Varda, our retriever mix (retriever blend? Demi-golden? Full-blood couch hound?) is on a diet. The vet suggested cutting her dog food with veggies, such as raw carrots or canned green beans. As long-time readers might know, whatever canine genetics spell out V-a-r-d-a, behaviorally, she is a reincarnated Lady Who Lunches. Bell peppers, tomatoes, stringy grass, mushrooms...she eats all of these, when she can get them. Chopped carrots mixed with protein croutons a la Iams? This is a perfect lunch for one at chez Bowl. Although, it doesn't remove the joy of scouting and inhaling white backyard mushrooms for an aperitif.
Chopping carrots one morning last week, I realized that I am lacking whatever disposition associates cooking with anything other than a chore, although chopping carrots while nattering on as if your are the star of Dogs on Diets for one of the cooking channels is hardly a chore. It is silliness you can actually consume (as long as you snag a carrot prior to the introduction of the dog food).
This is the kind of cooking that I enjoy, the kind my dad perfected in which a skillet, random ingredients, and a fat (usually butter) rendered weird but often edible food. Like the buttered tortillas served by friend's mom, this was something that was either a remembrance (my mom made this once upon a time) or a creative challenge (will you eat this before I tell you exactly what it is? Will you eat it if it comes from a plastic tub of chicken organs?). To this day, I prefer making dishes in our big silver skillet...and I still pretty much think onions and tortillas are primary food groups.
The Pumpkin King, on the other hand, comes from a completely different familial tradition. His is based on his mother's (excellent) cooking and involves starting from scratch and involving the entire kitchen, and possibly the entire family, in each meal. If there are five steps to the dish and twelve pots, so be it. Not only will he work through each one, but he will attempt to clean as he goes. Except for the giant pans, which somehow are left soaking for the singing mice that do our dishes.
When we were first married, I assumed that I'd grow into that twelve-pot tradition. I did not. In experimenting with it, however, I used to check out cookbooks from our local library, including some old Time Life ones detailing recipes from various cultural traditions. Our favorite (to eat) were the stroganoff and linzer cookie recipes from the Russian volume. Since this was during our mobile phase when we switched apartments often, those recipes have long since been lost.
Today, though, we found a new flavor of treat for the dogs...not, perhaps the perfect diet treat, but something that inspired me to reach for the silly/creative cook and the formal recipe cook--these treats look like little linzer cookies for dogs flavored with apple and bacon. Apple jelly and bacon linzer cookies? Sign me up! They might turn out inedible...but they might be good. Or edible. Or a great joke when family visits.
The question is cookies with bacon bits with jelly centers? Sweet cookies with apple jelly centers spiked with maple bacon? Sweet cookies with a swirl of bacon jam and apple jelly in the center? Can I find a recipe before my Dad visits?
If so, they'll have to come wrapped with the sock puppet story about a dad and daughter who have to seal up a dimensional portal with sulfur-rich caramelized onion steam, which is about as silly a concoction as my mental skillet can serve up. Part one of the new draft should be my next post!
Have a yummy Labor Day & don't forget to season with a bit of silliness!