It is cold, people! So cold that on the last 500 feet of my downtown trek to the service entrance of the library, my black tights clad legs, only a few inches of which were visible between boot and coat hem, actually began to sting from exposure. MUST. BUY. MUKLUKS. Obviously the correct course of action. I always tell myself it's not that far to walk, and given my hatred of pants and consequent love of dresses and tights, I always end up shivering on the last frigid gasp of the bipedal portion of my commute. C'est la vie.
The upshot of the outside temperature plummeting precipitiously close to the zero mark in Nashville is the feasability of baking. During the past summer months, I once adamantly refused to let Babu cook a frozen pizza in my house, reacting as if the poor man had brought home enriched uranium in a Kroger sack. "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Do you have any idea how hot it is outside? I'm not turning on that oven until December! I MIGHT NEVER TURN IT ON. As it is ALWAYS going to be a hundred blamed degrees in this house!" Bab reluctantly freezer-shelved the pizza and went BACK out for the pre-cooked variety from Little Caesar's. He is a dear, dear man.
Flash forward to the actual month of December, in which the Metro Davidson area has just received a pre-Christmas, snow and ice meterological cocktail that knocked schools out for two days (so far). The green light on the thermostat, denoting "auxilary heat", has been on for at least a week, my electric bill is going to be insane, but by God, at least there can be brownies. I baked up a Duncan Hines batch the other day and took them over to our good friends, the Huberts, house, and it has me thinking about the possibilites of cook, cook, cooking my way to a stasis-maintaining heat. In the next weeks, this blog might be a little cookbook scans heavy, but when was this ever a bad thing?
First up at the bat, for the beginning-est of beginners, I found Sugar an' Spice at an estate sale off Riverside Drive a couple months ago. From the cover, I initially took the title for a coloring book, but it's actually a "Child's First" cooking primer written by Julia Kiene, director of the Westinghouse Home Economics Institute. She dedicates the book, on the first page (below left), to her grandchildren and "ALL Little Ladies and Young Gentlemen who would like to learn more about the Art of Fine Cooking". Ain't that a peach? Ms. Kiene also authored The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cook Book, which, paradoxically enough, is not actually written by Betty Furness, but ostensibly carries her seal of approval. I see the familiar yellow cover of that cookbook at tons of used bookstores and estate sales; it appears to be a classic of the genre. Way to go, Julia Kiene.
What really got my attention in the case of Sugar an' Spice was the red and pink, whimsical illustrations and the kindly tone that accompanied the text in this beginner's cookbook. You can click on any of these scans for a full size example of the page from the text.
The recipe for "Quick Mix Devil's Food Cake" has, as an illustration, two curly tailed devils stirring the mix with their three pronged tridents, and two more beribboned tridents to fill up either margin alongside the instruction! Sinfully decadent!
"Golden Cornstarch Pudding" features a cowpoke, carrying only the object of his recipe and a pick axe, against a background of pack mule and cacti. My favorite part of this entry is in the lower portion of the page to the right. A doodled mom is carrying a hubcab sized medal to a doodled daughter, as the words "Maybe Mother will give you a medal" float alongside the scene. Maybe. But only if you follow the instructions. And Mom's feeling generous. Additionally, where did she get that medal?! Kiene warns, in describing how to measure your cornstarch: "Here's where you really must watch your P's and Q's... if your pudding is too thick, it tastes terrible..." An example of a medal-less pudding situation. Nightmarish.
The "Rangeburgers" illustration repeats the cowboy motif as two little cowkids lasso up a mess of burgers. This recipe comes from "Honolulu... and boys and girls over there love Rangeburgers." Good to know. Another tip: "Peel onion under running water. You won't weep quite so much." The wording is somehow poignant. After my last experience with a terrifically tear-inducing yellow onion from Walmart Neighborhood Market (never again), I appreciate the advice.
To the right, the Hashbrown Potatoes entry boasts one of the best drawings in the book, as a host of ingredients form a jolly chorus line on their way into the skillet. Two, cross-stitch feathered birds confer at the bottom of this and every page with a helpful cooking hint appealingly labeled "secret", intimating that you don't have to peel the potatoes for hashbrown potatoes, but you can if you want to.
More cuteness in the form of a dalmatian and the girl who is trying to feed him a sugar cookie (that is human food, dog! You should not be eating it!) for the sugar cookie recipe. The cookies jump out of the pan, swim across a squiggly sea, and head towards a sugar beach where a star-shaped member of their brethern lies, languid, on the shore. Elsewhere, the sugar cookies have built a ladder and demand equal housing in a cookie jar. Notes from the recipe: "Your arm may get tired but keep at it. Maybe Brother would like to show off his muscle on this job...Add the unbeaten eggs, beating like mad after you add each egg. If the mixture looks like scrumptious whipped cream you can rest a minute." Julia Kiene really had a chance to show her hand at imaginative prose in this book. Holiday suggestions for colored sugar and seasonal shaped items are shared on the second page.
Look! It's Oatmeal Peach Betty and her Peach Head people! The Peach Head people are partying all up and down this recipe, alone and in pairs. On the Mocha and Party icing page, a coffee kettle serves as a carriage, and for some reason there's a giraffe in the mocha cup. Possibly for flavor. The horses and carriageman are a similar mystery. Were there not enough sugar spoon chorines for this illustration?
Hope you are staying warm in this cold snap and that you enjoy the above recipes and illustrations from Sugar an' Spice as much as I did! I'm going to have to try my hand at these basic, but lovingly written, recipes very soon.