Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cookbook Spotlight - A DayThat Really Schmecks

Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict graciously invited me to a wonderful party - A Day that Really Schmecks in honor of the republication of Edna Staebler's book Food That Really Schmecks. The book is a wonderful trip down memory lane for anyone who had a grandmother, great aunt, mother....who cooked and, more importantly, baked by feel. My father, who was a pilot during WW II used to say "flying by the seat of his pants" to explain doing things by instinct.

Here's a memory that the book triggered for me - I had an amazing great aunt - Mima, my maternal grandfather's sister who really cooked like that. The results were always awesome and I'm drooling just thinking about her Heldzel (she stuffed the skin from the neck of a chicken with ...I don't know with what, but it is still one of the first dishes that come to mind when I remember my childhood - standing at her stove and tasting it right out of the pot). Mima didn't really speak English (and I definitely didn't speak Yiddish) and when she was at least 90, although she didn't hear or see very well, she still made the best strudel you could ever imagine...making dough from frozen pastry for her. It was thin and flaky and melted in your mouth. One day I went over to get a lesson and this was how it went:

Take a handful of this, a pinch of that, some of this, knead it for a while - "how long?" I asked, "until it's ready" was the answer, add some Turkish Delight "how much?" - "a box" get the idea. I thought I could watch and figure out measurements myself. So I tried to make some at home. I remember her saying that you need a box of Turkish Delight. So picture this....sort of figuring out quantities, then rolling out the dough and putting an entire box of Turkish Delight on the dough before rolling it jelly roll style. It sounded correct...that is until I tried to take it off the pan. First - it weighed a ton!!! Second, it stuck sooooo badly to the baking sheet and was as hard as a rock - too hard to slice even! I actually threw out the entire pan - strudel and all.

Okay, that was extreme and not a reflection on Mima's cooking or Edna's book (much easier to follow) which is filled with delicious, no nonsense recipes from her Mennonite friends. But the book does give me the same warm feeling...of having a favorite elder in the kitchen with you. It's heartwarming! You can smell the baking, feel the heat of the big kitchen stove and know all is safe in the world.

I made two types of biscuits using whole wheat flour to make them more South Beach Diet friendly. After all, we do have to start thinking about the effects of all the holiday partying. I chose them also because they're quick to make and nourishing. They are great to accompany breakfasts or easy suppers for those house guests still around.

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Jasmine said...

How wonderful! Mum cooks in the same way as your Great can be frustrating getting a recipe out of her, but half the experience is re-creating it!

Bravo and thanks for participating.


Melissa said...

They really look crisp, I can taste it...Yum! Great job,

Sara said...

They look delicious!