Herbert Hoover was not the most popular president, but he had good taste when it came to soups.
This was one of his favorite recipes, and it’s both easy to prepare and delicious.
President Hoover’s Favorite Mushroom Soup
1 pound mushrooms, diced very small
1 cups cold water
2 cups stock, seasoned to taste
2 cups light cream
1 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. whipped cream
Immerse mushrooms in cold water for two hours, then simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. Strain liquid and add seasoned stock. Blend cream and flour with a little cold milk until perfectly smooth. Add to mushrooms and stock. Sieve through a very fine strainer. Serve cold or hot.
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and attended Kingswood Elementary School.
(I was sad to learn recently that the school had been torn down.)
I walked to school to each day – usually with my friends, or not, if we had a fight.
In sixth grade I fell in love with a fifth grader. I don’t even remember his name, but once he gave a flower to one of my friends, to give to me. I was swooning all day.
I had a teacher named Mrs. White and another named Mr. Friend.
I got a lot of “Talks too much” on my report card, and my favorite thing was stopping at a little store to buy candy treats on my way home from school.
My lovely summer afternoons were spent in our backyard, where there was a worn-down playhouse and an apple tree. I had picnics with friends and played with Barbies at the park and imagined which rock star I would marry one day.
Recently I came across this old legend about dandelions, which reminded me of the kinds of games I would play when I was little:
Pick a dandelion puff and turn in the direction where your beloved lives. Blow once on the flower. If even a single seed remains, it means the one you care for thinks of you, too. Then pick a second dandelion and blow again; the number of seeds that remains foretells the number of children you will have.
My grandfather fought in the Navy during WWII. One of my favorite photos shows him in his Navy uniform; he’s holding my grandmother, his wife, whose back is to the camera, and he’s winking.
He was a bit cantankerous, my grandfather. I’m sure he’d had a terribly hard life as a child, and that made him a hard man. Whenever I went to visit my grandparents, he was pretty much quiet and kept to himself. He had a favorite chair where he liked to sit, he chewed tobacco, and he loved to play Dominoes.
My grandfather had absolutely nothing to do with religion. I have perhaps never met a man who had less to do with religion, in fact. But about 35 years ago, when my brother was bar mitzvah, he wrote me a letter that included a joke about a bar mitzvah boy (from Readers Digest, I believe). It was the only letter he ever sent me.
I have two items that had belonged to my grandfather. One is a five-piece collection of his drawings on the backs of envelopes, all showing comics that I’m sure were slightly risque. He sent these to my grandmother during WWII, and he was a very talented artist.
The other is a red sweater with braided leather buttons. For many years I kept this in a closet downstairs, to preserve it. But then my eldest daughter Adina found the sweater and wanted to keep and wear it, and I said, of course.
Last night was difficult, as my middle daughter Talya is in the hospital. Adina and I went to visit her, and I noticed that Adina had on that red sweater. My grandfather would have been thrilled to know how much she loves it. And that she chose to wear it last night seemed like my grandfather was winking at me, giving me a thumbs-up, just like the photo, and whispering, “Be brave.”
Don’t you love vintage milk bottles?
I have two, and I keep my coffee creamer (I’m a big coffee drinker) in one of them.
I wish you could still get milk delivered to your home, and it would have that pure cream at the top that all the kids wanted. I imagine it would have been wonderfully sweet and rich.
There are three vegetarians in my family, so we eat many dairy dishes. Here’s an easy and delicious dairy meal that’s perfect for anyone with celiac disease, too.
5 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup milk
2 cups grated cheese (we like a mix of mozzarella and cheddar but really, any kind will do)
1 cup mixed veggies (we like mushrooms and broccoli)
Seasoning, to taste (salt and pepper, of course, but also dill, garlic, rosemary)
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Mix ingredients and bake about 45 minutes, until puffy and golden.
I lived in New Orleans for a year, and it’s quite unlike any city I’ve ever experienced. In the short time I was there so many odd things happened that I have particularly sharp memories of those days. Just two blocks away from my apartment a Tulane student was murdered (a professor I knew – a man who always dressed in white – discovered her body); the case was never solved. I met a young woman who allowed birds to fly freely throughout her apartment. I often wandered around the French Quarter, where I bought a perfume called Pirate’s Gold and walked through the shops that sold everything from “voodoo dolls” to animal teeth in magic shops. I went to Mardi Gras and caught necklace after necklace of shiny green, purple and gold. I went to the World’s Fair, drank coffee with chicory, dated someone whose father had so many Mafia connections I never had to pay a parking ticket and who became the center of an infamous murder trial (he was accused of killing his wife. Imagine my astonishment when I couldn’t sleep one night and turned on “The New Detectives,” only to see an episode on this very case). I ate so many snow cones with the most wondrous flavors (I liked wedding cake.)
Living in New Orleans I felt alive.
All the colors, the tastes, the sounds of this city have stayed with me so perfectly. And sometimes, when I want to wrap myself in the past, I simply take out my tiny container of Pirate’s Gold perfume and smell, and there I am.
New Orleans also is famous for its pralines, which are called prah-leens, not pray-leens, as anyone who ever lived there will tell you. I ate plenty of these, too. Here’s a recipe I received from my grandmother:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup cream sherry
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup pecans
Boil sugars, sherry and cream to soft-ball stage. Add butter and pecans. Beat until it starts to get thick, then drop by spoon fulls on wax paper.
Isn’t it curious how some foods seem to be very much in fashion – and then disappear?
One of the most charming of these is milk toast. Popular in the early part of the 20th century, milk toast seems to have completely vanished.
(And may I add that ‘milquetoast’ is positively one of my favorite words, and that I went out with a few such unfortunate men before I met my wonderful husband. Shiver.)
Milk toast is a delicious breakfast on a cold winter day or as a late-night snack (I’m very fond of those). I like to think of children in the 1930s, perhaps having spent their Sunday afternoon playing in the snow, and then it’s late and they’re very tired, and that night they are cuddling under a quilt when their mother comes by with a bowl of steaming and yummy milk toast.
Give it a try!
2 slices white bread
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp. sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
Toast bread and top with butter. Set in a bowl.
Gently heat milk, adding sugar and nutmeg. Stir gently.
Pour milk over toast and let stand until toast begins to swell.
I’m not a very good sleeper.
Falling asleep isn’t the problem; I just can’t seem to manage staying asleep.
So in the middle of the night I can often be found here in my living room, where I like to read (these days I’m immersed in The Secrets of Station X, about life at Bletchley Park) and talk to my friendly fish, Worthington.
The other day my friend came for lunch and, when she saw this area, said, “It looks exactly like 1940s England!”
I love it here.