I Heard a Bird Sing

December 11, 2012 CookingMemoriesVanilla Life  8 comments

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

So said Oliver Herford,

I memorized that poem as a kid, and I have thought of it every single December since, as well as other times, too.  Today was the first cold day we’ve had, the first day I actually wore a coat out during the day to run errands.

Actually, yesterday was a bit more of a dark of December kind of day, today was brighter.

I made no cookies today.  I did look at cookie recipes and got some cookie ingredients.

One of the places I looked was an old cookbook I had picked up at a yard sale somewhere, the kind that was some mother or grandmother’s COOKBOOK, the one where she stuck the recipes she really wanted to keep, the ones written in various hands, or with the notation of who had given the recipe.

There were some very early Weight Watchers menus which seem to have adopted the policy of making food so unappealing that no one would want to eat it and you would thus lose weight.

While this may seem like an unlikely theory, it’s the only one I can come up with to explain recipes such as Liver Royale (boiled chicken livers with garlic, onion and a dill pickle made into a sort of pate), Sweet and Sour Liver (liver with a sauce made of pineapple, vinegar, tomato juice and artificial sweetener), and Liver Chop Suey (cooked with celery and cabbage, on a bed of bean sprouts.)

And I like liver.

Not THAT liver, but I like liver.

And then there are the recipes where they are trying to make you think it’s going to be something good.  Cheese Danish is actually cottage cheese with cinnamon and artificial sweetener broiled on toast.  The Popcorn Bowl is actually sliced green peppers, cucumbers, celery and chunks of cabbage, which you can “nibble to your delight.”

Then there are just the dated recipes, like Barbecue Tuna, Chess Pie – Oh My!, or Six Cans Casserole, made of cans of cream of celery, mushroom and shrimp soup, with a can of crab meat, shrimp and mushrooms, served over rice.

One thing I found that I enjoyed was three menus from Christmas Coffees, some kind of ladies luncheon that had a typed menu with recipes and the name of the people making it.

There was a tea or coffee punch, or a rosé wine punch, always a country ham with biscuits or rolls and then very civilized luncheon foods like crab meat dip and melon balls soaked in wine.  They are dated 1966, 1968 and 1973.

There are recipes pulled out of magazines and newspapers, including one from 1974 which advertises a two-carat solitaire ring for $6,000

It amazes me that someone would put this in a yard sale, because surely those recipes meant something to the family, but obviously not.

My favorite thing, though, was this poem, written in painfully neat script on a large index card.  I began with a poem, I’ll end with one, too, though “poem” is a bit of a stretch.

“A favorite recipe for a starry-eyed bride,
Who has, it is told, captured Somerset’s pride.
I wish them the blessings which life can bestow
And hope they’ll return to ‘ole Louisville’s depot.

We’ll miss ’em while living in yonder peach state,
And an unexpected visit might be this couple’s fate.
If chance we don’t see them in many a day,
We’ll listen for news of triplets in May.”

8 comments to I Heard a Bird Sing

  • heather1  says:

    I love old cook books and snap them up any time I see them. One very unlikely place I’ve found them is the library book sales. My Sir hasn’t told me I have to stop and I already have a 5 shelf book case full of cook books. 🙂

    • MsConstanceExplains  says:

      I have a weakness for those odd little fundraising cookbooks. You know, the Ladies of the Black Rock Plymouth Baptist Church presents Come and Get it! or the Birmingham John F. Kennedy Middle School Serves Delish Dishes For Dinner. I don’t even want to think how many I have. 🙂

  • vanillamom  says:

    I love that…them…both poems. It amazes me that anyone did Weight Watchers back in the day (I did…ugh)

    I know the “I Heard a Bird Sing”…I think I shall print it out and post it where I can see it. It is absolutely frigid here this morning, after being warm for the better part of a week. Out “scooping” the yard, the ground was frozen and crunchy under my sneakers, the yard lifted in tunnels of ice under the soil, since we had a lot of rain on Monday. Brrrrr….

    No cookies have been made here, but my butter is thawing on top of the freezer…tomorrow will be a better day then today, though I may get one batch made and frozen. Your cookie crown is safe, yet!


    • MsConstanceExplains  says:

      It is a good reminder that spring does come and I try and remind myself that without the cold winter, the daffodils wouldn’t come up in the spring.

      And for us, I’ll start seeing them in another 10 or 12 weeks, the bulbs will start peeking out and spring won’t be far behind at all.

  • Cerrin  says:

    I start all my christmas cookie and candy making Tomorrow. It was really great last year getting homemade treats from others last year. I really like making sweets for all my sweet friends.

    • MsConstanceExplains  says:

      I have another couple batches to make, and some candy making. I’m still collecting recipes, but slave drew brought me home some persimmon pulp, meaning I can make my mother’s persimmon cookies, too, about which both he and I are relatively excited. For cookies, I mean. 🙂

      • vanillamom  says:

        Your comments are as enticing as your posts and I can’t seem to stop myself from replying! This comment “for cookies, I mean” made me giggle out loud!

        And our bulbs won’t peek out their blooms until late March at the soonest. However, as I was working the other night, in a dark, old building, I kept saying…”soon we’ll turn the corner” (and the seconds will start to add up for growing light!)…Really for me? These next three weeks are the hardest. Even by mid-January I can see that the evening is lingering a bit longer.


        • MsConstanceExplains  says:

          I remember living in upstate New York. I don’t like cold weather, I hate that kind of snow and freezing cold, but the thing I will say is that I never appreciated spring so much as I did there. The first peeking of the bulb shoots, often through the snow, and you had this sense that you could actually MAKE it another month until the ice at least was no longer four inches thick in the parking lots.

          And this is why I live in the south now. 🙂

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