A couple months ago chef Michael Solomonov came out with a beautiful cookbook of Israeli food. I know this because he photographed the food on my pottery. It made me think that I haven't seen too many WASP cookbooks around. I just googled “WASP cookbook” and found one for $6.54 on Amazon with the following review:
"After a lifetime of addiction to Italian food, I had no idea you could do so much with mayonnaise."--Jay Leno.
Clearly this author has stolen my thunder. Mayo, Hellman’s in particular, is a food group in WASP cuisine. One of my father’s many epitaph options is, “This is where Peter Kinder ended his days from slathering on too much Hellman’s Mayonnaise.” I made him a headstone when I was in graduate school in London to cement my reputation as the "American whack job."
Mayo is, though, a poor substitute for Hollandaise (I'm not going to lie, mom would spoon in a generous helping of Hellman’s to stretch out her famous Hollandaise sauce if someone showed up unannounced, but Hollandaise rocks)
Recipe I-Susie’s Hollandaise
Repeat the mantra “3,2,1” and you will have this recipe down.
Put 3 egg yolks in the blender (if you are a WASP, you will have a classic Osterizer that is missing a gasket and leaks or possibly, a Waring. You probably will not have graduated to the Vitamixer and won’t until the Osterizer or the Waring dies. Dying means “doesn’t work at all.” It has nothing to do with that hideous burning smell that happens if you blend for more than 18 seconds. That smell is both expected and tolerated as it is proof of your WASPy thrift.)
Put 2 tablespoons of REAL LEMON (meaning lemon juice that comes in the green bottle-under no circumstance should you resort to actual lemon juice; the sauce will be ruined.)
Let the blender do its thing, and then slowly:
Pour 1 melted stick of butter in. Make sure the butter is melted, but not still scalding as it will cook the eggs and ruin the sauce if it’s too hot. This sauce is to be used on anything green. Add tarragon to it and it becomes BEARNAISE sauce-which can be put on steak.
If you really want to impress use it on:
Recipe II- Susie’s Eggs Benedict
Cook your American bacon in the oven at a low broil. DO NOT USE CANADIAN BACON OR HAM. Do not make it crispy. It should have the Fear-of-Trichinosis texture of an inflatable punch ball or balloon.
Toast Thomas’ English muffins and butter them liberally, and cover with 1-2 pieces of wiggly bacon.
Poach your egg by cracking it into a pyrex, making a whirlpool in a pan of boiling water and dumping the egg in. The whirlpool sucks it into the center of the pan and keeps it together. Pull the egg out after a minute or so with a slatted spoon and dump it onto a 3 ply square of paper towel.
From its paper towel-hammock, dump the poached egg onto the bacon, cover the pile with Hollandaise, maybe add a dash of black pepper or paprika and holler loudly to whomever is supposed to consume it.
Eggs Benedict is best with Mimosas. The Champagne can be as cheap as you like, but despite the “Real Lemon” preference, we like fresh squeezed orange juice in our Mimosas. Old-fashioned images of Christmas stockings have oranges peaking out. We still do that. Multiple relatives send oranges from Florida to ward off the scurvy and furtively boast about being in the sun while New Englanders freeze. My brother’s and my job every morning in the winter was to go down to the fridge in the basement, put enough citrus into my flannel, Lantz nightgown, (I’d hold the hem to make a basket) bring them up, and squeeze them. My dad would take grapefruit juice, (until he started taking Lipitor) and the rest of us would have orange. My dad would have his orange juice mixed with rum at the end of the day. He would take his first sip and bellow, “Nectah of the Goads!” (Nectar of the Gods) In addition to squeezing juice, making and delivering coffee to my parents in bed, my brother also had to go down and warm up the diesel engine Peugeot for 20 minutes, Winnie, the Peugeot. They marketed this chore easily to a 12 year old because he was always desperate to drive. The billows of blue smoke enveloping our hamlet were ignored as my parents reveled that the cost of diesel was a mere portion of the cost of premium unleaded.
Alcohol is an important part of the WASP diet. I dated a Muslim once. He asked me what traditions WASPS have. With the same urgency that Muslims pray 5 times a day, we WASPS need a drink after 5 every day. We do sometimes go to church. Most people go to midnight mass on Christmas to see who has gained or lost weight over the past year. It’s also fun to see who is too drunk to survive the sitting and standing regime of the service. My best friend once stood for Silent Night and folded like a nutcracker. The sound of her head hitting the pew in front of her was remarkable. As alcohol is so important, and WASPS are so cheap, many a dinner party conversation is consumed by discussions of under-$10-bottles of wine that are as good as expensive wines. These conversations are absurd as none of the participants ever drink expensive wine, but they are still fun.
Before 5 we have to drink something. We like to make our own lemonade and iced tea. Only a WASP has the balls to put in the amount of sugar that Snapple puts in to make those drinks so good. We also have mint in our gardens, and we like things with garnishes.
Fill a pitcher with 1.5 cups of sugar. Cover it will boiling water and wait for it to liquify. Add more water if there is still some undissolved sugar. Have the kids juice 4 lemons or limes. They really like the Meyer lemons because they are tender enough for their little hands to juice. Add that to the pitcher. Fill it up to the top with ice and add 2 sprigs of mint. Stir and serve. If you want iced tea put 4 tea bags in with the sugar and let them steep while the sugar dissolves. If you like the drinks mintier, put some mint in with the boiling water. You're going to have to fish it out after the sugar dissolves because it gets yucky looking. After you put in the ice, put some fresh mint.
In addition to citrus, we like berries. I once suggested to my mom that I like to give the kids only organic grapes and berries. She made a spitting noise and told me that she’ll just wash the non-organic ones really well. Berries come in Bisquick pancakes. We splurge for real maple syrup as we consider it our birthright. I’ll never forget the hue of purple that was my blueberry pancake vomit as it streamed down the deck of my dad’s lobster boat. Berries are served in bowls with heavy cream and sugar, and they also appear with sour cream and brown sugar.
Sour cream is revered almost as much as mayonnaise. I remember having a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup with a particularly waspy friend when I was 7. She asked for some sour cream for her soup because she wanted it to be “gourmet.” As I watched the fatty lumps bob in her soup, she told me that she also liked spinach in her tomato soup. If you put spinach in things, it’s called “Florentine.” One of my worst, recent cooking disasters involved spending an entire day slaving over fresh tomato soup. The tomatoes were all fresh from the garden. I skinned, de-seeded, roasted tirelessly. The result was indistinguishable from Campbell’s tomato soup.
Baked potatoes served with butter, fresh chives and sour cream are considered a meal. Those of us who intrepidly face Mexican food like everything with sour cream. Ethnic foods are still regarded with some suspicion. In the 70’s my father was invited to a "Mexican Feast" at someone’s house. It was probably the year after they’d retired the beef fondue pot with the mid-century modern skewers. Horrified by the feast, Peter’s only method of escape involved putting food in his pockets.
Back to the soup, we’ve cut down on the Campbell’s. It used to be referred to as, “the universal binding agent.” That was back in the tuna fish casserole days. My mom will still slip a can of cream of mushroom into the pan when she’s making pork chops “because they’re always so DRY!” The packets of Lipton onion soup do still show up. There’s the obvious Lipton soup/sour cream dip, but the true genius of those dried packets is in pork tenderloin:
Recipe IV-Susie’s pork tenderloin
Wrap the pork in bacon, dump Lipton onion soup in the pan, add a cup of water and cook it at 375 for 30 minutes. That’s it. It’s amazing; you can’t beat it.
Speaking of soup:
Recipe V-Nana’s fish chowder
Clam chowder distinguishes itself as the most un-kosher thing one can eat. It involves shellfish, pork, and dairy. Is that why WASPs like it so much? It’s the meal equivalent to sending oranges to New England in the winter from Florida.
Sauté whatever bacon or salt pork you have. Once the fat gets liquid add a diced onion or 2, dump in some chicken stock, and/or clam juice, and a couple bay leaves. Throw in some potatoes if you’re in a starchy mood, boil them in the stock till they are soft, throw in some fish and keep it boiling for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down and add whatever combination of dairy you prefer, heavy cream, milk, butter, ½ & ½. Salt and pepper the hell out of it, and you have a meal. If you don’t want any drama, fish out the bay leaves. I had an uncomfortable “bay leaf stuck in the throat of my accountant” evening.
WASPs like meals that don’t cut into our drinking time. I remember everyone buzzing about a bluefish recipe. You put some salt, pepper and onions in with the fish, wrap it in foil and COOK IT IN THE DISHWASHER. I’m not going to endorse that one, but I will say that a generous layer of Hellman’s on any fish covered with crunched up Ritz Crackers and baked for 20 minutes is delicious. If you want to be considered a GENIUS sprinkle some thyme onto the crackers, and wedge of lemon and fresh parsley really classes it up.
Our piece du resistance is, of course, the lobster dinner. This meal is really a metaphor for our entire approach to cooking. We don’t have to do anything. You, the guest, have to do all of the work. We serve lobster with corn. This allows us to talk about where the corn was purchased and whether or not it was better than the corn we had last week in New Hampshire. My dad gets to take the colander in which the corn will drain and wear it on his heat and salute in a ridiculous “Hogan's Heroes” way. Corn displays our fun-loving, devil-may-care attitude when we let people to roll their cobs directly on top of the stick of butter on the table. The whole meal is a vehicle for the consumption of vats of PURE BUTTER. We will put a plate of lemon wedges on the table for the health nuts, but it generally gets ignored. We also provide trash bags on and around the table, so clean up is a breeze as well. We might force you to eat outside in the mosquito-ridden deck because we don’t want any lobster juice spills onto the braided or oriental dining room rug. If that’s the case, we’ll offer you some Avon Skin-so-soft and talk for 10 minutes about how it keeps the bugs away while you slap at your ankles and neck.
We might offer a salad with our corn and lobster:
Recipe VI-Caesar Salad
We love recipes that involve the use of stale food. For Cesar salad one can chop up all the stale French bread and heels of other breads in the house, toss them with garlic, salt, oregano, and parsley and bake them for 5-10 minutes into croutons. Then hack up some romaine hearts. One can use the whole head of the Romaine, so there’s no waste there-another plus. In the Osterizer put, olive oil, 2-4 cloves of garlic, a tin of anchovies, the juice of a few lemons, and some Kraft Parmesan cheese. Blend it up and taste it. It will seem a bit harsh, so add some Hellman’s as the perfect mellowing agent. Toss the salad with some shredded parmesan to give the impression that you haven’t put a bunch of Kraft Parmesan in there, and you’ve got a crowd pleaser.
Pesto is a relatively new addition to the WASP palette, but it deserves a mention because it’s another vehicle for Kraft cheese. Just put a bunch of fresh basil (leaves only-I’ve made the stem mistake, and it’s awful. Make the kids take the stems off.) in the food processor with olive oil, garlic cloves, pine nuts (or cashews or sunflower seeds in a pinch) and some Kraft Parmesan cheese. The Kraft is IMPORTANT. Whatever horrible preservative is in there keeps your pesto that incredibly beautiful shade of green FOREVER. It will not fade to that dull forest green color. This will give your guests the impression that you’ve made pesto fresh for them when really it’s been sitting in the fridge next to the sour cream that you had to skim the mold off of before serving. Do not serve this pesto to your nut-intolerant nephew. It’s not good for family harmony.
Another recipe that is really pleasing to the WASP sense of thrift is:
Take the 3 egg whites you split off of the yolks that you used for the Hollandaise, and mix them in the Kitchenaid with ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar. If you don’t have that, don’t worry about it; slowly add up to a cup of sugar. This is fun to have a small child perform. You get to look like a fun-loving parent, and only a child has the patience to take the amount of time that “gradually add the sugar” requires. While he/she is doing that and spilling ¼ cup of sugar on the kitchen floor, (the recipe calls for ¾ cup.) take old candy canes and pulverize them in the coffee grinder or blender or have another kid roll a wine bottle over a baggie filled with them. (Fun for the whole family!) Rip up Trader Joe’s paper bags and put them ink side down on a cookie sheet. You can also fold in some chocolate chips or old Halloween/Easter chocolate. Put big dollops on the paper, and bake them at 225 for about 1.5 hours. So you’ve used up a bunch of annoying stuff normal people throw away, and you’ve got a GLUTEN FREE dessert!
Speaking of dessert:
Recipe IX-Apple pie or rhubarb pie a la mode is another WASP staple. We all know that “a la mode” means “with ice cream”, but WASPS like to say it with a special tone in their voices as if only they are in on the secret. You can google a recipe for either. Pick one of the ones that has only fruit, flour, sugar and butter. All you have to do then is double the sugar and the butter and add a tiny bit of a random spice like vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves and say that it’s your secret recipe that you invented. Oh the rage I felt when reading about “breakfasts around the world” on the back of a Total Cereal box. (my mom stopped buying sugar cereals at some point in my youth because she read about their evils in Redbook) It said that New Englanders eat apple pie for breakfast.
Now that butter and high fat meats are back in the good graces of the nutritionists we WASPS are feeling fancy again. Mom feels justified feeling mortally wounded when she arrives and there is no ½ & ½ in the house. Blood from our cheap London Broil steaks cooked rare and tenderized with Adolph's Meat Tenderizer can flow.
We do eat chicken, but everyone knows how to roast a chicken right? Roasting is the only appropriate way to eat chicken: 1. Because it’s delicious. 2. Because you get the WHOLE chicken (we like liver.) 3. Because you get to make your own stock rather than pay 2.99 for a thing of it and 4. Because you get more skin when you roast the chicken. My only chicken secret is to take the skin that is all mushy on the underside of the bird and fry that the next morning for breakfast. “Chicken bacon” goes over big in our house.
Maybe there’s not enough here for an actual cookbook. It’s more like a “cook pamphlet.” It could be a New Yorker article. WASP’s love the New Yorker. They wallpaper bathrooms in their second homes with New Yorker covers, and name their boats, Eustace Tilley.