Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Please Try

Tonight, let's start with the Carson Christmas plate, part 2, in which we feature: Homemade Snickers!

This takes all day, sort of. You make it in four layers, taking time between each layer to let things set.

Chocolate Caramel Candy

Even better the second day. If they last that long.

I'm cheating on the Finished Book Pile, since it's taking me quite a long time to finish our featured selection: Model by Michael Gross. It's nonfiction, "the ugly business of beautiful women," weighing in at just under 500 pages.

The fun parts are the discovery stories of all these posing beauties; also a little bit about how modeling agencies started. John Robert Powers was an out-of-work actor who found himself running a clearing house for movie extras. He suddenly thought, "Hey, there are commercial photographers out there looking for models. And I know dozens of out-of-work actors and actresses. Why not bring them together?"

The book also details the wars between modeling agencies, stealing one another's girls. In fact, too much detail. Sometimes I get the feel that every paragraph equals an author's note card (must have been 3200 miles of note cards, laid end to end) and he tells me about agents, photographers, editors, names names names of people I never knew or needed to know.

But here I am, sticking with it. Right now, I'm in the '70s, where everybody is snorting coke while they work, although I notice that many of the real supermodels stayed away from the drugs, which seemed to contribute to the longevity of their careers. At any rate, a great deal of mischief goes on, but doesn't count as cow patties, because it is rendered such a reporter-like tone. And as the book progresses through the years, the pay rates keep going up, from $5/hr in the '30s to $25,000/day in the mid-'90s.

Even though I'm taken with the tarnished glamour of it all, I think one retired agent summed it up best when she said (and I paraphrase) We put these magazine pictures before the public and say, You will never look like this, but please try.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Forty Wiped Out

I look forward to Natalie coming over tomorrow. The plan is to make and bake Christmas treats.

The problem? Food doesn't sound good right now.

Our ward had a Christmas party last Friday night. It was a Night in Bethlehem, with people dressed in biblical clothing, walking around the "market," getting sandwiches, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, olives at the different booths.

After the party, everybody was healthy just long enough to speak and sing at the Saturday night session of stake conference. Then they started going down, a regular roll-call through the ward list, reports of this family and that stuck at home, throwing up. According to the bishop's count, forty people got sick.

It hit John pretty hard. I caught an extremely light version a couple days later(I didn't eat anything but a brownie at the party) but I still don't want to do anything but languish. All the Christmas treats that I'm usually dying to eat are a big "meh" to me right now.

However, you may be feel like gorging. So I offer you The Carson Christmas Treat Plate, part 1.

SUGAR COOKIES, big batch
2 cups margarine, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon extract
6 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

In a large bowl, cream butter adn sugar. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon extract until light and fluffy. In a large bowl, combine flour adn baking soda. Gradually stir flour mixture into egg mixture until blended.

Chill dough (or divide in four parts, form into logs, wrap in wax paper, then tin foil and freeze for up to 6 months). Roll out dough and cut into shapes. Bake on greased cookies sheets, at 350' for 8-10 minutes.

The big secrets are to keep from handling the dough too much with your hands, and to roll kinda thick. We frost our with Vanilla Butter Frosting (see the Memorial Day entry) and throw red and green sprinkles on top.

CARDAMOM COFFEE BREAD or, really good braided bread.
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105'- 115')
1 tsp. sugar
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
7 to 8 cups flour
1/2 to 1 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (this is a Scandinavian spice; don't skimp out on it)
4 eggs, room temperature (warm them up in a measuring cup of hottish water)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 slightly beaten egg
2 TB. milk

In a large mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in 1 tsp. sugar adn let stand for 5 minutes.
Heat milk to 105'- 115'. Add milk, half the flour, 1/2 to 1 cup sugar, cardamom, 4 eggs and salt to the yeast. Beat with electric mixer till smooth. Beat in the butter.
Stir in as much remaining flour as you can with a spoon. Cover; let rest 15 minutes. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that's smooth and elastic.
Place in greased bowl, turn to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Punch down dough. Turn dough onto cutting board; divide into 3 portions. Divide each portion into 3rds. Shape each piece into a 24-inch rope.
Using 3 ropes each, shape into 3 braided loaves; tuck under ends. Place on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise till doubled (about 1 hour).
Mix egg and milk; brush over braids. Bake in 375' oven for 20 minutes or till golden. Makes 3 loaves. This freezes well.

One of my college roommates learned to make this on her mission to Finland. One night, she made it at our apartment, then went off on a date with her fiance. Um, there wasn't much left when she returned.

I never got the recipe from her, but I saw this one in a magazine years later. Comes close enough. Goes fast at our house.

As for the Finished Book Pile, we have Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons by Lorna Landvik. This is one of those novels that follows the characters for years. Five women form a book club in Minnesota and the reader watches the ladies go from idealistic young wives to wise, mature women. One character takes on all kinds of '60s causes, marching in protests, fighting for Social Justice in every conceivable corner. She's tiresome until she mellows out later. Cow patty count is medium low.

Then there's Saturday by Ian McEwan. This isn't McEwan's best book. He's famous for Atonement but this one will do as a fairly clean, upper-crust story. Having just been through a writing class where the professor railed against "static action," (that's the stuff the character does every day,i.e. he got up, he shaved, he ate breakfast) and urged us on to dynamic action, upsetting the order of things, making the characters more miserable with every page turn, I wonder how McEwan's manuscript would have fared in this class. Yeah, a couple big things happen in the story, but there's a lot of what he had for breakfast and how the city square outside his lovely London house always looks. Hey, I kinda like that stuff. And if you're curious about brain surgery, you get to go into the operating room with the main character and look over his shoulder as he "cooks the nerve by radioactive thermocoagulation" and a dozen or so other goodies like that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

If I were there . . .

Hi, class is done. I'm back.

I don't think anybody is in the mood for a book review right now, so we'll skip it this time.

But we can still talk about food.

If Hertha's sisters could manage to gather Hertha's children for a talk-it-out session this week, and if I could be there, here's what I would feed everybody. It was comfort food and then some when John and I ate it the day after Thanksgiving: Cheesy Chicken Subs