March 27, 2007

Touring the Great Lakes

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Pancakes, bread AND cookies! What do they have in common? These three recipes all come courtesy of the Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook. I was lucky enough to receive this book to review from Sara of I Like to Cook who runs her own blog in addition to hosting The Weekend Cookbook Challenge and The Cookbook Spotlight. This month, Mary of Breadchick is helping Sara out with hosting duties for The Cookbook Spotlight and so I, along with a group of 10 other bloggers are reviewing the Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook for your reading pleasure. As I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE getting mail and was thrilled to receive my copy. This book was especially interesting in that it’s not strictly a cookbook. It gives you a glimpse into both the history and culinary history of the tall ships, freighters and passenger ships that sailed the Great Lakes. The book is divided not by course or flavour, but by boats, with each one presenting a history of the ship and an authentic menu that was served aboard the boat. This makes for some very interesting stories and menus but unfortunately also leads to one of the book’s downfalls. Because the book contains authentic menus, this means that they were written for a full crew as opposed to a regular serving of 4-6 people. For example, one recipe calls for 18lbs of chicken and 7 ½ cups of Caribbean Jerk Sauce. Darn! I just used up my last 18lbs of chicken… uh, maybe over the course of the last 6 months! The recipes varied in this respect and not all of them were for such large quantities but I would say that the majority of the recipes resulted in more servings than I would ever need. This meant having to seriously scale down most of the recipes I wanted to try. Now, I’m a smart cookie and am able to do the math, but I’m also a lazy cookie and would rather that someone else do it for me. On the other hand, if you need a recipe for a bake sale or family reunion, this is a great cookbook to use! Another issue I had with the book had to do with the very nature of its subject. Because the cooking was all being done onboard the ships, the recipes called for a lot of canned goods, some of them almost exclusively so. Obviously this is necessary when living onboard a ship where fresh ingredients aren’t always obtainable or able to be stored, but that’s not the case in my kitchen so I would have opted to use more fresh ingredients and less ready made sauces. What does appeal to me about the Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook is all of the stories that accompany the recipes. It gives a great idea of what it would have been like aboard some of these boats and the effort that goes into feeding a huge crew of people. The recipes vary broadly as well, and I’ve learned that some sailors definitely ate better than others! Reading through the book I found a number of very good recipes and there are many that I have bookmarked to try such as Beef Crepes with Curried Apricot Beef Filling or the Broccoli Cream Quiche. But for the most part I will have to either scale them down significantly or invite the whole neighbourhood over for dinner. I just might go broke in the process… The three recipes that I did try were the S.S. Courtney Burton Buttermilk Hot Cakes, (to which I added bananas) the Homemade Bread, (which was jammed packed with dried fruit and spices) and the Sailor’s Favorite Cookies. I enjoyed each of them and didn’t have any trouble replicating only a fraction of the recipe.

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Like I said before, the best part of the book is all of the wonderful stories it contains such as the following one I’m about to retell about the Flower Lady. Her real name is Arlene Earl and she owns a third generation flower business which she runs on Harsen’s Island. Arlene had an uncle, Norman LaCroix who absolutely loved the ships of the great lakes and spent 47 years working on the lakes as a Chief Engineer. After his retirement, Norman developed Alzheimer Disease and so Arlene invited her uncle to come and live with her and her husband on the island to that he could watch the freighters that he loved so much. He spent most of his days outside, waving to the ships as they went by. Arlene saw this and sent a note to the shipping companies, telling them about where Norman was now and from that time on, whenever the ships went by they would greet Norman with whistle blasts. Norman came to believe that each ship that passed was his own and it gave him immense pleasure. Arlene decided to repay the sailors onboard those ships the best way she knew how, by sending flowers. She didn’t even think they would be noticed but they were and she began receiving letters of thanks addressed to “The Flower Lady.” For the next 10 years until his death, Norman watched the boats everyday, Arlene continued to send flowers at least 4 times a year and the sailors continued to send notes of thanks. Some of the crew would even stop by for a visit and Arlene was not only good with flowers, but she could also cook and made sure there was always something ready for the sailors who arrived at her door. These cookies, Sailor’s Favorite Cookies, are an example of that.

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Sailor’s Favorite Cookies

2 cups sugar

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

¼ cup butter

1 cup Crisco

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking soda

3 cups oatmeal

2 cups soft raisins

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nuts

2 cups coconut

Cream together sugars, butter, Crisco, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour with salt and baking soda. Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients by hand. Chill dough. Using a small scoop, place dough on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.

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sher said...

Ack!!!! That's just cruel!! I looked at those pictures and now I will dream about them all night. I might wake up and discover I ate my pillowcase!!! :):) Wonderful post.

Meeta said...

Fork! Fork! Where is that fork? PEOPLE do NOT touch those pancakes - they are mine.
Bri, do I have to say it - I am drooling. Those pancakes do look incredible.

Ellie said...

Holy mackerel! Them's some hot-lookin' buttermilk pancakes hon!

Truffle said...

goodness they look yummy! i must start making pancakes more often!

Lydia said...

Those buttermilk pancakes look obscenely delicious! It's fun to read about this cookbook on several different blogs.

breadchick said...

Bri, thank you SO much for joining us for the Cookbook Spotlight! Your pancakes are wonderful looking and the cookies...well I made them too and they ARE wonderful. Your re-telling of the Flower Lady's story made me cry (again). She is a special lady to the folks on the boats. Thanks again for joining us!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Pancakes, who said pancakes, I think I need pancakes! Lovely!

K & S said...

great breakfast items...even the cookies :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

Brilynn, your pancakes are so huge!! They looks like mattresses! ;)

Delicious - and the cookies are fabulous, too!

Lis said...

I loved that story too =) Excellent review on the book, Bril.. and total drool worthy photos of the recipes you tried! I'd kill for those pancakes right about now. :D


Maria said...

It sounds like a very interesting book...and the pancakes and cookies look great!

valentinA said...

Look at this perfect trio that makes me just hungry hungry & hungry!

Gattina said...

just love your pancakes as thick as English muffins!
I used to bake cookies with Crisco, insanely crunchy! Heart-stopper, literally, as well ;p

Cheryl said...

You are a lean mean cooking machine. You make so much and it all looks ridiculously good.

Those pancakes are to die for.

Helene said...

I realised you blog about fabulous everyday...where does it all go? Can I move in...?
The pancakes and the cookies look great. I know I would be eating more than my share if these!

Morven said...

Those cookies look scrumptious. What could I use instead of crisco? We don't have that in NZ. I really enjoyed your post

janelle said...

I know what they have in common: YUMMMMMMM!

Anuhea said...

Wow, those are some FAT pancakes! No matter what I do mine never turn out that fluffy! And about your beautiful red velvet cake...I must say that looks sooo amazingly delicious. If only there were a way to add more chocolate to it....hmmm...

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Elle said...

No wonder you're now on wikio. Those pancakes are the most delicious looking ever, plus I love the story of the Flower Lady and the cookie recipe. Do you send cookie care packages?

sd said...

Those pictures look so freakin' good

Jia said...

Those pancakes look like they are to die for! I can't wait to try!

bea at La tartine gourmande said...

This is a pile of treats I must say. Mighty delicious!

Sara said...

Those cookies! How did I miss those cookies! Brilynn you rock! Thanks for taking part.