26 June 2015

Famous Food Friday -- The Algonquin Round Table

"A Vicious Circle" by Natalie Ascencios
Natalie Ascencios' "A Vicious Circle" features many of the key players in the what has been dubbed the Algonquin Round Table.  In this illustration you will find: Robert Benchley, Franklin Pierce Adams, Robert Sherwood, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woollcott, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, (seated) Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun. This lively group, supplemented by the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Alice Duer Miller, and Donald Ogden Stewart, held court from 1919 to 1929 at Algonquin Hotel.

They began meeting after John Peter Toohey, a theatrical agent, became angry at Alexander Woollcott for refusing to write about Eugene O'Neill, one of Toohey's clients. Toohey decided to invite Woollcott to lunch as a "thank you" while secretly planning on having Woollcott made fun of.  Of course, Woollcott loved it and began regular lunch meetings that became daily events.

The food came in from Frank Case.  Case managed the Algonquin, buying it in 1927.  It is Case who is credited with the first "round" table.  In the beginning, the group dined in what would become known as the Oak Room and they were seated at conventional tables as if they were any diners. As the group grew, the rectangle table became increasingly cumbersome and the the group was moved to the Rose Room where Case installed a round table.

In 1942, Frank Case wrote a cookbook entitled, Feeding The Lions. It is filled with recipes from the Algonquin kitchen alongside pithy favorites from famous Algonquin diners. Case attributes the title to Edna Ferber.  Ferber writes in the cookbook:
"Highly spiced dishes happen to be my particular weakness and, at the same time, on my dietary taboo list. I manage to be stern with myself, except on those occasions when I lunch at the Algonquin. After looking at all the dishes that I might and should order,I take those curried shrimps with rice that the Algonquin chef does so tantalizingly."
Curry of Fresh Shrimp

2 lbs. raw shrimp (or 1lb. cooked, shelled shrimp)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1.2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups rich cream sauce

Prepare 3 cups rich cream sauce, using half cream and half milk.

Boil the raw shrimp in salted water for 5 minutes and allow them to cool. Peel and remove the dark intestinal tract.

Saute them for 5 minutes in 2 tablespoons butter, add the curry powder and the wine and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add to the cream sauce, mix thoroughly and cook for 5 minutes.

Taste for seasoning.

Serve with rice pilaf and chutney.  Grated fresh coconut and chopped toasted almonds are traditional accompaniments.

In 1987, Aviva Slesin won the Academy Award for Best Documentary for The Ten-Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of the Algonquin Round Table.  Unfortunately, it has been out of print for years, but recently turned up on YouTube. The Alan Ruldoph film, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle is a pretty good fictional depiction of the era, and an excellent look at the evolving "round" table of Frank Case.

In 1998, The Algonquin received a much needed face-lift and the Rose Room was eliminated. In 2005 the Algonquin produced a new menu incorporating many of the favorites in Frank Case's cookbook.

In this day and age one might ponder if the round table seated a truly vicious circle.  Groucho Marx, brother of regular Harpo, was never comfortable with the luncheon regulars.  A quick wit who possessed his own biting repartee, Groucho Marx said of the Round Table, "The price of admission is a serpent's tongue and a half-concealed stiletto."

17 June 2015

On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life

Lesley Blanch about 100. Photo: Sveeva VIGEVENO/GAMMA
Lesley Blanch is the reason I no longer read much traditional fiction. 

If you were a writer and tried, even tried, to write a fictional account of Blanch's life, a competent editor would tell you that no one would believe it. It is a story too convoluted and rambling, a life both wildly independent and alarmingly sexy, and spanning nearly 103 years. Edit. Edit. Edit.

That was Lesley Blanch. We know of her 103 years (actually she was a month shy of 103) from the numerous books she wrote, a biography here and there, and interviews, but her life still had several large gaps. On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life is a collection of writing that helps to fill in those gaps. Gathered by Blanch's goddaughter, Georgia de Chamberet, we now have a better understanding of Blanch. When the publicist offered me a copy of the book, I jumped at the chance to expand my Blanch collection. When it arrived, it sat on my desk forever. I didn't want to read for I knew that once I had, that sense of anticipation at new revelations would be over. I couldn't wait any longer.

She began life in the English country side in the Edwardian era. It was a very conventional life.  Until a family friend, known as "The Traveller" came into Blanch's life. Though Blanch had always been secretive of his identity, he was Theodore Komisarjevsky, a Russian theatre director and designer. Under the guise of showing her around Paris, a 17 year-old Blanch was escorted and seduced by "The Traveller." Their encounters gave Blanch a flair for the dramatic and a serious case of wanderlust.

She decided to become and artist and attend the famous Slade school at a time she describes as, "post Carrington and Spencer and before the impudent gaiety and colour brought by Rex Whistler or Oliver Messel."

The most amazing revelation in On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life is her writing about her marriage to Romain Gary. She married Gary in 1945 and their marriage was "open" long before there was such a thing. Blanch traveled on her own and Gary indulged in other women. Together they were a golden couple. In 1954, Blanch's The Wilder Shores of Love about four nineteenth-century women travellers was a huge hit and Gary's novel The Roots of Heaven won the Goncourt. The couple became a fixture in Hollywood, hobnobbing with every one from Aldous Huxley to Sophia Loren.

One person Blanch should have, in hind site, kept off the guest list was Jean Seberg. Gary became besotted by Seberg and married her in 1962, weeks after his divorce from Blanch was finalized. Blanch took the divorce in stride and traveled extensively, through Afghanistan,the Sahara, Oman, Outer Mongolia, and Egypt. They continued to have what Blanch described as an amitié téléphonique.

In 1994 Lesley Blanch's house burn to the ground. She lost everything, including her library of travel books as well as her rare collection of Russian and Middle Eastern volumes. For days she sifted through the rubble. She had about given up when she sifted one more corner of ash. There she found two photographs that Romain Gray had entrusted to her years before: one of him as a child and the other of his mother.  Blanch wrote, "They were soul survivors of the disaster....Romain was once more demanding the spotlight."

One could go on and on, suffice to say, if you have never read Lesley Blanch, do. If you are a fan, add On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life to your collection.

15 June 2015

Garden Shots

English Peas

Green Tomatoes

Beans we thought were climbers but not!

Kale &
Rainbow Chard

We spent the day weeding and the next day 
it rained and the next day...weeds everywhere!

04 June 2015

Ube Pound Cake

I ran across a recipe for an ube pound cake online. Now, as with so many things online, especially recipes, a lot of people post them without any attribution, which kind of sucks because when someone posts a recipe, they are happy to share it, they just don't you reposting it on your site without the slightest thank you. 

Over at Asian in America, Betty Ann posted her recipe for an ube pound cake. It was really cool and pretty unique -- the "pound" part not the "ube" part. When she got ready to make this cake, and even though it was a very original idea, she used another pound cake recipe on which to base her cake. She used a recipe from Nancie McDermott's cookbook Southern Cakes and she credited it!

Many years ago, over at Cookbook Of The Day, we did a post about a White Fruitcake. The recipe is credited to Eudora Welty, though Miss Eudora was always quick to point out that she stole the recipe. And speaking of Southern cakes, Miss Eudora's stolen recipe also found its way into McDermott's Southern Cakes. 

I made my ube pound cake in a Lucinda's Wood Cake Box, so I tweaked the recipe a bit.  I would have never made it if my friend, Jurry, hadn't dropped what she was doing to head over to the Filipino market to score my ube. I made the above cake and a spare to send out to Jurry.

One cannot always find a clear attribution to recipes.  I often see MY cornbread recipe printed in many places and I can assure you it is the same cornbread recipe my great-great-on-and-on grandmother made. It's even the same skillet!  So it is mine. People are always writing books on where this or that recipe came from. Go ahead, ask a Southerner the exact origin of the Red Velvet Cake.  Everyone thinks they know...

I think recipes are a lot like songs. You sing them in the kitchen, and sometime you sing louder, and sometime you sing slower, and sometime you have to look up the words, and the vast majority of the time you sing it, even if you didn't write it. But if you do know where a recipe comes from, say thanks.

So join in the chorus:

Click on over to Asian in America for her recipe.

Buy yourself a copy of Southern Cakes, for good recipes and even better stories.

Make friends with Jurry, or another Filipino to help you find unique ingredients

Always bake extra and remember, you are never in the kitchen alone.

03 June 2015

Coo Day Ta

i am taking over this blog.  From now on it will be Teddyville.

 It's coup d'état!  Learn to use spell check!  And you are not taking over.

But i sneeked in under the cover of darkness with my cat-eye-vision because you are not posting...

Teddy should know the reason. Bless his little heart for trying to get me engaged. A blog should be a fun place where you learn things. Not just how cute cats are (they are!) or about your kids or your grand kids or your kitchen or whatever.   Reading a blog should be fun, educational, and interesting.  Not pitiful and sad. So during our pitiful periods, we simply do not post.

Here at Lucindaville we are having a continuation of our sucky year and frankly, you do not want to hear about it. Fine. The entire month of May we had water issues. While I am convinced that nothing would stop me from surviving the zombie apocalypse, I can assure you that not washing my hair would be the end of me.

I can live through hot temperatures.

Cold temperature.

No Internet, though I would be very cranky.

No television, though I would miss Gilmore Girls reruns...and NCIS.

No overhead lighting.

I could even go for days, weeks, months wearing the same jeans and sweatshirt...as long as I could wash my hair.

No shampoo. No conditioner. No life.

It is a pretty tacky thing to state given that hundreds of thousands of people die each year for lack of clean water and I bitch about my hair. So actually, my life could be exponentially worse. However,  in a month without laundry...I was faced the prospect of a closet with one old prom dress, a tattered tutu, and bleach stained Harley shirt. While I would have turned nary a head at ye ole Walmart, the prospect of blogging in a bright orange prom dress with dirty hair was simply inconceivable.

As June dawns, all appears to be working again.  We have water on a consistent basis. The washer (repaired after breaking during a late spring snow) and the new dryer (the old one died the day AFTER the washer was fixed) have us flush with clean clothes.

And, yes, it would be very funny if it wasn't me.  In keeping with that, one last "woe is me tale."

While being without water to properly wash dishes, I managed to drop a nearly full jar of coconut oil.  The good news is the oil was rather solid, so while the glass broke into a hundred pieces, the oil kept the jar close by.  I set it in a bowl and it sat on the counter for weeks.  When I got water, I decided to wash the bowl and dispose of the coconut oil. 

I took my mother's old Tupperware colander that has been around the kitchen since before I was born and dumped the glass and oil in it and set it out in the sun to separate oil from glass. In my excitement over having mounds of clean clothes, I forgot it was outside.  During the night, a raccoon stole my colander.  This colander had survived at least twenty moves, three generations of cooks, and my carelessness in leaving it on a hot stove resulting and lima bean sized hole that had to be plugged with finger when washing lentils.

A raccoon stole my colander!  This is my life.

So, if you see a raccoon running around with an old, green Tupperware colander, it's probably mine. Tell him I want it back!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin