Odds and Sods Around Our House

Over at Larry Muffin Laurent wrote a bit, as he often does, about the cooking I’ve been doing over the past week or two. He mentioned that I watch Glen and Friends on YouTube and do try a good deal of his suggested recipes. Over the past few years I have made everything from his Brown Bread Whisky Ice Cream (incredible) to Mrs Beeton’s homemade tomato soup. That last one I made only this past week and it was so easy and good that I am making a batch and freezing it to have on hand for those cold stormy nights when comfort food is a must.

But as well as recipes Glen has a wealth of facts, history and anecdotes about food and its evolution. Did you know there is a difference between an American cup (240 ml) and a Canadian cup (250 ml) and that applies to teaspoons, tablespoons etc? Or what the temperature of a moderate or hot oven would be? I didn’t until Glen explained it. His Sunday morning “Old Cookbook” show is a must see at our house – even before the New York Times Spelling Bee is tackled! He also has an intriguing battery of kitchen equipment and gadgets including this handy little item that I decided to splurge on last week:

“So what the hell is it?” asks my faithful reader. It’s an adjustable measuring cup. “And you would need this, why?” comes the riposte*. Well I don’t know about you but, as an example, should I be making peanut butter cookies one of the big problems is getting the full measure of sticky peanut butter out of a standard measuring cup. And this little toy makes it easy for any “solid” ingredients to be measured and dispensed accurately. The plunger is set at the desired measurement up to 2 cups; the ingredient – crème fraîche, sour cream, molasses – is poured in; the plunger is twisted down: et voilà! There is very little wastage and it cleans easily. They do say it can go in the dishwasher but for something like that I prefer to (have Laurent) hand-wash it.

As with any new toy I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to play with it. So I’m thinking peanut butter cookies this weekend?

The word for January 14th is:
Riposte /rəˈpōst/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 A quick, clever reply to an insult or criticism.
1.2 A quick return thrust following a parry in fencing.
2.1 To make a quick, clever reply to an insult or criticism.
2.2 To make a quick return thrust in fencing.
Early 18th century: from French risposte (noun), risposter (verb), from Italian risposta ‘response’.
*Okay, I know the previous sentence wasn’t an insult or criticism but I think its a great word and it conveyed the idea of a quick judgmental response. Okay I’ve used it incorrectly – so sue me! Now how’s that for a riposte???

Mercoledi Musicale

Last week I featured the late Betty White revealing her largely unknown talent as a singer however many of the sitcom performers that we are familiar with on television were known as musical performers before they got their chance at the TV or film “big time” including many of Betty’s colleagues on MTM. Cloris Leachman was Mary Martin’s understudy in the original cast of South Pacific and played Nellie in the National touring company of that hit. Georgia Engel was in Hello Dolly, and The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway and in many regional theatres productions. And of course Mary herself started as a dancer and singer though unfortunately the one big musical she is known for is Holly Golightly renamed Breakfast at Tiffany’s just before its disastrous previews – it closed after four performances and never did have an opening night. However she did appear on several variety shows highlighting her musical comedy chops.


Other Broadway musical performers who went on to major TV or film roles include Bea Arthur (Fiddler on the Roof, Mame), Beth Howland (Company), Glen Close (Barnum, Sunset Boulevard), Betty Buckley (Cats, Sunset Boulevard), Jerry Orbach (Carnival, Chicago, 42nd Street) and the list goes on. Perhaps it is that because musicals demand ability in many disciplines that it has produced so many major talents.

The word for January 12th is:
Discipline /ˈdisəplən/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.
1.2 A branch of knowledge or metier.
2. To train (someone) to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.
Middle English (in the sense ‘mortification by scourging oneself’): via Old French from Latin disciplina ‘instruction, knowledge’, from discipulus

Some Thoughts on Chicken Marbella

Not me in front of the Silver Palate in New York City.

Though it wasn’t a Thursday last night’s dinner was a throwback! A throwback to the early 1980s and the glory days of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Now rest easy faithful reader, this is not one of those recipe sites where I will tell you about my first visit to New York as a mere child in 1981 – a stretch of anyone’s imagination at best. And about how I wandered aimless down 73rd until a tantalizing smell led me to press my nose against the window of a shop at Columbus Circle and I caught my first glimpse of Chicken Marbella. How the kindly owner took pity on my youth and offered me a taste. How I was immediately taken out of myself and …. Oh wait a minute. Sorry, if you want the recipe for last night’s main just: Go to recipe.

Last night was a throwback to dinner parties given and attended in those bygone years of such events. We were served or ourselves served this savoury-sweet-acidy-fruity dish on more (!) than one occasion. It was easy to prepare in advance! It was trendy! It was easy to prepare in advance! It was what sophisticated New Yorkers picked up at the end of the work day as they headed home to their smart flats on the Upper West side. And it was easy to prepare in advance!

The last time I had made it was in Warsaw in 1998 when our Ambassador came to dinner. By then it was old hat and our military attache’s wife, who was also there, felt the need to mention it. Ask if she was ever invited back? After more than 24 years a brief mention of it in Sunday’s New York Times and a package of chicken thighs that had to be used made me decided to give it a try. As I measured out the capers, prunes, olives and minced 6 cloves of garlic (!) I begin to think of a few other food trends that I recall from my glory (?) days of bon vivantery.

Does anyone else remember the fondue era? There was cheese fondue, meat (oil) fondue, Chinese (broth) fondue and chocolate fondue. Everyone had a fondue pot! A fondue pot? Try three or four! Not only because you needed a separate one for each type but because you could be guaranteed one would be presented as a housewarming/birthday/Christmas gift at some point in the year. Sets of colour-coded forks would accompanying them often with a packet of Sterno. Sterno was no longer just the favourite of a certain class of drinker but was seen in respectable suburban homes throughout North America. Damn it we were hip, we were cutting culinary edge, almost European we were so damned sophisticated. And it was easy to prepare in advance if you could remember what cheese melted best and didn’t use Kraft Processed Cheese Food.

But the height of sophistication had to be the quiche phase. I mean how French was that? And the variety was endless and it covered most of the food groups: dairy, vegetables, chicken, pork, sea food, even blueberries or plums – though at that point without the crust and it morphed into clafoutis. It became a favourite at breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. And very few restaurants or cafes didn’t have at least one or two varieties on their chalk board menu. It was easy to prepare: pie crust, eggs, milk/cream, seasonings, fillers of your choice. Deceptively easy I might add – I can only think of one or two quiches I’ve made that really hit the mark – one being a lobster quiche I made last year.

Not a picture of last night’s dinner but from the Internet. I used bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. And because it was not for a dinner party I cut the recipe in half.

So after measuring, marinating and meandering down Memory Lane how did it turn out, asks my faithful reader. Excellent! A recipe to be repeated and maybe even used at a dinner party should such things ever be reinstituted. It was tasty, had an interesting combination of flavours, and even better it can be done in advance! (Oh and yes that marinating overnight is necessary don’t skit it!)

Is there any food trend that you recall – fondly or with a shudder – from your glory entertaining days of yore? If so do tell me about it in the comment section.

The word for January 11th is:
Trend /trend/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 A general direction in which something is developing or changing
1.2 A fashion.
2.1 To change or develop in a general direction.
2.2 To be the subject of many posts on a social media website within a short period of time.
Old English trendan ‘revolve, rotate’, of Germanic origin; compare with trundle. The verb sense ‘turn in a specified direction’ dates from the late 16th century, and gave rise to the figurative use ‘develop in a general direction’ in the mid 19th century, a development paralleled in the noun.

Memes for a Monday

The first Monday Memes of the New Year are devoted to the canine species, but fret not my cat-loving faithful reader for next week will be a festival of felines. We have a policy of non-discrimination here at Willy Or Won’t He.

As I put this one together I have uncomfortable feeling that the authors have been lurking about our house.

As we discovered long ago – they know! They just know!

I have the model candidate to do the sound effects. Let’s just say that Nicky has perfected his technique on this one.

Whoever wrote this one has definitely been spying at our house.

This one reminds me of our friend Mark’s dog Arthur who expressed his separation anxiety by demolishing the door and the wallpaper around it.

Hey an accomplishment is an accomplishment.

Reading my dear Doctor Spo‘s Walking the Dog posts I am pretty sure that Harper is the dog that wrote these.

On our walks both Nora and Nicky often come to a full stop and stare at something that I can’t see. It never struck me that they were philosophizing – I will respect these moments in the future.

Every dog is a good dog if you’re a good master owner pack leader.

And finally this New Yorker cover not because it is particularly funny but because it touches me and I like it.

The word for January 10th is:
Pack /pak/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 A small cardboard or paper container and the items contained within it.
1.2 A group of wild animals, especially wolves, living and hunting together.
1.3 A knapsack or backpack.
2.1 To fill (a suitcase or bag), especially with clothes and other items needed when away from home.
2.2 To cram a large number of things into (a container or space).
2.3 To carry (a gun) – slang.
Middle English: from Middle Dutch, Middle Low German pak (noun), pakken (verb). The verb appears early in Anglo-Latin and Anglo-Norman French in connection with the wool trade; trade in English wool was chiefly with the Low Countries.

They … fell down, and worshipped him.

Well the Three Kings are riding up to the stable in our Presepio, ready to play their part in the story of the Nativity. And with their appearance Christmastide comes to an end and the task of taking down the decorations begins.

In the spirit of both Epiphany and Throwback Thursday I’m reposting something I wrote back in 2013 on the story of Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar.

Willy Or Won't He

… Three Great Kings in their bright array.

This rather fanciful, and busy to the point I couldn’t get the camera to focus, scene is an Adoration of the Magi cutout that I bought at the Tirolervolks Museum in Innsbruck.  This little “creche in a perspective box” was the work of the Engelbrecht Brothers some time between 1712-1735 and is very like the tradition of the toy theatre.  Prints could be bought plain to be hand-coloured or already coloured and ready to be cut out and assembled.  I also have the Visit of the Shepherds – which is not quite as busy – shepherds bring with them only sheep not a royal entourage.

I remember this from my choral music class in grade 9 and being told by Mr Livingstone that it was based on music from Bizet. Being the smug little bastard I was I probably told him that…

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