Aunt Zaida’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

When I was a child, once a year I would travel with my parents to Paris, Tennessee, where my father was born. At least two or three times during our stay, my father’s diminutive aunt, Zaida, would invite us out to her sprawling farmhouse. There we would enjoy one of her memorable country meals; cranberry-glazed ham, skillet-fried corn, homemade buttermilk biscuits, and her famously-good oatmeal cookies, are some of the dishes I remember the most.

Aunt Zaida served all of her meals—including her weekday meals—on beautiful pieces of China and porcelain. She was a wonderful cook, but knowing what I now know about the influence that a proper presentation has on an eating experience, I’m sure Aunt Zaida’s fine China and porcelain place settings enhanced the flavor of her food. And lifted her husband’s mood. I once heard her say, “Don’t save all of your best—whether it be smiles or compliments—for company and strangers. Put some of that consideration to the side, and give it to your husband.”

Uncle Wallace, a tall and heavily-built man, was Aunt Zaida‘s husband. Uncle Wallace was so powerfully made, he resembled Paul Bunyan when he walked through the screen door after she’d called him in to supper. In contrast with Aunt Zaida‘s delicate table settings, big and tall Uncle Wallace looked out of place sitting at the table. His hands and arms were large and muscular; I knew it was just a matter of time before he knocked something over, the way you’d expect a bull in a China shop to do. But it never happened. He accepted and passed the delicate dishes around the table with the grace of a ballerina. My mother used to tell me, “All men have a soft spot. Sometimes you have to help them find it.”

I guess, serving him his meals—even his weekday meals—on fine China, was Aunt Zaida’s way of helping Uncle Wallace find his.

My friend, Harris, isn’t as big and brawny as Uncle Wallace was. But he’s not a prissy little guy either. Like any manly man, at times he can be a little rough around the edges. When I want to tap into his soft side, now and then I’ll ask him to hold something sweet and ladylike of mine…a little evening bag, a pair of soft leather gloves, or a flimsy apron, while I wash my hands at the sink. Or I’ll serve him something on one of my pretty dishes. It’s one of those intimate little maneuvers that I do to remind him that I’m not one of the fellas he occasionally whoops around with; I am a woman.

Aunt Zaida’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

The toasted oats in Aunt Zaida‘s recipe give the cookies a nutty flavor that men like. If they didn’t, why would Harris tell me the other day, “The next time you make your Aunt Zaida’s cookies, I hope you’ll make a bigger batch.”

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins

Spread the oats on a baking tin. Toast in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5 minutes, or until fragrant and golden; Take the oats out of the oven and set them aside to cool.
To bake the cookies, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly cream the butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract, beating well. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; add to the creamed mixture, blending well. Stir in the toasted oats and the raisins. Drop rounded tablespoons of cookie dough, about 2 to
2-½ inches apart, onto ungreased baking tins. Flatten the tops with the bottom-side of a water glass. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies; 10 to 11 minutes for a crunchier cookie. Do not over-bake. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool on the cookie tins for 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: If you make Aunt Zaida’s cookies for your husband or your boyfriend, of course you can let him serve himself from the cookie jar, but if you’re looking for a subtle way to create a little kitchen-table closeness, I’d serve his portion on one of my sexiest little saucers, if I were you.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies


Miss Lillian’s Bowl Of Corn Flakes

Miss Lillian was a neighbor to my grandmother. Listening to the stories that
My My—that’s what we called my grandmother—told, it was easy to imagine that Miss Lillian had studied her wife-artistry at some old-world school of housewifery etiquette. Even back in the sixties when I was growing up, her way of tending to her husband’s needs, made other good wives say she was an old-style wife—what her husband Logan said, went, and what he needed, Miss Lillian provided. They say, she was so aware of Mr. Logan’s needs, she could feel them coming on way before he could; say, she would hand him his back scratcher or his plastic toothpick or a fresh handkerchief, minutes before he himself actually felt a need to request those things. When Logan came in—around three in the morning—from his General Motor’s job, Miss Lillian would rise and pour him a bowl of cereal flakes.

One Saturday afternoon, Miss Lillian sat on my grandmother’s porch and casually mentioned that she had to mosey on to the grocery store to buy a box of corn flakes, and then, to the drugstore to pick up a bottle of peppermint oil. “What cha makin’ that’s callin’ for oil and flakes?” My My asked. She was always looking out for a new recipe to add to her files.

“Oh, no, Sister Thompson, it ain’t for no recipe that I need these things. I clip Logan’s toenails and rub his feet with peppermint oil every Sunday morning before we get dressed for church. I’m runnin’ low on foot oil and corn flakes; You know how Logan expects me to set him out a bowl of flakes every morning.”

Though they were friends, the extent that Miss Lillian was willing to go to fulfill her wifely duties grated on my grandmother’s nerves. My My used to say, “If a man loves you, he won’t let you do all of the work to keep him.” Truth told, My My was on the spoiled side. While she would indulge my grandfather, Pop, with little niceties, like a Sunday-like supper on a weeknight or a surprise platter of his favorite gingersnap cookies, she was not the kind of woman who would clip a man’s toenails, or oil his feet, or get out of bed in the middle of the night and break her sleep, just to fix him a bowl of cereal. “You have to draw the line somewhere,” she used to say. “Cause some men’ll work the sap out of you if you don’t.”

My mother, who was wise in the ways of womanhood, once told me, “there’s nothing wrong with a woman babying her husband. Especially, if he’s a good man—hardworking and sweet.” Concerning Miss Lillian, Mama said, “I see nothing wrong with getting up in the middle of the night to fix your husband a bowl of flakes when he comes in from work…but I’d draw the line when it comes to clipping his toenails and oiling his feet.”

She did say however, that it was up to every woman to set her own standard of wifely familiarity—and wifely leniencies and pleasures. Said, where she wouldn’t clip her husband’s toes and oil his feet, said it was perfectly plausible if another wife saw where it was fit.

On that, I agreed with Mama. Where one woman “won’t” another one “will”.

A few months before I got married, I started putting together a little journal of man-pleasing recipes and womanish niceties that would make ‘coming home to me’ a nice experience for my husband. Miss Lillian and Mr. Logan came to mind immediately; as I recalled from childhood, Mr. Logan appeared to be a happy husband who was always doing something in and out of their home to make it more pleasant for Miss Lillian. With that in mind, I promptly called Miss Lillian and asked if there was anything that she’d done to Mr. Logan’s bowls of corn flakes to make them special. She said, “No sugah; it was never about the contents in the bowl that pleased him, he could’ve poured his own cereal; it was the fact that when he came home, there was somebody, warm and welcoming, waiting in the kitchen to greet him.”

Miss Lillian’s Corn Flakes

1 Large bowl, deep enough to hold the cereal and the milk—choose one that you suspect
will feel good to a man’s sense of touch.
1 box of cereal flakes (or any dried cereal)—I prefer Kelloggs’ Brand
Milk or cream (Use whole milk or 2%)
1 large spoon
Fruit (optional)
Brown Sugar (optional)
Maple Syrup (optional)

Place the bowl on the table or the countertop. Fill it half-full of cereal. For variety, you can combine two or more cereals. Pour enough milk or cream over the cereal to suit your taste. Garnish with freshly cut fruits like bananas, strawberries, peach slices, kiwi, pineapple slices, or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream .

For hot cereal, add a sprinkle of brown sugar, a drop or two of maple syrup, crushed pineapple, or dried fruits to add flavor and interest. Serve alone, or with a slice or two of bacon, or a couple of links of sausage .

Makes 1 bowl of cereal


A MAN’S HOLIDAY

When I was a little girl, about three or four, there was an old couple in the old neighborhood, named George and Roberta Hayes. Looking back, I imagine they were in their late sixties. Roberta was short and skinny; George was short and fat. Roberta had short thin hair; George was bald. Miss Roberta was soft-spoken and gingerly, while George, who looked as though he’d been born with the fat cigar that was always clenched between his teeth, was loud and energetic. In the summertime, he would sit on his porch with his portable radio blasting ball games or wrestling matches. From across the street, we could hear him yelling obscenities at the radio when the team or fighter he was rooting for fumbled a ball or took a hit.

Sometimes, after Daddy had gone to work, and George was at the skating rink (some years back, our local newspaper actually featured a story—with photos—of George ice skating in the park—I think he was ninety at the time) my mother and I would go across the street and sit with Miss Roberta. Mama was a young woman at the time, still learning how to be a wife; Miss Roberta, who was full of wise wife stories and managed boisterous George like a charm, was Mama’s inspiration. Mama could sit at Miss Roberta’s kitchen table for hours, exchanging recipes and gathering husband-management advice.

While our visits were enlightening and uplifting for my mother, they were miserable for a little girl my age. Miss Roberta was one of those women who always had something sweet and delicious-looking sitting out. Everywhere I looked, there was something tempting—a caramel pound cake, a peach cobbler, a pan of cinnamon rolls—cooling on the counter. Problem was, none of the treats could be disturbed because, according to Miss Roberta, “That’s for George‘s sweet tooth.” A few times, I was so overwhelmed while in the presence of such good-looking food, and not being able to taste even a crumb of it, I actually slid out of my chair and cried. I didn’t understand how Miss Roberta could be so merciless as to seat a little girl in a kitchen surrounded by tantalizing candied jewels, then claim they were for George’s sweet tooth; what about my sweet tooth?

To be fair, I did get a chance to sample some of Miss Roberta’s goodies from time to time. George, who was an avid sports man, would invite Daddy and a few of the other neighborhood men over for Super Bowl Sunday or The World Series or some other major televised sporting event, and when the event was over, Miss Roberta would send Daddy home with a covered plate. Miss Roberta went all out for George’s parties—replete with dishes like southern fried chicken wings, curried meatballs, baked ham, macaroni and cheese, and two or three desserts, like chocolate sheet cake, orange sugar cookies, and cherry cheese pie. Miss Roberta once told Mama, “If you want a man to honor your holidays—anniversaries, your birthday, Valentine’s Day—you have to honor his.”

This year on Super Bowl Sunday, I thought about what Miss Roberta said. And how most men actually see that day as a special day…a “holiday” if you will. I called all of the men in my life—my cousins, my uncles, and my platonic men friends—around town and out of state—and simply said, “I called to wish you a happy Super Bowl Day” I talked to each one for just a minute, asked what he had planned, and so forth. You should have heard their reactions to my acknowledgment of their special day. Every man I called, seemed touched; each one immediately started rattling off his menu and guest list.

At the last minute, my friend Harris (I’m not quite ready to call him “my boyfriend” just yet) who is a devoted football fan, asked if he could watch the game at my house. That surprised me; during our first phone conversation he informed me that football Sundays, “are my days with the fellows.” He said it with authority, as though someone from his past had had a problem with letting him go for an entire day. I just looked at the phone and smiled. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “Everybody needs a personal day.” [I’m an old cat, kitten. Don’t play that game with me;)].

Of course I gave him permission to come by. After that, I quickly threw together a little something…southern fried chicken wings, herbed potato wedges, buttered corn on the cob, and cherry cheese pie. I just wanted to add a little of my touch to his special occasion. Harris carried on like a fool over that simple little fare. Mama once told me, “You don’t have to cook gourmet to leave a good taste in a man’s mouth.”

Harris especially liked my cherry cheese pie. He kept saying, “Cheesecake is one of my all-time favorite desserts.” Of course I didn’t tell him that it took me all of twenty minutes (or less) to mix it up, or that it wasn’t baked in the oven. There are some things that a man doesn‘t need to know.

Cherry Cheese Pie

1 (9 ounce) ready-made graham cracker pie crust
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) container frozen cool whip, thawed
1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer set on medium-high, carefully blend the cream cheese, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the thawed cool whip. Again, gently blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour into the ready made pie crust. Use a butter knife to smooth out the top of the pie. Spread the cherry pie filling on top of the pie. Place the pie in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. Note: Depending on the tartness of the cherries, I often add extra sugar—about a teaspoon at a time—to the pie filling to achieve the sweetness that I want.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH

In mythology, Midas, was the king of Pessinus, which was the capitol of Phrygia. Phrygia was a small, wealthy country, located in the eastern part of what is now known as Turkey. According to lore, King Midas was a very kind ruler, who doted on his beloved rose garden. Early every morning, no sooner than he’d listened to (and granted) the requests of his loyal subjects, the good king strolled out to his garden where he stayed for hours, feeding his roses, and speaking words of love to them. One morning, while King Midas was taking his daily morning walk through his prized garden, he and members of his court stumbled upon a drunken satyr named, Silenus. You can imagine how upsetting the sight of a drunken satyr— slobbing at the mouth, talking crazy, and sprawled out on top of your beautiful plants, crushing the life out of them—would be. Silenus, half-goat, half-man, was immediately hauled inside, and at the foot of the royal thrown, he began an attempt to charm his captors with a series of mesmerizing, and woeful tales, designed to save his life.

Of course, King Midas could have had Silenus’ head if he’d wanted it, but the king took pity on the drunkard and let him go without punishment. Sometimes, you just see people and their situations as, “if it wasn’t for the grace of God, that could be me.”

Legend has it, that from above, Dionysus, the god of the forces of life, had watched the whole event as it was taking place. And he was pleased with the kindness that King Midas had shown the old drunk. As a reward, Dionysus offered King Midas, one wish. Told him, “you can have any wish in the world, and I will command it.”

Well, King Midas didn’t think the thing out. He just blurted out, “I wish that whatever I touch turns to gold.” Unfortunately, that was the king’s undoing. Cause, he got exactly what he wished for: everything he touched—his wife, his children, his food, and his beloved roses, everything that he touched—turned a solid gold.

In the story, King Midas found redemption. He begged Dionysus to nullify the wish, and that’s exactly what the good god did; he took away King Midas’ golden touch. Too bad “life” doesn’t always give us a second chance to give back the things we ask for. We see the green grass on the other side of the fence, so we wish we were over there; we see a woman wearing designer clothes, so we wish we had her money; we see a pretty model on the cover of a magazine, so we wish we had her face; we see a fine man driving in a
nice car, so we wish we could be sitting beside him. Things aren’t always what they seem to be, spices. My mother once told me, “You may wish for a handsome husband, but do you really need one?”

Think, before you make a wish. You might get it…and everything that comes with it.

Speaking of gold, my cousin, Dee Dee, gave me the recipe for this extravagantly rich and moist golden pound cake a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve made it several times. It might not be good to the waistline, but it sure is kind to the mouth.

Golden Pound Cake:

1-½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup 7-Up

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a Bundt pan. Set it aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and blend until the mixture is creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream, the vanilla extract, and the lemon extract. Mix until the ingredients are well-blended. There shouldn’t be any white streaks in the batter. Add 1 cup of the flour, and beat the batter until just combined. Add 1/3 of the 7-Up and beat the batter until just combined. Repeat this step, until the flour and 7-Up are incorporated into the batter. Pour the batter into the greased Bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out
clean. Take the pan out of the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto an attractive cake plate.


Love Is In The Details

I think it’s fair to say that Valentine’s Day belongs to women and children; well, I forgot, men are also the beneficiaries of heartfelt tokens of love on that day—such as cozy breakfasts in bed, romantic evening suppers, and lacy red teddies worn on bodies coated with scented oil. Hmmn…now that I think about it, Valentine’s Day might be more for men, than it is for women, or children; everybody knows, when a woman loves a man, nobody can outdo her when it comes to creating ways to show him. I know a woman right now, whose house is in foreclosure because she’s using most of her paycheck to finance her lover’s high-rolling lifestyle. ( I’ll save that conversation for another post: Women Who Do Foolish Things To Keep A Man). But you know what I mean; a woman’s heart is wired to look for ways to communicate love to the people she cares for.

Over the years, I’ve experienced some sweet Valentine days, replete with roses and chocolates, baubles and trinkets. I’ve had some Valentine’s Day crying spells, too. That was before I understood that a man can show his love in a variety of ways. Love isn’t always bought and wrapped inside a pretty package with a bow. Sometimes, it mows the lawn or digs the bed for the shrubbery or takes the car to the shop to be detailed. Sometimes, love
meets you in the driveway and helps carry in the groceries or stands by
your side keeping you company, while you put them away. Sometimes, love doesn’t do any of those things; all it does is pay the bills that keep the roof over your head.

One of my most cherished Valentine’s Day memories is of a day when I was eight years old and homebound due to a cold. At one point, Mama came into my bedroom and set a saucer of chocolates, a mug of homemade hot chocolate, and a new book, The Best Loved Doll, on my nightstand. “Happy Valentine’s Day. This’ll cheer you up,” she said. All these years later, that one little nicety still cheers me when I think about it. Sometimes, spices, love is hidden inside the details. You might look out your window and see the flower truck in your neighbor’s driveway, but just because she’s getting flowers, that doesn’t mean she’s loved.

Hot Chocolate

You can spoil a man with this. When he comes in from a cold and snowy day, there’s nothing more inviting than a cup of real hot chocolate; it’s much more decadent than the powdery mix that comes in a tin can.

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sugar to taste
6 ounces good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Whipped cream (optional)

In a saucepan, heat the milk and cream over medium heat until it simmers: about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the vanilla, sugar, and chocolate pieces. Whisk until the ingredients are well-blended and the chocolate is completely melted; about 2 minutes. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if you want to add a little more flavor and flair. And if you really want to say something, make the whipped cream from scratch.

Makes about 4 servings


I’ve Got A New Man

Mama once told me, “Until you learn a man—what makes him laugh, what makes him angry, the punch lines in his jokes, how he carries himself around others—it’s not good to go all-out public with a new man, right off the bat. Spend some alone time with him first, while you’re gettin’ to know his way.”

She went on to tell me about her girlfriend, Aunt Lenore, and Aunt Lenore’s beau, Buford, and how in tune Aunty Nore was with Mr. Buford. Mama said Aunt Lenore had studied Mr. Buford so thoroughly, at times they seemed to be so connected, you couldn’t tell where Aunt Lenore ended, and Mr. Buford began. Said, when they were out, Aunt Lenore didn’t bat an eye when Mr. Buford flashed his teeth in some other woman’s face or complimented the woman’s hairstyle, ‘cause Aunty Nore understood that hospitality was embedded in his nature.

Well, I have a new man in my life. He’s a musician; plays the bass. He’s one of those manly, chivalrous, kind of men—I suspect, he’s using his chivalry on me, the way I’m using my Chanel No. 5 and my cooking, on him.

I’m at the point in the relationship where I’m getting to know what makes him tick; I’m learning him. Truth told, I’m also waiting to see—as my grandmother would say—if he’s gonna show his ass. For now, I’ll just call him, “Harris”.

Meanwhile, I’m getting my things in order. I believe a woman can softly and quietly communicate sensuality in all of the aspects of her life—her house, her car, her office, and of course, through her kitchen prowess. You have to do it in subtle ways though; cause I believe most men, pumped up by the so-called man shortage chatter, walk into new relationships believing the woman already has a wedding dress and white, satin pumps hidden in the back of her chiffonnier. That’s why I say, with a new man especially, it’s best to act a little indifferent, nonchalant, sometimes. My mother used to say, “You
shouldn’t let any man, not even your husband, get too confident about your love for him. Most men enjoy the chasing, just as much as they do the catching; most of em’ll treat you better if you pull back from time to time.”

Anyway, back to Harris. I’m culling through my storages and pulling out all of my womanish bling—the kinds of trinkets that men like to see and hold; the kinds of culinary-object charms that speak to their manly sensibilities—consciously, and unawares. At the moment, I have my stuff laid out on the kitchen table; it’s so much fun picking through it, and trying to decide when and how I’m gonna use it.

To tell the truth, I’m excited to have a new man in my life. Especially one that’s manly and chivalrous. For some reason, the mannerisms in a mannish man, always brings out more of my womanish. When he flexes his muscle, I bat my eye.


A Woman’s Pantry

My Aunt Helen is the most sensual cook that I know; her pantry is stocked with exotic herbs and spices, and powders and sauces. When I’m in her pantry, I’m reminded of the eroticism of a foreign marketplace. The rich aromas and vibrant colors of her seasoning barks, roots, berries, fruits, and seeds, remind me that food is pleasurable and powerful, and that cooking is an art. That cooking for a man, is an advanced art. My Aunt Helen is a bona fide authority on knowing how to feed a man. She once told me, “After a hard day’s work, a man isn’t coming home looking for finger food. He’s lookin’ for a well-spiced meal.”

Months before I got married, I purchased a black and white marbled notebook. I asked Aunt Helen to teach me what she knew about cooking to please a man. I intended to record every little detail, all of her cooking secrets and techniques. In essence, I wanted to know how to cook the kind of meals that would entice my husband to come straight home from work; and if the truth be told, keep him there for the rest of the night.

Aunt Helen was a real peach of a teacher. She wasn’t guarded like my mother’s cousin, Edwina, who really didn’t want you in the kitchen while she was cooking; but if you happened to be there on such an occasion, you couldn’t decipher her technique anyway, ’cause she seasoned the food so fast, her movements were a blur. Every Saturday morning, Aunt Helen, who lived 35 miles away, would be waiting for my arrival. She’d already have her secret spices sitting out. Aunt Helen once told me, “Cooking for a man entails much more than just feeding his empty stomach. If you want a man to desire your cooking, you’ve got to feed all of him…his senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound. Not just taste.”

When I came home and told my mother what Aunt Helen had said, Mama chuckled. “That girl is something else,” she said. But Mama wasn’t fooling me, I knew she found as much worth in Aunt Helen’s womanly cooking philosophy as I had. After all, Mama was just as committed as Aunt Helen was, to cultivating and upholding her cooking reputation. “A woman’s cooking, is her glory,” she often said.

In fact, if the truth be told, just before my mother went on a vacation where she thought her host might ask her to cook a meal, Mama always filled a small bag with her most potent herbs and spices. She would tuck the bag inside her purse, in a place that made it inconspicuous. My mother, who delighted in the compliments that people extolled on her cooking, used to tell me that she took her personal herbs and spices on vacation, because not every woman’s kitchen was well-stocked. Whenever Mama was called on to cook in somebody’s scantily-stocked kitchen, she didn’t worry that her cooking would lose the spotlight; she would ease her seasoning pouch out of its hiding place, and when the woman of the house wasn’t looking, Mama would spice the meal the same way she would have, had she been at home.

My mother used to tell me, “A well-stocked pantry is the building block of an enchanted kitchen, a kitchen that a man enjoys being in and eating in.” She said, “it makes a man feel settled in for the night when he can run back and forth, from the refrigerator to the cupboards, and find a variety of good things to eat.”

In one of Aunt Helen’s cooking class sermons, she said, “A woman’s food pantry should be as opulent as her bedroom closet, filled with tantalizing items that delight and inspire her womanly sensibilities.” She said, good cooking comes from some place deep inside a woman—her heart. Said, the real good cooking women of the world are those women who have a heart for creating and feeding. She said, having a stocked spice cupboard stimulates a woman’s cooking flow. Said, “When you’ve got to stop every five minutes to run to the store for an ingredient, it breaks your concentration; and when you break your concentration, you compromise the flavor in your cooking .” For that reason, Aunt Helen kept a checklist of necessary pantry ingredients to keep on hand posted on her cupboard door, so that when she was caught up in her baking, she wouldn’t have to leave the house and break the cooking spell that was on her.

From that day forward, I’ve made it a habit to keep my favorite spices on hand. I’m inspired to do my best cooking when I have a rich and opulent array of potions to season my dishes with. I even empty some of the seasonings into non-traditional containers — like Egyptian perfume bottles and other sensual containers — to give myself the sensation that I’m actually cooking with magic potions.

My favorite Herbs and Spices

Allspice
Cinnamon (ground)
Cloves (ground)
Nutmeg (ground)
Ginger (ground)
Sea Salt
Pepper (whole black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne)
Curry Powder
Dried Thyme
Chili Powder
Poultry Seasoning
Seasoning Blends (for seafood, Italian, and Mexican dishes)
Dried Rosemary Leaves
Oregano
Thyme
Cumin Seeds
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Bay Leaves

My Favorite Flavored Extracts

Vanilla
Lemon
Almond
Banana
Orange
Rum
Chocolate

JEZEBEL

That’s what my mother called her spice blend for meats and poultry.

Whenever Mama was cooking meat or poultry that she wanted to leave her mark on, she’d wink and say teasingly, “I’m gonna put a little Jezebel on it.”

1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Place all of the ingredients in a glass jar and shake to mix thoroughly. For easy dispensing, pour the mixture into a spice shaker with an air-tight lid. You can modify this recipe to suit your personal preference.

This spice blend will remain fresh for about a month. It makes a scant 1/4 cup.


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