If there were such a thing as a support group for people who buy too many cookbooks, I would be at every meeting. I am especially vulnerable to the ones that read like a journal. The ones that you can sit down and start on page one and keep going all the way to the index, because you are fascinated by how she and her husband divvy up the kitchen responsibilities (Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner, A Love Story) or by how he became impassioned to help people learn how to cook for themselves (Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution). My most recent purchase, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila, is that type of cookbook. Her sweet stories about her family and her easy going, relaxed style make you think that…yes…maybe I could make my own butter. Beautiful color photos accompany stories and easy to follow recipes for 101 everyday staples that most of us usually buy prepackaged. Everything from chicken stock and spice mixes to pudding and peanut butter cups. She covers children’s menu staples like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and also delves into making your own dairy products like ricotta cheese and butter. She provides a section on canning that actually doesn’t sound scary! I mixed up a batch of her pancake and waffle mix and keep a bag of it in the freezer to help streamline the Saturday morning “Mom…will you make us pancakes?” routine. Alana also has a cooking blog, Eating From the Ground Up, which you should definitely head right over to and pick out something to make for dinner tonight!
I love reading about the history of cooking in America. It’s fascinating to me how the art and science of preparing food for our families has evolved from colonial times to the Industrial Age up until today. I especially appreciate learning about the time periods in which my grandmothers created meals in their kitchens…roughly the 1930’s through the 1960’s. My Mom, being the thoughtful gift giver that she is, recently surprised me with the most wonderful birthday gift…4 small recipe booklets that had belonged to my Grandma Gert. Three of them were booklets that came with larger purchases…her Westinghouse refrigerator, Atlas canning jars, and her Osterizer blender. The fourth, a charming compilation of recipes from the Hopewell, NY Home Bureau, of which my Grandmother was a member. Her recipes for Tapioca Pudding and Bavarian Date Slice (?…not quite sure what that is!) are in there, along with all of the recipes of her friends and neighbors. From my reading on the subject, I know that women used to rely on these type of booklets quite a bit as many didn’t have the resources to purchase actual cookbooks. And buying a book wasn’t just a matter of logging onto Amazon and right clicking, as we do today! My Mom also gave me the picture of the little girl cracking eggs into a bowl…it’s a cover from an old McCall’s magazine. Magazines were another important source of recipes and cooking advice, as they still are today. Those pictures in the magazines and the recipe booklets were actually Madison Avenue’s version of life in the 1950’s. Few of our grandmothers probably actually looked like or lived like those images would have you believe. Much as we do today, they probably sighed a bit as they thumbed through the pages…just a little bit envious of the sparkling clean, well dressed children carefully spreading red raspberry and currant jam onto their toast while a calm, smiling mother looked on. They knew that their lives didn’t exactly match up to those images. It’s a good reminder for us today, as we watch TV, scroll through blogs, and follow others through social media. The ideal version of life in 2013, that everyone else seems to be living, might just be a figment of someone’s imagination. The picture on the McCall’s cover…of the little girl, carefully cracking those eggs into the bowl? Most likely, thirty seconds later…she probably accidentally knocked the bowl onto the floor! So as I explore the yellowed pages of the 1955 Hopewell Home Bureau Cook Book, I am comforted by thoughts of my grandmothers and all of the other women who, for so many generations, have done their best to feed their families and to be content with their lives…even when that life didn’t look much like the one in the pages of The Ladies’ Home Journal.
Here are two recipes from these booklets…I’ve copied them exactly as they were first printed, 60 years ago.
TAPIOCA PUDDING (from the Hopewell Home Bureau Cook Book, submitted by Mrs. Edward Kennedy)
~Grated rind and juice of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon
~1 cup sugar
~6 tablespoons Minute tapioca
~4 cups water
~1 cup dates, cut up
Mix all together and cook in double boiler until thick. Stir in 1/2 cup nut meats and serve when cool with whipped cream topping.
RED RASPBERRY AND CURRANT JAM (from the Atlas Book of Recipes)
~1 pint red raspberries
~1 pint currants
~6 cups of sugar
Mash the fruit and heat to the boiling point, stirring well from the bottom. To each pint of each fruit add 3 cups of sugar. Heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved and cook until the jelly stage is reached. Pour into hot, sterilized, glass jars and seal tightly, at once.
PEACE, LOVE AND CUPCAKES
By Sheryl and Carrie Berk
One of my favorite series is called “Peace, Love and Cupcakes”. It’s by Sheryl and Carrie Berk, a mom and a daughter. This series is about four girls, Lexi, Kylie, Sadie and Jenna. They all have a problem and they tough it out together by creating a cupcake club. Well, that becomes a bit hit! Such a big hit that the owner of a famous restaurant orders a weekly 240 cupcakes. Read these awesome books and get some awesome recipes at the end of your book! This series is interesting for all ages. I hope you enjoy them!
Robert Lustig, M.D. is a pediatric endocrinologist who works in the area of childhood obesity. He studies the effects of sugar on the central nervous system, metabolism, and disease. I read his book on the train to and from our vacation to New York City this past week (where, somehow, my children convinced me to buy 3 pounds of M&Ms at the M&M store) and I think that anyone who eats or feeds others needs to read it. The rest of you can skip it.
From the book: “Everyone blames everyone else for what has happened. No way is it their fault. Big food says it’s a lack of activity due to computers and video games. The TV industry says it’s our junk food diet. The Atkins people say it’s too many carbohydrates; the Ornish people say it’s too much fat. The juice people say it’s the soda; the soda people say it’s the juice. The schools say it’s the parents; the parents say it’s the schools. And since nothing is for sure, nothing is done. How do we reconcile all these opinions into a cohesive whole that actually makes sense and creates changes for the better for each individual and for all society? That’s what this book is about.”
We all know that sugar is not good for us and that it is basically empty calories, but Dr. Lustig explains the science behind how too much of it affects our system. He shows how sugar contributes to the diseases which accompany obesity, namely diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. He goes so far as to describe sugar as a toxin that should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. Pretty interesting stuff! He also challenges us to reconsider blaming the people who are obese. It’s very popular to say that we all need to take personal responsibility and just “eat less and exercise more”…but this solution has not been very effective for our society as a whole. Even if you are lucky enough to have maintained a healthy weight…obesity affects you…everyday. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors…they are all getting heavier and having more health problems because of it. We are all going to pay more as our health care system strains under the burden of caring for more and more of us. After sorting through all of the science and research, the take home message of the book is that we are eating too much sugar and not enough fiber. Robert Lustig offers advice for the individual trying to improve their own eating habits and he also offers important suggestions for how we as a community can make changes that will help pull our society out of this black hole of obesity that we seem to be falling into.
This book has really scared me. In a good way. In a way that has made me take a closer look at how I am eating and feeding my family. In a way that has me rethinking how and why America (and the rest of the world) has become so overweight and so ill. It’s easy to just say “Everything is fine in moderation” and ignore the information about sugar. But the problem is that the vast majority of us are no longer ingesting sugar in moderation. Most of the processed food that we buy either has sugar added to it, fiber removed, or both! This book has simultaneously saddened me and given me hope. There is a way out of this mess…and it starts with you and me. This is me…asking you to read this book, and if it makes sense to you…share the information with your family, with your friends, with your communities. As Robert Lustig says in the book, “Public outcry is a powerful force for change.” Let’s help change things.
Book Review by Katie
One of my favorite books is called “Pie” by Sarah Weeks. “Pie” is about a girl named Alice. Alice has an Aunt Polly. Polly is a famous pie maker. But, when Polly dies and Alice no longer has her, she wonders if she will ever be happy again. Alice does find something to keep her mind off her Aunt Polly, but it isn’t pleasant! Lardo, her cat that used to belong to her aunt Polly, got stolen! Can Alice and her friend, Charlie, find out who did it? Or is Lardo gone forever? If you like pie, this book is for you! It has a pie recipe at the beginning of each chapter. It’ll be a fun and exciting story for kids, ages 5 to 12.