I hope! Not struggling
with options at the crossroads
of madness and death
What gloom to start the New Year?
All in all true but the inspiration for today’s haiku came from the unlikely source of the first article of the New Year on the New York Times Cooking page.
Sam Sifton wrote at 10:31am on New Years Day, “Good morning. You aren’t, I hope, struggling this morning after a night of excess, considering your options at the crossroads of madness and death. If 2020 gave us anything it was an excuse — an order, really — not to gather on New Year’s Eve for its sad, sentimental dance of forced cheer and sweet Champagne, its endless hours before that dreadful song. Here we are in a new year, still very much like the last one, though there’s light now at the end of the tunnel and we dare to be hopeful sometimes, particularly today. We feel good, despite all!”
I am guessing that dreadful song he mentions is Auld Lang Syne written in the Scots-language by Robert Burns in 1788.
What was Mr. Sifton’s recommendation?
“So maybe celebrate a little in the kitchen today?”
So I did.
My daughter gave me a cookbook on baking pie using a cast iron frying pan.
Cast Iron frying pans have long been what might be called a sore point with me.
The lady who owned the house I rented a room in when I was in college in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had a well seasoned cast iron frying pan that may have been her pride in joy after of a long odd life of running a college rooming house.
After each use she would scrub it out and then pour a large drop of olive oil into it and let it sit on the stove until its next use.
Part of my rent allowed me ‘kitchen privilege’s’ and I used that pan once a week.
On Friday’s I would get paid and I would go to this tiny house front grocery store that had a meat counter.
I write things like that and like ‘where I rented a room’ and I think, I AM OLD, GEEEE WHIZ.
Anyway I would have enough money to splurge on one steak and two loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter.
At home I would heat up that cast iron pan and fry my steak.
Removing it from the pan, I would pour a little water over the steak remains and swish it around.
Then I would eat the steak S L O W L Y and dip bread into the pan and sop up the juice.
I am sure no steak has ever tasted so good since.
And I have long thought it was the pan.
Over the years I acquired several cast iron frying pans.
I did not use them often but I felt better knowing they were there.
The pans made the move to Georgia with us but when they got unpacked someone yelled out loud, ‘How often do you use these things?’
I started to explain that it wasn’t often but I liked having them and maybe even started to wax rhapsodic on my time as a college student.
“So you don’t need them do you?” was the response.
And the pans were tossed into the trash bin.
Stunned and silent after moving 1000 miles and I was too tired to object.
Over the years my children have bought me replacement pans.
I have a corn pone mold, a loaf pan, and two frying pans.
I had never thought to use them for pie until my daughter got the Cast Iron Pie Cookbook.
With the idea to celebrate a little in the kitchen today my wife had already given the OK to ‘splurge’ and get a standing rib roast for New Years Dinner.
I baked an apple pie for dessert.
I baked it in a cast iron frying pan.
The rib roast roasting brought back waves of memories as smell will do.
A rib roast was the usual Hoffman Christmas day dinner.
My Dad would order as big a roast as the butcher could provide.
He would bring it home wrapped in white butcher paper, carrying it clutched to his body like a favorite child.
One memory I have was when the roast proved to be bigger than any pan we had in the kitchen arsenal.
My Dad announced he would have to cut it half and he went to the garage and got a saw and scoured it clean in the kitchen sink before sawing the roast in two.
He had spent three years in the army during WW2 after all.
We would all get up early as usual on Christmas morning and while we waited for everyone, Dad would put the roast in the oven and the roasting smell for me is the smell of Christmas.
Our roast was a success.
(As an aside it also was the most meat I have eaten at one time since moving to the coast. Can remember the last steak I have had. Shrimp, Oysters, Crab and other fish sure, but meat?)
Then there was the pie.
The pie was even more so of a success.
Somewhere along the line of my life, I think it was in a cookbook by the White House Housekeeper under Franklin Roosevelt, I came across the tip that when making fruit pies, cover the bottom of the pie shell with a layer of sugar before adding the fruit.
Odd that I would take a tip from the woman FDR called, Old Lady Nesbitt.
A woman long recognized for providing the worst food in White House Kitchen History.
The woman who Doris Kearns Goodwin said was possibly Eleanor’s revenge for Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd.
But I always do it and I recommend it.
And when using a cast iron frying to bake the pie, this layer of sugar more or less caramelized with the apple filling.
Maybe from the heat of the pan on the bottom.
It was INCREDIBLE.
It was unexpected.
And unexpectedly good.
A great start to who knows what else what come this year.
Last year was better than the Derby Racer at Cedar Point.
So maybe celebrate a little in the kitchen today?