Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Project in the Making: My Grandmother's Recipe Book

For years I've had an idea for a very special project brewing in my mind. I posted about it last winter. My project outline is something like this:

  1. Get my hands on my grandmother's recipe book.
  2. Cook all the recipes in it (and take pictures of the process).
  3. Create a proper cookbook out of it using Blurb or Tastebook and give them as gifts to my family members.
In all honesty, I visualized this whole project based on nothing more than a glimpse of the overstuffed, disintegrating recipe book when I was young; memories of some of my grandmother's tasty dishes; and family conversation about the gourmet meals she was known for. I had no real recollection of what the book, this stuff of family legend, actually looked like.

When it was brought up from Tennessee for me this summer by the most reliable of couriers (Thanks Mom!), and I carefully, reverently, leafed through the pages, what I found was far more than a recipe book.

The leather-bound book, as it turns out, belonged first to my great-grandmother and begins with a clipping that she pasted in:

1920. 88 years ago this collection of recipes was begun. Sticking out between the pages of pasted-in clippings and scrawled measurements were thank you notes, shopping lists, and even a drawing done in a sweet child's hand; a note from my aunt to her grandma, my great-grandmother.

I was suddenly in awe of the history I held in my hands, terrified of tearing the brittle, crumbling pages, or of causing this new-found treasure to disintegrate altogether. How could I even flip through the book, much less cook the recipes from it? So I kept it in a padded envelope for a month. Safe. Protected.

Still, I could not resist the charm of its whimsical drawings and the very intriguing recipes I came across. I mean, something called "Knock 'em Dead Pie" is clearly just begging to be made.

So, I won't hold back any longer. This is it. I am embarking on Project Recipe Book. I'll be sharing regular updates here, and likely asking for suggestions as I attempt to decipher recipes and track down ingredients. It will take time, I know. Grandmother had a lot of recipes. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pay it Forward

Hi there dear reader, you are in luck. Today is the day I decided to post about the lovely gift I received from Deb over at Bonbon Oiseau, and that means the time has come for me to Pay it Forward.

Let me explain. Last weekend while browsing through some favorite blogs, I came across this post on Bonbon Oiseau. Deb (inspired by the lovely Camille from Rtemis: Huntress of Epicurian Delights) was starting a Pay it Forward chain. She pledged to send something nifty to the first three bloggers who commented on her post if they would, in turn, share the love and pay it forward. Now, who would not want to receive something nifty from a bloggy friend, especially if she happens to be an incredibly talented jewelry designer? I was lucky enough to be the first commenter and yesterday I received this sweet necklace. Thank you Deb!

Now the time has come to pass it on. Here are the rules for the Pay it Forward Gift Exchange:

I agree to send something fun, cute, and nice to the first 3 blog owners who post a comment on this entry. In turn, those three will post this information and pick 3 people they want to send something to and so on. Unfortunately, due to postage costs, I can only pay it forward within the United States. If you are interested in participating, be one of the first 3 blog owners to leave a comment!

You have to promise that you will then post about this on your blog, link to me, and then send something to the first three people who comment on your blog so that this continues. When the first three have commented I will email you a request for your shipping address and I will send out something that I hope will make you smile!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Portrait Practice

When you feel like taking a few portrait shots but have nobody around to pose for you, it's okay to improvise, right?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Sunset Walk

It has been a long time since I took a walk with my camera at sunset. What a simple joy it is to capture just a little of that pink, purple and gold. Well worth the twenty-two (yes, for real) mosquito bites I got on my legs for being out and about at dusk in a dress.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm..."

The Google search terms that lead people to my blog. That is something that makes me go "hmmm...."

I use Google Analytics to track my blog's statistics, and I always get a good chuckle out of the things people are searching for that somehow lead them here. These are some of my favorites from the past few months. Knowing what's in my archives, I have a feeling these Google searchers may not have found what they were looking for.

  • chicken footprints (um, what?)
  • women with power (should I be flattered that this led to my blog?)
  • Montreal without gloves (I can respond to this: BAD BAD IDEA)
  • yellow kitchens fight more (Is this a Feng Shui thing? Like blue bedrooms are calming?)
  • barbie kebat (some variety of international Barbie?)
  • Arthur Ashe nosebleed photo (lots of photos here, but not that one)
  • banana sabzi (a fruity twist on the savory Persian stew, qormeh sabzi?)
  • new apartments on the beanstalk (Jack? Is that you?)
  • i need Korean chef (me too, my friend, me too)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

Now I know that fried foods are the last thing I need to add to my repertoire of recipes, but sometimes it's nice to try out something brand new and unlike anything I have tried before.

Like many non-Southerners, my first intro to fried green tomatoes was the classic film of the same name released back in the 90s. But until last week, I had never tried a fried green tomato or even considered frying one up myself. I have to thank my colleague, Sneha, for the inspiration. She mentioned to me last week that she was going to try making this classic Southern snack, and it just sounded so tasty. It kept popping up in my mind. In retrospect, that was a good thing. Because when I walked through the farmer's market on Saturday and spied the green tomatoes, I was ready to commit to a new cooking experiment.

I went with a recipe from the Food Network that seemed reasonably easy. A wash made of buttermilk and egg. A couple of tomatoes, sliced into wedges.

After the buttermilk bath, the tomato wedges got a tumble in a cornmeal mix, followed by a dunking in some sizzling hot oil.

Two sizzling minutes on each side, and then the tomatoes reclined for a moment on a paper towel before being served up (and, ahem, sprinkled with crumbled bacon--hey, the recipe calls for it) and gobbled up in about 10 minutes flat. The crispy crust outside, the warm, moist, and miraculously non-mushy tomato inside... Yes, this is a Southern classic worth trying. Just remind me to keep it to a once-a-year indulgence.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting an Early Start

I recently found this photo of me with my grandpa, back in the good ol' days. I guess my interest in photography started earlier than I'd thought. My dad (whose camera I have grasped in my eager little hands) said, "Hey, you can post this on your blog! This is how it all began!" Thanks for the inspiration Dad, then and now.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Flower Power

Some weeks ago I went a little photo-overboard at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The flowers were lovely and plentiful, and there were so many crazy varieties I'd never seen before.

I have been wanting to share some of the results on the blog for a while, but couldn't think what to say about the photos.

Sometimes I forget that I don't actually need to say anything at all. Photos can speak for themselves, right?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

When Sarah over at Pink of Perfection suggested, as a July project, creating a "happiness list"--an exercise in remembering what happiness is for each of us (and hopefully an inspiration incorporate more of those things in our lives)--I thought it was a lovely idea. A little cheesy perhaps, but just the thing to counteract the big city cynicism I've been feeling lately.

I made a mental 'note to self' that at some point in July I would sit down and make a list of happy things. Really, I would. Then I promptly forgot all about it. Until this past weekend when I took a few days off and went to visit my grandparents. And what should I find on my grandpa's bookshelf but a book I loved when I was a little girl (and perhaps a cosmic reminder that it's time to devote a little thought to happiness).

The book, just a little booklet really, is called Happiness is a Warm Puppy and was written and illustrated by Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip. And though it is ostensibly written about the little joys of childhood, its sweet statements and charming pictures still strike a chord with me. After all, who doesn't love a brand new box of crayons?

I was re-inspired. Reminiscing as I paged through the book led to more happy thoughts, and all of a sudden I had the beginnings of a list. So, in addition to warm puppies and new crayons, for me happiness is . . .

  • a really, really good book (like this one)
  • coming home to my wonderful husband
  • summertime
  • a tidy apartment
  • old photographs of family
  • jasmine, lilacs, sweet peas, and gardenias
  • dancing
  • studying Farsi
  • sleeping in
  • trying out a new recipe, successfully
  • the smell of snow in the air
  • swimming
  • Ariana smiling at you
  • a great cup of coffee, and the time to enjoy it
  • riding roller coasters
  • picking fruit off the tree and eating it right then and there

  • spending time with my brothers
  • seeing the mountains
  • planning a vacation
  • going on vacation
  • basically anything to do with vacation
  • popsicles
  • eating something you have grown yourself (even if it is just herbs)
  • reorganizing
  • going for a walk with my camera simply to take pictures
  • a packet of wai wai
  • the smell of basmati rice cooking
  • flying over terraced fields into Kathmandu Valley
  • family
  • seeing other people happy
Even though it is late in the evening and I have just returned home from a trip, I find that now I have begun my list, it is hard to stop. But it's time for bed, and I think the project has already worked its happy magic on me. I know I'll be going to sleep with a smile on my face. In my own bed.