29 May 2009

Famous Food Friday --Lillian Hellman

Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'

Mary McCarthy's quote about Lillian Hellman
which sparked their famous feud.

Lillian Hellman was the provocative playwright who authored The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes. She authored a memoir, Pentimento, which included the story of her close friend, Julia. The book became an Oscar- winning film of the same name. The story of "Julia" it was later revealed was not that of Hellman's "friend" but the story of New York psychiatrist, Muriel Gardiner, who claimed she was "Julia" and that she had never met Hellman, though she did share lawyer with Hellman.

In keeping with Hellman's "borrowing" of material, we are being very forthcoming about the fact that we are stealing this post from www.cookbookoftheday.com. We have altered it just enough to prevent plagiarism. Well, probably not, but then I write both blogs, so I doubt I will sue myself, though I may start a feud with me, but that's a later blog, now back to the cookbook...

One work that did belong to Hellman was a cooking memoir, Eating Together, she wrote with Peter Feibleman. They spent spent many summers together on Martha’s Vineyard. Both were writers, both were Southerners born in New Orleans, and both were a bit difficult – Lillian Hellman much so.

The tradition in the kitchen was to work separately as neither liked to have the other interfere in their cooking. Each was right, always! There was no interference, or sparks flew. Lillian Hellman says, “he puts up with turkey, while I think it is worthless.” As for her recipes, Hellman points out,

“You will note that we haven’t always given exact timings because there is no such thing in cooking. Exact timing cannot be done. It’s a fake. It depends on your stove, the opt you’re cooking in, the temperature outside and too many other factors for any cookbook to tell you how long to do anything.”

Peter Feibleman notes that,

“the social mores of the artist-intellectual set on the Vineyard are the flip side of Easthampton which is to say that a man who wears a tie is gauche elegance is outré, discomfort a virtue, modesty a must, casual living reigns and who has air-conditioning in a bedroom admits to it.”

In spite of their opinionated beliefs, a strong bond formed which led to many parties. They say that the people who are most impressed with celebrity are other celebrities and making a guest list for a party on Martha’s Vineyard is an inescapable exercise in name dropping. So when Mike Nichols visited Hellman, there was need for a dinner party. The guest list was a Who’s Who dripping with Kennedy, Cronkite, Mailer, Graham and Styron to name a few. Hellman vacillated till the bitter end on what to serve. In keeping with the bohemian existence of the Vineyard, she chose a pasta, salad and dessert. By the day of the dinner, Hellman announced, “Fuck all of them.” But the dinner progressed. Feibleman was heading out of the kitchen with the following salad. Hellman stopped him at the kitchen door and removed a lone radish he had stuck on the top, tucking it deep into the salad saying, “ You don’t want people to think you’re decorating food around here. Some of them would never speak to you again.”

Chopped Vegetable Salad

1 zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces and lightly blanched
2 cups green beans, cleaned, cut into bite-sized pieces and blanched
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch radishes, sliced
2 packages frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups Romescu sauce
Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. Toss with 2 cups Romescu sauce. Refrigerate and serve well chilled.

Romescu Sauce

1/4 cups almonds, toasted
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil

Pulverize almonds, garlic, cayenne pepper, slat, tomato and vinegar in a blender. Slowly drizzle in oil, making sure that each addition is completely absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Not only is this post stolen but I am pretty sure this recipe belongs to Peter Feibleman!

Though I do believe my salad would pass Hellman's undecorated muster.

In recent years, Lillian Hellman paid a hallucinatory visit to Lisa Simpson in an attempt to get her to start smoking.

For those of you wondering, Lisa demurred.

For those of you who know more about The Simpson's than Lillian Hellman, there is no truth to the rumor that she invented Hellman's Mayonnaise.

26 May 2009

Richard Comes For a Visit

Richard Peabody came for a visit to Lucindaville. There are no known pictures of this visit. Richard and I spent several days watching old football movies, and even older Law & Order's. We talked about all things relevant, some things not so relevant and a good time was had by all.

Richard and I collaborated on several books including Mondo Barbie. For more information check out www.gargoylemagazine.com.

We also ate cupcakes, of which there are known pictures.

For the recipe, check out www.cookbookofthe day.com.

22 May 2009

Famous Food Friday --Liberace

Perhaps today it should be Flamboyant Food Friday because our recipe comes from the always flamboyant, Liberace.

Liberace had to write a cookbook because he had a lot of recipes to cook in his seven dining rooms.

Seven dining rooms! That’s flamboyant. One wonders how many bathrooms were in the house if it had seven dining rooms. OK, there is a formal dinning room, informal dining room, eat-in kitchen, loggia, barbecue and a couple of more places to entertain. Like the TV dining room, below.

Liberace's mother was Polish and his father Italian. Liberace and his brother, George, and his sister, Angelina, all played the piano. George gave it up for the violin, Angelina gave it up for a husband, but Liberace – he continued to play. Since his mother worked, he also did a good bit of the cooking. Here is Liberace's riff on his mother's potato cakes.

Polish Potato Cakes

6 medium potatoes, boiled
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

Peel the potatoes and put them through a sieve or ricer. Mix slightly beaten egg yolks with the milk, nutmeg, and salt, and mix with the potatoes. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in. Fry in butter on a griddle.

For all that flamboyance on the stage (and off if one believes what one reads...) Liberace was a rather plain cook. No swans in aspic or flaming desserts. Even his mother's potato cakes had a bit of chopped onions! His cookbook reflects his immigrant beginnings in Milwaukee. When little Walter was playing the piano and cooking potato cakes for his mother, she had not a clue what was to come...

12 May 2009

All HAIL Lucindaville

The weather report said our rain was gone. They failed to mention HAIL!!

It was pretty noisy under the tin roof. Good news is most of the garden survived the ordeal.

11 May 2009

A Sad Week In Lucindaville

In a world of mass production and flash mobs it is hard to be the proverbial, "one of a kind." Last week, news trickled out that the world lost two marvelous women who were, each in their own way, one of a kind, Eleanor Perenyi and Maxine de la Falaise McKendry.

Eleanor Perenyi, whose single book on gardening, Green Thoughts, was an opinionated and delicious abecedary of garden wisdom, died at 91. Eleanor Stone went from a school girl at National Cathedral to mistress of 750 acre Hungarian estate and she never looked back. She wrote books, edited magazines and all the while she gardened, marking the ebb and flow, the fertility and decay and she wrote of gardening where the flowers were always full and found that, "eternal bloom led to ennui.”

Maxine de la Falaise McKendry, the woman Cecil Beaton described as "the only truly chic Englishwoman of her generation" died at 86. She was beautiful, in that eternally inquisitive way that makes women timeless. Her mother was said to have cooked fish stew to feed to her roses and her father was a painter. It is no wonder that food and fashion held a theatric air for her. As food editor for Vogue, she wrote Food In Vogue, a compilation of recipes by the famous faces who inhabited the magazine. It is a favorite here in Lucindaville where we featured Lotte Lenya's Meat Loaf.

It is the unenviable job of the obituary writers to sum up a century in a few words. Writer. Muse. Gardener. Model. Wife. Mother. Autodidact. Trendsetter. It is hard to capture in words those intangible moments that a life has to offer. John Donne in his oft-quote Meditation XVII reminds us, no man is an island, but few remember Donne's admonition that, all mankind is of one author. He says: "when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language."

The chapters of Eleanor Perenyi and Maxine de la Falaise McKendry have not been torn out of my book. Every day in the middle of most ordinary; seeing a toad, turning the compost, or making a meatloaf, the story of my life is merely a translation of the lives that have informed me, brought me joy, made me think and laugh and smile. I speak a richer, fuller language because of these women and that doesn't translate into an obituary.

Eleanor Perenyi's Obituary.

Maxine de la Falaise McKendry Obituary.

08 May 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Helen Gurley Brown

“All men would rather have a girl than a wife.”

Helen Gurley Brown

Today's famous foodie is fellow Pisces and Southerner, Helen Gurley Brown. In 2008 Brown was voted the 13th most powerful American over 80. (I tell you this because I had no idea anyone was keeping track of the most powerful octogenarians in America, much less ranking them in a particular order.) And may I say, I hope when I am 87 I will be bold enough to venture out in a pink, décolleté mini dress and black stilettos! If Brown was reading this, she would remind me of her oft-quoted motto, "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere." So at least once, before you are ninety you need to throw off that twin-set and grab a mini.

Brown was born in Arkansas, left fatherless at 10, her mother raised Brown and a sister who suffered from polio. She espoused the line from Carson McCullers, “I must go home periodically to renew my sense of horror.” Brown believed that with hard work and unwavering commitment to excel,a girl, even a single one, could get what she wanted in life. In 1962, she authored the groundbreaking book, Sex and the Single Girl, and 3 years later she took the helm of Cosmopolitan. In her 32 year tenure as editor, she changed the way "women's magazines" looked and engineered a new iconography of a smart, sexy, career woman who always got what she wanted in the "Cosmo Girl."

You know what they say, a girl's got to eat. In 1969, she published the Single Girl's Cookbook. If you wanted to learn to make puff pastry, you were reading the wrong cookbook. In her always glib and breezy style, Brown took food out of the kitchen and into the bedroom. In her chapter on eating in bed Brown wrote:

"Some of us would rather do almost anything in bed. I type there, edit Cosmopolitan, telephone, put up hems, make out lists, file my nails (both kinds), brush the kitties coats, roll up wigs, use my face machine…all those things and many more in bed. There’s hardly any chore aside from rewiring the patio lights that can’t be done better in bed. As for reading, is there any other place?

Naturally, if you’re going to spend every possible moment in bed –- or at least on top of the bedspread – you’ll need a little nourishment while there.

My own favorite is Ice Cold Milk with Stale Gumdrops. Recipe: Leave a cupful of gumdrops exposed to the air for 3 days. Try to forget where you put them so you won’t be tempted to have them before the orgy. When the time arrives, put a tall glass of skim milk (you have to save calories somewhere at an orgy) in the freezing compartment for almost 30 minutes. Hunt up the gumdrops. Take the milk and gumdrops to bed."

Another of her recipes to take to bed when you just can't face the world...

Onion Milk Soup

After a day in which all your faculties have been stretched to the snapping point, take this delicious thing to bed. Even if you still have work to finish, you’ll do it better in bed with this.

1 onion
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
2 slices of French bread, toasted
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté onion slowly in butter until golden. Heat milk. Butter toast ans lay it in a bowl. Add golden onions and butter they cooked in. Salt and pepper onions, then pour on hot milk and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. How could anybody be stretched taut after that?

Helen Gurley Brown's name was never linked to the great wave of feminism in the 1960's and 70's. That oversight is being corrected in a new biography of Brown by Jennifer Scanlon, Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown .

06 May 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

Homekeeping is a fine art. It grasps with one hand beauty, with the other utility; it has its harmonies like music, and its order like the stars in their courses. I fear really good homekeeping –which exhibits itself not in occasional entertainment or a handsome parlor, but in good housekeeping which extends from the attic to the cellar, and through every hour of the year – is far from common.
Caroline “Big Mama” Dunwoody

Mrs. Judge Dunwoody, Caroline (pronounced in the French fashion as CARE-o-leen) was a perfect Southern belle. Born before the Civil War in 1841, she grew up in Georgia and made a good marriage to Charles Dunwoody a promising lawyer who served in the state house and was later appointed a judge. His wife became a leading hostess and was well known in the community, often teaching etiquette.

This fairy tale existence came to a crashing halt when the Judge died after a short illness leaving his wife to care for their six children with no income. She used the only asset she had possessed, her home, and began taking in boarders. The Dunwoody House became a famous location in Georgia and the mistress of the house acquired the nickname, “Big Mama.”

In 1866, Mrs. Dunwoody sat down and began to keep a receipt book, or household diary detailing her vast knowledge of homekeeping. She continued the book for fifty years and in that time detailed everything from cooking collards to mending broken hearts, from writing condolence letters to making lip balm, and from serving wine to doctoring a lightening strike.

In 2002, Miriam Lukken edited Mrs. Dunwoody’s advice into Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping. There is, however, the distinct possibility that Mrs. Lukken made up Mrs. Dunwoody. Rarely are there Congressional Hearings on the veracity of "homekeeping" accounts. Even if she is a bit on the fictional side (and what self-respecting Southern belle isn't) her advice is spot on.

Mrs. Dunwoody offers the following instructions on the proper etiquette for a Southern belle. One simply cannot consider oneself a Southern belle, unless the following behavior is strictly observed:

Becoming a Belle

A lady is never rude to anyone.

A lady will not dress in an odd way to attract attention or remarks
A lady in public walks wrapped in the mantle of proper reserve, so impenetrable that insult and coarse familiarity shrink from her.

A lady carries herself with dignity, but never is such a way to make others think she feels superior to them.

A lady is kind to all people, and carries with her a congenial atmosphere which puts all at ease.

A lady refrains from discussing anything unpleasant or indecent.

A lady does not smoke or bite her fingernails.

A lady is always concerned with the health and happiness of those around her and will do everything she can to see that they are properly attended to.

A lady is never late (lest it give her suitors time to count up her faults).

A lady’s integrity is never at question.

A lady understands that inflexibility is the hallmark of the tiny mind.

A lady possesses a sense of humor and can easily laugh at herself, but never at others.

We believe in Big Mama, though it is hard to believe that Mrs. Judge Caroline Dunwoody, inspirations to belles everywhere would go by the moniker, "Big Mama." Those of us who are close simply call her "Miss Caroline" rhymes with "gasoline".

05 May 2009

Red Velvet Fruitcake

I am always on the lookout for various blends of dried fruits. I am one of those people who feel fruitcake has gotten a bad wrap over time, largely because people see it as a utilitarian kind of cake and as a chore. No one thinks, "Hey, I think I'll make a nice fruit cake for my family." Instead it has become something one gives away and frankly most people don't want them.

I get a lot of books and magazines from England. My friend, Sandra, and I joke about the way English cakes seem to all be the same recipe, a recipe for a fruitcake! In England, however, one can find lovely bags of mixed, dried fruit throughout the year. The fruit is supple and tender and actually looks like it might have come from fresh fruit in the recent past.

Here's a recipe that might change your mind about fruitcake. I was in Trader Joe's recently, and they had a wonderful blend of dried fruit called "Super Cranberry & Pomegranate Blend." In addition to the titled fruit, the package contained raspberries, cherries and black currents. This recipe works best with some sort of "red" fruit blend. If you don't have a Trader Joe's, try your own blend of cranberries, red raisins, currants, or cherries. The pomegranate seeds were just that, seeds -- so occasionally there was a hard center from the arils.

The package of red fruit made me want to add it to a red cake, and what better red cake than a velvet. I modified my recipe to make a fruit cake.

Red Velvet Fruitcake

2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa
1 ounce red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup dried, dredged, fruit (preferably a blend of dried red fruits such as raspberries, cherries, cranberries)

Cream butter and beat in sugar gradually

Add eggs and beat well

Add the cocoa followed by the food coloring, being careful as the food coloring stains

Add salt to flour and the vanilla to the buttermilk, then alternate flour/salt mixture and vanilla with buttermilk to the batter, beating well after each addition.

Place the vinegar in a cup and sprinkle soda over vinegar (there will be a reaction and the mixture will foment)

Fold in the vinegar mixture to the batter, then fold in the dredged fruit.

Pour into a prepared Lucinda’s Wood Cake Box and bake at 300 for 90 minutes.

This is a fruitcake you won't want to give to anyone, unless you bake two!

03 May 2009

New Wood Shed

Jon, my wonderful contractor, built me a new woodshed. As with most of Jon's projects, the woodshed, instead of being a slapped-together protector of cut firewood, is easily livable. In fact, there was much discussion at the end of the project as to whether it would be wasted by stacking wood and instead should be used to set up a bar.

Wood Shed -- Bar

Tough call! Either way, it came out very nice, due in no small part to our general contractor, Kitty Carlisle, who spent the day carefully avoiding any rain.

Jon had plenty of help. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a chicken to make miter cuts? Actually, the cuts are easy but is just so hard to get them do the math properly! They have a devil of a time with fractions.

This winter, I may freeze, but my wood will be safely ensconced in the wood shed.

02 May 2009

Lilacs In A Harry Lowe Vase

When I first moved to West Virginia, I found myself outside one day and I was struck by this sweet, cloying odour. I could not figure out what I had dropped outside, or what could be in the trash emitting such a sweet scent. I finally realize the scent was coming from the lilac trees. (Remember, I had been in the city a long time!)

It has rained for 5 days now. Finally the rain subsided and I could smell the lilacs. They were a bit worse for wear in all the rain, but I cut some to bring inside. I was looking for a vase and I found a lovely piece made by Harry Lowe. Before he was an acting museum director, before he was a curator, before he transformed Cheekwood from a house to a museum, before teaching, he was a student at Cranbrook. Among his many activities there, he made ceramics. I am lucky enough to own one of his pieces, so the lilacs found a lovely home.

I've missed Harry Lowe this week. He is off with the White Ironstone Society looking at soup tureens. So lilacs and Cranbrook vases and even shredded wheat have made think of him.

01 May 2009

Famous Food Friday – George Bernard Shaw

At twenty-five, George Bernard Shaw became a vegetarian. He attributed this change in lifestyle to a couplet in Percy Bysshe Shelly’s poem, The Revolt of Islam.

“Never again may blood of bird or beast
Stain with its venomous stream a human feast!”

The less romantic among us attribute this conversion more to poverty than to poetry. Still, Shaw remained a lifelong vegetarian and a teetotaler. He married late in life and his wife kept to his strict dietary requirements. When entertaining, one maid served the carnivorous, wine swilling guests while Shaw had his own maid to serve him. After his wife died, Shaw needed someone to continue the regime his mother and then his wife meticulously carried out. He found a willing servant in Alice Laden, a widow who nursed his wife during last eight months of her life. Though she didn’t wish to live in the country, to Shaw’s great fortune she remained.

In later life, Alice Laden compiled many of the recipes she cooked for Shaw into the George Bernard Shaw Vegetarian Cookbook.

I chose this recipe because my friend, Harry Lowe, loves shredded wheat. He also loves nuts. This dish is a perfect dish for him as he always has the ingredients in his cupboard!

Mixed Nut Bake

2 large shredded-wheat biscuits
2 eggs beaten
1 cup finely chopped mixed nuts
2 cups fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1 cup sautéed onions
1 hard-cooked egg
1 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, grated
Tomato Sauce

Preheat oven to 375 F. Crush the shredded-wheat finely with a rolling pin. Mix nuts, bread crumbs, seasonings, shredded-wheat, sautéed onions, and beaten eggs together in a bowl. Chop the hard-cooked egg and mix with the grated cheese and cooked rice in another bowl to form a firm filling. Add salt and pepper too taste. Spread half the nut-meat mixture in a buttered baking dish and spread cheese and rice filling over this. Spread the remaining nut-meat mixture on top and dot with butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot with Tomato Sauce.

Shaw once dreamt of his own funeral. Rather than being upset, he was comforted by the happy occasion. He wrote:

“My hearse will be followed, not by mourning coaches but by herds of oxen, sheep, swine, flocks of poultry and a small traveling aquarium on live fish, all wearing white scarves in honour of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures.”
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