April 03, 2013

Give Me a Regional Cookbook and I'll Tell a Story



by Mona Hodgson



I'm not a Food Network viewer, nor am I a gourmet cook. In fact, my hubby does most of the cooking and baking at our house. But don't ask me to write about a new setting without a cookbook from the location.


For The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series, I poured over Church History Cook Book from the First Congregational Church in Cripple Creek, Colorado. A yummy resource for time period dishes and recipes, ingredients listings, people names from the time and place, and other tidbits.


Here's a fun tip offered by Mrs. J. S. Bates: "To keep apples from turning dark when peeled, use a silver knife."


I can hear a character in one of my stories sharing that household hint.


Ginger Snaps with Mrs. Ira Hart and Mrs. Theodore Hartman


One cup molasses, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup shortening, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 level teaspoon soda, 1 eggs. Add flour to roll. Bake in a quick oven.


Yep, I can see one of the Sinclair sisters nibbling a ginger snaps at Miss Hattie's Boardinghouse in Two Brides Too Many, Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, or Twice a Bride.



For The Quilted Heart, three eBook novellas, Celebrating Our Heritage from the St. Charles German Heritage Club provided me with tasty recipes and fun tidbits. 


Hunter’s Schnitzel from the German Club Archives


Pork or veal cutlets

Salt

Pepper

Brown sugar

1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced

Cream

Cooking sherry (if desired)

Crushed garlic (if desired)

Onions (if desired)

Butter for browning



Make sure the cutlets are thin. Wash the cutlets, dry with a paper towel and rub with pepper, salt and just a little brown sugar. Cook the cutlets on both sides in real butter in an open pan until the meat is done and takes on a nice brown color. Put the schnitzels in a serving dish and keep hot. In the meat juice left in the pan, cook fresh sliced mushrooms (about one pound for 2 schnitzels) until the liquid is mostly gone, adding pepper, salt and a touch of sugar to taste (not too much sugar or the mushrooms will be spoiled). Stir in fresh cream until you get a thick sauce. Pour on top of the schnitzels and serve with potato pancakes. Another variation is to add a little cooking sherry, onions and/or garlic to the mushroom gravy (the onions and garlic are cooked together with the mushrooms; the sherry is added with the cream).  



Sounds to me like a “receipt” we could find in Emilie Heinrich’s kitchen in Bending Toward the Sun, a Quilted Heart novella.



Hunger ist der beste Koch. (Hunger is the best cook.) One of the many sayings I found in the German heritage cookbook, along with fascinating bits of history.





I turned to The Oregon Trail Cookbook, A Historical View of Cooking, Traveling, and Surviving on the Trail for culinary inspiration and cultural tidbits for Hearts Seeking Home, my next series. Look for Prairie Song, Book 1, to release on August 6th!    


“Originally called ‘The Emigrant Road’ by the early pioneers, the route commonly became known as ‘The Oregon Trail’ and later as ‘The Overland Trail.’ Regardless of its name, emigrants always referred to it as ‘the road’ and not a ‘trail.’”


Sourdough Griddle Cakes

2 c. sourdough starter

4 c. warm water

4 T. oil

1 tsp. salt

4 T. sugar

5 c. flour

2 eggs

½ c. condensed milk

2 tsp. baking soda



Mix starter, flour and warm water the night before. Reserve 2-3 cups to replenish starter. To what is left, add eggs, oil and milk; over dough and gently fold in. Let rise 3-4 minutes. Fry on hot griddle. Serve immediately.



I can almost smell the griddle cakes Caroline Milburn will cook over the coals of a campfire out on the prairie in Prairie Song.


Read the prequel to Prairie Song in Dandelions on the Wind, Bending Toward the Sun, and Ripples Along the Shore.



Do you have a favorite regional cookbook?

© 2013 Mona Hodgson, Author and Speaker

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