25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Santa Teddy and Kitty Carlisle the Red Nosed Reinkitty

and Trick and Treat and Clementine and the chickens and Lucinda wish all our fair readers a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Festive Festivus and a real nice Sunday afternoon.

23 December 2011

Zippy E-mail

Opening e-mail is rather like opening regular mail. The title looks interesting and then one finds the e-mail to be from a pornographer or an exiled Prince who needs MY help to transfer large amounts of cash. Then there are e-mails from people one might actually know; e-mails filled with dancing animals and jokes from last century.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my friend, Junior, who sent me some work by Canadian artist, Calvin Nicholls.

Nicholls sculpts with paper. Given the fact that I have recently been wrapping Christmas presents, and given the fact that the wrapping looks like it was executed by a blind Elizabethan monk with a drinking problem, Nicolls use of paper was quite fascinating.

21 December 2011

Ideas That Didn't Work

Oh sure, ANYONE can have a live Christmas tree,

but not everyone can have live Christmas ornaments.

Much like live Nativity scenes, we thought perhaps, live decorations.

The idea was short lived.

But, definitely in the Christmas spirit.

19 December 2011


Here's the dish...I, too, have a bit of dish fetish like Shax Riegler. Unlike Riegler, I never gathered them all together and sought out more to do a book. Lucky for us, he did. Dish: 813 colorful, wonderful dinner plates is just that, a collection of wonderful dinner plates. They run the gamut from old to new, plain and painted, simple and sublime. There is not a Southern girl worth her salt who can't wax poetic about the details of true Spode Christmas Tree and how to differentiate it from the numerous knock-offs.

Being a bit inspired by Dish, I thought I would share some of my plates. My family has a bit of a Haviland fetish.

This is one of a set of hand painted bird plates.

This is one of multi-colored set of luncheon plates.

This is my Haviland pattern.

My Mother's Delaware wedding china.

My great-aunts wedding china, Princess.

One of dozens of melamine Andy Warhol hors d'oeuvre plates, which I am very fond of.

For more cool plate action do check out Reggie Darling's Saucer of the Week. You can see some of the dishes feature in his book at Shax Riegler.

18 December 2011

Spotted Dick

Having a reputation for being a good cook and baker, I often take requests. Recently, I received one from my friend Barbara. It would seem that Barbara's father spent many a delightful year in English boarding schools. As a child, she remembered that he spoke fondly of of a favorite pudding, spotted dick. Recently a friend mentioned spotted dick and Barbara thought it would be an excellent birthday gift for him and she enlisted my help.

Here is a bit of Spotted Dick history...

Now we all know the British speak a form of English often known as "the Queen's English" which varies from American English. One big variation is the use of the word "pudding." For Americans "pudding" is that stuff we get from Bill Cosby and Jello. For the Brits a "pudding" or "pud" is a synonymous with our word, "dessert." So when a Brit tells you they have a lovely pudding, it might be a cake, or cookie or ice cream or spotted dick.

A spotted dick is a steamed suet pudding, studded with currants and boiled in a cloth.

The first true recipe for spotted dick can be found in 1850 in Alexis Soyer's, The Modern Housewife. However, identical recipes for the dish can be found as far back as the late 1600's.

The spotted part of the dish is easy see since it is "spotted" throughout with currants.

The "dick" is much debated. Some linguists believe that the word "dick" was a colloquial term for "pudding" at least four hundred years ago. Some feel it is a corruption of the word "pudding" which was oft pronounced "puddick" and thus, "dick." "Dick" was also used to mean a hard cheese and also a leather apron, among other uses. No one knows how "dick" became slang for "penis" but it seems to have originated around 1890 with the British army possibly because a riding whip was called a "dick" and the handle bore a resemblance to the male member. So it would seem that spotted dick didn't start to garner giggles until nearly a half-century after Soyer first published his recipe.

I set out to find an authentic recipe and I looked no farther than that bastion of English history, Upstairs, Downstairs. I knew that Mrs. Bridges would know better than anyone how to make a spotted dick. She did not disappoint and soon I had my recipe. Mrs Bridges notes that,

"Recently, the pudding has been accorded middle-class airs with raisins and sultana set in a light sponge."

She would not recognize such a confection as a true English spotted dick. After considerable boiling, the spotted dick is served with a bit of custard. For Barbara's present, I included a couple of cans of Devon Custard as I am a fine baker but not the best custard maker.

By all accounts, the present was a huge hit and yes, every dick joke out there was made. I heard they actually ate it, smothered in custard like perfect boarding school fare.

17 December 2011

Trick and Treat



This is one of those "swamped at the holidays" seasons. I have been running around wildly from Boston to DC and places in between. So last week I was chided for not mentioning the new additions to our family.

On Halloween, I returned home to find a little kitten "trick" on my steps.

Trick and Treat eating with the chickens the day after Halloween.

I was not amused. Later I was looking out the window and thought, that kitten didn't look that fluffy... of course, there was a Treat to go with the Trick.

Two nights before I left for Boston, I heard a kitten crying. It upset my cats, and the crying got louder. I investigated and found this little "Phantom of the Opera" face staring up from the heating grate in the bathroom. Treat had managed to get into the heating ducts. I removed the duct cover and he cam up into the house. The next day I got Trick in because I was leaving and didn't want a dead kitten in my heating ducts.

After I returned, I got the duct repaired and the crawl space covered. My friend Ann was coming out for Thanksgiving and I asked her to help me tame them enough to take them to the kitty jail. Ann arrived with a gigantic bag of kitten food, matching bowls and a bag of toys. Needless to say, they did not make it to the kitty jail.

Trick trying to get to the turkey.

So here they are. I am now gradually moving toward being the cat lady of Lucindaville.

09 December 2011

Women Reading

Compartment C, Car 293 by Edward Hooper, 1938

08 December 2011

Cocktails at the Burn Pit -- Sweet Potato Not-Nog

Everybody loves egg nog. I love a homemade egg nog, but one must break a lot of eggs and many people are leery of raw egg consumption. There a a few good commercial egg nogs, but nothing beats homemade. What to do?

Recently I was in an Asian market and found a bag of candied sweet potato strips. I just love candied fruit and I am always on the lookout for a new addition to moist, chewy fruit cakes. The sweet potato wedges were a delight eaten out of the package as a snack, but I kept thinking of what I could do with them. (I have no idea how they are used in Asian cooking or if they are simply a kids snack, so if anyone knows or has recipes, do share.)

I began to think the sweet potato sticks would make a fine swizzle sticks and cocktails came to mind. I thought I would make a sweet potato nog. Traditionally a nog has an egg base, but I didn't want the addition of eggs so I made a sweet potato not-nog. Not a single egg was broken in the making of this drink.

I used roasted sweet potatoes that were mashed and then strained, to give them a silky texture. I like it a bit on the warm side, so I used the sweet potatoes while warm and warmed the milk, slightly. I used the traditional whipped cream topper, but if you want a more "sweet potato casserole" version, try adding a large toasted marshmallow or making a swizzle stick out of tiny toasted marshmallows. I tend to err on the less sweet side, so adjust the sweetening to your own taste. Finally, as a caveat, I made this a drink at a time so I have not experimented with a gigantic punch bowl full of sweet potato not-nog.

Sweet Potato Not-Nog

4 ounces mashed and strained sweet potato
1 ounce simple syrup, or more to sweeten
3/4 ounce brandy
3/4 ounce bourbon
1/4 ounce orange liquor
1 ounce milk
dash of orange bitters

1 ounce whipped cream or a toasted marshmallow
1 slice candied sweet potato, optional

In a blender, mix the sweet potato, syrup, liquors and milk until smooth. Pour into a glass. Top with some whipped cream.

05 December 2011

French Farm Table

I wanted an old French farmhouse table that I could use and abuse. An unfinished long, narrow, sturdy workhorse to cook on, eat on and work on.

Something like this. Eight feet long, 34 inches wide and priced at $8500. Well as much as I love it there is no way I am going to fork over $8500 for a table to beat up. So I decided to build a table to fit my unique needs. Well, actually, I designed the tables(s) and got Jon to build them.

While I wanted an 8-foot table, the truth is, I don't need an 8-foot table every day. A permanent table would have been cumbersome and I would have tired of it easily. I needed a table for the kitchen, because I never have enough counter space when I am canning. I needed an eating table, but I like to eat in the kitchen as well as the den as well as the living room, and frankly, dragging a table around is a pain. I know because I have moved my dining table on numerous occasions. I also need a work space, depending on the project, I need a sturdy desk for the computer and books.

My solution was to build two four foot tables, put them on wheels and make them out of inexpensive, thick-cut pine. That way I would have an 8 foot table or a big square table. I had it made narrow (30inches) so that it would move comfortably through my narrow doors. If I want the table out of the way, I can just move it to the porch! If I need more space in the kitchen, I can just move it in. If I need to work and eat-- I am covered.

After much debating over the raw wood, which I wanted to simply oil with some butcher block oil, I have decided to seal the table first, then add the butcher block oil. After that, I just need 100 years of grime.

03 December 2011

A "Cheesy" Christmas Idea

Give a friend a log of goat cheese and they have a nice appetizer.

Give them a share of Belle Cheve from Kickstater and they have a share in Belle Cheve.

Belle Cheve is a fromagerie in Elkmont, Alabama. The original owner wanted a nice French goat cheese and got herself some goats and the rest is history. Well, actually, the story takes its modern turn away from Alabama. It seems that Tasia Malakasis stumbled across some Belle Cheve in New York City where she found herself transplanted from Alabama. She was so impressed with cheese that she decided she wanted to return to Alabama and make cheese.

This is the point in the story that everyone has from time to time. That, "Hey, I'm going to quite my job and start a food company on a farm a thousand miles from where I am now and all will be fine" moment that most people have and quickly forget about. Malakasis refused to forget. She called Belle Cheve. She begged to work there. She begged to learn how to make cheese. She showed up. She offered to buy the place.

Her dogged endurance paid off and soon, she was making an extraordinary goat cheese sought out by chefs and consumers far and wide. The story hits a bit of a bump in the road, however, because the lease on the land where all those lovely Alabama goats roam free is up and the landowner will not renew the lease.

Belle Cheve needs its own place. That is where Kickstarter comes in. Kickstarter is a way to garner funding from people out there in the real world. So be one of those people.

If you are one of the 1% out there and need a tax right off... send Belle Cheve $100,000 and get cheese for life.

If you are one of the 99%, give goat cheese as a gift... not just the cheese but a chance to keep this great dairy alive and milking.

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