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cheap and labor-intensive food-- do you do it?

The lamb neck in the butcher's case of my neighborhood market looks rather out of place amidst expensive fillets of this and that. But they butcher whole local lambs, so there it is, the cheapest thing in the case. So I bought it and made a Rogan Josh sort of curry out of it, but it sure was a lot of work to braise the necks and get the meat off the bones.

So while up to my wrists in lamb grease while pulling the meat off with my fingers, I had plenty of time to think about cooking cheap ingredients by putting hours of work into it: wontons or ravioli would fall into that category. It's almost a different species of cooking from buying something expensive like steak or scallops and cooking it quickly.

Last summer a fishmonger gave me five salmon frames after cutting off the fillets, and I scraped off the shreds of flesh and made stock with the bones, and wound up with pink gefilte fish. But i rather enjoyed the labor and the feeling of thrift and old-fashionedness, if you know what I mean.

I wonder how many people still cook like that: it's the way my grandmother cooked. I can't be the only one; they're not selling lamb neck only to me, I'm sure. At the same time, it's hard to find tongue or heart or anything like that anymore; I have to go to either a Chinese-owned or Mexican-owned market to get it.

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  1. I'm right with you! There's just something very satisfying about turning $1.00/lb odds and ends into a savory stew or sauce or stock. Or making homemade bread, or even just making a pie or cake from scratch (this is positively magic to some of my friends).

    It's sad to admit, but my mother never taught me to cook (I do remember her cooking, making jam once or twice, and such, she just never showed me how) so I've had to teach myself after a lot of years of very bad eating. But this summer my mother-in-law has promised to teach me how to can tomatoes, and I'm going to try my hand at jam, as well.

    6 Replies
    1. re: dietfoodie

      We do some canning as well, but only if the backyard is over-producing something. I've never bought something in order to can it. I need to hear the plums or apples screaming at me for a while first, and then I need my husband's help. Generally he helps peel and chop, I cook, and he cans. The hard thing is that once you start, you can't stop until you've finished and it always takes three times as long as you remember, and you go to bed at 2 a.m.

      1. re: wearybashful

        I'm horribly envious now! My 'backyard' at the moment is a very tiny, very dark apartment patio -- I'd love to have plums or apples (oh, especially plums! Nothing like a ripe, tart-skinned plum, juicy and warm from the sun) needing attention. But we have a good local grocery with great produce, and the farmer's market is just a few weeks from starting up again.

        Thanks for the heads up on the work involved -- I was going to try a batch of jam at home, but my kitchen is so small, it sounds like it might not be the most practical of jobs. That's the main reason I haven't dared canning yet, actually -- most recipes make so much, and I'm just not sure what I'll do with all those jars, since it's just the two of us.

        1. re: dietfoodie

          that has always been one of my most satisfying things about canning when
          you can go out in your back yard and pick some peaches and santa rosa plums
          and make some jam/jellies for your friends and neighbors. making jams/jellies
          is one of my hobbies and I have taught alot of different people how easy it really
          is, preparing the fruit is the most work of the whole deal. I made a batch of
          peach jam last year and I came up with this recipe, You take 6-8 large
          elberta peaches (don`t peel them) wash them, cut them up to put them in your
          blender, add a 20oz can juice and all of crushed pineapple,pectin, and blend
          until almost smoothe. after you place the peach/pineapple mixer in a stock pot
          add 15-20 cut up marascino cherries. then just cook them the way you make
          jams/jellies. my family really loves it and it has a nice look to it also..

          1. re: dietfoodie

            dietfoodie, I'm sorry I scared you about canning. Our problem is that we are always dealing with large quantities. If you are buying produce to can, you can get that under control, you can start small and see how you like it without the going to bed at 2 a.m. part.

            1. re: wearybashful

              Hee, I'm not so much scared as lazy! And afraid of what I'd do if I had six or seven jars of jam that I couldn't bear to let go to waste -- I might have to eat it all myself. But bigjimbray's recipe looks very enticing! How many jars does it make? And should I use the small jars, not the big ones? And do you think I could scale it by half?

            2. re: dietfoodie

              It's very simple to make and can just a few small jars of jam, start-to-finish in an hour or so. Ditto tomato sauce. The marathons are for those (like me) who decide they have to have a year's supply of tomato sauce in their pantry. This takes several days and considerable space.

        2. Do you do it?

          Yes--making stocks and mother sauces. All organ and funny meat bits because they're all readily available in Latin America. Quick preserves for fruit surpluses.

          Sometimes--ravioli, momos, tamales, empanandas, dim sum. Take momos. These are so labor intensive and good that they get consumed as they're made; and the person making them usually has much less of an appetite for them at the time. Cheating for some things is best: using fresh pasta and ravioli ingredients to make a dish encountered in Rome--a single large, flat "ravioli" per person. Still light and flavorful with thin fresh pasta and sauce, but without all the time doing normal sized ones.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Sam, what is a momo? Your description makes me really want to know!

            1. re: wearybashful

              A momo is a small hand-filled and formed steamed dumpling filled with a meat mix from Nepal.

              1. re: wearybashful

                A momo is a tibetan/Nepalese dumpling that is sort of like a potsticker... can be steamed and/or pan fried.

            2. If it tastes better, like ravioli, I'll do it. But, if it doesn't, like buying preshelled nuts or crabs, I'll buy them processed. I'm no where near as handy as the people who shell them and I end up with bitter nut pieces of pieces of crab cartilege so I'll pay extra to have them already done.

              1. Absolutely. When I have the time for it, I love to take the labor intensive route. I often will call the butcher at my grocery store and have him hold bones for stock making. I like to be able to control the ingredients going into the basics which better allows me to control over all quality. (it also allows me to make free range stocks for cheaper) Making the basics allows for interesting improvisation as well. For example, for spanish devilled eggs, rather than using store bought mayo I made mayo with extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar. It added tremendous flavor that regular mayo can't provide. I tend to avoid premade pastes and seasoning mixes now. I just tried my hand at jerk paste for the first time last week. it wasn't perfect, but I have hope that a few more tries should dramatically improve it. i also make my own cajun seasoning, garam masala, and thai curry pastes. I have dreams of self sufficiency; i'd love to be able to buy only raw ingredients.
                I am also a huge fan of making ravioli, pirogies, samosas and the like.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kolgrim

                  There it goes again. I tried to make a small grammatical change in my reply and it printed both my corrected copy and the old copy.

                2. I bake bread every Wednesday both family traditional and "therapy." Sure I could buy a number of fine made breads from local sources but I'd miss the work, the glorious smells from my kitchen and the smiles from family and friends.

                  I agree a good relationship with your butcher is a glorious thing! Our local guy works closely with regular customers to stretch our dollars and to nearly guarantee great holiday results. Same with local fresh mongers, farmers and vineyards. My grandmother (a Russian baker for 60 years) said, if you can appreciate the love of hard work from folks who provide food for your table, you've got a soul .

                  1. I think this has lots to do with what great Edna Lewis called the " Pursuit of Flavor". We older folk miss the authentic natural flavors we remember as children growing up with gardens, orchards, chickens, fresh eggs, that are so hard to find in these days of processed/cold storage foods.

                    I can't bear to throw out flavor: I deglaze the skillets I've cooked good beef & pork in and save the de-fatted juices in the freezer. I get meaty bones from my butcher for rich stocks, I simmer the skin/carcasses of my rotisserie chickens and make the best chicken stock in the world; I save the broccoli and asparagus stalks for veg. broth; I save my past-their-prime mushrooms in the freezer til I have enough to make up a batch of Duxelles I use to flavor everything from tuna casserole to beef stew to barley soup to omelettes.

                    And in my case, at least, it's"Depression Baby" thrift that can't bear to see good food go to waste.

                    And some of it, I guess, is plain old curiosity.

                    I couldn't figure out for years why my grandmother's pie crust and fried chicken, a Mexican neighbor's refritos, were so much more flavorful than any today, and finally decided it was real lard and not Crisco or oil. So I learned about leaf lard and how to render it.

                    Don't get me wrong: I love the good modern short-cut products like Martha White's Mexican Corn Bread mix, Campbell's Chicken Verde Soup, some of Penzey's great seasoning blends, Hellman's mayo, etc. But doing things from real hard scratch now and then is not only intellectualy stimulating but great stress therapy.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: PhoebeB

                      I fully agree with you. Though, I'm not sure I would count myself among the "older generation." I'm no spring chicken mind you, but am still in my twenties. I too enjoy the satisfaction of creating a meal completely from scratch. I'm on the verge of beginning a cheesemaking foray, so that I have something delicious and homemade to top my homemade breads with.

                      In my case, I tend to prefer a cooking approach that uses a minimum of ingredients and flavours to produce a maximal effect.

                      1. re: PhoebeB

                        One line you had in your response prompted me to respond. Mushrooms get a little too tough for me in the freezer, and I have a wonderful and quick use for past-their-prime mushrooms. Clean the mushrooms (whatever kind you have button, creminis, shiitakes, etc) and pulse them in a food processor until you have slightly chunky mushroom puree. Dice some shallots and garlic and start sauteeing, add the mushroom when the onions are soft, salt, pepper and a little thyme. The mushrooms will release a lot of juice, try to evaporate most of it. You can add a little white wine near the end of cooking, if you wish, but I often don't.

                        The results last for at least a week, and I use as a spread on toasts and sandwiches (it makes a great addition to a grilled cheese), I add to soups and sauces as a flavor enhancer. I also make a quick mushroom soup with it.

                        Sorry, a bit off topic, but thought it was an idea I had to share about mushrooms!

                        1. re: ballulah

                          Ballulah, that's exactly what my Duxelles are. (Recipe I got several years ago from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.) They are my best "silver bullet" and I'm never w/o them.

                          When I get low on the supply, I buy ~ 3lbs of bulk white mushrooms, add any frozen leftover mushrooms (never have very many), add shallots and a handful of reconstituted dried wild mushrooms--Shitake, Oyster, whatever.

                          Pulse them to exactly the consistency you describe, saute in oil & clarified butter, reduce the moisture to the consistency of a tapenade (which I guess they really are?), S&P and sometimes a little sherry (I don't use garlic since I'm freezing them for future use).

                          Then I freeze them flat in 1 Qt. freezer bags (makes about 3 bags). When I need some I just bang the frozen bag on the counter edge to break off however big a chunk I need for gravy/sauces/stews/soups/whatever.

                          Wonderfully concentrated mushroom flavor. Absolute magic what they can do to a blah beef stew.

                          1. re: PhoebeB

                            It's fantastic stuff, isn't it? I got the idea about 10 years ago from Pino Luongo's cookbook, "A Tuscan in the Kitchen."

                        2. re: PhoebeB

                          I'm with you on the curiosity factor. During college, I taught myself how to make a variety of old Armenian dishes that no one in our family made anymore, just to see if I could do it. Now everyone asks for them.

                          And there's also the curiosity of seeing what simple, cheap items can produce... how many different ways can you mix flour and butter and eggs, and what will the outcome be?

                          1. re: pamalamb

                            I am slowly going through the armenian cookbook as well since no one in my family coooks any of the "grandma" dishes anymore...I just made some grape bastech this weekend and it is drying in the cellar! and it was so fun to know that I could make bourma, and boerag all on my own!

                            Next on my list is koufta and I need to make some more choreg as I have a big new freezer to fill up! I also want to make stuffed grape leaves!

                            What are your specialties?

                        3. Absolutely. Lamb necks have the best flavor, unfortunately they're almost never sold in my local markets. I buy whole lambs from a local farmer/butcher but they don't have enough of the bony, fatty bits for me so I end up asking them to keep shoulders and other cheap cuts for me. I use them for lamb curries, Scotch broth and other long, slow braises. They're our favorite kinds of foods. I think we still have a rack of lamb and some other chops in the freezer but none of the stewing bits.

                          I also slow-roast and can tomatoes in season, make jams and marmalades from fruits when they're so good I can't resist buying too much, make all our chutneys and salsas and cook ragu bolognaise in 10+ quart lots. We eat extremely well for relatively low cost this way, much to the envy of friends and family who drop heavy hints about how they can't find marmalade that tastes as good as ours. Or when are we going to invite them for lasagne bolognaise again?

                          We reserve freezer space for everything that goes into stocks - bones, gristle, leek tops, shrimp heads and shells, lobster shells, fish bones. When we have enough, I'll start a stock pot going. Our soups and braises always have great flavor because of the homemade stock bases.

                          I learnt my frugal ways from my mother who could never throw anything edible away. My DH was a little surprised when we first met, but he's now a great enthusiast of not wasting food.

                          1. yup. in the "archaic" tasks of cooking comes most of the true understanding of craftmanship and technique, & a better idea of food traditions and sourcing. as our food choices become more and more homogenized more and more people are making their own foods.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: soupkitten

                              All you young ladies and sam have come up with some good replies and base that
                              under the joys of cooking. go scratch is the true meaning of the joy of cooking.

                            2. Absolutely - it's worth taking the time to do. I don't have kids or a spouse, so have the energy. Being house poor (the only kind of poor that is any good!), my food budget is limited, so I've been using cheaper cuts of meat and making them go farther. Made lumpia over the weekend - didn't have to spend a lot on ingredients, and they were very tasty! I bought some smoked turkey legs last weekend to use in split pea soup - very cheap ($2.55 for two) and I think will be delicious. I also make my own potstickers and dolmeh. For an investment of a few hours, you can create several meals-worth at once, so it is really efficient in the end.

                              PhoebeB - thanks for the reminder about duxelles! I had forgotten this tip - it's really a timesaver, with great results in the finished dish!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Seldomsated

                                Lots of inspiring ideas here! Thanks so much!

                              2. Lamb neck - I got some when I was going to make a cassoulet, and there wasn't a lamb shank to be found in Pasadena. Turns out the neck was better, by a country mile.

                                Yes, I do love to do the kind of dishes that take forever, but I don't call those "labor-intensive," because you aren't constantly working all that time. You do some work, stick the stuff in the oven or crockpot and go do something else for a few hours, then come back and work on the dish a bit more. In the case of the cassoulet (see my recipe posted long ago, if it's still there), that meant layering in the neck, onions, tomatoes and uncooked beans, pouring on the liquid, sticking it in a slow oven and going to bed! Golly, the house smelled good in the morning!

                                Cassoulet and other bean dishes, choucroute garni, slow-braised meats of every kind, chicken and dumplings from scratch...yeah, I love to do this stuff. I'm glad of the cool weather we're having here now, because I don't putter around so good in the heat. Which reminds me: I've got a couple of pounds of Peruano beans and some smoked ham hocks...

                                1. Lucky, lucky you to have a butcher that actually butchers...

                                  And yes, we don't cook dishes that need several hours of simmering every night but we certainly work them in...large joints may take a lot of time but they certainly have a huge yield. And we do something that is either time consuming we do it in large batches. My freezer gets a serious workout!

                                  This weekend we slow roasted a shoulder of lamb and feasted on the roast with asparagus and spaeztle, ate sublime sandwiches twice (once with freshly grilled eggplant, local goat cheese, and harissa and once with melted gruyere and english mustard), made shepard's pie for the freezer, and finished off with a small batch of stock to be used in soup.

                                  1. I consider myself a lightweight in the cheap/labor-intensive arena. I don't do organ meats/offal, can, jam, jelly, make homemade pasta, or freeze the bountiful harvest. I even dodge deveining shrimp sometimes and buy it cleaned.

                                    That said, I do soak dried beans, use cheap cuts of meat for long simmering in the crockpot, and I make kick-ass broths, which are the foundation of all sorts of soup, braising, risotto, and sauce goodness. I also believe that my broths are really healthy, and I feel all sorts of earth-mother warm fuzziness when my ds & dh ask for it when they're sick. I save lots of trimmings from the odori vegetables to use for broth, and have started to use the crock pot so I can let it simmer longer. These three techniques are pretty core to my kind of cooking these days.

                                    I definitely can relate to the kind of satisfaction the OP describes so well about doing things traditionally (like foremothers, if applicable), and transforming some kind of cheap lump into something delicious, fragrant and magical. Nobody gets that kind of feeling from nuking anything in plastic bag, that's for sure!

                                    I infrequently make bread and pie (it honestly blows my mind that people make such a big deal about pie crust - it's not that hard!), ice cream, and all sorts of other desserts.

                                    If anyone wants to tell me what "lumpia" is that Seldomsated mentioned, I'd love to know!

                                    I'd like to learn how to make lacto-fermented stuff, although I am a little intimidated by the science-experiment aspect. One book I have that discusses it at length is "Keeping Foods Fresh," a collection of old-time (no freezing or canning) recipes and techniques submitted by the readers of a French organic gardening magazine (see below link).

                                    I can't vouch for the effectiveness of all the recipes, since I have tried few of them (so far!), but it is a HELL of an interesting read. I love that some of the recipes start out with "get a large, old wooden barrel and twelve heads of cabbage..." If (and since you're reading this, I can only assume that you are) you're the type of food geek that will happily read a cookbook like a novel, this may be right up your alley.


                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: Mawrter

                                      Lumpia is stuff (e.g., ground meat or shredded chicken, maybe shrimp, finely chopped Chinese cabbage, sprouts, spring onion, cilantro, mint,...) wrapped in rice paper discs and then either served as is or, more often, deep fried.

                                      1. re: Mawrter

                                        Lumpia are Filippino eggrolls. Usually small, about the size of your pinkie finger (the way my mother-in-law and Titas-in-law (aunts) make them anyway). They're SO GOOD. In our family, they don't contain cilantro or mint, and are made with egg roll/dumpling wrappers instead of rice paper, and with pork and/or chicken.

                                        1. re: salsera

                                          A couple of my ex-wives are filipinas. The one who cooked made fresh lumpia, larger sized using rice paper, with some modifications reflecting Thai influences. I still make mine this way.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Sam & Salsera, thank you so much for explaining! I definitely need to look into these. My Filipina neighbor's mom is in town - maybe I'll show up looking hungry, hahahaha. >:-)

                                        2. re: Mawrter

                                          Mawrter, Thanks for the heads-up on "Keeping Food Fresh". New to me. My library has a copy and I've reserved it.

                                          Here's another good one: "The encyclopedia of country living: an old fashioned recipe book. Illus. by Cindy Davis and David Berger. Updated 9th ed. Sasquatch Books, c2003" The authors have been revising it for 30 years. It's a Bible for those who buy low and cook high.

                                          1. re: FoodFuser

                                            Thanks for the book titles, I don't have any books like that, though I do have the 1949 edition of the Settlement Cookbook, the one that says "The Way to a Man's Heart" on the cover. I will definitely look into those, as well as the good ideas.

                                            1. re: wearybashful

                                              I was never into old-fashioned Americana/country food when I first learned to cook, but it's funny how it's drawing me in now. Thanks for the book ideas, FF & WB.

                                            2. re: FoodFuser

                                              I've also found "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon pretty informative. LOTS of stuff about fermentation. It's pretty preachy, though, but it's fairly easy to ignore the sidebars.

                                              1. re: JGrey

                                                I haven't read NT, but a lot of my momfriends are big into it. A lot of the ideas trickle into what I'm thinking and cooking just because I hang out with NT-adherants. I'm not sure if there's good info on the how-to's of fermenting foods, but Fallon certainly advocates it.

                                          2. I cook like this when I have a weekend spare.

                                            Making batches of tomato sugo to lay down. Takes forever, but the joy of opening a bottle of sugo in the middle of winter, all basil and tomato sunshine is worth it.. and far more satisfying than running down to the supermarket and grabbing a $2 bottle of something nasty.

                                            I make bread, when I can, and stocks from scratch, pasta occasionally.

                                            Not that I am opposed to grabing a packet of El Dodgy fettucine on the way home from work.. but if the Muse takes me, and I have the time.. it is beyond Zen...

                                            This weekend Mr Goddess went fishing and came home with some lovely flatheads and about 1/2 dozen good size squid. Scaling, gutting and filletting the fish is a complete pain... and don't even get me started on pin-boning **insert long suffering eye roll**

                                            But the sheer JOY on out friends face when they tasted the sublime flavour of fresh.. REALLY FRESH fish, was worth the pain.

                                            And I will never EVER again be able to order bouillabaisse after making it mysel this weekend with fish stock from last years batch, Mr Goddess's flattie tails, the squid and some summer sugo. (and some local mussels)

                                            will never complain about squid ink and slimy bits in my kitchen sink again. Every mouthful was worth every long minute of every step of the prep.

                                            1. I try! I love the idea of doing this, both because the odds and ends oftentimes taste better than the more expensive cuts, and because I want to know and remember, always, how to live ascetically. For anyone who needs convincing that cheap cuts can be a high art, try Lupa, Mario Batali's offal heavy place in the West Village.

                                              FYI, I think you might be able to stew the meat right off the bone and save yourself the trouble of picking it off next time.

                                              1. To paraphrase Phyllis McGinley in her wonderful book "A Sixpence in her Shoe" taking pride in being frugal and skilled is akin to having a diamond in your pocket. It's not necessary to take it out and show it off publicly, it is enough to know that it is there and enjoy it yourself.

                                                Having the culinary skills and know-how to make something out of virtually nothing is a (secret) joy that can never be lost or taken away. It is the soul of authentic cooking and basic to running a good kitchen.

                                                As I type, I'm waiting for two loaves of Pane Pugliese to come out of the oven - some of my time and several cents worth of ingredients will provide delicious bread for us. Could I buy this? Certainly but at a greater financial cost and loss of pride in my ability to provide our daily bread. There is a very basic satisfaction that connects all of us who nourish our families to the best of our ability using our skills, experience and acquired knowledge. Can I buy chicken stock to make soup? or even buy the soup itself? Of course! But being able to concoct my very own is a source of quiet contentment. Simmering, skimming and making nourishing food out of scraps gives a greater sense of accomplishment than opening a can to be nuked.

                                                So no, wearybashful, you are not alone. I don't think this community of cooks makes a lot of noise about our work and we certainly do not generate gobs of money for any corporate giant so no one publicly sings our praises or acknowledges our accomplishments But there are more of us than you might think, quietly going about our days with a cheerfulness that belies our performance.

                                                It takes quiet confidence to do what we do, and that's all right. We know that our work is our diamond in the pocket.

                                                1. P.S. Is anyone here lucky enough to have a copy of Miriam Ungerer's Good Cheap Food cookbook? It's available used on Amazon for ~$6 and up. Great recipes, great, witty, interesting writing.

                                                  1. I think there is a general trade off between cooking talent & "quality" ingredients. Some people with little talent like to buy Filets and other expensive, minimal cooking required ingredients because they like to feel like they are doing real cooking... without really. Because there are so many mediocre home cooks that require the easy ingredients, it pushes demand for those (inflating the prices) and makes other ingredients cheaper.

                                                    Any smart person with time & some cooking talent would, should & does seize those market imbalances to their benefit... I applaud you. There is another advantage of cooking with what the untalented snobs will label "inferior" ingredients... particularly in the meats departement, the longer required cooking is a healthier way to eat your daily meals.

                                                    Now don't get me wrong... every once in a while I do shop around for a Prime Rib Eye or Filet and broil untils its just past rare... enjoying it with nothing but a wedge of good quality roquefort.... but I don't really want the raw beef rotting in my intestines every day of the year... so for most meals, I want my meats slow cooked, fall apart tender.

                                                    1. I to do this type of cooking, too, as much as I can, for reasons that supplement what others have said about the craving for real tastes, stress-relief, and frugality. Cooking and eating together are analogous to oral history, which dies if it isn't practiced and passed on. Cooking like this is recognizing a tradition. It felt like a coming of age when I got my first apartment and did my first braise. And then again when I prepared dumplings by hand, froze batches over a week, and then put on a Chinese New Year dinner for 25 using my mother's recipes from her dinner parties. It's a bit hard to cultivate community history, a sense of solidarity, the sense of being part of a line, using a microwave.

                                                      That said, yes, I do have a packet of ramen in my pantry and I'm not afraid to use it.

                                                      16 Replies
                                                      1. re: slowfoodgrrl

                                                        Your mention of "oral history" reminds me of another reason I like to mess around with doing some things the hard way, though I guess it falls under "just plain curiosity".

                                                        I'm addicted to English village mysteries--"cosies" like the Mrs. Marple stories. And I'm determined to try at least once (make or buy) all the foods that are constantly mentioned in them: bangers & mash, steak & kidney pie, bubble & squeak, toad-in-the-hole, floating island, figgy pudding, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding w/roast beef, Branston Pickle (for cheese & pickle sandwiches, which must be the Eng. equiv. of a hamburger), Shrewsbury biscuits, ginger nuts, etc.. I'm about halfway through my list, and the only real disaster so far is Marmite. BLECCCCCHHHH!!!!

                                                        1. re: PhoebeB

                                                          & don't you love all the old-timey "reciept" books that tell you to use "flour the weight of a goose's egg" or "must leavings from a barrel of ale" or "the rendered fat from the snouts of three well-fed hogs" in cooking? the fact that we can still make these recipes work is a testament to our forebears' heritage cooking skills and our own culinary prowess!!! (SK *flexing*) i LOVE poring thru old cookbooks and handwritten journals & updating promising recipes!

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            Here's a digital treat for soupkitten and other lovers of the old days:


                                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                                              wow. lock me in that library for a week. what a treasure trove!

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                Can you I am a historian in real life? I love that there are other food/recipe history geeks like me!

                                                                You can also find interesting recipes in old health guides, like for teas and soups. Many nineteenth century Brit and American health books were also sort of catch-alls for weather info, basic recipes, first aid... sort of a First aid meets farmers almanac meets Joy of Cooking.

                                                                It is also fun to get recipes from old community cookbooks at the public library, like the Junior League's books or ones from churches and schools. In my family's case, I get a kick out of the cookbook the submariner's wives put together when my dad was in the force back in the day. I've never seen so many recipes for dips and cocktails...

                                                                1. re: slowfoodgrrl

                                                                  "catch-alls for weather info, basic recipes, first aid... sort of a First aid meets farmers almanac meets Joy of Cooking" I love that description, SFG!

                                                                  Below is a link with all kinds of books that are live-off-the-land, simple living, sutainable, foraging, etc. They usually have excellent prices, too. I'm annoyed because after going to the trouble of looking up the link, it looks like Pinetree is carrying a lot less of those kind of titles. Drat.

                                                                  There was one in particular - a "Jane Doe's Guide to Plain Living," or somesuch - that sounded very much like the kind of kitchen-sink books this thread is talking about now. It was a really typically Amish woman's name, and the blurb said she was a widowed with a gazillion children and had a bartering relationship with a townie guy, a publisher. Maybe eggs for show shovelling, or whatever. Anyway, said "English" (that's what Amish people call us non-Amish) guy was in the publishing business and was fascinated by her boxfull of raggedy old, fabulous, frugal, time-tested recipes. Not just food recipes, but folk medicine and fertilizer and oh, things like oultices for your goat's sore hooves and whathaveyou, and (long story long!) persuaded to publish it. I hope I managed to convey some sense of how interesting the book sounded, and maybe someone here will have read it!


                                                                  1. re: slowfoodgrrl

                                                                    oh yeah i am a major food history dork! :)
                                                                    i love old junior league cookbooks too & the old travel journals that describe "exotic dishes in foreign lands" etc. get a lot of great ideas from them. it's so cool to read accounts of say, italian cuisine before and after tomatoes were introduced to the country! i also love reading cookbooks by authors like jessica b. harris who will trace how dishes/ingredients traveled continent to continent as different culinary cultures influenced each other. food is constantly evolving so i love reading about history!

                                                                  2. re: soupkitten

                                                                    sorry for the multiple posts... i'm having trouble with the editing function.

                                                                  3. re: FoodFuser

                                                                    Holy cow, that is a fabulous link! Those people have done a great job of making that information accessible, and they let you get the look of the printing and illustrations too. Fantastic. Thanks, FoodFuser.

                                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                      FoodFuser is my new hero for life.

                                                                      I'd love to hear if anyone has made any of these recipes straight from the 100+ year old pages...I have a copy of Hannah Glasse's "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy" and while I love to leaf through it I have never actually attempted a recipe. Maybe one of the recipes for food suitable for taking on sea voyages?

                                                                  4. re: PhoebeB

                                                                    Phoebe, Marmite is best spread very very very thinly on bread or toast, buttered first.

                                                                    A teaspoon in a soup or stew is tasty indeed.

                                                                    1. re: smartie

                                                                      Smartie, have you ever seen the website http://www.marmite.com/ ? It's a hoot!

                                                                      I guess it's an acquired taste. I hear some Englishmen think peanut butter is gross, and I think I'd die w/o it.

                                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                                        I almost gave in to this when I answered you first, but I can't resist.

                                                                        You mean kinda like, "Marmalade is tasty if it's very thickly spread"? :o)

                                                                      2. re: PhoebeB

                                                                        PhoebeB, have you read Barbara Pym's books? Though not mysteries persay, they are sort of in the Mrs. Marple/English village vein in that they exclusively involve genteel older women in the throes of various minor crises, romantic or otherwise...There's a whole lot of delicious-sounding cooking and eating going on in all of them (particularly all the regional varieties of English sweets, like Banbury buns, etc.) In fact, I think someone did compile a Barbara Pym cookbook based on all the dishes that get mentioned...

                                                                        1. re: lainamalone

                                                                          No I haven't, but I'll look at the library tomorrow. I have Marguerite Patten's "Cakes and Baking" English cookbook that has ever conceivable kind of sweet & savoury baked goods. (If you like English mysteries, check out Caroline Graham's.)

                                                                        2. re: PhoebeB

                                                                          I could not agree with you more!!! I love to curl up with a mug of earl grey and read them and daydream about all of these deliciously exotic things (which are probably truth be told not quite so delicious). But it's very cozy to think about.

                                                                      3. You know those good endorphins you're supposed to get when you exercise? That is what I get when I cook from scratch. I LOVE doing it in winter or on a rainy day on the weekend while I am listening to good music or watching a show and having a nice glass or three of wine.
                                                                        I often take Sundays to prep for the workweek or to keep basics in my freezer. My fave's:
                                                                        ~homemake light chicken stock (for risottos, to cook wild rice in, to add homemade tagliatelle in, for tortellini soup, or to use in other recipes like osso buco)
                                                                        ~authentic bolognese sauce made with milk and cooked down
                                                                        ~the slow, long simmered tomato sauce
                                                                        ~pizza sauce
                                                                        ~fresh quick arrabiata style sauce
                                                                        ~homemade "beaver tails"
                                                                        ~in summer months: strawberry, apricot and peach jams, ice cream toppings to freeze in baggies and to top ice cream, waffles or pancakes)
                                                                        ~chicken gizzards and kidneys stove top cooked slowly with red peppers and wine
                                                                        ~in the summer, roasted peppers by the dozen

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: itryalot

                                                                          Oh! Tell me! What is a "beaver tail"?

                                                                          1. re: Mawrter

                                                                            Beaver Tail is a name given to a delectable fried dough snack they serve in Canada. It is basically like a very light, unlsalted, no sugar added, very wet pizza dough. My mom taught me to hand shape them kind of oblong. You fry them in canola oil until golden brown and then dust them with sugar. They are best eaten warm. In Canada they serve savory and sweet ones, but the sweet ones are traditional. We have made them with cinnamon sugar, with icing sugar (which melts) and nutella or strawberry topping and whipped cream. My husband likes nutella and sliced bananas.
                                                                            REally, they are great plain. I once made them at a party and had a toppings station and people put their own toppings on them.

                                                                        2. I do it. Homemade stuffed pasta takes way more time and effort than money, that's for sure. Then there's calamari fritti- a simple, inexpensive, yet time-consuming dish that gets eaten before it hits the table. My grandmother (and her mother) used to do all sorts of things with leftover fat and bones from the butcher- I haven't gotten there yet.

                                                                          1. As a vegetarian, I can identify with the labor-intensive part. Most meals involve a good deal of washing, chopping, soaking, steaming, and multiple steps. How often I envy our carnivore friends who can throw a steak in a skillet, bake a potato and call it dinner! :)