English mustard my be substituted

The first recipe I ever wrote - from my Kindergarten Class Cookbook - reads:

Stone Soup By Sarah

You need some stones that you’ve scrubbed a lot and you need a big pot. Then you get some carrots and put them in the pot. Throw in the stones. You have to have some onions. You though in the onions and some meat cubes. Spring some spices. Let it cook awhile. Throw in some potatoes. Put in some milk to make it sweet. Throw in some beets. You taste it.

I’m not sure I’d ever tasted a beet. I think if I had, it probably wouldn’t have made the otherwise very reasonable ingredient list for stone soup.

The next year, my palate grew slightly more sophisticated, and my first grade class cooked and hosted a medieval banquet (I must have spent a great deal of time learning to spell medieval. I was always very concerned with details.):

On the 16th of November the first grade had a banquet. We made our own recipes and menu. We had Dragon stew, apple pie, and bread with jam and butter, medieval eggs and purple blue milk. We cooked our own food. We got into groups and worked together. Every one make their own part. Poor Ben got sick!

Poor Ben. I apparently kept a focus on food as I progressed through elementary school. I described a rebellious third grade field trip in which:

We drove and I listened to my radio. Once the plug came out and “Get Back” blasted out. We stopped at a rest stop and half the bus bought pop. Then we drove to the border crossing. We were supposed to turn in our fruit, but I sneaked a apple and a banana through.

I’ve read that if you didn’t want to be a writer from an early age, there’s little hope you becoming one as an adult. As with any avocation, the key is practice, practice, practice. Get in those 10,000 hours. I have no memory of wanting to be a writer. When I hear people talk about filling notebooks with poems and journaling from a young age, it just doesn’t resonate. I did plenty of writing for school, including publishing The Five O’clock Whistle in 4th grade about my dad’s childhood paper route. I describe myself in the author’s bio as follows:

My name is Sarah Barthelow and my hobbys are reading writing playing sports and playing with my friends. My favorite colors are silver, gold, purple, green and blue. This is my favorite book published by Jell-o Inc. And I think you should know that I’d rather eat Ice cream than asparagus.

I’ve grown quite fond of asparagus, though I stand by my support of ice cream. In addition to feeling that stating my food preferences were quite important, I also blurbed my own book with fictitious reviewer comments.

From the back cover:

I read this book again and again and again and again and again and I’ll read it again. - Lopez Recycling Center
A educative book for young children - Lopez Librarian
It’s exciting as a rose bluming. - Lopez Gardening Club
It’s a rumor that’s true - Lopez Grapevine
Hot stuff! It burned me! - Lopez Fire Marshall

Apparently I developed a sense of humor early on, too. I am also a born-editor, as it turns out, having always had an appreciation for proper spelling and grammar.

5th grade: November 19, 1992

I am thankful for:
gerbils
x-mas
spelling
almost everything

In middle school, my love of food continued to feature prominently in what I wrote. Like this report on Italy. Fantastico!

6th grade: Report on Italy — Food

Italian cooking is very delicious. They use butter, olives, oil and tomatoes a lot while cooking. Most of their food is made from flour and water such as pizza, pasta, and bread. They eat a lot of bread. Fish, cheese, bread and wine are popular foods. Italian wine used to be known for its quantities, but now, as vineyards improve the quality of the wine is improving also. Different cities in Italy are known for specialty foods. Napoli is known for its stuffed peppers and pizza pie. Genoa, for its gnocchi al pesto (tiny dumplings with basil sauce.) Parma, for its parmesan cheese (of course.) So, when visiting Italy, don’t miss its fantastico food!

I never felt that compelling need to write that some writers talk about. I kept journals, but I never finished them. There’s something about my perfectionist nature that clashed with the open-ended creative free-form of writing. Yet I was always pretty good at it.  Evidence suggests that I may have enjoyed writing more than I remember.

7th grade -- Writing Survey

Why do people write: Because they have a message that they want to get across to other people so they write it down in a scenario for others to read.

What do you think good writer needs to do in order to write well? Have a clear message. Have their story poem relate to their message. Have good rhythm in your poem. Believe in what you write. Add lots of detail and descriptions (but not too many!)

In general, how do you feel bout what you write? I like to write poems more than stories. Most of my poems that I finish and put in final draft I like.

I have absolutely no memory of enjoying being a poet. None. I’m scared of poetry; not enough rules. Writing was always just something I did with out noticing I was doing it.

5/23/94

What would you like people to say after you die?

Sarah Barthelow lies here. She was our first woman president. She changed this country. She gave food to the poor, pulled us out of our national debt. She was a good person. As a child, she was a living nightmare. As she got older she got smarter and was elected. Now she is dead but her memory will live forever.

Clearly, my life goal was not to be a writer, but rather to be the leader of the free world. I’m not sure which pursuit is loftier. At least I was still concerned with feeding people.

I apparently developed my love of the parenthetical aside at a young age as well. I penned this poem in eighth grade:

If I were in charge of everything
we would have apple crisp for dinner
and nothing for dessert.
Brussel sprouts would be outlawed.
and Pizza would be a requirement.
We all would go swimming every day,
(except Jennifer Clarke because she always splashed me.)
And the water would taste like sugar,
(in case you accidentally swallowed it.)
There would be no rules.
If I were in charge…

There are some things you just can’t change. (A taste for Brussels sprouts not among them). You can change what you do, but you can’t change what you like to do. Some part of our nature is ingrained from the very beginning, even if it takes us a while to notice. I found scores of writing samples in my carefully filed work samples from childhood. How I managed to block them out, I'm not sure. I may not be one of those people who wakes up needing to write, but I'm well on my way to clocking in my 10,000 hours.

I recently came across a 3x5 notecard floating around in the junk drawer at my parents house. Sometimes it just takes looking backward to connect the dots, to see that we’ve spent all these years slowly working toward what we’ve become today. And that our proclivities for food or creativity or unwavering precision have been there all along.

Vinaigrette dressing:

2 tablespoons vinegar
5 tablespoons olive or nut oil
1 teaspoon French mustard
a pinch of salt and pepper

Directions
Put in bottle and shake well. If French mustard not available, English mustard may be substituted.

Potluck potato salad

Here's the thing about potato salad: in theory, I don't like it. It's one of those leftover childhood distastes for things that seem like they're probably bad for you anyway, like caffeine. Or cocaine. Or random sex with strangers. All things you probably shouldn't retest in adulthood lest you find out they're not as bad as your mother made them out to be. Such is the case with potato salad. It's mayonnaise based - ew - and lacking in any predominately healthy ingredients. But like coffee-flavored anything, the more I try it in adulthood the better it tastes. (It's probably a good thing I've never sampled cocaine).

Potato salad’s creamy mayonniase-induced high is as much from its context as the ingredient list. I associate chilled potato salad with summer potlucks, rubbed up against a barbecued salmon and mixed with cucumbers from a greek salad. This was a good summer for potlucks. We had almost forty long-time friends over to celebrate my dad and my joint birthdays. There were wood-fired pizza potlucks, crab boils, fried chicken dinners, and other excuses to gather in groups and eat good food. 

I was scheduled to host a potluck this month for a magazine shoot. There was going to be roast lamb, local crab, and huckleberry pie along with signed photo waivers, prop styling, and NDAs. So basically all the staples of a good island potluck. Due to a series of unfortunate events, we had to cancel the faux-luck. It may be for the best. But since the behind-the-scenes view of a Lopez potluck dinner won’t be gracing the glossy pages of a magazine near you anytime soon, I thought I’d offer instead a few words of advice, should you ever find yourself invited to an island potluck.

Don’t arrive on time. 

When islanders say 5, they mean that by 5 they’ll be setting up the saw horse table in the yard and pulling mason jars off the shelves to be filled with their latest batch of homebrew. The secret-family-recipe potato salad will have made just it in the fridge to chill. So come late. You won’t be the last one, I promise. There’s always that couple that shows up at 7:30 with a fried zucchini appetizer, she in a wrapped knit shawl and he toting his mandolin.

Do bring your own dishes. 

Ceramic, of course. And real cutlery. Preferably carried in a woven basket.  

Don’t bring salmon. 

Unless you caught it yourself, that is, from a local reef net gear. Or during your summer stint up in Bristol Bay. Oh don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of salmon. Sockeye, of course. If you’re lucky, marinated overnight in a soy miso ginger dressing and then barbecued just long enough for the flesh to turn opaque at the edges and fall apart like a sliced loaf of bread.

Do try a little bit of everything.

Cold thai noodles sprinkled with a flurry ofjulienne carrots in a large maple bowl. Deconstructed greek salad with crisp garden cucumbers and sun gold tomatoes, pardon the imported sheeps-milk feta. Deviled eggs made from the Sunday haul at the communal coop where everyone chips in for chicken feed and collects eggs on their assigned day of the week. Pile it all on that ceramic plate sop up the quinoa kale ceasar juice with naturally leavened sourdough spread with Andre's homemade goat cheese. There’s nothing quite like it.

Don’t bring a salad. 

Unless all the ingredients come from your organic backyard garden. Or at the very least from the horse-drawn farmstand down the road. In the early days of potlucking, my mother used to bring a plain green salad. From store-bought lettuce. With bottled dressing. In a plain white bowl! Imagine my humiliation, the island version of wanting to be dropped off at the mall a few blocks away. I was mortified that we didn’t have locally thrown pottery to carry in our backyard greens topped with edible nasturtiums.

Do bake a dessert from foraged berries. 

Blackberries, probably. Or in a real pinch, organic strawberries from the U-pick farm will do. If you make a peach cobbler, someone will ask you whose orchard the peaches came from and you’ll feel embarrassed. You’ll conveniently forget to bring out the frozen yogurt you stashed in the host’s freezer when you spot the kids cranking the wooden ice cream maker to churn up a mint watermelon sorbet.

Don’t wear clothes that need to be dry cleaned. 

In fact, if you’re under five, you probably don’t need to wear clothes at all. There will inevitably be a bonfire after dinner and the smoke will stick to your hair and red flannel shirt so that you’ll wake up wanting to shower, do laundry, and eat a toasted marshmallow all at once. Bring layers. You don’t want to have to sit too close, lest a silver-haired old crank tells you to move back, you’re blocking his heat.

Do stay until the end. 

If you stay long enough, someone finds another bottle of whiskey. By 10:30 or so, it’s finally dark; the meteor shower starts overhead and the entertainment begins. Sometimes a guy perched on a rock off to the side plays the recorder he picked up at the take-it-or-leave-it. Maybe the mandolin comes out. If you’re lucky, you might just spot the naked fire jugglers. Sip your whiskey, eat another piece of foraged berry cobbler, and take a good look.

Barthelow Potato Salad
Adapted by Barbara Barthelow Glazis

My dad comes from an army-family of eight kids. All the siblings grew up on  this version of potato salad that my grandmother - who I called Rarebi - made. My Aunt Barbara has carried on the tradition of making it, and my dad recently tried his hand at a version. It's a little more sunset colored than some varieties and relatively simple in its ingredient list - in fact I like to throw in some celery and bigger pickle chunks for a little texture. However, it's a crowd pleaser and makes a lovely potluck dish.

Ingredients:
10 lbs potatoes (I like to use Yukon Gold)
3 -5  sweet onions (like vidalia), chopped finely
1 dozen eggs, hard boiled, chopped finely
5-7 dill pickles, chopped finely
Onion salt (salt, not powder)

Sauce:
One quart (or what was a quart) of Best Foods mayonnaise
~ 1/3 cup of Heinz ketchup
~ 1/2 tsp French’s Yellow mustard
2 - 3 tablespoons dill pickle juice (Klausen)
1 Teaspoon onion salt (or to taste)

Peel potatoes and slice them length wise to cook.  
Once cooked let them cool, then slice them into tiny cubes tossing with onion salt occasionally using a two tined fork so they separate but don’t get mashed.
Chop eggs and mix with potatoes.
Add  chopped onions to potatoes.
Mix all sauce ingredients with whisk until smooth and creamy.
Add to potatoes and mix well with a two tined fork.

Note: My aunt Barbara does a “Potato Salad Bar” as some people don’t like the plainness of the salad.  For this option, keep the onions out of the potato mixture and put the following in bowls: chopped olives, onions, celery, and sweet pickle relish.

Birthday

I’m back! And it’s my birthday! This year’s number comes in the form of a palindrome. And no, I’m not 22… I’ll let you connect the dots. Palindromes are so cool, don’t you think? (I’m not being facetious, just a closeted math nerd here). A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! Able was I, ere I saw Elba. Things that are the same forward and backward don’t come around that often. In fact, we sort of bank on the opposite, of ever marching forward without seeing the same thing in front of us that just came behind. Still, growing up I was jealous of Hannah and Aviva who got to use their names as the example for our fourth grade math lesson.  

So here I am. Solidly settled into my 30’s. Not messing around anymore. My late 20s are a distant memory. If this were still fourth grade math and we were rounding to the nearest five, I’d end up mid-decade. Perhaps I’m wallowing a bit in this new age. I’ll move on. 

It catches me by surprise how much can happen in a year. Which brings me to another birthday.

This blog! Little house pantry turns one this month. We don’t quite share a birthday, but close. The blog gets an entire birthday month because while I technically wrote my first post in early August, it wasn’t until exactly a year ago that I finally got up the guts to send out the URL to anyone and announce to the eagerly-awaiting interwebs that I had arrived. 

I’m not sure what I imagined when I launched this puppy. I think mostly - given that I only have two speeds: busy and hyper-busy -  I wanted a structure to fill my newly emptied days. And 81 posts later, here I am. For a while there I was posting six times a week! Thankfully for all of us, I’ve slowed down a bit. Even the most dedicated readers can only handle so many kale recipes at once. I played around with story telling, memoirs, recipes that don’t really count as recipes, and some real winners. Thanks for being along for the ride. Without you I’d just be shouting really loudly into the abyss. 

My last year was pretty jam-packed with changes, too. I found an interest in writing for public consumption, something I never would have imagined I would actually enjoy. I traveled all over. If you had told me a year ago that I’d become an audio personality with a weekly podcast, I’d have laughed you out right of my kitchen. I learned to program websites, convinced pretty fancy schools to hire me to teach them how to do fancy new things. Learned what an LLC and an EIN are. Broke my hot tub. Fixed my hot tub. Broke my hot tub again. You know. Big life stuff. 

Birthdays in my family are sacred events. It’s the one day of the year where you have total permission to do whatever you want, demand attention and fawning from everyone around you, and wallow in your own awesomeness. Which explains how my mom and sister ended up bushwhacking through five acres of forest so we could “explore” the new property we bought across the street. It also explains this cake. 

This triple chocolate cake is a family tradition. If there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s there’s not much more important than family. And our traditions are many. This cake tastes like self-indulgence and the anticipation of wrapped presents. My dad usually makes it, but the one he made this year was devoured by the forty house guests we had over for a salmon barbecue birthday bash the weekend before. So I decided to make another mini-version. I spent the day baking, sewing little waxed cotton pouches on my newly rediscovered sewing machine, reading a book about a shipwrecked guy who survived 76 days on the open sea, and asking various family members to bring me things while I lounged on the couch. 

As birthdays go, this one was a winner. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good year. And here’s to the next one with the hopes that the view of the future will be more than just a reflection of the past. 

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Valerie Edwards

The key to this cake lies in the three (!) different layers of chocolate. It takes a bit of time to let each step cool and set, but man oh man if it isn’t worth it. A local restaurant owner on the island where I grew up took to serving this cake after borrowing the recipe from my dad. We’ve tweaked things slightly, but it’s pretty hard to improve upon perfection. The recipe makes a double layer nine inch cake, which is a lot for a small family to put away without needing to buy new stretchy pants. I halved the recipe for each stage and baked the cakes in 6” pans which produced a proportional but perhaps slightly more reasonable cake. 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) for 30 seconds or more (This eliminates the need to sift. Hurrah!)

Lightly whisk eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sour cream in a separate bowl

Add butter and other 1/2 cup sour cream to the dry ingredients. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, then raise speed to medium and beat 90 seconds. 

Reduce speed to medium low and add egg mixture in two parts, beating 30 seconds each (stop to scrape sides with a spatula several times). 

Add chocolate and beat additional 30 seconds. 

Add hot water and beat on low until mixed evenly. Batter will be quite runny/liquidy. 

Pour batter into greased and floured 9” cake pans with parchment rounds in the bottom. 

Bake 30-40 minutes (until internal temperature reaches 190-205, if you have a fancy thermometer.)

Use moistened cake strips on outside of pans so cake doesn’t overcook. (Only if you have them.)

Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto rack and cool completely. 

Frosting #1: Chocolate Butter Cream

Ingredients: 
1/2 cup butter
3 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted, cooled
3 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons light cream

Cream butter until light and fluffy 

Gradually add half the sugar and the melted chocolate. Beat well after each addition. 

Blend in egg, salt and vanilla

Add remaining sugar alternately with the cream. Beat until smooth after each addition.

Frost and fill cooled layers, making certain that the top and sides are as smooth as possible. Refrigerate until the frosting is hardened. 

Frosting #2: Chocolate Espresso Glaze

Ingredients: 
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup espresso

Melt chips in espresso and let cool to tepid. 

Place chilled frosted cake on rack and pour all chocolate over the top, letting it drip down the sides. 

When glaze is set, transfer to plate. 

Keep cake refrigerated until ready to serve.