CBR12 BINGO: Happy
Full disclosure: My husband tested recipes for this cookbook and we are both listed under the acknowledgments as recipe testers.
Some years ago, my husband attended a beer crafting class that was offered by The Institute of Domestic Technology and held at the historic Zane Grey Estate in Altadena, California. When he came home and told me that not only did he have a great time, but that there were goats on the estate, I said, “Sign me up for the next one!” After that, we took a variety of classes, including cheese making, canning and preserving, and cocktail crafting. The classes were full-day events (in the case of the cheese-making, three full days) that were more than just “how-tos.” They were celebrations of food. Institute founder Joseph Shuldiner has collected some of the best recipes from those classes and assembled them into a gorgeous volume filled with beautiful photography, ingredient-sourcing tips, and more than a little devilish humor.
The recipes in this book are not for the faint of heart. If you’re somebody who looks at a box of Duncan Hines cake mix and thinks, “They expect me to have eggs?” then it probably isn’t for you. But, if you’re the type of individual who picks up a bottle of Lea and Perrins and muses, “I wonder if I could make my own Worcestershire sauce,” then you are in luck, my friend! That’s not to say you need any particular talent to succeed in the wondrous world of food crafting. To make your own horseradish, you only need four ingredients and a food processor (take it from me, fresh horseradish will make your sinuses shoot out of your head if you taste it immediately upon preparation; let it sit for a day or two and it becomes perfection). If you want to be the talk of the next dinner party you attend, offer to bring a cheese plate and show up with home made chèvre, which you can whip up in 24 hours with just a bit of special equipment. Want to create some memorable, personalized gifts? Dehydrate your own garlic and grind into fresh garlic powder, or plan ahead and craft your own Amaretto. I guarantee your recipients won’t receive any duplicates.
Like the Institute classes, this book is more than just a collection of recipes, and any food lover will enjoy reading it from cover to cover, as I did. Excerpts include tips on equipment, broken down by “must-have” and “nice-to-have;’ short biographies and words of wisdom from each of the Institute’s Deans (e.g., Dean of Pickles & Preserves and fellow Angeleno Kevin West, whose Saving the Season is a preserver’s bible); and, because the Institute is a “zero-waste” facility, ideas on how to use food waste, from used coffee grinds to whey from cheese-making.
Schuldiner’s mischievous sense of humor also figures prominently in the book. Interspersed between chapters are “historical documents” from the fictitious, “original” Institute of Domestic Technology, established in 1911. Among the documents are: snapshots of previous Institute Directors, including one Eudora Cunningham, who resigned after only a year “when it was discovered that she was ‘skimming’ more than milk at the Institute;” a police report documenting a Prohibition-era incident involving instructor Helga Vanderloop, who was arrested when a large quantity of Armagnac prunes was discovered on Institute premises; and, my favorite, a 1965 letter from the final director, Theodore J. Hoover III, who, upon seeing an advertisement for Carnation Instant Breakfast in a magazine in his dentist’s waiting room, decided that it was time for the Institute to shut its doors (“I felt as if I were reading the Institute’s epitaph.”). These inserts are hilarious yet just plausible enough that I wasn’t sure whether I was being put on or not until the jokes were confirmed by a source who was involved in the publication.
In November 2019, seven months before the book’s publication, Joseph Schuldiner passed away from brain cancer. Many of the people who were touched by him, include us recipe testers, did not know about the cancer until after he passed, because he kept his illness private. While he never got to hold the finished book in his hands, he was involved every step of the way, and The New Homemade Kitchen teems with his spirit. Joseph was the type of person whom, upon first meeting, you would instantly consider a friend, such was his ability to make people feel welcome and included. As one of his close partners in cooking said at a recent Zoom memorial and book launch, “Joseph lived his life like it was a party, and everyone was invited.” I can’t emphasize enough how much of an inspiration he was, particularly to my husband, Peter. As I finish writing this review, beef is marinating in the fridge in preparation for beef jerky, and grapes from our own California grape vine are cooking on the stove for jam. Joseph’s spirit is alive and well in our kitchen and so many others. For that, I’m grateful and happy.
From my kitchen