Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bon Appetit

Was reading through the September Bon Appetit and trying to relax before heading out to work today and came across a couple of things I loved in the magazine.

First off in the travel section which is about the Bahamas it gave reference and pictures to Tippy's which is on the Island of Eluethera and right next door to Betty's house. Betty is our neighbor, well she is more than that, but let's just leave it at that for today's blog post. In the aerial photo you can see Betty's house to the left of Tippy's. She also owns the property that is vacant in the upper left of the photo. I believe it is two acres and it is for sale if there are any interested buyers out there. Scott and I spent a lovely 2 weeks there this past March. It is paradise.

Another shout out in Bon Appetit was for Hungry Mother's which is in Cambridge, Massachusetts and whose pastry chef is a Norfolkian and school-mate friend of my daughter Molly's. Her name is Heather Tirrell and here is a link to her new blog. I also love that their logo is a Cardinal, which is a very significant bird in my life.

I was inspired by the magazine and with only a few minutes left before heading to work, I pulled up the Bon Appetit website to have a look around and there before me was an article stating that Portland, Maine is this year's Foodiest Small Town in America. Wow again. Molly lives in Portland and we are heading for a visit toward the end of the month.

Food is such a big part of my life. I love everything about it.
It made my day seeing places I know and love highlighted in a national cooking magazine. Thanks Bon Appetit for the many years of enjoyment and recipes I have garnered from your pages.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Well that was fun!!

Patti and I had a wonderful time doing another segment for Connecticut Style yesterday morning. I arrived at her house to pick her up at 7:15 and we managed to get on the road by 7:30 with food in tow and ready to go. Oh dear, now I am a poet!

When you arrive at the station you need to call them so they can let you into the locked doors, however Patti forgot Connie's phone number so we just hoped an angel would help us out and we were not disappointed. Within less than a minute there was someone to help us into the station, coolers, plates, cookbooks and aprons in hand.

We were then able to set up completely for the shoot in a very quite studio. Quiet except for Big Daddy, Moody and a few camera robots lurking around. We love all of them!

With everything set and ready to go we went to the "ladies room" to polish our unkempt hair and put on a "dab" Huh! more makeup! As we opened the door out of the studio who was standing there ready to walk into the studio but none other than the star of the show, Miss Sonia. Lots of hugs and kisses.

Hair and makeup fixed we went back to the studio to get ready to shoot.
I wore the apron I highlighted in the previous blog post and Miss Patricia wore a VERY SPECIAL apron signed by the grand dame of cooking herself, Julia Child.

5..4..3..2 "we're ready to shoot?", I exclaim.

Yup..1...and off we went. No time to fret or prepare thoughts, just off and taping...and then it was over.

Patti and I are preparing our next segment so stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vintage Aprons

Last spring when we were first asked to do a segment on Connecticut Style, Patti and I thought of bringing back a time when life was slower paced and food was home cooked (not packaged in a cardboard box ready for the microwave). We wanted to hear stories and memories of yesteryear and the food that brought families together. We still would love to hear those stories and hope through this blog, more stories and recipes will be shared.

I have been known to go a bit over the top when I get "into" something. I research it and want to be true and accurate. It can be a little annoying to some. Sorry. This was my approach a few months ago when Patti and I started Meals~Memories and Messages. I started searching out at tag sales, thrift shops and eBay, items and cookbooks that were from eras gone by. I love reading the pamphlets that came with refrigerators and other appliances and I will share them with you in the days ahead. Some of them are true gems.

The other item I started collecting was vintage aprons. How glorious it feels to wear one and bake a pie. I had rarely worn one in the past while cooking, instead ruining a fair amount of clothes over the years with stains and even burns. But now I have seen the light.

I have hostess aprons (not REALLY meant for serious cooking) and aprons that wrap all around by body and even have pockets. I have a few workhorse aprons that I know were tenderly used by a women I will never know to make delicious meals. They are hand-sewn and smell like Crisco and all things wonderful even after some washings.

This beauty above was given to me recently by my daughter for my 50th birthday.

I love these aprons and will share more of them in future posts. Do you have a favorite apron? Share it with me here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Connecticut Style. Hope you will watch.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from the producer of Connecticut Style asking Patti and me to be on the show this coming Friday. Sure I said, completely unsure as to how we could pull off a segment with just a couple of days notice.

Patti and I brainstormed and thought of doing a segment on school lunches that were prepared with love my mothers and fathers of days gone by. But we could find little inspiration or recipes, for that matter. PB &J, bologna and american cheese or tuna sandwiches did little to inspire a segment worth watching. ( If you have a favorite school lunch meal, memory or recipe please do share).


Having just blogged about Julia Child as an inspiration for my passion for cooking, I gave Patti a call and left her a message suggesting some of Julia’s recipes. She called back loving the idea and so that is where we will go with the segment.


This morning I pulled out my cookbook The Way to Cook to look for inspiration and a recipe or recipes that we could do in a matter of minutes on a television segment. I think I have found them, but I need to check with Miss Patti and see what she thinks. You my friends will have to watch the segment to see. See you there.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Inspired by Julia?

For those that know me, cooking is a passion that has been with me for over 30 years. As mentioned in the previous post, I kind of understand where it came from, but that only hints at how it developed. I have never really questioned my inner self about it until this moment. Right here, right now. So bear with me as I ponder and question my inner self, before your very eyes.

As I mentioned, my mom saw cooking as a chore, and although her mother, who was Italian, could cook, she did not influence me. I don’t remember eating too many of her dishes other than her famous (within our family) fried dough. My other grandmother was Irish and I don’t recall ever having a meal that she cooked. She baked for us once in awhile, but was not known for her cooking skills. No aunts or uncles to pass this down to me. Sorry Karen, but no big sister to teach me. Could it have been Home Economics in seventh grade with Mrs Pitt? Maybe a little bit, and sewing for sure, but that is another story.

Hmmmm, I just can’t come up with a family member or other person who I had contact with other than “the Welz girls and Grammy Thompson”. But there was Julia. I would watch her on TV and giggle as she cooked in her beloved effervescent way. She taught me that cooking was fun and not intimidating. I saw it as an extension to who I was. Nothing was too hard for me to try. And try I did.

In today’s school system, there is no doubt that I would have been labeled and possibly drugged for ADD (Attention Deficit Delight). I refuse to call it a “disorder”. How dare they. I am inquisitive, and quick minded and move fast from subject to subject. I can multi-task with the best of them and this is a trait often needed in the kitchen. I can move in many directions (in my mind) at once, I love to follow directions and this is how I came to REALLY understand the world of cooking and food. I read cookbooks and followed the directions to a T. I collected and collected cookbooks, comparing one recipe with another for the same dish.

The first cookbook I owned was given to me for a bridal shower present in 1979 and written by Julia Child. I was just 19 years old. It was Julia Child & Company (1978). Unfortunately I no longer have it. But I do have, and use often , The Way to Cook.

As I come to the end of my musing, I’m not sure if I have come to a firm conclusion on where I learned my love of cooking. I guess it has just been a journey. One meal and recipe at a time.

Grandma Bishop’s Fried Dough (not really fried at all)

Dough recipe courtesy of

4 cups bread or all purpose flour (white)
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 packet active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil (any good brand), but extra virgin is best
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar, or 1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup milk or 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven 450°F.

I prefer using milk for the liquid in this recipe. It adds flavor to your dough. But if you don’t have it, use water.

Using a large ceramic mixing bowl, or any suitable food safe bowl, add the flour, make a “well” in middle, and put in 1 teaspoon salt, stir to combine well. Set aside.

Prepare the starter: In a liquid measuring cup pour in 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon sugar or honey, and one package of active dry yeast. Stir and set aside for 5 minutes. Allow to foam up (or proof).

Next, mix the starter (yeast water) and the milk in the bowl containing the flour with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir together using a wooden spoon or clean hands.

Note: You will need additional flour to knead on the surface that you’re working on. Knead for about 8 minutes or until you get a smooth elastic rubbery dough ball.

Set aside in bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil to keep the dough from drying out. Let dough sit covered lightly with plastic wrap or use a plate or damp clean towel to cover it.

Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes to an hour.

Grandma Bishop’s preparation

Take a handful of dough and form into small ball. Bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball. Place on oiled cookie sheet (6 to a sheet) and flatten slightly with palm of hand to shape of disc. Cover with towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Heat 1/2 cup of good olive oil in bottom of large skillet on medium heat. You do not want it getting to a smoking level. Carefully place 3-4 pieces of dough into pan and let brown. Flip dough and brown other side. Turn down heat if it is browning too fast. The inside needs to cook as well. If you feel the dough has browned too fast and the inside needs more cooking. Place dough on sheet pan into 350 degree oven to finish cooking.

Top with your favorite sauce and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Dedication to the Welz Girls and Grammy Thompson

The summer bounty from our garden is in full bloom and with that lots of cooking to make use of these wonderful gifts from God. I just love the process of seeing food go from seeds, to seedlings, to plants, to vegetables and finally to either a simple or complex meal on the table.

Cooking has been a passion of mine since I was a small girl. In my home growing up we had five children of which I was the fourth. Although my mother cooked for the whole family every night, my mom did not enjoy cooking. It was just another chore for this thoroughly modern women of the 60’s and 70’s, and she used prepared food often.

One of my best friends in grammar school, Karen Welz, also came from a family of five, where she too was number four. We went to kindergarten together in Norfolk, Conn and then onto Catholic school in a town thirty minutes away for first and second grade. I don’t really remember the reason, but for third grade my parents sent me and my brother to another Catholic school and Karen changed to the elementary school in the town of Norfolk, Center School. I disliked my new school immensely and cried almost every day on the way to school begging my father not to make me go. It was so traumatic that they finally sent be to a counselor. Actually I think it was a psychiatrist. I was miserable. Again, I don’t remember if it was my ranting or what, but for fourth grade I was finally put in Center School where I reunited with not only Karen, but other friends from town. I was happy again although still somewhat traumatized, and would not spend the night at any friends house until a fateful summer night when I was invited over to the Welzes.

All five girls fawned over me and made it so much fun to spend the night that I stayed for a week. With (I think) brief visits to my home which was walking distance away. Or maybe I saw my mother at our local beach and that was enough to satisfy me that all was well at home. I worried a lot as a child. Which is why latter in life I developed the website

I digress. The Welz’s had a house full of girls and I loved it. The oldest daughter Ann loved to bake and often times (it felt like every day to me) there was a lovely cake or cookies for us to eat. These were not the boxed cakes that I was familiar from in my home, they were sifted and measured and made from fresh ingredients. I thought this was fantastic. It was beyond my imagination and soon I asked my mother if I could bake a cake from “scratch”.

My mom was agreeable and we set to finding the perfect cake. My dad loved bananas and I chose a banana spice cake. The only thing I remember about making this cake was making a “special” list of ingredients to set out for the milkman. Cream, cream cheese and extra eggs.

The next thing I tried to bake was a cheesecake. I must have been about eleven years old. I felt fairly confident in my ability and don’t remember asking for help…thus…I put 3 Tablespoon of salt instead if 3 teaspoons and it was a disaster and had to be thrown away. That was an expensive mistake.

Another best friend of mine was Caryn O’Brien or OB for short. She was an only child and lived with her mom and grandparents. Her home was another, completely different from my own. Here they at “formal” dinners at the expansive dining room table…and they ate late. Most nights I spent there, Caryn and I ate in the enormous eat-in kitchen well before the adults. This was so exotic and wonderful. Her grandmother, Grammy, was a wonderful cook. Straight out of the pages of Julia Childs. I remember watching her make “Chicken Croquettes” and being amazed. I could not believe people ate this way, but for Caryn, it was just the way things were. I was inspired again.

I know for a fact that having these two girls as friends changed my feelings about food forever. I wanted to be able to make anything and know how to do it. As a very young bride of 19, I invited my whole family and by husband at the time’s family over for our first Thanksgiving. My grandparents even flew northeast to share in this event. I made EVERYTHING from scratch. From Boston Brown Bread, Sally Lunn Rolls and pies to ordering a real Smithfield Ham from Virginia to go with the turkey. It still amazes me today.

So cheers to you my friends Caryn and Karen…who I might add are both amazing cooks…for inviting me over and sharing your wonderful homes with me.

Here we are today

Here we are today

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Toast Party

Recently I picked one of these up at a tag sale. It is a chrome wonder! When I researched it on the web I found out that MY toaster was made sometime between March 1946 and June 1947 and it STILL works.

It came with its own toast cutter and prongs for removing the toast. Upon further research I happily discovered that it was part of a “toaster set” called a “Toastmaster Hospitality Tray”. So with that swell news I think I am up for hosting a ‘toast party’. Who wants to come?


Ad reads: When you own a Toastmaster Hospitality Set, your cocktail parties are an assured success. Your guests don’t have to juggle as they handle a glass, canape, a napkin or a cigarette. They use the roomy, different Toastmaster Lap Tray. And you too “Join the Party” because your time is not taken up preparing hors d’oeuvres. Let the guests make their own. They simply help themselves to toast and to the tasty spreads contained in the beautiful Duncan glass dishes, and go on their way praising your good taste and good providing.

Gosh, I just love the simplicity and yet formality of it all. I am going to check into this further and as sure as the day turns into night I am going to host a party. Why wouldn’t I? It sounds like it is a snap to prepare. Ladies and Gents get ready.