Saturday, January 31, 2009


John, Tom and Patch share a moment with Eli

A week ago, just before the weekend and our big ice and snow "event," we brought home our three puppies, now nine weeks old. The boys and Temple picked them out several weeks ago and then brought me over for "final approval." [Henry named his dog Tom, Eli's is John and Temple's/mine is "Patch" named after an old farmer friend of Temple's named Norris Patch who once lived in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.] Well, how could I say no? We knew their fate as they are among so many constant litters of "farmyard specials" found here in rural Kentucky. (As it was, we could only take three of the large litter and another friend got one, also.) Here people either can't or won't neuter their animals and then when they have unwanted litters they will dispose of them--either by putting them on the roadside or well, you can only imagine. The humane societies around here certainly have their hands full.

Rather than buy pure bred pups, which likely come from a puppy mill any way, we decided to help by adopting some from a nearby Mennonite farmer. Like farm-raised children, farm-bred mutts are generally hale and hearty (and we were glad to have that confirmed by our vet, whom they saw for their first shots yesterday). And yes, I've already scheduled their appointment for neutering when they are six months old as we don't want them wandering, bothering other neighbors or dogs, or contributing to the rampant dog population here. People don't realize what they do when they don't have their pets fixed--it is one thing if you keep your dog at home but leash laws are non-existent here, at least in the country.

Tom, Patch, and John share a human arm for love and support

The pups are three brothers and seem to have a mix of husky, beagle, Jack Russell and maybe even bull terrier or English bulldog. Two look more alike in coloring but one has brown patches and has a rather bulldog hind end, like his mother (and no tail). That pup's eyes were a pale husky-like blue a few weeks ago but have now darkened into more of a murky green. Two have more wire-like facial hair and two have smooth body hair while the other's coat is thicker and fluffier. They look nothing like their mother and their father is a mystery. Either way, they are smart, adorable and already at home with us.

At first they were a bit skittish with us as the only company they'd kept had been with their mother, a few goats and cages of rabbits in a barn. Now they love their porch home, which is covered, fenced and gated and on the north side of our house, complete with a large dog house filled with a large, warm bed. Already they seem porch trained as we open the back gate and they come and go and do their business on our back hill, sometimes exploring around the house like the poky little puppy in the Little Golden Book classic. Of course, we also bring them in our adjoining den off the porch where they have lots of lap time (and so far no piddles) but they know their house is outside. Eventually, when I have a larger kitchen area, I will have indoor beds for them, too.

Tom and Patch on Henry's lap

After losing Lucy in December it was hard to think of ever having another dog. Now we have three and our hearts are again wide open. Funny how that happens!? I can't imagine a home without a dog or two as that is how it was in my house growing up and we had Lucy since the year we got married. I believe that Lucy would approve of these three Kentucky farmyard pups. All a dog wants is to be loved and appreciated and part of a pack that accepts them, just like their human companions.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Hen's Pantry

Tasha Tudor's illustrations for The New England Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook and three other books with Mary Mason Campbell, all written and illustrated in the late 1960s/early 1970s, were among the reasons I longed for New England as a child, even while living there, but also the inspiration for why I wrote The Pantry-Its History and Modern Uses. Not only was The Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook my first real cookbook (and I have made many of the recipes in it--from Mary Mason Campbell's own New Hampshire and New England background--since I was ten years old), but it began a lifelong obsession with pantries. [Tudor's illustrations for My Brimful Book, another childhood classic of mine, were also evocative of New England summers with my grandparents.]

As readers of The Pantry know, a butt'ry is not named for its buttery sound, although that would be wonderful as that is what it conjures, but, like the later butler's pantry, is an English architectural term brought to Colonial America. A butt'ry was an early food storage room in English manors, and later early American homes, named for the butts of barrels filled with foodstuffs.

Imagine my surprise last weekend when my friend Cat was delighted to show us her recent book sale find (it pays to run one's library booksale!). It was a copy of The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac for 25 cents! These are still available, as are the three others in the Mary Mason Campbell/Tasha Tudor collaboration, on eBay or through second-hand bookstores, and are not only collectible but always much higher than Cat's bargain. As it is a book for which I had been keeping my eye out for her, I am delighted that she found her own copy. [I was as gleeful for her as I was when I found a first edition, from 1968, of The Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook, complete with dust jacket, on a used bookstore shelf for $3 a few years ago while writing The Pantry. Over the years I have picked up numerous copies of these Campbell/Tudor books and given them to friends--but never at that price!]

"Harvest Pantry" (1996), © Tasha Tudor, was actually called "Hen's Pantry" by her family because it was closest to the hen yard and thus was where the chicken food was kept. [This print is available on the Tasha Tudor and Family website.]

Recently, I had a posting from a blog reader (thank you!) who told me about Tasha Tudor's "Hen's Pantry." As I am soon to have a chicken house filled with chickens--and one that will eventually be transported up the hill to our farmhouse--I am intrigued by this nomenclature. Now I will definitely have to plan the hen house and hen yard near the back door of our future farmhouse pantry.

As an aside, Tasha Tudor was friendly with my grandparents when they moved to New Hampshire as she had been a neighbor of my grandfather's brother in Redding, Connecticut. She even drew a pencil drawing of a goose for their "Gray Goose Farm" sign, a landmark sign that has had several incarnations over the years. When our daughter was younger, we called Tudor's family in Vermont to see if we might meet her and bring some books to be signed. Also, I wanted to interview her, if at all possible, about her memories of my grandparents who, like her, were back-to-the-landers, although not to the same extremes. We were told, by her son, that we would be charged several hundred dollars (it is embarrassing now to say exactly how much) and that "everyone from New York was paying that" for their children. Well, I can understand wanting to limit access and be gatekeepers to an elderly mother who is likely besieged by fans but then to charge so much for a private audience? Why have them at all if not for the monetary rewards? Regardless, rest assured that we still have many of her books, all unsigned. [Image, above right, of Tasha Tudor with kindling, © Richard W. Brown, c. 1990]

Image of Tasha Tudor hanging up clothes, c. 1940, © Nell Dorr (1895-1988),
Amon Carter Museum

Tudor died in June 2008 at the age of 92. By all accounts she was still cooking, illustrating, gardening and probably doing most things as she always had: steadfastly and in no particular hurry. I think she likely embodied the Zen master quality of embracing each moment--of honoring time but slowing it down with precious tasks and domestic undertakings. Had I ever had the chance to meet her, here is what I would have said: Thank you, Tasha Tudor for the years of delight and inspiration, for not only making the nostalgia for New England's past a thing of longing but for living out and practicing your own beliefs during our modern age when such lifestyles were unfashionable. And thanks for being a pantry gal, long before they were again fashionable.

A NOTE to the readers of this blog: I will try to post at least once a month on different kinds of pantries or pantry photos not featured in The Pantry-Its History and Modern Uses and encourage you to email me with pantry finds of your own--or your own pantry. Also, I'm always looking for literary quotes from the pantry or interesting pantry trivia and will be posting those from time to time here, also. As you can imagine, 100 pages was not nearly enough to include all of the marvelous pantry lore and literary references--or photographs--out there.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Storm Trifecta

A light winter dusting on a nearby knob on Hopeful School Road (don't you love the name?) from winter 2008--sometimes this is all that is needed to cancel school around here but the hills are far more plentiful than snow and ice equipment. Usually, snow lasts a day or so if we're lucky.

I don't often blog about weather as some might regard it as boring. However, growing up in Ohio and then New England I have found it an intriguing part of my life and endlessly fascinating. I could talk about weather all day (much to my husband's distress, especially when I insist on watching Weather Channel for far longer than I probably need to in a given "weather event.")

My father would go out on our small suburban lawn and study the skies before a thunderstorm (as we lived with the threat of tornadoes, even though the only three I've ever seen--all remnants of funnels--were in New England). Our chimney was even struck by lightning (a story that has acquired a fantastical spin in the retelling.) Dad was as attuned to the weather--and things astronomical--as he was geography and map-reading. I expect it was because he liked to know where he was at all times and what was coming next. He was also an expert itinerary planner but one change in the plans, and, well, it could be hard for him to regroup. Perhaps that is why he was so fascinated by weather: it was something that could not be planned. For example, every summer we'd head up to the Cog Railway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He wouldn't buy tickets unless the conditions were perfect and the summit of Mount Washington was visible from below. Anyone who lives or visits the mountains knows that the top of a high mountain is rarely clear. So, as it never was "ideal" on the summit on the one day of the maybe seven years we attempted to "summit," we never went up the Cog Railway.

First came the ice...yesterday morning and for most of the day.

Here in Kentucky, wind is a big factor in shaping our weather. It blows from the west from the expansive Midwestern plains and across western Kentucky. Our hilly knob region in the south central part of the state, which comprise the furthermost western foothills of the Appalachian chain, are the first to catch it. Sometimes weather patterns will split and go around us: either up the Ohio River valley or blasting on into the higher Appalachians from the south. We most often get the warm, tropical moisture surging up from the Gulf but rain, too, can evade us and head north and around, as it has for the past two summers. Tornadoes and wind storms are not uncommon here and twisters will hop around the hills, as they'll do in New England. But sustaining winds can blow for long periods. The wind can blow light or strong and sometimes howl around the double-wide like a banshee. While springs are long and lush, summers long and hot, winter is like four months of November weather most anywhere else: barren, desolate, no foliage, and all extremes of weather but nothing prolonged or lasting.

Our new chicken house fared the ice, rain and snow quite well (a blog about this new structure very soon...)

Susan Allen Toth writes about that wind in Leaning Into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather. "Our wind blows in soft tickles, short brisk puffs, and shrill witch calls. It can be hot or cold, loud or soft, light or heavy. It pokes, flaps, and bristles." If you don't know of Toth's writings, she is also an Anglophile which is how I discovered her. [Her quest for England in several travel memoirs--and many visits--echo my own and my reasons for wanting to be there for a year in college.]

Weather, too, is a character in the unforgiving landscape of the plains of Willa Cather's fiction. This passage could as well be describing Kentucky weather, too:
The dust and heat, the burning wind, reminded us of many things. We were talking about what it is like to spend one's childhood in little towns like these, buried in wheat and corn, under stimulating extremes of climate: burning summers when the world lies green and billowy under a brilliant sky, when one is fairly stifled in vegetation, in the colour and smell of strong weeds and heavy harvests; blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and grey as sheet iron...It was a kind of free-masonry, we said.
Willa Cather, My Ántonia

As our boys go to private school, it rarely has snow days. Here everything stops with an inch or two of snow or they will even cancel school for cold weather (in the teens). This winter has been especially cold for Kentucky--but still balmy by New England standards.

We'd been watching news reports of a big ice storm heading our way and it did not disappoint. The boys had two snow days in a row, we had a day of ice, then a night of driving rain, and about thirty-six hours later it ended today with a strong snow storm that left us with a good inch or two to remind us that it is winter. Fortunately, we only lost power here for about six hours yesterday. I probably couldn't have taken much more of that as we have electric heat (but gravity-fed water, fortunately). My Internet, being from a satellite provider here on the ridge, will go out when there is driving rain (and ice) and I figured once the storm cleared I would have it again.

I have renewed admiration for my New Hampshire friends and family who survived the worst ice storm in decades last December. Some were without electricity for two weeks, some also without heat or phone. Forget about laundry which had to be trudged to the nearest town with power. Imagine hauling water from the brook to flush your toilets or to heat on the wood stove just to do dishes? Well, I can't but one does go into survival mode when one has to do so. As I observed from emails, blogs and phone calls from people in New Hampshire, the art of survival can also take up a lot of time. And it's stressful. Just six hours without power and I was a bit of a cave bear. After two weeks, I'm not sure what I'd be. [I imagine my husband could offer a few guesses...but at least I made a good dinner when the power came back on!]

Today a quick dumping of a few inches of wet snow after a night of driving rain--the sustained cold temperatures predicted for the next few days will guarantee that it sticks around for a while.

When we build a farmhouse eventually we want to be off the grid as much as possible: our own gravity-fed spring water (in abundance here), a back-up generator, an outdoor wood stove to heat house and shop, an indoor wood cook stove for the kitchen for warmth, cooking and back-up heat. Having "survival systems" in place assures the ability to cope well. Of course, it goes without saying that we'll have a root cellar, several pantries, and a canning room in the cellar, too.

Amish homes, and Old Order Mennonite homes like this one belonging to some friends of ours in Kentucky, have a cellar full of canned goods from their summer gardens. They will can just about anything from fruit to hamburger.

Our Mennonite friends are not phased by the weather: they not only see it as God's will but most of them (and the Amish, certainly) are already off the grid and can easily weather most storms sent their way. The bins of bulk food in their pantries and rows of canned goods in their cellars rival most small grocery stores. If a barn burns or blows over, within a week or so a "frolic" has been scheduled to rebuild it. Their sense of community is something we all long for and some of us are fortunate to experience in our lifetime in different ways. Sometimes it takes a storm, or a tragic event, to build community. Or, as we all saw on January 20th, something much greater than all of us: a collective coming together for good, for change, for hope.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Today Was National Pie Day!

OK, well I'm a bit late with this information (sorry--busy, exciting week around here and on all fronts--yes, I'm still giddy--even three new puppies who, I forget, sleep like newborn babies when they're young as they are chattering as I write this at 12:15am) but I just had to announce that January 23 was National Pie Day, sponsored by the American Pie Council. Of course, I did not have time to bake--or make--a pie yesterday (which is still today for me as I'm still awake blogging this!) but such is the way of the world. (However, does going to the grocery store and buying two graham cracker crusts, whipped topping, and chocolate pudding mixes count?)

I am reminded when I think of pie of my dear friend "Peaches LaRue" and her amazing pie finesse. Not only does she have the required facile nature for making pie dough, but she can craft the perfect filling. As she's in the Witness Protection Program after a major Duncan Hines debacle, any further information would cause her distress. Although I will say that not only can she make a fine pie, one of the very best you've ever eaten in both crust and filling--and I have to say "one of the best" because there are other fine pie makers reading this blog, too, right Linda?--but she can also make a fine Cupcake. (In fact, she is one.) And, without giving too much away, her two pantries, perhaps my favorite in the book, were in The Pantry--Its History and Modern Uses.

Two summers ago (sigh, as New Hampshire summers are glorious and have always been a part of my lifetime nostalgia for the place--when I was in Akron all winter as a child and now based in Kentucky), Peaches hosted a "pie day" at my home in Hancock. Edie and I did well as her pupils and Linda even came along with a prize apron. It was a memorable event and her pie crust recipe and techniques are included on my blog from that day, A Perfect Pie Day.

Peaches' pies are always the hit of her July 4th gatherings, as seen here at last year's fete. Let's just say that I tried each one at least once. And yes, she makes a dazzling peach pie, and rhubarb, and strawberry rhubarb, and chocolate cream, and pumpkin, and apple and, well, you get the idea. No artificial ingredients here. Her pies are the real deal. Many people have been pestering her to start a diner for years, if only so we can go in and say, "This must be where pie goes when it dies." [Agent Cooper, Twin Peaks (1990-92), created by David Lynch and Mark Frost]

I dream that all kitchens will one day come with a revolving, refrigerated pie dispenser, don't you? This oak-finished beauty can be yours for about $18,000 from McCall.

Speaking of pantries, and pies, I've had a lot of fun with this week. Try it. Amaze your friends, dazzle your family, celebrate a new epoch with this "everyone's an artist" take on Shepard Fairey's iconic election posters of our new president. And gosh darn it, make or have some pie while you're at it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Year, New 'Tude

I know, it's January 21st, well into the New Year. But today I feel it is more like the beginning of a new epoch. [More about that in my earlier blog today: The Day After] It is a liberating feeling. People seem more hopeful. I know, cliché and all of that. But even the die hard conservatives--even the cynics and the haters among us--have to acknowledge that yesterday's historic groundswell in our capital was a force of all of the good that is still left in our country and in humanity. [Some already have, at least on national television.] I was also glad to see the world acknowledged as largely a place for good and for peace and for a return of celebration and the arts to our nation's capital! Music, poetry, art, marching bands. "Bring in 'da noise, bring in 'da funk" [And I mean that in its full African American effulgence as well as for all of us who celebrate the arts and culture.]

On the subject of the New Year, today we received a card from our friend Ruth. [I still have a few lingering cards or reciprocal greetings to write to others and this cheery handmade card, complete with a collage of quilts on the top, was a friendly reminder that what got left in my letter basket before Christmas needs to be completed!] She is the matriarch of many children and grandchildren and soon to celebrate her 70th birthday (as will my own mother at the end of next month). She wrote: "we are so thankful that we have a nice warm house with the chill weather we are having." Whenever I complain about anything, I will think of those words: Thankful that we have a nice warm house. That is what it is all about: shelter from the storm, shelter in our family and friends and neighbors, sustaining nourishment for body and soul.

It is a reminder, too, of people like our friends Marvin and Debbie. They have returned to the area after living all over the place. They are renting a small trailer from other friends of ours, fixing it up from its near derelict state. They have no car, they have sporadic employment, and, by necessity, they live on very little and without a lot. I am not romanticizing their situation in saying that they are among the happiest people I have met. Debbie laughs constantly and Marvin is working with a small crew of people on some of our outbuildings here. He is hardworking. So is she (and she keeps a neater trailer than my double-wide, that's for certain! And she cans almost everything, bakes her own bread, etc.). They seem to choose to make enough money to sustain themselves. That, too, is liberating. In fact, those who live that way--by choice or circumstance--as many of our neighbors here do, are probably scratching their heads, saying, "What recession? What 501(k)?"

But back to blessings and to Ruth. She closed her note with this lovely poem and I pass it along to you:

God bless thy New Year!
Thy rest, thy going about,

The smooth, the rough,

The bright, the drear ~

God bless thy New Year!

[NOTE: The photo above was taken with permission of Ruth at the Galilean Christian Academy's Fall Festival in Liberty, Kentucky (as she does not mind being photographed, if asked). She had just won a cake in the cake walk! A few weeks later I bought some of the quilts she made for the annual Galilean Quilt Auction and a Mennonite benefit auction later in October.]

The Day After

Today, the Wednesday after such an historic, awe-inspiring Inauguration Day, I am reminded of the quiet day that we spent the day after Barack Obama's historic election. On Wednesday, November 5, my husband and I brought our friends Anna and Melvin to an appointment over near Lincoln's Birthplace at Sinking Spring Farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky. As they had never been there before we decided to stop by for another look ourselves, having been two years ago with our boys. The former farm site is off a state route that you can tell was once the road more traveled by with its series of run-down motor courts and related attractions.

So I was expecting more activity there, perhaps, the day after Obama's election, especially when Abraham Lincoln had been on my mind so much before and since that historic day (and this being the bicentennial year of celebration of Lincoln's birth). We were the only visitors at that time and in a way that was a chance to spend some quiet time in reflection of our own. It was the middle of the week, yes, in a very rural location so I was comforted as we left when two busloads of school children drove in. History was once a thriving tourist business for roadside America and hopefully it will be again. [The parents of my generation brought us to monuments, house museums and living history museums to celebrate our national and local history, these relics of our past. Now, I fear, we are--and are raising--a generation of historical and cultural illiterates.]

What would our earnest 16th president have thought about our 44th president, I wondered? I believe he would think it was "about time." Like Lincoln, Obama is a man of his times. A pundit said it best last night in the inaugural afterglow when he reminded us that so much has been said about race in this election that we forget the idea of generation. Obama is a man of his generation, and mine, who is already inspiring a new era in our society. Where Lincoln was the great Emancipator I feel confident that our new president will be a great Uniter. We are already seeing this across the world. There is promise for our country again and a chance to repair the irreparable in terms of great damages to our collective spirit, to our foreign relations and even our personal pride in ourselves as a nation. I felt as patriotic yesterday watching the festivities in Washington as I did on that quiet day in the rural hills of Kentucky the day after Obama was elected.

A bit further down the road from his birthplace is Knob Creek Farm where Lincoln was raised from two to seven before moving to Indiana in 1816. He would later write about that farm when he was 51: "My earliest recollection is the Knob Creek place." It was only recently donated to the National Park Service in 2002.

Seeing the humble rural locations of the beginnings of Abraham Lincoln's life, the tiny cabin replica on the hill top site where was he was born and spent his first few years and Knob Creek farm further down the road, was like an affirmation and a benediction. Of course, the cabins are only "symbolic" of the originals and the encasement of his birthplace in a classical temple is, like so many of our national monuments, a bit over the top. But that's OK: we need reverence in our society and we need places to pay our respects and our homages. To be certain, our national leaders are complicated, mortal people, with many flaws and many attributes, just like the rest of us. Yet, there are times in our history where the times make the man, or woman, and when that person becomes symbolic of so much. This era in which we live, like the trials of our Civil War and the Great Depression and World War II, is one of those times.

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

From Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Monday, January 12, 2009

Counting My Chickens...

The Speckled Sussex

For Christmas this year, I got a chicken house. It is almost done (other projects are going on at the same time and they will return to this one, as well as a new fence around a vegetable garden and dog house/dog kennel...more about that soon, also!) and I've been holding off posting photos until I can show the sequence. Failing that, maybe I'll do a Part I and Part II.

The New Hampshire Red

I have wanted to raise chickens forever. While we had a barn at our village home in Hancock, New Hampshire we had one acre and I think the concern was, well, I'm not really sure what the concern was now: zoning, perhaps? So I've been dreaming of chickens for a long time and as soon as we got down to Kentucky started sketching out the chicken house (more about that soon, too).

We don't want to get chicks until March when it will be warm enough here to have them without a heat lamp. So this weekend I ordered our chicks from Murray McMurray Hatcheries in Iowa and scheduled their delivery for the week of March 23. I ordered five varieties for egg layers. When the Cornish X Cross meat birds are ready for the freezer, which we will buy locally through a Mennonite farmer from the University of Kentucky extension, I'll order about 15-20 turkeys of different varieties. They can assume residence until November when they should be ready for eating (and giving).

Here is what we'll have!

• 10 New Hampshire Reds
• 10 Barred Rock
• 5 Rhode Island Reds
• 5 Araucanas/Americanas ("The Easter Egg Chicken")
• 5 Speckled Sussex

In the coming months I will post pics and provide progress reports! They will likely be laying eggs by late fall. Of course, I don't even have them yet but can you tell I'm excited? Like an expectant mother I would say. My son Eli said today, "Now you can't name the meat birds, Momma, or you'll get too attached." He's right about that. As for the hens, well, we'll just have to see who is what in temperament but you can bet I already have a list of names started.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Redemption Song

On the flip side of yesterday's cookie fiasco, I also brought a dish to the cookie bake to share with lunch (and later on at Bunco) that received rave reviews: Black Forest Ham Pinwheels from the recent Taste of Home Holidays issue. [And apparently, as the on-line version says, recycled from a Country Woman magazine by the same publisher.] I have to say that I've never gone wrong with a Taste of Home recipe.

I doubled the recipe and made them as listed (except I used maple sugar-cured ham instead of "Black Forest ham," which I expect is available at bigger chain markets). The Black Forest brand of ham probably gives them sufficient smokiness which these lacked. The recipe made 12 rolled 10" tortillas for slicing into dozens of pinwheels and I likely could have spread the cream cheese a bit thinner and made upwards of 15 rolled tortillas (depends on how much you like your cream cheese, which also acts as a binder for the pinwheels). This recipe would also be good with smoked turkey and dried cranberries or, forget the tortillas, just slather the cream cheese mixture on a bagel. Another good feature of the pinwheel concept is that it is ideal for making ahead for parties, wrapping and slicing later, and something different to add for lunchboxes (but thank goodness for our children's excellent hot lunch program!).

But I ask you, with all of the recipes on-line (free and clearly culled from the magazines or at sites where people post them) why is it that I still buy so many food-related magazines and cookbooks? Well, that's probably another blog's worth of rumination -- or years spent in a self-help group for food and recipe addicts. I won't even mention how many boxes of clippings that I have to go through and toss or file! Speaking of cookbooks, I promise a blog soon on recent cookbook gifts from Christmas -- these I am enjoying, with relish!

NOTE: Image © Taste of Home

Martha, Martha, Martha!

Martha, Dark and Bright

I am writing tonight in both disappointment and embarrassment. The food and domestic goddess, Martha Stewart, must be on the wane--it's no wonder I've been turning to Paula Deen in recent years, if only for comfort and laughter (and not necessarily for recipes that too often include boxed cake mixes or canned soups, as available as they might be in one's pantry).

You see, yesterday at another Mennonite cookie bake my credibility as a home baker was compromised by a lackluster cookie recipe. Something that should have been foolproof was not. One assumes when one (perhaps foolishly) purchases a magazine of recipes and craft ideas on impulse at the grocery store for a small bit of change that they have been tested. Clearly not. Make joy! as the cover enthused turned into Make big sticky mess!

The culprit cookie? Molasses-Ginger Crisps from Holiday 2008. I see in perusing the on-line version that some other bakers had a similar experience: too sticky to roll into a ball, spread a great deal, not as dark or as crisp-looking as the photograph. The women at the cookie bake and I all agreed when we tried to wrangle them off the pan by slicing the melded baked dough into thin squares that they likely needed more flour and were hardly crisp. The flavor was delicious but who wants to eat scraped cookies? (well, I mean, ok, but who wants to present them at a cookie bake for take-away consumption?)

All of this said, I really am tempted to try these again but with a bit more flour and in my own oven (I believe too many cookie sheets may have been put into ovens at once and I'm also not used to gas or wood-fired ovens.) But I've learned a valuable lesson: don't bring a cookie to a cookie bake that you haven't first tested yourself. Also, beware of false domestic prophets and their pricey, catchy magazines!