Archive of ‘kitchen witchery’ category

A Saturday Supper

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Inspired by a conversation with my sister that’s really too long to get into but the gist of it is that I struggle to reconcile living a life of refinement* with my fierce devotion to disgusting junk food: she suggested that I make a little ritual of it. A small portion of, say, Funyuns, with a fancy whiskey or somesuch. I liked this idea very much and I love my baby sister for suggesting it!

When I tweeted about it (I’m one of those people who keeps a twitter for the sole reason of spouting ridiculousness) @cheesesexdeath adroitly suggested that I pair it with a super gooey, spruce-wrapped Harbison, and with that, a Saturday night supper was borne! Sadly, my grocery store did not have the Harbison–sad trombone–so I grabbed a triple creme Fromage d’Affinois, and I don’t think that’s at all similar but it’s a buttery ooze that’s providing a wonderful contrast to the salty, crunchy, top-of-the-mouth-scratchy skanky funk of the Funyuns.

Thanks to my life-advisor and my spiritual cheese advisor for tonight’s divine/unholy meal. Amen.

*P.S. I blame my misguided ideas and obsession with “refinement” on reading too many Alexandra Stoddard books in my late teens/early twenties.

A Perfect Bowl Of Autumnal Slop

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So last night I made a thing out of some random stuff in my fridge and it was way better than it had any right to be, and I am definitely going to make this part of our meal rotation. I forgot to take a photo and it was not particularly attractive anyway, so please gaze upon Mads-as-Hannibal holding court at his dining table, and pretend.

A Perfect Bowl of Autumnal Slop

-Dice up two sweet potatoes and toss with some olive oil and whatever seasonings you usually reach for. I used s+p, herbs de Provence, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Roast in 425 ° oven until they are as done as you like.
-Separately in a pan, sauté some sliced sausages (I used two Field Roast apple-sage fake sausage), until it’s browned; set aside.
-In the same pan, sauté sliced leeks (1-2) for a minute or two, add a small container of sliced portabella mushrooms, stir in s+p to taste, let it cook down a bit. Splash in some sherry or vermouth or whatever you have on hand.
-Throw in a handful of chopped spinach, let it wilt. Toss sausages back in.
-Splash in some heavy cream (totally optional, we just happened to have on hand that we’ve been adding to everything, just to use it up.)

Divide roasted potatoes between two bowls. Top with the sauteed autumnal veggie matter. Garnish with crumbled bleu cheese (optional, but we had a tiny wedge left over from our curdbox)

Like I said, this was way better than the sum of its parts and definitely better than it sounds on paper! A perfect (sloppy) bowl of autumnal comfort.

10 Goth Cheeses and What to Pair with Them

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For August’s installment of our Ten Things series, I am over the moon that Cheese Sex Death is paying us a visit and taking us to moody midnight cheese church!

As lover and fanatic of all things cheese, I was beyond tickled when I came across the Cheese Sex Death Instagram at some point over the past few years, and it’s been such a treat getting to know the person behind the account: former cheese-monger Erika Kubick. Erika believes that cheese is the sexiest, holiest food in the world and that we should all pleasure ourselves with it every day. She created Cheese Sex Death as a guide to buying, plating, pairing, cooking with, and tasting cheese, and to inspire people to indulge their funky fromage fantasies!

According to Erika:

Even though the world of artisan cheese seems intimidating,  all you really need to know is that you like eating it. I’ll help you learn the rest.

With Erika’s cheese classes you can enjoy a customized luxury cheese tasting in the comfort of your own home or office, and you can frequently find Cheese Sex Death doing pop-ups and events–as a matter of fact, she’ll be at the Chicago Oddities Market this very weekend (8/24 and 8/25 at noon) serving up some sexy raclette nachos, which sound really freaking amazing. Stop by, grab some cheesy goodness and say hello!

In the meantime, put on a Siouxsie album, don some black lace gloves, light a few candles, and peruse Cheese Sex Death’s 10 Goth Cheeses And What To Pair With Them, below. And a million black lipsticked kisses to Erika and to intrepid intern Zoe for this dark, dreamy and utterly delicious post today.

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10 Goth Cheeses And What To Pair With Them

Most people associate it with cute images of love and romantic picnics in the park, but cheese is one of the most magical and goth foods out there. Many different kinds of cheese spend their youth aging in cold dark cellars, much like a crypt, where they are left to decay and mold. And if that’s not goth enough for you, both Pagans and Christians alike have a history of using cheese in magickal spells and rituals. Some have used it to manifest good fortune or ward off illnesses, while others used it to tell the future!

By interpreting the holes in swiss, the veins in blue, or the cracks and bumps on a cheese’s rind, a fortune-teller would be able to read the markings and find patterns and signs that tell the future—a practice known as tyromancy.

Now that you have learned a little about the magical history of cheese, let me introduce you to 10 different goth cheeses, and what to pair with them.

Humboldt Fog

Humboldt Fog

Goat cheeses like Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove are cloaked with vegetable ash before aging in cellars. This helps the rind develop and gives the cheese a spooky, shadowy look. Goat cheeses are especially eerie, with a bone-white paste that contrasts against the ghastly gray rind. Pair a wedge with charcoal crackers, which add an extra touch of darkness and a nice crunch to oppose the soft cheeses.

Casa Marzu

Casu Marzu

Casu Marzu (which literally translates to rotten/putrid cheese in Sardinian) is a sheep’s milk cheese which is aged beyond the regular fermentation period of cheese. The result is a decomposition, brought about by the maggots that live inside of it. How did the maggots get there? Cheesemakers place a specific kind of fly on the cheese, so that they lay eggs inside. Due to the acid from their digestive system, the fats in the cheese break down when the maggots eat their way through it. As if that’s not creepy enough, the cheese must be consumed while the maggots are still alive. They’re known to be able to jump up to 6 inches, so pair Casu Marzu with a blindfold to protect your eyes.

Couphole

Coupole

This delicious, creamy goat’s milk cheese from Vermont Creamery is covered with a wrinkled rind that resembles a brain. These cerebral wrinkles are caused by geotrichum candidum, a fungus widely used to develop the rinds on soft-ripened cheeses. Its rich, fudgy interior is snow white and begs for something sweet, so pair with roasted beets for a beautiful blood-stained effect.

Mimolette

Mimolette

With its bright orange pumpkin-like inside, Mimolette from Normandy is one haunted looking cheese. The rind has a sweet, floral aroma and resembles the outside of a cantaloupe. The cavernous exterior is formed by tiny cheese mites that feed on the rind and aid in the aging process. It’s a nutty cheese with a savory finish, so pair with the equally magical and delicious dried figs, which look an awful lot like shrunken heads.

Clothbound Cheddar

Clothbound Cheddar

This is not your mama’s Wisconsin cheddar. Clothbound cheddars are made in the traditional English-style. Rather than shaped into blocks, it comes in wheels, which are coated in lard and wrapped with muslin cloth before going into the cellar to age, like a mummy to a tomb. Pair this cheese with a hard cider as apples symbolize immortality, and are traditionally placed as offerings to the dead for Samhain.

Smokey Blue

Smokey Blue Rogue Creamery

Smoked cheeses evoke images of fire and brimstone. While smokey flavors can often overpower a cheese, Smokey Blue is a rich, buttery blue with just a kiss of campfire. The wheels are gently smoked over smoldering hazelnut shells, creating notes of bacon, funk, and sweet cream. Spread onto a square of Novo Coffee chocolate from Ritual for a perfect bite reminiscent of campfire s’mores.

Black Betty Goat Gouda

Black Betty

This goat cheese Gouda from Holland is firm and crunchy from a full year spent aging in a cave. Filled with crunchy bits of cheese crystals, which are actually clusters of the amino acid Tyrosine, the pale wheels are coated in black wax to distinguish it from the others. Have yourself a sultry and kinky night alone with Betty and enjoy with a whisper of whiskey.

Foxglove

Foxglove

You can pretty much expect any soft cheese with an orange or pinkish rind to fill a room with the distinct scent of gym socks and decay. These are called washed-rind cheeses, and most of them have more bark than bite. It stings the nostrils, but the inside is milder with a buttery, beefy flavor. Foxglove from Tulip Tree Creamery is bathed in porter beer before aging, creating a sweet and custardy interior. Pair it with Dead Guy Ale from Rogue. It’s malty and sweet, but still bubbly enough to cut through the richness.

Harbison

Harbison

This cheese from Jasper Hill Farm is bound with spruce bark, as if crafted by the Blair Witch herself. The interior is so sinfully gooey that without the wooden ring, it would spill right out of its rind. Peel back the rind and spoon out the indulgent, pudding-like center. The inside is as rich as custard with subtle notes of the forest. Pair with rosemary roasted potatoes to complete the woodland feast.

Challerhocker

Challerhocker

Challerhocker is a delicious Swiss cheese that has been washed in brine and spices, then aged for at least 10 months. The name translates to “sitting in the cellar” and is stamped with a haunting face peeking out from the cheese. Pair with onion jam, as the flavor compliments the buttery, nutty, and slightly sweet cheese.

And there you have it cheese sluts! Now you can impress your friends with the yummiest, gothest cheese board they have ever seen. Cheesus bless.

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Photo credit: All photos courtesy Cheese Sex Death, with the exception of Casu Marzu

5 Breakfasts

Willem Clasz Heda Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie

Willem Clasz Heda Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie

I’m a morning person. (“Booo! Hisssss!!” Don’t think I can’t hear you!) No, but really, I am. Once I’m awake, I’m not really the sort of person to lie in bed scrolling through facebook until my limbs feel like moving in human ways again. But the key here is, “once I’m awake”–because I can very easily roll over and go right back to sleep, and perhaps even sneak back into the same dream I was dreaming before the alarm interrupted my slumber. But once I am actually out of bed, there is no going back, and I honestly prefer it that way. Mornings are the best. The earlier the better. I’m not even the sort who can lounge around in my pajamas once I’m no longer burrowed under the covers; nope, once I am out of bed, I am committed.

And it’s not because there’s “a whole day of possibilities” before me (barf! and also, they’re probably all bad) but because at 5 o’clock in the morning, no one is calling you on the phone. That’s right. I hate phone calls so much, I will wake up at five in the morning just to enjoy some ring-free quiet time.

I don’t typically want breakfast within these first few hours of waking; that would feel too much like rushing things along, and I don’t think my digestive bits are even ready to clock in at this point. During this pre-dawn time of day, I prefer to take things slow. I like the still, quiet atmosphere of a world just beginning to regain consciousness, and I softly make my way through this world on tiptoes so as not to alert it to my presence. No teevee, no radio or music or news, and for god’s sake, don’t talk to me! I have my small routines at this time, and they are undertaken in utter silence.

Upon waking, I either immediately 1. throw on some ratty exercise clothes and go for a brisk walk, or, 2. splash water on my face and spend about ten minutes with my morning skincare routine. Both are activities that cause my brain to start working, albeit in different ways, maybe even on different levels An early morning constitutional, while the blood is pumping to my brain, is when I often get my exciting “aha!” ideas. The less active routine of my six or seven steps of cleansers and toners and serums and gels and whatever else, gently generates the brain and starts it to slowly ticking and whirring as I go through my process of morning ablutions.

At this point I may have a small glass of aloe juice and get the coffee started. I may curl up on the sofa to read a book, or work on a knitting project. I definitely don’t start checking emails or plugging into the world just yet. This is time just for me, to do the things I like to do, uninterrupted, sans any other obligations. Responsibilities don’t even come into picture during this time. And finally, around 7:30 or so is when I start thinking breakfast-y thoughts.

After Breakfast by Elin Kleopatra Danielson Gambogi.

After Breakfast by Elin Kleopatra Danielson Gambogi.

Most breakfast items seem to be geared toward people with a sweet tooth. I can’t eat cereal; it has too many associations of my mother sitting at the table, bleary-eyed, chain-smoking and drinking coffee, while I choked down a bowl of Wheat Chex before elementary school and was almost on a daily basis immediately struck afterward with a stomach ache as I contemplated the dread and ultimate futility of the day as it stretched out before me. Existence felt grim to me from a young age, and to this day, I can only eat a bowl of cereal late into the night in mid-summer, as a snack, maybe because it was too hot for dinner. I’m not a fan of pancakes or waffles or french toast or muffins or donuts* or yogurt or granola bars or any kind of breakfast bar, really. They’re all too sweet. Blargh.

*not gonna lie–I do eat donuts–I like them, even!–but they have to be an afternoon snacks-with-coffee type thing. I can’t do a donut as a first meal of the day. I really can’t do sweets on an empty stomach, period. It makes me feel a little ill and weird.

I have, however, found a handful of savory, and one or two barely-sweet options that I enjoy and are staples in my breakfast-time rotation! They’re not necessarily appropriate for every day (either they’re a little too rich or time-consuming) but between these five options and a few bonus quickies, I’ve pretty much unlocked the secrets of the most important meal of the day.

full japanese

1. Japanese style breakfast, which I know I have mentioned before, but it’s amazing, and I would eat it every day if I could. Unfortunately, it’s a little bit involved, so I generally only do this one on the weekends.  Generally I include rice and miso soup, broiled salmon, homemade pickled vegetables, and tamagoyaki (rolled japanese omelette). You could also serve natto alongside this meal, but I can’t get past the stinkiness/sliminess factor, so it’s never on my table! There’s something about this combination of foods that is wonderfully savory, and perfectly balanced to fill you up while at the same time you feel like you are eating something light.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes for creating such a meal:

rice and eggs

2. Rice & egg. This is a hearty-soothing breakfast. I don’t think I’d eat it more than once a week, but if I am being honest, the BEST time to prepare this meal is when you are experiencing the head-throbbing, sorta-nauseous-but-you-still-wanna-eat misery of a hangover. It works best if you have some leftover rice to start with; this way you don’t have to spend any extra time cooking up a batch. Heat a portion of leftover white rice (you could probably use brown, but I prefer white) in the microwave, and while that is going, fry an egg on the stove. Keep it yolky. Once your rice is hot, stir in soy sauce and a butter product of your preference to taste–you may want slightly more butter than soy sauce, but not a lot of either–top with your fried egg, and sprinkle liberally with furikake (rice seasoning.) Devour with a comically oversized wooden spoon.

toast and jam

3. Toast with peanut butter and preserves. This is more of an every day type breakfast for me. It’s quick, it’s filling, it’s only slightly sweet if I pick a jam with a little bit of tartness. The best bread for this is Ezekial* because it’s dense and study and crunchy and it doesn’t flop under a generous smear of peanut butter. Of course, I am not sure I’d eat the Ezekial bread any way other than toasted. I’d venture that it’s a mite unpalatable, cold. I typically just keep it in the freezer until I need a slice or two, then I just pop it straight into the toaster. Once browned to your liking, spread with your favorite peanut butter and jam. I happen to like Peanut Butter & Co.’s The Bee’s Knees and bilberry jam. Enjoy on a tiny Bride of Frankenstein tray.

*I just ignore the scripture on those Ezekial bags; I save then up and use them to scoop up dog poop during when we have visiting puppers.

porridge

4. Porridge. This is actually steel-cut oats, but I call it porridge because it makes me feel like I am eating fairy tale food and not a gruely bowl of slop. It’s another everyday go-to, especially when it starts to get cold out. We cook up a huge batch of oats at the beginning of the week, and I generally eat it thusly: portion out a bit, stir in some of your preferred sort of milk, cinnamon, golden raisins, chopped dates, chopped pecans, slivered almonds, and the barest drizzle of maple syrup. Heat in the microwave until hot, and top with a spoonful of ground flax seed. I like my porridge on the thinner side, so I err on the side of more milk, but that’s totally up to you.

fake bagel

5. Fake bagel! Obviously, real bagels are preferred, but those are a weekend treat and I feel like I can get away with eating “fake bagels” far more frequently. And whereas porridge is standard fare in the winter months, when it starts warming up again, you know, like February (because Florida), I start leaning toward fake bagels for morning eats. Start with some sort of “sandwich thins”–I think mine are Arnold brand, but I just grab whatever is in the store–and here’s the thing. You may want this untoasted. Those sandwich thins sort of frizzle up and get stuck in your toaster, and honestly, I think this tastes better cold. Spread with one wedge of Laughing Cow cheese split between two sides of the bread, sprinkle with Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning blend (this stuff is a marvel!) and top with thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions. This is the vegetarian version, but you could also add a few slices of smoked salmon, and that’s also delicious. Having made it both ways, I can share that while the salmon version is very good, you really don’t miss it if it’s not there. It may not be the healthiest thing in the world, what with the shelf stable cheese and all, but I think it’s remarkably tasty! And after eating this you’ll probably be remarkably stinky, but it’s totally worth it.

Some quick bonus bites, for when you don’t have the time/energy for any of the above:

  • a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning
  • EPIC salmon jerky (sounds weird, but SO GOOD)
  • Gardein Breakfast Pockets (these are probably “vegan junk food”, but still excellent)
  • KIND Bar, Pineapple Banana Kale Spinach (strangely funky-nasty addictive)
  • Make ahead, freezer friendly breakfast sandwiches –okay, so this is not exactly a quickie, you will have needed the forethought to make these ahead of time. But if you have done so, it’s super quick to heat it up and jam it in your mouth as you’re running out the door in the morning. Or maybe even take it to work and heat it up when you get there. This a WW recipe that I have linked to, but the idea could be adapted to a higher calorie diet, or perhaps veggie-fied, or whatever fits your lifestyle.

So, wow. I’ve just written nearly 1800 words about breakfast. I’m really tackling the hard-hitting stuff here, aren’t I? Do you folks have any favorite savory breakfasts? (Sorry sweeties and sugar fiends…you know I love you, but I don’t even want to hear about your cinnamon raisin bagels –GACK– or your Special-K bars.) Tell me all about your favorite weekend and weekend morning meals and maybe I’ll enliven my breakfast agenda with a new addition!

Sunday Breakfast

bread

Sunday breakfast: Rye sourdough, lightly toasted, dotted with butter, drizzled with honey. I used the rye sourdough starter recipe from Ravenous zine that I posted earlier this week. It has been a long time since I have made fresh bread, and I never had a magic touch with the stuff to begin with…and this time was no different. It didn’t rise very well, and so it’s rather a dense brick doorstop of a loaf. But allow me to offer this: warm, freshly baked bread is a wonder, no matter how perfect (or not) it may be. And I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor, anyhow.

bread starter

Last weekend, my friend Flannery Grace Good was talking about the idea of a fool’s errand, doing the thing you pretty much know you’re going to fail at. And bread baking has never and probably will never give me passing marks. But you know what? I immensely enjoy the process, the ritual gathering of ingredients, the tactile magics of the sticky dough in your hands, becoming a smooth, elastic orb, the alchemical creation of the crust as it bakes in a steamy oven— all of these things are a special part of the experience to me. So what if I’ve got a doorstop when I’m done? Bread’s a lovely thing even when it’s kind of a dud and I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered a loaf that didn’t sing with a little bit of toasting, and some creamy, salted butter. Anyway, that’s what I think. *nods sagely, munches loudly*

The above starter is pictured with a pitcher of purple drank that I whipped up last week, and it was pretty good! Iced butterfly pea flower and hibiscus tea, with a swirl of lemon and agave nectar.

Also, you may notice there is a book next to my breakfast plate. Later in life it has come to my attention that some folks frown at reading at the table while you are reading. I cannot imagine this. One of my favorite things to do is to lunch with a book! Or breakfast or supper with a book, too. A book is, in my humble opinion, the perfect date. I can’t imagine anyone thinking otherwise. What about you?

Kitchen Witchery In A Post Mawga World

cookbooksIn the year that has passed since Mawga, my grandmother died, I have spent a great deal of time thumbing through the recipe book that she left behind. A small, black three ring binder; matte, plastic, unmarked, and which now holds the contents of its predecessor, a vibrant orange business, with jaunty illustrations of butter crocks and salt cellars and tea kettles. This newer version, you’d never mistake it for the vessel of gastronomic conjurations it contains. You might think it was an address book, if people used such things anymore. A booklet for business cards or bills, perhaps. Something filled with information for filing away. Things that no one actually wants to bother digging out and looking at again. As opposed to…well, the thing you reach for, not just out of habit, but of yearning, and of a craving. You would not know to look at this book and crave.

(Oddly enough, that previous portfolio seems to have been resurrected as a strange sort of literary journal/catalog in my grandmother’s remaining years. She refilled it with blank, lined pages and loaded it up with lists of titles she was looking forward to reading, book recommendations from various friends, Top Tens, and many other inscrutable literary lists whose themes utterly escape me. When I became aware of its existence, this thrilled me. In our souls, I think, my grandmother and I loved the exact same things: eating and reading.)

Oyster

Despite the book’s bland camouflage and newer, sturdier spine, the pages are the same–blurry with stains, dog-eared and torn from marking a place, and, what I love most–intermittently scribbled with her enthusiastic notations and opinions: “Good!” for example, with regard to a certain oyster stew recipe that Mawga and my grandfather enjoyed. This in an incongruence that always makes me giggle and retch simultaneously. As far as I know, no one in the family but the two of them liked this particular soup. It was a foul, milky, bi-valve bath water. More for them, I guess!

Oyster soup aside, I love so many of her other recipes, so I thought it befitting to spend an entire week celebrating her life by preparing foods and cooking meals that are attached to some of my most beloved memories of her. I don’t know that these were all her favorite foods, but they are certainly the ones I recall with reverence and the clarity derived from a recollection distilled from a single, fixed point. That beautiful late summer day spent at their house by the creek, on Barre Road, with the supper of chili and cheese and hot dogs . The cozy evening with the steaming bowls of chicken and dumplings before watching The Dukes Of Hazard with my grandfather. Food, for me, are these delicious memories of bone-deep love.

coneys

I dined on cheese conies both at home and in restaurants when I was young, but I still believe Mawga’s version was superior. If you haven’t got a Mawga, if you happen to be in Ohio, Skyline Chili is the place for these things. If you don’t live in the midwest, you can try to cook it up yourself! It’s basically a hot dog on a bun and a little squirt of mustard, topped with “Cincinnati chili” (which is very different from regular chili) and an enormous mound of freshly grated cheese. Chopped onions are optional, I guess, but I personally think they are a must.

Oddly enough, there is no recipe for Cincinnati chili is my grandmother’s cookbook! Perhaps she made it so often that she knew the ingredients and instructions by heart? I found this one online and it was nearly perfect. Yes, it calls for cocoa and cloves and allspice, which sounds kind of weird if that’s not what you’re used to, but that’s what gives it its distinct flavor. I think that this one was a little tangier than I remembered, which my adult palate really appreciated–so don’t skip the apple cider vinegar. I don’t think hot dog brand matters, so use whatever your favorite is. I use potato buns, but go with your preference. The cheese is absolutely crucial! Grate it yourself and leave it out on the counter until it gets a little soft and skeevy with the room temperature. Pile it on top until you can’t see what’s underneath it anymore. You might not think with the cheese and chili, the mustard would even matter, but it does. You definitely miss it when it’s not there! If you have leftover chili, serve the leftovers on a plate of spaghetti. That’s a Skyline thing, too. I don’t care for it, but lots of folks love it.

dumplings

My grandmother’s chicken and dumplings are not the most photogenic thing in the world (not even close) but they are without a doubt, the most delicious. Dropped, not rolled. Totally made with Bisquick. And no, we don’t besmirch their character with peas and carrots (ugh) or sprigs of herbs (no!) Mawga would be appalled. Actually she wouldn’t, she was pretty live-and-let-live. But I’d be kinda appalled.

This is another recipe that is not written down, but I’ve watched it made so many times that I could make it in my dreams. And it’s basically just a nice broth with some dough in it, so no biggie! While Mawga always boiled up a whole chicken for her dumplings, I am not nearly that ambitious.  A packet of chicken thighs (skin on, bone in) in a big pot of water begins the broth for this dish. How big a pot? I would go with the biggest you have, because you want to have extra broth leftover to squirrel away in the freezer for future dumpling emergencies. Into your enormous cauldron, along with the chicken thighs and water, throw a couple of stalks of celery and a few carrots. You could roughly chop them, or just break them in half.  Along with that, halve a few onions, and toss them in the pot, skin and all. Add a bay leaf or two and bring to a boil. I guess you could add some seasonings at this point, but I add those a little later in the process.

Lower heat and put the lid on, and leave it be for about an hour or so. Fish out the vegetables and throw them away, we’ve drained all the life from them at this point. Remove the chicken from the pot and once cool enough, pick the meat from the bones and set aside. Put the bones back in the pot and add your seasonings; I usually use a tablespoon of Better Than Bullion, which Mawga never used but I bet she would have if she’d known about it, and some black pepper and maybe some Lawry’s seasoning salt. I also add more water to the pot at this point or maybe even pour in a carton of store bought chicken broth to supplement it (which begs the question, why bother to go the home-made route at all?) Leave it on the stove at low heat for the rest of the day to make your house smell amazing. If you have thought ahead, then you will have made this broth on a Saturday. Turn the heat off and the whole thing cool off. Pour through a strainer to remove detritus and bones, pour back into pot. Rearrange your entire refrigerator to accommodate your broth pot on Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, place the pot on the stove, skim the fat off the top, portion out the extra broth (whatever you deem extra) into tupperware and freeze. Heat the remainder (leave, oh, 5-6 inches of broth in the pot?) up to a boil. While it is heating, make your dumplings with the directions straight off the back of the Bisquick box:

Dumplings: Mix 2 cups Bisquick and ⅔ cup milk until soft dough forms. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto stew (do not drop directly into liquid). Cook uncovered over low heat 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

To serve, place a little of the chicken meat into the bottom of the bowl. Or you could forgo it altogether, the chicken is beside the point if you ask me! But some people feel like it’s not dinner if there’s no meat in it, I guess. Ladle a portion of broth (which will have thickened up considerably) and as many dumplings as your eyes think your stomach can handle, on top of the chicken. My favorites are the soggy dumplings, while Mawga preferred the fluffy ones, but I really have no idea how to control the sog vs. fluff ratio. You get what you get!

tuna salad

Tuna

I think my grandmother probably fancied herself a good, Christian woman—and she was!— but I also like to think our Mawga was a magnificent kitchen witch, as well. And while I don’t suppose she was ever thrilled with my spiritual path, I do believe that she was happy to know that I, like her, thrilled immensely to the delightful magic of dreaming up meals, enjoyed the playful ritual of experimenting with recipes, and reveled in the spellbinding peace to be found in a room full of loved ones with sated appetites and full bellies. I dare say she even dabbled in a bit of cookbookmancy! Purely for dinner divination ideas, of course. Her “brown bag tuna salad” (original recipe via a newspaper clipping, circa 1973, but recopied by her, above,) while certainly not glamorous, would definitely be among the first noted in her culinary grimoire, for as often as I recall them freshly prepared and waiting in the refrigerator.

I served the tuna salad on Wasa crackers with her deviled egg recipe (boil eggs, scoop out yolks, mix yolks with mayo and mustard and a little white pepper, spoon back into egg white shells, dust with paprika) along with some garlicky herbed, roasted sweet potato wedges, and while I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I never saw sweet potatoes in any form on her table, I know she’d appreciate the practicality of using up something that’s been living in the veggie drawer too long, and not letting it go to waste.

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I thought I’d be much sadder about it all than I actually was after spending a week cooking from her book, but it’s been such a joyful experience, recreating these meals, and with them, my happiest memories of her. Even this macaroni, a recipe not hers, but one that she requested I make (and then pushed away, because she had no appetite for it) is a lovely bowl that recalls her trust in me to care for her as best I could during her last few months, and to prepare something cozy and delicious and heart-warming. The recipe, by the way, is from Serious Eats. It could have been a little creamier and oozier, but that’s my problem with most macaronis, I think. Baking it gives you those delicious, chewy, browned edges, but then it also dries every thing up. I’d rather prefer to eat it oozing straight out of the pot, before it goes into the oven!

At any rate, here’s to you, my marvelous Mawga—may we enjoy many warm suppers together in the next world, and until then I’ll be using what you taught me and honing my skills, such as they are. I know you’ll be impressed. Or you’ll at least pretend. And I’ll love you for that through every lifetime.

It has been over  >a year since you left us, Mawga, and the world is a much less delicious place for your passing.