A couple of years in the past, I acquired an e mail from the cookbook web site Eat Your Books, saying that it had listed greater than 3,000 of my recipes. I had no concept I’d printed so many. My husband’s fast comeback: “I had no concept I’d eaten so many.”
My recipes are gathered from locations too extensive to corral. No journey is successful for me except I return with a recipe or an concept for one. Someplace in a pocket book I began within the 1970s, there are directions for a Burgundian chocolate cake I had at an inn close to the cloisters in Cluny. I’ve by no means been in a position to make it work, however I keep in mind how happy I used to be that the chef wrote down the fundamentals for me on a sheet torn from a server’s order pad. I’ve gotten recipes from dwelling cooks, well-known cooks and distributors in outside markets. A cookie recipe got here to me in a notice from a reader. A Parisian hairdresser informed me the right way to roast pineapple with rum and spices. Simply final week, my daughter-in-law referred to as from Italy to say that she was returning dwelling with a recipe she’d nabbed for a chocolate tart that was type of like tiramisù, however not. I’ve recipes from cooks far-off and from neighbors down the road. They arrive from in all places besides my childhood. There isn’t a single recipe from my household, together with from my mother.
I keep in mind my mom in a mushy cashmere wrap coat, a sequined cocktail gown (that’s what she was carrying when she got here dwelling to seek out that I’d burned down the kitchen) and in Capri pants with kitten heels. I can’t ever recall her in an apron. I don’t keep in mind her cooking. Something. As an alternative, I keep in mind her saying, “Let’s go!” Let’s go to the once-famous Brooklyn seafood home Lundy’s, for steamers we’d drag by means of clam broth and dunk in melted butter. Let’s go to Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor for hot-fudge sundaes. Let’s go purchase as many various sorts of olives as we are able to discover. My mom liked meals, however she didn’t cook dinner it and he or she didn’t need to.
A toddler of the Melancholy and a workingwoman of the ’50s, my mom was grateful for a freezer and TV dinners that she’d function although she had been providing us caviar. She drove a white convertible and dyed her hair no matter colour struck her as enjoyable in the intervening time. She was lovely and glamorous. My buddies got here to our home after college as a result of my mom would allow us to play together with her make-up; we didn’t care that she beat us at Scrabble. She gave all of us recommendation on what to put on and later helped us select promenade robes. (I’ve forgiven her for dressing me in yellow. We each ought to have identified higher.)
It by no means appeared odd to me that she didn’t cook dinner. The truth is, I didn’t even give it some thought till somebody, desirous to know the way I got here to put in writing about meals, requested me to explain the dish my mom made that I liked most. I couldn’t catch a reminiscence. When pressed for a birthday cake that I’d appreciated or a Thanksgiving pie, I nonetheless got here up empty. Since I’m the one one within the household left to inform its tales, there wasn’t anyone I might examine with to see if there may need been a cookie or a bowl of cornmeal mush from the outdated nation that I used to be forgetting. I let it go.
After which this summer time, after I was strolling down the spiral staircase in our Paris condo, I finished on the third-floor touchdown and stated out loud to nobody: “Baked apples! My mom made baked apples.”
After all she did! She made them usually. We children ate them (I ate them with extra enthusiasm than my brothers), however I believe they had been made for my father, who liked them. I’m positive my mom didn’t make them from a recipe — for all of the books in the home, it’s a protected guess not one among them was a cookbook — however they modified over time. I keep in mind baked apples made with brown sugar. I keep in mind them made with Candy and Low poured out of pink packets. There have been apples made with no sugar when my mom put my father on no matter weight loss program was in vogue. Did my father high his apples with cream, weight loss program or no? I believe so.
My mom at all times used massive baking apples — Cortlands or Romes. She cored them, crammed the hollows with raisins (my father’s favourite dried fruit), sweetened them and seasoned them with cinnamon. An excessive amount of cinnamon, now that I keep in mind. They baked in a Pyrex roasting pan till they had been mushy and their skins crinkled and had been shiny from the juice that bubbled past the hollows’ borders. I discovered them lovely. I nonetheless do.
With out realizing it, I’ve been baking apples virtually the identical means my mother did. I take advantage of Cortlands or Romes after I can get them, and after I can’t, I select Fujis or Galas — they don’t at all times get very mushy, however their taste is at all times good. And whereas I like raisins virtually as a lot as my father did, lately I add dried apples and bits of candied ginger to the scooped-out facilities. The filling is do-as-you-please and will be every other type of dried fruit or none. I add a pat of butter and sweeten all of it with honey, however solely a drizzle.
In relation to baked apples, my father knew finest: They’re at their peak served heat with one thing creamy on high. Understanding my mother, that cream would have been ready-made. What I don’t know — and what I now marvel about — is that if it meant one thing particular to my mom to bake these apples for us. Did she just like the peeling, scooping and basting? Was she only a bit pleased with her work? And the way did she do it with out chipping these lovely Helena-Rubinstein-red nails.