September 5, 2008

Princess of Pig Heads

After burning not one, but TWO batches of strawberry-raspberry cupcakes last night, I thought my Moody Kitchen had sunk to a new level of moodiness. First a flood, and now a fire. I guess the Second Coming is much smaller and more localized than the Scriptures would like to have you believe. If you don't wish to experience a mini-apocalypse, stay away from my kitchen.

If you live in an old house, though, you've got to make peace with the fact that nothing is predictable. Sooner or later a hose will bust, or an oven's thermostat will grow slightly out of whack. My new place is old--90 years old, to be exact. And even though I love thinking of all the delicious meals that have been prepared and feasted upon in my kitchen throughout those 90 years--pork roast, peach cobblers, roasted squirrel, etc.--the wear and tear does, at times, try my patience as a fledgling cook. Be it true for people or buildings, the older things get, the crazier they become. For the Moody Kitchen, this craziness has lately come in the form of minor floods and burnt cakes. However annoying these issues might be (especially when my cupcakes are on the line!), they make me appreciate the tasty treats my kitchen DOES allow me to create from time to time.

In the meantime, not only have I been aggressively preparing for Hurricane Hanna (I bought two cans of beans and, uh, a candle), but I have also been browsing through 2 foodbooks I purchased at an antique shop last weekend. God, are these books entertaining!

Swedish Smorgasbord: 100 Recipes for the Famous Swedish Hors D'oeuvres (1937) is hilarious, which I'm sure was not the tone the author (or should I say authoress?) intended to create in this piece. Mrs. Akerstrom-Soderstrom (yes, "Mrs." even appears on the book's cover) says that the purpose of the book "is to give American house-wives a perception and knowledge of how to prepare the many delicacies listed among Swedish hors-d'oeuvres." I love imagining Mrs. AS in front of the typewriter--her recipe index cards by her side, her back as straight as a flag post, her husband lusting after her silently in the background while nibbling on a fresh shrimp cocktail--considering with much forehead-crinkling seriousness what American women needed to know regarding the preparation of Swedish appetizers. Her voice is controlled and authoritative throughout; the introduction even refers to her as the "authoress." (If I ever publish anything, I will demand that people call me "authoress.")

Here is another excerpt from the introduction: "Should American hostesses, seeking to surprise their families or friends with new proofs of their talent or interest in cookery, turn to this little book, and find the suggestions therein both helpful and enlightening, the sincerest wish of the authoress will have been fulfilled."

I love this Swedish woman! As cover letter-like as these words sound, isn't it the goal of almost every cook/baker to satisfy our friends and family with "new proofs" of our talent, even when that talent is imaginary (as is the case with me)? I am comforted by knowing that if I enjoy the recipes in this book, the author's wishes "will have been fulfilled"...unless, of course, my oven burns the "Mock Turtle" made of "leftover fragments of veal."

Mrs. AS, also the author of The Princesses' Cook Book (no, I am not making this up), includes recipes that range from the deliciously simple--bacon-wrapped olives--to the, uh, disgustingly simple. An example of the latter would be the recipe that caused me to fork over the 35-cents for the book in the first place: "Pig's Head." You want to know the ingredients? According to the authoress, all you need is 1 brine-cured smoked pig's head and water. Oh--and don't forget to decorate the boiled head with creamed butter. Yes, creamed butter. There is actually an illustration of this buttered, bristly delight following the recipe. It looks much creepier than the one I pasted below.
Just in case you ever want to decorate a pig's head with creamed butter, here are the instructions: "Put some creamed butter into a paper cone, with a tiny hole at the end, and squeeze. Garnish the head according to taste and write 'Merry Xmas' on the forehead."

For some reason, the word "forehead" doesn't mesh well with the word "food" for me. But, then again, I am neither a Mrs., nor a Princess, nor a Swede, so perhaps I will never know about the delights of pig forehead. I'd surely give it a try were I invited to a Swedish Christmas dinner.

At any rate, this book is worth the skim if only to be fascinated by the upper-crust rhetoric (in sometimes awkward translation) of the early 1900s. Just as I can simmer for hours in the tight-collared rhythm of Victorian prose, so, too, is Mrs. Akerstrom-Soderstrom's blue-blooded voice one that gives me great joy. While funny at times, this type of book allows me to visit a new reality--a reality where kitchen floors are forever clean, and "Creamed Salmon Tid-bits" fill my belly before the dinner bell chimes.

(I'm still unsure, however, as to what the authoress means when she tells the reader to "wash the butter" in almost every recipe. Must be a princess thing...)

The other book that I purchased might resonate a little more with my lifestyle: The Enriched, Fortified, Concentrated, Country-Fresh, Lip-Smacking, Finger-Licking, International, Unexpurgated Foodbook by James Trager. I can't see Mrs. AS uttering even half of the words in this title.

And, about Trager? He ain't no Mister. Nor is he a prince. He did, however, live in a hotel when the book was published in 1970. And, he includes a delicious recipe for boiled horse saddle somewhere in the New World section of the book. Nope, this guy definitely wouldn't be invited to the Princess's house for Christmas pig head.

1 comment:

Hadley Gets Crafty said...

"...write Merry Xmas on the forehead." Oh my goodness. I wonder if I could make a pig shaped tofu roast thing and write Merry Xmas on its forehead. It would be terribly funny. Great for... Thanksgiving perhaps.