat the whites until they held a peak and lost their sheen. (My grandmother used a flat wire whisk and beat air into the egg whites on a platter!!) Sorry, some skills are gone forever. I melted chocolate squares (no Cocoa powder for me) and made Devil’s Food cake. It was mostly to take in to work Saturday afternoon for all my colleagues at the theater, in the hopes of impressing the projectionist (the way to a man’s heart, etc.). Continue reading