Last summer, during the height of Julia mania, I was reminded that, even with a cookbook collection of nearly 200, we do not own Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I went to eBay to find it and was quickly discouraged by the inflated prices and decided to wait to obtain our copy. M suggested that we get Clementine Paddleford instead. Clementine who?
Clementine Paddleford was the first American journalist to take food seriously, with a writing career that spanned from the 1920s to the sixties. She was the food editor of the New York Herald Tribune and This Week magazine and travelled across America gathering the best recipes from the best cooks she met along the way. Her out of print, hard to find book that we are now proud owners of, thanks to eBay and last summer’s Julia distraction, is titled How America Eats. It is a compendium of 800 recipes that were popular in her columns and is also representative of her travels throughout the US.
What makes the book unique is the stories she tells of the colorful characters she met along the way. I would like to share one of my favorites courtesy of Mrs. Robert Conover of Manhattan, Kansas.
Darlene Conover was a professor’s wife and often had to entertain on a modest budget. To simplify, she used ten basic recipes, one of which is for biscuits. Her basic biscuit recipe can be turned into cheese biscuits, a cinnamon crumb coffee cake, or even niff-niff (celery seed and parsley dumplings!).
Clementine’s description of her is perfect. “She was neither young nor beautiful, except for her eyes. They were straight-at-you eyes, gray-blue, which held a joy-in-living look.”
Mrs. Robert Conover’s Cheese Biscuits
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup salad oil
2/3 cup grated cheese
Sift dry ingredients together. Add 2/3 cup finely grated cheese to dry ingredients (I used white cheddar). Combine the lukewarm milk and salad oil. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir lightly until just blended, about 10 strokes.
Turn onto floured surface and kneed gently 10 times. Pat out 1 /2 inch thick. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Place on greased baking sheet.
Make an indentation on top with thumb or thimble. Fill hole with additional grated cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Yields twelve 2 inch biscuits.