Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cottage Pudding: the Taste of Memories

When I was a child, my mother sometimes allowed my sisters and me to bake, or to make desserts. For a short while we had a "cooking class" taught by a friend of our mother, who taught us the basics of baking. We had great fun but the classes ended after too short a time, probably because the cost of ingredients were just too much for the family food budget.

One dessert we learned to make was Cottage Pudding. It was a sort of heavy cake with a translucent lemon sauce served warm over it. That dessert remained in my mind for years but I never found the recipe for it, and my mother had no recollection of where we got it when I asked her about it years later.

When Mom passed away, some of my sisters and I helped Dad sort and clear up the kitchen. Mom loved to cook but organization? Not so much her thing. There were pans of every kind, gadgets and tools and cookbooks. LOTS of cookbooks. One of them was an old, beat-up Betty Crocker with the red-and-white patterned cover. And in that book, I found the recipe I'd been looking for.

I wrote the recipe out carefully because one of my other sisters wanted to keep the book--she had so many memories of using it. So I copied the recipe into a little notebook I carried with me. The next 10 months were a blur for me of work, storytelling and driving back and forth to Virginia to take my turn at caring for Dad.  And then Dad died too, and life was very dark for a while.

Somewhere in all of that I misplaced the little notebook and could not even remember what notebook I'd used to copy down the recipe. But the other day as I was sorting out a drawer in my desk a little book fell out and pages scattered on the floor. And I found my recipe.

Today I tried making Cottage Pudding for the first time in over 50 years. It is not quite how I remember it--my cake came out a bit heavier than I remember it, but the lemon sauce was perfect. It was like jumping in a time machine and going back in time to the large table surrounded by my brothers and sisters, everyone scraping the last of the lemon sauce out of their bowls.

When I make this again, I will use the usual method of cake-making, adding wet and dry ingredients alternatively and beating them in. I believe that might improve the texture. As it is, it is delicious. Larry and I both had two helpings. So here's the recipe for you to try. If you do try it, tell me what you think. I'm curious to know if others like it as well as I do.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Public Radio

A friend encourages other bloggers to write about something they are thankful for, and for me this morning the first thing to come to mind is public radio.

We don't have television here; we have a TV and use it to watch movies but we don't have cable or satellite by choice. About 10 years ago we decided we did not need the constant flow of babble, commercials, talking heads and nonsense that has come to define TV programming. We've been just fine without it.

But we rely on public radio. I know that right away many readers will say, "Oh, that liberal station?" And I agree, the news programming is definitely left-leaning. But it is also in depth, considerate, well-researched and wide-ranging, and there are plenty of far right talk shows for those of that persuasion. For those of us on the more liberal spectrum, public radio is it. That's all we've got. Where else will I hear Celtic music, old-time music, blues, cooking programs, travel shows with Rick Steves, The People's Pharmacy, hilarious quiz shows, Mountain Stage, and on and on? I listen while I cook, clean, paint, garden...pretty much all the time.

Now I am hearing that funding is being pulled from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and I can only hope (and contact my Congressmen!) that it will be reinstated in the budget. For those of us in far-flung regions of the country with limited access to go quality programming that doesn't require driving an hour or more, public broadcasting is a lifeline to culture of all kinds.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What I Waste My Time On: The Music Box

I have lots of projects and humdrum tasks waiting on me every day, like most people I suppose. I try to be responsible and get them done when I should. But then something comes along and there I will go, wasting hours on something probably not worth the time, except to me.

Like this little jewelry box. I bought it at an auction last month and it carried me right back to childhood when my sister Judy got one similar to this for Christmas. Knowing Judy, she still has it because she took good care of her things. I got a jewelry box too but it was not nearly as pretty, in my jealous eyes. Mine was probably blue leatherette, the kind with gold designs on the top. If mine had a music box and dancing ballerina I don't remember it.

But Judy's! It was black lacquer with fascinating Oriental designs, and a ballerina that twirled and danced when the box was opened, if the music box was wound up. It was beautiful beyond description in my eyes. My parents probably chose the recipient wisely because my stuff usually got torn up. I wore out or broke every doll and toy I had as a child, while Judy took careful care of hers. So had that amazing jewelry box been mine, there is no doubt in my mind I would have destroyed it. Judy may still have it, come to think of it, and it's probably in great condition unless I broke something on it.

The one I bought at the auction was in bad shape, really. It was very dirty on the outside, and the music box was frozen and could not be wound up. The mirrors were going bad too, but the inside velveteen was clean and nice, thank goodness.

I stuck it on my dresser and figured one day I'd clean it up and see if I could get it to work. We've had a little success working on other music boxes so I was hopeful. One day a few weeks ago I cleaned it up and sprayed some WD-40 into the music box, then let it sit. The little lady was patient; she just sat there and waited on me.

Sunday morning I tried to wind it. No dice. It was still stuck fast. I got out little screwdrivers and figured the worst I could do to it was no worse than it already was. I got some penetrating oil and after I had the music movement out of the jewelry box I sprayed it and let it sit for a few minutes.

And then I fiddled and fiddled and fiddled...for two hours, trying to get it to go. I took off and put back parts, gently prodded the keywind and other parts, and just as I was about to give up, voila! The parts began to turn.

I put it all back together, and of course, it didn't work. Took it out, put it back and finally by manually turning the key, the lady began to dance. The spring was evidently wound much too tight or something because I turned it by hand a long, long time before there was no more wind in it.

I left it alone for the rest of the day and in the evening tried again. It worked! the lady spun and danced, the music played, and I was as happy as I was when I was a child, watching my sister's music box ballerina.

So now I have my own dancing ballerina music box at last. I am kind of embarrassed at the amount of time and energy I put into it, but I smile every time I see it. And I travel back in time whenever I wind it up and watch the lady dance.


Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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