HEIRLOOM COOKING BLUE PLATE SPECIAL

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Marilynn and Sheila
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heirloom-cooking

Please check out the following “Blue Plate Special” for Heirloom Cooking on the Workman Publishing website.
www.workman.com/products/9781603763646/
Stay warm and have fun baking!

Marilynn and Sheila

The Brass Sisters Are Cover Girls

Posted on February 2, 2015 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Baking with the Brass Sisters a

 

We are thrilled to be cover girls! We shot the cover for Baking With The Brass Sisters with our photographer, Andy Ryan, in the middle of January in our own home kitchen. We baked 20 recipes for the cover shoot, and were pleased to see our book listed on amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and on the website of our publisher, St. Martin’s Press.

As you know, this is our third cookbook, and we still love, researching, testing recipes, and writing.

Baking With The Brass Sisters still contains many recipes and stories passed down through written or oral sources, especially through our collection of more than 200 Manuscript Cookbooks.

However, this book also contains the story and recipes of how we learned to bake as young girls from our mother, Dorothy Katziff Brass, how we progressed through baking our first cakes (Sheila was 11, Marilynn was 12), how we baked the Kahlua Pies and Brandy Alexander Cheese Cakes of the 1960s and the 1970s, until we finally reached the “honorary grandmother or aunt” stage of our lives when we find ourselves passing on the recipes and baking tips of a life well tasted.

Baking With The Brass Sisters has become a part of our baking legacy, but only a part. The snow is coming down in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and we are still testing new recipes for Harry Truman’s Mother’s Favorite Coffee Cake and Grandma Brass’ Taiglech.

Baking With The Brass Sisters, Over 125 Recipes For Classic Cakes, Pies, Cookies, Breads, Desserts and Savories From America’s Favorite Home Bakers will be released on October 6, 2015.

 

TO PRE-ORDER COPIES OF BAKING WITH THE BRASS SISTERS:

http://smarturl.it/AWBrassSistersAMA 

http://smarturl.it/AWBrassSistersBN

 

A HOLIDAY STORY

Posted on December 23, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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ONE RED SOCK, A QUARTER AND THE VOICES OF CHRISTMAS IN THE CONGO

It seems that every year at the holidays we post a Christmas story. Last year was a fantasy of spending Christmas night at Home Goods. This year’s post is more serious and more personal.

In December of 1963, I was a student at Northeastern University which is located on Huntington Avenue, in Boston. More than 50 years ago, Northeastern was a “commuter college,” with most of the students living off- campus.

The Green Line trolley let us off just outside of the tunnel on Huntington Avenue, which meant that when we wanted to catch the subway back into Boston and then home, we had to wait in the cold. Depending upon the weather, our coats were either soaked with rain, or snow collected on our shoulders.

There had been talk that the subway fare was going to be raised a dime, and there were ardent discussions about how to avoid paying that extra dime each way.

Many of us talked about walking to the Symphony stop to avoid the higher fare, even if it meant carrying an armload of books. It’s hard to believe that a dime meant so much to us then, but you could buy a submarine sandwich at the Northeastern Lunch Room for 30 cents. Granted it had one slice of bologna, 1 slice of American cheese, 1 slice of ham and two transparent slices of tomato squeezed into a soft roll. Ice cream sandwiches were 20 cents, and we sometimes made a lunch of one. “Cheap and Filling,” was our motto.

We later found that the subway fare would remain the same because Northeastern was the first stop out of the tunnel. We never figured out why, but the fare was raised for the next subway stop, but not ours.

My mother had died the year before, and it was still difficult realizing that she was no longer alive. I was still numb from the loss. It was December in Boston, and it was cold, and I had to find a book that was required for one of my courses. I went to almost every bookstore in Cambridge and Boston. There was no Internet and no Amazon.com then.

The most technical approach I had to a book search was to call every bookstore in the Yellow Pages, and ask if they had the book I needed. Because it was before Christmas, most of the clerks, part-time student help, didn’t have the time to search for the book on their shelves.

The title of the book was Letters From an American Farmer by St. Jean De Crevecoeur, written by a Frenchman to his English friend, describing the persons inhabiting the British Colonies, their lives, and their political views.

I tramped through avenues of grey slush, worn by the still painful grief for my mother. No one had the elusive book I needed. I finally went to the Boston Public Library, and found that the book was not available.

People were running around the library chatting about the holiday, about the presents they had bought, and the holiday parties they were hosting or attending. I felt terribly alone and overwhelmed by a sense of exclusion.

Disheartened, I paused for a few minutes outside the room where patrons of the library could listen to recordings. Joyful choral music spilled from the open door. I listened, and it was as if the music from the recording was filling me with the joy created by those voices.

I asked someone who the singers were, and I was told it was a recording called Christmas In The Congo. A few years before, there had been massacres in the Congo, and, to me, it was almost unbelievable that something so beautiful had come from that chaos and slaughter. It is hard to believe that I can still feel the same elation I felt more than 50 years ago when I listened to that music.

I continued my search for Crevecoeur’s book, and I finally found it in a bookstore on West Street. I had built up this search into something with an almost impossible result. I had pictured this required book as being large and expensive and unattainable. Instead, I found myself buying a modest little paperback with a cover the color of sunshine. For the agreeable price of $1.50 I was able to learn about De Crevcoeur’s experiences in what was then considered an “uncivilized” country, but later proved to be the birthplace of a nation.

Carefully pocketing my treasure, I took the subway back to Northeastern. As I stepped off the subway train on Huntington Avenue, I could feel the chill, but I was filled with hope, and I finally realized it was a holiday.

I went to the campus bookstore and bought myself an extravagant present – a pair of red wool knee socks. They were expensive, $1.75, but they were warm, and they were red, part of the red and black of Northeastern’s colors.

Wearing my new knee socks, standing at the subway stop traveling home, it was a different cold I felt, bearable, not bone-chilling. The socks did make a difference.

Flush with good cheer and the holiday spirit, I put a quarter in the Salvation Army kettle at the Park Street Station. “God bless you,” said the steward of the kettle. I believed him, and I lived off his blessing for a very long time.

Epilogue:

So many years have gone by. I have only one red knee sock. I never found out what happened to the other one. I wore those socks for years, and they kept me warm. I can’t bring myself to throw away the solitary sock, because it reminds me of my own spiritual rebirth on a cold day in December when I heard beautiful music and gave a quarter to the Salvation Army.

I enjoyed reading De Crevecoeur’s little book, and I probably should re-read it again because they say things often seem different when you re-visit them. I know I will bring a half-century’s worth of knowledge, and, I hope, a little wisdom to the re-reading.

Every year, I plan my charitable donations, and I am happy to say they are substantial, but for years I couldn’t resist dropping a quarter in the Salvation Army kettle because I wanted to hear someone say, “God bless you.” Now, I usually “drop” something folded into the kettle because, let’s face it, a quarter isn’t what it used to be.

Christmas In The Congo was recorded by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA

Posted on April 3, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Our mother, Dorothy Katziff Brass, was born 112 years ago today during the reign of King Edward VII.  She was a true Edwardian, born in the basement of a row house in the White Chapel section of London, near the wharfs.  Her mother, who had lost two children to measles, my uncle and aunt, was on her way back to Russia from Buenos Aires where she and her husband, my grandfather, had briefly owned an unforgiving farm too rocky to plow.  Mother and child left England in a few days to return home to Russia.

My mother has been gone almost 52 years, leaving us at the age of 60 after a 2-year illness.  I was 20 years old when she died.  My sister Sheila was 25 years old.

She came to this country at the age of six and grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts.  She worked in the family grocery store as a young girl, scrubbed the floors of the apartment behind the store where they lived, did the laundry, and took care of her two younger brothers.

At 15, she was hired as a cashier at a local fish market and competed with the policeman on the beat in doing square root.  She desperately wanted to go to college, but she was told it wasn’t necessary for a girl.  She helped put her two brothers through Northeastern University.  She took business courses at Fisher College before it was a college, applied several times to the phone company for a job until the receptionist advised her not to apply again because she didn’t have a chance at a job there with a name like Katziff.

Eventually, she was hired by the Joseph P. Manning Company in Boston where she became a full-charge bookkeeper and did $1,000,000 worth of business a year over the phone.

She married our father, Harry, because he was smart, had a nice complexion, was up on current affairs, and had a sister who went to college.  They both agreed that if they had daughters, they would go to college.

She could bake only brownies and chocolate cake before she was married, but she turned into an accomplished self-taught home cook and baker.  She taught her two daughters to cook and bake as soon as they could reach the kitchen table.

She was a “Lion” mother with the heart of a “Lamb.”  She would leave notes at the kitchen table for us along with a piece of Dutch Apple Cake or some Pinwheel Cookies, when we came home after school and she wasn’t there because she had gone to Boston.  She expected the best of us, but if we didn’t do well on a geometry test, she’d tell us not to worry in her note and sign it, “Love, Mommy.”

She never bragged about us, and she told us that if we did something well, other people would tell her about it.

She nursed her elderly mother, who was bedridden and terminally ill, took care of two young children, and shoveled coal when our father was on a business trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan, during World War II.

She started the Sisterhood at our local synagogue, was active in town affairs, and never turned a hungry man or woman away from our front door.  We never knew who would be sitting at our kitchen table joining us for lunch.  The Orthodox Jewish man who collected for the Jewish charities overseas was often found in our kitchen.  Dressed in his black frock coat and wide-brimmed black hat, he ate his meals at our house because he knew our mother was the best cook and baker in the neighborhood.

Our mother was a second soprano; she took four years of classical piano and could play it by ear taking requests from family and friends; and she was known as the prettiest girl in Winthrop.

During her final illness she was on the sixth floor of the New England Medical Center, where our father was the Director of Pharmacy.  The sixth floor was then reserved for VIPs or seriously ill patients.  I studied in a chair in her hospital room while I attended Northeastern University.

Shortly before she died, one of the nurses came by on a sunny April afternoon to offer us tea in bone china cups.  My mother and I had a brief chat over our tea, and she said, “Someday, Marilynn, you are going to be a great writer, but I won’t be here to see it.”  I stood in a corner of the room where she couldn’t see me, and I briefly cried.  I wiped my eyes, took my seat, and picked up my teacup.  “Be careful with that cup,” she said.  “It’s bone china.”

From Addlestone, Surrey to Marblehead, MA

Posted on January 5, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Twenty-three years ago, Marilynn was browsing in a small antique shop in Marblehead, Massachusetts when she discovered this bank in the shape of a tiny house. There is a faded label on the roof of the house and cartoon-like drawings of boys, some singing, where the windows would be. The bank looks as if it were hand-made, shows much wear and much love. The label specifies that the money deposited in the chimney be “for poor boys.”

We were able to decipher the words on the label, and found that the bank was actually a contribution box for St. Mary of the Angels Song School, founded and run by the Reverend Desmond Lionel Morse-Boycott in Addlestone, Surrey, England.

After doing some research, we recently found that Reverend Morse-Boycott was originally a journalist, and was ordained in 1924 in the Church of England. He was assigned to the Church of St. Mary’s, Somers Town, which was located in the King’s Cross, Euston area of London.

Reverend Morse-Boycott devoted his life to fighting poverty, hunger, and lack of education among boys living in his parish. The school encouraged poor boys to sing in his choir and provided instruction for playing musical instruments. The choir was successful, but it was necessary to solicit contributions from the public. Reverend Morse-Boycott’s wife, Marguerite, became the Matron for the school. Both of the Morse-Boycotts devoted their lives to the school and the boys.

When Reverend Morse-Boycott retired in 1979, St. Mary of the Angels Song School was turned into a Trust to finance the education of boys at cathedral choir schools. The Morse-Boycott Bursary Fund was formed as a tribute to Reverend Morse-Boycott and his efforts to improve the lives of impoverished youth. The Fund is under the direction of the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral. One of the beneficiaries of the Fund is the Prebendal School of Chichester. Reverend Morse-Boycott’s daughter, Mary, is the Patron of the Trust.

It is fitting as we celebrate the holidays that we acknowledge the work of Reverend and Mrs. Morse-Boycott. Their efforts insured that talented under-privileged young men could obtain the education they needed to perform the music they loved, and that the sacred music of the Church could be heard all over England.

Reverend Morse-Boycott authored a history of the St. Mary of the Angels Song School, “A Tapestry of Toil.”

This information about the St. Mary of the Angels Song School is a lovely story, and it proves that everyone and everything has a story.
St. Marys of the Angels Song School Collection     Box

St. Marys of the Angels Song School Collection Box

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Posted on January 1, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Happy New Year to all of our friends!

May the new year and the years to come be filled with good health, happiness and joy.

We just posted a cover photo on our Facebook Page.  It was

From Our Copper Batterie de Cuisine

From Our Copper Batterie de Cuisine

taken by Jeremy Woodward with whom we worked on providing props for a re-creation of a late 1800s restaurant for the series, God in America which was presented on Public Television on the program, FRONTLINE.  The props came from our collection of culinary antiques and our copper batterie de cuisine.

This is the season for savoy, comforting stews, soups, and pot pies.  For dessert, we offer Apple Dumplings and a Northern Pecan Pie made with New England Maple syrup.

A snow storm is on the way, and a cup of Earl Gray tea and a slice of our mother’s Fluffy White Cake with a Caramel Frosting would go nicely.  There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea, something sweet, and a good mystery.

HOME GOODS, A FANTASY

Posted on December 22, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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As many of you know, Home Goods is part of the triumvirate that includes T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. We have come to love Home Goods and all it has to offer. Let us state here that we own no stock in the parent company nor are we paid for endorsing Home Goods. It has just been a delightful discovery. We’ve come to know Diane and Carol and most of the associates who work there. Their efforts to “dress” the store for the holidays has been outstanding and has taken a lot of hard work.

The store is full of wonderful things both utilitarian and decorative. We’ve made it a destination, and we carefully arrive the day after the weekly delivery has been made. Most of the time, we find something that helps add to the joy of living, whether it is wafer cookies at 8 calories apiece or a new ironing board cover. Sometimes we just browse and leave without buying anything, but it’s nice to catch up with our friends who work there.

Christmas is this Wednesday, and we’ve learned that the store will open the day after with wonderful buys at 8:00 AM. You probably thing we’ll be beating down the doors with everyone else seeking to scoop up the bargains and markdowns, but we won’t be there. We’ve chosen to do all of our holiday shopping early, but to satisfy the children that dwell inside of us, we’ve decided to indulge in a Home Goods fantasy. Our fantasy isn’t quite up to “The Night Before Christmas,” but to us, it comes close.
Using our imagination, we’ve come up with a plan of action as if we were going to be attending the day after Christmas sale at Home Goods. We’ve decided to arrive at the store at 8:00 PM, Christmas night (not Christmas Eve).

Through some special kind of retail magic, we know we will find an open door. The store will be dimly lit, but we’ve provided ourselves with tiny, but powerful, flashlights. We’ve brought a change of clothes with us, because Home Goods doesn’t sell clothes. We haven’t brought food or drink because we already know that the store sells special brands of bottled water and there are also packages of tea and coffee spread out lavishly all over the store. We have decided that we can brew our own in the coffee and tea makers the store has stocked as holiday gifts. There is plenty of sugar in the baking aisle, and even some bottles of sugar-free syrup. There are plenty of snacks both sweet and savory, but no sugarplums. There are jams, chocolate, cookies, and candy – even dried pasta, truffle oil, and balsamic vinegars. Maybe, there will be a hot plate so that we can boil water to make pasta. There are certainly plenty of pots and pans, dishes, and cutlery.

At our leisure we choose comfortable upholstered chairs and get down to the real reason for our night-time visit – early selections for the after-holiday sale. We line up shopping carts, one each. For reading material, we go to the markdown cookbooks, and we select one by Chef Thomas Keller.

We each decide to push together two of the easy chairs the way we did with our lawn chairs as kids. We now have a reasonable facsimile of a bed. We make a selection from the sheet section and tuck them into our “beds.” A few more trips find us with fluffy pillows, a quilt, and a warm woven throw. We anoint ourselves with lotion and put on fluffy socks from the health and beauty aisle. We select a room spray and give a spritz. Isn’t this cozy! We’re only missing a rug, something to soften our steps near our make-do beds. The room-size rugs are too heavy to detach from the hanging hooks, so we make a selection from the scatter and bath rug collections. Artfully, we place them around the area we have carved out for ourselves.

Missing a bit of color, we use our design skills to select holiday decorations and scatter them about in a carefully planned attempt to look casual. We chat and nibble, and check our lists. We plan to awaken at 5:00 AM to load our shopping carts before the crowds arrive. We also leave time to disassemble our sleeping quarters. Dutifully, we make a list of all of the items we’ve consumed or used so that we can tally up in the morning. Sheila spies a couple of Santa caps among the marked-down Christmas decorations, and we don them to keep our ears warm. We laugh at the incongruity of two Jewish ladies of a certain age wearing Santa caps trimmed in white faux fur. We break into our own rendition of “Jingle Bells,” and make a few calls on our iPhones to wish family and friends, “ A very good night.”

END OF FANTASY:

DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt this. It is a fantasy, and only professional fantasists with 60 years of shopping experience are allowed to indulge in this fantasy.
Happy Holidays from Marilynn and Sheila

Brass Sisters on NPR’s All Things Considered Found Recipes

Posted on December 8, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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DOROTHY SULLIVAN’S AND AUNT LIZ O’NEILL’S SHORTBREAD FEATURED ON NPR’S ALL THINGS CONSIDERED FOUND RECIPES
FROM HEIRLOOM BAKING WITH THE BRASS SISTERS

Photo by Andy Ryan

Mayors Big Dig Tour 2004_6_28

 

 

 

 

TO HEAR THE SEGMENT: http://www.npr.org/2013/12/06/249277869/a-tale-of-two-cookies-the-brass-sisters-holiday-shortbread

 

Cookies are a sometime food, and with the holidays around the corner, that sometime is now.

Here at NPR, the holiday baking season is not complete without a story from the always-charming Brass Sisters, Marilynn and Sheila.

They’ve been collecting recipes for more than 50 years. When it comes to holiday cookies, they immediately turn to Dorothy Sullivan’s shortbread. The cookies were a treat they enjoyed when they were girls, just 10 and 15 years old, growing up in Winthrop, Mass.

“Every Christmas, this nice Jewish family, the Brasses, would go over to the Sullivans’,” says Marilynn. They’d enjoy each other’s company and share baked goods, which included Mrs. Brass’ fruited tea bread and Mrs. Sullivan’s cookies.

“Going into her kitchen was like going into a winter wonderland of Christmas cookies,” says Marilynn. “There were wonderful snowman cookies with powdered sugar and Tom Thumb cookies that have a thumbprint, with jam in the middle.”

But the cookies they really loved were the shortbread.

“We ate every piece of shortbread,” remembers older sister Sheila. “We ate every crumb; we almost licked the plate!”

Mrs. Sullivan did share her recipe with the Brass Sisters, but they misplaced it. “We had to live on the memory and the taste memory of that shortbread for almost 60 years,” says Marilynn.

But that came to an end in the early 2000s, when they were researching their first cookbook, Heirloom Baking. They were trying to recall Mrs. Sullivan’s shortbread when friends of theirs chimed in with a story about their great aunt, Liz O’Neill. She’d emigrated as a teenager from Scotland, and she also made shortbread. The Brass Sisters got that recipe and immediately tried it out.

“When it cooled, we cut it up into crisp, crumbly delicious fingers, and we each took one,” says Sheila, “Our eyes went up to heaven, and we just looked at each other and said, ‘That’s it!’ ”

Liz O’Neill’s shortbread is an amalgam of butter and sugar. And for the perfect shortbread, Sheila has this rule: “Always use butter — don’t use shortening, don’t use margarine. It has to be butter.”

But, being the Brass Sisters, they decided to put their own touch on Liz O’Neill’s recipe.

“We made it as an orange shortbread, because there’s nothing like a little bit of citrus in the middle of cold New England weather,” says Marilynn.

The Brass Sisters’ Favorite Holiday Shortbread

Makes 32 1-inch by 2-inch pieces

1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 teaspoon orange extract or 1/2 teaspoon orange oil

Set oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter or coat with vegetable spray.

Add flour and salt to a mixing bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add orange zest. Add orange extract or orange oil and combine. Add dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until completely absorbed and dough comes together. Do not overbeat or shortbread will be tough.

Gently pat dough into prepared pan. (Press down the edges with tines of fork.) Prick top of dough evenly about 20 to 25 times.

Bake shortbread 35 minutes. Cool on rack for about 20-25 minutes, or until slightly warm. Score shortbread with a knife into 1-inch by 2-inch pieces, but do not cut through entirely. When completely cool, cut into pieces along scored lines. The texture should be sandy and crumbly. Store orange shortbread in a covered tin between sheets of wax paper, at room temperature.

Shortbread will firm up as it cools. Placing shortbread in the refrigerator will help it firm up. If the shortbread is pale, continue baking another 5 minutes, watching carefully to be sure it is not browning too quickly.

WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS SHOT?

Posted on November 22, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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I first saw John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the 1950s at Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts. My cousin, Norman Katziff, was receiving a degree in Civil Engineering the same day John F. Kennedy was receiving an honorary degree. Tufts was small enough then that the graduates could walk solemnly down a path before gathered family and guests. Then Senator Kennedy walked by himself. It was the first time I had seen him in person, and he was only a few feet away from me. I was surprised that he didn’t seem taller, but he was tanned and smiling, and he had the look of someone who would become a part of history.

It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Everyone remembers where he or she was when he or she heard the news. I was in an English history class at Northeastern University in Boston. Someone ran in and said that the President had been shot. I thought that he had said that the President was in shock, and since my mother had died of complications from diabetes in April of 1962, the first thing I thought about was that he was in diabetic shock, and I kept telling myself that couldn’t be true because the President wasn’t a diabetic. It finally registered that he had been shot.

We all walked out of the class and ran down to the cafeteria. We sat around empty tables. It was very quiet, and we were listening to the radio which someone had rigged so that we could hear it in the cafeteria. After what seemed like a long time, a man’s voice came over the radio and announced that the President had died. The announcement was followed by organ music, generic and final. I joined some of the girls, and we all walked up the two flights of stairs to the Chapel. As we walked in, the Dean of Chapel’s Secretary asked us why were going into the Chapel, and we told her that the President had been shot, and that they had just announced his death. We said a prayer for the President, his family, and the new administration.

I left Northeastern to go home to Winthrop, and during the four changes on the subway and bus, no one said a word. The next day, one of the graduate students told us that his mother had made a Portuguese fish soup, and that they both had been unable to eat it.

When you are young and in college and working toward a goal, there is nothing like someone who seems larger than life to inspire you. We truly believed in Camelot with its promise of dreams that could be achieved. We all wanted to wear our hair like Jackie Kennedy, and we all wanted to dress like her. She was elegant, and he was handsome and smart, and he gave us permission to change the world and make it better. It seemed that we said good-by to our youth when we heard the news of his death.

In 2006, I was in Dallas to promote my first cookbook, Heirloom Baking, and our escort pointed out the exact spot where President Kennedy had been shot. As we drove by, I couldn’t believe how plain and small and peaceful the area was. It was hard to understand how a seemingly innocuous place had turned deadly and how it now seemed so ordinary 43 years later. People just went about their business as if nothing had ever happened there. I know that although I am not the same person I was when I heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot, neither is my world the same. Camelot existed for a very short time, and as I grow older I realize that I am very much the recipient of its legacy. I still believe that things are going to change for the better, and I still believe that I will help make those changes happen.

Our Love Affair With Cabbage

Posted on September 11, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Notice the Green and Blue in This Purple Cabbage

Notice the Green and Blue in This Purple Cabbage

OUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH CABBAGE

 

We have always loved cabbage.  We’ve  never fallen into the trap of ridiculing any vegetable, especially cabbage.  We’ve heard all about the odor of cabbage cooking, the comments about how it’s sometimes not nice to your digestive system.

 

No one ever describes the beauty of a cabbage whether it’s a green or a red one — its rose-like leaves, the several shades of green that make up a green cabbage, and if “red,” the subtle shades of blue and magenta that combine to make a cabbage purple.  We love a cabbage when it is in dress uniform with its leaves arching out from its core.  To us, cabbage is a thing of beauty.  We even like Savoy cabbage with its tight wrinkled leaves.

 

There are few cultures that don’t make use of cabbage in their cuisines.  We grew up in a Jewish household, so our memories of cabbage are of our mother’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage stuffed with meatballs in a tangy brown-sugar tomato sauce with a generous helping of raisins, which always plumped up during the baking.  Sometimes the raisins rose to the top of the baking dish and got a little burnt, and those were the best.  They were almost candied. Because  Sheila, didn’t eat raisins then, our mother went into “restaurant mode’ and made a separate dish of stuffed cabbage without raisins for her.

 

Some home cooks make their stuffed cabbage in a large pot, but we always baked ours in a rectangular glass baking dish.  We later found out that the cabbage meatballs our mother made were called Romanian Stuffed Cabbage.  In our second book, Heirloom Cooking, there is a recipe for our mother’s Romanian Stuffed Cabbage and there is also a recipe from Bunny Slobodzinski’s for Stuffed Cabbage with Salt Pork gravy.  Both are equally good.   We weren’t surprised when we found out that our mother’s recipe was referred to as “Romanian” because our maternal grandfather Grandpa Katziff came from Moldavia near Romania.

 

The Brass side of the family had a history with cabbage, too.  The original name of the family was Breslau, and there was a city in Poland that was named Breslau.  It later became Krakow.  When Grandpa Brass immigrated to America and settled the family on Orange Street, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, he planted a garden of cabbage and tomatoes.  Our father, Harry, helped harvest the vegetables, and our grandfather, who had been an illuminator in the old country (an artist) was the one in the family who shredded the cabbage and put up the sauerkraut. Daddy talked nostalgically about the plates of homemade sauerkraut and pickled green tomatoes he loved to eat as a snack when he was a boy.

 

When our mother and father went to dinner at Grandma Brass’s house after the young couple had been married for a month, Grandma served her chicken soup, and her cabbage soup.  Daddy ate two bowls of both, and Mama, embarrassed, yelled at him when they got home because she was felt his family probably thought she hadn’t been feeding him.

 

When we were growing up in Winthrop, there was a store on Shirley Street called Kaplow’s Creamery.  Every week there was a delivery of sauerkraut and half-sour pickles.  In those days, they added fresh cranberries to the sauerkraut for flavor and color.  The sauerkraut and the pickles were delivered from the back of a large truck, and if it were a very hot day, the deliveryman would sometimes give us a free pickle.  The pickles and the sauerkraut were stored in bulk in large wooden barrels and transferred to containers when you bought them.

 

Years later when Marilynn had her first apartment in Cambridge on Concord Avenue, house proud, she went to Haymarket to stock up on vegetables and fruit.  Being one who believes that bigger is better; she bought the largest cabbage she could find.  It was so large that she couldn’t fit it into the first refrigerator she ever had.  She placed the cabbage on a wicker chair and contemplated what to do next.  She knew cabbage kept pretty well, but it wouldn’t keep forever, and she was so excited she couldn’t figure out how to get the cabbage into the refrigerator.  She thought about taking out a shelf, but then where would she put everything that had been on the shelf she’d removed?  Finally, she called Sheila, and she came up with a great suggestion – cut the cabbage in half.  She did, and Marilynn’s dilemma was solved.  She wishes she could remember what she made from that cabbage.

 

And finally, a word about Brussels sprouts.  we have always loved miniatures, and we were  once the proud owners of five dollhouses.  There is something very intriguing about anything smaller than it should be, and to some, Brussels sprouts are like miniature cabbages.  They have a milder flavor, and they are ravishingly attractive when presented for sale on their curving stalk.  There are various ways of preparing Brussels sprouts, but we trim the ends and make an x on the bottom before steaming them.  Butter and toasted coarsely chopped walnuts are good with Brussels sprouts.  We wish people wouldn’t refer to them simply as sprouts.  They are too special for that.  We lived through the miniature vegetable craze of the 1980s and 1990s, but Brussels sprouts will never go out of fashion.

 

We read somewhere that the Queen of England is served Brussels sprouts at Christmas dinner, but we don’t know if that’s true. You shouldn’t have gotten us started about our love for cabbage, because we also love radishes and parsnips, and we just might have to write about those.

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