Tag Archives: cooking & food

More Dubious Advice from the Chatham Record

of December 31, 1903.  Hopefully you won’t need this one anytime soon. . .

MeatArticle_Dec31_1903“Household Matters: To Improve Meat Beginning to Spoil

Have water ready in a saucepan, also two pieces of burnt wood – that is, charred. Put the meat in the boiling water, and put the burnt wood in the fire till it gets red, then drop into the pot. When the fire is extinguished take off the saucepan, skim it, remove the meat.”

Actually, this method sounds very similar to early American soap-making techniques that rely on the natural production of lye from wood ash.  I suppose lye probably would stop meat from decomposing, but it’s telling that this recipe makes no mention of how it tastes in the end.

The Anticlimactic Ending of the Great Corn Contest of 1911

After poring over many pages of newspaper, this librarian regretfully concludes that no winner of the boys’ corn contest of 1911 was ever announced.  After last week’s excerpt pleading for additional contestants, the only further mention the contest received was the following brief notice from late October:

Inconclusive at best.  Perhaps the contest was a dud due not to the boys’ enthusiasm (or lack thereof), but simply due to the challenging conditions of that year.  An equally brief article from August of the same year noted the uphill battle North Carolina farmers faced that summer:

Maybe the boys got more of a lesson in the challenges of farming than the contest directors intended that year.

Before There Was Summer Camp…

In the summer of 1911, the Chatham Record announced a corn-growing contest for North Carolina boys.  A few weeks later, this letter in the Chatham Record upped the ante in what we hope was a successful bid to lure a few more future farmers into the game:

So who won the contest?  Was it a young Chathamite? Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to the great corn-grow of 1911!

Book Review: Veggie Burgers Every Which Way–Lukas Volger

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger

It’s summer, which for many people means it’s grilling season! Too often, though, vegetarians and vegans get the short end of the stick at cookouts. Let’s face it – those frozen, boxed veggie burgers really aren’t very good. They taste bland and artificial to me, and I have trouble appreciating that lovely dry, cardboard texture. Fortunately, delicious and nutritious veggie burgers are easy to make at home, and Lukas Volger shows us how in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.

Volger’s book provides thirty unique veggie burger recipes, and the variety of styles ensures that there is something for every palette. All of the recipes are clearly-written and easy to follow, and many include directions for how busy cooks can prepare portions of the recipe ahead of time. Best of all, many of the recipes take thirty minutes or less of prep and cook time! Also included is a section on freezing your veggie burger mix for later use and the proper storage method for making your leftovers last, especially convenient for hectic schedules and small families.

Most of the recipes call for fresh ingredients readily available at any major supermarket. Those few ingredients that are less standard can be found in organic food stores or Asian grocers. The emphasis on fresh ingredients makes these burgers both more flavorful and more healthy than the alternatives provided in the (very few) other veggie burger cook books out there. More than half of the recipes are also vegan or gluten-free, and many others are easily modified for specialized diets.

The introduction to Veggie Burgers Every Which Way outlines the typical ingredients found in veggie burgers and the most common basic cooking methods for each, making this book easily accessible to fledgling cooks. For those who are looking to further amp their veggie burger experience, the section on condiments and toppings provides an eclectic mix of sauces, relishes, and other burger essentials. Definitely don’t skip the homemade french fry section; these tasty fry recipes are surprisingly easy and varied, a great change from frozen french fries. Adventurous cooks should try the burger bun section, which includes standard, whole wheat, pretzel, corn, and gluten-free recipes for homemade burger buns.

The burger recipes are divided into three sections based on their primary ingredients: Bean, Grain, and Nut Burgers; Vegetable Burgers; and Tofu, Seitan, and TVP Burgers. The offerings range from basic burgers that anyone can love to adventurous flavors inspired by international cuisine. Don’t be scared off by an unfamiliar ingredient or spice, though; Volger knows what he’s doing, and every burger is perfectly balanced.

I have personally tasted five of the recipes included in this book. At the American Library Association Conference in 2010, Volger prepared small samples of the Mushroom Burgers with Barley; I have made the Thai Carrot Burgers, Ginger-Soy Tempeh Burgers, Red Bean and Quinoa Burgers, and Pub Grub Veggie Burgers in my own kitchen. All have been straightforward, delicious, and satisfying to both vegetarian and omnivorous guests. Even the devoted carnivores in my life adore these recipes – this book is truly for everyone!

Cookies for a Rainy Day

As I write this on Saturday the 31st, Pittsboro is in the middle of a chilly, misty morning shadowed by a solid cover of gray clouds. Weather.com claims that the rain will be here all afternoon, bringing the month of March to a typical rainy close. What’s the perfect solution to a cool gloomy day? Warm oatmeal cookies, if you ask me. Next time a Spring shower falls on Chatham County, stay off the wet roads and spend the afternoon with this cookie recipe from 1961 (click for a larger image):

If you’re wondering about the “salad oil”, you can simply use vegetable oil or any bland-tasting oil that won’t interfere with the flavor of your cookies.

Attached to the cookie article is a report on forest fires from the year of 1960 showing the price of damages and the causes of fires. Next to it, you can get a glimpse of what the “personals” section was like in 1961!

Have a great week, Chatham, and stay dry!

Book Review: Food Rules — Michael Pollan

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

You may have heard of Michael Pollan in connection with discussions about sustainability, farming, or organic food. He’s one of the premier writers on these topics, and put together Food Rules as a compendium of 64 simple rules on how and what to eat. Pollan believes that eating shouldn’t be complicated, so he boils the rules down to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.” Pollan argues that the modern supermarket makes it difficult for consumers to find real food (he calls most processed food “edible foodlike product”), so he offers tips: for example, shopping on the edges of the supermarket, where raw ingredients (vegetables, milk, etc.) are found. The rules aren’t too difficult to follow, because Pollan also advocates an everything-in-moderation approach to eating – for example, eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself. This quick read was enjoyable, humorous, and edifying.

I checked Food Rules out from the e-iNC Digital Library, Chatham County’s eBook and eAudiobook library. If you’re interested in downloading library eBooks, visit our digital library at http://e-inc.lib.overdrive.com. The helpful librarians at CCL have also prepared step-by-step directions on downloading eBooks (PDF) available online. They also teach classes and can help you with your eReader or eBooks at the Reference Desk!

Food Rules is available as a library eBook from e-iNC Digital Library, and in print at Chatham Community Library.

Jelly, Inflation, and More Miraculous Medications

This little section from a 1937 issue of the Chatham Record contains several interesting tidbits. I love old recipes and cooking techniques, and the first thing you’ll notice about this excerpt is the article on troubleshooting your homemade jelly. I’ll admit that I’ve never made jelly at home, but this article sure makes it sound like an exact science! If you’re up for a new project and have never tried making jelly, this article should get you off to a good old-fashioned start. Click the article to see a larger version. (…more below the image)

I also found it fun and somewhat horrifying to read this list of grocery prices, though admittedly, a world in which ice cream costs twenty cents is not a world I need to live in. Also, don’t miss the advertisement in the bottom right – “Rub-My-Tism” is apparently the world’s best liniment!

Book Review: Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day — Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Artisan bread in five minutes a day : the discovery that revolutionizes home baking
Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

I’ve always been a do-it-yourself type of guy. I’ve taught myself to fix bikes, grow my own vegetables, and make websites, but making bread always seemed really hard. The mysterious process of dough rising was prone to failure, and baking felt like a chemistry experiment in which slightly mismeasured ingredients inevitably doomed the entire process.

Then I read a short article by the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day published on the website of one of my favorite D.I.Y. agriculture magazines, Mother Earth News [pro tip: the essentials of the process are described in the article, so you can read this to try the basic recipe out before getting the book]. Chatham Community Library has a subscription, so check it out. The directions sounded ridiculously easy: mix up the dough, put it in the refrigerator, shape some into a ball when you want bread and bake. No kneading, no monitoring the rising involved.

And I made bread! My first loaf wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious and I made it. Since that day three months ago, I haven’t bought a single loaf of bread. I bake bread at least once a week and I’ve refined my technique, bought a baking stone, and made challahs and rolls and whole wheat breads. As a caveat, I will say that Hertzberg and Francois’ bread-making method yields fairly heavy, moist bread (think French baguette rather than fluffy American sandwich bread), so if that isn’t your style, you might not enjoy this bread. And, to quibble with the title a bit, it’s more like 15 minutes a day than 5 minutes to mix up the dough and refrigerate it. However, if you’re ready to revolutionize your home baking (no kidding!), I urge you to read Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Your Yearly Fruitcake

Hop in your time machines, people, you don’t want to miss this amazing offer from the National Biscuit Company! From November 24th, 1922:

That’s right, all the fruitcake you can taste! Try all the amazing varieties! Remember, you aren’t just choosing a holiday snack – you’re picking out a family heirloom that with be with your loved ones for years…and years…and years to come!

Or, if your time machine is malfunctioning at the moment, support some of the great local businesses around Chatham County for real, edible, delicious fruitcake that will never be re-gifted…because it’ll be gone.