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Archive for June, 2012

A visit to the county fair marks the beginning of our summer.  This fair is in the middle of a bustling suburb.  It is amazing how quickly the busy suburb fades behind me as I enter the gates to the fair.  Scale it down a few notches in size, and I could be at the small-town fair of my youth.  Most things change over time, but not the fair.  Delicious corn dogs (really!), lemonade, crazy rides and even crazier carneys are still there.  Even in the 1970’s and 80’s, everything seemed so old-fashioned.  Enter the exhibition hall today and tell me you are not in the 1950’s.  Jam, pickles, quilts, sewing projects.  Even the display tables appear to be from an earlier era.  No rainbow-hued plastic IKEA-inspired displays here.

I am a 4-H alum so I have a soft-spot for all the youth entries.  Because of that, or maybe because I wanted to relive my youth, I encouraged my boys to enter the fair when they were younger.  They entered scout projects and cookies.  It was exciting for them to come home with blue ribbons or a coveted “Judge’s Favorite” rosette.  They are too old for the youth division now but not for the cookies that won a blue ribbon a few years ago.

Blue Ribbon Oatmeal Cookies

1 ½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (packed) light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup raisins

¼ cup chopped walnuts

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease baking sheets.
  • Toss the oats, flour, cinnamon, and baking soda together in a bowl.
  • Cream the butter and both sugars together in a mixing bowl until light.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Then slowly beat in the dry ingredients, then the raisins, and walnuts.
  • Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden, 10 minutes.  Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes; then transfer them to wire racks to cool.

Makes 4 ½ dozen cookies.

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Living in the Northern California Bay Area, it is hard not to be excited about food.  I mean, Chez Panisse is here!  And, once you start down the foodie road, it is hard to go back.  I have read James Beard’s and Ruth Reichl’s books, books about Julia Child and have checked out Craig Claiborne’s NY Times Cookbooks from the library.  And, Marion Cunningham lives in my neighborhood!  So, I had no choice but to bring home “The United States of Arugula – The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution” book by David Kamp when I saw it at the library bookstore.

It outlines the history of the modern food world.  This history was interesting, but what I enjoyed the most was learning about the relationships between the chefs.  One chef that I had never heard of stood out:  Pierre Franey.  He was Craig Claiborne’s cooking partner.  I wanted to learn more about him when I read a quote from the New York Times’ former food critic, Bryan Miller.  He said, “Pierre was the most completely content, happy man.  He started out cooking when he was fourteen, and his life was to serve others.  When he got behind the stove, something happened to him.  He whistled – he always whistled when he was cooking.  He loved his métier, he loved the people in the business, and I never heard anyone ever say an ill word about him.”  Why hadn’t I heard of him?  I finished the book yesterday afternoon before heading out to do some errands.

On my way home, I made an unplanned stop at a thrift store.  Look who/what I found there:

Hello, Pierre Franey!  I couldn’t believe it.  I hugged him tight.

And, I found Marcella Hazan who was also prominently featured in the “The United States of Arugula:”

There is definitely more to the universe than meets the eye!

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