Friday, January 16, 2015

Cheese Pudding, or A Book of Cookrye does vegetables!

You know what? It is fricken cold here! It is so cold no one looks at you funny when you go out in a headscarf! We at A Book of Cookrye flipped through the recipes we've been meaning to try and looked for one that seemed good for when you'll cut two holes in your shirt if you stay outside too long. In a sport of health-consciousness, we decided to make... vegetables! Behold!

These are Southern vegetables.

What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, 1881 Source

See? It says this is a vegetable. So there.

Cheese Pudding
2 large apples or 3 smaller ones*
8 oz shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1 c milk
1 tbsp sugar
Generous amount of nutmeg
3 eggs

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13 pan.
Very finely chop the apples (or put them through a cheese shredder or meat grinder). Mix the apples, cheese, milk, sugar, and nutmeg. Whip the eggs and then mix them in.
Pour into the pan and bake 20 minutes.

*I like to bake with Gala apples.

This comes to us from What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, which is the second cookbook ever written by a black person in the United States. Those who are interested in social or culinary history would find Abby Fisher's biography fascinating. The short version is she was born a slave, and after emancipation moved to various states before settling in San Francisco. Her cooking won prizes, and eventually she wrote this short book by popular demand.
I say wrote-- she actually dictated it since, as she says in the introduction, both she and her husband were illiterate. Most of these recipes have exact measurements. I can't even make a cake without having to check a written list; she apparently remembered them all since she couldn't have written anything down.   Can you imagine dictating a whole book and knowing that even though you cannot read it to make sure it says what you meant it to, your name is right there in the title? I mean, someone could have typeset a massive rant with embarrassing secrets and you couldn't even flip through the proofs and see it.
Anyway, getting to the recipe. We at A Book of Cookrye are not alien to the notion of a fruit and cheese course. Nor are we averse to apple pie with cheese on top. So, in principle, this sounded like it might be good. However, in what world is this a vegetable?
No one was going to eat these apples anyway.

That aside, we are heading into the last week of our visit to our parents', which means we soon will no longer have such a fancy kitchen. We invited Marcus to partake in this bounty of suburbia. However, despite being in better kitchen facilities than we are accustomed to, we encountered two difficulties to using the space.
There's a whole rest of the house they could have been in.

All the cheese we had was in slices, so instead of shredding it, we ended up--- further comments may lead to déclassé remarks.

We would like to remind everyone that the recipe says this is a vegetable. Let's just put gravy in a teapot and surrender to every Southern food joke we haven't hit yet.
Later attempts to pass ketchup and pizza as vegetables now make cultural sense.

In a spurt of spontaneous ingredient upgrading that only happens at my parents' house, we're using turbinado sugar instead of regular. We thought it might add a nice... er... something or other. Unfortunately, we tried to dissolve it in the milk.

So, you may be wondering, what do vegetables look like in Southern cooking? They look like someone ate them before they got to your plate. Actually, they look like what happened when we had a school field trip wilderness weekend. They had a separate trash can for unwanted food because they kept pigs. This looks a lot like said trash can did by the weekend's end.

However, at this point I was simultaneously grossed out at what I had in the bowl and appreciative of modern technology. For we finally got around to beating four eggs (well, we used three since they're bigger these days) very light. Keep in mind that the little egg beaters you crank had barely been patented 10 years ago, so whoever was doing this was spending 90 minutes or so with a whisk getting metal-blackened hands while turning their eggs into froth. For those who like finding people's initial reaction to conveniences we now take for granted, check out this lady's account of the first time she got an egg beater and experienced "the amelioration of weary-wristed womankind."
Meanwhile, I'm very thankful to whoever decided to strap a motor to the egg beater.

Fortunately, this was a short recipe. But before we stirred the eggs in, it looked like egg nog's unfortunate offspring with a birth defect.

Going into the pan, it looked like someone threw up egg nog's unfortunate offspring with a birth defect.

Anyway, this baked in 20 minutes as promised. By which I mean I had no idea how to tell whether it was done so I took it out of the oven after 20 minutes and hoped for the best.
This was the best I could hope for.


I fricken loved it! The apples got a lot sweeter than I'd thought they would in baking, to the point where I wondered why I bother adding sugar to apple pie. It was... well, it was apple pie with cheese on top, only a lot more so. But enough about me- Marcus drove all the way over here for this experience. What did he think?


"It's so weird!"

And just to round out the pictures of everyone who tried it:

Whereas I completely loved it and would make it again if it wasn't so unapologetically bad for you, Marcus was confused. Apparently it's two really good things, but he has no idea what to make of them put together. Perhaps after having such creations as mincemeat pies with actual kidneys, date-raisin chicken, and others, I'm used to food not knowing if it's supper or dessert. Marcus, however, still has his wits about him enough to know that this is not a vegetable. We agreed it would probably be better in a pie.  That said, both of us scraped our plates.
This is really satisfying when it's fricken cold out, and I think it would be well-placed on most Thanksgiving tables (which is why I waited a couple of months afterward to make it). However, the recipe makes a lot of cheese pudding. You might want to cut it in half.

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