25 April 2013

Whole Lot of Elsa Going On

Elsa Maxwell is one of the reasons I have stopped reading so much fiction.  Clearly, one could simply never conger up such a character.  In today's book-to-screen environment, there is clearly no actress who could even come close to playing Elsa Maxwell -- OK maybe Nathan Lane -- but no actress -- Wait...maybe Kathy Bates -- yes, I think it could be the best biopic ever.  But we both know this will never happen.  
Moving on...Elsa has been on my mind lately as I have been reading Sam Staggs wonderful book, Inventing Elsa Maxwell.
At the very same time, I received an e-mail from someone searching for a recipe.  It seems that her client, a woman of a certain age, remembered a recipe from Elsa Maxwell for a soup with a chicken base and tomato purée.  One might serve it hot or if chilled it would make a gelled consommé.  I do love a challenge.

I grabbed my copy of How To Do It by Maxwell and found only a few recipes. My first guess was this gazpacho, though it is never heated.
Andalusian Gazpacho a la Joan Fontaine
Place the following in a bowl: 4 small cucumbers, seeded and finely chopped; 6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped; 1 green pepper, finely minced; 1 clove garlic, finely mashed; 2 tablespoons grated carrot; 2 tablespoons grated onion.  Add cold water to cover with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or lime juice (I greatly prefer the latter); I teaspoon dry mustard, dash Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste.  Chill thoroughly at least 8 hours.  Serve in individual bowls with a dab of sour cream -- about 1 tablespoon -- on top.

The closest match was a consommé without tomato one.  It is a spinach consommé that can be served hot or cold.  For proof that Elsa Maxwell was from another generation, she lists the recipe as belonging Mrs. T. Reed Vreeland, known to subsequent generations as Diana!   Maxwell notes that Vreeland acquired the recipe from  Elise de Wolfe.

Mrs. T Reed Vreeland  Consommé Vert- Pré

Make a very good rich bouillon.  Add enough spinach juice to color it green, and just before serving add finely chopped fine herbes.  Serve hot or iced.

Neither fit the criteria of the requested recipe.  Since Maxwell mentioned de Wolfe, I thought I would try there.  It is not a great stretch to think that someone who was familiar with Maxwell's recipes might also know de Wolfe's.

I checked Recipe's For Successful Dining. The recipe for Consommé Vert- Pré was identical to Elsie de Wolfe's with the only difference being de Wolfe's was Consommé Vert- Près and she called for "a little" juice to "make" it green.  Spelling and word choice aside, I continued looking at the list of
consommés, and stumbled upon this.
Consommé Madrilene
Make a good chicken consomme.  Add one tablespoon tapioca to each pint of liquid.  Add finally a puree of tomatoes which has been strained through a cloth, and before serving add raw tomatoes cut in a a small dice and leaves of chervil.

This was, indeed, the long lost soup that our châtelaine had been craving.   Everyone is happy.

Think about it...Kathy Bates as Elsa Maxwell... you would definitely go and see that movie.  Sam, if you are reading this...call me.

18 April 2013

Someone's In The Kitchen With...

The Addams Family

Jane Fonda who looks like she might be in the Addams Family

Christopher Walken who is way scarier than anyone in the Addams Family

Marilyn Monroe who is tasting

Madonna who is cleaning up

Katherine Hepburn, also cleaning up
The Other Hepburn, Audrey, looking perplexed

Justin Beiber, before he knew who Anne Frank was

Ronald Regan cooking outside

Margaret Thatcher cooking inside

17 April 2013

Collards, Anyone?

My great aunt, Mamie, was in charge of collards in my family.   No one, and I mean, no one, cooked collards but Mamie.  It was a daylong process.  Picking the collards, soaking them in salt water to remove any lingering insects, washing them, cutting out the core, cooking in ham hocks for at least 3 hours, chopping the collards, and finally extracting the potlikker.  It was laborious, so I often chuckle when I see packaged collared all washed and chopped in the grocery.   Mamie would have never allowed anyone to chop before cooking.

I own a gigantic Wagner Ware roaster that is the size of child's coffin.   I drag it out about three times a year.  Turkey for Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas and for a batch of Brunswick stew.  The other day I ran across a sale on pre-washed, pre-chopped, pre-packaged collards and thought I would give them a try.  Raw collards take up quite a bit of room, so I dragged out the Wagner Ware and set off on my collard adventure.

Needless to say, I have collards to freeze and potlikker for all kinds of endeavors.  The Lee Bros. tell a wonderful story about having company for a wedding or some large event and one of the guest, a Yankee, no doubt, threw out the potlikker that the boys were planning to use to poach eggs.  Yes, indeed, potlikker poached eggs are a great delicacy.

I love to eat anything that remotely resembles eggs Benedict.   Here is a great way to use potlikker and leftover cornbread to make an unusual Benedict.

Old South Benedict

Cut a round of cornbread.

Heat the potlikker in a shallow pan until just under boiling and poach an egg.

Place the poached egg on top of the cornbread and cover with potlikker and a few collards.
If you wanted an a creamy sauce, add a bit of cream to the poaching liquid and reduce.

Need other potlikker ideas?  Check these out.

16 April 2013


Spring flowers and a bit of spring cleaning.


11 April 2013

Sugar Bush

We often rail about the cultural stereotype of eating squirrel, sill, we are not adverse to those people who find pleasure in dressing them up.    So I was quite amused to find and article from the Washington Post  about one particular squirrel in my inbox.  Meet Sugar Bush.  Alabama fan and androgynous dresser.

While Sugar Bush is of the female persuasion, she is not adverse to a little cross dressing.

And much like that other cultural icon, Barbie, Sugar Bush has been everything from an astronaut to a

 nurse, which is easy to do when you have over 3000 outfits.  That's more that Lady Gaga!

Check out Sugar Bush's many exploits at her international web site.

09 April 2013

Riding Side Saddle

While  we were out and about, I found myself running into a lot of images of women riding side saddle.   It started with the above poster. 

Then we stopped in at The Columbus Museum to see: Homer in America.  Winslow Homer was a prolific illustrator and the exhibition featured 125 wood engravings produced over a period of nearly three decades.  Several of them were of women riding side saddle.

Needless to say, when I returned, I pulled together a few of my favorites.

Mrs. Esther Stace riding side saddle and clearing a record 6'6" jump in 1915 at the Sydney Royal Show.
(alas, Mrs. Stace cheated a bit by using a springboard...still.)

Actresses are quite good at side saddle.

Grace Kelly riding in Central Park

Elizabeth Taylor


And Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.  Jolie said she loved riding side saddle and shooting for this scene.  Unfortunately for the person in charge of continuity, there was a bit of a problem.  When Lara Croft stops riding and shooting, she pivots her horse to ride back to her castle.   Riding back, she is astride the horse, both feet clearly in stirrups.  It would be impossible to go from side saddle to astride without damaging delicate body parts.

Finally, a bit of side saddle fashion.  Out riding in a lovely red coat. 


08 April 2013

Paul Rudloph

 I do hate it when people just drop off the face of the earth.   Good news:  I was not abducted by aliens.   Bad news:  I was traveling and I just got lazy.   But enough about me....

Recently I was in Auburn, Alabama.  All those years of living in Alabama and I never once set foot in Auburn.  Visiting a couple of Paul Rudolph houses was among my many adventures.  

I was reminded of this while watching the documentary Ultrasuede:  In Search of Halston.   Halston lived in a rather famous Paul Rudolph house in the middle of Manhattan. 

 In Auburn, a Rudolph house is on the market.  Built in the late 1930's, it is a student work by Rudolph.  The house has quirky elements of what would become Rudolph's modernist style, while remaining a little brick house in Alabama. 

The other house we saw was the old Applebee house, designed for Frank Applebee, the Chair of the Art and Architecture Department.   Rudolph designed the house as a gift to Applebee, working to keep the building costs to a minimum.  Frankly, I have never been a big fan of minimalist architecture.  The Applebee house looks like a big old double-wide sitting atop concrete blocks, but what do I know.  It might look better if I had taken better photos!

Unfortunately, like much architecture, Paul Rudolph houses have faced more wrecking balls than preservation in recent years.   Photographer Chris Mottalini did a wonderful exhibition of photographs entitled, After You Left, They Took It Apart.   Ironically, the Rudolph student house was purchased to be gutted and flipped.   When the flippers girlfriend saw the inside, she immediately called the Auburn art department and the gutting turned into a careful renovation. 

Alas, the house remains on the market.

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