Posts Tagged ‘cook’

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Irish cook Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) in a hospital bed. She never had symptoms and refused to believe she was giving people typhoid.

In the pandemic, many people spending extra time at home are sorting through “stuff,” and my husband is no exception. The other day, he brought out a program from a play he saw in Minneapolis in the 1990s: Forgiving Typhoid Mary.

The contemporary relevance of Typhoid Mary was not lost on me. Mary Mallon (1869 – 1938), by all accounts a good cook, was placed in a number of homes by employment agencies, and had no clue why people where she worked kept getting typhoid.

Wikipedia describes her as “an Irish-born cook believed to have infected 53 people with typhoid fever, three of whom died, and the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the disease. Because she persisted in working as a cook, by which she exposed others to the disease, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation. … Presumably, she was born with typhoid because her mother was infected during pregnancy.”

Wikipedia explains that she worked for several affluent families where typhoid appeared mysteriously, including “a position in Oyster Bay on Long Island with the family of a wealthy New York banker, Charles Henry Warren.” Shortly after that assignment, “in late 1906, Mallon was hired by Walter Bowen, whose family lived on Park Avenue. Their maid got sick on January 23, 1907, and soon Charles Warren’s only daughter got typhoid and died. This case helped to identify Mallon as the source of the infections.

George Soper, an investigator hired by Warren after the outbreak in Oyster Bay, had been trying to determine the cause of typhoid outbreaks in well-to-do families, when it was known that the disease typically struck in unsanitary environments.

“He discovered that a female Irish cook, who fitted the physical description he had been given, was involved in all of the outbreaks. He was unable to locate her because she generally left after an outbreak began, without giving a forwarding address. Soper then learned of an active outbreak in a penthouse on Park Avenue and discovered Mallon was the cook. Two of the household’s servants were hospitalized, and the daughter of the family died of typhoid.

Soper first met Mallon in the kitchen of the Bowens and accused her of spreading the disease. Though Soper himself recollected his behavior as ‘as diplomatic as possible,’ he infuriated Mallon and she threatened him with a carving fork.

“When Mallon refused to give samples, Soper decided to compile a five-year history of her employment. He found that of the eight families that had hired Mallon as a cook, members of seven claimed to have contracted typhoid fever. Then Soper found out where Mallon’s boyfriend lived and arranged a new meeting there. He took Dr. Raymond Hoobler in an attempt to convince Mary to give them samples of urine and stool for analysis. Mallon again refused to cooperate, believing that typhoid was everywhere and that the outbreaks had happened because of contaminated food and water. At that time, the concept of healthy carriers was unknown even to healthcare workers.”

Hmmm. If a cook who emigrated from Ireland at 15, presumably without much education, failed to understand something that no one at the time knew about, I guess a case could be made for “forgiving” her. Not sure the same can be said for the super-spreaders of Covid-19. When I think of health-care workers exposing themselves every day and “seeing the regret” in the eyes of dying patients, it really makes my blood boil.

By the way, the relevance of Typhoid Mary was not lost on a theater in the Berkshires either. Alas, I did my online search too late and missed out on the Barrington Stage Company reading of Forgiving Typhoid Mary by a few days. If you’re as curious as I was about the “forgiving” aspect of the title, you can read the 1991 New York Times review, here, which provides a hint.

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using-cookie-cutters_heroPhoto: Betty Crocker
Full-service libraries are starting to lend out cooking utensils as well as cookbooks.

You’ve heard of the Internet of Things, right? Using the internet to turn on the heat in your house before you arrive home from a trip, for example, or checking inside your fridge while you’re at the supermarket to see if you need milk.

Well, I just learned about something called the Library of Things. This expansion of the role of libraries is a recognition that you may not want to buy all the paraphernalia for making a gingerbread house, say, but would love to try making one if you could just borrow the equipment.

Deanna Fox writes at the Times Union, “When you go to visit Guilderland Public Library on Western Avenue [near Albany, New York], be sure to bring your appetite. Besides the expansive array of cookbooks in the stacks and shelves to peruse and whet the palate, the library now offers bakeware and food-related programming to make those glossy images in cookbooks a reality.

“Maria Buhl, department head for programs and services at the library, said its 2,200 cookbooks serve as the foundation for a new cake pan and cookie cutter loan program that provides patrons with a chance to use a piece of kitchen equipment that they typically could only access through purchasing it.

” ‘We choose items that are not things people want in their homes,’ said Buhl, who added that people enjoy kitchen gadgetry and trying new recipes, but purchasing the equipment needed to make the recipes is space- and money-intensive and having a lending library of novelty pans, Bundt pans, springform pans and various cookie cutters gives utility to the cookbooks the library offers.

“There are currently a few dozen cake pans and cookie cutter sets to choose from at the library, and Buhl said there are plans to add 15 to 20 more items. Some of the sets and pans are included in the ‘birthday in a backpack’ program that offers patrons a backpack filled with books, games, decorations and bakeware that all follow a theme (‘Dora the Explorer’ or dinosaurs, for example) to create a celebration with otherwise onetime use items.

“Tim Wiles, the library’s director, said the cake pan program is part of the facility’s ‘library of things,’ a growing trend among public libraries.

” ‘There is a general thought in society that because everything is on the internet, there is no need for libraries in general,’ he said, but the success of the lending of material items like bakeware or other items, like 6-foot folding tables that are often the top checked-out items in the ‘library of things,’ secures the purpose of a library in the age of digital information and media. …

” ‘Take a historical look at this. Libraries started in the mid-19th century because books were rare and expensive. It is all part of the sharing economy,’ said Wiles.

“Bakeware is no good without a recipe, however, and Guilderland Public Library’s cookbook collection is the highest circulating nonfiction collection in the library, said Buhl. …

“A new cookbook club at the library highlights one or two cookbooks per month that patrons can choose a recipe from, make a photocopy of, and take home to try. Patrons are invited to gather one night per month to share the dishes they make from the books and discuss them.

“September was the first month of the program and the chosen book was ‘Great British Bake Off: Big Book of Baking,’ by Linda Collister. … Because the measurements in the book were offered in metric form, conversion charts were provided for patrons. ‘It became like a STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math] program,’ said Buhl. ‘It was an opportunity for people to step outside of their comfort zone.’ ”

Now, that’s another good idea — especially in Suzanne’s kitchen, where the great recipes Erik remembers from growing up in Sweden are all in metric.

More information is available at the Times Union, here, or at guilderlandlibrary.org.

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Roma families (also called gypsies, tinkers or travelers) have a hard life in Europe. Recently, Elisabetta Povoledo wrote at the New York Times about some Roma women who are hoping to build a better life for their families by starting food businesses.

“On a muggy July evening, a handful of Italian hipsters milled around a food stand at an alternative music festival in Rome, trying to decipher some of the exotic offerings: mici, sarmale and dolma.

“These Balkan delicacies — barbecued meatballs, cabbage wraps and stuffed peppers — are the basic ingredients of an entrepreneurial scheme cooked up by a group of Roma women looking to better their lives and leave the overcrowded and insalubrious camp in Rome where they currently live.

“They call themselves the Gipsy Queens.

“ ‘Cooking? I’ve been cooking practically since I was born,’ said one of the chefs, Florentina Darmas, 33, a mother of three, who is originally from Romania. …

“Nowadays she is trying to break down some of the barriers faced by her traditionally marginalized group using the universal language of food. …

“ ‘We realized there was unexpressed potential in the community, especially on the part of women,’ said Mariangela De Blasi, a social worker with Arci Solidarietà Onlus, a Rome-based nonprofit organization that works with marginalized people and manages the burgeoning catering business. …

“If their entrepreneurial plans pan out, the Gipsy Queens hope to buy a food truck or rent a kitchen on a more permanent basis — foundations for steady work that will bring in rent money.

“ ‘Getting out [of the camp] is my first priority,’ said Hanifa Hokic, 31, a divorced mother of five children between 8 and 12 years old, who is originally from Bosnia. …

“Maria Miclescu, a 20-year-old mother of two, agreed that to give her children ‘a better future,’ she had to leave. Her husband is trying to establish a small-appliance repair business …

“The oldest member of the group, Mihaela Miclescu, 49, who is a grandmother, was happy to join the Gipsy Queens.

‘I wanted to show Italians that we are not bad people, that we want to work, not to beg.’

More here.

Photo: Gianni Cipriano for the New York Times
Maria Miclescu, left, and Codruca Balteanu at a food stand run by the Gipsy Queens during a music festival in Rome. 

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There are people who like to cook and people who like to fish, but if they are not in the same family like John’s in-laws, the caught fish may never get eaten.

Fortunately, there are now a growing number of services that will enable you to catch your fish and eat it, too.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright describe a few at the Boston Globe.

“Fishing charters are wildly popular along the sunset coast of Florida. The Gulf Coast, from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater, has some of the best deep sea fishing in the country and plenty of days of sunshine and calm seas. It’s dubbed the ‘grouper fishing capital of the world,’ but mackerel, snapper, barracuda, tuna, dolphin, wahoo, hogfish, and more are also plentiful.

“Most charters guarantee that the boat will bring back fish, and they often include free fish cleaning and ice. But what do you do with your catch if you’re staying at a vacation resort or local hotel? These restaurants in the St. Pete Beach area will gladly prepare your keepers: You catch ’em, they’ll cook ’em.”

The reporters list these spots: Friendly Fisherman (150 John’s Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach, 727-391-6025, www.gofriendlyfisherman.com); Sea Critters Café in St. Pete Beach (2007 Pass-a-Grille Way, 727-360-3706, www.seacritterscafe.com); Conch Republic Grille (16699 Gulf Blvd., N. Redington, 727-320-0536, www.conchrepublicgrill.com); and Maritana Grille (3400 Gulf Blvd., 727-360-1882, www.loewshotels.com/don-cesar/dining). Descriptions of the delicious preparations here.

My husband and John have often brought back bluefish after going out on G Willie Make-It’s charter. G Willie (Bill) cleans the fish you want and sells the fish you don’t want to local restaurants.

Not everyone loves bluefish, but the first one of the year says summer has arrived.

Photo: Pamela Wright for the Boston Globe
Eating on the outside deck at Sea Critters Café, where you can get the fish you caught turned into a meal.

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On Christmas Eve we have always gone to First Parish for one of the candlelight services. Nowadays we go to the early one because we have a toddler in the family.

Today we got a big kick out of watching him take it all in: so many grownups in the house at once, so many boxes covered with paper you’re allowed to rip, so many curiosities to remove from the bottom of a tree and show people. And rather nice chicken sausages.

The kitchen cupboards were interesting, too. They have different stuff from the ones at home and everything badly needs organizing.

We cooked and ate, and cooked and ate, and cooked and ate.

For lunch, Meran made tarts suggested by Cook’s Illustrated. One was a shitake mushroom and leek tart, the other was butternut squash and spinach. Both had cheese. There also was a salad with fennel, pears, and sugared pecans.

The main course at dinner was a Lamb Tagine we always like. This one is made with prunes and cinnamon, but there are recipes with raisins and almonds or apricots and caramelized onions. Meran contributed a lovely couscous with veggies.

Suzanne and Erik made an apple crisp that we ate with ice cream. There were loads of Christmas cookies.

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Here is the Christmas cookie recipe I have used ever since John put together his little recipe book in nursery school.

(have ingredients at room temperature)

Rolled Sugar Cookies

2 cups sifted flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. milk

Sift together first three ingredients.
In another bowl, cream margarine, add sugar gradually. Cream until light and fluffy.
Add egg, vanilla, milk and sifted dry ingredients.
Mix dough well, chill at least one hour.

Roll approximately 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board and use good-sized cookie cutters so children can be successful in handling shapes.
Place cut out cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and let children sprinkle sugar on them.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. (My oven prefers 350 for 6-10 minutes.) 2 doz.

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