The Joy(s) of Cooking

Next to my computer keyboard, I have three pamphlet-style cookbooks.  One is the 21st Edition of the Calumet Baking Powder Company’s “Reliable Recipes”.  Today I learned that cookbook was published in 1922, and is a minor collectible.  The second is a publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1950, called “Family Fare: Food Management and Recipes”. Both these I got from my mother; it’s likely that she got the Calumet cookbook from her mother.

The third is a Greek cookbook I bought sometime in the mid- to late 70’s, at a Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church in Memphis.  That one is where I got my recipe for moussaka, and there has never been a better recipe.  I remember the first time I made it–I was a little shocked that there was cinnamon in the meat sauce, and even more shocked to find that it makes the dish.  And I’m not even a fan of cinnamon.  At Greek Fest here in Tallahassee, they don’t use cinnamon in their moussaka, because “most people don’t like it”.  Wimps.  It takes forever and a day to make it, but it’s worth it.

One of my favorite cookbooks ever was one called “Good, Cheap Food”, which I can’t seem to locate.  It has my recipe for black beans and rice.  Like the moussaka, it takes forever to make.  First you soak the dried beans.  Then you boil them for a couple of hours with spices.  Then you combine them with a meat sauce and bake them for another couple of hours.  As an aside, I always serve them with yellow rice.  White rice reminds me of maggots.

I’ve saved the best for last.  The Calumet cookbook has the recipe for bread pudding that I still use, with tweaks.  I’m a fanatic about bread pudding.  I loved it as a child, and was delighted to learn it’s one of  the signature desserts in New Orleans. I tried it everywhere.  The worst bread puddings are those that add things like raisins, and God forbid, fruit cocktail.  Bread pudding should be plain, enhanced with a sauce.  The best bread pudding I ever had was at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.  They bake it in individual serving dishes, topped with meringue, and just before you eat it, the server pours warm whisky sauce on top.

Here is the bread pudding recipe, complete with tweaks.

1 small loaf stale bread, 1 quart milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 level teaspoons baking powder, 2 eggs well-beaten, 1/2 level teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup melted butter.

Remove soft part from loaf and grate on coarse grater.  (No, no, no.  Don’t do this, use French bread and keep it in small chunks, crust and all.)  Scald milk, pour over bread.  Let stand until cool.  Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, and baking powder, mix well.  Add to bread/milk mixture.  Add vanilla and butter.  Bake in a buttered baking dish 1 hour, in a slow oven (whatever that means.  My guess is 250-300).

You’re on your own for the whisky sauce.  You can use rum, but I prefer whisky.

7 responses to “The Joy(s) of Cooking

  1. The bread pudding recipe sounds good. Unfortunately my wife doesn’t like bread pudding.

    Lagasse has a good whisky sauce recipe.

    I use a ton of cook books. I have cooked since childhood and enjoy sharing food with family. Earned a cub scout merit badge for cooking at age 10, think I was the only one in my troop to do so. Had to figure out how to make candy the old fashioned way by dropping it in balls in a cup of water to see if it formed a hard enough ball. Served me well a few years ago when I made a coconut cake from scratch. God that was a lot of work and I messed up the first one by following the directions and trying to cut layers from a one piece cake. Next time I just cooked 3 layers.

  2. Ha, pt! Trial and error is inevitable, especially when using old cookbooks, or even worse, your grandmother’s recipe for something. My paternal grandmother made the best fresh apple cake on the planet. I asked for the recipe, and she gave it to me, but it never ever turned out right. I tried to fiddle with the recipe, and still never got it right. I began to suspect that she deliberately left out certain things so I would have to come visit her and eat HER apple cake 🙂 Old recipes tend to skimp on directions and the amount of ingredients (use a little of this and a little of that), whereas today’s recipes are more scientific.

  3. Oh, and perhaps you could make the bread pudding on a holiday, when there are several desserts to choose from and your wife wouldn’t be left out.

  4. Those black beans won’t work in a crockpot? Anything that takes time on top of a stove is a no no for me, so I’ll go with a crockpot instead.

  5. Oh sure it would, sc. “Good Cheap Food” was published many years ago and now is apparently out of print, but they probably assumed you were too poor to own a crockpot 🙂 The thing is, that once the beans were done, you would still have to mix them with the meat sauce and bake them in the oven for a couple of hours. That’s what seems to set this recipe apart from all the others I’ve seen and tried. It gives time for the flavors to truly meld. And while they bake, you can go on about your business–no checking and stirring like you have to do with things on the stove.

  6. What is the name of fakesister’s cookbook that explains the science of cooking? I think you bought it for her one Christmas.

  7. bb, it’s “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee. It was written in 1984, then updated in 2004, so be sure to get the updated one. I think you would love it! Here’s a link from Amazon.

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