Assigned with the task of making stuffing for a Thanksgiving dinner this week, I looked to my bookshelf thinking that I might find something good in one of the older titles, that maybe a Beard or a Child would offer something interesting.
JB suggests serving Turkey with, among other things, brain sauce. So.
I have one volume that’s just called Cook Book, by a woman named Stella Standard, which may be the best name ever for a cookbook author. Written in 1965 and subtitled “Favorite Food from Home and Abroad”, it seems to contain a recipe for everything Mrs. Standard ever ate and liked, including dishes from hundreds of restaurants and inns in France and Italy.
This book belonged to my mother, which is strange because she really wasn’t an ambitious cook. She kept things very simple and didn’t often stray from her repertoire.
But I think I know why it was on her shelf.
It’s the same reason it’s on mine.
I think she found it, almost 14 years ago, while going through her mother’s things after she died. I imagine her flipping it open to discover the sweet collection of artifacts it contains between the pages, including tiny flowers pressed in waxed paper, a valentine that she herself had given my grandparents, a copy of a newspaper clipping detailing the academic success of my brother Chris, a snapshot of my grandparents from the 70s, a piece of steno paper with sketches and instructions in my grandmother’s hand for an elegant dessert of berries and cream served in a chocolate shell, and a child’s drawing of what appear to be Chinese fishermen, one standing on the shore next to a tree, another out in the waves on a sampan, a cargo ship on the horizon, the sun smiling in the corner. On the back, “To Grandma From Chris” in loopy elementary school cursive (soon abandoned for the flat printed letters which he still uses) and, in the corner, a tiny annotation, “Age 8.”
I may never cook from this book, but I’ll never get rid of it, either.
Alas, it was the internet, not a book, that came through with the winning stuffing recipe, something with chestnuts and bacon. But I thought I’d leave you with the pumpkin pie recipe I always use. I don’t know its origins, though it closely resembles a recipe in the Complete Pie Cookbook. I think it’s the one my friend Heather and I used to make at work.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
2/3 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t allspice
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t ginger
1/8 t nutmeg
1 1/2 c pumpkin purée
2 T molasses
1 c crème fraîche or heavy cream
Sift together sugars, flour, and spices. Gently beat the eggs, stir in the molasses and cream, then mix thoroughly with the pumpkin. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mix.
Bake at 325° in a pre-baked pie shell until barely set.