Thursday, July 20, 2006

Brides, Kitchens

I’ve been spending some time with The Bride in the Kitchen, a book my mom was given in 1970, courtesy of Rike’s Bridal Registry. It’s quite a little volume, and I thought I’d share some of its helpful hints.

First of all, it is important to know that a well-stocked kitchen contains gherkins and maraschino cherries, Worcestershire, and instant dry milk powder. That’s the standard fare. In case “guests drop in unexpectedly for lunch or cocktails,” I’m to “save a portion of one of the upper shelves” for things like Devonshire rounds, canned minced clams, crabmeat, canned beets and, yes, gherkins. It took me a minute to remember what gherkins were. At first I put them in the anchovy family, but then I remembered that they are pickles. (Side note: apparently other people are confused about gherkins too: they think that gherkins are car parts or little gnomes. I’ve confirmed this.) There are other questions that follow from the book besides “What is a gherkin?” Like “What are Devonshire rounds?” A kind of cheese? And beets? Really? The only person I know who ate canned beets was my friend S. in college.

“Once the Honeymoon is over, the daily breakfast will settle down pretty much to routine, based on the type of work your husband is engaged in, his working hours, and his eating habits. If he likes cereal or cream of wheat every morning, that is, undoubtedly, what you will give him. If he’s a ham’n’eggs man, that is what you will cook for him” (165). Undoubtedly. And yet…can’t I do more? Yes. Regardless of his preferences, “providing him with an appetizing breakfast is [my] first step in seeing that his day begins in a cheerful fashion.” I can do this by not just slapping a grapefruit on the table, but carefully cutting the center out with kitchens scissors, peeling it with a paring knife, removing the pulp, and garnishing the tender pink pieces with a cherry or a sprig of mint. I might also make a “piquant fruited topping for waffles” or “a connubial breakfast”: ham and eggs. (The word connubial gives me the willies, and I fail to see how ham and eggs is connubial, unless it is some perverse reference to boy parts and girl parts.)

No time to dwell on this, though, for there’s more for me to remember. I’m told: “You and you only stand between your husband’s and your own starvation.” My choice is this: to succumb to the “can-opener method of cooking” (which will allow me more “time at the beauty parlor”) or to “follow a more rewarding path.” This latter option is what (the book tells me) I will decide. Who wouldn’t choose the more rewarding path? After all, “Feeding a husband successfully starts with feeding him the things he likes to eat, for a clever bride cooks to please her man.” It’s kind of like the zoo, but with more attention to flowers floating in saucers and tiny little forks for poking at lemons. And those touches are important, that and the soft background music and “a colorful napkin tied in a knot”—“just to remind your husband how lucky he is to have caught you.” Again with the zoo metaphor.

Finally, here are a few meals that will prove rewarding for both of us:
*Cream of pimento
*Chicken baked in cream
*Creamed Seafood in Casserole
*Puree Mongole which is, as it turns out just cream of pea soup and tomato juice. Just like they have in Mongolia. (Apparently this doesn’t count as a can-opener method, although I suspect that if I made this one, I might have some time to have my toes and my fingers painted.)
*Apple Beef Meat Ring
*Pottage Nivernaise (and all sorts of other things Frenchy sounding, like Duckling a L’Orange or Shrimp a la King. Things are particularly good if they end with “aise” or “oise.”)
*Salads are fine, particularly if they are made with mayonnaise or gelatin or both.
•If you want to get all exotic, you can try “dishes from foreign lands” like Calcutta Curry. (There are only five of these, so use them sparingly. Although Puree Mongole sounds pretty exotic to me.)

Bon Appetit! Let me know if you want recipes.


Blogger artsy-gal said...

Gosh, for a moment I thought a gherkin was one of those garments that Robin Hood-types wore, but then I realized that no, that's a JERKIN. My vocab skills are failing me in my dotage.

And I thought I was the only one to make the Apple Beef Meat Ring for guests! (it was a hit)

Love the blog!

3:04 PM  
Blogger betsytacy said...

I have a fabulous image of Robin Hood (the foxy one, of course) dressed in a pickle suit. And of a pickle with a little sleeveless tunic thing. (They're both green.)

Someone should make a t-shirt.

4:48 PM  

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