Saturday, September 21, 2013

"T'aint worth wrappin' 'round my fingah!"

Yup, we all have our regional dialects, some are less dominant while others are so noticeable, "they ah spurted out faster 'n we kay'ah to notice". Although many people have told me to neglect trying to cover it up, I am always(now that I have taken some national spots)trying to pronounce my R's and get rid of that nasally twang often associated with Yankee speech. To me, listening to myself on-air or through the media, I sound like a back-woods cook. Not to say I am not proud of everything I stand for as well as my ingrained speech patterns, there are just times that I wish I could simply pronounce just one R.
Regardless, take a moment and look at some of the terms and "Yankee-isms" from days gone by that your forefathers and mothers unmindfully mumbled, much the same way we pay no attention to what we say today. (Great Keezer's ghost, my Yankee-ism's are really thicker 'n fiddlers in Hell I noticed after rereading all of my posts.)

My friend, Tim Sample, is a great resource as well with regards to our way of life, speech patterns and especially Yankee humor and story telling. You can find him at, on YouTube and he has a multitude of books you can take a peek at through Barnes and Noble and other sites and stores. His resume is extraordinary and lengthy, with a stab at national exposure  many times over as well. I initially wanted Tim(and he had agreed) to write some New England stories for my cookbook, The Yankee Chef, but my editor thought the 760 pages was a tad too heavy so I am hopeful my next cookbook will contain some good ol' Yankee humor as only Tim Sample can do.

 In the meantime, enjoy these long-forgotten terms. I have included only a few of the ones I remember my Dad telling me. And as the post title says, these aren't worth wrappin' 'round my fingah, but it is nice keeping them from being furgottin'!

Caught. "The milk was "caught" before it was burned."
On the mending hand or Able to set up and eat a few porridges. A convalescent. "My grandmother is on the mending hand".
Spandy. Shortened from Spic and Span, clean.
Thatchy. If the cream cheese or milk tastes "thatchy" it was because the cow ate thatch, a long, coarse grass that prevalently grew in slat marshes of old.
up in your bean water. Agitated, angry opr simply lively.
Black as zip. Extremely black(my father used this phrase as long as I can remember)
Bluer 'n a whetstone. Sad or dejected.
Boozefuddle. Liquor
Dust yer back. To win at wrestling. "I'll dust your back if you want to wrestle."
Thick as fiddlers in hell. Very abundant
Like haulin' a hog out of a scaldin' tub. Very difficult
Herrin' choker. A Prince Edward Islander or native of any of the Down-east, Canadian provinces.
Don't know enough to lap salt. Extremely stupid
He ain't no bigger 'n a pint of cider. Very small
Prayer handles. Knees
Hot as a red wagon. Very drunk.
Slacker 'n dishwater. Very unkempt or dirty.
Slower 'n a jull-poke. Extremely slow.
Taller 'n a slackpole. Very tall.
Wee-Waw. Very loosely built or unsturdy. "That barn you raised is a wee-waw".
Jorum and Boozefuddle. A jug of liquor.
Gorim. Clumsy or foolish acting. "Jasper's kid is a mite gorim".
Cling John. A small rye cake
Last at Pea time. Hard up, desperate. "Widow Bailey has been last a pea time since her husband died".
Gander Party. A gathering of men only.
Cape Cod Turkey. Very obscure but it has come to mean any cooked, stuffed fish. It may have begun around Thanksgiving time, when some Cape Cod fishermen had a bad year fishing and could ill-afford turkey for their Holiday repast. Fish was their natural replacement, so stuffing and baking it in lieu of the turkey gave rise to Cape Cod Turkey.
Pot Luck.Originally meaning a some cabbage and corned beef, it was known as such as early as 1780. this should deter anyone from giving a Corned Beef and Cabbage the distinction of Irish origination. It is known that the Irish immigration didn't begin until over 50 years later.
Thank'ee Ma'ams. My Uncle Stan Demuth used to say that all the time as he was driving his car over a two quick hills, which in turn felt as though the inside of your stomach felt as though it was coming right up through your throat. Originally, to prevent a hilly road from being washed away in heavy rain, it was the custom long ago to make a series of barriers(little bumps similar to speed bumps of today) that would turn off any sudden current of water that may be rushing down a certain road. These barriers would give an emphatic jounce and a twist to a wagon that was descending. From the involuntary motion of the head nodding in an affirmative manner(much as you would speaking to a lady in those days) while going over these barriers gave rise to the phrase. And one would always say , "thank'ee ma'am" as you went over. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Taking a Breather

   I have been so busy with my second book, judging, appearances and book signings, I have been neglecting one of my only solace-rendering past-times.....reading. So I grabbed some very old manuscripts, recipes, stories and notes that my father had written before he died and I started reading them. Then I began to think that I should add some old time dishes that our grandparents, great grandparents and ancestors used to subside on and put them online so that they will never be forgotten.
   Some of us calm our nerves and relax by watching television while others take a walk or simply sit and think. I(like my father) love to "remember when...". Even though I don't personally remember these dishes, I have made them time and time again(I truly was meant to have been born many generations ago)
    I do love to think of how my parentage were huddled in their crude cabins in the middle of Bailey Hill with only the fire from the hearth casting its illumination. I love pondering how meals must have been so comforting and satisfyingly odoriferous. Granted we would snub our noses at homemade, real butter now and using leaf or hogs lard is a serious 'no-no' now, but the flavors and aromas of real food surely calmed the rowdy children and soothed the savage husband.
   Let me give you a few old-time dishes you may or may not have heard of. Food that was the energy giver for those hard working folks. People who didn't need to exercise to stay fit, but whose exercise was their daily chores and necessities of living.

Ambrosia, ca 17th century-mid-19th century. When we think of the word ambrosia today, some type of fruit salad mixed with a dairy product and topped with coconut comes to mind. Back a few generations, ambrosia(literally meaning food of the Gods) was simply corn. Generally it was the dried and milled corn that was deemed such.
   Hasty Pudding was made with dried corn(henceforth referred to as cornmeal). And although many of us have heard of Hasty or Indian Pudding, not so many knew that it was an absolute sin for it to be the least bit lumpy. My father used to say that it was originally made with milk and eggs and a "trifle of Muscovado sugar or Portorique molasses". Brown sugar sauce was generally made to top it off, which was just melted brown sugar.
   Back in the day, Indian pudding wasn't the insipid recipe many chefs use today, but nicely stirred, well-boiled without any two particles sticking together. People, also, don't know to to classically enjoy this dish as well. A spoon should be dipped into milk before it lifts the pudding to the mouth. This keeps it from sticking not only to the spoon, but to the inside of your mouth. It was meant to be enjoyed one spoonful at a time, each bite completely separated from the next.
   And do you think the Italians were the first to enjoy polenta? No, no, no, no! Eating hot Indian or Hasty Pudding was just as often seen in our homesteads of old as was cutting it when cold and grilling it in lard the next day. It is often written that when fried in fresh butter of cows who only ate clover, this meal was fit for a king.

Milk Porridge, ca 17th century-late 19th century. First water was boiled. Cornmeal was then added through ones fingers(acting as a type of coarse strainer) and the other hand was gripping a wooden paddle, stirring as the cornmeal was added to the water. When the corn was added, and the lot stirred for a time, fresh milk directly from the cow was very slowly added. It is said that you should not add the milk until you could see your nose reflecting off the surface of the cornmeal/water mixture.

Corn Biscuit, ca 18th century-late 19th century. This was an Indian luxury, and was made with one pound of butter, one pound of sugar, ten eggs and a pint of new milk, with just enough cornmeal to mold it into thin cakes. Sound familiar? It is now known as Pound Cake!

Whitpot, ?-mid-18th century. A very thin Indian Pudding, baked in a very slow oven(low temp) so that the milk, eggs and molasses formed a jelly throughout the entire pudding.

Herring Sticks, ?-late 19th century. From mid-May to mid-June, the herring run was on in all of New England in days gone by. Many old texts referred to Cape Cod herring as an alewife. Often called a "poor mans fish", it was freely gifted each year by the town to each child born within the township limits. Many townships actually enacted legislation ordering just such a gift!
  The herring was so plentiful that townships were not able to eat or locally sell them, so they were shipped to larger cities. One older lady, in her journal from New Hampshire, relates "I do relish a nice fresh herring with my breakfast".
   Salting and smoking was the norm to help keep a family fed through the lean months. Before salting or smoking, however, they were strung on sticks. The sticks were for the most part whittled from cedar, stripped from the old cedar, split rail fences everyone had around their property. The cedar sticks were passed through the gills of the fish with a dozen or so strung on each. On many New England roads, the lettered signs on the fences used to read, "Herring  10 cents a stick".

Lobster Stew. Now of course many, if not all, of us have heard of Lobster Stew, but would you like to know how to truly make it the old-fashioned way? The correct way? A little trivia first. Lobster Stew was almost always accompanied with a couple of sour pickles.
   Begin with the tomalley. Saute it in an equal amount of butter in a thick cast iron skillet for 5  minutes. Add the cooked and picked lobster meat and every bit of juice that came from the cooked lobster as you were shelling it. The ratio between lobster meat and juice should be about 50-50. You don't ever, EVER, add salt or pepper to lobster stew! Old cooks and housewives used to relate that lobsters got plenty of salt and seasoning from the ocean it lived in. I tend to agree!!
   Leave this stew on a hot fire for 5 minutes, then push it back to a cooler part of the stove to come down from boiling to a bare simmer for about 15 minutes. While still barely simmering, slowly(and they did mean SLOWLY) add your milk. Housewives say to "trickle" the milk into the stew, while constantly stirring. Add  rich cream after the milk has been added. When the stew blossoms out suddenly into a rich salmon pink under your spoon, you can know that the stew has been made properly and is now to remove from all heat sources and let cool for a hours . My father used to say that cooling the stew was just as important as making it. The flavor increases drastically. True lobster stew wasn't meant to be consumed when it is made, but rather cooled for many hours then reheated to enjoy.  As if.....

Muslin Toast, 18th century-mid-19th century. This was a favorite supper dish of many Yankee families. Now remember that dinner(or the noontime meal) was the heartiest of all repasts during the day, while supper was just enough food to hold you over until the table was laden for breakfast. Muslin Toast was a type of rye shortcake, the size of the skillet, that was grilled in sweet homemade butter on each side until very crispy. As each side was crispy, it was cut off and set aside. This was repeated until you had about 7-8 thinly crisped slivers of shortcake, with the last slice being grilled. All these crispy slices were then placed in a bowl of hot, thickened and salted milk.

My how times and appetites have changed. I loved looking back and I think I will continue this post within the next few days.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Just in time for Labor Day!

Ordinarily I would be posting recipes on my new website,, but my webmaster told me to stay the hell off it. Apparently I was doing more harm than good. All I can say in my defense is that my 15 year old wasn't there to help me with it. (Pretty sad huh? A grown man needing his young son for help[ with the computer?!)
I gladly relinquish that tedious job, but at least I can still post here once in a while. And besides, I don't need to edit so heavily here on my blog.

My father used to regale me with a story about his grandfather cooking corn. He told me that Frank(his grandfather) would wait by the woodstove for the pot of water to boil, when the corn was ready for picking. When the water started vigorously boiling, he would grab a couple of rags and grab the pot. Wasting no time, he would bolt out the back door with that dangerous pot of boiling water and head for the corn row. Setting it on the ground, Grampy Frank would rip off the corn silk and leaves and bend that stalk over so that the ear of corn would be submersed in that pot of water. It was only then that he would cut the ear from the stalk and continue on to as many as he could fit in that pot.
When full, he would then run back to the house and place that full pot of fresh corn on the cob back onto the stove to continue cooking till done.
Now don't laugh, there is some science behind this. Corn on the cob almost immediately begins to lose its natural sugars the moment it is picked, converting it to starch. So who do you think had the sweetest corn for supper those nights?
These recipes may sound a little out of the ordinary, but I assure you that one of them will be to your liking. So git the napkins out and commence to dripping butter down your chin.

Corn on the Cob with Garlic-Herb Butter
The perfect combination of that garlic flavor will compliment any protein dish you will be enjoying with your corn on the cob.

6 ears fresh corn on the cob, cooked
1 stick of butter or margarine
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Allow butter to come to room temperature. Mash garlic with a a mortar and pestle or simply use a sturdy fork so the garlic is mashed. It doesn't have to be lump-free however. . Beat butter with a hand-held or table top mixer until light and airy. Add the garlic, cayenne pepper and whatever amount of dried or freshly chopped parsley you desire. Continue beating until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until needed to slather on your hot corn on the cob.

Milk-Poached Corn on the Cob
By far, my favorite way to enjoy corn on the cob. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the milk does something to this corn that simple water cannot!

6 ears fresh corn on the cob, broken in half if desired
1 quart milk
2 cups water*
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Place the milk, water, butter and corn in a large pot with tight fitting lid. Place the pot over medium heat until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium low and gently simmer corn for 20 minutes. Remove lid every few minutes to rotate corn if it isn't completely submerged in the poaching liquid. Remove from heat and serve up straight from the liquid.

* or use 1 1/2 quarts low fat milk

Sweet and Salty Corn on the Cob
Hey!!!Don't cringe yet. Give it some thought. The corn is sweet and with the tiny little bit of honey mixed in with the butter, it can only heighten the taste of the corn. And about the bacon. It was just an item that popped into my head and I sure am glad I gave it a whirl. This is delicious, even after the third ear.

6 ears of fresh corn on the cob, cooked
1 stick butter or margarine
3 tablespoons honey
1 strip bacon, cooked and crumbled*

Let butter come to room temperature. With a hand-held or tabletop mixer, beat the butter on high for about 2 minutes, or until it is light and airy. Slowly beat in the honey until well incorporated. Add the bacon and continue beating until mixed well.Transfer to a bowl and cover to refrigerate until needed.

*Turkey bacon works very well here too.