New York Entertains: The Junior League of the City of New York Cookbook

I love thrift shops!  The other day I bumped into a friend while walking into our local Salvation Army store and she was surprised to see me there.  Then standing out on the sidewalk chatting I realized more than 50% of my outfit was from the Discovery Shop (American Cancer Society) in Rancho Bernardo.

One of my favorite things to look for in thrift stores are  books, especially old cookbooks.  Junior League cookbooks are a particular favorite. Look what I found this time:

JL cookbook 1

I actually happen to LOVE the fact that this cookbook is used.  It was clearly lovingly and very regularly used over many years which makes it more like anthropology than cooking.

There’s no owner’s name, but someone jotted down a bunch of phone messages on the beginning pages, like “Call back Chris” and “Travel agency – next Tues. Hyatt Regency (Carol.)”  The numbers are (408) are code and in 1974 when this book was published that included the San Jose area and suburbs and also Santa Cruz.

Part of what makes this cookbook so fun to read is the fact that it is organized as menus for different occasions, like “A Lunch for Weekend Guests for 8″ or “An Election Night Celebration for 12.”

I love how she made notes of when she tried recipes and how they turned out.  From the dates it’s clear she owned and cooked from this book for at least 15 years.

JL cookbook 3JL cookbook 2

The notes are minimal but useful, like the terse “NG” (“not good”?) for the Cold Lemon Soup (“The Bicyclers’ Back-Pack Picnic for 4) or “fair” for the Potato Pudding (“An Election Night Celebration for 12″) and Lime Pots de Creme (“A Christening Lunch for 12.”)

There are plenty of simple check marks which I think are her “thumbs-ups” as well as a lot of “good,” “very good,” or “very very good!”  Earning these are recipes like Devil’s Food Cake (“A Delicious Dessert Party”), Orange Custard (“A Farewell to Summer Cocktail Party”), Crepes Gravetye Manor (“Sans Souci Lunch for Two”), White Grape Mousse (“An Inspired Dinner for Six”), and Potatoes au Gratin (“The Liberated Cook’s Small Apartment Thanksgiving Dinner for Six.”)  After the potatoes au gratin she wrote 11/95.  I’ll bet she made it for Thanksgiving that year and thought it was “Delicious!”

It amazes me that people really used to cook like this, and with some frequency.  I love peering into people’s lives so it’s fun for me to read notes like this one about Marinated Chicken Wings (“A Canape Dinner for 24″):  “7/7/83, I thought they were very good, but Ken thought they were too salty (24 hrs marinating.)”

If I wanted to actually cook from this book some of the notes would be useful, like “very nice,  but needs a pinch of salt” for Zucchini Quiche (“A Theater or Benefit Supper for 12″) while others are just plain confusing, like, “too spicy with salt added” for Gorgonzola Mousse (“Early September Supper for 8.”)

Speaking of mousse, from my amateur anthropological study of retro cookbooks I think this was THE classy dinner party food for many years.  New York Entertains has five mousse recipes, three of which are savory (Avocado, Fish with Shrimp Sauce, and the apparently overly salty Gorgonzola.)

Many of these recipes are labor intensive which makes me a little sad for her when they turn out “good not great” (Chicken Breasts in Phyllo Pastry from “A VIP Dinner for Eight”) or the dubious recommendation of “good, not great, but lasts a long time” (Marinated Mushrooms from “The Galley Slave’s Reprieve for Six.”)

I can picture the disappointment after she spent all day making “Puerto Rican Fiesta for Eight” only to find the Candied Plaintains “fair, kids wouldn’t eat it,” and Asopao, described in the introduction as “a hearty chicken and rice dish,” with the sad “good but stew is stew.”

Even into the late 80s she persevered, making the “Early September Supper for Eight” and deciding, “prefer orange bavarian dessert with this meal.”

If I were to cook from this book, which honestly I probably never will do, I wouldn’t have the time to make one of their complete meals.  Why on earth did women slice grapes lengthwise for a grape mousse that is going to be “good!” at best?

We do, however, have a you-pick-em blueberry farm locally, so I just may make Janie’s Blueberry Pie (“A Summer City Lover’s Supper for Six.”)  Verdict?  “Outstandingly good!”

Public Education, How It Was

Can you imagine public schools in America asking today’s 6th graders to do what Grandma Pearl did back in 1932? All of the kids in their Boyle Heights neighborhood were poor and for many (most, maybe?) English was not the main language spoken at home.

Yet look at Grandma’s little quotation book.  She had to write out the quotations (in cursive, of course!) and choose some to memorize.  (She also memorized long poems.)


Scan0016Grandma tore out parts where the ink smudged and taped clean pages over them.

Scan0017The quotes are all famous classics, like, “Things seen are mightier than things heard” (Tennyson.)

Many of these quotes are from poets like Longfellow, Tennyson, and Shakespeare, but there are also quotes from Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.

Some are just expressions or idioms, like “Half a loaf is better than none.”

In all there are 131 quotes in this little book, from her first semester of 6th grade alone.

I think my favorite is this one, from James Thomas Fields, a poet who was a close friend of Wordsworth and Longfellow:

“How sweet and gracious ever in common speech is that fine sense which men call courtesy!

Wholesome as air, genial as light, welcome in every clime as breath of flowers.

It transmutes aliens into trusted friends,

And gives its owners transport around the globe.”



Be Prepared

It’s the Boy Scout motto, but it pays for Girl Scouts to be prepared too.

These days I’m driving around with a flag flapping from my passenger side window with a picture of a giant cookie.  It says, “Cookies Are Here!!!!”

When I was pregnant with Eva I read in a book that once you have a baby you need to always fill up your gas tank when it gets to half full/empty.  Bah!  That’s for wimps.  Here in Temecula there’s glorious weather 360 days of the year and there’s a gas station on every corner.  No biggie, right?

The other morning as I drove the girls to school I noticed that my tank was low.  In the interest of full disclosure I will say that the “Please refuel” sign came on the moment I turned the car on.

I got Eva to school no problem.  Got Jane most of the way to school when I glanced at the dash and saw that according to the magic genie who lives under my car’s dashboard, I had about 2 miles left to go.

I managed to get her through the drop-off line.  My Girl Scout troop co-leader waved me over to talk cookie business.  I started talking then realized I’d better not waste any more  gas!  Gotta go!

I headed through an industrial part of town.  Day laborers stood on the corners ready to work.  I should mention also in the interest of full disclosure that I was in pajamas (with my crafty disguise of sweatshirt worn over the top.)  Also I was wearing slippers.  Also, it was one of the 360 days a year when the weather is not glorious in Temecula and in fact it was lightly sprinkling.

I had a feeling of deja vu because this JUST happened to me five days ago.  As I rolled (powered mostly by fumes) into a gas station last week I saw a guy trudging dispiritedly in with a gas can.  And I don’t even own a gas can! I’m sure if you just show up in your pajamas and slippers looking for a  gas can they gouge up the price basically because they’ve got you.  What are you going to do?  Not buy the gas can?

But anyway, I learned nothing from that experience and once again was optimistically rolling on fumes toward the gas station.  I figured maybe if I ran out of gas along this industrial stretch one of the day laborers would either (A) push me into the station or (B) walk to the station in the rain for me.  But I made it so that was good.

As I was driving in, I remembered why I love buying 99% of my gas at Costco.  For some weird reason I find two driving situations very stressful:  picking people up or dropping them off at the airport, and filling up with gas.   The most stressful part of gassing up is figuring out which way to drive in to the station.  Most stations have two or even three entrances.  At Costco, there are huge arrows on the pavement telling you exactly which way to go.  Everywhere else?  Chaos.

So this particular station was the usual 50-50 split of some people pointing one way, some people pointing the other.  As I spotted and  began cruising into an open space, a woman in a Lexus sped in super fast.  She waved at me with some type of angry gesture that wasn’t flipping me off but wasn’t a friendly “My bad” or “Oops” either.

Then, she literally shook her fist at me.  Yes, shook her fist, like a cartoon character.  I rallied and backed into a different space, but she continued to shoot me dirty looks as she uncapped her gas tank.

As I realized I was going to have to pump gas in my pajamas and slippers in the rain in front of this fist-shaking woman in a Lexus (who was dressed very professionally with full makeup and styled hair) I noticed that at the next pump was my friend’s husband.

I actually considered whether I could back out or maneuver forward to go to a different gas station but the under-the-hood Honda genie was telling me my driving range was 0 miles.

I sucked it up and just got out  and began pumping gas while simultaneously avoiding eye contact with the fist-shaking Lexus woman and chatting with my friend’s husband.

“Don’t you love your Prius?”  “How are the kids?”  “How’s your new business?”

Finally I said, “I’ll just say it.  I’m obviously in my pajamas and slippers.”

He was good with it though and then another customer even saw my Girl Scout “Cookies Are Here!” flag flapping and bought a box of Thin Mints.  I didn’t have change (of  course not; do I sound like I’d have change under these circumstances?) and he donated his extra $1 to icare.  So that was good.

When it was time to leave, the fist shaking woman would not close her driver side door so I couldn’t get by.  I was literally trapped and when I said (nicely, kindly, and extremely humble-ly since it’s hard not to be when you’re out in public in pajamas and wet slippers), “Pardon me, could you please shut your door so I can drive through?” she IGNORED me (!!!!????) the guy who bought the cookies walked over, leaned down, said something (?) to her and she quickly shut the door!

Great day.

The Name Game

The other day when the girls had to go to a walk-in medical clinic for strep throat, the doctor said, “Have you girls thanked your parents for giving you normal names?”

Jane brought home some completed schoolwork for us to see and I was disappointed in the word problems because of the names chosen.

“Jonah [nice biblical name, off to a good start here...] ran 21 meters.  [Wha.....???  What is this, Belgium?  "The average height of a cricket batsman is 1.58 metres."]  Bernyck ran 32 meters.  [Hold up.  BERNYCK?!  What kind of crazy name is that?  That's just weird.]  How many meters did they run all together?  [I think you mean "metres," Dieter.]“

“Talia ran 58 meters.  [Again with the meters.  Sigh.  Will they never give up?]  Calvin ran 54 meters.  Izick ran 54 meters.  [Whoa.  WHOA!  Izick?  This is elementary school, not the NFL.  "Izick"?]  How many meters did they run in all?

Seriously.  This is what we’re up against.  I do take heart that on the other side of this page were some cute pictures of owls and caterpillars to be measured with a ruler to the nearest centimeter AND INCH.  Whew.

Counting Owls

It’s a sickness, really.

Some people are addicted to being busy, like if they stop for just a moment, or even slow down slightly, something might happen.  I freely cop to this addiction.  I am fast-fast-fast and when things slow down ever so slightly I find myself taking on more.  The gaps fill in until every moment is spoken for.  If you count double-bookings where I have to either magically be in two places at once or risk disappointing someone, every moment is MORE THAN spoken for.

Here’s how crazy it is.  Last night Scott and I “did calendars.”  “Doing calendars” is the semi-regular ritual we have where he pulls out his device and I pull out my trusty old Franklin planner and we go day by day through times I need him to do stuff, times he needs me to do stuff, and brainstorming for how to handle the inevitable conflicts, double-bookings, and space-time conundrums like a Memorial Day weekend wedding in Hartford, Connecticut.  (Seriously, people, you wouldn’t think it but Hartford is surprisingly difficult to get to from San Diego.)

Then this morning I received an unexpected email:  a Girl Scout cookie booth Jane and I were signed up for this weekend was cancelled.  Hallelujah!  Hosannas!  Etc.!  THREE FREE HOURS.  Freed-up hours are the best.

I click through to the next email, which was an update from Temecula Patch that “they” (whoever the “they” who do these things may be) are counting owls and need volunteer counters.  For this weekend!  As in, for this exact spare slice of time that was just miraculously opened up not thirty seconds before.

I don’t mind nature but I’m not particularly outdoorsy.  I mean, I’ll do a hike if it’s an easy to moderate day hike.  I don’t camp, really.  I have been and it’s just okay plus I don’t like how hard it is to get that campfire smoke smell out of my clothes and hair.  There’s nothing like trying to eat a bowl of cereal in the morning and having it taste like wood smoke.

I also don’t mind birds but don’t particularly love them either.  Now one of the girls in our Hebrew school carpool LOVES birds.  She is nuts for them.  For college she wants to go to either Cornell or Humboldt State to study ornithology.  She is the easiest 20 Questions opponent in the world because she chooses “Animal” every single time and the “Animal” she always chooses is a bird.

But something about counting owls sounded vaguely appealing,  like something I should be doing.  Why, come to think of it, have I not been part of this annual bird count project?  Why aren’t I on the committee?  And where are my binoculars?

Plus kids are welcome, Scott might like some fresh air, and it seems like such a worthy project.  I even thought to myself (bless my own crazy little heart; this is how insane I am and how my mind works ALL THE TIME) that the lake where I would choose to count owls is right by the dealership where Scott  bought his car so maybe he could throw in a car service at the same time.

So anyway, I’m pretty sure I regained my senses and realized that yes, “Hello, I’m Juliet and I’m a busy addict.”

“Hi, Juliet!”

(Say it along with me because I know you’re all busy addicts too; it’s unfortunately a common affliction/addiction.)

So watch this space, and if tomorrow you find a  blog post here about all the crazy owls we saw out at the lake, you’ll know I gave in and dragged my poor, tired family out owl counting.

This would be THE END, but then this happened….

Want to hear the funniest part?  I wrote this entire thing saying “owls” when I mean eagles.  It’s an EAGLE count, not an OWL count.  That’s how ridiculous I am.  Now THAT is all.

Becoming Grandma

The other day I was walking into the bank to deposit some checks (first sign I have become Grandma; she used to ride the bus to the utility companies to pay her  bills by check in person.)

I paused to peer into the windows of a shuttered business, to try to see what was going on.  (Next sign:  Grandma was always very, very curious and had a list of Westwood businesses she felt were money laundering operations.)

As I was throwing something in the public trash can in the middle of this business plaza I noticed two perfectly new, unread newspapers sitting right on top.  They were still in their plastic wrappers.  Yes, I did….I took those papers out of the trash and read them cover-to-cover including doing the “Jumble” puzzle, and they were boring Saturday papers with no coupons.  Check, check, and check:  I have become Grandma!

Hello, Temecula! I am gluten free

It’s true.  Me!  Of all people, me.  I love bagels, pizza (the crust being the best part!) and the bread basket.

I have been having some health issues over the past month or so and am on a strict gluten-free diet until we can figure out what is going on.  If you happen to be local and see me, yes, I lost a scary amount of weight in a short period of time.  That happened BEFORE going gluten-free and in fact the gluten-free regimen is part of trying to fix it.

I am really fortunate for so much.  First off, the thing(s) I have (still figuring out exactly what it is) are not going to kill me.  No, Juliet will live to rant another day about bad drivers and people who confuse its/its’/it’s.

And if you have to have something, why not have an autoimmune thyroid disorder (signs point to this)?   There is so much awareness of it now.  And what an amazing time and place to be on a gluten free diet.

Temecula, California:  I have not one but two amazing little local gluten-free bakeries.  Every grocery store has gluten-free aisles.  Hell, the gluten-free aisles are bigger than the kosher aisles!  Practically every restaurant I go to has *something* I can order.

Mostly, though, I have been eating at home, and I’ve been eating the same simple, whole foods diet I prefer.  I feel best on this diet.  It’s easy.  It’s readily available.

Our entire family is still vegetarian.  Again, because this is southern California, this is not as hard as it would seem.

What am I eating these days?  Eggs, avocados, fruit, grilled veggies, lentil soup, lots of varieties of rice, cashews, Brazil nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, honey, cheddar cheese, dates, gluten-free corn tortillas, gluten-free steel cut oats, gluten free tortilla chips, Kind bars, Yo Baby yogurt, sweet potatoes, red-skinned potatoes, split pea soup, vegetable soup

I haven’t found a gluten-free bread that I love yet.  I did discover the AMAZING (did I say AMAZING!) gluten-free English muffins from the wonderful So Good! Gluten Free Bakery on Temecula Parkway in Temecula.   I also like the gluten-free pumpkin muffins from All of the Above Bakery & Cafe on Jefferson in Temecula.  (I loved these muffins even when I was not eating gluten-free.)

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth on this version of a gluten-free diet, possibly because I am eating probably three big pieces of fruit a day.  I do like my chocolate, though, and Green & Black’s 70% cacao seems to be a safe gluten-free bet.

Some of my happiest gluten-free surprises:

*  my regular order at Chipotle is gluten-free!  Woot!  (Veggie bol with cilantro-lime rice, black beans, and guacamole.)

*  Edward & Sons miso soup is gluten-free.  They make a great product that has the soft miso in one packet and the dried tofu/seaweed mixture in another.  You pour water over packet #1 then add packet #2.  For folks trying to eat fermented foods this is something really good to add to your diet.  (Also Bubbie’s sauerkraut is gluten free.)

*  In a “what can I grab super fast from a vending machine???” pinch I can choose Lay’s original potato chips which are gluten-free.

*  In & Out fries.  Totally 100% gluten free.  Haven’t gone yet.  We never go there because of how limited the vegetarian selections are (and yes I know they make a grilled cheese but Eva hates melted cheese so we just don’t go.)  If I’m ever throwing myself a gluten free pity party I totally know where I am going to go!