30 September 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

Jesse Browner wrote this charming little book on hospitality entitled The Duchess Who Wouldn't Sit Down. The title comes from an incident at Versailles. My fault with this book, like so many others, is he lack of an index. Also, especially since the story of the Duchess is the title story, he never fully names her and frankly, she suffered enough without even allowing us her full name.

Well here it is, the Duchess in question was Princess Suzanne Henriette of Lorraine-Elboeuf. She was the second wife of Duke Charles Ferdinand. I searched for an image of her, but to no avail. Of course, there is a big old picture of him.

At Versailles, where one sat was of the utmost importance and followed a rather strict code. There were four types of seats and when to sit in them had a great deal to do with whether or not the king was in attendance. Like mush of etiquette it is nuanced and rather complicated but here is the brief version:

There are four types of seats:

The Armchair -- reserved for the King and Queen.

The Straight Backed Chair -- armless chairs reserved for the prince and princess of the blood, cardinals, foreign princes, and duchesses.

Tabouret -- a low stool with fixed legs which was the most fluid of the seating options. Generally, it was reserved for dukes, foreign princes, Spanish grandees, and noblewomen. Madame de Sévigné referred to the stool as the "sacred tabouret" because, while one could never become King, one could be made a duchess. The phrase "take the tabouret" came to mean to assume one's position at court.

Ployants and placets -- folding stool and cushion, respectively. Courtiers were allowed to sit on these while everyone else was required to stand.

The Duchess of Mantua visited Versailles expecting the full regalia of her rank. She expected to be seated in a straight-backed chair befitting a duchess, instead she was offered a tabouret. She refused to be seated on the stool. She was sent from court, which ruined her social standing. Though she tried to regain some semblance of standing, she never did and died at the rip old age of twenty-five.

While the Duchess of Mantua was correct in demanding her chair, she forgot she was dealing with Louis XIV, who believed himself invincible and above the prescribed etiquette of the day.

In the end, one should remember that phrase that Mama always repeated, "Sit where you are told to sit."

29 September 2009

Ginger Pear Upside-Down Cake

There was a whole-lotta-bakin-goin-on yesterday! I baked my favorite Sweet Potato Cake with Golden Berries. My friend and fellow cook, Anne made Ginger Pear Upside-Down Cake. Anne got the recipe from Saveur who got the recipe from Seattlest who adapted the recipe from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't a clue where Leslie Mackie got the idea! Anyway, if you don't want to click through all the links, here's the recipe from Anne--Saveur--Seattlest--Macrina Bakery--Leslie Mackie.

Ginger Pear Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Backery & Café Cookbook

For the topping:
3 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
4-5 medium to large ripe pears, peeled, cored, and quartered lengthwise

For the batter:
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbs peeled, grated ginger
3 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with a 10-inch circle of parchment paper.

To make the topping, combine 3 Tbs butter, ½ cup brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Melt the butter over medium heat for about 1 minute; then pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan, completely coating the parchment paper. Place the quartered pears on top of the butter-sugar mixture, lining the pieces up tightly in a decorative circle so that none of the bottom shows through.

To make the batter, cut 2 sticks of butter into 1-inch pieces, and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add ¾ cup brown sugar, and cream the mixture on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, until it is smooth and a pale tan color. Add the grated ginger, and beat 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed and making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding another. When all the eggs have been added, slowly pour in the molasses and beat to fully mix. The mixture will look as though it is “breaking” or curdling, but don’t worry—it will come together when the dry ingredients are added.

In a separate medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to fully combine.

Alternately add small amounts of flour and buttermilk to the batter, stirring and folding with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are just absorbed. Do not overmix the batter. Pour and scrape the batter into the pear-lined pan, smoothing the top with a rubber surface. The pan will be nearly full.

Carefully transfer the pan to the center rack of the oven, and bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cover the pan with an upside-down serving plate; then carefully invert them together. Release the sides of the pan, and lift it away. Gently lift the pan’s base off the cake, and peel away the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool for a half hour or so, and serve warm, with whipped cream.

Anne, of course, adapted the recipe to use in Lucinda's Wood Cake Boxes, which is easy to do, she just lowered the heat a pinch.

My only regret is not being there to taste it!

24 September 2009

Jacqueline and La Joconde

On January 8, 1963 La Jocande, known to most as the Mona Lisa, was unveiled at the National Gallery in Washinton, D. C.

The evening began months earlier -- with a whisper.

On May 11, 1962 Jacqueline Kennedy arranged a State Dinner for André Malraux.

The menu featured:

Consommé Madrilène Iranien with a crème fraîche
Homard en Bellevue
Bar Farci Polignac
La Croquembouche aux Noisettes

They drank:

a 1955 Chateau Gruaund-Larose
a 1959 Carton Charlemangea
a 1952 Dom Perignon

They listened to:

Schubert's "Trio in B Flat Major, Opus 99" in four parts played by Eugene Istomin, pianist; Isaac Stern, violinist, and Leonard Rose, cellist.

Jacqueline Kennedy wore:

A pink Dior

It was a momentous event. What did André Malraux whisper to the First Lady? A promise to lend La Jocande to the United States. The intrigue, both diplomatic and artistic, have been chronicled in a wonderful book by Margaret Leslie Davis, Mona Lisa in Camelot.

After much wrangling the Mona Lisa arrived creating a "Mona Mania." The exhibition drew the largest crowds ever seen at the National Galley.

As a child, I loved André Malraux and was fascinated by this picture of Malraux viewing photographs. I always believed this was the moment he intellectualized his notion of a musée imaginaire. Of course, it wasn't. I found the swashbuckling and intellectual Malraux the most interesting person I had ever read about.

Today, many of my friends tell me that if they had know me when I was young, I would have spent most of my childhood stuffed in a school locker! Or perhaps, they would have spent it reading Malraux. Probably not.

But, if you are interested in the 1960's, art, or perhaps André Malraux, you should read Mona Lisa in Camelot.

21 September 2009

Stuffed Grits Cups

I would eat grits every day, so when I cook them, I tend to "overproduce" as they make a wonderful planned-overs for another day. One of my favorite planned-over dishes is stuffed grits cups. The make a great breakfast, lovely luncheon and nice hors d'oeuvres.

This recipe can be made from scratch, but the grits need to sit overnight, so it really lends itself to leftover grits. You will need about 1 1/2 cups of prepared grits, so cook extra! This dish works best if you have one of those mini-cheesecake pans. The ones that look like little muffin tins but posses removable bottoms. You can use the mini-muffin pans but extraction is a bit more time consuming.

The basic process is as follows. Cook the grits and pour them into the tins. Let them cool for a while, then form a thumb-sized impression into the grits. Use the end of a wood spoon or, if your hands are clean, just use you finger (be careful as they may still be quite hot). Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge. The next morning, remove the cups from the pan and place on a baking sheet. For breakfast, fill the indentation with cooked sausage balls, or quail eggs and heat in the oven. For luncheon, try the same filling, but serve the cups on a bed of pipérade or ayvar. For an hors d'oeuvre, fill the indentation with sour cream and top with caviar.

Stuffed Grits Cups

3/4 cup quick grits
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)
3 ounces sausage
6 quail eggs

Bring the water and salt to a rapid boil. Stir the boiling water and add the grits in a constant, gradual stream until they are incorporated into the water. Grits will clump up if you just dump them into the water, so add them slowly.

Immediately, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the grits. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the grated cheese and stir till melted into the grits

Pour into the mini-cheesecake pan. Let cool for about 15 minutes and form an indentation in each cup.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350

Remove the grits from the tins and place on an oiled sheet pan.

Form the sausage into meatballs and sauté. Stuff the meatballs into half of the grits cups. In the the other half, carefully break a quail egg and fill the indentation.

Bake until eggs are set, about 10 minutes.

It's now up to you. Use whatever cheese or sausage you like... or have on hand. Add Parmesan and use Italian sausage or try manchego and chorizo. Give this recipe a try. you won't be disappointed.

20 September 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

Marjorie Hillis wrote the quintessential etiquette book for the fearless woman of the 1930's, Living Alone and Liking It. As she says,
“There is not much use in thinking of yourself as Ina Claire and then acting like Zenobia Frome.”
I so agree! Maybe. I think today it would be:
“There is not much use in thinking of yourself as Ina Garten and then acting like Ruth Madoff.”
Well actually, Ina Claire was a larger-than-life vaudeville star and Zenobia Frome was a fictional, put-upon wife whereas Ina Garten is a larger-than-life television cook and Ruth Madoff is a real put-upon wife... anyway, I digress...

While some of the book might just be a bit outdated, there is still plenty to relish.

“The old-fashioned notion that solitary women are objects of charity was killed in the war.”

That would be WWI.

“Being Spartan becomes pointless when there is no one to watch the performance.”

So true. As with martyrdom, it must be a spectator sport to be effective.

“We can think of nothing more depressing than going to bed in a washed-out-four-year-old nightgown, nothing more bolstering to the moral than going to bed all fragrant with toilet-water and wearing a luscious pink satin nightgown, well-cut and trailing.”

I am sure there is SOMETHING more depressing that a pink nitie!

“If even the most respectable spinsters would regard their bedrooms as places where anything might happen, the resulting effect would be most beneficial.”

Anything CAN happen, like a home invasion.

"Be a Communist, a stamp collector or a Ladies aid worker, if you must, but for heaven’s sake be something!"

I so love this book! I live alone and love it, but just to insure my standing I am going to rush right out and become a Communist before settling into my pink and trailing nightgown.

Marjorie Hillis did a cookbook entitled Caviar and Corned Beef for the Live- Aloner. Check it out at Cookbook Of The Day.

14 September 2009

Lesley Blanch

I pulled Lesley Blanch's two cookbooks to post at Cookbook Of The Day. It sent me spiraling down the Lesley Blanch rabbit hole and before I could stop myself, I was days behind in everything. I have a friend who has a litmus test for the ultimate of cool. She believes that if you know who Isabelle Eberhardt is, then you are cool.

Isabelle Eberhardt

Well, Lesley Blanch wrote the book on Isabelle Eberhardt and Isabel Burton, Aimee Dubucq de Rivery, and Jane Digby. The Wilder Shores of Love, published in 1954, told the story of four European women in the nineteenth century, who traded their comfortable life in the West to search of adventure and romance in the Middle East. It was a search said Blanch, "for the wilder shores of love." The book remains in print to this day.

Blanch attributed her stoic perseverance to her mother who always told her, " just get up and get on with it."
And get on with it she did. She wanted to be a painter so she enrolled at The Slade School where Vanessa Bell, Dora Carrington and many other notables studied. In the late 30's and early 40's she was the features editor at British Vogue. She rarely spoke of her first or second marriage. In 1945, she married French novelist and diplomat Romain Gary. The diplomatic couple traveled the world to the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa, Mexico and ended up in Hollywood -- which would be the end for them. In Hollywood, Gary met and fell in love with Jean Seberg.

Lesley Blanch by Henry Clarke

In the course of her life she would hobnob with Gary Cooper, Cecil Beaton, Aldous Huxley, George Cukor, David Selznick, Sophia Loren, Laurence Olivier, Charles Boyer, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, André Malraux, Nancy Mitford, Jessica Mitford, the Shahbanou of Iran, the Duchess of Windsor, Igor Stravinsky and Rebecca West, to name a few. It is said that Marianne Faithfull was inspired by Blanch's writing and used her famous title for one of her songs.

In 1994 her house burned to the ground, taking with it a lifetime of acquisitions from around the world. As a book collector who fears fire I can only lament the lost of hundred of rare and one-of-a-kind volumes, not to mention her own art work. Fortunately the cats survived. In true fashion, she rebuilt and hearing her mother in her head she just got up and got on with it.

Lesley Blanch wrote a dozen books including two cookbooks, both featured at Cookbook Of The Day:

Round The World in 80 Dishes.

From Wilder Shores.

When asked what fueled her wanderlust she replied, “I wanted to be moving towards color.”

Lesley Blanch at 100

In May, 2007, one month before she turned 103, Lesley Blanch died.

Our society loves to glorify teenagers but if there was ever a woman to glorify and have as a role model, it would have to be Lesley Blanch. No one did more with their mother's advice than Blanch. On those truly horrible days, I think of her, gorgeous and independent at 102 and I " just get up and get on with it."

Wilder Shores of Love -- Marianne Faithfull

13 September 2009

New Iowa Blues

Doe Run Farm got 7 new Iowa Blue chickens this weekend. They are a little hard to see in their cage, but they arrived in fine spirits and are settling in nicely.

11 September 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Vincent Price

Most people remember Vincent Price from his vocation as an actor. But, for some of us, he may be as well known for his avocation as a cook. With his wife, Mary, Price traveled the globe visiting the finest restaurants in the world. In 1965, they gathered recipes from many of their favorite restaurants as well as some favorite family recipes and created a notable cookbook.

A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price is a large, unmistakable tome in its padded leatherette cover.

In addition to the recipes, there are menus and photographs from many of the restaurants. One of the Price’s favorite haunts in Chicago was The Pump Room, founded in 1938, it is still going strong. When the Price's ate there, The Pump Room featured a plaque and a dessert bearing the name of the fabulous Gertrude Lawrence. Lawrence was in Chicago doing a play in 1938 and she went to The Pump Room every night of the 90-day run, firmly establishing its caché.

One of my favorite blogs, Little Augury, recently posted about the divine Miss Lawrence. Since she has been swirling in the air, it is fitting and proper that we feature a dish that was named after her. Price says of the dessert,
“the sauce is very much in the tradition of The Pump Room’s cuisine – it is an interesting combination of flavors, and it flames, almost a prerequisite for appearing on their menu."

Gertrude Lawrence in Vanity Fair

Coupe Gertrude Lawrence

Vanilla ice cream
Jamaican Rum
Semisweet Chocolate
Brown sugar


In a saucepan put: 4 squares semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces, 1 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup cream, and a pinch of salt. Stir over low heat until chocolate is melted and sauce thickens. (Extra sauce will keep in a jar in refrigerator for several weeks.)


Put: a scoop of vanilla ice cream into each of four bowls or coupe glasses. In a chafing dish put: 3 tablespoons grated orange rind. Stir in pan to heat, then add: 4 tablespoons Jamaican Rum and ignite. While flame is burning add 4 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce. Pour over ice cream and serve.

If you missed Gertrude Lawrence's 1938 performance on the stage, don't despair. Here is a little snippet of what she sounded like.

Someone To Watch Over Me -- Gertrude Lawrence.

Vincent Price was also an innovator by recording a “cookbook” Here is one of his recipes.

Viennese Stuffed Eggs -- Vincent Price

As unusual, our Famous Food Friday post was stolen by Cookbook Of The Day.

10 September 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking it is Thursday. But there was a Monday holiday so I didn't get mail. So Tuesday was like Monday so today, Thursday is Etiquette Wednesday.

Today's tips come from Entertaining with Elegance by Geneviève Antoine Dariaux

This book is a wonderful “twofer” -- a hostess book and an abecedary. What could be more delightful! Madame Dariaux was the director of the couture house of Nina Ricci in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

Her introduction to the book offers this concise description of the essence of entertaining:

“Entertaining is generally composed of two elements: the friendly offering of hospitality, and the sharing of some form of meal or refreshments. On some occasions lodging may be added to theses, and in certain ancient civilizations, including parts of the orient today, even clothing may be furnished. In short, entertaining a guest means taking charge of all of his needs and trying to satisfy them better than he could himself.”

The book takes you on a alphabetical romp from Acquaintances to Zoo’s. Pick a situation and Madame Dariaux covers it: Bores, Caterers, Dutch Treats, Faux Pas, Gifts, Kissing, Napkins, Surprise Parties, and Yachting to name just a few of the topics covered.

The book is joyous celebration entertaining and unlike some rather stuffy, staid etiquette books, it IS entertaining. Here is her take on Help:

“It is one of the minor ironies of life that today, when more people than ever before have the means, the time, and the urge to entertain, it has become practically impossible to find household help to cope with the extra work that entertaining inevitably entails.
The competent all-around maid is as extinct as the dodo, and a first-class cook is as hard to find as uranium and practically as expensive.”

Her recommendation for Books:

“The library of a perfect hostess should include a few indispensable volumes.”

If you can’t find that maid or cook, track down a copy of Entertaining with Elegance. Even if you are not planning to entertain, you will thoroughly enjoy this book and it will become one of your “indispensable” volumes.

08 September 2009

The Devil’s Cloth

I love reading scholarly studies of ordinary things. Michel Pastoureau, the preeminent authority on medieval heraldry, has written a book about “stripes", The Devil's Cloth. Who knew “stripes’ could be such a historical and fascinating subject. Pastoureau began his inquiry into strips as a young scholar when he began noticing that striped cloth was relegated to workers and jugglers and prostitutes and prisoners and even the devil, himself.

In 1254, scandal ensued because of the striped cloaks of the Carmelite Order. They wore the robes in honor of their mythic founder, Elisha. As a chariot of fire was carrying him off, Elisha threw his white cloak to his disciple, but the fire burned the cloak and when it landed, it bore a singed stripe. The Carmelites wore the robes for 100 years before arriving in Paris where the stripes cause a scandal. The Church tried for years to bar the Carmelites from the barrés and finally, in 1287 the cloak was renounced in favor of an all-white cope. In 1295, Pope Boniface VIII instated an absolute ban against the wearing of striped habits for monks of all religious orders.

My favorite subversive stripe maker is Ian Mankin. Every year, Mankin create the most wonderful palate of stripes including my favorite striped fabric, ticking.

This year, he has developed a new line of organic linen ticking using low impact dyes. While the dyes have little impact, the colors are bold.

You might mot be a monk or juggler or even a convict but I say, grab your favorite striped shirt and get out there and get subversive.

04 September 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Mahalia Jackson

Contrary to popular belief, the best thing to come out of New Orleans is not red beans and rice, it is Mahalia Jackson. Jackson is the greatest gospel singer of all time. Seriously. She had the voice range of a contralto.

Jackson led a rather happy early life despite a bowing in the legs. Doctors wanted to break both legs and set them, but family members rejected the idea and her mother would rub her legs down with greasy dishwater to try and correct the problem. When her mother died, Jackson and her brother went to live with an aunt. There she was worked from dawn till dusk. If the house wasn't spotless, she was beaten, needless to say, there was no time for school but Jackson found solace in the church. One day, after hearing her sing, another aunt proclaimed that one day Mahalia would sing for royalty. The prediction came true.

At sixteen, Mahalia left New Orleans for Chicago. There she found her true calling. She began singing and touring with a pianist. Before long, the venues were so large, she was accompanied by an orchestra. Though she was offered exorbitant amounts of money to switch to secular music, she refused, staying true to the gospel music that changed her life.

In 1998, the Grammy Hall of Fame honored Jackson's recording of the song "Move On Up A Little Higher", recorded in 1948, it sold eight million copies.

What many people don't know about Mahalia Jackson, is her avocation as a cookbook author. Mahalia Jackson Cook Soul was published in 1970, two years before Jackson's death. The book is filled with great old-fashioned soul food, catfish stew, succotash, beef and biscuit pie and my favorite, gizzards and rice, which she calls a "Soul Bowl". Here is a muffin recipe with a distinctly Southern flair.

Sorghum Muffins

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sorghum
1 cup milk

Sift meal four, salt, and baking powder together. Cream shortening and sugar together and add egg, beating well after each one Stir in milk and sorghum. Add dry mixture, stirring gently. Pour into well-greased muffin tins until each ring is two-thirds full. Bake at 375 F for twenty-five minutes. Makes eighteen.

When I lived in Alabama,we never missed the chance to go over to Loachapoka, Alabama for their annual "Sorghum Sopping" when the population of Loachapoka rises from 135 to 15,000. Though it is often called sorghum molasses, sorghum is actually harvested from the cane as a juice and then boiled into a syrup. Molasses is a by-product of making sugar.

Whip up some of these muffins and blast Mahalia Jackson from your speakers and you just might find yourself in the presence of God.

God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares -- Mahalia Jackson

03 September 2009

Let me introduce myself...

Lucinda has been remiss in announcing my name, so let me introduce myself. I have been officially christened "Teddy. " There seems to be a tradition around here of passing on a name when someone passes.

Kitty Carlisle was named for, well...

Though I fail to see a resemblance.

So after much voting and a profound desire out there for some people to call me "Alabama," When Senator Kennedy died, all those "Bama" people changed their minds and demanded I be named "Teddy."

So it's official.

I was going to play you a "Teddy" tune but all Lucinda had was Teddy Bear's Picnic by some ukulele playing French guys. So when you listen think of it as the Teddy Cat's Picnic. It's right down there.

Teddy Bear's Picnic -- Ukulele Club De Paris

02 September 2009

Wednesday Etiquette

Today's tip is inadmissible in a court of law. It is a bit of hearsay relayed from Tad Friend in the current issue of The Paris Review. Mr. Friend relays this tip in his essay “You Give No Inspire to the Wounded Woman in Your First Aid,” and it comes from fellow Spy Magazine compatriot, Graydon Carter.

Graydon Carter's Hangover Tips

First, coat your stomach before going out with four aspirins dissolved in milk; second, upon awakening in the morning, drink a raw egg whipped into Worcestershire sauce. Third, squeeze Visine in your eyes, shave twice, and wear a bow tie, because you feel better when you look natty, and people will notice your tie instead of your wan expression.

Looking natty is a must. There is no advice for what a woman should wear in a similar circumstance. I believe
Spy Magazine was a bit of "boy's club" so they had little advice for us girls out there. I would suggest applying lipstick TWICE and wearing RED. How natty is that!

Sharp Dressed Man -- 8½ Souvenirs

01 September 2009

Images de Jean Cocteau

I ran across this wonderful little monograph from 1957. It is chocked full of painting, drawings and photographs of Jean Cocteau.

Hanging out with Picasso in Cannes

Photographed by André Villers

Painted by André Quellier

And of course, Cocteau's favorite artist and subject: Jean Cocteau by Jean Cocteau
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