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Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mother's Connection Cookbook

Once upon a time, when I was a very young mother, my dear friend Elizabeth was editing a community cookbook. She is an accomplished writer and editor and it was only natural that she was recruited for the job. When she had finished the work, she mailed me a copy with a note of encouragement about the many confounding days ahead as a parent. At least, she said, she had got me covered on recipes!
The Mother’s Connection Cookbook has remained front and center on my bookshelf for twenty years. With rare exception (page 32, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread seems to be missing some ingredients), every recipe I have tried, my family has relished. Goop, which a sort of homemade silly putty, was one of the first recipe on which we experimented. The Elmer’s glue makes it less than edible, but it was the first recipes in the Kids ‘N Cooking section that appealed to them. Rainy day fun. Edible Play Dough made from peanut butter, honey and powdered milk is kind of funky to the touch, but really is pretty tasty. That was our second recipe. From there, our taste buds wandered.
This cookbook has provided kugel recipes and brisket galore. I have made Lemon Chicken, Easy Pot Roast and Chicken Divan 1 (I stopped there and never tried Chicken Divan 2). The Mandarin Sesame Chicken Salad is commendable, as is the Autumn Butternut Squash. However, the page that shows the most egg white legs, oil stains and gritty flour residue is page 31. There you will find the Anything Goes Bread. In the book, in my own hand, I renamed it The UBIQUITOUS Anything Goes Bread. It is the most forgiving quick bread recipe I have ever made. You make the basic recipe, but you have 2 ½ cups left to add whatever you want. Pumpkin, squash, pumpkin and squash?
Or maybe yogurt and carrots and raisins and nuts? Cranberries and walnuts? Delish.
Nothing short of your imagination limits you.
In a sweet irony that I wonder if Elizabeth intended, the facing page has a large chart entitled

1 square chocolate (1 oz.) = 4 TBS coca plus ½ TBS. fat
1 TBS cornstarch = 2 TBS flour for thickening agent
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour = 1 cup flour plus s TBS sifted cake flour
1 cup sweet milk = 1 cup sour milk or buttermilk plus ½ tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream, heavy = 1/3 cup butter plus 2/3 cup milk

The list goes on. There is, as well, a table of equivalencies. One never knows when one might need to know that 2 cups of sugar equals 1 pound, for instance. Or that 7 0z dry pasta equals 4 cups cooked pasta.

In my continued quest to understand life and to bring order out of chaos, I look for answers in tea leaves, road side signs, the Bible, and yes, even cookbooks. What I glean from the wise women of the Mother’s Connection is that there are substitutions and equivalencies that will serve if our plans are not going quite as imagined. Your friend can‘t attend a movie with you? SUBSTITUTION: apple picking with your children.
You can’t drive to the mall? SUBSTITUTION: internet shopping. Your career takes a right turn unexpectedly? SUBSTITUTION: go back to school. I would contend that an EQUIVALENCY for a one hour face to face visit with my daughters might be half an hour on Skyppe. An EQUIVALENCY for a short walk with my husband might be three turns around the field. Not quite the same, but it is somewhere in the same neighborhood.
So, this morning, when I opened the Mother’s Connection Cookbook and started measuring ingredients to make The Ubiquitous Anything Goes Bread, I was grateful for all the book has taught me about life. And today, my 2/12 cups of anything consisted of carrots, apples, craisins and coconut.
Day 21

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