I "heart" gingerbread

In all modesty there are a couple things I'm good at: 1) I make The Girl call me Mrs. Parker when we're out in the car because I am so darn good at finding great parking spots. Even in Manhattan. I don't have to worry about alternate side of the street parking, but I know where the goods spaces are and when they're likely to be available. 2) I know how to use the web generally (and Google, specifically)really well. I do all kinds of crazy searches to satisfy my quest for mostly useless information.

It's the latter skill that has failed me today.

Once I had little heart-shaped baking dish: glazed inside, unglazed outside. It was just the right size for MFK Fisher's wonderful gingerbread recipe in How to Cook a Wolf. My memory is that it was made by a Marin County company called Amnion Ware, but when I google that I get all kinds of hits about amniotic fluid or pet medication.

I've looked at all kinds of heart-shaped baking dishes and none are the right size (about 6 inches tall and 2 1/2 inches deep). I'm beginning to think I made the whole thing up.

Still, it's a snow day, and what would be better after dinner than some spicy gingerbread?

Here's the recipe:

Edith's Gingerbread

1/4 C shortening
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C molasses
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
3/4 C boiling water
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 C flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 beaten egg

Cream shortening and sugar. Sift in the spices and flour and baking powder together. Beat the 1/2 tsp. soda into the molasses until it is light and fluffy, and add to the shortening and sugar.

Add the 1/4 tsp soda to the boiling water, and then add it alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Fold in the beaten egg when all is mixed well, pour into a greased and floured pan [preferably a heart-shaped pan bought in Berkeley over 20 years ago], and bake about 20 minutes at 325F. This mixture will seem much to thin to make a cake [she's absolutely right!], but do not increase the quantity of flour, as many doubting cooks have tried to do [Not I Mary Frances. I always take you at your word!]


Confessions of a Luddite

Our neighbor’s son tells me a joke: What kind of wave does Plankton surf on?

I get the necessary background info. Plankton is a character on Sponge Bob, a teeny guy who owns a bad fast-food restaurant called The Chum Bucket. I confess my ignorance, “I don’t know. What kind of wave does Plankton surf on?”

“A Micro Wave!” Laughter ensues. Except with me. I don’t get it.

“What’s a Micro Wave?”

My neighbors try to save me from my ignorance. “A microwave. You know, you cook food in it.”

Ahh, yes. The appliance I don’t have and the one that SF Mom keeps prodding me about. “Why don’t you have a microwave, Deb?" I have put her off, knowing that it would probably take even more years of therapy to figure it out, but not getting the joke jars me. It’s time to give this some thought.

1. It’s not that I’m against appliances.
I do rely upon some electrical gadgets. As noted, I recently invested in a crock-pot. I also have a blender that we bought during a cold snap in 1987 so we could make margaritas, play salsa, eat homemade tortilla chips, and pretend that we weren’t living in New York in the winter. I have a hand-held electric mixer that dates back to the ‘70’s and was bought for $10.00 at Gemco. I have a Cuisinart that is even older than that. The shredding disk broke a decade or so ago. The rest of it still works, and I use it for mixing doughs, purĂ©eing, and chopping. We have an electric waffle iron, but I think of that as Evan's since he uses it the most.

I guess I’m not real big on appliances though since I lack not only a microwave but also some other things that people rely upon and possibly couldn’t imagine being without (a toaster, a toaster oven, a sandwich press, a coffee maker, a juicer, and so on.) There is one appliance that I do use every day: my Russell Hobbs electric tea kettle. I could do a commercial for that one.

2. I’ve been unduly influenced by the French

That is, I’ve been unduly influenced by what I perceive to be French, which means it probably came from Jacques Pepin or someone else who writes in English about French cooking. I did have the great fortune of taking cooking lessons in a French woman’s French kitchen about 20 years ago, and that experience conjured up all kinds of fantasies of what it means to cook and serve meals. Fresh ingredients, wrapped in paper not plastic; the necessity of a big table in the kitchen to cook and serve on [I don’t have one]; and that all you need is a good, sharp knife and you’re all set. Madame Jacqueline did not have a microwave. She did, however, have a cute string bag that she took to market to carry home her provisions.

I’m not sure if my French friend, C., has a microwave or not. I know that she is a more imaginative and confident cook than I am. It wouldn’t be a matter of principal with her, probably more an issue of counter space. Which leads me to…

3. Counter Space

I like to have clear counter space. You may not believe that if you walked into my kitchen, but it's true. It’s a fairly constant crusade to keep space clear in my kitchen. There is always a stack of paper, recycling containers, a storage jar that has become empty or that thing for which you just can’t find a place hanging out and hogging my precious counter.

The teakettle has a prominent spot, but I have to figure out a convenient and out of the way place for the bulky crock-pot.

4. A sign of weakness
The microwave, in my sick mind, is interpreted as a sign of my weakness, a signal that I’m not really cooking. I’m heating up. I know, I know. I can hear you saying what’s the difference of a conventional oven and a microwave? Spend an hour waiting for the squash to cook in the oven or a fraction of that time with it in the microwave. Are you against convection ovens too? Nobody’s pretending this is a rational argument; surely you’ve figured that out.

When we lived in the apartment where we bought the blender we actually had a little microwave on top of the refrigerator. It came with the apartment. I used it for heating up coffee. Maybe once I melted some chocolate, but mostly my coffee cup got zapped over and over again, and that was about it. So I defend my irrationality with the logic that I’ll never use it.

Am I afraid of the microwaves themselves? Well, it does kind of get to me that people talk about cooking with their microwaves saying their going to “nuke” some zucchini. It just sounds creepy.

For now, I’m remaining a bit of a Luddite, happy to heat up my whole house for two baked potatoes.


It's not like we haven't been eating dinner...

I'll be getting 66 essays from my students next week. You can bet I'll find time to write a blog post then.

Thanks for being patient.