Category Archives: american food

Recipes for a sweet wintery feast

By Danielle Prostrollo

pie 2

Recently, we held a Thanksgiving event at the library which included a taste of some classic flavors from the holiday dessert table. Now that Thanksgiving feasts are finished and everyone begins to prepare for the Christmas holidays, I wanted to point out some of the great recipes that were used for our event that can be easily made for any autumnal and winter get-together!

PIES

Classic Pumpkin pie from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) is a stalwart at the dessert table. Paired with a bit of fresh whipped cream, it can’t be beat.

Similar to pumpkin pie, but a bit more mild tasting, BHG’s sweet potato pie is a similar custard-like pie for those who may prefer a more subdued flavor.

 

OTHER

Tending more toward a winter-y flavor, a gingerbread loaf cake makes for lovely nibbles with a cup of coffee or tea. I made this loaf, minus the lemon drizzle, and people loved the spicy counter balance to the other sweeter offerings.

Another popular pie in America is a classic pecan pie. This isn’t a tidy bake, by any means. So, to recreate a similar flavor palette for easy eating, I served candied pecans made with a buttery sugar glaze.

 

I hope these classic American recipes help to get everyone into the holiday season, and use the inspiration to have their own wintery social hour with family and friends in this lead up to the Christmas holidays.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

 

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Filed under american food, Memorial Library, Public Events

Thanksgiving Baking

By Danielle Prostrollo

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

In preparation for the Thanksgiving talk happening in the library on 20 November, I have been sifting through recipes and childhood memories of pies, cakes, and all manner of autumnal desserts. For the event, American Scholar Don Allen is going to give a short talk about the cultural significance of Thanksgiving, and a quick history lesson about the relevance of the holiday in America. My role is to whip up some timely and traditional desserts.

The afternoon will include pumpkin and sweet potato pies, a gingerbread quick bread, and candied pecans. Pumpkin pie, unarguably the star of the Thanksgiving dessert table. A cup of coffee and a slice of pie, with a dollop of whipped cream on top, is a standard method of winding down after the big feast. Sweet potato pie is very similar, both in preparation and in some ways in flavor, but definitely a more retro option. For both of these bakes you can find endless advice online about the best pie crust, whether or not to use fresh or canned for the filling, and so much more. The afternoon’s pies will be baked with consideration of many sources and a little bit of home knowledge!

A gingerbread quick bread sounds strange, but this quick bread is more like a cake. There is no yeast, so it rises up with a cake-like consistency and is popular in America for making zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and banana bread. This gingerbread variety will hopefully help set people into an autumnal mood.

And lastly, the candied pecans come into the picture as a play on the pecan pie. For anyone who may prefer something a bit lighter than cakes and pies there will be candied pecans available with your coffee and tea. Pecan pie is a popular dish across America and certainly so in the South where pecan trees are plentiful.

If you would like to explore some of these American desserts (and many, many others) here are a few books you can find at the Memorial Library:

Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook

The New Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving 101

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well

Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal

Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Entertaining

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Filed under American Culture, american food

Helming Thanksgiving dinner in England

By: Danielle Prostrollo

During my 2 years in England I have attempted a “Thanksgiving for Two” one year and the other year I completely ignored the holiday (which was pretty depressing – I love Thanksgiving).  This year I am making Thanksgiving dinner for my adoptive family (my friends and boyfriend).  There is something daunting about not only taking the helm of the kitchen, but of teaching my English friends why green bean casserole and cranberry relish are so important to modern America.

In an effort to introduce my English family to Thanksgiving I have decided to take things back to basics.  Grandma Prostrollo’s corn recipe, Aunt Effie’s dinner rolls, and a fried turkey can wait until next year – this year Thanksgiving dinner is coming straight from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book – the gold standard in American homes for over 75 years.

The pared-down dinner will include:
Roasted turkey breast*
Old fashioned stuffing
Cranberry sauce (admittedly I’m going to buy this – fresh cranberries are hard to come by as of yet)
Brown sugar glazed carrots
Green bean casserole*
Mashed potatoes (I’m going to take this one by intuition!)
Gravy (This might actually come from a package, I’m not confident in a turkey breast’s abilities to render enough juice)
Parker House rolls
Pumpkin pie (with homemade whipped cream, of course)

*Cookbook and online recipes don’t match up perfectly but they’re close!

My hope for dinner this week is to introduce my friends to an American tradition which may, on the surface, look a lot like a puffed-up Sunday roast.  For me Thanksgiving is a chance to be amongst friends and family and to hopefully forget everything else that demands my time and energy while eating good food with good people and I feel very grateful for the chance to do it.

So, to all my friends and family (especially those I’ve yet to meet) – Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under American Culture, american food

A Texas Cowboy Cookbook – more than food!

350px-Buffalo_bill_wild_west_show_c1899

Buffalo Bill, a real life Colonel who had fought in numerous battles, created a traveling show merging his own experiences with fiction. This show and others helped spread and popularise the image of the ‘Wild West’ and the cowboy. Buffalo Bill’s wild west and congress of rough riders of the world – Circus poster showing cowboys rounding up cattle and portrait of Col. W.F. Cody on horseback. c.1899

Robb Walsh’s Texas Cowboy Cookbook is one of his many great cookbooks that bring together history and food in a wonderful volume. The Texas Cowboy Cookbook has simple recipes with plenty of photographs and stories about the history and origins of the food.

Mention a Texan cowboy and most people will think of similar images: gathering around a fire with cactus silhouettes in the background, gunfights at high noon and playing poker in dusty saloons with swinging doors. While some of those things did happen, they are only a fraction of the story, and the image of the Texas cowboy that so many have comes from a 20-year period where driving cattle through dangerous territory was common.

erwin e smith - black cowboys

African-American cowboys on their mounts ready to participate in horse race during Negro State Fair, Bonham, Texas, ca. 1911-1915. Photo: Erwin E. Smith

After the Civil War ended, Texas was not a state only populated by white gun-toting cowboys and small frontier towns, as many books, TV shows and films would have you believe. There were thousands of newly-freed slaves (25% of all cowboys during this time) and a large minority population from Mexico (which Texas had been part of only 20 years before). In fact, the primary origin of Texan cowboy culture is rooted in the Mexican vaqueros, which originates on the Andalusian plain in Spain. The food traditions associated with these different groups as well as the mix of American and European immigrants moving into Texas shaped the foods eaten there, as well as the practicalities of eating on long trips rounding up wild cattle.

longhorn

The Longhorn cattle were released by the Spanish in the 16th century and had become feral and plentiful in central and western Texas by the mid-19th century. Photo courtesy of Dickinson Cattle Co.

Post Civil War many people needed new jobs – and the wild longhorn cattle could fetch $30-$40 a head. From 1866-1886 millions of cattle were rounded up and driven to railhead towns to be shipped to Northern markets. This could be dangerous work with little pay – there were storms, rattlesnakes, stampedes and raid by Comanche and other Native American tribes. The lifestyle became popularised and romanticised, as well as the associated food. In reality beans, sourdough biscuits and black coffee would have been common on the trail; fortunately however this cookbook has recipes for more than just that! Venison tamales, stewed baby okra, coffee-rubbed beef tenderloin, butter pecan ice cream, jalapeño corn bread and chicken-fried steaks are just some of the recipes on offer.

walsh - tx cowboyThe Texas Cowboy Cookbook (Broadway 2007) Texas cowboys are  legend — immortalized in rugged images from Madison Avenue to Hollywood. Robb Walsh digs into the culinary culture of the Texas cowboys, starting with the chile-based cuisine of the Mexican vaqueros and then gives overdue credit to the largely unsung black cowboys and the role played by cowgirls and finishes with the modern Urban Cowboys.

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Filed under American Culture, american food, American History