Sunday, April 27, 2014

Jan Karon & Ham

[Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader]

Plans are moving ahead for the wedding of Jan Karon's Father Tim and Cynthia. Hessie Mayhew is ready to raid the gardens and byways of Mitford for her floral arrangements. 

The whole parish is pitching in to make the wedding perfect for their, and our, beloved Father Tim and his fiancĂ© Cynthia.

"And what," inquired Hessie, "are you
planning to do, Father,
other than show up?"

"I'm doing the usual," he said…
I'm baking a ham!"
[from Jan Karon's A Common Life]

[from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader]

A picture is worth a thousand words, dear reader and dear husband. There it is in the picture above, the ham mahogany red--not pink. Father Tim says so. 

Author Frances Gray Patton said so in my previous post and my next post will include more proof from one of my favorite Southern cookbook authors.

Below is Father Tim's recipe:

Father Tim's Baked Ham
[from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader]

Vegetable oil for greasing the pan
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 (6 to 8 pound) smoked ham

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking dish and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar and molasses in small saucepan and melt over low heat.
Remove from the heat, add the bourbon, orange juice, mustard, and cloves and mix well.

Remove the skin and fat from the ham and place in the baking dish.
Make 1/4-inch cuts in the ham in a diamond pattern. Pour the glaze over the ham.

Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thicker portion 
of the ham registers 140 degrees F, basting every 15 minutes with the glaze.

Remove the ham from the oven and cool in the pan. Remove from the pan and refrigerate.
Pour the pan drippings into a bowl and refrigerate. When ready to serve the ham, remove
the fat from the top of the drippings, remove the whole cloves, warm it up, and serve it with the ham.

If you're a Jan Karon and Mitford fan, this cookbook brings to life all the delicious food in her novels. I love what Karon ends her introduction with:

"Draw close.
Hold hands.
Life is short.
God is good."

Amen--regardless of how you like your ham!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Frances Gray Patton & Ham

Why Frances Gray Patton and ham? Because yesterday was Easter and we traditionally have ham for Easter. We, R.H. and I, always have a little "discussion" when it comes to how long to cook a ham. He, partly right, says it's already cooked and only needs the short cooking time the instructions recommend.

I, on the other hand, prefer my ham to be a beautiful red color, cooked until the flavor intensifies. I won yesterday because I insisted I had three books, by Southern authors, that backed me up, proof that dark ham is the best.

Today I present the first book, Frances Gray Patton's The Finer Things of Life:

"The Young Matrons were tired that February…Mrs. Battle offered to make a tipsy parson, and my mother asked if she couldn't see to the ham, which required soaking, boiling, baking, and innumerable fancy attentions before it was transformed into the noble object that would repose on a silver platter to be carved by the senior vestryman of St. Luke's Parish into paper-thin slices, 

the color of red mahogany."

Did you get that? The color of red mahogany. The Young Matrons in The Finer Things of Life knew what the men of their church liked--well done ham, richly flavored and richly colored.

"Mrs. Battle continued. 'We know which things are Representative and which things are not Representative. And my dear friends'--here her voice rose an octave--'pink ham does not represent St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal Church and, by God's grace, pink ham never shall!'"

Frances Gray Patton is a Southern author of the 1940s and 1950s who I admire with a passion that borders on obsession. Author of Good Morning, Miss Dove and contributor of fiction to all of the popular women's magazines of the day, Mrs. Patton lived in North Carolina with her husband who taught English at Duke University. I imagine her as chic and a woman of the world even though she wrote mainly of domestic themes. 

And I present her as my first expert on the color a ham should be cooked to. I bet she never served a pink ham in her life. 

Later on I'll present two more Southern authors who agree with me. That should lay the question to rest, although I doubt it will. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Tidings To All

"You haven't been expecting this kind of love.

It is alien to your whole way of operating.

And yet it's true.

He has decided to put an end to all the judgment and condemnation that drives you into hiding.

He has forgiven all. 

He has overcome your attempts to sabotage
His love and isolate yourself.

May God continue that work of love in 
your life today."

Kate Norris in
The Mockingbird Devotional

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April Freeze & Edna St. Vincent Millay

An April freeze forecast
had me busy cutting flowers for the house.

The poet's flower above made me think
of lovely verses by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

"Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!"
"Second Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I always hesitate to cut flowers as they fade so quickly
but the Sir Winston Churchill buds above
will most likely freeze to mush outside.
Brought inside, this most fragrant of all the Narcissus
in our garden will perfume the rooms intensely. 

"My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light."
"First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

And just because these lines are lovely also:

"And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, 
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a basketful of gold."
"Recuerdo" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ode to the IRS

"I'm a middle-bracket person with a middle-bracket spouse

And we live together gaily in a middle-bracket house.

We've a fair-to-middling family; we take the middle view;

So we're manna sent from heaven to Internal Revenue."

By Phyllis McGinley

From "The Chosen People"

In Times Three

Happy Tax Day, Everyone!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Gladys Taber

Today I look through Stillmeadow Album
in honor of Gladys Taber's birthday.
To see her house in Connecticut,
the rooms she lived in,
the gardens she walked through,
as always, brings her closer.

I have watched our violets spread year after year,
planted because Gladys loved them so much.

"There is the sky, now in April like a soft blue pearl,
and there is the moon, a silver shaving in her field of stars,
and the air, breathing of violets."
Stillmeadow Seasons

"Dusk falls sweetly and softly in April,"
Gladys claims,
and as dusk falls this evening,
April 12th,
I will think of Gladys Taber 
and the joy her many books have brought me.
I will especially think of her sitting at the desk
where she wrote them.
To me, and countless others over the years,
this desk belonged to a good friend.

Happy Birthday, Gladys Taber!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Enchanted April

"To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the
          Mediterranean to be Let Furnished 
                      for the month of April.
                  Necessary servants remain.
                                     Z., Box 1000, The Times."

And thus did Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arbuthnot reply to the above advertisement and rent San Salvatore for the month of April, escaping their miserable lives in London. Along with a Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester they awoke one April morning in Paradise.

"Such beauty; and she there to see it.
Such beauty; and she alive to feel it.
Her face was bathed in light.
Lovely scents came up to the window and caressed her.
A tiny breeze gently lifted her hair
How beautiful.
Not to have died before this
to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this."

from The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Armin

My 1924 copy of The Enchanted April reads: "By the Author of "Elizabeth and Her German Garden." Now we know that both books, and others, were written by Elizabeth von Armin. 

I reread this book every April and watch the gorgeous movie. Perhaps it should be required reading for all engaged couples and at every wedding anniversary.

Mrs. Wilkins' husband, Mellersh, "a solicitor, encouraged thrift, except that branch of it which got into his food. He did not call that thrift, he called it bad housekeeping." 

When Mrs. Wilkins' and Mrs. Arbuthnot's husbands arrived at San Salvatore, Mr. Wilkins was impressed that his Lotty had made the acquaintance of wealthy Lady Caroline.

Mellersh is played by one of my favorite actors, Alfred Molina:

Lotty Wilkins is played by Josie Lawrence, who unlike Lotty is obviously noticed at parties:

Mrs. Wilkins is "the kind of person who is not noticed at parties. Her clothes, infested by thrift, made her practically invisible. Her face was non-arresting; her conversation was reluctant, she was shy."

Rose Arbuthnot is played by Miranda Richardson:

Mrs. Arbuthnot's husband Frederick is played by the incomparable Jim Broadbent:

"Frederick had been the kind of husband whose wife betakes herself early to the feet of God."

Clearly, Frederick has been besotted with Lady Caroline. Rose is, by all accounts, a neglected wife. But at San Salvatore the madonna-like beauty of Rose attracts Mr. Briggs, their landlord.

Mr. Briggs is played by Michael Kitchen, the star of "Foyle's War":

He finds something in Rose Arbuthnot that Mr. Arbuthnot has not seen.

"…the more Mr. Briggs thought Rose charming the more charming she became."

Rose became quite captivating, as husband Frederick soon realized.

And there is reluctant femme fatale Lady Caroline, played by beautiful Polly Walker:

Lady Caroline is at San Salvatore to be left alone, or so she thinks, to sleep, not to be called upon to give orders to the servants in her fluent Italian. 

"I haven't come here to housekeep, and I won't."

She was tired of her mother telling her what to do, tired of men grasping at her, tired of silly women being jealous of her.

"She didn't want their tiresome men."

And then there is autocratic Mrs. Fisher, played by indomitable Dame Joan Plowright:

Plowright, once married to Laurence Olivier, plays the role of Mrs. Fisher with all the determination in those dark brown eyes that appear almost black. Stubborn, proud, insistent on her own way, but Lotty Wilkins senses her vulnerability.

Lotty "sees" Mrs. Fisher's hidden needs, Lady Caroline's, Mr. Briggs', the Arbuthnots'. She even finally sees her husband Mellersh's, because she believes the best of everyone. 

San Salvatore causes her to "see" it all, in the magic of "The Enchanted April."

"The View from Mrs. Wilkins's Bedroom
After a Water-Colour by the Hon. Lady Mallet"