Presidential Pie for the Inauguration Day

Emma and Siegfried Wish You a Hippy Inauguration Day

I have been waiting for just the right opportunity to make this pie, and here it is. It’s a combination sweet potato and pecan pie, and it only has about ten million calories in it. It was also the favorite pie of one President Obama. Naturally, it’s from a bakery in Virginia.

A digression here: since Mr. Jefferson of Virginia was asked to write the constitution for the first French Republic (he declined,) let’s have a few lines of the French national anthem.

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé, 

“Arise, Children of Patriots,

The Day of Glory has Arrived!

Against us, the Tyrant’s banners

Are elevated.”

Damn skippy. Now, back to pie.

The origin of this pie is Red Truck Bakery in northern Virginia, and the genius behind it is Brian Noyes. Go buy his cook book.

Ingredients

1 Creole Pie Crust (more Southern than the original. I really can’t follow a recipe very well.)

Hickory Nuts (not in the original recipe. See above. As it turned out, mine were all ruined anyway.)

Baked and mashed Sweet Taters, Precious

1 Egg

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Whipping Cream

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Bourbon (as much as you dare)

Fill up half the pie dish. That’s plenty.

That’s just the bottom layer. To quote Will Shakespeare, “I will call it Bottom’s dream.” Quoted out of context as usual. Now to the pecan top layer, which is the scary part.

Ingredients

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Sorghum Syrup (VERY southern)

Some Bourbon and Cinnamon

2 tablespoons melted Butter

Pinch of Salt

Here’s where I really depart from the recipe: corn syrup, as called for, is verboten in our kitchen so we improvised a replacement.

Honey

Maple Syrup

1 tablespoon Flour

A layer of Pecan Halves

The last ingredient is a thickener. The result is a masterpiece.

“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” Or at least for Couple of Days

The crust is a bit ragged, but it will have a short life anyway. Handsome Joe and Handsome Kamala should drop by for a bite. Otherwise I am gaining several pounds.

Cracking the Code on Tempera Paint

When the temps hit freezing here in the South, many people go into semi-hibernation. Not me–I’m as busy as a porcupine sticking spines into the mouth of a fox. I think I have a paint recipe that doesn’t require ten coats to cover something. It may take even only one.

New Tempera

2/3 cup Boiled Linseed Oil

1 Egg

1/3 cup Water

3 tablespoons Pigment

Mix them together in that order. The extra oil and pigment make this is a nice thick paint. I must have been channeling my hero Sandro Botticelli. My covid mask has a print of the Birth of Venus on it. Thus far, no one has objected to the nudity–on the mask, that is.

Shirred Eggs with Ham

Health Food

Everyone has a recipe like this, but add real eggs and real ham, along with fresh herbs, and you have a real breakfast, or an anytime dish for two, for that matter. Cut directly to the chase, with two ramekins/custard cups.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 Eggs (or more)

Cream

Diced Ham

Diced Onion or Shallot

Toppings: Grated Cheese and Chives

Cook this in a bain-marie, a hot water bath, a method which allegedly was invented by an alchemist named Mary. How she got in all that hot water we’ll never know. I crank up the stove to 550 F. This can also be cooked on the stove top.

How much cream, ham, and onion? Fairly small quantities, but let your conscience and doctor guide you. The cheese makes this a gooey work of art. It’s done when the cream bubbles.

Tomatoes, in season, make this the best egg dish imaginable-wild cherry tomatoes are the best, cooked whole in the dish. Complaining about having your favorite fruit being out of season is as old as ancient music. Oh, snap, that’s the title to a great satirical poem by Ezra Pound.

Ancient Music

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.

Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

Comment: Tomatoes, come back, we love you.

Moocher’s Compost Bin

Mooched!

The mooching lifestyle is far more under appreciated in the US than it should be. A person could practically live off of discarded items, and I am certain that many people actually do. There’s no tax on throw aways, either.

I am only a part time moocher, but I have dumpster dived and mooched in numerous locales. I pulled a fancy desk chair out of a dumpster, worth several hundred dollars, and then spend my time at the computer sitting in an old post and rung oak chair, that I mooched for $5 at a flea market. My latest mooch could prove to be my best: a flat bed truck full of cinder blocks, and the wood pallets this compost bin are made of.

The story is this. We have been have been showering the in-laws with free eggs, and one couple had just had a retaining wall replaced, and needed to get rid of the left over and used cinder blocks, more commonly known in these parts as “see-mint blocks” (cement blocks.) As my mooching has become a valuable reputation enhancer, they offered us the blocks, and with free delivery. We countered with an offer of thirty eggs. It was a deal.

The sweetener was that the blocks are to used in the construction of a smokehouse, and we offered free use of that as well, once it is completed. The blocks arrived quickly after that offer. I helped unload them, and they had been sitting on two pine pallets on the truck. My brother in law asked if I wanted them. He didn’t know I been looking to mooch two wooden pallets as well.

Three deck screws later, and I had a new compost bin, attached to the back of the chicken run. It is now being filled with table scraps, leaves, and chicken manure in various states of decomposition. It will be half full in no time.

Free Fertilizer

Next spring we will have mooched fertilizer as well. Which reminds me that it is almost time to grab a shovel, and get to work.

Four French Hens

Proper Eggs need a Proper Basket

I don’t know the name of the sadist who wrote that never-ending Christmas song, “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but I fixed it by buying four French hens. To be precise, four ISA Browns. They could easily bury any of us in an avalanche of eggs.

Ethel the Brown Guards the Mail

These birds are hybrids, and bred to lay more eggs than a large family can eat. We are currently supplying five families with eggs, with only eight chicks, four Browns and four Barred Rocks. Do the math.

Ethel: “This is my Best Side.”

They are also remarkably handsome birds. There must be a passage in the French constitution, after all that stuff about liberty and equality ( thank Mr. Jefferson and Monsieur Lafayette for that,) that all French exports must look great. I don’t have a problem with that.

Christmas advice: Buy American Cast Iron! Buy German Tools! Buy French anything that has to do with Food! Have a Joyous Noel!

Recipe for One Pint of Egg Tempera Paint

We just had our first freezing weather today, and therefore it is too cold to paint outside. I will write about it instead, and give the recipe first, before I wander off into the weeds of Nerdlandia.

1/2 Cup Boiled Linseed Oil (I wouldn’t use this for interior paint, but many people do)

1 Egg

1/3 Cup Water

2 Tablespoons Pigment

This should result in exactly one pint of paint, which means this can be used up before the paint begins to smell like oily rotten eggs. I had that happen once during hot weather this summer.

Begin by mixing the oil and egg together. This is a whole egg Tempera, though there are also recipes that use only the white, or more commonly, only the yolk. Add the water very gradually, stirring constantly. Dissolve the pigment of choice with a small amount of the mixture, stir briskly, and once dissolved, add to the paint. Pour the whole thing into a mason jar (if you can find one), slap on a lid, and use asap. Now for the trip to Nerdlandia–tickets, please.

Though tempera paints have been around for at least three millennia, it was classical Greece that popularized the wide use of egg tempera. My information comes from the excellent 1942 book Painting Materials, written by an art conservator and a chemist at Harvard, the capitol of Nerdlandia. This book convinced me that I needed to specify egg as the binder, as there are also glue tenperas and gum temperas.

They note that the first known mention of egg tempera came from the Roman writer Pliny, though they did not specify if it was the elder or the younger. He noted the wide use of this paint in classical Greece, as many of the famous Greek sculptures were originally painted with brilliant bright colors (they also wore real jewelry).

The two real heydays of Tempera painting were during the Italian Renaissance and in Twentieth century US paintings. Everyone knows the two greatest tempera paintings, Leonardo’s The Last Supper and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The best known of the US tempera revival artists would have to be Andrew Wyeth, of Chadds Ford, PA.

I, however, am painting a wall, which is actually the foundation of my brick oven. This has proven to be a vast improvement to the grey paint that was there before. One museum claims the egg tempera won’t crack or fade, the latter of which I know to be true, as I used iron oxide as my pigment. Now it just needs to warm up some.

Italians and Their Egg Yolk Rules

Some of These Eggs will have Orange Yolks

Italians buy their eggs according to the color of the yolks. Yellow yolked eggs are labeled giallo dell’uovo, and the prized orange yolked egg is called (actually) red yolked egg, rosso d’uovo. I’ll do chemistry first, and then the backstory.

Since Dr. Leroy Palmer first published his research in 1915, it has been known that yolk color is caused by the chicken’s diet. Different carotenoids called xanthophylls are the determinants. More recent research has narrowed down the two main chemicals to Lutein and Zeaxanthin, and one scientist has determined the first is the source of the yellow yolked egg coloring, and the latter for the orange color. That led me on the search for the second one.

Veg! Feed the birds leafy greens, corn, wheat and carrots, as all are good supplements to the diet. This supports my observation that their favorite food is Dandelion greens. I can start a chicken riot with those every time.

Now to the backstory. I was fascinated by the great food book by Bill Buford called Heat. He became so fascinated with Italian food that he goes to Italy regularly to learn from the best of the best cooks. Even though he was the fiction editor for The New Yorker magazine, he was born in Mississippi, and knows his eggs. Hence his experience with a woman who is a legendary pasta maker in Italy.

Bill describes the master of pasta, and why he went to study with her:

It was also why I’d got so interested in the egg, because on my first morning, watching Betta prepare the dough, I saw that an egg was a modern pasta’s most important ingredient, provided that it is a very good egg, which was evident (or not) the moment you cracked it open. If the white was runny, you knew the egg had come from a battery-farmed animal , cooped up in a cage, and the pasta you made from it would be sticky and difficult to work with, exactly like the unhappy batch that Betta produced one evening after Gianni fell asleep, having had too much wine at lunch, and failed to buy eggs from the good shop before it closed and had to drive to the next town to the cattivo alimentarii, the nasty store, and pick up a dozen of its mass-produced product. The yolk was also illuminating. The nasty store’s were pale yellow, like those most of us have been scrambling for our urban lives. But a proper yolk is a different color and, in Italian, is still called il rosso, the red bit …

Heat, Bill Buford

Poor urban folk, deprived of all the goodies. I have a mixture I now feed my birds. The basic bit is as follows:

16% Protein Organic Chicken Crumbles

Corn and Wheat Scratch

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Carrots

Various Greens in Season

Maters, Precious

Other Fruit and Veg that are left over (Squash and Pumpkin are especially good)

Ours yolks just keep getting more and more orange. I may one day even get one of the legendary red tinged yolks.

Tomato, Shallot, and Morel Omelette

If you want to make an omelette…

Though there was a small mountain of peas to shell, and a bowl of pecans to crack, nothing can stand in the way of MJ and myself enjoying a nice Sunday breakfast. As usual, we just went with the ingredients we had.

The Raw and the Cooked

Ingredients

3 medium Eggs

2 small Tomatoes, chopped

5 small dried Morels, reconstituted in hot water, chopped

1 medium Shallot

Morel soaking liquid

Grated or soft Cheese

Chopped Parsley

Salt and Pepper

This is an easy recipe, but we scored some authentic long shallots (Echalote traditionnelle longue) from France, and nothing goes together like morels, shallots and eggs.

First cook the shallots and morels together in olive oil. (It helps to have a really heavy cast iron skillet.) Add the chopped tomatoes, and simmer until softened.

Combine the eggs, cheese, and some of the morel juice, with salt and pepper.. When the veg and fungus is cooked, add the eggs to the mix. Cook on the stove top until the eggs begin to set firmly, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and pop the whole thing into a 400 degree F oven. That’s the entire whang dang doodle.

Thank you, Birds

This can also be made with some fried new potatoes as the base, in which instance it becomes a massive breakfast. The key is quality ingredients, as with all things.

The eggs were donated by our ISA Brown chicks, and the chopped parsley was harvested from a pot on our countertop. We grew one of the maters, and the other came from the Festhalle. Which reminds me that I have maters to get ready for canning.

I turned Italian, and have begun straining out my leftover morel juice for use elsewhere. There will be no flavor left behind.

The Cookies that Made Me Want to Get Married

Make at Your Own Peril Do not confuse with the Weed Hybrids Known as Cookies

I first met Melanie Jane when she was in the third grade, and I was thirty-five. Oh, snap, a really bad Alabama politician joke (Southerners will get that one). Actually, I was in the sixth grade, so I qualified as a much older kid. We were in line at what we called our lunchroom, and I saw her. I told her she resembled her sister my age, and her response was to stick her tongue out at me. Thus our relationship began.

I finally asked her out right before I graduated from High School, and headed off to UA. We became inseparable in no time. After a few dates, she asked me if I would like her mother to bake me some cookies. It was impossible to refuse.

With and Without Raisins

After about five cookies from the mountain that her mother made, I had an epiphany: There were many things I could do with my life that were worse than eating food like this for years. In short, I was a goner. It didn’t hurt any that there was a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman sitting next to me, while I swined away (she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from college).

At any rate, here’s the recipe, updated a bit.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Sugar (Honey would be a good substitute)

1/4 cup Butter

1 Egg

3/4 cup Oats

A pinch of Salt

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

3/4 cup AP Flour

1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 cup Milk

1/2 cup Raisins

1/2 cup Pecans

Cream together the butter, sugar, and egg. Then add the dry ingredients, and finally the milk. Bake 12-15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Then get ready to pig out. This makes about 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

A few weeks ago we received as a gift the original recipe, engraved on a bamboo cutting board, in the handwriting of MJ’s late mother, Agnes Olga, who baked the original mountain of cookies. It came from the very sister whose comparison caused MJ to stick her tongue out at me. I’m sure I wouldn’t mind having my legacy being great food.

Hoya! Don’t use Sawdust in a Chicken Coop

Once again, the chicken experts on the interwebs have struck Hoya! I have now been told that sawdust is deadly to chickens. Tell that to the more than 100,000 chickens that we had while I was growing up. Admittedly, they all now are dead, but blame that on the soup company they were sent to, to be beheaded.

I shoveled untold truck loads of sawdust for our nest boxes, and the birds didn’t have a problem with it, as they turned out far more than a million hatching eggs. I personally filled up the nesting boxes, and gathered most of the eggs.

For those who are not familiar with Hoya!, it’s the stuff you don’t want to step in when you’re in the horse’s stable. The interwebs is et up with Hoya.