Year of the cookbook, part I

As I write this, I’m sipping on a cup of orange-infused coffee from a local brunchery called Orange (imaginative, I know). I woke up with a hankering for it and a muted desire to make my own bean juice as per usual, and the discovery that they sell it to-go has started the morning on a particularly positive note.

I have a series of posts to write, since there are a few things I’ve meant to put up here since 2012 began. Clichéd as it is, a resolution of mine was to start using this thing again, and although it’s taken nearly a month, here we go.

About 90% of this blog thus far has been about food, which isn’t necessarily intentional – I really would like to use it as an all-purpose hub for whatever I feel like writing about, be it movies or music or…well, food. You get the idea. My best guess as to why postings have been so predominantly culinary is that food, more than anything, is personal – it’s quite easy to write about since you can’t really put out an opinion or observation that’s objectively wrong. Perhaps I’m unconsciously hesitant to go down the path of writing on other topics since they contain much more established dogma.

Anyway, before this gets weirdly psychoanalytical or something, back to the topic. Regardless of why I’ve previously focused more on grub, friends and family took notice – and as a result, I found myself the recipient of four cookbooks come Christmastime. All are pictured below, handsomely backed by my carpet – so in other news, I’m glad I vacuumed yesterday.

1. Betty Crocker Cookbook (thanks folks!) – pretty comprehensive.

2. Mark Bittman’s Quick and Easy Recipes from The New York Times (thanks Kristina!) – I haven’t read his columns before, but this book is neat since it has a lot of simple workarounds for things that seem fancy, and he has little anecdotes for different recipes and techniques.

3. 101 Things To Do With a Casserole (thanks Mormor and Morfar!) – more detail on this one to come.

4. Washington Cookbook (thanks again Mormor and Morfar!) – now if only we could get fresh Pacific seafood on hand in Chicago!

If you’re dying of curiosity, Mormor and Morfar are Swedish for mother’s mother and mother’s father. So in boring English, maternal grandparents. You can see why I prefer the endearments.

I was home in Washington over the holidays with family, which was nice since I was in Chicago the year prior. My mom’s side of the family is pretty darn Swedish (hence the above digression), so the things I consider Christmas Eve comfort food might seem pretty strange to others. I rudely took a plate picture before tucking in, for your edification:

Clockwise from top:

Swedish rye breaddark, grainy, delicious with lingonberries.
– Lutfiskthe most notorious of the lot. Lutfisk is a sort of gelatinous fish dish, here obscured by a healthy amount of béchamel and allspice to go down easier. It’s really the texture that turns people off more than the flavor – “fish jello” is sort of apt, but Morfar prefers the apocryphal translation of “the cod that defieth all understanding.”
– Potatiskorv – potato sausage. This has probably grown on me over the years more than any other dish pictured. Some family members might disagree, but it’s delicious the day after fried up and served with creamed corn.
Potatoesnothing fussy here, fried up with butter. Can’t go wrong.
Hamalso nothing fussy. Flavoring and glazes are up to the chef.
Peasprepared in cod fat. No, seriously, they’re just peas.
Jello casserolethis isn’t a regular fixture of the meal, but it was brought by some family friends who are regular Christmas Eve dinner guests.

I realize now that I should have gone counterclockwise instead, so all of the crazy stuff happened at the end of the list. Ah well, hindsight is 20/20.

Before dinner, general grazing includes cheese, crackers, and healthy amounts of pickled herring, with a few rounds of aquavit (Scandinavian liquor, which I’ve taken to stocking in my own bar as well). Afterward, desserts include rice pudding (a single almond is tossed in, and whoever gets it in their bowl has good luck, or is next to be married, or what have you), and various baked goods such as mint brownies, lemon bars, spritz cookies, etc.

Thus, 2011 ended on a tasty note. Coming soon: a few escapades from the new year so far.

1 comment
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