Kitchen nostalgia

One of the reasons for my blogging silence of late was that I just spent almost two weeks on vacation, staying at my husband’s family house on Keuka Lake in upstate New York.

Steve Hager

The house, which is now owned by my husband’s mother and her siblings, was formerly owned by his grandmother, so David has lots of nostaglic memories of spending his summers there, where he got to swim, sail, and kayak to his heart’s content.

Though I usually enjoy cooking quite a bit during my vacations, I spent very little time in the kitchen this time. In part this is because food at the lake house tends to be very simple: bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches accompanied by Bugles are a family tradition for lunch, and just-picked peaches sold at the farmstand across the street were perfect for breakfast. I also got to enjoy a cooking holiday because my in-laws generously stepped up to do most of the food prep.

This suited me just perfectly because, well, I have a confession to make: I’m terrified of cooking in someone else’s kitchen. Sure, I have a few foodie friends, like the Working Cook, who have every tool I could want, and where I’ve cooked enough times to know my way around. Cooking at one of their homes is fine. But at rental houses, or the house of someone who doesn’t cook an awful lot, I’m horrified by the lack of sharpened chef’s knives. I’m frustrated when I can’t find a baking sheet that isn’t thin or too small. And I still have post-traumatic stress from that time I tried to cook blueberry pancakes for my in-laws at a vacation rental last year. The thin, scratched, and terribly warped frying pans in the rental house resulted in sad pancakes thathad a black, burnt circle on each side surrounded by a concentric circle of raw dough.

At any rate, my minimal cooking contributions in the past few weeks didn’t keep me from digging through the kitchen cabinets to see what was there. I found Dave’s grandmother’s recipe box, which had some truly horrific sounding recipes in it. They’re so awful I simply must try some of them, especially since grandma was a home ec teacher and, by all accounts, a pretty good cook. Maybe there’s something to that dish made out of bananas and rice topped with “your favorite cheese.” Maybe.

I also had fun pawing through the spices and condiments that expired in the last millennium. In addition to four jars of baking soda, none of them used in the slightest, I found several different extracts.

Says the bottle of maple extract: “For 1 pint of delicious syrup, Pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 cups sugar, Add 1/2 teaspoon Mapleine, Stir until dissolved.” *Shudder*

Then there were the spices, some of which are older than I am.

In case you can’t see, that’s a bottle of saccharine on the far right. And that yeast? It expired in 1966. I proofed it, mixing with warm water and a bit of sugar, just for jollies. I thought it would make for a good story if it actually bubbled and showed some signs of life. Let’s just say I was perhaps overly optimistic.

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