I have been experiencing a long run of bad bread luck lately. It started a while back with a great idea I had to make lemon zucchini yeast bread. Bleh. Green-flecked bread is NOT appealing.
Last night I tried improvising on an onion cheese biscuit bread recipe with dreadful results. I used whole wheat flour, wheat germ and a small amount of butter. What was I thinking? It was so dry and grainy that I immediately dumped it into my blender before anyone (besides me) could taste it. And now I have a gallon Ziploc filled with Italian bread crumbs in my freezer. Convenient.
Today, I made a not-so-great coffee cake. But we are going to discuss that in a later post because the events leading up to the creation of the coffee cake is really where our story begins…
Noon time today found me pushing around cook books in the cabinet located below my oven. I was down on my hands and knees, searching for a Mediterranean recipe pamphlet when I noticed my American Woman Cook Book hiding behind the crockpot.
This 1942 publication was handed down to me from my mother-in-law who had received it, many years ago, from her mother-in-law. I don’t think my husband’s mother ever used it but she kept it for sentimental reason. Mr. Babe, however, clearly remembers this book sitting on the kitchen counter of his grandparent’s old farmhouse.
I spent a few minutes perusing this well used book and all I can say is, ”You had me at Headcheese.”
This book is a damn classic and why it is not required reading in every single 10th- grade literature class in every high school across this great nation is beyond me.
Dude, I are a graduate of a major university with a BA in English and as such I have read every tedious, gawd-awful piece of literature that you never knew existed. You thought Beowulf was bad? Have you ever have the pleasure of slogging through the epic German tale of high adventure entitled The Nibelungenlied? The author of this tome, it seems, was on a mission to fill 9,000 pages by cleverly recombining three words–smote, smite and sword. A typical page might begin, “Thence Hans smote Frans. Whence Hans lifteth his sword, he was smited by Rolf. Rolf was smoten by the sword of Wolfgang, who uttereth, “Thou has smitten me with thy sword.” Lo, along cometh Klaus to smit a dozen men with one fell swoop of his sword.” Enthralling.
And all of that has nothing what-so-evereth to do with this book review of The American Woman’s Cook Book.
I can tell you this - I will be reading this book into the wee hours of the morning. Are you kidding me?! Who wouldn’t want to learn the proper technique for preparing an opossum for roasting? The author is kind enough to point out that the opossum is a very fat varmint with peculiarly flavored meat which is quite tolerable when stuffed and served with gravy and sweet potatoes.
For your general information, removal of the opossum’s head and tail is optional.
Ruth Berolzheimer, the editor of TAWC was my kind of gal. Rather than shrink back in disgust at the sight of wild game, she got right down to business — fricasseeing squirrels, roasting pigeons and skinning rabbits.
Ruth apparently lived by the motto, “Waste not, Want not.” She has written recipes to utilize every organ and body part imaginable. I’m not kidding. I was a little stunned to come across a recipe entitled “Beef Balls”. Turns out, it’s a shank steak recipe. So although I have yet to come across a recipe utilizing bull testicles, Ruth happily boils pig knuckles, pig feet, pig tongue and pig heads. I wasn’t kidding about headcheese. Even more interesting than headcheese, if you can imagine such a thing exists, is a little something called Scrapple.
Did you know that before you boil a hog’s head for Scrapple you need to cut it in half? That is someth kind of woman who can yield a cleaver with enough force to smite a pig’s head! And that’s just the beginning–next she needs to remove the eyes and brains, scrape the head and clean it thoroughly before placing it into a large kettle of water to simmer gently for 3 hours. After which she can remove the meat from the skull, finely chop and pack it into a bowl. The scrapple needs to sit for three days in a cold place before slicing.
The American Woman of 1946 apparently was fond of liver. I can hear Forrest Gump’s best good fried Bubba voice in my head, “You can boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it and barbecue it. There’s liver loaf, liver casserole, liver pate, liver and onions, liver and bacon, liver piquante, liver with stuffing…”
Stay tuned for Salmon Wiggle, Banana Gruel and Creamed Radishes.