Just like Grandma used to make it…

Believe me. The art of cooking has changed, and not just the microwaves, blenders, and Ginsu knives. Today’s recipes are tested in laboratory-type test kitchens, ingredients change, and there is a focus on food safety that wasn’t so up-front in the old days.

Then, there are some prep stages that we skip, these days.

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From the Harper’s Cook Book Encyclopaedia (1902) and the section on Poultry:

Fowls to be tender should be killed two days before they are cooked. When plucked, singed, and drawn, rub clean outside, and wipe inside with a wet cloth.

I’m betting my grandmother would know the steps to pluck, singe, and draw a chicken. Don’t know if those skills were passed on. To be honest, I would have no clue as to whether a plucked chicken had been singed or drawn.

Porridge? Not just in nursery rhymes – but might as well be. The recipe has enough mystery that I wouldn’t want to tackle it, things like “a half a pint of whole groats.” Even the spell-checker got nervous at that word, displaying its wavy red line. Don’t know groats, but they are boiled for two or three hours with water added “if too thick.”

Our infatuation with bacon isn’t a new thing, but a hundred years ago there was a third cooking method besides frying or baking. After covering the slices with cold water, the bacon was brought to a boil, “removing all scum as it arises,” and simmering until thoroughly done. (An hour and a half for two pounds.)

I imagine some of these recipes were traditional family favorites handed down from the 1800’s or earlier, with basic spices found in most kitchens. The dishes themselves are almost exotic in themselves. Entries for Beef Tongue (4 versions, including “smoked, a la Marigold). Sheep’s Liver, Fried. Scotch Haggis. (I’ve seen this one at the Scottish Festival, but admit to not having tasted it. Seeing the recipe just now reaffirms my decision to pass on that vendor’s offerings.)

And here is “Beef Stew, Irish.” Not accomplished in quite the same fashion as our own recipe, but I’m sure the result was quite tasty when our cars were basically carriages without the horses with the addition of a loud, pockity-pock engine. (That’s a 1902 Oldsmobile in the picture, the same year the cookbook was published. That year, most folks would walk or travel on horseback, a fact of life that remained until well into the next decade.)

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Here’s some advice from back when that car was just introduced: “When the blue smoke arises from the fat, a small piece of stale bread should be dropped into the kettle. If the bread is browned in one minute, the fat is ready for frying breaded chops, croquettes, fritters…” Not sure those instructions are as sound today as back then. I was taught that when smoke “arises from the fat,” the next stage is flames, as in – grease fire!”

Stuck into the pages of this old cookbook is a newspaper clipping with three recipes. Turning over the old, yellowed paper revealed a column of classified ads, and after completing a little investigation, I’d wager this paper came from Spokane, Washington at about the same time the book was published. (By 1909, Ed McCaffrey was teaching plumbing, but was still listed in his advertisement as being on Riverside avenue, with the same telephone exchange.)

The last ad on the page? The BOOK NOOK HAS A BIG LIVE live line of popular fiction, etc. We buy, sell, exchange.

Some things don’t change.

Come in for books or lunch, or books about preparing lunch!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Faith ‘n Begorrah! Another in the Books!

A Happy St. Paddy’s Day to one and all! (and a bit of a sighing on our part that we have gotten through it…) Corned Beef, Shepherd’s Pie, the occasional beer – green or otherwise.

We’ve had the experience of a few years to build on, but there is that old saw about the “best laid plans.” Today there were more crocks of food in the kitchen than last year when we ran out early. Better prepared this go ’round – but then, this year more people arrived at our door at lunchtime and once again we sold out.

Better to sell out than throw out, is my way o’ thinking.

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A special thanks for the kind restaurant review by Mr Scott Cherry of the Tulsa World – published on Wednesday – which was responsible for a number of our St. Paddy’s Day patrons. (Thanks also to our regulars, including a few who only visit for the annual wearin’ o’ the green.)

I’ve described St. Patrick’s Day as an event similar to surfing a big Oahu wave, leaning in to the point of wiping out, but managing to ride it to completion. We were at that point today for a few moments, when it seemed like we might be thrown head-first from the board – but then wound up gliding in safely onto the sandy beach.

Afterward, we decided that it could not have been possible if Kathy Hoefling Williams had not been managing the cash register, refilling drinks, and clearing the vacated tables. She had already left us by the time we acknowledged the fact, so this will have to serve as a heartfelt Thank-You Kathy! until next time we see each other.

I have no false pride in thinking I could have run the floor by myself today… if Alicia Davis had not put on the shamrock shirt and the apron and came to our aid, our lunchtime party could have been a wipeout of highlight reel proportions. Hugs of appreciation to both ladies for the ready smiles amidst the hard work.

Since the plan was to prepare enough food to serve an estimated number of diners at lunchtime, and since we met the estimate (even if our guess turned out to be a bit of an under-estimate) – the day must be considered a success. That achievement is due to the hard work, long hours, and sleepless nights of Dustin Hoefling, whose St. Paddy’s Day fare was on a par with any green-beer-presenting establishment in the entire US.

Sometimes we forget that those plates of food start out as planning and purchasing, followed by a heap o’ cutting and cooking. Dustin was in the kitchen well into the evening several times this week, and dragged himself out of bed before 5 am Friday to make sure everything was in order.

All I had to do is trot from table to table and claim complete credit (just kidding there, Dustin…).

As I type this, the other Irish-themed spots are gearing up for the second wave, that hectic white-water ride that is St. Paddy’s Day partying on a Friday night. Someone asked if I planned to have an Irish evening, and I thought of Kilkenny’s, McNellie’s, and Arnie’s and their annual Tulsa traditions. Thought about my old roommate Kenny Wagoner from Paddy’s Irish days, who has revived the brand and reopened under that name at 101st and South Mingo, and who will be having a particularly long night of it.

Then, I thought about my own long day, my tired feet, and the bed. St. Paddy’s Day will be back again soon enough.

Tonight, the bed gets my vote.

Thanks to all who came by for our modest party, (particularly those of you who had to wait for an available table), and may the Luck o’ the Irish be with all of you until next year!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow, OK!

Brushing up on Retirement.

I remember some light-hearted fun-poking when it was discovered that former president George W. Bush had taken up painting in his retirement. It may be that the teasing was a little premature.

His latest book (he has had more than one on the best-seller’s lists) – his latest is called Portraits of Courage, a collection of military veterans paintings done by the former president. I didn’t really study his early works – a couple of self-portraits were among the earliest – but I know from experience that it is much easier to put down criticism than it is to pick up a brush.

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When the book arrived in the shop today, I was immediately impressed with the cover. Boxing in the title are a series of portraits that – taken at face value (nyuk, nyuk, pun intended) – are fairly striking. Stylized faces in soft colors.

Most artists of any note have their own technique, and if the result is supposed to look exactly like the subject, then a cell-phone photo ought to suffice.

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Of course, President Bush has had a few years to work on his technique: two terms and a swearing-in ceremony’s worth of time.

I’d say he’s made the most of it.

It may be favorite-son status, or former US president notoriety, but a collection of the original portraits is currently on display in Dallas, and the book is currently on display at the top of a number of national best-seller lists.

He writes in the book that he isn’t sure how his efforts will be received, due to his status as a “novice” – but he adds that “each painting was done with a lot of care and respect.” His efforts in those regards are apparent. His may be a quick ascent to the book lists and art galleries, but then again – maybe he paid enough dues in a different arena to legitimately bump up his place in line.

At lunchtime today I spotted someone looking over John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” – published in 1961. I can easily imagine someone giving President Bush’s “Portraits in Courage” the same consideration in another half-century.

Providing that these things called “books” are still around then.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 S. Main St. Broken Arrow OK!