Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dolores Allen and Recipes

This is an article I wrote for Edible Door, a Door County publication. I don't mention that she is my mother. I don't know if it will look like this after the publisher does something with it.

Dolores Allen was part of the Door County cooking scene for more than fifty years. She created her long lasting recipe program in 1951 shortly after the startup of radio station WDOR by her husband Ed Allen. First it was called “Kitchenette and Fashionette,” and not long afterward it became “Five Minutes With Dolores Allen.” It might have been put into the Guiness Book of World Records if anyone had documented its duration for number of years it was on the air. More than fifty. In later years the recipes became a cookbook, Door County Recipes and a Little Local Lore.

Dolores’ little down home five minute program sparked an ongoing relationship about cooking with her listeners, who mailed her recipes regularly. She wasn’t like Julia Child or Martha Stewart and wasn’t like the other well-known culinary experts. She had no education in cooking, or home economics as it used to be called, but she knew cooking from her mother, her own experience, and the women’s magazines she read during her long life. So Dolores happily tried out most of the offerings of her listeners and announced them on her program for all the world to enjoy. The program’s long time sponsor was Corner House Shops of Sturgeon Bay.

After saying, “Thank you and good morning, everyone,” Dolores would tell what the day’s recipe was, with anecdotes about the person who created it if she was familiar with the person. She would list the ingredients and the method of preparation, and then repeat the recipe, all in a five minute time period. This was radio, so she was not cooking while talking. Her program originally was on the air before Sturgeon Bay began to have television from Green Bay.

This woman was no couch potato. Dolores grew up in Winona, Minnesota, where she proved to be an attractive, creative person. She was Miss Winona in the late 1920s, earned a degree in English and French from the College of St. Teresa in Winona, and then moved to Chicago. She worked for Life Magazine and did some modeling. She married Ed Allen who was a Chicago radio announcer, and had three children, while being a writer of fiction and radio drama. They brought these talents and advantages to Sturgeon Bay, created a corporation with local investors, and WDOR was born. That produced the beginning of the cooking program.

Dolores could write, and she could talk. She brought a wide range of recipes to the program. Some were from Door County restaurants (with permission), some were from listeners, and some came from her own recipe collection or cookbooks. She once borrowed a chapter from a cook book belonging to her daughter, Kathy, and later returned it with many notes and dates of broadcast in the margins. Always she gave credit to the sources. Dolores also created in and published The Key to the Door Peninsula guidebook for many years, in the 1950s once a year and later twice each year. It continues to exist in altered form today.

The popular cookbook was an outgrowth of the recipe program. Door County Recipes and a Little Local Lore is a book of recipes compiled by Dolores from her radio program, along with some of her personal favorites. She included little comments with the recipes, anecdotes of Door County history and illustrations by her daughter.  Who could resist Mrs. Bassford’s Strawberry Pie, which arrived from Connie Anderson?  And everyone would want to try du Nord Cherry Torte from Mrs. Max Fletcher. Don’t miss Broccoli and Apple Soup from Eileen Madson  of Sister Bay. Then everyone should try Dolores’ personal favorites, like Infallible Roast Beef or $200 French Dressing. The story of the dressing is included, including the story of the bill for $200 that the lady who requested the recipe received, whereupon she shared it widely. This is the flavor of the Dolores Allen cookbook.   Publication was in 1989, with a second printing in 1994, by her company, Key Enterprises of Sturgeon Bay.  It is out of print but still appears in used book stores.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Year of No Sugar - Book review

What’s it like to live without sugar for a year? Eve Schaub found out and wrote about it in Year of No Sugar, an amusing book that she calls a memoir. Schaub, her husband and two daughters all took part in this dietary adventure for a year. Schaub did this after watching a You Tube video, “Sugar: the Bitter Truth,” presented by Dr. Robert Lustig. Lustig is the author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, which explains that sugar is the reason for the worldwide obesity epidemic

Eve Schaub watched the video and said her brain caught fire. She said it changed her life. The video called sugar a poison that makes people sick, overweight, obese and unhappy. That was eye opening for Schaub, so she decided to stop eating added sugar, and her family joined in. She kept a blog about the experience. She wrote the book. The family established rules, such as don’t eat added sugar but do eat foods like fruit containing naturally occurring sugar. They agreed to eat one sugar containing dessert per month and another on a birthday. Sweets at school were optional, but the girls mostly did not eat them.

Schaub’s book covers a bit about sugar’s destructive characteristics, but most of it is about the family’s day to day experiences during a year without sugar. It’s not a long essay about the evils of sugar, but rather a chronicle of avoiding the ubiquitous sugar that they learned is in a great many foods. Schaub learned to cook without sugar but with substitutions like dates to give some sweetness. Her sugar free cookies pleased the family and others. The holidays were there, including Halloween and Christmas, with attendant pitfalls. She pointed out that the trick or treat candy was saved for consumption after the year was finished.  The family took a trip to Italy and stayed on the diet. . The family stayed with the project with no mutinies. There were times when one or another family member wanted sugar very much.

What did they learn from the experiment? They learned that sugar is everywhere, especially at school. Schaub became a label reader. Her awareness of the prevalence of sugar was heightened. Schaub became acquainted with David Gillespie, an Australian who publicly advocated about sugar’s destructiveness in his book Sweet Poison. Lustig and Gillespie are support people behind her book.

I haven’t read many books like this. It reminded me a bit of A.J. Jacobs’ book, Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. Jacobs tried various diets and weight loss techniques for a period of time that might have been a year, and then wrote about his experiences. Like Schaub, he didn’t preach, he just told the story.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkin Soup Again

The largest room in the world is the room for improvement. I offer a revision of the pumpkin soup recipe that appeared on this blog in 2010. It is revised to include, among other things, the big poison of our era, sugar. Ok, it’s real maple syrup from real maple trees, not the stuff that people put on their pancakes that is some kind of sugar with or without maple flavoring.

I acknowledge that sugar in various forms is responsible for a lot of chronic disease today, especially diabetes. I also acknowledge that a bit of sweetener greatly improves pumpkin soup, especially if the soup is made from canned pumpkin. It’s an improvement. Canned pumpkin is not as good as pumpkin off the vine, but it is easier to use.

Pumpkin Soup Revised
Serves 2-3 people

1 small pumpkin, or 1 can pumpkin (about 2 cups cooked)
1 ½ cups chicken broth or stock
About ½ cup chopped or diced onion and celery
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground sage, or more fresh sage
¾ teaspoon salt (salt is already in the broth, so be gentle)
¼ cup real maple syrup or other sweetener (or to taste)

If you need to cook the pumpkin, cut it in half, remove the seeds and roast it, cut side down, until it is soft. Scoop out the pumpkin and discard the shell.

Stir together the pumpkin and chicken broth. Puree this in a blender if you wish. Pour it into a saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Cook the onion and celery in it for a few minutes until they soften. Stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon, sage and salt. Mix well. Add the cream. Remove from heat and enjoy.