More Pistoulet, Please!

By Gini Rainey

Well, I must say that the past couple of weeks have been amazing!  I am fortunate enough to have been a part of this thing called Distinctly Bronze West – a handbell event for advanced ringers that has been held for the past 9 years at various locations in, you guessed it, the West!  I think that everyone needs to have an activity that they enjoy and are able to do from time to time that takes them away from their daily grind.  That’s what handbell ringing does for me, and as one of my friends so perfectly stated last week “Handbell ringing is all consummate. When you are ringing, in order to be good, you must push everything else out of your brain.”  Thank goodness I have this escape – I desperately needed it last week, and it was successful.

Another activity that I enjoy is reading – as you well know.  I enjoy many genres of books, but one of my favorites is cookbooks.  I collect them, I read them, I use them, I pretty much love them.  There are times when I do heavy collecting, I wind up giving them a cursory run-through, and it isn’t until much later that I find the time to actually sit and do a more thorough read.  That opportunity has happened for me in the past few months due to the loss of my data-base.  I’ve been pulling them off the shelf, dusting them off, and leafing through them – discovering some things that I had forgotten.

One of the cool things about today’s entry session is that I was in the section with a boat load of church books.  Whether it was the one from my great-aunt’s church, First Lutheran Church in Fargo, North Dakota that was given to my Mother by her mother in 1936, or the one from my church, Pollard UMC that my mom gave me in 1996 or even the cute little German Cookie Recipe book that I picked up at the Vereins Kirche (Society’s Church) in Fredericksburg, Texas, they mostly all have memories AND recipes for me that hold special places in my heart.

The Lutheran Cookbook is missing its cover and its pages are brittle and crumbling, but flipping through its pages is like a veritable trip down memory lane.  All of the Scandinavian names that I grew up with just fill me so full of nostalgia, it’s almost like a trip back in time.  You get a real feel for the daily lives of the folks who lived in a farming community prior to World War II.  There was a whole lot of pickling, canning, and bread making going on back then.  This was definitely a time before technology, when cooking times and temps were a little bit less definitive: “Note. – These temperatures are given for a gas or electric oven; so for a coal range oven subtract 85 degrees F.”  See what I mean?

The advertisements that are sprinkled throughout are pretty interesting also, complete with those for Acme Dairy, Peoples Cash Market, and “MME. Melin – Electrolysis….Treats all diseases of the feet, Foot Massage for tired, worn-out feet and Jung’s Arch Braces.”

Another book that I came across today was The Secrets of Pistoulet, a lovely little book by Jane Kolpen published in 1996, that tells an enchanted fable of food, magic, and love.  I apparently picked this up at Half-Price Books in Dallas in the cookbook section, but as far as recipes go, the appeal of this book is much deeper.  Part fiction, part cookbook, this richly illustrated book is reminiscent of the popular Griffin and Sabine, with its collection of letters to be removed from envelopes, and recipes tucked into their own little pockets. Drawings, photographs, snippets of diaries, and mysterious maps decorate this tale of Mademoiselle J., who arrives at Pistoulet with a broken heart.

Taken from this book, it is the Potage of Passion that spoke to me today, perhaps because it’s a dreary day outside, perhaps it’s because I’m feeling nostalgic, but after addressing a couple of my passions over the past week, I’d like to encourage you to try this potage.  And I quote “Go to the market and find a farmer with a twinkle in his eye.  Buy a large quantity of big ripe tomatoes.  Put them in a huge red pot of boiling water until their skins split.  Cool; peel and chop, sauté two aromatic cloves of garlic in farm fresh butter of the sweetest variety.  Add several diced yellow onions and the chopped tomatoes.  Turn the heat low, put on your favorite romantic opera, and let simmer until soft.  Purée to a chunky texture.  Reheat.  Add salt, pepper and a handful of fresh basil picked that day.  Serve with grated cheese such as Gruyere or Emmenthal.”   I would suggest putting the potage on sliced french bread and serve with a nice red wine and candle light and perhaps you will become nostalgic, too.