July 30, 2009

The Warmest Room in the House

Hmmm, what's the warmest room in the house today? If I fired up the cookstove the kitchen would be ... and it is tempting. Geologists are up in Monte's office again today and I've just learned I need to have another lunch for them today too. They were here yesterday, six (more drifting in later) for a gourmet lunch with my stuffed, grilled poblanos they love and white chili chicken soup. I've been experimenting with making sourdough bread, so buttered, garlic salted some slices under the broiler yesterday too, to go with the soup.

A cold front blew in with rain Monday night, so since Tuesday it's been 20 degrees cooler, and when the sun's not shining here, it's cool. I'm feeling a bit chilled right now. I'm going to reheat yesterday's soup with some from the freezer and look for a possible appetizer to go with it. Since it's not raining right now I just checked my high-low thermometer and the night's low was 38. Heard it's snowing further into the mountains right now. And it's currently 48 here. See why I might fire up the cookstove?

I'm reading a book from the library called The Warmest Room in the House by Steven Gdula. I think I need to own the book. A Trivial Pursuit game could be created from the book, focused on food history. It's got a lot of American history - through the kitchen door. Like did you know it was Napoleon Bonaparte's quest for a food that traveled and stored well that led to the invention of canning in 1809? And following the Oregon-California Trail Donnar party fiasco canned evaporated milk was invented? I knew of the Donnar cannibal story but didn't know the 'rest of the story': that a Gail Borden was trying to create a dried meat concoction sounding something like Pemmican, but eventually led to milk in a can.

It shows how much American history can be gotten from back issues of Good Housekeeping magazine going back to the beginnings of 1900! Like all the war efforts of saving food at home so more food for the troops - lots of green going on then - encouraging gardening. Because the Germans said they'd figured out how to pack food for a month of survival in an 8x6 box, America took up the challenge.

I have some of the early cookbooks mentioned: like The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book from 1897, which became the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. And my study of nutrition was called Household Chemistry back at the end of the 1800s at MIT. A goal was to understand the structure of food and understanding food safety and working towards the labeling of ingredients in foods. I thought of an old book we have on microscope experiments that started with learning what water molecules look like, and salt, and sugar. When you start from there and look at say butter, you might see the difference in cheap vs more expensive butter.

Another thing happening back at that turn of the century was with Industrialization, the kitchen was returning to the massing of homes and needing to be analyzed for efficiency now that slaves and servants were no longer doing the kitchen work. That reminded me of another fun book to read: Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth Jr (NOT the recent movie! The movie is it's own story borrowing only the book title. The book is hilarious! and the dad was a hoot and involved in this movement of efficiency. And while you're at it, go on and read Belles on Their Toes, written by one of the 12 kids, and then there's a book the mom wrote too, I forget the name.)

Anyway, I need to get busy. And I am freezing now, tho I have on a long sleeve, pants and hand-knit socks. I think I am going to start a fire in the cookstove!



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