Edith here, happy to welcome Peggy Ehrhart as our to guest. Be sure to read down for a triple giveaway!
The ABCs of Cooking
Like my sleuth Pamela Paterson, I’m an enthusiastic cook. And like enthusiastic cooks everywhere, I collect recipes: from newspapers and magazines, friends, and—lately—the internet. For decades they accumulated in careless stacks, and locating any given recipe required a hunt. Then I acquired an accordion file with a pocket for each letter of the alphabet, or most anyway. P and Q share a pocket, as do UV and XYZ.
Now I was organized! Starting with a New Year’s resolution in 2019 I began the fun task of cooking something new or forgotten every week, working through my accordion file one letter at a time.
Choosing a recipe can be a journey into the past. The very oldest is Strawberry Jello Pie, sent on a postcard by a friend so I could make it for a college heart-throb. The next oldest is A Man’s Barbecued Chicken, from my mom and destined for a different beloved.
Exploring my alphabetical pockets is enlightening. Apparently I love baked things with apples, so over the years I’ve collected multiple recipes for apple pie, a recipe for apple trifle (from a neighbor in grad school), one for apple cobbler, and many for apple cakes, including Norwegian (with almonds!) and German. I included an apple cake I named “Autumn Apple Cake” in the first Knit & Nibble Mystery, Murder, She Knit. Tucked in among all the apple recipes, however, are dishes like Artichoke Salad and Lemony White Beans with Anchovy and Parmesan.
As you can see, sometimes I file recipes based on a key ingredient, other times on the recipe title. That’s how Utica Greens, from the New York Times, ended up in the U pocket, rather than under G for “Greens.” The Times food section included the recipe’s backstory: it is served in Italian-American restaurants from Albany to Syracuse, but is not actually called Utica Greens in Utica. The name is welcome, however, because it’s my only U recipe.
Some recipes don’t need to wait till their letter of the alphabet comes up. I make fruit cobbler every summer, and Peach Cobbler is such a favorite that it appears in Knit One, Die Two. I make Guinness Chocolate Cake every February for my husband’s birthday, and Carrot Cake every November for my son’s birthday. He will be 41 this year and I first made it when he was two. The recipe is on a card I picked up at Zum Zum, a long-gone restaurant chain where I often ate lunch in the late seventies when I was doing research at the 42nd Street library in Manhattan.
During that same era I clipped from the Times an ambitious Danish Christmas feast, which my husband and I duplicated in 1978 in our humble newlywed kitchen.
After 45 years of marriage, my husband’s and my palates are pretty much in harmony. But tucked in the M pocket is a recipe for menudo, the Mexican tripe stew that he adores. He’s also been fascinated by buckwheat ever since we picked up a bag at a mill where it was ground. So the B pocket includes Buckwheat Pancakes, Buckwheat Galette, and Buckwheat Popovers. The eel recipe in the E pocket recalls the time a friend gave him a fresh-caught eel.
The winner for the fullest pocket is PQ, and not only because it contains two letters. There are just so many P possibilities: pork, potatoes, pistachios, pineapple . . . I could go on, but one picture is worth a thousand words.
Readers: What’s the first recipe you recall making? What’s one of your recipes that fills you with nostalgia? I’ll choose three winners for the book giveaway (US only) with a choice among four books: Murder, She Knit; Knit One, Die Two; Knit of the Living Dead, or an ARC of Christmas Card Murder (a November release). I’m including the two older books because they include recipes that I mention in “The ABCs of Cooking.” Here are blurbs for the books: Murder, She Knit is the first in the Knit & Nibble series and features the recipe for Autumn Apple Cake. Knit One, Die Two is the third in the Knit & Nibble series and features the recipe for Peach Cobbler. Knit of the Living Dead, Knit & Nibble #6, was just released. It contains two recipes. Christmas Card Murder is Kensington’s Christmas 2020 anthology, featuring novellas by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and me. My story contains a recipe. I will pick the winners on Friday.
Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor with a doctorate in Medieval Literature. Her Maxx Maxwell blues-singer mysteries were published by Five Star. Peggy now writes the Knit & Nibble mysteries for Kensington. Her sleuth, Pamela Paterson, is the founder of the Knit & Nibble knitting club in the charming town of Arborville, New Jersey. Visit her at http://www.PeggyEhrhart.com