“even if we never make these dishes of ancient times, Miller’s book is a fascinating read.”
“They say ‘history is written by the victors,’ but in my experience, history is written by those who write stuff down, and food is no exception,” writes Max Miller in the introduction to Tasting History, his new cookbook that delves into the foods we’ve eaten throughout millennia.
Four years ago, Miller had little interest in cooking. But when a friend became sick while they were vacationing and they watched seasons of a cooking shows while overindulging on nachos, that all changed. Developing a passion for baking, he soon was taking his cakes and pastries to Walt Disney Studios where he worked. Besides sharing his creations, Miller also explained the origins of the recipes. Suggestions from friends influenced him to start a YouTube show titled “Tasting History with Matt Miller.” Shortly after, the pandemic hit, Miller was furloughed from his job, as were many others, and his show became a hit to all those stuck at home.
Now Miller has taken it to the next level with this deep dive into food history that includes original recipes and Miller’s adaptations for home chefs as well as photos, original drawings, anecdotes, and cook’s notes.
The recipe for this stew is easy, but even if a person could, though it’s unlikely, find the fatty sheep tails, another ingredient—risnatu—has no definite translation, though Miller says it’s commonly agreed upon that it’s a type of dried barley cake. He solves both those problems in his adaptation of the recipe by providing appropriate substitutions that honor the dish’s origins but make it available to modern kitchens.
But even if we never make these dishes of ancient times, Miller’s book is a fascinating read. As we get closer to our own times—the book is arranged chronologically—we find dishes that are more recognizable such as precedella, a German recipe originating in 1581 that instructed cooks to “Take fair flour, a good amount of egg yolk, and a little wine, sugar and anise seed and make a dough with it.”
Of course, modern pretzels don’t typically have wine and anise seeds in them, but Miller provides a recipe using all those ingredients so we can get the same flavor profile as the precedellas that were baked almost 500 years ago. It is indeed tasting history.
Miller has culled recipes from around the world. The book also includes the foodways of medieval Europe, Ming China, and even the present with a 1914 recipe for Texas Pecan Pie that Miller describes as “a time before corn syrup came to dominate the dessert.” His adaptation of the original recipe uses sugar since corn syrup didn’t begin to dominate until the 1930s. The 1914 recipe also calls for a meringue topping, an addition not found in modern pecan pies. So even within a short time span of just over 100 years, Miller shows us how a recipe has evolved though he assures us, we’ll like the 1914 version best.
I’m happy to report that Clampitt’s goal was a success. Her book takes us to both well-known and out-of-the-way destinations that offer a historic perspective and—in some cases—a culinary delight. Think of it as an in-depth historical travel guide and choose from a plethora of places to read about and/or visit covered in her book. I certainly have a few I now want to explore. These include the Amana Colonies in Iowa which started off as a religious society that escaped religious persecution in Germany. But though it’s rooted in the past with many places to visit such as the High Amana General Store and Zuber’s Homestead Hotel which was built in 1862) it’s also one that embraced technology producing, writes Clampitt, “many high-end electronic products, including everything from microwave ovens to washing machines.”
Strictly old-fashioned though is the recipe Clampitt shares for pickled ham that was given to her the Ronneberg Restaurant which opened more than 70 years ago in Amana. Pickled ham, one of the specialties of the area, can also be purchased in jars at the Amana Meat Shop & Smokehouse that dates back to 1855.
Clampitt, a Chicago-based food historian and travel writer who has also authored other books including Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland, who says she also wants to keep these icons of the past from disappearing by creating an interest to visit them, learned to appreciate iconic Midwestern destinations when young and visiting places with her family. That developed a long-time fascination that endures to this day.
This love of exploration isn’t confined to just the Midwest. Clampitt has visited thirty-seven countries on six continents.
“When I’m not traveling, I’m thinking of traveling,” she says, adding that she does a lot of research in preparation as well.
Indeed, since the publication of her book, she has racked up more destinations so here’s hope for a sequel to her book. No matter what, Clampitt will keep traveling and she invites others to do so as well.
“There are so many places in the Midwest to visit that are remarkable, I don’t want them to vanish,” says Clampitt. “I hope people get in their cars and go visit.”
Now one of the most popular retirement area for Americans and Canadians, the Lake Chapala Region, nestled in a valley almost a mile high in Mexico’s Volcanic Axis, has long been a draw for ex-pats and vacationers, lured by its almost perfect climate and beauty.
He met his wife, Gwen Chan Burton who was a teacher of the deaf and then director at the Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec, one of the three main towns lining the shores of Lake Chapala. Though they now reside on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Burtons continue to revisit Mexico regularly and he is currently editor-in-chief of MexConnect, Mexico’s top English-language online magazine.
The other two towns, each with its own distinctive vibe, are Ajijic and Chapala, native villages resettled by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. “This book looks at how Chapala, a small nondescript fishing village in Jalisco, suddenly shot to international prominence at the end of the nineteenth century as one of North America’s earliest tourist resorts,” writes Burton. “Within twenty years, Chapala, tucked up against the hills embracing the northern shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, was attracting the cream of Mexican and foreign society. Thus began Lake Chapala’s astonishing transformation into the vibrant international community it is now, so beloved of authors, artists and retirees.”
The book, organized as a walking tour, covers not only existing buildings but also pinpoints the spots where significant early buildings no longer stand but their histories still weave a story of the town. It’s only a partial guide, explains Burton, noting that an inventory prepared by the National Institute of Anthropology and History identified more than eighty such buildings in Chapala including many not easily visible from the road but hidden behind high walls and better viewed from the lake.
Among the famous people who lived in Chapala at some point in their careers was author D.H. Lawrence, probably best remembered for his risqué (at the time) novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
In 1923, Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, rented Casa de las Cuentas (House of Rosary Beads), a house that dates back to the 1800s. At the time, a one-story abode with a half-moon entrance and heavy wooden gates, it was located at 307 Calle Zaragoza, a street formerly known as Calle de la Pesquería (“Fishing street”) so named as it was where the local fishermen repaired their nets and hung them out to dry. It was while living on Calle Zaragoza that Lawrence wrote the first draft of The Plumed Serpent, published in 1926. The novel is described as “the story of a European woman’s self-annihilating plunge into the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico.”
Over the decades, after the Lawrences moved out, subsequent changes were made to Casa de las Cuentas including the addition of a swimming pool in the mid-1950s when artist Roy MacNicol and his wife, Mary, owned the home.
While Lawrence’s writings were considered by some as scandalous, MacNicol’s life had its scandals as well. Burton describes him as “colorful” in that he was married multiple times and was involved in many escapades as well as lawsuits.
It wasn’t the work of a dilettante as reviews of her book such as this one on Amazon shows.
“Flower Cookery is recipes, but far more than recipes,” writes one reviewer. “The book is organized by the popular name of the flower in question. Each section is introduced with quotations from literature, philosophy, and poetry that feature the blossom. This is followed by the recipes, interwoven with mythology, stories, and aphorisms about the flower, the plant from which it grows, its symbolism, and the culture or society in which humans discovered the value of the plant or blossom. The recipes include original favorites as well as recipes collected from historical sources and contemporary sources around the world. Here is just the tiniest sampling of the riches in the book.”
Burton shares her Christmas Cheer recipe from when she lived at Casa de las Cuentas.
10-12 squash blossoms with stems removed
2 eggs, beaten
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Flour, enough to thicken mixture about one tablespoon
Salt and pepper
1 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or safflower
Wash and dry squash blossoms on paper towels, making sure to remove all the water. Mix remaining ingredients except oil to make a smooth batter. Place oil in a large, heavy skillet to 350-375°F. Dip blossoms in batter and fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.
As for the house, it was renovated again in the early 1980s and is now Quinta Quetzalcoatl, a lovely boutique hotel.
The above maps, both copyrighted, show Chapala 1915 [lower map] and 1951 [upper map].
In all, he’s planning on adding several more to what he currently calls the Lake Chapala Quartet, these focusing on the writers and artists associated with the area. I asked him to describe the region so readers who have never been there can get an idea of what it is like, but it turns out the Burton is NOT a traveler who meticulously plots every moment of a trip before he arrives. Instead, he tells me that part of the fun when traveling is to not know in advance what places are like and instead to see and experience them for yourself.
“That said,” he continues, “the various villages and towns on the shores of Lake Chapala are all quite different in character. The town of Chapala, specifically, is a pretty large and bustling town. It is growing quite rapidly and has added several small high end boutique hotels in recent years, as well as some fine dining options to complement the more traditional shoreline ‘fish’ restaurants. The many old–100 years plus–buildings in Chapala give the town a historic ‘air’ where it is relatively easy to conjure up images of what it was like decades ago. By comparison, Ajijic, now the center of the foreign community on Lake Chapala, has virtually no old buildings and more of a village and artsy feel to it, though it also has very high quality accommodations and more fine restaurants than you can count.”
Other structures still standing include the Villa Tlalocan, completed in 1896 and described by a contemporary journalist as “the largest, costliest and most complete in Chapala… a happy minglement of the Swiss chalet, the Southern verandahed house of a prosperous planter and withal having an Italian suggestion. It is tastefully planned and is set amid grounds cultivated and adorned with flowers so easily grown in this paradisiacal climate where Frost touches not with his withering finger…”
Also still part of the landscape is Villa Niza. One of many buildings designed by Guillermo de Alba, the house, according to Burton, was built in 1919 and looks more American than European in style. Located at Hidalgo 250, it takes advantage of its setting on Lake Chapala and has a mirador (look out) atop the central tower of the structure, which affords sweeping panoramic views over the gardens and lake. De Alba’s strong geometric design boasts only minimal exterior ornamentation.
Burton, who specializes in non-fiction about Mexico, related to geography, history, travel, economics, ecology and natural history, has written several fascinating books about the history of the Lake Chapala region.
In If Walls Could Talk, Burton invites you to walk with him through time as you explore the city.
“for the adventuresome home chef, Allahyari offers a world of flavors.”
In mortal danger for his beliefs, Hamed Allahyari and his pregnant girlfriend fled their homeland of Iran, first spending two months in Indonesia and then, after grueling hours long by truck over badly paved back roads and then days crammed aboard a boat another five months on Christmas Island before being granted asylum by the Australian government. Once there, life remained extremely difficult for the young couple who were now parents of two young children, and though Allahyari had been a chef and restauranteur in Iran, no one was interested—or so it seemed—in Persian cuisine.
Unable to find work Allahyari began volunteering at the Resource Center, an organization that provides support, legal advice, and other assistance including meals to refugees and people seeking asylum.
“Every day they feed 250 people a free lunch,” Allahyari writes in the introduction to his cookbook Salamati: Hamed’s Persian Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Iran to the Other Side of the World. “I started cooking there two days a week, making Persian food for people from all over the world: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Miramar, Sierra Leone, all kinds of places, and most of them had never tried Persian food before. But when they tried it, they liked it. They talked to me about it, asked me about it, and it made me happy.”
At the recommendation of others, Allahyari also began teaching cooking classes, demonstrating how to make such dishes as Zeytoon Parvadrah (Olive and Walnuts Chunky Dip), Yogurt and Cucumber soup, Sabzi Pofow Ba Mahi (Fish with Herb Pilaf) Sabzi Pofow Ba Mahi (Fish with Herb Pilaf), and Persian Love Cake. Over the years, Allahyari taught more than 2500 people how to make Persian food. Now, he caters and is chef/owner of SalamiTea, a restaurant located in Sunshine, an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Melbourne. The name is a play on “salamati,” the Persian word meaning both “health” and “cheers.”
Salamati is more than just a cookbook, it’s also a memoir and homage to the country he had to flee. The introduction to the featured recipes in his book might offer a personal connection to the dish, a description of a unique ingredient that helps define it and bring out its best flavors—though he also offers a substitute for such items as Persian dried limes, which might be difficult to locate outside of a major city, and/or puts the food in context with the scenes to Iran.
“This dish is traditionally served in Iranian shisha shops, the cafes where older men gather to smoke water pipes, drink tea and solve the problems of the world,” he writes about Ghahve Khunee Omelette (Street-Food Tomato Omelette). “Shisha shops don’t really serve food but inevitably people get hungry while they’re hanging around, so it’s become traditional for staff to whip up a quick tomato omelette for customers and serve it with bread, raw red onion, herbs and lemon. If you want one, all you ask for is ‘omelette.’ There’s no menu as such.”
Not all the recipes are easy but for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, there are enough simple ones to get started. Full-color photos of each recipe show what the finished product will look like. And for the adventuresome home chef, Allahyari offers a world of flavors.
Known as “the gumbo of the Bluegrass,” burgoo is a meat stew consisting of a variety of meats that were often smoked as that’s one of the ways they preserved food back then. The list of ingredients included at least one “bird of the air” and at least one “beast of the field.” The latter could include squirrel, ground hog, lamb, pork jowl, and rabbit. Added to that were whatever vegetables (think corn, tomatoes, turnips, potatoes, carrots, onions, okra, and lima beans) were either in season or still stored and edible in the larder. Sometimes oysters, oatmeal and/or pearl barley were thrown in as well. Schmid also includes, among his many burgoo recipes, one that feeds 10,000 which calls for a ton and a half of beef (I’m not including it but if you’re expecting a huge crowd over email me and I’ll send it) and another that makes 1200 gallons.
“Often you’ll find this dish paired with one of the Commonwealth’s other favorite exports, bourbon, and the state’s distinctive barbecue,” writes Schmid, who immersed himself in archives of early cookbooks.
He takes us back to the days of Daniel Boone, uncovering forgotten recipes of regional dishes and such lost recipes as Mush Biscuits and Half Moon Fried Pies. There are numerous recipes for burgoo starting from early pioneer days, each unique depending on the region, food tastes, and what ingredients were easily sourced. Burgoo was an early community dish with people coming together to prepare it in vast amounts for celebrations.
Women would gather for peeling parties which meant endlessly peeling and dicing vegetables while men would stir the ingredients as they simmered in the huge pots throughout the night, most likely with sips of bourbon to keep them enthused about the task. Whether women got to sip bourbon too, we can only hope so. But in an age where water wasn’t safe to drink and even children were given wine, cider, small beer, and the dregs of their parents sweetened spirits to drink, I’m guessing so.
The Mysterious Name of Burgoo
As for the name burgoo, well, no one, not even Schmid is sure where it comes from.
“It may have described an oatmeal porridge that was served to English sailors in the mid-1700s, or it may have come from the small town of Bergoo, West Virginia,” Schmid hypothesized. The word might also be a slur of bird stew or perhaps bulger; it could also be a mispronunciation of barbecue, ragout, or an amalgam of the lot. If the oatmeal story is true, burgoo continued as a military staple as it became a hearty stew for soldiers who could travel light and hunt and gather ingredients ‘from wild things in the woods’ once they stopped moving for the day—so they did not have to move the supplies from one location to another.”
Of course, a hearty burgoo demands a great bourbon drink and Schmid offers quite a few of those as well. One name I’m particularly taken with is called Kentucky Fog, presumably because over-consumption left one in a fog. Other great names for bourbon drinks mentioned in the book are Moon Glow, Bourbaree, and the Hot Tom and Jerry.
The following recipes are from Burgoo, Barbecue, and Bourbon.
1 quart Kentucky bourbon
1 quart strong coffee
1 quart vanilla ice cream
Combine the ingredients in a punch bowl and serve.
1½ ounces bourbon
2 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces orange juice
2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice
Pack a tall glass with crushed ice. Add the cranberry juice and the orange juice. Add the maraschino cherry juice. Then add the bourbon. Stir well with a bar spoon and garnish with 2 maraschino cherries and a straw.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Brown the stew meat with the herbs and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients, except the cornstarch, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for at least 3 hours. Adjust seasonings to taste and thicken with cornstarch.
Spoonbread with Bourbon
2 cups water, boiling
1 cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons lard
1 tablespoon bourbon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Boil the water; add the lard and butter; to this mixture add
the cornmeal, egg yolks, and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk and stiffly beaten egg whites. Add the bourbon and pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake for 35 minutes.
Original Kentucky Whiskey Cake
5 cups flour, sifted
1 pound sugar
1 cup brown sugar
¾ pound butter
6 eggs, separated and beaten
1 pint Kentucky bourbon
1 pound candied cherries, cut in pieces
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pound shelled pecans
½ pound golden raisins, halved, or ½ pound dates, chopped
Soak cherries and raisins in bourbon overnight.
Preheat oven to 250–275 degrees F.
Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well. To the butter and egg mixture, add the soaked fruit and the remaining liquid alternately with the flour. Reserve a small amount of flour for the nuts. Add the nutmeg and baking powder. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Add the lightly floured pecans last. Bake in a large, greased tube pan that has been lined with 3 layers of greased brown paper. Bake for 3–4 hours. Watch baking time carefully.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Richard Hougen was the manager of the Boone Tavern Hotel of Hotel and Restaurant of Berea College and the author of several cookbooks, including Look No Further: A Cookbook of Favorite Recipes from Boone Tavern Hotel (Berea College, Kentucky), Hougen includes the recipe for Boone Tavern Cornsticks. He notes at the bottom of the recipe, adapted here, how important it is to “heat well-greased cornstick pan to smoking hot on top of the stove before pouring in your batter.
Boone Tavern Hotel Cornsticks
2 cups white cornmeal
½ cup flour
2 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons lard, melted
Preheat oven to 450–500 degrees F.
Sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder together.
Mix the baking soda with the buttermilk, and then add to the dry ingredients; beat well. Add the eggs and beat. Add the lard. Mix well. Pour the batter into very hot well-greased cornstick pans on
top of stove, filling the pans to level.
Place pans on the lower shelf of the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Move the pans to the upper shelf and bake for an additional 5–10 minutes.
Noted chef Jamie Oliver has introduced a cookbook full of recipes for making memorable meals easily.
Minimizing your time in the kitchen and maximizing your time with friends and family is what Jamie Oliver’s newest cookbook, Together, is all about. There are recipes for entire meals such as his Taco Party–Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Black Beans and Cheese, Homemade Tortillas, Roasted Pineapple and Hot Red Pepper Sauce, Green Salsa, Chocolate Semifreddo, and Tequila Michelada or you can select one or more of the 130 recipes in this fascinating book with its lush photos. Oliver, being British, offers some unique recipes such as Wimbledon Summer Pudding, Bloody Mary Crumpets, and My Maple Old Fashioned.
My Sumptuous Beef Bourguignon
Burgundy, Bacon, Button Mushrooms & Shallots
3 pounds beef cheeks, trimmed
4 large carrots
4 stalks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 fresh bay leaves
1 small pinch of ground cloves
3 cups Burgundy or Pinot Noir
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
6 slices of smoked bacon
7 ounces shallots
14 ounces button mushrooms
½ a bunch of Italian parsley (½ ounce)
GET AHEAD Chop the beef cheeks into 2-inch chunks. Wash, trim and chop the carrots and celery into 11/4-inch chunks. Peel the garlic and onion, then roughly chop. Place it all in a large bowl with the mustard, bay, cloves, a generous pinch of black pepper and the wine. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
ON THE DAY Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Pour the contents of the beef bowl into a colander set over another bowl. Pick out just the beef and pat dry with paper towel, then toss with the flour. Put a large casserole pan on a medium heat and melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In batches, brown the floured beef all over, turning with tongs and removing to a plate with any crispy bits once browned. Tip the veg into the pan, and cook for 10 minutes, or until starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally and scraping up any sticky bits. Return the beef to the pan, pour over the reserved wine and 3 cups of boiling water, then bring to a simmer. Cover with a scrunched-up sheet of damp parchment paper and transfer to the oven for around 4 hours, or until the beef is beautifully tender, topping up with splashes of water, if needed.
TO SERVE When the beef is perfect, turn the oven off. Slice the bacon, then place in a large non-stick pan on a medium-high heat. Peel, chop and add the shallots, tossing regularly, then trim and halve or quarter the mushrooms, adding to the pan as you go. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly. Finely chop and toss through the parsley leaves, then pour the contents of the pan over the bourguignon and season to perfection, tasting and tweaking.
CHICKEN, SAUSAGE & BACON PUFF PIE with ENGLISH MUSTARD, LEEKS & WATERCRESS SAUCE
2 slices of smoked bacon
2 chicken thighs (3 ½ oz each), skin off, bone out
2 pork sausages
2 small potatoes (3 ½ oz each)
2 heaping teaspoons English mustard
2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
3 ¼ oz watercress
11 oz pre-rolled puff pastry
1 large egg
GET AHEAD You can do this on the day, if you prefer. Slice the bacon and place in a large shallow casserole pan on a medium heat. Chop the chicken and sausages into 11/4-inch chunks, and add to the pan. Cook until lightly golden, stirring regularly, while you trim and wash the leeks, peel the potatoes, chop it all into 11/4-inch chunks, then stir in with a good splash of water. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the leeks have softened, stirring occasionally, scraping up any sticky bits, and adding an extra splash of water, if needed. Stir in the mustard and flour, followed by the broth, then the milk. Bring to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes on a low heat, stirring regularly, then season to perfection, tasting and tweaking. Carefully pour everything through a colander to separate the filling from the sauce. Pour the sauce into a blender, add the watercress and blitz until smooth. Spoon the filling into an 8-inch pie dish with 7 tablespoons of sauce. Let everything cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
TO SERVE Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Brush the rim of the pie dish with olive oil. Cut the pastry into 3/4-inch strips, using a crinkly pasta cutter if you’ve got one, then arrange over the dish – I like a messy lattice. Eggwash all the pastry, then bake the pie for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot. Gently heat up the watercress sauce to serve on the side.
Peel 1 lb of root veg of your choice, chop into ¾ –1 ¼ -inch chunks and cook for 20 minutes with the leeks, potatoes, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the leaves from ½ a bunch of thyme (1/3 oz). Use veg broth with the milk, top up with ½ cup of sauce on assembly, then finish in the same way.
TANGERINE DREAM CAKE
A pleasure to make, this cake is joyous served with a cup of tea – make sure you pack your flask. Any leftovers crumbled over ice cream will also be a treat. I like to make the whole thing on the day, but you can absolutely make the sponge ahead and simply store it in an airtight container overnight.
1 cup soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
8 oz liquid honey
2 cups self-rising flour
1 ¾ cups ground almonds
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
6 large eggs
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
Optional: plain yogurt, to serve
ON THE DAY Preheat the oven to 350ºF and generously grease an 8-cup non-stick bundt pan with butter. Place the remaining butter in a food processor with the honey, flour, almonds and vanilla paste. Crack in the eggs, finely grate in the tangerine zest (reserving some for garnish) and blitz until smooth. Pour the mixture into the bundt pan, scraping it out of the processor with a spatula, then jiggle the pan to level it out. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a bowl, then squeeze and stir in enough tangerine juice to make a thick drizzle. Pour or spoon over the cool cake, easing some drips down the sides in an arty way, then sprinkle over the reserved zest. Peel the remaining tangerines and slice into rounds, to serve on the side. A spoonful of yogurt also pairs with it very nicely, if you like.
CLASSIC CAKE: Don’t worry if you don’t have a bundt pan, a 10-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper will work just as well.
Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.
“I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.
“By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.
I’m only half joking.
Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.
Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.
“I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”
The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.
“We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”
Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.
“I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”
Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.
“I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”
It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.
The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.
“Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.
Bonding Over Meals
Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.
“People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”
Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.
“My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.
“Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”
That certainly won’t happen on her watch.
“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”
15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool
1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine kosher salt
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Natural food coloring (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.
3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.
4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.
6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.
Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)
This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.
15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill
2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
1 cup golden or brown raisins
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Chef/owner Deborah VanTrece takes the flavors and foods of her heritage and her travels to create the dishes served at her award winning restaurant and now shares them in her cookbook, The Twisted Soul Cookbook.
“My cuisine has always been at the intersection of food and culture,” said Chef Deborah VanTrece, owner of the Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta, Georgia. “Having traveled the world as a flight attendant, I experienced how different cultures have their own versions of what we would call ‘soul food.’ My approach to cooking revolves around taking a modern, global approach to soul food, combined with the food I grew up eating with my family. THE TWISTED SOUL COOKBOOK will take you on a journey around the world right from your kitchen.”
Across chapters filled with vibrant photography, her book offers 100 recipes for dishes ranging from fresh salads and sides, generous entrees, exciting seafood, rich desserts, and brilliant as well as practical pantry staples to amplifying everyday cooking, including dressings, relishes, preserves, and sauces. An engaging teacher and storyteller, VanTrece shows home cooks the way to use techniques both simple and sophisticated to ensure a delicious outcome every time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chef Deborah VanTrece opened the acclaimed Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in 2014, and since then, the award-winning soul food restaurant has appeared on numerous Best Of lists, including features in the New York Times, Bon Appetit, NPR, Eater, Essence, Thrillist, Buzzfeed, Kitchn, and Food & Wine, winning acclaim for her mastery of imported cooking techniques and delicious globally informed cuisine.
She is included in 2020’s Tasty Pride: Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community; this is her first cookbook.
Grandma Lue’s Spinach Rice
3 cups cooked white rice, chilled
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup red bell pepper
1 cup chopped red onion
4 lbs fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
1 cup chopped marinated artichokes
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease a deep casserole or 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the cold rice and beaten eggs.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, peppers, onions and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spinach is wilted.
Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and garlic. Cool for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese has melted and all of the ingredients are well combined.
Add the spinach-cheese mixture to the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir in the black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.
Spoon into prepared baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Bacon-Praline Macaroni and Cheese
6 cups elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
1 tbsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 tbsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups milk, warmed
6 oz cream cheese, diced
12 oz. American cheese, diced
3 large eggs
8 oz applewood-smoked bacon (8 to 10 slices), cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or pecan pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Transfer the cooked macaroni to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, stir together the seasoned salt, white pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle half of this seasoning mixture and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the macaroni and toss to combine.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for 3 to 5 minutes, until it makes a light roux. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the sauce reaches a simmer. Add the diced cream cheese and American cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and turn off the heat. Add the remaining seasoning mixture and stir well. Quickly whisk in the eggs until they are incorporated.
Country Captain Chicken Stew
This classic dish shows the influence of the Indian spice trade throughout the ports of the old South,’ says VanTrece about her recipe for a dish that dates back centuries.
1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp duck fat or unsalted butter
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp curry powder
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1 (13.5-oz can coconut milk
1/2 cup raisins
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peanut rice noodles:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1 (8.8-oz package rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, tossed in a little vegetable oil to prevent clumping, and chilled for 30 minutes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup toasted peanuts, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In a large bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder and white pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours to marinate.
In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat. When hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer to a platter and set aside.
Spring Pea, Bacon, and Radish Salad
“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” write VanTrece in the recipe’s introduction. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”
3 cups fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen), blanched and drained, then chilled
6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus additional leaves for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and ground white pepper
In a large bowl, combine the peas, bacon, radishes, red onion, chopped fresh mint, and lemon zest, toss gently with the mayonnaise and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with whole mint leaves. Serves 6.
Per serving: Per serving: 195 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 8 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 324 milligrams sodium.
“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” writes VanTrece. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and pepper and process until smooth. Pulse in the fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives until just combined. The dressing should be creamy but with a pleasing texture from the herbs.
Makes about 4 cups.
Per serving: Per tablespoon: 23 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium.
Aunt Lucille’s 7UP Pound Cake
About this recipe, VanTrece writes, “This is a pound cake, and the only cake I can ever remember my Aunt Lucille ever making. For me, it will always carry cherished memories of celebrations and good times. This is the kind of recipe that reminds you how good old-fashioned cakes were (and can be). Definitely use 7UP for this recipe because it has a high level of carbonation that helps the cake to rise, and gives it a brighter, fresher lemon-lime flavor than other sodas.”
For the pound cake:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, sifted, divided
3/4 cup 7UP, divided
For the 7UP glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons 7UP
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray (see note above).
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar for 5 to 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour one-third at a time and mix on low speed, alternating with 1/4-cup portions of the 7UP, mixing well after each addition.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and lift the pan off of the cake. Let the cake cool on the rack.
While the cake cools, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, 7UP, and lime zest until smooth.
Using a 6-inch wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cooled cake. Slowly spoon the glaze over the cake, letting it run into the holes and over the surface.
Set the cake aside for 10 minutes before serving to let the glaze absorb into the cake and give it a lightly lacquered finish.
The cake can be made well in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic, and frozen for up to 4 months. It will keep moist and can be pulled out to thaw several hours before serving. It’s great served alone or with ice cream or fresh fruit compote. Serves 12 to 16.
Per serving: Per serving, based on 12: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 6 grams protein, 89 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 25 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 138 milligrams cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.