Carrot Pudding

Carrot Pudding 3

Sweet potatoes don’t make an appearance at my family’s Thanksgiving table — and haven’t for as far back as I can remember. (Although the one year my mom hosted, they were present — and topped with mini marshmallows to boot.)

Instead, the buffet’s “orange food” requirement is filled by my Aunt Maureen’s specialty, which is called either carrot pudding or carrot soufflé depending on who’s speaking. It’s soft and rich and decadent, unabashedly sweet but still substantial enough to fit in on a plate filled with turkey and stuffing. It’s certainly not an everyday food, unless you’re cultivating gout — but for the biggest eating day of the year, it works perfectly.

This… is not that carrot pudding. Continue reading

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Green Beans, German-Style and Chicken and Dumplings

Green Beans 1

You know that scene from the second season of Mad Men, when Betty serves a  globally-inspired “trip around the world” dinner to Don and his colleagues — gazpacho, rumaki, Irish leg of lamb, and German noodles, with Bordeaux and Heineken to drink? And it’s funny but also sad, because she’s trying so hard to look cosmopolitan and sophisticated? I never really got how true that rang until I started studying Nonnie’s cookbook.

The binder is studded with recipes made to seem exotic by the ethnic modifiers they carry — Scandinavian Duck, Devonshire Turkey Sandwiches, Spanish Omelet, Mexican Hot Sauce, Norwegian Salad, Hawaiian Chicken. The irony, of course, is that there’s nothing authentic about any of them; they’re basic midcentury Americana, as far removed from the traditional dishes that inspired them as a Chinese fire drill is from China. (The worst offender is probably Nonnie’s “Armenian Vegetable Casserole,” a melange of eggplant, peppers, and zucchini mixed with ketchup and baked for two hours. What? Exactly.) Continue reading

Chocolate Mousse and Rice Pudding

sisters

My older sister loved long hair and eye makeup and ratty, stained, hole-riddled sweatshirts that were two, three, four sizes too large. She loved drawing and straight As and gossip, cigarettes and true crime and a freshly made bed. She loved Gone With the Wind and Lolita and Gossip Girl and the Baby-Sitters Little Sister books, though she swore the latter was an ironic love. (So did I. It wasn’t.) Continue reading

Apple Cake

Apple Cake 2

After two months of experimenting with Nonnie’s busted binder of recipes, I’ve discovered two things to be true.

The first: Nonnie’s savory recipes are hit or miss. For every deliciously browned, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside oven-roasted potato, there’s a nasty onion parade or questionable amalgamation of boxed mac and cheese, tomatoes, and canned tuna. (Not that we didn’t eat the whole pan of the latter anyway.)

The second: When it comes to pastries, though, Nonnie knew her shit. Continue reading