cookbooks: what to bake & how to bake it

vanilla sponge cake with chocolate frosting | merry gourmet

I am a collector of cookbooks, but it has not always been this way.

My first cookbook was an early version of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, and I received a short, thick paperback copy when I went away to college. I’m pretty sure my parents gave it to me, but it could have been some other well-meaning high school graduation gift-giver. I remember thinking that it was such a sweet gift, and I put it on my bookshelf where it remained until I moved, then it went into a box with other kitchen items, then back onto the bookshelf in the next apartment. This cycle repeated more than a few times.

I received another copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book when I got married. That book, a larger hardback binder version with five metal rings holding the recipes inside, went onto the bookshelf beside its older, petite sister. They stood side-by-side for another five or six years, rarely moving off the shelf and definitely not getting the attention they deserved.

a november state of mind

old fashioned pecan pie | the merry gourmet

If it is quiet, I can hear a plop as an acorn drops into the pool from the towering oak trees above. Water ripples out in a concentric circle as the acorn joins its brethren in the bottom of the deep end. A moment later, there is a plunk as another acorn pelts the roof and bounces off into the grass.

This is prime acorn season, and our abundant squirrel population should be feasting right now, or at least stockpiling their acorn stores for winter. Instead, the obnoxious rodents have avoided our back yard since it became a construction zone over the summer. The construction has been over for the past couple of weeks, but the squirrels haven’t returned. This is not a bad thing, except that I would welcome their acorn scavenging.

I am sad about the birds, though. The birds followed the squirrels’ lead and have also stayed away. Our two bird feeders, filled but untouched since I replenished them two weeks ago, swing gently from the pergola that shades our patio. I miss the cheeping of cardinals and the chatter of the Carolina wrens. I miss the birds, but I remain optimistic that they will return. (I just hope it will be soon.)

not perfect, and a recipe for apple tart

apple tart | the merry gourmet

I am not perfect.

My temper is sometimes short, and I don’t have much patience. I am stubborn, and I like to be right. (I get these traits from my father.)

Even though I love to bake cakes, I rely on store-bought birthday cakes because they’re easy. Also, I think Publix makes the best frosting. It’s so sweet it makes my teeth hurt, and I love it. I’ve been told that I don’t want to know what Publix puts in that frosting. It’s true. I don’t. But serve me up a slice, and I’ll contemplate a second, but only if I can have an end piece, with extra frosting.

My children eat cereal for breakfast nearly every morning. On weekends, I’ll sometimes make scrambled eggs and toast for the kids, because toast and eggs are easy. But even though my son loves bacon, I don’t often make it. It seems to take too long (I know that it really doesn’t), and I don’t like taking greasy bacon out of the package. It feels disgusting. Also, I’m lazy on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I’d rather someone make me breakfast.