Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mrs Hintalla

Both of my children had "Life Skills" (it was called "Home Ec" in my day) class in Mill Creek Middle School with Mrs. Hintalla, who was one of my favorite teachers.   Right before she retired, she taught the Foods class at Dexter High School that my daughter Jane also took.  Pam was instrumental in another project that Jane and I worked in Girl Scouts: the Sullivan Memorial Garden at the school.   

Mrs. Hintalla was one of those teachers that everyone remembered.  My mother was an avid seamstress (now we would call her a"sewist") and a huge fabric hoarder.   When she died, I was lamenting all the fabric she left behind and Mrs. Hintalla said "I'll take it!"  Thrilled, I asked her how much she wanted, and she said all of it.  I am not sure she knew what she was getting into when I rolled up to the middle school with every inch of my Fusion filled with fabric.   All that was left was a place for me to sit and look out the windshield.    Her eyes grew wide when I informed her this was just the first load....I would bring more.   And I did.  Like my mother, I am also a sewist.   "Sewist" sounds so much better than "sewer".   I think sewing skill might be genetic because I can remember sewing since I was a small fry, but my sister can't do it at all.   Instead, she is a knitting pro, but she sure didn't get that from our mother.   Included in my mother's fabric stockpile, which took up a good portion of her basement,  was a yard of a pastel plaid I wanted to make into a skirt for my own first day of 7th grade.  My mother wouldn't let me use it because she was "saving it for a project".   Imagine my surprise when I found it 35 years later in her collection!  I sure hope some Dexter 7th grader got to make it into something.   Instead, I made a skirt of fabric that was printed with a denim patches pattern.   I wore a white T shirt with it, and a puka shell necklace.   It was very 1976. 

Mrs. Hintalla's class was also a big hit with my son Eddie.  He loved cooking and  he saved these 2 recipes they made in Life Skills class, and we made them at home later.  I still have no idea what the origin of "Ricketty Uncle" is.    Mrs. Hintalla always called her students by an honorific formal name, never just Eddie.   He was "Mr. Hodges"to her, which she shouted with enthusiasm down the hall with her big booming home ec teacher voice.  Eddie has grown up into a fine cook, and I like to think she was a big part of that.   I lost track of Pam after she retired, but she was one of Dexter's best!  So Eddie, I am posting these for you, Mr. Hodges!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Blog analytics and another popular recipe

So, it used to be how I got blog traffic was primarily through referrals.   If I wanted to get people to look at my blog, the best way I could do it would be to share links to it via email groups like Yahoo Groups, or I would ask other bloggers to list me on their "Blogs I Like" list.   Or, one of the best ways was to comment on someone else's blog post about whatever I was writing about, and link to my blog entry.

For example, let's talk pickled eggs.  Before the internet, my pickled egg recipe was written down on a piece of sorority stationery with my name on top of it.   People made copies of it and handed it around.   I met people that said "I have your pickled egg recipe" when they heard my name.   Then, when my blog started, I commented on this blogger's post about her pickled egg recipe that has pepperoncini in it (yuck).   I got a lot of referrals that way.   But now, most of my referrals are from social media....specifically fb and pinterest.  I don't really monetize my blog so I don't pay for search engine optimization, but that blogger shown above does...her blog is now a cheap looking advertising server and she fraternizes with the Pioneer Woman.   But yet, if you google "yooper pickled eggs" my recipe shows up second after hers in a post from the Milwaukee Journal.   Then, there is another lame recipe that includes dry spices (gross) then my recipe again on the alumni page.  Finally, there is mine. 

I'm not too sure many people read food blogs regularly anymore, but I still have lots of followers which is nice.  People don't comment as much as they used to on the blog, but I have started a facebook group that is fun.    So, what is my second most popular recipe on the blog? It's this one....for Olga's Kitchen Bread

Olga herself, making Olga Bread courtesy of the Olga's Kitchen website

Fun facts about my blog and pickled eggs

My blog's peak monthly readership was around 7,200 

One of the fun things about blog keeping is analytics.  My engineer brain loves to look at the data, and Google makes a great tool (Google Analytics) to do it.    Just looking at this chart makes me wonder what was going on in August, 2012 to make my blog peak in readership.  I think it is most likely that corresponds with some kind of national trend in food blogging.   I don't spend a lot of time or any money on trying to boost my reach,  like maximizing SEO (search engine optimization) or paid ads, etc.  It's just a hobby to me, but this hobby has taught me a lot about how it all works.   I'm just happy to have people read it. 

My most popular post, if you define "popular" as the page people most often land on that isn't my front door (i.e. my latest post) is this recipe for pickled eggs.   Why is this one the most popular, with over 22,000 sessions?   I'm not exactly sure.    I will have to study that one in depth later.    But do check out that recipe; it is definitely a keeper. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Even more food memoirs

Are We Having Any Fun Yet?: The Cooking & Partying Handbook by Sammy Hagar.   I'm not a huge Sammy Hagar fan, but this book is a fun read.  Great recipes, too.  It explains his rock career from Montrose to Van Halen to Cabo Wabo, which I didn't really know but found it a great read.  The man loves food much more than he loves Eddie Van Halen.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.  given my aversion to the idea of ever going back to NYC, I will probably never visit her restaurant, but I loved her coming of age through food story.  Speaking of New York, there also is....

Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin by Kenny Shopshin and Carolynn Carreno   Described as "most profound and profane cookbook you’ll ever read" and that is true.  I loved everything about this book and would be afraid to go to his place, but he died last fall, so maybe  he wouldn't yell at me. So maybe I could go to NYC again.

After all that big city about.....

The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook by Christopher Kimball.  This book is not anything like Cooks Illustrated or Milk Street, but reads like his old prose he used to write in his letters from Vermont.   

Food Memoirs, Part 2

Here are more food memoirs I have read and loved:

Toast : The Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater.   He is not a celebrity chef, but has written a food column for over 25 years in the Guardian's Observer.  His memoir describes daily life in 1960s suburban England of his youth. 

Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover's Courtship, with Recipes by Amanda Hesser.   Longtime food writer for NYT, founder of Food52, I have always appreciated her writing style.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang.   A food memoir so good it was made into a TV show.  (which I have never watched, I don't watch much TV) which he wasn't thrilled about.  Excellent edgy writing about immigrants assimulating into American life.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir with Recipes from an American Family by Kathleen Flinn.   I enjoyed this memoir of her quirky family’s culinary adventures in the Midwest was named a 2015 Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. 

There are many more!  Just writing this down makes me find more of them that I want to read.   What are your favorites?

Monday, January 07, 2019

Food Memoirs

I love reading food memoirs as much as I love reading cookbooks.   Here are some that I have loved:

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell. It's about a young woman who spends a year cooking every recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". It is the book version of a blog she kept of the experience. Very funny!  But sray away from her second book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, which was just awful.  

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. Laurie Colwin wrote in a way that makes you want to cook something. She was a columnist for Gourmet, and she died young at 48.  I've read pretty much everything she ever wrote in her short life.  

Speaking of Gourmet, I loved everything nonfictionRuth Reichl has written, especially
Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table . It describes her coming of age with food and love and motherhood.   Also good is Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

Pot on the Fire: Further Confessions of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne. They can really write beautifully about simple foods.

Everyone that has ever fantasized about working in a restaurant should ready  Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. 

Some more to come! 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Muskallonge Lake Camping Again....and Mom's Tasty Flank Steak

This year, we have planned our annual camping trip with our neighbors Ann and Bill at Muskallonge Lake State Park, which is near Grand Marais in the eastern upper peninsula.    It's a great park - we stayed there almost 9 years ago when we had our pop up camper with the kids.     Grand Marais, if you have never been, is a funky little town, best known as a hangout for Jim Harrison.   His soul brother Ernest Hemingway liked the area, he wrote the short story Big Two Hearted River (although in actuality he set the story in Seney, MI but he liked the name better).   And then there is the best beer in America, Bell's Two Hearted.   It's a great campground, but I hope we have better weather this trip.

Last time we were there, I made this recipe in the dutch oven.  It is a favorite in our house.   Serve it over noodles.   Delicious!

Mom's Tasty Flank Steak

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice - bottled is fine for this recipe
1 T. thyme
3 green onions, sliced
A big flank steak

Place marinade ingredients in a plastic bag, and add steak. Freeze in marinade, and pack it in your cooler. (if you are making this at home, marinate it in the fridge overnight) At camp, put the beef and marinade in a 12 inch dutch oven with 10 coals on the bottom, 14 on top for about 30 minutes. (at home, broil it in a pan with the marinade until desired doneness) Serve with noodles. Yummy!

Time to do it again! Red Beans and Rice

My blogiversary is coming up.....on Jan. 16, my blog will be 12 years old.   I set a goal to have 600 published posts and I am really going to have to step up my game.....2 posts every day until then.   That means one before work, and one after work......better get moving! 
I have been looking over my blog lately as I have started putting a book proposal together to shop out to publishers.   It's been a very slow go, but one of the best things about it is finding recipes I created that I liked so much, but then never made again.   Here is one I found.... Busy Woman's Red Beans and Rice.   I wrote this recipe in 2011, and my kids were young teenagers back then.   That meant my whole life was driving them places and volunteering....lots and lots of volunteering.

Looking back on that time, I really appreciate my empty nest lifestyle.  Of course, Anne Taintor has the perfect magnet for this, too!

So, I need to try this red beans and rice recipe again.  I only made it once, and beans are very WW friendly. Rice, not so much, but I will skimp on that. I'll put it on my list for this week.   Not sure I have any kidney beans in the larder, though.  Time to go check! Happy Sunday