Gourmet magazine has a recipe this month for homemade ketchup, and Alan asked if I’d be making any. Short answer: No. But it reminded me I already have a cookbook with a homemade-ketchup recipe, and for the first time in years, I dug out the Southside Farmers Market cookbook, published as a fundraiser for Fort Wayne’s market in 2001.
When I left town, the market wasn’t exactly dying, but every year it got a little sadder to visit. The old stalwarts who kept it going were well past retirement age, and the locavore movement hadn’t caught on yet. When I asked people whether they visited, most said they didn’t, citing the usual reasons — convenience, distance. Sometimes they said they wouldn’t buy lettuce fresh from the farm when you could get it cheaper at the Wal-Mart Super Center; these folks I wrote off as missing the point. A few talked vaguely about it being “so far away,” and sometimes they were and sometimes I sensed what they were really saying is, “But it’s in a black neighborhood!” These folks I also wrote off. But I told everyone they were missing something, that you could find the best tomatoes and corn and melons and all the rest of it. I still miss Cherry Day in June, when a guy drove a truckload of frozen cherries up from southern Indiana. He sold one unit — 25 pounds of pitted tart cherries mixed with five pounds of sugar and frozen in a five-gallon bucket. I waited until it thawed enough to handle, then broke everything down into one-quart bags and put it all back into the freezer, and had enough to eat cherry pie all year long. There’s nothing like that in Detroit. Dammit.
Anyway, the cookbook had not one but three ketchup recipes, all aimed at the home canner; one calls for 15 pounds of tomatoes, which suggests you’ll be giving the condiments aisle a pass for a good long while. But I spent some time going over the rest of it as well, and realized it was a mistake to leave it on the shelf so long.
Cookbooks are all products of their time. Auguste Escoffier may have been the modern father of French cuisine, but who makes his recipes anymore? Who has time? Even Julia Child’s original recipes seem slightly ridiculous; in “My Kitchen Wars” I remember Betty Fussell talking about making a roast encrusted in Swiss cheese or something. Veal Prince Orloff is mostly remembered as a punchline in a Mary Tyler Moore episode.
Times change, technologies change, one day you look up and you can get fresh lemongrass and Mexican tomatillas in your local supermarket, spring mix year-round, so you know, you have to have ideas on how to use them that match.
But these sorts of cookbooks aren’t getting perused by Ruth Reichl, which is why I love them. They’re the collected wisdom of hundreds of Hoosier cooks handed down to their daughters, who might change them a little or a lot, and hand them down some more.
Face it, some should have been dropped along the way, like the Braunschweiger Ball, which is you-know-what mixed with onion soup mix (I guess because a soft, subtle flavor like Braunschweiger needs a little kick in the pants) and formed into a ball, after which it’s covered with a mixture of cream cheese and Miracle Whip (I guess because, you know, there’s just not enough fat in it to make it satisfying otherwise).
But there’s also a recipe for dandelion wine, although where I might find a quart of dandelion blossoms I’m not sure. Beyond that, the ingredients are one orange, three pounds of sugar, one sliced lemon and one cake of yeast. Hmm. There’s also something called Russian Tea, which calls for Tang, powdered instant tea, powdered lemonade mix, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. Mix all the powders and make it one cup at a time. Again: Hmm.
There’s a fair amount of the sort of country cooking that would disappoint Alice Waters, food like the Amish make, with canned this and dehydrated that, and if you don’t like it, see what you feel like making after you’ve spent an entire day in back-breaking labor, either in the field or at the factory. Dump Cake, Oreos layered with Cool Whip, that sort of thing. But there’s also a beet-apple puree that looks worthy of “The Splendid Table” if not Chez Panisse, and I may make it myself in the fall. There are quite a lot of cabbage recipes, which remind me I like cabbage and should do more with it. I wasn’t surprised to find the fish chapter is very short, only six recipes, five of which call for canned tuna or salmon. Indiana is far from any ocean.
And then there’s Impossible Pie:
I cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup coconut
Put all ingredients into blender for 30 seconds. Pour into 9 inch pie pan and bake for one hour at 375 degrees. Makes its own crust, filling and topping. Easy! Enjoy!
What’s your favorite countrified recipe?
And how was your weekend? We saw “Up,” in 3D. Once again, I’m reminded there are two ways to make “family” entertainment. One is the Rugrats/Dreamworks way, which is to sprinkle the script with pop-culture references that kids don’t get and adults do, which I’ve always thought was cheap and snarky and ultimately reminds you how much you don’t want to be there.
The other is the Pixar way — to write outstanding stories that appeal to every person in the audience, to tug the adults toward their children and children toward their parents, and then do them completely sincerely, without irony, and with the highest possible technical standards. That’s “Up,” in a nutshell. Not my favorite (that would be “Ratatouille,” which had me in tears at the reading of Anton Ego’s restaurant review), but they are all so uniformly wonderful trying to rank them is just a waste of time.
This is also the first movie I’ve seen to use 3D as a way to enhance the visual experience, rather than as a gimmick. Nothing is flung toward the viewer, there are no gotcha shots, there’s nothing that, when you see it on your own TV in six months, will make you think, “What were they going for with that one?” It’s just visual artistry, pure and simple. My kind of guys.
Manic Monday commences in five, four, three, etc. Have a good one.