Tried the pumpkin scone recipe in the 50 things you can do with canned pumpkin insert. 20 minutes of baking was inadequate given the amount of wet stuff - pumpkin is wet and there was a lot of cream on top of it. 30 minutes was closer to the mark, but even at that, they were still a little gooey on the inside. Flavor was not exciting. Final tally? Not a keeper.
It's that time of year for those of us who subscribe to cooking magazines...the wishbooks should be getting thicker. Sadly, the only one to have gotten the memo is the Food Network mag.
Years ago, Gourmet led the pack with a November issue that was one mouth-watering page after another. The lush centerfold made many a cook's dreams come true. Bon Appetit held its own in those sweepstakes. But, with the demise of the elegant taste-maker, Gourmet, Bon Appetit has suffered from an identity crisis, and it really doesn't do much of a job keeping up. It's turned to trendy, rather than tasty. Ingredients that no one west, north or south of New Jersey can find...that kind of thing.
Fine Cooking's fall issue that combines October and November is never a disappointment, unless you count the fact that everyone I know wishes it was a 12 month magazine, instead of 6 month. It loses a lot of the timeliness by being bi-monthly.
And then there is the Food Network magazine. Holy moly! Fat, full of seasonal stuff, easily found ingredients and accessible recipes.
Those of us who like to cook are already thinking ahead to the holidays. We're already making lists of who will be in town, who will be traveling and who might be alone. I'm doing my fall cleaning so that I'll be ready with polished silver, clean kitchen cabinets stocked with fresh ingredients, and a purged fridge. It's essential if there is going to be a lot of kitchen activity.
The other day, while looking for something else (as is often the case), I ran across something I've saved. It's the November 1986 issue of Gourmet. Why, pray tell? We were married in November of 1986 on Thanksgiving weekend. I had gone through 20 years worth of Gourmets because they were taking up shelf space I needed for other things, but I could not tear up that issue.
This is the season when we plan our baking marathons, the table settings, the things that must be ordered ahead of time and so on. The fat cooking magazines used to inspire this kind of homekeeping creativity. You think Martha Stewart is that innately talented? Gimme a break. She studied those old Gourmet centerfolds with the zeal of a social climber. Here in the South, there are still a few generations who rely on Southern Living. Indeed, newly transplanted to the Star City, I subscribed for a while, until I realized it was the same old same old made with a can of cream of mushroom soup. And seriously, the decorating? There was only so much 18th Century Light, Revisited that I could stomach.
So, these days, I take comfort from those fine people at the Food Network who focus on ingredients we can find easily, fresh foods and accessibility. They know we are busy, they know we want to have a really tasty feast, but they also know that we don't all live in McMansions with Great Halls worthy of Henry VIII. The vibe is more casual than you will find at our house on a holiday, but that's okay. If it gets people into the kitchen, that's fine by me. If it gets some of them to understand that the glass electric cooktop is for lightweights, and that the microwave isn't their most important appliance, I'm all for it.
Stay tuned for what's up on the menus. Right now I have a big collection of squash, so I'm thinking squash lasagne, squash soup, squash mash... Stuffed eggplant, spezzatino with greens, beans and root vegetables... Fall is in the air. Aaaa-choo!
Aw, geez. I'm having a deja vu all over again moment here at the Sprawl. When I was in grade school, I used to have lunch with either Aunt Mary or Grandma Theresa. Grandma was my dad's mother, and she was a cranky old doll who made the world's best apple strudel. She also cheated at cards and bunco!
I always looked forward to lunch with both of them because it was nothing short of fun. Sometimes when I arrived at Grandma's she'd have the kitchen closet completely emptied. There would be stuff everywhere! Baking pans, pots, pans, big bags of flour, sugar, brooms, mops, ironing board... And there would be Grandma, in the middle of that mess, swearing in Slovenian. (I know she was swearing because she made it a point to speak English when I was around. Slovenian was reserved for when she didn't want little pitchers with big ears to hear what she was saying.)
The whole reason for the closet being torn up was that she was looking for something and all the usual places had been checked.
Today I am looking for a box of old photographs. Most of our family candids are on slides, but somewhere in this disaster of a house, there is a turquoise blue notebook that has old black and white photos. And in that box is a picture of Grandma Kate that I want for the Italian Club's cookbook.
So, today, I am Grandma Theresa's clone - there is stuff everywhere, while I excavate all the possible nooks and crannies in search of the darn box. I'm having no luck, but I sure have found a lot of stuff that we could get rid of, and that might be the whole reason why the universe has sent me on this fool's errand!
The House Goddess was watching me fold the dishtowels and we were both remarking on how we were switching to all white because we could bleach the bejeepers out of them with impunity. I help up a great towel that is pretty old, but noted the now lavender design was formerly bright blue. She nodded in assent on the issue of why it no longer pays to have pretty colored kitchen linens. Then she pointed to a rather oddly shaped and disreputable looking rag. "What's that?"
I giggled and admitted that when my Jockeys reach the point of no return, I cut up the salvageable parts for silver polishing. She grinned at me and announced that I was old school.
Here is how old school I am not. My mother and her sister kept house by a strict schedule. Monday was wash day. Tuesday was ironing day. The dishtowels said that Wednesday was for mending, but that was kind of flexible. So was Thursday marketing, given the fact that by Thursday my mother's hair wasn't presentable. (Aunt Mary's hair was always perfect, but she was good at doing it herself.) Friday was for cleaning, but that went on every day from what I remember, and Saturday was for baking. Now, again, that was negotiable. Aunt Mary baked whenever she wanted to, and you always knew what she was up to because you could hear her whistling when she baked. On Saturday, Mom was at Josie's getting her hair done.
The dishtowels decreed Sunday was for church. Sunday was for a roast that was ready when Uncle Eddie and the Mopstick came home from church. (Aunt Mary went on the High Holidays, as did my mother - dressed to the nines, of course in their shoes and matching purses.)
The Monday and Tuesday drill was the same, though, and one thing I learned early on in my apartment living days was that most tenants did laundry on the weekend. On Monday night, the laundry area was available. I had a show I watched on Tuesday night, so I ironed in front of the television. (I still iron in front of the television!)
In my current status as chief cook and housekeeper, I get some odd looks when people find out I pay the House Goddess to come every other week. I guess they wonder what I do with my time. But think of the women in The Help - and the women who live in a certain neighborhood of The Star City. They have someone who shows up every day, in a uniform, to make beds, launder, clean, polish silver and cook. In The Help, there was silver polishing day. That wasn't on the dishtowels, but I'm thinking my mother did that on Wednesdays, if she wasn't in her sewing room making up something nifty or changing the hemlines in our skirts.
The House Goddess keeps me honest. Big Kitty and I are slobs. We are also accumulators of the first order. When HG is due, it forces us to pick up after ourselves. She'd laugh at the idea of keeping house by the dishtowel schedule, but I happen to know that at her house, Thursday was clean-the-house night! Just ask her kids.... She ran that show with the zeal of a drill sergeant with a batch of new recruits!
But, we are on the dishtowel schedule. Today is Friday, and we're cleaning. She's doing her jobs and I'm doing mine. Oh, geez. Here she comes. If she catches me on the computer I'm sunk!
Here we go again. The plethora of pink products that scream Guilt Trip! Guilt Trip! Buy pink or feel guilty! The good news is that the brand name foundation that was revealed to be right wingnuts who wasted donation money on preventing women from access to health care has become somewhat marginalized in this annual color competition.
The irony of my antipathy toward this band wagon is, of course, the loss of my mother to breast cancer. Wearing or buying pink ribbon emblazoned items won't bring her back. Sound research that focuses on the cause of the disease versus money funneled to a cure will bring millions of women more peace of mind. Determine what causes the cancer and the cure will follow.
This is not the protocol that Big Pharma wants to hear. It isn't what the probably causers of carcinogenic conditions want us to focus on, either. Finding the causes - and yes, they most definitely are likely to be plural - might cost greedy corporations profits, after all.
However, the why of any disease or condition is always the thing that nags us, and drives our uneasiness with the subject. For example:
Think about it. Cause and effect. You had that in kindergarten. We won't get at the cause until we women rebel against pink marketing campaigns for a cure, and demand scientific answers to the elusive causes. And THAT'S a cause I can get behind.
*In memoriam, Tom Clancy, whose thriller inspired the title of this piece. Requiescant in pace.
Creative people don't work by the clock, they work by the idea.
A native of The Land of Lincoln, the author currently makes her home in The Star City of the South, where she can utter the word y'all with impunity.