Cooking Though Some Ages (concluded)

Among the cookbooks I have that I did not get to use for cooking are ones from community or church groups that have collected recipes from their members. One of them was bought at a local antique store and is titled Mountain Ranges. The cover says that it was published by the Friendly Club of the Mountainhome Methodist Church. It does not have a publication date. However, I have had a home a mile from this church for thirty years, and I have heard of almost none of the thirty or forty businesses that advertised in the publication. One half page touts Megargel’s Golf Courses. Three locations are given, and it says “9 Holes 35c.” I thought that perhaps these were miniature setups, but they would have been unlikely to be nine holes, and I am confused by the line at the bottom: “For Amateurs and Golfers.” Was there ever a time that it cost only thirty-five cents to play nine holes of golf? The Onawa Lodge advertised that it offered summer and winter sports with a swimming pool and a dance casino. However, I did not fully understand when it claimed (or encouraged the attendance of?), “Alert Young Social Directors.”

The phone numbers for the ad’s establishments are either three or four digits. The first phone numbers I remember from my boyhood were four numbers (ours was 5978), but they aggravatingly went to seven digits around 1960. These recollections lead to the tentative conclusion that Mountain Ranges dates to the late 1950s.

Many community cookbooks give the names of the recipes’ contributors. This one does not. However, as with other community cookbooks, Mountain Ranges has several pages of “cooking hints.” I learned that to whip evaporated milk, I should partially freeze it and then add lemon juice, but I am mystified by this hint: “To shell pop corn use a large grater.”

Even though I bought the book not expecting to cook from it, some of the recipes intrigue me. I am tempted by Fried Ripe Tomatoes with Gravy, a stuffed eggplant, and the cheese patties. The three-page “Meats” section is rather skimpy. The “Cakes” portion is much longer and many look good including an orange coconut cake. Almost all the cookie recipes seem worth trying, including the Dancing Gingerbread Dolls. And when I first got the book, I dogeared a dessert page for Graham Banana Custard.

A book that holds a special place for me is the Sebring Hills Cook Book compiled by the Hobby-Club with a cover featuring a washed-out, black and white photograph of what I assume was the Hobby-Club clubhouse. The parents lived in Sebring Hills from retirement until the father died, and the book contains a recipe by the mother and is signed by her, using her first name adopted in Florida–“Jan”–rather than her given one, “Jeannette.”

Postcards addressed to the publisher are at the end of the book, which state, “Turn the enjoyable hobby of ‘Swapping Recipes’ into a big FUNDRAISER for your church, school, club or organization.” I assume that the publisher was responsible for the definitions, charts, and other information that concludes the book (I learned that it takes seventy pounds of fresh peas for 100 servings prompting me to wonder when I would ever be serving fresh peas to 100 guests) as well as calendars for 1981, 1982, and 1983, so I assume that the book, which has no publication year, dates from the early 80s.

The mother’s recipe is for sweet-sour pork, and it looks as if I would eat it and probably did. It calls for canned pineapple. I am not sure if fresh was readily available in the early 1980s, and even if it had been, whether she would have used it. Indeed, many of the recipes call for canned or frozen vegetables and fruits even though the contributors were living in Florida where fresh produce is regularly available. And not surprisingly, gelatin, Jell-o, and pudding mix were often featured. A few recipes, however, called for a fresh ingredient variously spelled calamonda, calamondon, or calamondine. I had no idea what this was, but my internet research indicates that it is the Florida version of a citrus fruit from the Philippines called calamansi. It has sweet skin and a sour pulp. One source said that the fruit was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s in Florida for the making of cakes, and two of the Sebring Hills recipes using the citrus were for cakes, but in my times in Florida I have never tasted it.

The contributors were overwhelmingly women. Men, however, dominated the beverage section, but not with what I would classify as manly drinks. Wayne Coleman offered grapefruit wine. A gallon of grapefruit juice is mixed with two cups of sugar, which is left for at least a month to ferment, and then the concoction is strained twice. Bob McDonald tendered “Orange Cordial,” where four cups of orange juice is simmered with four cups of sugar. Ninety proof vodka is then added. “Allow to age two months (if you can wait that long). Do not serve by the glassful.”

Few of the recipes in the Sebring Hills Cook Book cry out to me to be made although I would probably greedily eat the Braunschweiger Party Balls, which incorporate grated onion, mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg, and prepared mustard into the sausage. Even though the recipe proclaims “that this was a first prize recipe in the 1980 cooking under hors d’oeuvres,” I doubt I will make it myself. I like liverwurst well enough on its own without doing all the work of turning it into balls.

My most recent community cookbook is the Buck Hill Falls Cookbook created by the Buck Hill Falls Lot & Cot Association (2021), a community of which I am a member.

This is my most recent community cookbook and the only one where I am a community member. The book was prompted by the Covid quarantining when many of us were spending more time in the kitchen than we might have otherwise. It has a more modern sensibility towards cooking and eating than my earlier community books. Canned soups are less prominent and fresh ingredients are commonplace.

The Buck Hill book contains two excellent recipes from the spouse (Caponata and Paprika Chicken with Chickpeas) and many dishes that I would like to try: Eggplant with Traditional Whey (sour cream can replace the whey); Lemon Spaghetti; Linguine with Artichokes and Leeks; Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef; and Roasted Cauliflower with Pancetta, Olives, and Crisp Parmesan. And a recipe for Sauerbraten and Potato Dumplings reminded me that it has been decades since I attempted sauerbraten. Maybe it’s time to try it again.

Butt It’s Clean (concluded)

When I bought the spouse’s bidet for the Brooklyn house, I got a three-for-one deal. I still had two more of the devices, and I took them to the Pennsylvania house when it was opened for the summer. It has two toilets, and it was clear that one could not be outfitted with a bidet. But one will do, or at least is better than none, I think. This won’t be too bad now that I have successfully installed two of the devices. This time before starting I go to my outstanding local country hardware store and buy both a flexible hose and long toilet seat bolts and set to work. Even with various difficulties in attaching the hoses, it gets done rather promptly, and it works. I am proud, oh so proud. I come back to the bathroom two hours later and find the tiniest amount of water on the floor next to the toilet. I wait and watch. A small–incredibly small–drop comes out of the connection to the toilet tank once every thirteen minutes. Really, it is not much. My first thought is that I can live with that. I will just put a sponge down and wring it out once a day. That should do. But I know that that attitude is wrong, oh so wrong.

I turn off the water and disassemble my work. I do not cry, not even a little. I remember that the directions warned not to overtighten the new connector to the toilet tank. I did not have this problem with my two previous efforts, but that must be what I have done. The kit came with some of the stuff that looks like adhesive tape but is much flimsier to help make good plumbing connections. I don’t know how to really use it and find I am ending up with a balled-up mess like my attempts to use Saran Wrap in the early days. What else to do but go back to the hardware store where I buy a slightly wider version of that white stuff and what might have been called in the old days pipe dope. But I still don’t know how to use either properly. Does the white stuff go clockwise or counterclockwise? Is that looking from above or below? Does the goop go on the male or female threads or both? How much should I use? Then I remember: this modern world has YouTube. I watch videos; all I really learn is that whatever I am doing is wrong. However, I boost my confidence by telling myself, more than once, that I have installed two of these gizmos successfully. A third cannot be far off.

I wrap and slather the connector and put it back on the toilet tank and hope without reasonable expectations that I have not tightened it too much. The flexible hose, however, has seemed to come alive. An animate force seems to be fighting me as I try to thread it on to the connector in the tight place near the wall under the toilet. Although I had done it before, I can’t line it up properly to get it started. There, I have got it, but that was delusional because a slight tug pulls it to the floor. Try again. Try again. And try again. My fingers no longer work well enough. Let me regroup and try again tomorrow.  I have another toilet to use, and I can still flush this one with a bucket of water.

The next day does not bring success. And the day after produces only compounded frustrations. Luckily, I am alone in the house, for I certainly could not show my face to anyone who knew of my failure. Finally, instead of acknowledging my ineptness, I put a positive spin on it and decide that it would be a good deed to help the needy local economy and call Karl the Plumber. It takes a few days for him to come, and I am not at the house when he does (for which I am grateful), but when I return, the thing has been installed—without leaks. I am pleased and grateful. God bless Karl.

The spouse pays the bill. I have not asked how much it cost to have this inexpensive device professionally installed.

Then, however, the NBP, who up until that time had adamantly eschewed one, wanted a bidet, and I still had one from my three-for-one offer. But, besides wanting the bidet, the NBP also reported that his toilet was making strange noises after it was flushed. I looked at it and determined that the mechanism inside the tank was malfunctioning, but I don’t understand this modern form of filling and flushing the tank (and neither would my 80’s edition of the Reader’s Digest Home Repair Encyclopedia). Instead of seizing on this new learning opportunity, I immediately gave the NBP the number of our Brooklyn plumber and said, “When you get him, ask him to install the bidet, too.” I wanted my bidet-installation days to be over.

But I can say that all of us now have very clean butts.