Friday, January 2, 2015

Stove Stories by Dorothy Sargent Boudreau

(Editor's note: Growing up, food and politics were main dinner table discussion with food winning out most nights. My mother, father and grandmother were all excellent cooks. My mother, Dorothy Sargent Boudreau, was also a reporter and besides covering hard news, also had a column in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune called Stove Stories that didn't just give the recipes but the history of the recipe. She believed that the memory of meals added to the flavor. Before her death in 1990 she began the creation of a cookbook based on those columns. I kept the unfinished manuscript and the idea came to me, to publish it as a series of blog. Despite some glitches in scanning where I couldn't get the type face as I wanted it, here are the recipes. If anyone has any comments or would like to add their own stories to the book, send them to me at and tell me which section you'd like them in.)

“You can give more happiness to more people with less effort by cooking than by any other means.”

So wrote a wise and gentle lady many years ago and how very true!

But a rather caustic Southern gentleman chose to comment both negatively and vehemently on the culinary arts, especially the customs in his part of Dixieland.

“The frying pan is the most dangerous instrument in this state,” he’d say with considerable asperity.

You know whether you’re a kitchen happiness spreader or one who wields a lethal skillet.  Whichever, it’s the rare person who doesn’t have to cook sometime during a lifetime.  Better it be a joy and a delight than a chore and a bore. The choice is yours.

STOVE STORIES is intended to please both the kitchen enthusiast with uncommon and delectable recipes gathered over the years and, hopefully, to whet the appetite and interest of the “I-hate-to-cook” folk and ultimately convert them.

My long love affair with food can be traced to my grandfather, a handsome silver-haired gentleman with an all season tan. He loved his “vittles’” whether his meal was as simple as old fashioned fish cakes with Boston Bake Beans or truly haute cuisine.

Housebound in his final years, grandpa’s interest in food never faltered. He’d help my mother with her menu planning (he lived with us after retiring) and unfailingly compliment her excellent, if plain, meals.
No gourmet cook my mother, her fanciest effort was a Lady Baltimore cake.  But what a way she had with breads (her oatmeal biscuit fairly floated from the oven.) And succulent, fork tender roasts graced our table twice a week.   

The method handed down from my grandmother was to have a roast on Sunday, serve it cold on Monday, then as imaginative left-overs on Tuesday. The cycle began with another roast on Wednesday and so on.   

Saturday was inevitable baked beans, (pea, kidney or yellow eye) accompanied by Boston brown bread, franks or ham, potato salad or cole slaw with custard pie for dessert… as regularly as the sun peeked over the horizon.

All this was fine with grandpa except for his occasional epicurean urges. When these became over-powering he’d send out for such gourmet fare as our small New England town could provide.

While grandpa was still ambulatory, I was frequently his young dinner guest as he and friends explored country inns and city restaurants with total impartiality. Surely he despaired when the prime ribs had been outstanding on one Sabbath excursions and I chose to enthuse about the “warmed up oyster crackers” served with the bisque.

Since those days I’ve developed some very opinionated ideas about food, among them a total aversion to boiled potatoes with two exceptions. But this comes later.

Vegetables, I contend, can be less than tempting unless they’re fresh from the garden.  Serving plain, frozen, canned or store-bought vegetables is a direct line to mealtime boredom.

Now about hors d’oeuvre. Aren’t you tired of both the ubiquitous clam and onion soup dips? Preliminary morsels obviously offer vast opportunity to let yourself go.

Take salads… I’ll mention in my will that person who serves me bite sized salad greens rather than jumbo chunks of this and fat slices of that. Deliver me, too, from limp lettuce or salads swimming in dressing.

Don’t look for recipes for meat loaf, or corn chowder, or similar preparations. Nor will you find Veal Cordon Bleu or Paupiettes of Beef with Olives, for example.  But do try a superb zucchini casserole, a delectably different rice dish, a simply delicious soup and dozens and dozens more.

In other words, I hope you’ll find the majority of recipes new to you, worthy of trying and, above all, deserving of much repetition.  Remember, too, your kitchen is your kingdom, the heart of your home.

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