Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maraschino Cherries

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, I probably would too. Over the last few months I've run across a couple of articles on homemade Maraschino Cherries--one in The New York Times and one on NPR. What's weird is that I hate Maraschino Cherries, but for some reason these have been calling to me.

The recipes are really simple: take some berries and dump some booze on them. I used the recipe where I heated the booze up. And I sterilized the jars, as you would for canning. Including prep time, the whole project took about a half hour and yielded about 5 pint jars. Although easy, it was expensive for all those cherries and that big bottle of Luxardo. I'd never really had a call for cherry liqueur before this, but I still have half a bottle of this stuff left over, so if you have some suggestions, let me know. Perhaps I'll use it to make ice cream.

The end result is beautiful and homemade, but the thing is I'M SCARED TO EAT THEM. They've been in my fridge three weeks now. The should be ready. Foods that "cook" or are preserved without heat freak me out. I feel this way about ceviche and cold smoked pork as well. I should just eat one. How much harm could it do?

Harry: Dog with Big Eyes

When I was a little girl my grandparents gave me a set of prints for my bedroom. They were really popular at the time, by Keane or Gig or Bucky or one of those other painters who painted dogs, cats, children and other household pets with pitiful big eyes. The kind of thing you might see in old Brady Bunch or Family Affair episodes. There were two: A cat in an alley with a trashcan and a fish skeleton. It was skinny and starving. A dog tied to a chain link fence that was also skinny and starving. At night when I was trying to fall asleep I would lay in bed and look at them and cry. If I awoke in the middle of the night, I would try to keep my eyes closed so I wouldn't have to see them. One night my mom came in and I was crying. She looked at the pictures, took them down, and I never saw them again. Sadly, I couldn't find images of my original pictures, so I stole these off the interweb. They'll give you an idea.

Here I am an adult with my first rescue dog. He was seriously abused and it's hard work to rehabilitate him. Serena and I take pleasure whenever he does something a regular house dog would do, even if it's bad--like steal a piece of popcorn off the floor or squirrel away a pair of underwear. I can't help but wonder if I didn't grow up and love animals just to rectify the wrong I saw in those paintings. Also I have to ask, What were people thinking in the 70s?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cake is Frightening

My friend Nicholas found this photo while he was on vacation and immediately thought of me. He is right, this is one of the scariest cakes ever made. But the real curiosity is the rubber stamp on the back.

Fort Lewis Sentinel
Fort Lewis, Wash.
This Photograph Must Not Be Photographed Without
Permission. If Permission is Granted, Credit Line Must
Be Given As Follows.

Additional Photos May Be Obtained & Mailed C.O.D. By
Referring to Neg. No. 7496 3

I wonder if I sent away, if they would send me a copy. I can't imagine what this photo was for.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Chinese Cook Book

A while back my dear friend Stephanie gave me a cookbooklet that belonged to her aunt Gingie, The Chinese Cook Book (1936). When she handed it to me, I was surprised to find that I didn't recognize it. It clearly says "culinary arts tested" on the front and on the back it says "Culinary Arts Press, America's Largest Cook Book Publisher," located in Reading, PA. Frank Daniels on his cookbook website says that this is a precursor to The Culinary Arts Institute books I know and love.

There are lots of interesting recipes. It took me forever to figure out what "Chinese Sauce" was, but then I read the introduction and it says that is soya sauce. Duh. It's an old cookbook so all of the recipes are written in paragraph-long narratives. One that struck me was CHINESE PINEAPPLE SALAD: Boil one pound bean sprouts in pineapple juice. Cover with mayonnaise dressing, flavored with Chinese sauce. Sprinkle with chopped nut meats and garnish with sliced kumquats or crushed pineapple. (Doesn't sound too authentic to me.)

This evening I made radish salad. It looked pretty tasty.

RADISH SALAD: Wash and trim with care one dozen fresh radishes: do not peel, but cut in half. Lay the halves face downward on a clean table or board and lightly crush each piece with the flat side of a knife or some other heavy instrument. Make a sauce of one-half teaspoon of vinegar, one-half teaspoon of sugar, one-half teaspoon of soya sauce, and one-half teaspoon of olive oil. Place the halves face downward in the sauce, and let them remain thus 15 minutes before serving.

Although this sounded easy, I found myself stuck at a particular part of the recipe. After I'd cut all the radishes, I pressed down on one with the side of the blade to crush the radish. It didn't crush. I got a bigger knife. It didn't crush. I pounded it with the butt end of a good sized chopping knife. It didn't crush. I chose not to crush the radishes. They tasted pretty good. Nothing spectacular. Usually I serve my radishes on a bed of coarse salt. And if you didn't notice by my profile picture, I prefer them to look like rodents.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mr Blanding's Dream House(s)

Last week I was in Everett visiting my mom. We had a great time, and one of the high points was a visit from my friend Margaret. I'd met her when I was just a schoolgirl and as our city library's historian, she helped me research a paper I was writing on prohibition and the history of Everett's speakeasies. She showed me a tavern where back in the day the proprietors kept a caged bear in its interior courtyard so the liquored-up longshoremen could wrastle and gamble away their leisure hours. Later, I worked at that same library. Needless to say, I credit Margaret for my love of history and perhaps even its intersection with popular culture, though I'm not sure bear wrestling counts as popular culture.

I was telling her about the essays I've been writing about nostalgia, the domestic, and popular culture that isn't so popular anymore. And guess what? She'd just finished writing an article for about the real world houses that were built to support the release of the film Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). The same film was remade in 1982 and titled The Money Pit, which starred Shelly Long and Tom Hanks. Now in case you missed this classic, it stars Cary Grant and the always charming Myrna Loy. Every time I indulge the fantasy of building my own place or undertaking some kind of gut rehab, I just watch this movie and the whole fantasy disappears. I love this movie and I still feel sorry for Mr and Mrs Blandings and all the money their house costs even though I know that 62 years later that rolling spread in Connecticut near the commuter rail line is probably worth more than I will make in the remainder of my lifetime.

Despite my best efforts, I can't convince Serena to buy one of these "Blandings Homes." I've told her that it would be a great investment and that we would be living in the midst of history, but no luck. I did, however, notice that on the interwebs there are copies of the Blanding floorplan. So maybe if I won the lottery we could build our own from the ground up. But then, they made a movie about building this exact same house, now didn't they?

Please, do, read her essay.