Monthly Archives: May 2020

Grandma’s Irish soda bread

My Irish grandmother, Annie Allen, arrived at Ellis Island in 1909, a twenty-one-year-old with two little boys, four and two, in tow. I can’t imagine. She joined her husband, who’d come ahead two years earlier and had never met his son Sam. Grandma set up house, had two more kids, and lived a long life in her own home, cooking, baking, and tending her garden until she passed in her late 80’s. As a young lad, I enjoyed her “Irish Cake” sitting with her for tea, a ritual she held to every afternoon around four whether I was there or not. Grandma’s Irish Cake is a variety of Irish soda bread, loved by many. We never captured her exact recipe, which I can be sure, came straight from County Down, where Grandma probably learned it from her mother, Mary Anne McGee.

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Mom’s potato salad

Summer’s here, and the time is right—for the old family recipe potato salad. The Queen Mum (this would be Dad’s mother-in-law) has a great recipe for potato salad that has been a family favorite for decades. She can’t recall where it came from and has “modified” whatever the original was, but she can’t quite recall how. This is no doubt the story of many old family recipes.

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Whole lotta bakin’ goin’ on

If you’re doing more baking during our current stay-at-home time, I’m sure you’ve noticed you’re not alone—judging at least by the bare grocery store shelves where the flour ought to be. I’ve been doing a lot more baking than usual, which is to say more than hardly any baking at all. Baking is tough when you’re trying to stay Keto. But we remain calm and carry on.

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The food revolution at scale

Any kind of new business, venture, cause, or movement eventually asks, “How do operate our solution at scale?” In other words, When new orders increase by a factor of 10, then 100, then 1,000, etc., how do we maintain our delivery promise, our ability to look and feel like we did when we were small and fresh?

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My first loaf

Another thing I inherited from Grandma—along with a deep appreciation for the warmth and sense of security that can happen in the family kitchen—was humility about my cooking and a certain dread that trying something new probably just won’t be as good as you’d hoped. “Oh, it’s not as good as…trails off…” always led to “Oh, it’s fine,” from my mom or another daughter-in-law. As the offspring of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and Norwegian Lutherans, I ask forgiveness for these feelings.

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“Food is something you eat with bread.” — Rick Easton

I avoided making yeast bread until now because it always seemed too fussy, time-consuming, and hard. Poor me. 🙂 Then, a friend started making his own sour dough bread. It’s reminiscent of San Francisco, our old home, and as good as any I’ve ever tasted. Now that I’ve got some time on my hands—you know why—I’m going to take the plunge. I’m starting with a no-knead recipe that I’ll adapt from recipes by Jacques Pepin and Mark Bittman. A day-and-a-half from now, I should have my first samples. Wish me luck.

Lime cream pie

I never make pie…well, hardly ever until now when we’re at home more. This take-off on key lime pie from a long-time friend, is an easy, fast, and fantastic diversion during a pandemic, or anytime. I have made this several times, trying out various store-bought Graham Cracker crusts. The one from the elves is best. I followed their (the elves) suggestion and brushed the crust with egg white, pre-baking it for five minutes. I sprinkled sparkling sugar for an extra kick and that really worked. I used regular old limes instead of key limes—not the easiest to get in Chicago—but was very happy with the result. The pie made it through three nights of binge-watching.

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