14 March 2015

Cooking Constants


How are Magazines like Rabbits?

Cleaning up around my house I am always amazed at the way magazines proliferate. On a quick evening clean up I put a couple of magazines in a basket on a shelf. The next time I check the basket I am sure they have multiplied.

Looking through the basket I find issues from November……and the November before. Somehow I never seem to find the time to look through them in season.

I sit down and flip through a few. I am a sucker for a pretty picture. I find cookies from Christmas that look too good to throw away. I linger over a few side dishes and a pie from Thanksgiving. Some look so fine I promise to try them as winter winds down.


A Picture's Worth…

At first glance, that recipe for the pretty pie appears wholesome. After all it is about sweet potatoes, a nutritional powerhouse and one of my favorite vegetables. The slick photo confirms its virtue. The pie photographed just couldn’t be more gorgeous …and we learn from an early age that beauty and virtue walk hand in hand, right? What’s more I see “½ cup sugar” in the recipe, a relatively low amount for a pie, along with a few other basic ingredients.

I go to the grocery store and buy the cutest little sweet potatoes, already scrubbed and sorted for a microwaveable side dish. They looked just right in size and shape for the sliced rounds used in the recipe. I also pick up some pie crusts and an orange and I am ready to start cooking.


Lessons from Childhood

Since I was a child cooking from Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls I have been instructed “Before you start to cook…..Read your recipe and all directions in it very carefully.”

I have read or heard that rule countless times since, and still, often enough, in my enthusiasm to try a new recipe, I skip over that sage advice, along with “Wear an apron to keep your clothes clean”. Both omissions I have later come to regret.

It wasn’t until I was well into the recipe that I began to suspect I had been deceived. I cooked the sweet potatoes in the first ½ cup of sugar. Then I noticed another half cup of brown sugar was called for near the bottom of the list of ingredients. What’s more there was a separate recipe for the streusel topping that began at the end of the recipe but was baked right on top of the pie. Its ingredients were added like a note, rather than a stacked list, and included another ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 Tablespoon white sugar.


Pretty Is as Pretty Does

Ugh! Not only is sugar the current nutritional fall guy but I really haven’t had much of a taste for sugar since my surgeries last year and I have been trying to listen closer to what my body is telling me these days.

At that point I considered leaving out some of the sugar but having already worked through part of the recipe I couldn’t decide where it would work best. I felt a little immature when I went ahead and added the whole amount thinking I didn’t want to add to the chances that my pie wouldn’t turn out as pretty as the one in the magazine picture.

So here it is - a pretty pie for certain. It’s stacked architecture gives it a fashionably trendy look like those beautiful kitchen backsplash tiles I’ve seen everywhere the past few seasons. It’s a beauty, but it’s one to be wary of. It is cloyingly sweet and, except for the toasted nuts in the topping, there is little to recommend it in terms of flavor. While I still admire the way it looks, it definitely needs some reduction in process and artifice before I’ll make it again.

Happy Pi Day!

3 comments:

LW said...

Great pie architecture! I had that same Betty Crocker cookbook, given to my by my aunt in 1965 when I was five years old. I still have it and love looking through it. It would be fun to have a cooking day with people who also had that book. I remember how good the Mad Hatter meatballs were. I also remember rereading the etiquette page. I loved "rules" when I was a kid. The aunt who gave me that book passed away almost a year ago, the last of my late father's family.
Best wishes to you. I enjoy your blog.

Jeff said...

I am happy that someone was baking pie on Pi Day! Your pie looks amazing. I am left wondering though if it was originally intended as a dessert or a side dish? Maybe a twofer?

Lisa said...

LW - My brother and I loved that cookbook! Mine is now very shabby. Both covers are missing and the page in this photograph is torn. I still love the Castle Cake and I still use the brownie recipe. And, you're right. A nostalgic cooking day with our old cookbooks would be fun!

Jeff - And where were you on Pi Day? Maybe next year you'll join in?