I recently picked up another vintage cookbook at a thrift store, and it quite possibly has been my most favorite thrift store purchase of all time. Of all time, people. That’s saying something because, ahem, I’ve bought a lot of stuff at thrift stores.
A Blogger Born Before Her Time
It’s my most favorite thrift store purchase not because of the awesome recipes I found in it (although there are definitely more recipes and ideas I want to try) but because I felt a certain kinship with the author, an Ann Batchelder who was the food editor for Ladies’ Home Journal during the forties. Now, I am not and never will be a magazine food editor (although it sounds like fun!), so that’s not where the kinship comes in.
No, the kinship I felt came from the sensation as I read her cookbook (which truly is a cookbook you read, not just flip through or skip to the index) that I was reading a blog. I could not escape the feeling that Ann Batchelder was a blogger born before her time; her quirky dry humor combined with creative ideas and tips, not to mention the occasional poetic prose about topics having absolutely nothing to do with food or cooking, all combined to create the effect of a modern blogger. Seriously, if it weren’t for the occasional mention of outdated tools, ingredients, or methods, I would have thought I’d picked up a cookbook written by a blogger, not a food editor from the glamor era.
A 1940’s “Blogger’s” Thoughts on Thanksgiving
A few sample tidbits so you can see what I mean:
She begins her Thanksgiving Menu portion with thoughts on the traditions of Thanksgiving Day, as well as a few choice comments about the guest of honor: ” From some remote date, turkey has always been the Thanksgiving feast bird. If you can’t have turkey you may have ham or chicken or roast pig, but whatever it is that takes the turkey’s place on your table, have it in the spirit* of turkey. For that spirit is a very emanation of Thanksgiving Day itself!”
*I did not italicize. She did. Told ya she was a blogger.
She finishes up her Thanksgiving Menu with these thoughts: “Have a good Thanksgiving. Whether it be simple or “simply colossal” as they say, have a happy day. It’s always well to remember that things around this world might be worse, and that we’ve got as far as we have, so it’s perfectly possible that we shall make the next grade – if we keep going. And for one thing let us be extra thankful. Thankful for Thanksgiving Day. And so all together now, ‘Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home.’ Will someone please take the organ?”
When was the last time you read that in a dull ol’ cookbook?
One more thought on Thanksgiving from Ann: “Celebrated according to their means and light by the old New England families. Celebrated as a tradition handed down from the time the Pilgrim mothers did their stuff (ha!*) with the wild turkey and the woodland herbs, it became under Sarah [Hale]’s lively interest and persistence, a national holiday. And President Lincoln yielded to the Hale persuasiveness and sent out the proclamation which secured to this Pilgrim tradition perpetuation and a place in the sun. So now we are nearing what to my mind is the best holiday of all – Thanksgiving.”
*I added the “ha!”. In case you couldn’t tell.
One of the things about Ann Batchelder that tells me she would be a mega blogger if she “did her stuff” in today’s world is that she has such creative ideas. (Not to mention that if the photographs were in color they’d be totally gorgeous and perfect for Pinterest. Yes, I know she had a whole team of food stylists and photographers, but still.) For each holiday, she created an entire menu filled with both traditional food items, new twists on old things, plus a few ideas just for fun. The kinds of things that people pin on Pinterest, kwim?
One of those ideas leaped off the page at me and I determined that I had to make them for Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pumpkins. As you can see in the photo above, her instructions were rather vague, which is normal for vintage cookbooks (which assume that the average reader already knows how to cook). I was OK up until the point where she said “Shape the sweet potatoes into small pumpkins”. That’s where the blogger comparison totally falls apart. I mean, hello, where were the tutorials with step by step pictures?! And the links to where I can buy the tools on Amazon?!
Well, I’m not a perfect blogger, so sadly, I myself have no step-by-step pictorial tutorial for you today. However, I did my best at creating sweet potato pumpkins according to her recipe, and they turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself! So I can share with you in slightly more detail than Ms. Batchelder and you can try it for yourself this week.
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes (about 5-6)
- 1 T. Coconut Milk (or any milk)
- 3 T. Coconut Oil (or butter or any oil), separated
- 1″ Piece of Ginger, grated
- Grated Nutmeg
- Salt & Pepper
- approximately 2 T. sugar, any kind
- 1 celery stalk
- Peel the potatoes and chop them into hunks. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil until they can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain.
- Press sweet potatoes through a potato ricer into a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk, 2 T. oil, and the seasonings to taste (start with a lesser amount, taste once it’s all mixed up and add as needed).
- Beat the sweet potatoes and other ingredients in a mixer until a smooth mash is created. Chill until cool to the touch and slightly firmer.
- Using moist hands, shape the mash into balls and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Smooth them with a rubber or silicone spatula. Use the tip of a table knife to create the ridges around the pumpkin. Smooth with moist finger tips as needed.
- Melt the remaining coconut oil, and brush it onto the tops of the pumpkins. Sprinkle them with the sugar. Cut the celery stalk into approximately 1 1/2″ inch pieces and press one into the top of each pumpkin to form the stem.
- Broil the “pumpkins” until the top of the celery stalk and the sugar are browned a little. My broiler was taking ridiculously long for some reason, but it should take about 5 minutes or so I think.
Note: Next time I might experiment with adding some type of flour (maybe coconut flour?) to the mixture to see if it firms up a little more so as to make slightly smoother, firmer pumpkins. I’ll let you know how it goes!
So there you go – a cute little vintage (but not) recipe for this Thanksgiving!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!