Tag Archives: cookbooks

√-1 2³ Σ π


√-1  2³  Σ  π  … and it tasted good.

A few weeks ago, a vendor at the market was selling persimmon pulp and persimmon cookbooks. She had samples too, which was a big selling point, because I had never tasted persimmon pudding before. I had heard of it, mostly acquaintances mentioning that their grandmothers made it as a special holiday treat. Usually these were people whose families had been farmers. Persimmons were completely out of my realm of experience.

So, I handed her some money and she gave me two cups of frozen pulp and a cookbook Old-Fashioned Persimmon Recipes (Bear Wallow Books, Indianapolis, © 1978). There were a few pages about “persimmon country” and the lore of persimmons, but it didn’t give enough information to satisfy my curiosity. Where’s a food anthropologist when you need one? I did find some more information on the internets, including that early pioneers didn’t like the fruit at first, but learned from the Algonquins that the bitter fruit became a sweet treat if it was left on the tree until late fall.

What more could be more fitting for a Thanksgiving feast? Besides, you must have pie at Thanksgiving!
It wasn’t difficult to make. Mix some sugar, eggs, milk, spices together. Add some flour.

Step 1: Mix wet ingredients together & then add flour & baking powder.

Pour into a crust and bake!

Step 2: Put in pie shell. Step 3: Bake. Step 4: Enjoy.

I thought I had snapped a picture of the finished product, but all I have is what it looked like before it cooked. So imagine this, with the dough now a crust, baked to a nice golden tone. The pecans had a bit more brown on them than what I would have anticipated, but that just made it look more homemade.

I baked a pie. I ate some pie (√-1 2³  Σ π).  And it was good!

Thanksgiving Persimmon Pie:, From Old-Fashioned Persimmon Recipes
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c milk,
1 c persimmon pulp
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/3 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
Pecans

Mix sugar, egg, vanilla, milk and pulp. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon. Gradually combine into wet ingredients. Pour in pie shell. Top with pecans. Bake 350 F for 30 – 35 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

While I was looking for some history and traditions on persimmons, I found two things that I found particularly interesting.

There were three regiments in the Civil War known as the “Persimmon Regiment” because they looked for persimmons when they made camp.  In the case of the Indiana 100th, on their way to the Battle of Vicksburg, the persimmons they collected helped to feed them once supply lines were cut off by the Confederate Armies.

And I found this love poem:  Persimmons, by Li-Young Lee.

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant.

Read the rest here.

Adventures in the Culinary Arts I


I have a cookbook collection, that at first glance, to some, seems a least an embarrassing amassment of gastronomic knowledge or, at worst case, the sign of an unchecked obsession. Long before I learned how to cook, I collected cook books, with the hope of some day actually using them. Even without any plans to cook, when not in search of a recipe, I still will peruse a cookbook. But, I must confess, there are several that I have never used.

My very first cookbook was bought in the Spring of 1980, in a Covent Garden junk shop (long since gone, I assume, as this was the tattered Covent Garden of the past, not the gentrified Covent Garden of today) called The Inside Out Shoppe. I had wandered through there one day with a friend and found The Covent Garden Cookbook, an intriguing volume, with illustrations that seem much like today’s graphic novels, that not only discusses the proper treatment, storage and preparation of vegetables, but also discusses the long history of the Covent Garden market.

I don’t remember what else I bought on that trip to England and doubt that I still have anything but photographs and a framed brass rubbing stored somewhere in my basement, but I still have this cookbook. And, I was hooked! Since then, cookbooks are just about the only item that I’m likely to bring home from a trip.

Which is how I acquired, apparently from the note I wrote in the front cover in 2004, The Monticello Cook Book, which claims on the front to contain recipes of great Worth and of the widest Variety. Secrets of the delectable Dishes from Ancient & Modern times by the good Ladies of the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle.

Yesterday, with an abundance of blueberries in my kitchen, I decided to make blueberry jam. Surely one of the simplest things to do, as all you need is a pot, some blueberries and a heat source. You may want a bit of sugar if they are too tart, or a bit of lemon if you need to add some acidity, but blueberries, pot, and heat are all that are needed — and some patience as you slowly reduce the berries to a wonderful, bubbly, thick jam. The kind of jam that you can’t wait to eat. The kind a jam that you don’t care if it isn’t going to last more than a few days — you will eat it before it spoils. The kind of jam that cries out to be put on some kind of bread, fresh out of the oven. Which is how I happened, while scanning my kitchen book case (yes, it is a full book case, in my kitchen!), I came across The Monticello CookBook, which appears to have never been put to use in my kitchen.

It was late in the afternoon, and I had no yeast nor desire to venture out to the store, so a quick bread was the obvious choice and I quickly settled upon the recipe for “Nut Bread”. But, since I’m not a chemist — err, I mean, a baker — I didn’t really think through this recipe before I began. It wasn’t until I added the milk and the egg that I started to wonder. Really? Only 1 egg? Only 1 cup of milk? as I started to mix what I expected to be a batter, but was really a dough. 3.5 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3.5 t baking powder, 1 cup nuts, 1 egg, 1 cup milk: that makes a very dry dough!

Putting my concerns behind, and realizing that I had enough time to get rid of the evidence of another baking failure before anyone else was home, I decided to proceed with the recipe. And you know what? It was funny looking. It wasn’t like any nut bread that I’ve ever had, but it was good. The perfect complement to my blueberry jam.

What it was, regardless of what the good ladies of Albemarle thought when they put together this collection in 1950, is a scone. I pulled the King Arthur Flour Cookbook off the shelf this afternoon to read what they have to say about scones. “The oldest quick bread”, the book said, and that if one could master a quick bread dough, one should be able to make easy work of a quick bread batter. As for the basic King Arthur scone recipe, it was amazingly like the one I used, except it called for butter, with the precise measurement of “2 to 8 tablespoons (each end of the spectrum is fine…)”.
(edited: I was corrected by my SO (hereafter to be referred to as Mr. Foodie) that the King Arthur was his cookbook!)
Regardless of what you call it, I think I did an okay job with it and there is yet another cookbook on my shelves that I can say I have used.