Way-Back Advent Calendar: Holiday Foods

This recipe of my grandma’s for Cocktail Meat Balls can be used any time of year, but I associate them with winter-time parties, especially around Christmas, New Year’s and the Superbowl. I need to figure out a way to make them without eggs (due to an allergy), because I love these things. She claims this recipe makes 65 servings. That’s not 65 Missy-size servings, I can tell you. Thanks to my Aunt Dorrie for letting me scan this.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Heaven Has Gained One Hell of a Gardener

Yesterday, my family celebrated the life of my Aunt Teri, whom we lost in May after a long battle with cancer. She planned the event herself, down to the menu, and couldn’t have done so more perfectly. Several folks stood up and said beautiful words about Teri. I didn’t — I knew I would lose it if I tried. I think most folks who’ve met me know I’m more of a writer than a speaker anyhow.

Teri and I had become very close over the past several years. I made it a point to visit her in Winchester at least twice a year. I learned so much from her and I miss her terribly.

Not only was she my aunt, she was my godmother, drinking buddy, “big sister,” gardening/cooking inspiration, shopping pal, fellow daytrip explorer, crossword puzzle clue helper, backgammon instructor, music/movie sharer, family-secret spiller and kindred spirit.

Aunt Teri had a wicked grin and catching laugh that matched her sense of humor. She used to entertain all of us cousins when we were little by flaring her nostrils. She could curse like a sailor and inspired me in that regard too.

Aunt Teri (the Indian princess) and Me

As a youngster, I thought Aunt Teri was an Indian princess. She always tanned so dark and had such long, dark hair. I have so many fond memories of hanging with her on our family beach trips and visiting her out in the mountains of western Virginia.

One of Teri’s favorite photos, taken in her backyard in 2010.

Visiting Aunt Teri was always special — she had the most beautiful and productive garden. In recent years at her house in Winchester, I spent hours with her in the backyard, photographing bees among the lavender, picking raspberries and tomatoes, taunting birds who tried to do the same. We’d grill, drink more beer than probably is advisable, and chat for hours on end.

One of my favorite memories of hanging out with Aunt Teri was shortly after her divorce. She had just bought a house and had a ton of things to hang on the walls, but had never used a drill before. She had my grandfather’s old drill — the thing is entirely made out of metal and weighs about 10 pounds. I was cowed by it too, but I took her out back and had her practice drilling holes in the stump of an old tree. She was giddy with excitement over conquering the intimidating power tool.

The next time I came to visit her, her walls were full of prints, pictures and even a pot rack in her kitchen that she had installed herself.

Aunt Teri was an awe-inspiring cook. Her homemade pickles and brandied peaches couldn’t be beat. I still have one last jar of her canned green beans left. It will be a very special occasion when I decide to serve those.

The last time I saw Aunt Teri was on Mother’s Day. I had spent the weekend with her, helping her out around the house and garden. She was having trouble talking, but we still had a really great visit and I’m so thankful I got to see her then.

She was gone three days later. As is so often the case, we all thought we had more time…

I think of Aunt Teri every time I set foot in my own garden now. I so wish she were still here to quiz on how to take care of this plant and when to harvest that vegetable.

Heaven has gained one hell of a gardener.

Guest Post: Finding Community Cookbook Collections

Note from Missy: Below is a guest post by my friend Gena Philibert-Ortega on using community cookbooks to further your genealogical research. How fun it would be to discover a new-to-you recipe once cooked by an ancestor or relative. Enjoy!

By Gena Philibert-Ortega

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com. From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

During this week of guest posting about food and family history, I’ve mentioned the importance of community cookbooks. In my opinion, community cookbooks are an important source that is overlooked in genealogical research. Researching these cookbooks can yield names, addresses, photos, ethnic origins and family history. In addition to the information about an individual family member you also glean clues about the organization that published the cookbook, their history, local business advertisements and other gems. In one church cookbook where I found a list of those buried in the church cemetery. This type of information can help you recreate your female ancestor’s community.

Community cookbooks like other genealogical documents do have their down side, they can be difficult to find.  Many repositories have not considered them worthy of archiving so to find a collection for your ancestor’s locality can be difficult.

To begin your search, as with any genealogical search, start with the homes of relatives. In some cases they may have a copy of a cookbook that they or another family member contributed to. From there consider checking available bibliographies, archival/library collections, digitized book sites and online auction websites. If you are in the area where your ancestor lived, you can expand your search to local library collections, used bookstores, antique and thrift stores.

Two bibliographies that may assist you are:

Cook, Margaret. America’s Charitable Cooks: A Bibliography of Fund-Raising Cook Books Published in the United States (1861-1915). Kent, Ohio, 1971.

Driver, Elizabeth. Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825-1949. Toronto [Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2008. I

Collections of community cookbooks can be found in libraries.  I have links to these collections on my blog Food.Family.Epherma.  The following is a list of just a few of these collections:

Los Angeles Public Library

William L Clements Library, University of Michigan

University of Illinois Library

Radcliff Institute, Harvard University, Schlesinger Library

While a library or archive in your ancestor’s locality might hold the promise of a collection of community cookbooks, another place to search is an Internet auction site like eBay.  Community cookbooks are well represented on eBay.  These cookbooks run the gamut of church, school, and organizational books spanning the 19th and 20th century.

When searching on eBay, make sure to try various keywords so that you search can be as comprehensive as possible.  Some search terms to try include “community cookbook” “church cookbooks” or “charity cookbooks” “fundraising cookbooks.” You can also specify a type of cookbook in your search like “Grange Cookbook” or “Methodist Cookbook.” Consider creating an alert for an ancestor’s locality, church, membership organization  or a cookbook search to be notified by eBay when new items come up for sale.

One book that explores community cookbooks is the book, Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories edited by Anne L. Bower.  A preview of this book is available from Google Books.

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com

To read more about community cookbooks, please consult my new book From the Family Kitchen. I also spotlight recipes from community cookbooks weekly on my blog Food.Family.Ephemera

Lunch with President Kennedy

When my grandfather was serving in the Army in Germany, he was invited to a luncheon in honor of President Kennedy. One of my aunts showed me the souvenirs that he held onto after the day, including his ticket and the program with menu. I took photos of the items (click on the images for larger versions).

Something tells me presidential luncheon menus have gotten a bit fancier since the 1960s. Also, can you find the typo in the menu?

Prep for Hurricane Irene, Day 1

Wednesday, August 24

On the heels of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt here on the Shore and in D.C., our area was warned to prepare for a major hurricane. Irene was to arrive over the weekend. Wednesday is sale day at my local organic/all-natural market, so I decided to stock up on the requisite 2-3 days worth of food they recommend that you have on hand for such emergencies.

Here’s what I bought:

A package of individual-size applesauces
2 cans of tuna (pull-tab lids)
1 box of crackers
1 carton of raspberry green tea in cans
1 carton of coconut milk
1 chocolate bar (almond-sea salt flavor)
1 box Clif Z bars (s’mores flavor)
toilet paper
paper towels

Normally, I don’t like to buy packaged food like this, but there’s really no other choice under such circumstances.

I saw gallon bottles of water there, but decided to wait. I wanted to buy those two-gallon jugs with spouts instead. Should have bought them while they were on sale… (to be continued)

Mom’s Fried Flounder Plus a Tale of Soggy Spinach & Childhood Angst

This post also is available at my food blog, Freezer Full.

When I was little, my mom made fried flounder. A lot. And she always served the same thing with it. Soggy, boiled, previously frozen spinach that no amount of “Real Lemon” juice from a plastic bottle was going to save.

I hated flounder night.

I avoided the fish for years. Then, one night in my twenties, I had an epiphany. Flounder didn’t have to be served with spinach! I called mom to tell her about my discovery and asked for her fried flounder recipe.

Mom’s Fried Flounder (this is how I wrote it down during our phone conversation)

coating of flour w/salt & pepper
egg white w/water

coat one hour before

canola oil and butter or corn or olive (I’m sure I asked her, “But what if I don’t have canola oil?” Personally, I wouldn’t use olive oil)
1/2 in. thick in non-stick pan
enough heat for flour to sizzle nicely
1-2 filets at a time
serve with lemon

Tonight, I added Old Bay to the flour instead of salt and pepper. I coated the fish in the egg white-water mixture before dredging in the flour mixture. Then I let it sit in the fridge for a while before finishing the dish pretty much as described above (I used just canola oil in the pan). I fried the flounder for 2 minutes on each side and then patted the excess oil off with paper towels before putting it on the plate.

Instead of spinach, I served roasted broccoli and roasted potatoes. The broccoli was really, really good. I’m just glad I checked on it early because it was done in the oven in less than 10 minutes (the broccoli I bought at the farmer’s market is way more delicate than what you find at the supermarket).

For the roasted potatoes, I just washed some small potatoes (also from the farmer’s market), dried them and cut the larger ones so they were all the same size in the pan. I tossed them in olive oil and Old Bay and popped them in the oven with the broccoli. They did take 25 minutes. I cooked the fish during the last five minutes.

Voilà.

When My Two Loves Combine: History and Food

This post also is available at my food blog, Freezer Full.

The National Archives has a really neat initiative launching soon and it will involve more than just an exhibit — it will include a restaurant too!

“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam” will open in conjunction with America Eats Tavern in D.C. The former will feature original records about food. The latter will produce dishes using native ingredients and historical recipes. How neat!

Read more at the NARA blog. Also, listen to the chef behind America Eats Tavern on D.C.’s NPR station.