Read an Excerpt
Romancing the Stove
Celebrated Recipes and Delicious Fun for Every Kitchen Goddess
By Margaret Beiser Lapanja
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2002 Margaret Beiser Lapanja
All rights reserved.
Good Goddess, Let's Eat!
The Kitchen Goddess Manifesto
a luminary; a person who enlightens others through her grace and craft; a woman whose charm and cooking arouse adoration.
Eat dessert first!
Once upon a time, when I was a child playing make-believe with my Susie Homemaker light bulb-powered oven, I daydreamed I was a spell-mixing sibyl who could concoct magic love potions. The Fates seemed to seal this childhood fantasy when, some twenty-odd years later, I found myself the proprietor of a popular bakery in California.
During my many years as a professional baker, I observed the seductive effects of food on the human psyche and soul. Hearts and palates beamed when offered birthday cakes, wedding cakes, hot, heart-warming strudels, homemade applesauce, and of course, the ultimate love potion—cookies. Over and over, certain foods seemed to cohere relationships, mend broken hearts, and energize athletes to the point of victory. Clearly some foods possess magical qualities—and I wanted to capture that magnetism.
As time went on and I saw the magic happen over and over, I asked people to tell me about their most favorite food and explain why it was sacred to them. As I collected, tested, revised, and retested these favorite recipes, I took care to prepare each in the same spirit of its owner's spicy love or grounding tradition. In 1991, I sold my cookie business and packed my recipes in a suitcase until I had time to write a cookbook.
But the spell-binding aspect of food continued to captivate me. When everyone else jumped on the Martha Stewart bandwagon, raising spotless, cut-glass, antique crystal goblets in a toast to perfection, I remained loyal to my favorite kitchen courtesan of all time—Samantha Stevens, the blithe, blond enchantress of the television classic, Bewitched. With a quick twitch of the nose, she could certainly stir it up! With this in mind, I raised my measuring cup to her and learned to "wiggle my nose." Having a grand time in the kitchen whipping up "spells" was certainly fun! When people began telling me my cookies tasted better than Mrs. Fields', I began to playfully fancy myself a "Grace Kelly of the kitchen" and laced my cooking with a good measure of class and charisma— I was never destined to be an average, mortal, commoner cook ... Then it hit me—I was a kitchen goddess!
A kitchen goddess is a food sensualist who honors every aspect of creating a meal, from choosing the raw ingredients to artfully blending them and serving them with unique panache—be it coq au vin that took three hours to prepare or a two-minute peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A kitchen goddess moves through life with a buoyant and reassured attitude and knows it is her culinary responsibility to play and have fun. In particular, she's not afraid of food: Rather than anxiously counting calories and fat grams, she basks in the beauty of a fresh lime, the succulence of a ripe pear, the crispness of a chocolate chip cookie. She embraces any challenge with a sans souci spirit that is cradled deeply within an open-hearted, secure love for herself, her friends, and her family. She makes mealtimes a sacred connecting experience for those around her, and her food offerings flow from a sense of generosity, not obligation. She blesses the moment with her presence.
For too long, women have been burdened with the three-meal-a-day obligation, losing their sense of the joy of cooking under the endless expectations of hungry families. For many, cooking has come to be seen as drudgery at best, an anxiety-provoking experience at worst. And with performance pressure whispering "perfection" at every turn, an unsettling feeling of domestic deficiency has crept into many a kitchen.
We now know it doesn't have to be that way—we can reclaim our connection to the divine feminine and to the playful, sensuous experience that cooking can be. Cooking doesn't have to be a chore or a social-status do-it-perfectly experience; the time has come to energize and personalize cooking and relax while mixing up marvelous concoctions. Becoming a kitchen goddess is easy. All it takes is a certain attitude, a pinch of love, and a few great recipes. Believe this: A special, desired dish, prepared and served with love and your best intentions, possesses the power to brighten the world.
Goddesses of Yore
In mythology, the goddess was a woman of intuitive knowledge, numinous power, and abiding wisdom. Revered, honored, held in awe, sometimes feared, she was the divine feminine personified in her many forms: Aphrodite, the alchemical goddess of creativity, passion, and love; Demeter, the Earth-Mother goddess of grains and the nourishment of the soul; Artemis, the wild woman-sister goddess of the forest, the moon, and the hunt; Vesta, the maiden wise woman and goddess of the hearth and home; Hera, the queen of contracts, marriage, and order; Persephone, the vulnerable goddess of the night; and Athena, daddy's girl and the goddess of wisdom, victory in conflict, and worldly knowledge.
But my question is, could they cook?
And if so, what would be their legacies in the kitchen?
Aphrodite would certainly stir up some tried-and-true love potions, such as aromatic apple pies; Hera would leap into the role of the culinary bellwether Martha Stewart; and Artemis would probably give ferociously festive and untamed dinner parties for her women friends—and a few brave, well-behaved men. Persephone might graciously and demurely pass on cooking altogether, preferring to eat pomegranates and take-out by the light of the half-moon; Vesta and her Greek doppelgänger, Hestia, would stay home alone and indulge in secret, satisfying pleasures; Demeter, Ceres to the Romans, would feed the kids, bake some bread, and keep great reserves of her beloved signature dish—cereal—on hand in the cupboard; Athena would hire a caterer.
It is in the spirit of these gallivanting gourmets that I invite you to explore your own thealogy of the goddess in the kitchen, and encourage you to infuse your knowledge of the culinary crafts with your own inspired brand of humor and genius. You might lean toward the style of earth-mother Demeter and make huge meals for loved ones. Or you might be more of an Aphrodite, saving cooking for special romantic occasions. Or perhaps, day by day, your affinities change. Whatever your tendency, I urge you to embrace it fully, to explore its myriad possibilities in the kitchen.
In this light, I have cooked up Romancing the Stove. This zesty collection of feel-good favorites and free-flying fun is dedicated to every one of you, kitchen goddesses and demigods, who are ready to roll up your sleeves, "face the stove," and start waving your mixing-spoon scepters.
To begin, post the following on your refrigerator—If you ever wish to add to the happiness of another individual, simply ask, "What is your favorite food, drink, or dessert?"—then serve it forth.
Preparing food and cooking it with the flair of a kitchen goddess can be a grounding, spiritual, art form, especially when you have recipes that are:
* legendary in effect
* pleasurable to make
* not too much work
* expressive and creative
* what people love to eat
When consumed, these foods will never make you or anyone else fat, will always taste good, and will bring about smiles; even the preparation will add delicious fun and a joie de vivre to an otherwise mundane kitchen. And, best of all, you'll forever stop comparing your talents with those of Martha or your husband's mother.
In order to really be a goddess in the kitchen, it's essential to embrace a few basic attitudes and behaviors. They will all make cooking and eating more fun, but the first rule is essential.
The Kitchen Goddess Manifesto
1. Do not cook if you are in a bad mood, lack the desire, or feel pressure from nagging obligation to another. Wise woman Brenda Ueland once said, "Do not do anything you don't want to do." Frame this mantra and hang it where you'll read it every day. And remember—you can always go out, order take-out, or entice someone else to host a cook out.
2. Keep your life full of the freshest ingredients. At least once a week explore something completely new: A new recipe ... a new book ... an unfamiliar song. Try new things: Make a new friend ... dance outdoors ... take a walk somewhere you have never been before ... kiss a baby ... write to someone you admire and include a favorite recipe ... talk to someone who doesn't speak your language ...
3. Delighten up and play with your cooking! Read the recipe, then have fun! The more you play, the more you do what you love to do, the more you reconnect with your talents and power.
4. Always sit down when you eat; share most of your meals if you can.
5. Customize your creations and spice them with your own unique delicious hallmarks. As the saying goes, "Don't be the best at what you do; be the only one who does what you do."
6. Take a deep breath and bless your kitchen before you cook; clean up all rampant clutter, light a candle, open a window, turn on music. When in the mood, pour your favorite drink, be it wine, water, whiskey, or an ice-cold root beer in a frosted mug.
7. When recipes are given to you, save the original in the handwriting of the person who shared the recipe; he or she will be honored this way. Create a beautiful binder of recipes in sheet protectors for your collection. If you want to frolic and improvise, rewrite your new recipe on a page next to the original.
8. Never, ever think that food will make you fat! Delete the words "fat-free" and "sugar-free" from your culinary vocabulary and replace them with "fear-free," "guilt-free," and "feel free!"
9. Whenever you taste something that sparks your spirit and your taste buds, ask for the recipe. Trade, beg, or borrow—but get it.
10. Trust yourself, and have fun.
I don't like to say that my kitchen is a religious place, but I would say that if I were a voodoo princess, I would conduct my rituals there.
The present moment is a powerful goddess.
Serve It Forth
Armed with the Kitchen Goddess Manifesto, let your kitchen be a playground where culinary magic is shared and enjoyed, evolving with time and tastes. A goddess in the kitchen feels free to alter and enhance recipes and simply frolic while cooking; she knows that it is often the serendipitous approach that creates a masterpiece.
Now step into your kitchen and cook with a confident, inspired élan vital. If you sprinkle illuminated thoughts, wishes, and desires into your mixing bowl, you'll provide fertile nutrition for the spirit and mind as well as for the body and taste buds. As you begin to radiate a refreshing presence of enthusiasm, energy, and joy between the counter and the stove, the light will pour out into the world around you. Kids, friends, and mates will all want to join you in your domain.
Don't be afraid to create your own traditions—through the power of suggestion, your specialties will become legendary. You'll smile knowingly when you hear that people are still talking about that Garden of Eden Apple Pie or Casablanca Cheesecake you brought to the party!
Kitchen play can serve as a lively springboard for exploring a multitude of talents and other goddess-given gifts. With this treasure trove of rollicking recipes, spicy advice, and entertaining insights, I invite you all to do a front-flip dive into the spirited, sensuous art of cooking, loving, and living. Just as Aphrodite stirred up history with her legacy of unabashed passion and love, you have the opportunity to stir up your own brand of culinary magic.
The goddess is in every kitchen. Join me now as we heat up a caldron of delicious fun and serve ourselves some passion-provoking "food of the goddess."
Heartwarming Treasures for the Kid in All of Us
Give happiness and joy to many other people. There is nothing better or greater than that.
—Ludwig van Beethoven
Demeter, the great goddess of grain, was the kind of doting mother who would have indulged us with the magic that comes with hot, homemade cookies, a big glass of milk, and long, loving hugs. She would see to it that our lives and plates were chock-full of all the sustaining staples that keep kids feeling safe. We would learn from her that it really is never too late to have a happy childhood, that chicken soup really does make you feel better, and that the sun always rises, bringing into each new day a fresh measure of enchantment and accomplishment.
As legend has it, Demeter was distraught and heartbroken over losing her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by Hades and made queen-consort of the Underworld. In her sadness, Demeter donned an emotional version of a full-length apron to disguise her radiant beauty and wandered in desperation, refusing to cook or brush her hair, searching for her abducted daughter. Amber waves of grain were scorched to the ground and a blight of famine and drought descended upon the earth.
This mighty mama was not to settle for being a victim, however. Upon finding that Zeus, her indiscreet brother and the father of Persephone (oops), had done some dirty dealing with Hades, promising Persephone as the prize, Demeter fumed. As tough mothers can do, she put her divine foot down and forced Zeus into a compromise: When the grain was in the ground, heralding eight months of lush fertility and nourishment, Persephone would be with her beloved mother and the gifts of fruitfulness and abundance would shine over the lands. But for four months of the year when Persephone was with Hades in the shadowed netherworld, Demeter's earth would lie barren, devoid of life.
And so the grain goddess regained her cherished role of mother. To pass the time without her daughter, she was known to lavish other children with her attentions. She tried to immortalize the babe Demophon by feeding and massaging him with ambrosia while holding him close to a fire, warming the mortality right out of him. We can only imagine what she cooked for him.
In the name of the supermom Demeter, and in honor of children of all ages, I offer these time-tested, smile-raising recipes for some of life's sweetest treats, let's-eat-with-our-fingers fun foods, the heart-warming, hug-filled favorites of childhood.
In a true sense, a cookbook is the best source of psychological advice and the kitchen the first choice of room for a therapy of the world.
—Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life
Prescription for a Playful Palate
Next time you are feeling desperately overextended with obligations, deadlines, work, concern, and unfulfilled responsibility, remember that there are such things in life as Cookie Dough Pancakes. These little islets of lumpy, puffy, flapjacks in a sea of grown-up worries have the power to transform muddled tension into childhood bliss. It takes only a few bites. Just allow yourself to imagine the delicious feeling of triumph over those brow-furrowing issues trying to knock you off balance.
To eat a Cookie Dough Pancake you have to glide into a fairly naughty state of conditional anarchy—you are challenging the breakfast establishment when biting into this territory. Raw cookie dough at breakfast? Forbidden! Yet, when enveloped in a hearty, wholesome breakfast pancake, with mom or dad or the little angel sitting on your shoulder flipping it, it transcends all restriction and becomes one of the most-fun-to-eat foods in the universe.
Cookie Dough Pancakes
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unbleached white flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
Oil for griddle
Powdered sugar, optional
¾ cup cookie dough, homemade or packaged (I recommend the Royal Oatmeal Raisin
Cookie dough on page 50)
In a large bowl, beat the buttermilk and egg together. Add the melted butter and salt and mix well. In a medium bowl, measure out the flour and blend the baking soda and baking powder into it. Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk and mix everything together.
When you are ready to make the pancakes, lightly grease a griddle or pan and heat on medium heat. Without stirring, ladle batter from the bottom of the bowl and pour onto the griddle forming 4-inch pancakes. Drop ½-teaspoon measures of cookie dough onto the pancakes. When the surface of the pancake is covered with bubbles, flip it and cook for another minute.
Dust with powdered sugar or serve with real maple syrup.
Makes a dozen 4-inch pancakes.
A la Goddess
* This batter will hold its form if refrigerated for a day or two. However, do not stir it very much before cooking; simply spoon it from the bottom of the bowl. Always add the cookie dough at baking time. If you use homemade dough and are concerned about bacteria in raw eggs, either freeze the dough before you use it or prepare the cookie dough recipe with the proper amount of pasteurized liquid eggs.
Excerpted from Romancing the Stove by Margaret Beiser Lapanja. Copyright © 2002 Margaret Beiser Lapanja. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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