This is the start of the third month of the year. Have you accomplished one-sixth of what you had planned for 2014? If you have, you are away ahead of me. We aren't the only ones off schedule. I just got a Christmas card from a magazine. And they have an entire office staff to keep them straight. As this is written, we don't know if March is coming in like a lion or a lamb, but I would guess it will be about as nasty as February has been. Anyway, as the year marches on, we know spring has to be here before too long. Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent is Wednesday. That means Shrove Tuesday and Doughnut Day is this week, too. Guess I'll have to make a few doughnuts. The big Mardi Gras parades are already taking place and will end at midnight Tuesday in New Orleans and Mobile, as well as other party places around the world. Carnival season is over. As chilly and nasty as it has been here in our valley, it is hard to imagine any kind of grand parades or wild parties being enjoyable.
With Lent starting, it is time to take an assessment of ourselves. What do we need to improve in our lives; did we keep those New Year's Resolutions we promised ourselves; have we been good neighbors and helped someone. Lent is a personal time to help ourselves be more like what we want to be, a time of meditation and study. The food restrictions are not what they used to be, but it is up to each of us to determine what we need to do, individually, and sometimes a restriction on a favorite food or treat is a reminder to us to take this season of the year seriously. Sometimes, it isn't what we give up but rather what we take on. Try to have a holy and healing Lent.
Next week is the time to go onto Daylight Savings Time. Don't forget to reset your clocks or you will be late for church next Sunday. My car clock will on the correct time again. It doesn't get changed away from Daylight Savings Time and drives some folks a little crazy. It helps them hurry up once in awhile, though.
The clothes dryer here on the hilltop decided to go on vacation. The question is whether to see if it can be fixed or is it better just to send it to dryer heaven? It does have several years on it but the older appliances seem to be better in general than the newer ones. Once a person gets used to one of our modern conveniences, it is hard to think about doing without them and I don't have an outside clothesline, which I would not like in this chilly weather anyway.
This old house isn't like the house I had in Nancy, France. There, up in the attic were many lines for drying clothes. I didn't care for carrying wet laundry from the basement, up three floors to the attic, but I never had to think about paying to have a dryer fixed or buying a new one either. We get too used to the easy way of doing things.
That house was neat and quite modern by the standards there. It was probably older than our country, but very comfortable and many of the things in that house were improvements over our more modern military housing units to which we moved when an opening occurred. The houses on that street were "row" houses; each owned by one owner but built against each other with no side yards. There was a small front yard with a fence and lockable gate along the street. The back yards were nice sized and all fenced, but gave the feeling of an open courtyard. The houses were solid around the block with the backyards creating the "courtyard." Our basement opened onto the back yard. The kitchen, dining room, and living room were on the first floor and the bedrooms on the second floor, a four-story house.
The hot water heaters were each over the hot water faucets. The gas came on and heated the water as the faucet was turned on, endless hot water as much as you needed. This was for each faucet in the bathroom as well as the kitchen and basement. The "point of use" heaters we have even today are not as good as those were more than 50 years ago.
The walls were about 18-inches thick, so the windowsills were great to sit on in the warm months and great to air out bedding in the cold months. There seemed to be no insects, so screens weren't needed, and the windows opened out (French-style windows) so it provided a nice seating area to listen to the music from the cafe on the next block. Everything was so neat and clean. My landlady even scrubbed the front steps every morning.
I miss the bakery shop, cheese and fruit vendors within walking distance and the church bells that rang every evening at 6 and at midnight on Christmas Eve. One favorite evening enjoyment was going to the village square with its beautiful fountain and outdoor cafes all around the square. The food and local wines were fantastic. By the way, snails are delicious.
Nancy is quite some distance from Paris on the highway to Strasburg in the Lorraine area. It is a beautiful part of France. The local people liked Americans, remembering them as their liberators just 40 years or so before. I have fond memories of the people, the open markets, the countryside, the cathedrals and museums, and, of course, the three years I lived there. Foolishly, I did not keep a diary at that time and that is why I urge all of you to keep a diary for those who come after you.
Some of my recipes come from the time I spent in France, but those today are doughnuts like Grandma Semon used to make for Shrove Tuesday. Prepare for Lent, keep warm. And God Bless.
1 package granulated yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup shortening, melted and cooled
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Soften yeast in lukewarm water, stir and combine with cooled milk. Add half of the flour and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Beat until smooth. Cover and let rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees) about a half hour. Stir in beaten eggs, lemon rind, shortening and remaining flour that has been sifted with the remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt. Beat for 10-15 minutes by hand (or 4-5 minutes by electric mixer) or until bubbles appear on the surface. Cover and let rise an hour. Turn out on floured board and roll out 1-inch thick. Cut with doughnut cutter. Cover and let rise about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Drop, raised side down, into deep, hot fat (365 to 370 degrees) and fry 2-3 minutes, turning doughnuts to brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper. While still warm, sugar by shaking them with granulated sugar or confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag. They can be dipped in thin confectioners' sugar icing or iced with any thinned icing for an iced doughnut instead of a sugared doughnut.
1 envelope dry powdered yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3 egg yolks
3-4 cups flour
Oil or melted butter
1 1/2 cups jam or marmalade
Fat for deep frying
Sugar (preferably Vanilla sugar)
Soften yeast in a little lukewarm water according to directions on package, adding 1 teaspoon sugar to speed the progress, if you like. Let stand in a warm place until bubbly. Scald milk. Cream butter with sugar, salt and lemon peel. When blended, add scalded milk and stir until butter melts. When cooled to lukewarm, mix in egg yolks and 1 cup flour and dissolved yeast. Add remaining flour gradually until dough is soft and light but smooth and not sticky. Knead on floured board until elastic and smooth. Shape into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Brush top of dough with oil or melted butter, cover with a thin kitchen towel and set to rise in a warm, draft-free corner of the kitchen. Let rise an hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch down and roll on floured board to 1/4 inch thickness and cut rounds with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Put a generous dab of marmalade or jam in center of half the circles, then top each with a plain circle of dough. Pinch edges of circles together with a little water or egg white to help them bind. Cover with a towel and let rise about forty-five minutes or until doubled again in bulk. Heat fat to 365 degrees and deep fry doughnuts, a few at a time and keeping fat temperature constant. Fry about 3 minutes on one side, then turn so the second side can brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. When almost cool, dredge with sugar.
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, mace and nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Fat for deep frying
Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with milk. Chill for an hour or longer. Roll out on lightly floured board to 1-half inch thickness and cut with floured doughnut cutter. Fry in deep fat (370 degrees on a deep fat thermometer) until golden brown on both sides, turning once.
Drain on absorbent paper and shake with sugar while still warm.
Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.