My friend Debs brought over something awesome this week:
Food That Really Schmecks, by Edna Staebler. Debs lent me More Food That Really Schmecks, too.
I’m a huge fan of Edna and her amazing, revolutionary, life-changing pie cookbook. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on her first cookbook – Really Schmecks – for a while now.
I thought I’d borrow it from Debs, flip through and copy out a few recipes to try. But problem number one is that there are like, six hundred recipes in here, and I could seriously make every single one. (Well, maybe not that one for stuffed veal heart.) I don’t think Debs is down with me borrowing her book for the next decade.
Problem number two is that it’s kind of hard to get around to the cooking part when you’re too busy reading. This isn’t a recipe book like all the other recipe books you own. This is a chatty, memoir-esque ode to food.
Take, for example, Edna’s recipe entited “Asparagus”:
You probably know more about preparing aspagus than I do. I boil mine in salted water and I like it so well simply with butter melted over it that I never try anything fancy except a cream or milk cheese sauce. But I do want to tell you: never throw away the water your asparagus was cooked in. Keep it in your fridge to use in soups or with a bouillon cube melted in it and served hot in a mug, or mix it with tomato juice or V8 for a cold or hot drink. It’s full of vitamins and flavour.
Isn’t she the coolest ever? Here’s one entited “Tired Carrots”:
Toward the end of the winter when carrots are limp – and I am too – I sometimes give them a shot by sprinkling them with any of a variety of things in my herb cupboard…Sometimes I’l cut up an onion or two or a couple of springs of leaves of celery or parsley…and always I use plenty of butter and pepper. …Nothing depresses me more than the constant sight of carrots-and-peas on every main dish in restaurants, hotel dining rooms and at banquets. There they inevitably are, a dull, dry pile of flavourless orange and green. I won’t have the combination in my house.
I tell you, she defines the word firecracker. I wish I could have known her.
There are many more traditional type recipes too, with lists of ingredients and instructions for preparation, but never without Edna’s commentary to colour them. Her memories intermingle with hints and tips on how to prepare the food just so. Here’s her intro to “Toasted Beechnut Cookies”:
But who has beechnuts in these days? We used to spread blankets under the trees in the bush and Daddy would shake down the nuts. Mother patiently opened them with a sharp knife and toasted them in the oven. If you haven’t a beech tree handy you could use toasted almonds.
I was raving about Edna to my mother in an email last week, and she spontaneously decided to take my ENORMOUS HINT and order me my very own Food That Really Schmecks from Amazon. It should be here any day now…so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a little while. I’ll be in the kitchen with Edna.