Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Get Me Out of Here — Or Feed Me

Are you feeling a little stir crazy this holiday season? Maybe you're still camping on the living-room floor of your aunt's house, with all those grumpy, boozy, smelly, gossipy relatives of yours hogging the bathroom, the phone, the computer, the kitchen. Nobody can agree on what movie you should all go to, you're stuck in another city without your car, and to make it worse, it's probably too wet or icy or blustery to go outside anyway.
We got a little break in the weather this morning here in Marin, but those storm clouds are hunkered on the horizon, and before you know it, it will be Cooped-Up Time again.
Might as well rustle up some grub. It's the return of Literary Luncheon, in which I excerpt a food-related passage from an old book and accompany it with a recipe from the same era.
Today's snippet is from Cabin Fever, 1914 (or 1918, couldn't nail it down), by B. M. Bower. Bertha Bower published 68 novels set in the American West. She must have had some experience with that cooped-up feeling and grumpy relatives. Forthwith:
Cabin Fever
by B. M. Bower (1871-1940)

Bud turned his hotcakes with a vicious flop that spattered more batter on the stove. He had been a father only a month or so, but that was long enough to learn many things about babies which he had never known before. He knew, for instance, that the baby wanted its bottle, and that Marie was going to make him wait till feeding time by the clock.
"By heck, I wonder what would happen if that darn clock was to stop!" he exclaimed savagely, when his nerves would bear no more. "You'd let the kid starve to death before you'd let your own brains tell you what to do! Husky youngster like that —feeding 'im four ounces every four days — or some simp rule like that — " He lifted the cakes on to a plate that held two messy-looking fried eggs whose yolks had broken, set the plate on the cluttered table and slid petulantly into a chair and began to eat. The squeaking chair and the crying baby continued to torment him. Furthermore, the cakes were doughy in the middle.
"For gosh sake, Marie, give that kid his bottle!" Bud exploded again. "Use the brains God gave yuh — such as they are! By heck, I'll stick that darn book in the stove. Ain't yuh got any feelings at all? Why, I wouldn't let a dog go hungry like that! Don't yuh reckon the kid knows when he's hungry? Why, good Lord! I'll take and feed him myself, if you don't. I'll burn that book — so help me!"
"Yes, you will — not!" Marie's voice rose shrewishly, riding the high waves of the baby's incessant outcry against the restrictions upon appetite imposed by enlightened motherhood. "You do, and see what'll happen! You'd have him howling with colic, that's what you'd do."
"Well, I'll tell the world he wouldn't holler for grub! You'd go by the book if it told yuh to stand 'im on his head in the ice chest! By heck, between a woman and a hen turkey, give me the turkey when it comes to sense. They do take care of their young ones —"

Sour Milk Griddle-cakes
from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1918, by Fannie Farmer

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sour milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons soda
1 egg

Mix and sift flour, salt, and soda; add sour milk, and egg well beaten. Drop by spoonfuls on a greased hot griddle; cook on one side. When puffed, full of bubbles, and cooked on edges, turn, and cook other side. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

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