I’m reading a lovely little book titled Bittersweet Country, edited by Ozarkian author Ellen Gray Massey. It contains the best articles from a periodical named Bittersweet, published by Massey’s English class from the Lebanon, Missouri high school. The magazine focuses on the Ozarks, the culture and the way of life of the early Ozark settlers.
The first section of the book focused on kitchens: what appliances existed and how they were used, how food was prepared, giving recipes, and even providing diagrams of typical kitchen organization. Most had a big, rough table, usually made by hand, with benches for seats. On this, food would be placed–for eating in the next meal or to hold for the next day. It would be covered with a pretty cloth to keep the bugs off.
In those days, the settlers were frugal and nothing was every thrown away; even ash served a purpose because ash that is wet and allowed to sit and rot forms lye as a by-product. Lye was essential for both cooking and cleaning, and many homes had an ash hopper where ashes from the wood stove and fireplace would be thrown. When it rained, water would trickle through it, resulting in the lye. The cook would then combine this with water and dried corn and boil it for a time to create hominy–a fluffy, and tasty, corn dish.
(I found a recipe for homemade hominy at WikiBooks. If you’re not familiar with WikiBooks, it’s a Wikipedia-related site for …open-content textbooks anyone can edit. )
Reading about kitchens and cooking in Bittersweet reminded me to recommend an enjoyable weblog: 101 Cookbooks. The author, Heidi Swanson, features recipes from her collection of cookbooks–providing interesting background material as well as entrÃ© into a world of natural and vegetarian and vegan cooking. It’s a beautiful site, too: perfect for her topic and interests. (It’s not a site that reads well as an RSS feed, which is probably why she doesn’t provide full feeds.)
Ms. Swanson also features some rather fascinating and unusual recipes, such as today’s Lemon Verbena Drop, giving a little cocktail background as apÃ©ritif:
In the past I’ve had (a few) friends who tended to treat cocktails more like fashion accessories than beverages. They always opted for the drink that best matched their handbag or shade of lipstick. Bless them though, because they always looked cute. Or cute for a while. There is a place up the street that serves saketinis in a pretty range of sunset colors – reds, pinks, oranges. They serve them in ultra-wide, shallow martini glasses. Turn one way, and the drink in your glass slides right out the other side. It’s a given, anytime we go there someone will end up either wearing their own drink, or wearing someone else’s.
101 Cookbooks led me indirectly to the cupcake weblog, a weblog about all things cupcakes. But let’s not stop there. If you’re like me and find wedding cakes to be a true art form, then here’s a tip: use the Flickr tag wedding cake to see hundreds of photos of wedding cakes, traditional and anything but. My favorite cake so far is this rather unusual Seussian affair.