Tuesday, December 08, 2015

I'm mostly in Mama's camp


Two of our seven Thanksgiving pies (brownie peanut butter and apple streusel)
Isabel came home from college and went back to college, pies were baked and eaten, Jessica Jones watched in its entirety, and then the Thanksgiving break was over. Now it’s December and all hell is breaking loose in the world, but my tiny corner of it remains as placid as ever. The worst thing that’s happened to me lately is that I got a parking ticket and the goats broke into the neighbor’s yard. I guess Mockingjay was kind of disappointing, too. Into every life, some rain must fall. 

Two things:

*The easy 'Bolognese' sauce from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year is terrific, much more exciting than its everyday ingredients would suggest. Or maybe I’d forgotten just how satisfying a big, meaty red sauce can be. 

Here’s the recipe: Chop 1 large onion and soften it in olive oil in a wide skillet. Add two smashed cloves garlic and pinches of red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Squeeze 1 pound Italian sausage (I used half mild, half spicy) out of its casing and add to the skillet. Break up with a spatula and cook until it’s no longer pink and raw looking. Add a 28-ounce can good-quality canned tomatoes along with most of the juices, crushing the tomatoes with you hands. (I followed the directions and bought expensive San Marzano canned tomatoes for the first time ever and I regret to say I think they actually made a difference.) Cook hard until the liquid evaporates then turn the heat down, add the remaining tomato juice, and cook slowly for 2 hours or more, adding a bit of water whenever the skillet runs dry. Stop replenishing water as you approach serving time. You want the sauce on the dry side, the tomatoes caramelizing on the bottom of the pan. Cook 1 pound pasta. When it’s done, toss with a couple tablespoons unsalted butter. Toss with sauce. Serve with Parmesan.

*I pulled Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner off the shelf at Thanksgiving like I do every year, but instead of just browsing through the recipes as usual, I sat down and read this charming and eccentric cookbook cover to cover. Pinner, the jacket bio notes, is "an employee of the U.S. Postal Service." I don't know what kind of a cookbook I'd expect a postal worker to write, but it wouldn't be this one, no offense to postal workers. 

As you might guess from the title, the book is a collection of pie recipes. Accompanying each pie is the story -- often a long story -- of the woman who provided the recipe, or just inspired it. The stories have little to do with pies except insofar as the pies further a woman's goals of getting and keeping a man. This is book is about feminine wiles.

A headnote to a recipe might begin like this:

“When I was twelve, Frida, a wonderful matronly neighbor, taught me a tremendous lesson on how to handle womanly setbacks. When Frida’s handsome flirtatious husband Garfield left her, even though she was heartbroken she did not sit at home with a bottle of gin. . .” (lemon chess pie)

or

“According to a tale often told in my family, Sister Bernice Brock, a tall, plain-looking church woman who was as sweet as cherry pudding, had her sight set on Brother Varney, a confirmed bachelor, who got a kick out of entertaining the single ladies. . . ” (grits pie)

or 

“Growing up there were two camps relative to catching a man - the ‘if you don’t chase after your intended some other woman will' camp, to which Mama’s friend Annabelle belonged, and the ‘if you start running after a man you’ll always be running after him’ camp, which Mama embraced. . .” (golden squash pie)

I could go on. Limiting myself to just three passages was hard. Men are presented here as philandering rascals who need to be tricked and tamed by cunning women, and invariably are. The tools of conquest range from tangerine-colored slips to chocolate meringue pie and if that makes you roll your eyes, Sweety Pies is not the book for you. Given that my grandmother thought everything could be solved with a little lipstick and that her last words to me concerned my weight, I am accustomed to this kind of talk and enjoy it.

As to the recipes, you’ll find the usual suspects (apple, pecan) but a whole chapter is dedicated to "cereal pies" and there’s wacky stuff like grape juice pie, orange Tang pie, and white potato pie. The recipes I've tried are solid: For Thanksgivings past, I've made Frankie's coconut pie (Frankie has quite a storyand Aunt Betty Jean's lemon pie and both were good. The other day I baked Pinner's mile-high lemon meringue pie and while the meringue wasn’t a mile high, it was still a lovely pie. The Egg Lady's oatmeal pie is cooling on the counter as I type. I just know Mark is going to swoon.
It does not appear to be a joke.

34 comments:

  1. You saw Mockingjay! I haven't seen it {I almost never go to the movies} but I understand there is contra dancing involved, choreographed by an Atlanta caller named Seth Tepfer.

    I just put that book Sweety Pies on hold at the library, it looks wonderful. Have you read this one?

    http://www.amazon.com/American-Pie-Slices-Americas-Roads/dp/0060957328

    I found it very entertaining.

    I made a tart Tatin for Thanksgiving which did not go at all with my hostess's chocolate mousse cake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have not seen that book. I will see if I can track it down at the library.

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  2. Pretzels on pie! That looks so delicious. I too love that kind of talk.

    Couldn't really get into Jessica jones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too bad about J.J. We're currently trying to get into Man in the High Castle, but it's a struggle for me.

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  3. Do tell: what recipe did you use for the brownie peanut butter pie?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isabel made it -- I will have to ask her!

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  4. I must have that book!

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  5. But do you appreciate the temporarily placid nature of your life? I hope so. As I get older, most of the things that disturb my peace are not welcome things. That pie book sounds hilarious. Men can be influenced by good cooking, but I have found that the results are inconsistent. Sometimes they just want you to make more pies! Mockingjay was disappointing? Damn. I watched all of Jessica Jones, too, and at times I thought it was lame, and them at times I really liked it. I really enjoy watching David Tennant, so I don't know if I would watch the next series. Do tell, Miss Jennifer, about the pies. I need no help with "dump" cooking, and I am surprised anyone does. It was great to see a post - thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I need no help with "dump" cooking, and I am surprised anyone does."

      On the other hand, I was listening to the call-in section of "The Splendid Table" podcast the other day and someone called in to ask how to put store-brought breadcrumbs onto Velveeta shells and cheese. It wasn't the April 1 edition, either. It think that must be the demographic buying "Dump Cooking".

      Delete
    2. Lee, really??!! How sad that anyone would need help with that. That person needs to flex his/her critical thinking skills. No fear in the kitchen (except maybe around large pots of hot grease); it's how we learn.

      Delete
    3. By the way, has anyone an opinion about pinion nuts? I have never had them if they are different from regular pine nuts. I read that they are having a bumper crop this year, so I may have to buy some.

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    4. I believe pine nuts are the same as pinion (pinyon) nuts - my mom grew up around the Grand Canyon and always called them pinyon.

      Delete
    5. Beckster -- I loved watching David Tennant. I'd only seen him in Broadchurch, not Dr. Who, and I could finally get why he's so popular, if that's the right word. I once bought pinion nuts while driving in southern Utah and they were almost mentholated -- so strong.

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  6. From the 12 year old girl camp, my daughter gave the last Hunger Games movie a solid two thumbs up for being faithful to the book.

    The pie book looks wonderful, even though I haven't made a pie in months because there just aren't enough people around to eat one -- clearly I need to have more dinner parties. I did make a chocolate icebox pie for my daughter's birthday which she loved. (Here's the birthday menu my newly minted 9 year old picked out: split pea soup; banana bread; pie. That cracks me up.)

    I am so happy to see a post from you and hear that you're doing well. Looking forward to the report on the oatmeal pie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that menu! You need to get a 7-inch pie pan and make half recipes. That's what I've been doing and it's the best.
      I was just so sad about who Katniss ended up with. I'd forgotten and JH just didn't work for me at all.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. "Dump" cooking is unbelievably popular in the Midwest. Nearly every time I speak to family members back there, I hear about some disgusting glop which is "great because you just throw everything together." Sure, they once subsisted on hamburger helper and blue box mac 'n' cheese, but that's fancy cookin' by comparison.

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    Replies
    1. Really? I should have opened the book and looked at the recipes. It was right there on a shelf next to body shapers, not in a cookbook area at all. Weird.

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  9. The Man in the High Castle is riveting. Can't say the same for dump dinners. Gaaack.

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    Replies
    1. We're trying! It's been a struggle for me so far, but I'm hoping.

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  10. i am also mostly in mama's camp

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  11. A friend and former assistant of mine has this book and I enjoyed reading the headnotes for each recipe. Silly? Yes. But I like silly stuff.

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  12. Lol- dump dinners- that's cutting out the middleman. Chose to see Creed instead of Hunger Games this past week because of the sad reviews Hunger Games received. It was surprisingly good. We are all really looking forward to Heart of the Sea, a favorite book around here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband loved Heart of the Sea -- I don't know that we'll see it, though. Creed is on the list.

      Delete
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