Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Miss Cooking

I was out in the garage today, making another stab at purging some of the clutter, and ran across my very first cookbook in a bin where it definitely did not belong. I snatched it up and put it back inside the house out of danger of accidentally ending up in a box destined for the thrift store. This was the cookbook I used when I made my first cake and my first cookies.

So far as plain cooking goes, I would say I am functional and not outstanding. Over the past 10 years I've become somewhat proficient at soups and broiling steaks without burning them and even making a half-way decent chicken fried steak. I can make the Hodge family dressing and Mother's spaghetti sauce and the family's version of stew (which is more of a vegetable soup with meat). I'm in no danger of starving. But I miss the cooking I used to do.

Mother despised making sweets. I don't know why, but she never made pies or cookies and only the occasional cake, usually the applesauce variety. As soon as I was big enough to handle the hand mixer without getting my fingers caught in it and keep from burning myself on the stove, I was assigned the job of providing desserts for the family. It turned out that I loved making pies and cookies and cakes.

My mother admitted that she could not make a decent pie crust. I kept working at it until I was able to make THE BEST CRUST YOU EVER ATE and then I taught Mother how to make it, too. She still didn't make sweet pies, but she used the knowledge to make wonderful meat pies out of leftover roast. I became famous for my apple pie, which was my Dad's favorite treat. We had a lot of apple pie at our house.

We also had a lot of cookies. I love to make cookies. I love to eat cookies. We had lots and lots of cookies at our house, which may partly explain why all of us had a weight problem in those days. (The frequent chicken-fried steak, spaghetti, mashed potatoes and bread with every meal surely had nothing to do with it.)

I learned to make bread in Home Ec and we frequently had fresh homemade yeast bread as I would try recipe after recipe, learning to make white bread, hearty country loaves, french baguettes and various rolls. Also sweet breads, like cinnamon rolls.

Ah, those were the good old days. B.D. - before diets. Now our sweet intake is limited to one or two pies a year, a very rare applesauce cake and whatever recipe I can drum up that is made with Splenda and very little flour and still worth eating. Once a year I make Mother's Lemon Coconut Pound Cake (usually for my birthday) and eat it slowly, savoring every bite since it will be another year before we see it again.

When I just have to try out a recipe these days, I usually take the result to work and watch other folks eat what I can't allow myself to have. It's a choice between eating the forbidden and not turning into a blimp again. What I wouldn't give to have a metabolism that would allow me to eat all the pies, cookies and lemon coconut pound cake I want. Life is not fair.

My first attempt at a cake from the little cookbook was not a success. Mother was monitoring my progress, but did not catch my serious omission until it was almost too late. I had carefully followed all the directions, but when I put the batter into the pan she knew something was wrong. We retraced all my steps and discovered I had left out the sugar. We stirred it into the batter and the cake did turn out to be edible. But take it from me, you really need to put the sugar in when the recipe says to do so.

One of my favorite recipes is found in this little book. It was years before I discovered that the little cookies we all loved and knew as "Roly Polies" were known to the rest of the world as Snickerdoodles. Within our family, we still call them Roly Polies. They are the best.

Roly Polies

Mix dry ingredients together in separate bowl:
2-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream together:
1 cup shortening (use shortening, not butter)
1-1/2 cups sugar

Add 2 eggs and beat mixture well.
Add dry ingredients and blend well.
Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease cooky sheets.

In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Form small balls (about 1-inch diameter) from the dough and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place on baking sheet, allowing room for dough to spread, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cookies will appear slightly underdone when ready to remove from oven. Cool and store in air-tight container.


1 comment:

RMG said...

Those of us who can cook are the lucky ones. If the economy doesn't improve, there won't be any restaurants left. I never acquired a taste for tv dinners. I've been making a lot of soup lately. Mostly, my rendition of Patrick McManus' "whatchagot stew".