Ike in an Apron: The President Who Cooked

January 30, 2017

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My family were never friends of Ike; we were Adlai people all the way.  Still, from where we now sit, the man looks like a saint.  Turns out he did more than issue a warning about the military-industrial complex; in a time when real men wore no aprons, Ike did all the family cooking. He’s looking better all the time!

This is from Ike The Cook. I found a copy on my bookshelf, but if you want one, you can find it here.

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Here’s Ike and Mamie on their wedding day – a surprising picture since you’re used to seeing them only as grandparents.  Who knew they were both so beautiful!

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Here are a few of Ike’s favorite recipes:

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And because I can’t resist, here’s Ike in his apron.


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Here’s Hope: Happy Year of the Rooster

January 28, 2017

IMG_0503.JPGJust listened to an interview with Cecilia Chiang on NPR, offering some optimistic news. At 97, Cecilia sees the move from the Year of the Monkey – nothing’s worse than that troublesome trickster – to the Year of the Rooster.  “The rooster wakes you up,” she said, “and that’s a hopeful sign.”

Cecilia is never wrong.  Twenty-eight years ago, when I was nine months pregnant, she insisted that should the baby fail to arrive by the end of the month I must have him induced. “You want a dragon baby,” she insisted. “Very important.”

The baby obliged, showing up in the nick of time. To this day Cecilia calls him “Little Dragon.”

If you want to celebrate Chinese New Year and a better future, here are Cecilia’s recipes for a few classic recipes:

lion’s head

steamed fish and dumplings.

Feeling more ambitious?  Here’s a recipe from Taiwanese cooking celebrity Pei Mei’s  1969 cookbook. IMG_0506.JPG IMG_0504.JPGIMG_0505.JPG

And while thinking of Cecilia, I was reminded of another nonagenerian San Francisco Chinese food celebrity, Henry Chung.  His tiny Hunan Restaurant introduced many of us to the fiery food of the region. Here’s his easier idea for duck.

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Curry Powder Past

January 19, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 12.24.15 PMLooking for old Chinese-language Chinese food cookbooks I came across Chong Jan & Co’s Chinese Cookbook: A High Class Cook Book in English and Chinese. As I flipped through the pages – amazingly, available  online through Harvard – I expected to find imperial cuisine of the Manchu emperor variety, or recipes in the tradition of chop suey – a dish that was surely ubiquitous in 1913 San Francisco.

But what I found was quite different. Recipes for forcemeats, hard sauces, fricassees. Instructions ridding those pesky English currant stains from linen tablecloths. This is a housekeeping manual for Chinese-speaking servants and while there is no mention of Chinese cuisine in the entire book, there is a chicken curry. And a mulligatawny soup:Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 1.50.12 PM

With barley!

The first commercial curry powder, should you care to know, was also a product of Anglo attempts to reproduce Indian flavors at home.  It was available for sale at a “perfumery” in England in 1784. Here’s the ad that announced this new elixir in the Morning Post: 

First-British-Curry-Advertisement1784-small Among a few specious claims, I like this one best. Curry powder, supposedly, “contributes most of any food to an increase of the human race.”

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Eating Banana Peels

January 13, 2017

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This was dinner last night; it might be the strangest recipe I’ve ever attempted.  You stuff the bananas, and then eat them, peel and all. Trust me – it’s delicious.

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The recipe is from this book:

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And this is what chick pea flour looks like:

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A (Fantastic) Alto Adige Dinner

January 10, 2017


I’d heard great things about Italienne, the new restaurant on 24th Street, but I was unprepared for the pure pleasure of the relaxed ambiance, caring service, lovely wine list and wonderful food.

We happened to land there on Monday, which the restaurant devotes to regional meals.  Last night honored Alto Adige, which is as close to Austria as Italy ever gets. This meal, which began with the plate above, was proof of that.

On the left, light, almost lacy slices of speck.  In the middle, cheese and potato cakes – rich, crisp, completely seductive.  And on the right, little herbed fresh cheese dumplings which were perfect on the restaurant’s flaky rolls.

There was also this faro soup, redolent of a rich meat stock.


On to canderli –

fullsizerender-9remarkably airy bread dumplings surrounded by apples, red cabbage and horseradish.

Next a major meat plate


smoked pork loin, a rib so rich it shattered at the touch of a fork, gorgeous sausage, sauerkraut and little nubs of roast potatoes.



apple strudel with a fior di latte gelato as soft as frozen velvet. 

Finishing this fantastic meal I had two thoughts: I wish my German father could have been here.  He would have LOVED this meal.

And… when can I come back and taste the rest of the menu?

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