Monday, March 28, 2011


Mexican Wedding Cookies
photo by Holly Jennings

A mutual friend recently introduced Holly Jennings to me. We both went to Cranbrook Academy of Art for graduate school, different years, different majors (fiber for me, photography for her), but two years in that environment is sort of like a secret handshake. It seems almost improbable that we would both be in Randolph, Vermont and have gone to Cranbrook, but other grads keep popping up and right now I think I know 9 people in this close vicinity who have gone there. The alumni association said there are actually about 60 grads in this area, meaning Vermont and New Hampshire and lower Quebec. I thought about hosting a party (they won't give out names but they would send emails to everyone for me) but then thought better of it. I still might invite the nine I know to a pot luck, if spring ever arrives and I feel more social.

Holly and I also share a passion for food, though I do believe she is more focused than I am. She has put together a wonderful blog, The Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club, which I try to read every few days. It actually is a group of people that read cookbooks, make food from the books, and gather for a meal based on the current selection. I almost joined, but since I have a bad track record for joining and quiting, I decided to save myself the hassle and just not join. Instead I am lurking. The current selection is Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking. I missed out on purchasing the book when the club members' got theirs, but thought I picked up a copy when I went to Burlington. Wrong. I got The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, which is a compilation of three older books she has written. Holly had a stack of different books by Kennedy at her house the other day, and surprisingly they really do have different recipes in them. I have made the cheese chile rellenos from my cookbook twice now--and they are incredibly good. Since I lived in Guatemala and Mexico for five years in the early '70s, I never had a cookbook before, thinking I knew how to make beans and rice and rellenos. But following her recipe has convinced me that there is much to learn, and it is worth the effort to follow her instructions.

Holly made me a lunch using a delicious shrimp recipe from her book, and I brought Mexican Wedding Cookies for dessert. I actually didn't use the recipe which is in The Essential Cuisines book because it called for lard. Instead, I went to my trusty Martha Stewart's Handbook of Baking and followed her recipe. That book never fails--even though my oven has been misbehaving--and only the broiler coil got hot. For about two weeks now I have been baking by heating the oven to where I need it to go using broil, then turning it off, putting in the cake/cookies/whatever, and letting them cook--taking them out and reheating with broil sometimes, and returning them to the oven. Not a great way to cook, but it worked with the cookies shown above.

Lucky for me my neighbor is a genius and this morning he has fixed my oven. And if it doesn't last, he has already procured a backup plan. So I feel secure. Without my oven I feel very insecure.

By the way, Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club is open to anyone to join. There is a great post on queso fresco that includes a recipe that was posted on March 24th. I think when groups start gathering in different areas of the country, and report their findings on the blog, it is going to gain a big following. I might even join. And you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crackle Weave

Crackle yardage by Bhakti Ziek

I finished weaving the crackle studies yesterday. I used up yarn on bobbins, almost randomly taking them from my baskets, though in the end, the cloth looked very harmonious. Not sure if I will cut it apart for dish towels, let my husband have it to paint on, or just fold it up and put it away. There is enough yardage for all three possibilities.

The pictures show the cloth just off the loom, but now it has been washed and is drying. If it looks significantly different, I will post a picture. I was trying to get a handle on differences in the cloth by using different weights yarn for both the ground tabby and pattern, sometimes using a very fine tabby weft and sometimes just slightly thinner than the pattern weft. Obviously there are differences, but it all looks okay to me. There is something oddly pleasing about just making traditional cloth. The editors of the book must have liked crackle too, since they used it as the background weave on the cover.

I am going to try and figure out how to use crackle for a jacquard weaving. Am feeling almost ready to start again.

Crackle Studies based on this book

Studies 493 to 495 (top to bottom)

Crackle Studies 496 to 498

Crackle Studies 499 to 501 plus one by Bhakti Ziek