Holy crap, it happened.

Much has happened since we last spoke. Spring has sprung in Vancouver, and we have been playing outside without winter coats. We finally finished all the cheese I bought in early December. I am now raising a Ninja Turtle (Donatello, specifically), and bearing the brunt of his ninja attacks which are not stealthy but do sometimes hurt.

And that book I’ve been thinking about and talking about and fretting over for months went to the printer, and then emerged fully formed this past week! I have real, hard copies here in my apartment, which I can hold and look at and worry about making sticky. I filed my reference copy between books by Nigella Lawson and Fannie Farmer, in hope that some of their magic rubs off.

WFFB Bookshelf

These are fast-paced times.

And there is so much to talk about, recipe-wise, but we’ve hardly had a moment to catch our breath or chew thoughtfully or clean the weird smell out of the garbage disposal. I have a couple of things simmering away, so stay tuned.

The book will be in stores in early April, and if you’re in Vancouver, I hope you’ll join me at the book launch! Save the date and update your calendar – it’s April 19, at 2:00 p.m., at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks. I’ll update you with other dates in other places as those details are finalized.

Eek! It’s here. I can’t really even believe it.

BOOK.

Something to Read: How to Cook a Wolf

30days

There are times when helpful hints about turning off the gas when not in use are foolish, because the gas has been turned off permanently, or until you can pay the bill. And you don’t care about knowing the trick of keeping bread fresh by putting a cut apple in the box because you don’t have any bread and certainly not an apple, cut or uncut. And there is no point in planning to save the juice from canned vegetables because they, and therefore their juices, do not exist.

In other words, the wolf has one paw wedged firmly into what looks like a widening crack at the door. (How to Cook a Wolf, page 66)

No other book has been as inspirational or as significant in both my cooking and my desire to write about food as MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf. It’s a book about cooking (and remaining happy) in the absolute bleakest of times – during war, under ration, or when one is limited by finances, shortages, or long, cold seasons. It was written in 1942, then revised in 1954, and it remains timeless in its advice and good sense. It’s also beautifully written.

mfkfisher

It’s not very long – you could probably read it in a weekend. And it’s just so sensible. Gas and electricity are expensive – why not spend one evening making enough soup to last a week? Meat and eggs aren’t always affordable – why not make a meal of corn grits and vegetables? What we’d now call vegan cooking is, in this book, just what you do when you don’t have much else. There are also good tips for working with cheap cuts of meat and offal, recipes for dinners in which eggs are the main course, and instructions for making mouthwash and soap.

Even if you don’t make the recipes, they are a great jumping-off point. Many of the recipes call for things like rabbit and pigeon, which are expensive proteins now and not likely to be in your fridge or freezer anyway. But you can adapt, and stew a tough bit of beef, or cook up chicken thighs or make a meatball or turn your leftovers into something else entirely with a long cook in a bright sauce and a low oven.

It’s also about redefining dinner – dinner does not have to be meat, potatoes, and some boiled vegetable. I don’t know how many times our dinner has been some manner of grain porridge topped with steamed spinach or asparagus and a poached egg; it’s something we eat all the time, not just when we’re broke (but also when I’m lazy, when it’s raining too much to walk to the store, when I just feel like a poached egg and something green …). It’s a good book, and a short book, and not preachy. Where some of Fisher’s other writing is more indulgent, How to Cook a Wolf is a reflection of the time it was written and quite sensible.

I’ve actually made her War Cake a few times, while not at war but certainly without eggs or milk or butter. It’s a nice thing to have when you are 22 and your parents are coming to your damp basement apartment for tea and you want to look like a grown-up but can only afford half the illusion.

If you already have a bit of fat and buy just what you need for this recipe out of the bulk bins, it will cost you just a few dollars to make and you’ll end up with a loaf you can slice and toast or muffins you can freeze. It’s very adaptable as well, so feel free to make substitutions based on what you have in your cupboards already.

War Cake

  • 2 cups flour, white or whole wheat
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup shortening, oil or bacon fat (always save your bacon fat)
  • 1 cup sugar, brown or white
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. other spices, such as ginger, cloves, mace, etc.
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit, such as raisins or prunes

Lightly grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan. Set aside.

Sift together your flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a pan over medium-high heat, combine the rest of your ingredients, and bring them to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for five minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cool its contents completely.

Add the dry ingredients to your cooled wet ingredients, stir to combine, and pour into your prepared loaf pan. Bake at 325°F for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

You can also make this recipe as muffins; reduce your cooking time to 20-25 minutes.

 

Something to Read: The Perfect Scoop

30days

Well, I did it. I had my teeth out, and it sucked and apparently I cried. I think I only heard the “sedation” part when I attended my consultation with the surgeon; I did not hear the part about consciousness.

‘It will be like you have had a few too many glasses of wine, Ms. Wight,” they said.

“I have a few too many glasses of wine often enough to know that won’t be sufficient for this procedure,” I said. And then they stabbed a needle into my forearm and took out my teeth and weren’t delicate about it.

And to top if off, they gave me what amounts to strong ibuprofen as part of my recovery goodie bag. It may not need to be said, but I’m not great with pain. I am, in fact, one of the worst whiners in the history of the world and if something serious and prolonged ever afflicts me, I think Nick will take me to an amoral veterinarian and have me put down. I wouldn’t blame him for it either.

So, I have spent the majority of the day in and out of sleep and in and out of gallons of ice cream. Nick, kind man that he is, spent what would ordinarily be our bi-weekly daycare lunches budget on peanut butter-chocolate Häagen-Dazs ice cream and then bought me a Blizzard for dinner. I will not have Nick put down, as he provides a level of service I do not deserve and would not find anywhere else. It may be worth injuring him to prevent him from leaving.

DQ

Anyway, I am swollen and pained and eating thousands of calories of frozen dairy and while I have many complaints I’ll have to admit that from where I sit, I have it pretty good. My parents took Toddler overnight, and I am sitting around in my old maternity clothes and some Pajama Jeans while Nick queues up all my favourite bad movies.

This has been a lot of preamble and I meant to tell you about a book. So, The Perfect Scoop.

PerfectScoop

I think everyone who bakes probably knows about David Lebovitz by now, and if you don’t I won’t bore you with a lot of background which you can easily discover on his eponymous and highly regarded blog. He is very good at what he does.

I have made a great many of his recipes over the past few years, and his basic vanilla ice cream recipe has come to be the base upon which I build almost every ice cream I make. I’ve made it so many times I don’t even need the book anymore; it’s committed to my memory which means that it is something important, and that it probably pushed something I might have really needed out.

In my current (pathetic) state I have been longing for a bite of his salted butter caramel ice cream, which is as close as you’ll get in North America to the salted butter caramel ice cream at Berthillon in Paris, which everyone must experience at least once in their life even if you have to sell an organ to get there. Do you need a kidney? I’d very much like to go back.

perfectscoopberthillon

The ice cream in question is sweet – but not too sweet – and slightly bitter, as the caramel is slightly over-cooked, so that it has just a whisper of burnt taste. If you’re wary, trust me; it’s perfect. To have some right now …

The cookbook has a lot in it that’s useful; I’ve even made his vegan ice cream recipe and found it delightful (I used coconut milk in place of rice milk, as it’s what I had). If you like making ice cream, or if you have an ice cream maker and are looking for an excuse to put it to use, The Perfect Scoop is an invaluable resource, and I think you’ll really love it.

My face hurts, and I’m too lazy to type out David’s recipe … fortunately it already exists on his blog. Go to it. Make it. Mail me some?

We’ll be back on track tomorrow, I hope. Think anti-inflammatory thoughts for me, will you? I’ve got to go pass out in an ice cream coma.

photo (4)