That would be the fact that my parents were nomads and we moved around a lot. I counted once, and I think I attended 13 schools in all. It would have been nice to have a sibling to rely on, but that wasn't my reality. I had to drop myself into new situations and make new friends time after time. You get pretty adept at it, eventually.
I found refuge in books. More pointedly, in my mother's cookbooks. I read them cover to cover, then typed up fantasy menus on my dad's old manual typewriter. Those menus included stuffed jumbo shrimp and chopped chicken livers. (Hello, what 9-year-old thinks about stuff like that? They should have locked me up when they had the opportunity). I can't remember what I included for dessert, but it probably revolved around chocolate mousse or baked alaska. C'mon, this was the sixties.
Mom had two paperback books that I read repeatedly because I thought they were hysterical. The author was Peg Bracken and the books were titled "The I Hate To Cook Book" and "The I Still Hate to Cook Book." Peg Bracken was hilarious and most of her desserts involved Irish coffee. Drink your dessert? I'm down with that!
Fast forward to 2010 and suddenly her first book is in vogue again (remember what I said in the Pittsburgh cookie post about how everything old becomes new?) Check out the recent article about it in the New York Times:
Once I read the article, I beat a path upstairs to the attic and unearthed Mom's battered copy of the book (yeah, I ripped it off years ago and it somehow managed to survive our move and elude the trash bin). I couldn't help myself - I HAD to make the Hootenholler cake. With a name like that, how can one resist?
But before I give you the recipe, I have to preface it with some of her pithy comments. This is about bringing food to a potluck dinner:
"A word of advice on how to handle yourself when a Potluck is being planned.
Beware of the entree. The entree is usually the most trouble, as well as the most expensive.
So never volunteer for it. Instead, volunteer somebody else.
Ethel, would you make that marvelous goulash of yours? you can say.
The other ladies will probably join in - it would be rude not to, espescially if
they've ever tasted Ethel's goulash.
While Ethel is modestly dusting her manicure on her lapel, you can murmer
something about bringing ... bread."
Need I elaborate further about why I adore Peg Bracken?
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 beaten eggs
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup seedless raisins (I used sultanas, or white raisins)
2 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup bourbon (I used Jack Daniels)
First, take the bourbon out of the cupboard and have a small snort for medicinal purposes (Peg's words, not mine).
Now, cream the butter with the sugar and add the eggs. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg and add it to the butter mixture. Then add the milk. Now put the baking soda into the molasses and mix ut ip and add that. Then add the raisins, nuts and bourbon. Pour it into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake at 300-degrees for two hours.
This cake will keep practically forever, wrapped in aluminum foil, in your refrigerator. It gets better and better if you buck it up once in a while by stabbing it with an ice pick and injecting a little more bourbon with an eye dropper.
Serves 8 - 10
Serves 8 - 10
More bourbon? You go, Peg Bracken! If only you were alive today so we could follow your blog!