The Book: CHARLESTON RECEIPTS Collected by the Junior League of Charleston (S.C.), 1950. Printed by Walker, Evans & Cogswell; 15th printing, 1968. Spiralbound, missing back cover. Previous owner's name ("Ellen C. Lamb") on front flyleaf. Pages are slightly brown with age.
First read: 1970 (approximately)
Owned since: 2007
This book is another legacy from my mother. I suppose I could have bought my own copy, but it means more to have hers.
As a child, I used to read this book like a historical novel. It describes a way of life that was already an anachronism in the mid-1950s, a society in which one might need a punch recipe that served 140 people (Rum Punch: 1 gallon brandy, 1/2 gallon rum, 1 pint peach brandy, 2 quarts black tea, 2 dozen lemons, sugar to taste, 5-6 quarts carbonated water), or be able to make a syllabub with "three squirts from the cow."
Each chapter begins with quotations in Gullah, the Lowcountry dialect, that might well be considered offensive today. I haven't seen the most recent edition of this book, but I suspect that it now begins with an introduction that apologizes for its context. My mother used to give newer editions of this book as wedding presents; I believe you can still order it directly from the Charleston Junior League.
It's a practical cookbook, though, as well as a historical artifact. I've made the Lady Baltimore Cake for more than one occasion, though it includes a cooked frosting, and I don't usually like to make those. The recipes for cheese straws and cheese wafers are essentials, and I remember Mom making the cheese roll recipe for Christmas one year. (Like all mid-century cookbooks, this one is heavy on the canapes; I love canapes.)
That said, it includes recipes I will never make. You will never eat Bluff Plantation Cooter Pie at my table; quit snickering, "cooter" means "turtle." The recipe for Roast Possum is wasted on me, too, as I have nowhere to hang a possum for 48 hours before cooking, as the recipe recommends.
We had more snow and ice last night, and the roads were really bad. Driving home from trivia, I spun out into a snowbank. No harm done; I was going very slowly, and remembered the rules about turning into the skid. But today the sun is out, and the temperature's supposed to approach 40, so I'm hoping everything melts -- at least for a day or two.
Five Random Songs
"Marry Me a Little," Raul Esparza. From the soundtrack of the Company revival, one of the newest additions to my collection -- a birthday/Christmas gift from my friend Tom. Thanks, Tom!
"Koka Kola," The Clash. The pause that refreshes in the corridors of power. I hope I get to see the Joe Strummer documentary somewhere over the holidays. God only knows when it will get to Maine, if it ever does.
"Summer Dress," Red House Painters. From Voices from the Dark, the CD John Connolly put together to accompany the US edition of The Black Angel. Romantic and sad.
"How Long Has This Been Going On," Carmen McRae. From the Verve Remixed CD.
"Do Ya," Electric Light Orchestra. Another great song ruined by its overexposure in TV commercials, and I can't even remember what the commercial is for.