It wasn’t until I had immersed myself in Depression-Era and WWI cook books in 2015 that I developed the “courage” to create simple dishes with quality ingredients that fall out of range of preconceived ideas of good taste. Good home cooking to me has evolved to mean honest, sometimes quirky, unpretentious fare that takes the pressure off to audition for a show on the Food Network. This humble dish may not be Instagram-worthy, but so what?! It was a wholesome, healthy, thrifty delicious dinner made from food that in the past would have been discarded.
I’m naughty, according to many “experts”. I eat a lot of potatoes! Potatoes have an unscientific and undeserved bad reputation among many who recoil at consuming carbohydrates. When I wrote my first vintage diet book I received some feedback from people stating that the wholesome foods I mentioned in the book, like potatoes, make people fat! They will give you diabetes! (Fact: the American Diabetes Association states you CAN have potatoes even when you have diabetes!)
The humble potato, instead of being branded as bad for you or any weight loss program, should have rock star food status. It’s subversive yet secretly healthy! Potatoes in raw form are inexpensive, simple to prepare, delicious and readily available at most grocery stores. They are also a Maine diet staple. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Thanks to the Maine Rebekahs, whom I consider to be some of the greatest New England home cooks who have also provided almost 100 years of recipes, you can make a winning, traditional New England fish chowder. I’ve adapted this simple, frugal 1920s recipe to make it meat-free since New England fish chowders almost always contain pork in addition to seafood. Wayne said that he wouldn’t have noticed its absence based upon how flavorful this is. Truly it’s so easy to make yet it will produce a chowder that will make you feel like a seasoned New England cook.
Happy Shrove Tuesday! I love pancakes and have many of my own recipes, but this morning I decided to try a new-to-me vintage recipe for blueberry pancakes. I made a large stack so that I was able to sample “some” now and then reheat the rest for our dinner tonight. (Did you know you can reheat pancakes in the oven?) They are delicious and of course made with simple, wholesome ingredients.
It was in the 1980s during my undergrad years at University of Maine in Orono when I had a memorable lunch at a “non-traditional” classmate’s house. We had been assigned to a small group to work on a project, the specifics of which I don’t recall. What I do remember is that the classmate who was hosting us was in her forties and had just finished hiking the entire Appalachian Trail with her partner which I really admired. She served us a very simple brothy bean soup that was completely vegan. It was one of the most flavorful yet basic soups I had ever had. I learned that good, filling food doesn’t have to be complex and can be affordable, even for starving students. (Admittedly that may have added to the flavor!) In any case, I still love a simple bean soup, and here is a personal recipe:
I’ve been knocked out with a bad cold and sadly had to cancel some of my social festivities. Even though I should be getting plenty of bed rest I take great joy in baking, especially Christmastime and am not willing to forgo it. I’ve never made a gluten-free shortbread until yesterday and boy are these good and so simple to make! I wasn’t sure how they would turn out since I used only gluten-free flours and true to a shortbread formula, there are no eggs which gluten-free baking often requires. You don’t even have to dip them in chocolate if you want a super quick to prepare recipe that you can easily make in time for Christmas.
Wayne and I will be having a cozy Christmas dinner for two. Every year I’ve made a standing bone-in rib roast but this will be the first year that I’ll be serving Yorkshire pudding made with meat drippings, yum! Here’s my recipe for Yorkshire pudding prepared with oat flour, tapioca and peanut oil (so meat drippings are optional) that tastes divine.
Within my collection of vintage Maine and New England community cook books dating back to the early 1900s are dozens and dozens of recipes for “Indian Pudding.” It’s a humble, mildly sweet and spicy baked cornmeal dessert served warm and paired with whipped or iced cream. Each recipe is as unique as the contributor. Even within one cook book there are sometimes multiple variations offered: Lottie adds tapioca, no eggs while Cora uses eggs and no tapioca. Mary bakes hers in a “slow oven” (lower temp) for four hours while Alice only bakes her for 1 1/2. After carefully reviewing my vintage sources I am offering you my own kitchen and taste tested (plus Wayne approved!) adaptation that’s made in a cast iron dutch oven. (This is an updated recipe from last year with new photos taken this morning!)
This simple circa 1930s recipe for banana fritters was inspired by Ms. Ann Knight’s version in The Fellowship Cook Book by Members and Friends of The Second Congregational Church in Norway, Maine. These fritters are sweet with a smooth texture and best eaten piping hot from the skillet. They have no refined sugars other than the optional dusting of powdered sugar for presentation.