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Yet again, our May Day flower phantom caught us napping and surprised us with a delightful little bouquet--this year a bouquet of Gerber daisies. Thank you whoever you are!
The first of May bouquet (along with a long line of ads) reminds me that Mother's Day is closer at hand than I'd like to believe--especially since The Enchanted April issue has only been in circulation for a couple of weeks. Currently we're traveling with Kate Douglas Wiggin as our guide through Penelope's multiple tours, tales, and experiences. Naturally, because Kate's so deliciously and wickedly observant, we're having a marvelous time and, of course, wish you were here.
A copy of any one of Penelope's various "experiences" would make a memorable Mother's Day gift, as would a visit with another New Englander as witty and fun and worthwhile a companion as Kate Douglas Wiggin--her name is Louise Andrews Kent aka "Mrs. Appleyard." Before there was Erma Bombeck, Elizabeth David, or Julia Childs, and about the same time Betty Crocker made her debut, Mrs. Appleyard was writing and cooking away in her kitchen, and having much more than a soupçonof fun with the joy of cooking. There's a revised edition of Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen available beginning at about the price of a nice greeting card--if you buy it used. I confess, however, that I've never read the new edition so I can't comment on any changes that might have been made to it. I'm very enamored of my cloth-covered hardback first edition full of velvety velum pages and the occasional penciled-in note from a former owner. Similar copies are also available at reasonable sums online. While it's true that a good many of Mrs. Appleyard's recipes have become somewhat outmoded, her humor is as clever and fresh as ever. And there's just enough sentiment to make it perfect as a gift for any reading mother--as this endearing excerpt from the last pages of the 1942 edition demonstrate:
"Now just one more question, Mrs. Appleyard" the Editor said hoping she would break another cooky. "I've heard it said that well-known painter when asked what he mixed his paints with, said "With brains." Now do you feel that--to sum up what you told me--people should cook with brains? May I quote you?"
Mrs. Appleyard put another batch of cookies into the oven.
'Brains aren't enough," she said. 'You have to like things: the dishes you cook with, the people you buy the butter from, the field where the crows fly over the corn and the wind that blows through their wings. You have to like the table you put the food on, and the people who sit around it. Yes, even when they tip back in your Hitchcock chairs, you have to like them. You don't just like how food tastes--you like how it looks and smells and how the egg-beater sounds. You like the rhythm of chopping and the throb of the teakettle lid. You like to test the frying-pan with water and see it run around like quicksilver. You like the shadows in pewter and the soft gleam of silver and the sharp flash of glass. You like the feel of Damask napkins and the shadows of flowers on a white cloth. You like people eating in their best clothes in candlelight, and in their dungarees on a beach in the broiling sun, or under a pine tree in the rain.
'You like the last moment before a meal is served when the Hollandaise thickens, the steak comes sputtering out of the broiler, the cream is cooked into the potatoes and the last drop of water is cooked out of the peas.' Here she was silent long enough to take the correctly lacy and golden cookies off the pan. 'Not with brains,' she repeated, putting down the spatula. 'With love.'