(Editor’s note: This column was written in August 2020.)
“Food is the only element in our culture that reaches our consciousness through all five senses. We can feel its smooth or rough texture, see its diverse colors and shapes, hear it boil or sizzle in preparation for the table, smell its sweet or pungent aroma, and finally taste its wonders – savor every moment of the experience.” – John Egerton
Cookbooks. I learn so much from reading cookbooks, not just words telling me how to cook. Glancing through a cookbook is like standing next to a stranger as they stir the soup kettle or sift flour into a bowl. Open a cookbook and step back into time. Travel to a foreign country. Some cookbooks are journals. Some are written like romances or memoirs. Adventure tales. Sentimental. Silly.
Delving into a cookbook is akin to diving into a deep pool. Titillating. Refreshing. Something just ticking off the nonsense names of recipes makes my tongue twitter. I begin to feel a bit flinty. Slumps. Grunts. Snickerdoodles. The names can be as mysterious as the ingredients themselves, unlocking historical secrets. Ingredients put together in combinations like jigsaw puzzles, confusing the cook. Johnnycake is not a cake, hush puppies are not made of dog meat, and red-flannel has does not contain even a tablespoon of red flannel.
Many recipes are named for famous cooks. Some are happy memories of family events celebrated around the dinner table. Every other recipe in my recipe file has a personal notation somewhere on the card. Favorite receipt cards are grease-spotted, scented with vanilla, or tattered around the edges. Some have photos attached. Others are handwritten by the cook who shared the recipe. I treasure my recipe box more than I treasure my jewelry box.
So ponder and stir why you shoo the fly pie. Say howdy to the apple pan dowdy, then snicker while you doodle with this unusual recipe.
Kicked-by-a-horse cocktail sauce
6 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined and boiled quickly until they turn pink. Chill ’em. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in skillet, add shrimp to heat through then transfer to a plate. Cover and chill for an hour or so.
Mix sauce: 1/2 cup ketchup; 2 tbsp prepared horseradish; 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce; a few dashes Tabasco; and 1 tsp lemon juice. Serve with shrimp.