Thursday, November 24, 2011

trouvée: thanksgiving dinner

No inscription or date, but if you look carefully you'll see the turkey front and center. A Thanksgiving meal of a day gone by. {click image to view larger}

Eat, drink and be merry with a few new twists on some old holiday classics:

* sweet potatoes + marshmallow biscuits
* a squash crumble
* and a little something for the morning after

Happy Thanksgiving to friends and family near and far!


(I'll be back monday with one last book week post.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

book week: a fabulous feast

Let’s face it, there is little much besides food that I can think about this week. So I am delighted to tell you about a wonderful new cookbook, Dining with the Washingtons, which is sure to satisfy both your palate and delight your sense of historical curiosity. What did our forbearers really eat?

Pulling from Martha Washington’s own recipe box, as well as other traditional 18th-century sources such as Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, this cook book presents some 90 historic recipes, adapted for the modern cook by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump. The recipes are complimented with information exploring the menus, diet, and styles of entertaining enjoyed by those dining with the Washingtons at Mount Vernon. Included are all sorts of classic dishes, from hoe cakes and dressed crab to syllabub and cherry pie. And if Martha’s famous Great Cake isn’t enough to tempt you, perhaps the gorgeously-styled photographs of food and interiors will.

When I decided to write about this book, I asked the editor Stephen MacLeod if he would allow me to include a recipe to whet your appetite. And he graciously agreed. These stewed pears (pictured above left) are a simple, but elegant compliment to any holiday meal. Enjoy. . . and Happy Thanksgiving!

Stewed Pears

The title of this Hannah Glasse recipe may confuse modern readers. Her directions specify baked, not stewed, pears, although they are to be baked in red wine or port if the recipe below is followed. Glasse noted, however, that the fruit “will [also] be very good with water in the place of wine.” As an alternative to baking, she suggested stewing the pears in a saucepan set over a low fire, using the same ingredients. Serves 6 to 8.

6 to 8 large ripe pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 whole cloves
1 cup red wine or port

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Arrange the pears in a single layer in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the lemon zest and sugar over the pear halves, and place the whole cloves in the dish. Pour the wine (or port) over the pears.

3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the fruit can be easily pierced with a skewer or paring knife, basting occasionally with the liquid. The pears should be tender but not soft enough to break into pieces.

4. Remove the pears from the oven, and set aside to cool completely in the baking dish before serving.

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Food styled by Lisa Cherkasky and photography by Renee Comet (all images courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

book week: flight of fancy

I knew from an early age there was adventure to be found at the museum. A place full of magnificent tales and amazing journeys. Indeed, today’s book confirms it ~ Belle: The Amazing, Astonishingly Magical Journey of an Artfully Painted Lady.

It all begins with a 17th-century Dutch still life (Jan Davidsz de Heem’s A Vase of Flowers, for those of you with particularly curious minds) at the National Gallery of Art. When an employee accidently jostles the painting, two small butterflies are dislodged from the canvas ~ beautiful Belle and her friend Brimstone. There begins a journey to find their way home, navigating the expansive marble halls of the museum and overcoming adversity in the guise of a very hungry bird. Along the way, Belle gives us a butterfly’s view of some of the Gallery’s most famous artworks.

You really never know where she and Brimstone will land. . .

. . . until they find themselves back where they belong.

The book is intended for readers aged 8 to 11, but anyone with an adventurous spirit will be delighted by Belle.

I have had the pleasure of watching as Belle developed from the cocoon of an idea to a fully fledged butterfly ~ the author, Mary Lee Corlett, sits right next to me every day (my friend and colleague). I won’t tell you anything more about the process of bringing Belle to the world, because Mary Lee explains it best.

Happy reading!

All images courtesy of Bunker Hill Publishing, except: Jan Davidsz de Heem, A Vase of Flowers, c. 1660, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Fund, 1961.6.1.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

book week: a taste for the exotic

When a copy of the recent Vendome Press publication, Exotic Taste: Orientalist Interiors, by Emmanuelle Gaillard, principal photography by Marc Walter, landed in my mailbox earlier this fall, it was almost like Christmas in September. Pages packed with sumptuous full-color images of architectural interiors, wallpapers, textiles and pattern books.

Certainly, much has been written about Orientalism and the Chinoiserie style, but few publications have put together so many instructive images in one place ~ modern and historic photographs of seldom-published interiors from St. Petersburg to Naples. Gaillard’s text lucidly explains the origins of the Western passion for the exotic and traces its development throughout Europe, from the restrained elegance of the 18th-century “Embroidered Room” in the Chinese Pavilion at the palace of Drottningholm, Sweden (above), to the pure exuberance of the late 19th-century Arab Hall at Leighton House in London (below). My one criticism is that, given the tremendous role that The Netherlands played in trade of ideas between East and West, there are no Dutch interiors included. The famous Chinese Room and Japanese Chamber at Huis ten Bosch in The Hague for starters. (But really, I am just being greedy.)

My only hope is that someone will write a similarly luxurious book on the exotic in America, beginning with the “Chinese Room” room at Gunston Hall in Virginia (one of the earliest such expressions of Chinoiserie in the colonies), to Olana, the famous Persian-style home of Frederic Edwin Church in the Hudson Valley, and the now lost Iranistan of P.T. Barnum (pieces of which can be seen at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut).

All photographs courtesy of Vendome Press.

From top to bottom: 1) the “Embroidered Room” in the Chinese Pavilion at the palace of Drottningholm, Sweden; 2 and 3) elevation of the Arab Hall, Leighton House, London, built 1877 and 1899 by Geroge Aitchison, and a view of the actual hall; 4 and 5) detail of a tapestry, Asia, Sallandrouze Factory, after Jean-BaptisteAmédée Couder, 1844 (Musée du Louvre), and slant-top writing desk (once owned by Madame de Pompadour), attributed to Adrien Faizelot-Delorme (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris); 6 and 7) detail of a long shawl designed by A. Berrus, manufactured in Paris, and a “sortie-de-bal” made from a cashmere shawl (Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris); 8) samples of woodblock-printed cotton, 1792 (Musée de la Jouy, Jouy-en-Josas, France).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

book week 2011

Well . . . it's that time of year again! Normally I ask some fellow bloggers (and friends) to contribute to book week, but there has been such a flurry of fabulous new publications this year that I thought I'd put together a holiday wish list of my top favorites. From kids to cooks to connoisseurs . . . I have a bunch of goodies in store! So bibliophiles, polish up those reading glasses and stay tuned. The party starts tomorrow.

Until then, cheers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

that golden light

On sunday the gentleman and I ventured out to Georgetown for an afternoon walk, stopping along the way to take photographs and admire the Halloween decorations. We ended up at Café Bonaparte, known for its crêpes and Belgian frites. An hour later, a "glass of beer" had somehow turned into dinner and we walked out with our tummies full. That wonderful golden autumnal light followed us home, lengthening our shadows with each step.

The days are getting shorter.

Be well, friends.