Masher

Corn Love

image

Corn.  A kind of grass.  Long ago with tiny cobs smaller than a pinky finger, in Mexico, where it began, 5,000 years ago, maybe more.  First cultivated by natives (probably women). Traded northward to tribes as far as the Great Lakes and Massachusetts.  Stolen by the first Europeans.  Pounded in mortars.  Bred to cloying sweetness.  Shipped all over the world.  Genetically modified. Made dirt cheap with farm subsidies. Turned into cheap sugar syrup. Villified. 

The journey of corn is more than any writer could ever dream up. In the corn mother myths of natives, the perfect mother dies for the sake of her hungry children.  From her body springs the first corn plants that enable life.  In Pueblos, her image blends with the Virgin Mother.

Corn gives us life.  It kills us with diabetes.  It grows in the shape of human likeness, tall with tassles like arms and legs.  Fed to cows that evolved to eat grass.  6.5 pounds of corn feed make 1 pound of beef.  Fuel for a meat eating culture.  Now, as ethanol.  Fuel for a car culture.

Nancy and I talk all the time about the conflict of food in modern life.  You can see the conflict in her painting.  The life and death of corn.  The beauty.  The dead body.  The fallen bird.

We don’t want to dismiss technology and all it has brought our lives. The idea of small local farms that the Slow Food movement loves is very appealing but seems so utterly irrational and expensive when you think of all the hunger in the world and people in developing nations desperate for technology so they can feed themselves.  Anyway, if all the world went to small local farms, wouldn’t a famine ensue?  Could small local farms sustain cities that have little farm land left?

Will we ever really be locavores as Whole Foods markets tell us to?  Is it realistic?  Or are these ideas things we tell ourselves in the hopes of feeling more morally superior about our wealth.  It is hard to know. 

What do you think? 

image


Not to be Forgotten

Corn Fritters

Having removed the shucks and silks from a dozen young tender ears of corn, grate or scrape the grains fine from the cobs, mix with it the beaten yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, a salt-spoonful of salt, and a teaspoonful of pepper; mix the whole together, stirring it till it is well intermingled; then drop it by spoonfuls into a pan of boiling butter or lard, making them all as nearly the ame shape and size as possible; turn them over once, and when both sides are of a light brown, serve them up.  It is a breakfast dish, and is quite an agreeable relish. 

--Lettice Bryan
The Kentucky Housewife, 1839



image

Yes, this is a corn plant from my garden, nearly ready. 

But as to this recipe--it’s a “not to be forgotten” all the way, because not only is it a good thing to make, but also because it clearly bears some African influence, which is typical of the old southern cookbooks.  Dishes like these are a silent legacy of slavery.  Africans brought with them an expertise in frying (and for fritters) and also taste for the piquant, which is obvious in the large amount of black pepper.  So perhaps Mrs. Bryan was documenting the dish from her African cook or someone else’s.  But in any case, she seems to have done a poor job.  This recipe is obviously impossible. She calls for 12 ears of corn and only 4 egg yolks to bind it all together.  Ridiculous.  Ridiculous of course till you realize that this was nearly 200 years ago and corn was surely smaller, but for that matter so were eggs.  (We breed everything so large now.) And how much flour, really is the two spoonfuls?  We’ll never know. 

Don’t get bogged down.  It’s just a concept, and the concept is this:  Shuck your corn, then the take a knife and cut off the kernels.  Mix them together with enough egg yolk, salt and pepper and flour as will hold it together, then fry.  I found the result a little plain, and of course the sweetness of corn today is just sometimes so annoyingly candylike.  So here’s what I did:

2 cups fresh corn kernals (about 4 ears)
1 tablespoon, plus a little more, finely minced onion
2 teaspoons, finely minced flesh of a serrano chile
1/4 cup flour (you might like for half of this to be cornmeal)
1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) salt
black pepper to taste
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk or, even better, butter milk
1/4 grated cheddar--optional only if you don’t mind a softer melty fritter

Mix together the first seven ingredients.  Then add milk and cheese if you are using.  Fry on a griddle that is greased with olive oil or butter, until brown on each side.

If I were a chef I’d go to town with this.  I’d hold the cheese and instead, serve a corn fritter as an appetiser with a warm frisee salad and a dollop of goat cheese on top.  Or perhaps I’d serve with a fresh mango salsa.  Or a tomato salsa with cilantro.  Or perhaps some wlted arugula.  My home tasters like them plain.  But not for breakfast.  No way.  Rather, as an “agreeable relish” as Mrs. Bryan suggests.  In any case, corn fritters are an open canvas.  There’s so much fresh corn around now. Try them with left over cobs the next day.  And be sure to eat them fresh off the griddle. 


Masher

We thought the corn plants had souls

“We cared for our corn in those days, as we would care for a child; for we Indian people loved our fields as mothers love their children.  We thought the corn plants had souls, as children have souls, and that the growing corn liked to hear us sing, as children like to hear their mothers sing to them.”

Buffalo Bird Woman,
Hidatsa Indian, born 1839 in an earth lodge in present-day North Dakota

image


Masher

Jersey Girls Love Jersey Tomatoes

As a Jersey girl, It’s hard not to give a nod to Julia Moskin today in The New York Times who did some wonderful reporting on the supremacy of the good old Jersey Tomato--make that the Ramapo variety.  She interviewed farmers who described the “horticultural garbage” they encountered when trying to grow heirloom varieties for a market gone “ga ga.” Well guess what, Ramapo tomatoes--hybrids, bred by laboratories--are better.  They resist rot.  They don’t crack on the vine.  And they have a wonderful balance of sweet and acid.  No they don’t have pretty stripes like the Green Zebra.  They are “nondescript red and round,” and this is a good thing--they are powerhouse producers with great taste. They are our heirloom here.  I can’t help but beam with pride. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/dining/23toma.html


Masher

Creative New Uses for Your Kitchen Gear

Wouldn’t I like to be a space traveler, too, with my Kitchen Aid bowl as a helmet and measuring spoon as my weapon?  A bell head with a gong?  A little boy rummaging around the kitchen, age 7, age of grace. I sense reality creepng in.  But here, one blessed moment.  image


Masher

Front Yard Garden Update

image

It’s amazing how fast everything is growing.  We’ve got corn on the stalk.  Lots of cucumbers and greenbeans.  Early Girl tomatoes just about ready.  Peppers moving along.  Chard three quarters of the way there.  More herbs than we can handle.  And a serious Zucchini Situation taking over the whole thing.

There have been some real surprises with this garden.  I didn’t expect it to be such a social event.  But it is.  People in the neighborhood frequently comment and look.  They ask us how it’s going.  Or they compliment our progress.  Cool. 

image

see also: Tomatoes at my Front Door




Not to be Forgotten

Life Is a Bowl of Sour Cherries

Life is a Bowl of Sour Cherries

To preserve Cherries.

Take two pounds of cherries, one pound and a half of sugar, half a pint of fair water, melt some sugar in it; when it is melted, put in your other sugar and your cherries; then boil them softly, till all the sugar be melted; then boil them fast, and skim them; take them off two and three times and shake them, and put them on again, and let them boil fast; and when they are of good colour, and the sirrup will stand, they are boiled enough. 

American Cookery
“The First American cookbook,”
Amelia Simmons
1796

Modern Version

2 pounds sour cherries, pitted (try to retain shape but don’t drive yourself crazy)
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar (more or less according to sweetness of your fruit, and your own personal taste)

1.  Pit the cherries.  It will take you at least a half hour.  So relax and enjoy.
2.  Put the water in the pot over medium high heat.  Add sugar and stir until it melts.
3.  Add the cherries.  Bring up to a boil then immediately turn the fire down to medium and let cook on low to medium heat, until you have a syrup and the cherries are soft but not mushy.  Test and correct sugar as needed. 



image

I don’t know how I got by all my life without sour cherries.  But it wasn’t until last month that I had my first taste.  My friends Lou and Nancy turned me on to them, and now it’s going to be forever love. 

I’m not talking about Nancy of Jellypress, but Nancy the owner of Orbis—one of the best restaurants around. Nancy is the kind of chef who loves to go pick her own fruit and catch her own fish on her days off.  Since Lou (yes ravioli Lou) is retired and has time, they’d been picking cherries—up on a ladder and everything--at a friend’s tree.  Well all this takes place a couple of weeks ago when we had a simple lunch of Lou’s homemade tagliatelle (made with a duck egg or a goose egg—something crazy but I can’t remember what) and Nancy’s beautiful Bolognese sauce.


image

Then, she brought out the cherries on ice cream and I was a goner. 

Two days later, Nancy called me to say she’s been cherry picking again.  Did I want some?  Of course I did….  And so would you. 

Do whatever you can to find sweet and sour cherries.  If you live Northward, there’s still time.  I got these at the farmer’s market a few days ago. Then I saw some in Whole Foods tonight.  Find some today if you can. 

When I called other Nancy—yes our very own Jellypress Nancy—to share my feelings about this fruit, I wasn’t the least surprised to find out that she was already a member of the sour cherry club.  In fact, already painted put them on her counter—that finite midlife horizon of hers.  When I saw these paintings I thought, oh my gosh, well really isn’t everything in that painting—just everything?

image


Okay, well, almost everything.  The ice cream isn’t there.  So make sure you go get that yourself.

image

Sign up to receive a recipe from history in your email each month »


Not to be Forgotten

Ramps from the Forest

image

West Virginia Ramps

Ramps, cut in 1 inch pieces
Bacon pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Hard-cooked egg slices

Parboil clean, cut ramps in plain water.  While ramps are boing, fry bacon in large iron frying pan to the point of becoming crisp.  Cut bacon into small pieces.  Drain parboiled ramps and place in hot bacon fat with bacon pieces.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and fry util done.  Serve garnished with egg slices. 

Mrs. Carl B. Hall, Jr.
Mountain Measures, A Collection of West Virginia Recipes
Compiled and Tested by The Junior League of Charleston, West Virginia, 1974


Ramps

To clean them, pull off the outer skin around the bulb.  Chop a good bit of ramps with about five eggs into a frying pan, and fry them with about three heaped tablespoons of grease.  Fry them hot and fast because of smell. Add a little salt, pepper, eggs, or potatoes in with them for flavor to your own fancy.  Most important go into solitary in the woods somewheres and stay for two or three weeks because nobody can stand your breath after you eat them.”

Clifford Conner
The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, Regional Memorabilia and Recipes, Edited by Linda Garland Page and Eliot Wigginton, 1984.



This spring, a friend brought me a bunch of ramps she’d gathered in the woods near her house in upstate New York.  She handed them to me in a plastic bag standing on the walk in front of my house.

Now, it’s not too often someone hands you a bag of some wild food she personally collected from the forest floor. Naturally, the gesture thrilled me.  The oniony smell was intoxicating, and the green leaves were so smooth and gorgeous with their red stems that I immediately picked up the phone and called Nancy and told her to get right over to my house so she could collect some.  I had a strong feeling that she’d want to paint them.  I was right.

image

For those of you who may not know—ramps (allium tricoccum) are a special kind wild leek that is famous in the Appalachian mountains.  And, listen to me now, they are also a national treasure.

Read more »

Artist's Notebook

Old recipes, Modern Life: an installation mapping identity and personal history

image

The following are photographs of the installation piece I made for “conceptual drawing class” here at graduate school out of the vintage recipe book that writer Dianna Marder generously gave me for a gift. (Don’t worry Dianna, the installed pieces are color copies, not the original!) The piece goes between my apartment kitchen and the studios in the art school. The first one is in my kitchen at the dorm . . . basically it’s a piece showing the handwritten recipe page as aesthetic object inspired by the essay “Reading the Language of Objects” by M. Anna Fariello. Fariello explains that an aesthetic object is a document (a map of the maker’s marks, and in this case, with particularities of handwriting, crossings-out and changes, fingerprints, etc.) a metaphor (since it is recipes, for sustenance physical and emotional) and also what she calls a “socially integrated object,” meaning an art object that is not set apart and rarified but rather part of the social fabric and of daily ritual (in this case, cooking.) As such it is capable of resonating on a deep emotional and spiritual level. With artistic intent of course. Enjoy! Captions below each photo explain a bit more . . .

Read more »

Antique Recipe Road Show

Sugar and Heat for Your Jam

Q, Can strawberry jam be made without sugar and without cooking?

(I came to the conclusion that in the 1800s, they may not have had sugar or pectin) Raw is better than cooked and NO SUGAR is certainly better than even one granule of sugar.

Thanks
Dawn.

A.  Dawn, First of all, the answer is yes, absolutely, you can make no-cook jam with some pectin (a thickener) and eliminate the sugar if you wish--especially if you have wonderfully ripe and sweet fruit.  I have a friend who makes no-cook berry jam in Maine and swears by it.  I always wanted to try it myself, so if you have a recipe, feel free to share because I’d love it. 

However, I’m pretty certain that you need the consistently low temps of a fridge or freezer to do it, and so these types of jams are probably of the modern electrical era. 

Read more »

Artist's Notebook

Packing for graduate school: paints, palette, uh, kitchen counter?

image

Yes, I took it with me. How could I not? When I found out that I would be living in another city for three summers to attend graduate school for painting, I made a small replica of my kitchen counter with the leftover tiles and packed it. I couldn’t imagine working without it. It’s been a part of my painting practice for three years. The metaphor of the grid, measured just as time is measured. Its evocative color and texture. The way it structures the painting. I also packed a bag full of my beloved antique and vintage kitchen tools. Little did I know that my painting professor had something else in mind. 

Read more »

Masher

Tomatoes at my Front Door

So as you loyal Jellypress readers may recall, I made a pronouncement on the first day of spring that we’d tear up the front lawn around here and put in a vegetable garden.  Well, two months, three palates of stone, one borrowed rototiller, three yards of top soil, and several aching backs later, I’ve got some results to post. 

image

We began the middle of May.  First we had to bust through the sod.  Unbelievably hard work.  Next, we had to turn the hard clay soil.  Now comes the point where I must say that my husband and I could never do this alone.  This is a shared garden created with another family--our next door neighbors Arielle and David (there’s Arielle and baby Olive in the picture).  And the hero of the neighborhood, Chuck, came from a few doors down to lend a hand (see him with the trusty rototiller).  Note three pallets of stone on the sidewalk waiting to be laid down.  Our goal was raised beds at a six-inch height, because the extra soil would be light, and workable.  We didn’t want to use wooden prefab boxes because we wanted something more inspired in the front of the house.  We got a bit obsessed with the stone. 

image

Memorial Day Weekend.  Turns out the stone we ordered to match the house was shaped more like boulders than flat building stones.  It was not returnable.  I began to sink into depression.  But David allowed no such thing and instead asked for a sledge hammer and goggles.  Before you know it, the men were splitting stone and grunting.  My son got involved.  It evidently was very cathartic for the guys in the group.  People slowed their cars to watch, and the neighbors definitely took notice of our work--a mixture of admiration and pity.  None of the dramatic chain gang scenes were photographed, alas.  For a while, piles of broken stones were everywhere, and it was a bit worrisome.  Were we fools?  Was it possible?  Could we build these walls? But here you see it all tidily falling into place.  This is the view from my front door.  Stones laid by committee.  And then several wheelbarrows of top soil, manure, peat, and fertilizer put down by garden hero David. 

Read more »

Masher

Really Cooking with Fire

I like nature just fine.  But I like to sleep with a roof over my head. 

Well, guess what? 

Husband likes to camp.  Normally I send him off without me, along with one of our sons.  But a couple of weeks ago, I tried to be a good sport and go sleep in a tent on a family weekend in the woods. 

It rained.  It was cold--like forty degrees at night, and there were moments when you could say I had a rather negative attitude.  But the setting--green green spring of the Catskills--was gorgeous. 

And of course I took the opportunity to cook breakfast over the campfire.  My first ever. 

image

Read more »

Masher

Winepress in the Basement

image

Lina knew I’d love this one.  She’s my friend who is a real estate agent here in town and she’d just got a new listing for a house—all renovated and done-up with granite countertops, happy colors, shiny floors and new siding—in short, all history covered over so that it was hard to even guess when the house was built.  But wait, deep in the dark basement—a big old secret remained.  It was too huge to erase.  A clue to the house.  Was it?  Could it be? 

Yes, a gigantic wine press cemented into the basement wall.  With the owners’ blessing, Lina brought me in to peek.  It was an enormous thing—used now as a storage shelf.  We had fun taking down boxes of outgrown toys so we could photograph it--imagining sweaty scenes of bare feet stomping grapes and immigrant families laboring down here decades ago—the smell of ferment in the air along with the trills of some dialect we could never understand.

But when did this all happen?  And whose winepress had it been? And—perhaps the most interesting question--why was it located in a predominantly African American neighborhood? 

Read more »

Masher

Chickens in the Burbs

image

Location:  Montclair, NJ.  An expensive, crowded, upscale brain-powered burb, a mere 12 miles outside of NYC.  In other words… Not the kind of place you usually find women raising a flock of chickens.
image

But here we are in the backyard of Grace Chow Grund--on a perfect suburban block—amidst fourteen hens in a chicken run positioned at the far end of her flower- and vegetable-filled lot. 

image

The question is, of course, why?  Why have chickens in suburbia?

“I keep them for three reasons,” replies Grace. 

“The first reason is for the eggs of course.  We get 9 to 11 on a good day.”

image

Read more »

Page 12 of 13 pages    « FirstP  <  10 11 12 13 >

Jellypress is about Nancy and Laura having fun with what they love: old recipes, art, and ideas--as we find them in our modern lives.  We met...read more »

Quince
Yes, all the artwork on Jellypress was done by Nancy. Go to the Jellypress Art page

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyTo find out about Laura's search for a long lost family recipe, click [ What's a Jellypress?


Categories

Not to be Forgotten

Not to be Forgotten
Cool old recipes

sign up »


Masher

Masher
In which we mash it up


Antique Recipe Road Show

Antique Recipe Road Show
Send us your questions

ask now »


Artist's Notebook

Artist's Notebook
Nancy's art thing


Hands On

Hands On
Share photos of old foodways

share yours »


Subscribe to the Blog





Our Books

A Thousand Years Over a Hot StoveA James Beard Award winning book that tells a history of American women through food, recipes, and remembrances. Recipes and illustrations from prehistory to the present day.
To learn more, click [here].


The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyLaura's memoir about a search for a recipe, happiness, and mythic Italy--with many unexpected adventures along the way.
To learn more, click [here].


Walking on WalnutsIn this culinary memoir, Nancy Ring combines funny and poignant stories of love and work with warm remembrances of a family that celebrates food with gusto and cherishes memories with passion...
To learn more, click [here].







Links




© 2007 Nancy Gail Ring. All fine art images appearing on jellypress.com are protected under United States Copyright Law. No art from this web site may be downloaded, frame-grabbed or printed without written consent.