Archive for January, 2011

Happy New Year

Marblehead home like mine after snow in 2009, courtesy of a friend

Happy New Year, friends,

First, just a word to say we survived the Blizzard of 2010 that arrived the day after Christmas dropping 18 inches of snow and leaving us without power and heat for a while.  I just dressed as I would in Mongolia and was fine.  Neighbors kindly helped shovel me out and today, New Year’s Day, I went for a ride in my friend’s convertible with the top down to welcome in the new year.  Temperature was in the 50s.  Including photo of convertible outind and am inserting a couple photos taken by a friend in 2009 and emailed to me in Mongolia.

Celebrating New Year with a spin in my friend's convertible

Next, as you know I expect to be going back to Mongolia at some point, so I’d like to keep my blog active.  This posting is a little about Mongolia and mostly about food–so if you’re not interested, just ignore it.

There are two Mongolian connections.  One is the limited Mongolian cuisine which, if you remember from previous postings, consists primarily of meat and dairy products coming from their nomadic herding tradition.  While I truly didn’t crave foods from home, I am enjoying having easy access to the variety here.  Believe it or not, Kalamata olives are at the top of my happy-to-have-again list.

The second connection has to do with seeking to simplify my life at home as I did in Mongolia by getting rid of “stuff”.   The other day I decided to weed out my recipe box and discovered it contains an interesting record of my family’s food history.  Thought you might enjoy a couple of observations.

The oldest recipes in the box were handwritten by my mother, some sent at my request after I moved to Boston after college.  For example, one long-lasting recipe is for “Refrigerator Rolls,” a simple one-rise dough that had provided dinner rolls for the table in our family for decades now.  Another was for her delicious pot roast and even one for “chop suey.”

Homemade Ice Cream

And then there was her ice cream recipe for the White Mountain hand-crank ice cream maker that made a gallon of ice cream at a time.   Long ago at family reunions in Indiana, my grandmother would make a cooked pudding containing eggs, fresh Jersey cow milk, sugar and a little flour.  Some hours later, we would put the pudding plus cream and vanilla in a tall metal canister, place it in the wooden bucket, add rock salt and ice hand-chipped from a block from the local ice house and crank up a batch with everyone taking a turn until the crank wouldn’t turn, even by the strongest uncle.  Then we’d remove the canister, take out the dasher and close it up again, dump out the brine, replace the canister in the bucket and repack it with more ice and salt.  Next, one of my grandmother’s small hand-hooked rugs would be tied over the top and the whole thing put in the coolest spot we could find where it would “cure.”  After a couple of hours, it would be brought out and served with pie or fresh peaches or whatever was in season.  All of it had to be consumed because the tiny freezers in refrigerators of that day certainly couldn’t handle any leftovers.  No encouragement needed for a second helpings.  After I was married, we bought our own hand-crank freezer–six quarts this time!  By then, refrigerators had freezers that could hold leftovers.  At Christmas, peppermint ice cream and home-made chocolate sauce were our favorites.

But the major thing I noticed in those recipes was the gradual shift from recipes calling for many rich ingredients towards lighter and broader ethnic fare.  Fewer desserts like Fudge Ribbon Cake and more veggies like Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  More recipes calling for fresh ingredients and fewer for canned items.

Now, I’m told, many people are getting their recipes from the Web.  I often do, too. But I still treasure a slimmed down recipe box that still contains those faded hand-written recipes my mother sent to me, a sweet culinary connection to days gone by.


January 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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