Monday, August 11, 2008

Childhood Delicacy

I have no culinary skills. I can attempt to follow a recipe, sure, but I have little understanding of how the ingredients are reacting together. Therefore, I have no ability to improvise.

I recently discovered a relic from my childhood. In my desk drawer along with assorted photos, letters and cards, I found a well-worn recipe card. It was my grandmother's recipe for Russian Coffee Cake. The cake, a brown sugary delicacy, I adored as a child.

Yesterday, I attempted to recreate it. Surprisingly, I came close, but it was not quite right. I think I know why. My grandmother, I suppose like most good cooks, tended to augment her recipes. People who understand things and do not simply follow directions. They are capable of improvising and creating new things out of the old. I can relate in my profession but not in cooking. In the kitchen I just try to follow the directions…and hope.

Related tangent:
My cousin, Trish, bakes the best approximation of Grandma's beloved Christmas sugar cookies. Many in the family have the recipe, but most do not know of Grandma's improvisation. I discovered the secret by accident one day not too long before she died: more cream of tartar.


Todd Camplin said...

Did the Russian Coffee Cake invade you with good flavor or did it transcend you back to childhood memories. Thought I would dance on the edge of the soapbox clause in your email. Great blog, I will add you to my link page. I find blogs written by writers the most enjoyable. Usually they contain fun random stuff that just is fun to read. Kind of slice of life stuff. Keep my blog in mind,
It is usually about artists and art and junk like that. A little about my life, but not a great deal.

Troy Camplin said...

I remember that you made one heck of a good beer bread.

The key to being a good cook is being able to know first the flavors of each of the ingredients, then how they react together, as you put it, then how the flavors taste together. I can often tell if recipe is good just be reading it, if I know all the ingredients.

I have several things going on you might be interested in:

Christine Wy said...

russian coffee cake sounds like heaven. how delish? and it's always good to know the little secrets to good cooking that make it great.

TonyN said...

Hey, Troy! Good to see you. I'm glad you found me. I was going to send you the link, but work got in the way after I only got three emails on their way.

I honestly have no recollection of making beer bread. I did that? Was I drinking while mixing?!? Seriously, zero recollection…

Troy Camplin said...

There is a distinct possibility you were drinking while making it. I also recall that you said that the cheapest beer makes the best bread. Don't tell me you killed those brain cells! :-)