patronage of our affiliate
partners supports this web site.
We thank you! In other words, please shop at LBC
Grinning Lit Jack-O-Lanterns Filling a Tree and a Porch
Buy at AllPosters.com
La Belle Cuisine
More Home Cooking:
A Writer Returns to the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin, 1995, HarperPerennial
“As every parent knows, children are great traditionalists.
All you need to
do is set something in motion and you will find yourself
doing it the same way, year after year. Psychologists say this is good for
us. The things that keep mankind going – ritual, stability, routine – are
beginning to fray, and
we are all the worse for it.
No matter what else happens in October, Halloween is still the big deal.
Therefore, if I forget to buy that nasty, synthetic wooly stuff that one
tacks to windows to look like fake cobwebs, chaos reigns. My daughter
the same thing, year after year, and I must confess that I do, too.
On Halloween the parents in our neighborhood dress up their precious
and form a parade, complete with flashlights and homemade noisemakers, and
march around the General Theological Seminary.
Afterward people must be
taken home and fed, usually the same thing
that you fed them last year.
I don’t mind admitting that I have never liked pumpkin. I hate
and am lukewarm about
pumpkin soup. I once had an unhappy encounter with a
stew served in pumpkin: It did not further endear pumpkin to me. I have
bought cheese pumpkins as well as ‘pie’ or ‘sweetie pie’ pumpkins. These are
pale orange, dense-fleshed, and not a bit stringy, and not to be
jack-o’-lanterns. I have steamed them and baked them and fried
them. I have
dotted them with butter and brown sugar and scattered them
with garlic and
cheese, and I still say it’s pumpkin and to hell with it.
Children, however, seem to require something pumpkin-like on the table
Halloween even if they don’t eat it. For them I recommend butternut
or acorn squash split, seeded, and baked with butter and brown sugar.
seeds, of course, go into a colander with the seeds from the jack-o’-lantern
to be endlessly washed and separated from any pumpkin or squash sludge, then
drained, salted, and roasted. When you serve these before or after dinner,
even adults will tell you how delicious they are.
For grown-ups, I suggest the Pumpkin Tian in John Thorne’s noble
‘Simple Cooking’. John Thorne, who lives in Maine, puts
out a newsletter of
the same name that is enchanting, opinionated, and
good things. The
pumpkin tian, in addition to being one of the
delicious things you will
ever eat, demonstrates that the whole is
magnificent than the sum of
its meager parts. The first time I
this dish I almost collapsed at the
realization that something so
could taste so wonderful.
My version of the recipe calls for either butternut or delicate squash or
combination of the two. For Squash Tian, proportions aren’t the issue,
method is; but for 4 people you’ll probably need about 2 big butternuts or
of the sweeter, medium-size delicatas. Peel, seed, and cut the squash
1-inch chunks. Shake the chunks in a bag of flour, shaking off the
flour, and put them into an oiled or buttered shallow baking dish.
the squash with about 1/3 cup of good Parmesan; 1 large garlic
minced; and pepper to taste. Drizzle the tian with about 1/4 to 1/3
olive oil and put it into a preheated 400-degree F. oven. The
must be really hot, or instead of a crispy-topped, melting (‘molten,’
Thorne says) dish you will end up with a sodden mess – trust me, I
this happen. Bake the tian for 30 to 40 minutes. I myself would
happy to eat this with a salad, but as we do not necessarily live
vegetables alone, something else must be provided – especially if you
provided it last year.
which is good hot, cold, or at room temperature
can be made in
advance. It is nice, homey food and usually
a hit with
I love meat loaf of any kind. Like
potato salad, it always seems to be
I have never run into an unlovable meat loaf [I have!], but I have
some better than others. A few years ago I ran into a really deli-
loaf at Caldwell’s Corner, the premier breakfast and lunch
place in West
Cornwall, Connecticut. This meat loaf’s winning feature
is its texture,
is light and velvety. Naturally I attempted to prize
out of David
(an agreeable, bearded former coffee buyer and
father of twins) the
of his success, which actually may be that of
his wife, Alice. The
trick is to soak two 1-inch-thick slices of home-
made bread (crusts
discarded) in 1 cup buttermilk for 20 minutes
and stir the mixture into 2
pounds ground chuck with 2 large eggs.
The Caldwells make their own bread,
but any good,
grainy loaf, such
as levain, will do. Perfectionists can buy a
round loaf –
about 7 inches
in diameter and about 3 inches high – and cut 2
(In a pinch, 2 slices of the best packaged bread you
It doesn’t matter how you season the meat loaf: Every cook has a dif-
method. I use 1 large garlic clove, minced; 1 tablespoon Dijon-
mustard; 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce; and 1 tablespoon
add a couple of tablespoons of a nice thing called
rather like a concentrated form of V8 vegetable
juice. You can
buy it in a
tube or a jar in specialty food shops. Bake
the meat loaf in a
loaf pan, 9
by 5 by 3 inches, at 350 degrees F. for
about 1 hour.
The bread and buttermilk combination makes this meat
loaf light and
If you keep kosher,
rich chicken stock would
probably work as
After a green salad, the children will want dessert.
Of course, you have stayed up the night before decorating a spiderweb
I made this one year and have not been permitted to stop. It is
any old cake
decorated with orange icing using the fine nib of the cake-
(the one you write ‘Happy Birthday’ with) in a spiderweb design. And because
you have been a good person and have bought the
nasty, synthetic wooly stuff
that makes fake cobwebs, you also have a
black plastic spider (it comes in
the package) to put on your cake. That
is, unless you are amazingly
energetic and have decided to create your
own spider out of icing, which can
be done by anyone possessing paste
food coloring and a field guide.
But what kind of cake? My vote is for something called Wensley
recipe from a now-defunct cooking magazine. (It is a sad fact
many of my best recipes come from now-defunct sources.)
A Wensley Cake is meant to have a layer of Wensleydale cheese. I
it this way, and although I thought it was delicious, my
weird. Made without cheese it is just plain delicious.
1. Beat together 2 sticks butter [1 cup] and
1 cup brown sugar.
2. Beat in 4 lightly beaten large eggs.
3. Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder,
ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon each of mace,
ground cloves, and
4. Stir in 1 cup golden raisins (dried cherries are a
substitute if you’re lucky enough to have some). 1 1/4
raisins, 1 cup grated apple,
and the grated zest of
1 orange. Mix well.
Bake the cake in a buttered 8-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep) lined
parchment paper in the middle of a preheated 375-degree F. oven for
minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. and bake for 1 hour more,
checking the cake from time to time. It is done when a skewer comes out
some crumbs adhering to it.
The cake, wrapped in wax paper and stored in a tin, improves after a
days and keeps well if you happen to have any left. This nice, old-fashioned
dessert has a lot of depth to it. In fact, the whole meal has a lot
to it – a cheering supper on a spooky night, usually right after
saving time disappears and the sky gets dark around 4:30.
Last year our children marched happily around the block, and
they got inside a torrential storm broke. A ten-year-old neighbor
wearing a gorilla suit and a terrifying mask with little red eyes
and although he kept taking off his mask and saying, ‘Don’t be
I’m Robert Jordan!’ my daughter and her friends remained in a state
Then my husband appeared, having been pelted with eggs and almost
some overzealous teens. The rain beat down, Robert’s mask
was taken off for
good, my husband’s jacket was put in the washing
machine, and after dinner
not a crumb was left.”
Featured Archive Recipes:
Laurie Colwin on Red Peppers
Laurie Colwin's Roast Chicken
Laurie Colwin on Chocolate
Laurie Colwin on Potato Salad
How to Make Gingerbread (Laurie Colwin)
Three Chocolate Cakes (Laurie Colwin)
Gratin of Pumpkin (Jacques Pepin)
Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf
Pumpkin and Shiitake Ravioli with Sage Butter
Spice Applesauce Cake
More Lagniappe Recipes
Index - Thanksgiving
Daily Recipe Index
Recipe Archives Index