The Recipe Club

Food & Friendship Blog

Brooklyn B&N Recipe Club

Lots of small publishers draw hard and fast lines between indie bookstores and the great-big mega-chains, like Barnes and Noble. But we’re delighted to report that our local B&N in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has been as nurturing and friendly as any local store on Main Street, USA. Recently they sponsored a very special Recipe Club meeting. It was warm and genuine, filled with surprising intimacies and lots of laughs. Here’s just some of what we talked about:

Scary Foods

Philippa told the story of traveling in Cambodia, where she was greeted–as an honored guest–by having live scorpions placed on her by two local girls. Quickly realizing that people around her were actually eating the critters (the scorpions, not the girls, and fried in hot oil, thank you) she somehow managed to not completely freak out. In a way, she knew, it was nothing more than an extreme case of “meet your food”–like picking the lobster out of the tank at an American seafood restaurant. Although Philippa confessed she resisted the generous offer of these…ummm…savory snacks, we were still all very impressed at how she kept her cool!

This led to a lively conversation about the “revulsion impulse” of encountering strange or exotic foods…from hot, buttered yak tea in Bhutan to a first-time childhood encounter with a (really scary) artichoke. Talking about our personal food boundaries (ie, for some people eating cow is okay, but eating Thumper or Bambi can be unsettling) further led to a story about:

Too-Whole Foods

Picture a men’s group drumming circle getting in touch with their true masculine natures. Now picture the guys tossing out drums in favor of a whole pig, a spit, and a fire. That’s what happened one summer day when Glen showed up in a friend’s backyard (in the middle of Brooklyn, no less!), where a group of men had gathered to roast and butcher a whole pig. For Glen the experience was challenging on many levels. Although he remains a pork lover, he ultimately concluded that he was far happier being served anonymous ribs with a nice side of vegetarian cole slaw. For him (and for many people, apparently), ignorance of culinary provenance remains bliss.

Of course, one man’s bliss is another man’s misery. This became clear when several people reminisced about their childhood birthdays, when they were allowed to choose their special birthday meals:

Birthday Trick-or-Treats

Jane remembered the story of her brother-in-law, who regularly chose to be served liver and onions as his special birthday dinner. It wasn’t that he actually liked liver and onions–in fact, he most definitely did not. But he knew his siblings hated it. Their abject misery was his birthday gift to himself!

Food-as-gift also struck a chord for Laura, who reminisced about:

Cooking with Love, Eating with Friendship

It was 1949 and it was time for Laura to (cluelessly) cook her first meal for her new husband. Out came the pot…out came the pasta. She enthusiastically cooked an entire pound of pasta for two…and then wondered why she could barely carry the groaning platter to the table! It took a while for Laura to get her head around the portion control thing–and she admits that even now, though her beloved husband passed away six years ago and her three children have lives of their own, she still cooks enough food for two (or five) at every meal.

The idea of sharing simple, nourishing meals that are prepared with love sparked a charming story from Sarah. While living in Italy, she befriended a neighbor (a “sparkly old signora”) who, Sarah learned, hid under her kitchen table during thunderstorms. So the next time it rained, Sarah went next door to join her. “Are you hungry?” the neighbor asked, as they giggled under the table. When Sarah nodded, the signora said “Don’t move!” She reached her arm to the tabletop and brought down some bread. Some garlic. A knife. And then, still seated beneath the table, she sawed some beautiful slices, smeared them with garlic and oil, and grilled the bruschetta in the fire beside the table, in one of those old-fashioned, long-armed grillers. They then ate the bruschetta under the table, too!

Wynne shared a story about the time her little sister made inedibly bad muffins. Knowing Little Sister had cooked with love and tried her best, the whole family praised the clunker muffins to the skies–while surreptitiously feeding as much as they could to the poor dog under the table. The best part was that Wynne’s father, who had previously lain down a hard-and-fast rule of never feeding the dog at dinnertime, was the first to slip Fido his (dubious) “treats.”

Finally, of course, we talked about our favorite foods. Philippa’s came from her great-grandmother; it’s her family’s signature Thanksgiving dish, but it’s simply her favorite thing to eat any time of year. She loves it so much that she makes it often, and recommends eating it cold, straight out of the fridge, for breakfast. She swears you can use any kind of sugar, any kind of spices, and any kind of alcohol, and whatever you use it will be delicious, without fail. We’re printing it here exactly as Philippa gave it to us–it’s funny and quirky, and exactly the kind of recipe we like best.

Philippa’s Fail-Proof Pumpkin Pie

Preheat oven to 425.

  1. Whip 1 or 2 eggs a bit. (I think 2 is best.)

    • 6 tablespoons or so of brown sugar, or other sweetener
    • 1 tablespoon or more of grated ginger (or dry if you don’t have fresh)
    • At least a large teaspoon of cinnamon
    • 2 pinches of salt
    • 2 pinches nutmeg (if you wanna)
    • 1 can pumpkin
    • 1 cup heavy cream or half and half ( a little less than a cup is also ok)
    • 1 cup licker..bourbon or whiskey or scotch ( a little less than a cup is also ok)
  2. Stir till smooth and all combined
  3. Buy a pie crust or chop up 3 cold tablespoons of butter into 1/2 cup of flour. Add a pinch of salt. Add more flour until you can pinch it into a ball. Press dough into a pie tin (or if you want to try to roll it out and then put into a pie dish your can try.) Do all this the quicker, the better, so the butter doesn’t get too soft.
  4. Pour batter into crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or when crust is browned around the edges. Then lower heat to 350. Cook until a knife inserted one inch from the rim comes out clean. It will continue to cook a bit after you take it out.
  5. It’s okay to eat this pie warm, soon after it’s cooked, but it’s best served cold. Keep it in the fridge. Have it for breakfast.

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