This Thanksgiving I will be making cranberry sauce and hashed Brussels sprounts (rather than the green beans I was asked to bring). I'm also bringing the wine. But in the spirit of colder weather and domestic time to spare, I've been looking at a couple of cookbooks from my kitchen shelf, and here are a few things I'm not making this year:
"Mama's Spawn Fritters," from We Share Our Best Cookbook, published in April of 1993 by the St. Andrew's Hospital Auxiliary in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I guess spirits were running high along with the alewives and buds of early spring. From the recipe, submitted by Mrs. I.G. Koerber: "Papa used to bring home spawns in their casings, taken from mostly ground fish such as hake, haddock, cusk and cod.... I used to help Mama turn the casing inside out so we could scrape the eggs out into a big dish."
The "Puffed Fish" on p. 95, however, is quite good, if you really get the oven as hot as it says.
"Cod Sounds:" Of this tasty dish in Sarah Josepha Hale's The Good Housekeeper, Boston, 1841, and reissued by Dover under the supertitle of Early American Cookery, the writer says: "These are reckoned a great delicacy : and may be either boiled, baked, roasted or broiled. Previous to cooking in any way, the black skin all picked off, and washed clean ; then parboiled" and so on to the cooking and serving. Yum.
"Brawn," from The Country Housewife's Handbook, published by the Kent-West Kent Federation of Women's Istitutes (1975?). You wash 1 pig's head thoroughly, then put it with 2 onions, 1 pt. of water, some pepper and salt and 1 carrot into a covered pot. Simmer till tender. Lift the head on to a dish and remove the meat. then put the bones and skin back in and cook some more till it turns to jelly. Strain it, season it, put the meat back in, pour into a wet mold "to set and turn out in the usual way." Well! Very nourishing, I'm sure.
This book also contains the most charmingly named home foodstuff I've ever heard of, made from apples, pears, and plums and seasoned with lemon rind and ginger root:
"High Dumpsie Dearie Jam"
Now we come to Bulgarian Temptations, published by the Interhotels Balkantourist Resorts in Bulgairs, Sofia, 1981. I love this book, though as yet I haven't made a thing from it. But I'm sometimes lucky enough to find (at Big Lots) jars of Ajvar, a sweet red pepper spread from Bulgaria and wonderful with dark bread, cheese, and cold meat, fish and hardboiled eggs for a good Bulgarian breakfast.
Among the temptations in my cookbook are Army Salad, Blood Pudding, Pirin Hedgehog, Shashliks of Wild Boar, Mashed Nettles, Minnow Soup, Baked Lamb Guts, and Cocks Combs with Buckwheat. Now these people really know how to eat. It's no wonder I haven't chosen one recipe and tried it: where to begin?
A last suggestion. For breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, you might like to try something I've actually eaten, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in about 1973 or '74. This is the wonderful "Brik a L'Ouef" as cooked there on the mall and written up in a small saffron-covered booklet of Tunisian Cooking. The brik is basically a raw egg sealed into puff pastry, dropped into very hot oil so that it cooks quickly. You then break through the crispy golden phyllo to the runny golden and white egg in the middle. Some strong Turkish coffee and fresh oranges go well with that, and harissaor Frank's hot sauce as a condiment.