To read the first two weeks of February, go here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Three or four of the cookbooks in my kitchen are from the 1950's or so, and one was issued in 1915 by a Canadian company, the makers of Five Roses Flour.  It's called "Five Roses Cook Book, Being a Manual of Good Recipes."  Nice title.  

They say their flour is packed in bags and barrels by the Lake of the Woods Milling Company, Ltd., and that their cookbook contains ...

"...useful notes on the various classes of good things to eat, all of which have been carefully checked and re-checked by competent authority."  

Poetry, isn't it?  

Vintage Cooking

I like getting out these old cookbooks for their charm and audacity.  In the Five Roses cookbook, I find that bread with excellent keeping quality is labor saving because I will only have to bake it once a week instead of twice.  And that donuts made with their flour are "tooth-teasing, able-bodied nuts of dough that improve with age when carefully concealed from busy little milk teeth."

There is Suet Pudding to be made, and Toast Pudding. Black Pudding and Canary Pudding.  Nellie's Muffins, and Johnny Cakes. Yankee Buns and Grandmother's Buns.  There's Mushroom Sandwiches and Nasturtium Sandwiches.  Corn Vinegar and Crab Apple Catsup. 

Through it all, I can be sure that Five Roses flour keeps better than other flour, because "in milling, all dirt and fermentable matter are carefully removed.  No inferior portions of the wheat, no little pieces of the oily germ can escape the keen-eyed millers of Five Roses to wreck your baking hopes."  

Five Roses Cookbook

The titles of vintage cookbooks are almost as much fun as what's inside.  There's The Mary Frances Cookbook, Lizzie's Cookbook,  Aunt Sammy's Radio Recipes, Our Sister's Recipes, Cornmeal: for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, Sedge Garden United Methodist Church Cookbook, Clayton's Quaker Cookbook, How to Eat Well Though Rationed, and Fine Old Dixie Recipes.  We were once so plain and normal.

Good Housekeeping

Fannie Farmer

Recently I found a hand-written recipe in my copy of Five Roses Cookbook.  It was for a dessert called War Cake.  Since the book was published in 1915, I supposed the war it referred to was WWI.  There was no flour to speak of in the recipe and only brown sugar.  The paper on which the recipe was handwritten in beautiful script was as thin as onion skin.  It was frail and stained with grease.  On the back was a pencil drawing of a comfortable chair such as you might use to sit in while you read by the fire.  Maybe while you wait for the pie to finish baking in the oven.  Or a son to come home.   

At the heart of our worlds, nothing changes all that much, it seems to me; and no one ever tells us that history touches every part of our lives.    

War Cake

Boil together for five minutes:  1 lb. seedless raisins, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups hot water, 2 tbsp. melted lard, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cloves, 1 tsp. salt

After it starts to bubble, then let it get cold.  

Add a tsp. of baking soda dissolved in warm water and flour to thicken.

Bake in a slow oven. 

War Cake

I haven't tried this, so if you should decide to do so, you're on your own.  Good luck. And bless the woman who left us this little crack in the door.

Until next time,

The Head Rabbit

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Red Clock

* * * 

The days were noticeably longer this week, although not long enough to suit me.  Still, time, I could tell, was on my side.  When dinnertime came at 5 o'clock, the sun was still up, an important distinction for February. 

On Tuesday I decided it was time again for the best of all winter breakfasts:  eggs with biscuits and gravy.  I prepared it for our evening meal--sun-up, biscuits buttered and gravy rich with milk and nutty-flavored rue.  

That's how my mother taught me to make the best gravy this side of Tennessee.  It's a southern staple, or at least used to be, and was always a private joy of mine to think I could make something so delicious out of absolutely nothing:  flour, butter, and milk--or water in a pinch.  

I started by hoisting my 10 inch cast iron skillet out of the oven and melting half a stick of butter in a rocket-hot pan.  A little flour, and the whole house began to smell like my mother's early-morning kitchen.  The biscuits were rising in the oven and adding their own farm-like aroma to the mix.  Tucker the Dog raised his head from the couch to see what all the excitement was about. 

The eggs weren't far behind the gravy, both of them heavily peppered and steaming hot.  When we sat down at the table I felt like I should be sitting on a long bench with several other children, as I remembered doing at my aunt's house so long ago, with chickens in the yard and a gray/white horse with a rope around his neck. 

Aside from my mother's biscuits and gravy, that's the place where I can best recall the smell of country breakfasts.  The long trip there only increased our hunger. Several gates blocked the dirt road we had to travel to reach my aunt's farmhouse.  My dad had to get out of the car at each gate to open it, then latch it shut after we drove past.  The dusty, quiet road always felt so isolated, and I was anxious for our humble destination.  The white horse standing alone in an open field was the first sign of life.  When we finally got to the small clapboard home, everything inside was alive and smelled like fresh eggs, bacon and biscuits with gravy.

Gate Latch

In my memory I coud see a family gather around their worn wood table on benches while my husband and I ate silently at our own wooden table.  Our food was good-- delicious even.  Not quite as good as my mother's or my aunt's steaming breakfasts perhaps, but then I never expected it to be. My skillet and the buttered biscuits were enough to help me fill in the gaps, and Tucker the Dog thought I made the best gravy of anyone, ever. 

Until next time,

The Head Rabbit

You may sop bread into gravy, but it must be done

properly--by putting a small piece down on the gravy 

and then eating it with knife and fork as though it were 

any other helping on your plate.  

Emily Post in

Emily Post's Etiquette, 1969


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hat on Bed

Stand aside,  I'm coming through.  Actually, I've been making one last push before spring to leave the inside of the house sensible and understated so I can be free to move outside for the next several months.  Spring is surely about to show its face--I can tell by the wild onions sprouting all over, the gray clouds swirling overhead, and squirrels running up and down the pine trees in packs of four or five.  

They are somewhat like me, you could say, in my hurry to push winter out the door.  Nothing personal, winter.  

 

I treat our home like it's a large painting, a three-dimentional canvas I can paint as I wish.  That means, if the color or composition isn't right, I can move it or change it, even if it doesn't make sense in "real" life.  "Who cares if that lamp keeps falling over--it's orange!" is my motto.

Making our surroundings pleasing to live in over the years was no small task.  It usually meant lots and lots of paring down and throwing away, then rebuilding on a limited income.  When I was newly married, our funds were so limited, in fact, that I once hung a pillowcase above the bed because it was green and had a turtle on it.  And it was free. But that's another story.  

Spice on Main

In these last days of February as I start to slow my pace and pause to look around, I say, "it's good."  The quiet flow of each room in our humble home makes me smile.  

I do think I've learned some things since the green turtle days. It's the feng shui of experience that brings me to this place where everything feels calmer and still has the right color and composition. 

I can turn my heart and mind to spring now, knowing that the house will hum along on its own until I get back in the fall.  In the meantime, if the lamp falls over, I'll just pick it up.  It's orange, after all.   

Until next time,

The Head Rabbit

"Out of a fairly modest place

extraordinary things can come."

Steve Gross in The Creative Cottage