Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ever skin, butcher and cook a squirrel?

This picture is me with my son-in-law, Christian. I'm quite sure he has never shot a squirrel, nor skinned and butchered one, and if I went to all that trouble and served it to him, he'd politely say, "No, thanks." But the contributing authors (some of them anyway) of Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook spoke last night to the Women's Arts League of Colleyville. The meeting just happened to be in the training room at Christian's office, and he was the designated host who stayed to lock up. Such fun to claim him when people saw us talking. He gave me a big hug when I came him, and one woman said, "I guess you two know each other."
The G&G Cookbook is a social history of Fort Worth told through food, and believe it or not there were two women there who had cooked squirrel. Some of the ladies had cooked recipes from the cookbook for the event. Not squirrel, but chili biscuits (a favorite of mine), eggplant caviar, molasses cake, mousse and puddings, and I can't remember what all. I wish I had a picture of the beautiful table. Chili biscuits are a favorite because every hostess in West Fort Worth served them in the '50s and '60s--women would pop them out of the oven like they'd just made them but everyone knew better. They came, frozen, from Roy Pope's Grocery and were made by Lucille Bishop Smith, an African American educator and caterer who was a city institution. And they were delicious. The recipe is in the cookbook but seems a lot of work--the woman who made them admitted it was.
We each talked about our chapters, and as one of the editors, I talked a bit about how the book as a whole came about. It was a sequel to Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women, designed to tell about women's contributions to the development and growth of our city. The story has always, like so many, been told in men's terms. Women's stories are hidden away in attics and correspondence and handed down by word of mouth, but they have rarely,  until recently, been written. We followed that groundbreaking book with a cookbook, which led some to say, "We just got women out of the kitchen! Why are we putting them back in there?" My reply was because cooking is what women do with one hand, while they're building communities and museums and political careers and theatrical careers and also sort of other things with the other hand.
The audience last night certainly seemed to agree with that. They were a most receptive group, listening attentively, laughing a lot, asking good questions. It's such a pleasure to talk to groups like that that I forget the shy girl inside me.
One recipe from my chapter which always boggled my mind is Hollandaise sauce made with mayonnaise, French's mustard, soy sauce, and melted butter. Most of the ladies laughed and agreed with me: it's not the way we make Hollandaise. But afterward two ladies said they'd made it that way and it's just a shortcut: the mayo gives you the creaminess, the mustard the color and a bit of bite, the soy the salt and the butter is the richness. Learn something new every day, but I still think I'd want a bit of lemon.
A delightful evening.

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