Friday, April 7, 2017

"The Zane Grey Cookbook" (Zane Grey wrote westerns) - Potato Soup - as inspired by an episode of M*A*S*H

Date I made this recipe:  April 2, 2017

The Zane Grey Cookbook – Fish, Fowl, Game, and Western Favorites – for Outdoors or in the Home by Barbara and George Reiger
Published by Prentice-Hall
© 1976
Recipe:  Potato Soup – p. 21

Today's cookbook is about author Zane Grey (1872-1939) who rose to fame as the author of numerous western novels and movies, and who also made a second name for himself as an outdoorsman who liked to hunt, fish, and travel, especially to exotic locales.

As a former English major and avid reader, I think it's safe to say that I've read just about every genre of book except westerns.  Given how I feel about nature (it is NOT your friend), it should not surprise you that westerns in book form, TV shows, or movies, just don't float my boat.

That said, there are always exceptions to be made, and I don't know too many households in American that didn't tune in to watch popular westerns such as Gunsmoke (1955-1975) and Bonanza (1959-1973) when they were on the air.  I think I read that Bonanza enjoyed a high number of female viewers which is likely due to the casting of Michael Landon who played "Little Joe" Cartwright on the show. 
Michael was good looking with an adorable laugh and had women swooning.  Did the female viewers necessarily care about the story lines?  Not so much.  Well, whatever gets you viewership, right?

Since I tuned in dutifully to these westerns every week, you would have somehow learned about our western author (and subject of our cookbook) from these shows but that's not what happened. Instead, we can credit a 1970's TV show about the Korean War – M*A*S*H – for doing the trick.  Specifically, we can narrow this down to one person, M*A*S*H 4077's commander, Colonel Sherman T. Potter, a former WWI Calvary man who loved horses, horseback riding, Zane Grey novels and his wife, Mildred, probably in that order.

As the 4077th's commander (the second one after the hilariously funny Colonel Henry Blake), Potter had a tent to himself, but in Season 8, Episode 17 ("Heal Thyself"), he and the pompous surgeon, Charles Emerson Winchester, III ("the 'Third'") had to share a bunk when both came down with the mumps.  Charles drove Potter crazy by listening to records of opera singer Enrico Caruso, and Potter drove Charles around the bend by insisting on reading some Zane Grey, something that Charles considered plebian, before turning in.  The ensuing conversation was what prompted me to pull out this cookbook:

Potter:  I think I'll read a little and then turn in.  Some Zane Grey maybe."
Charles:  Ah, Zane Grey.  Tolstoy with spurs.
Potter:  He happens to be a great writer!
Charles:  Colonel, what gin rummy is to games of skill, Zane Grey is to literature.  Therefore, I shall counter with something civilized – Caruso!

And...scene.  And...cookbook!

The subtitle to this cookbook is on point when it comes to showcasing what's inside:  "Fish, Fowl, Game, and Western Favorites – from Outdoors or in the Home."  Hilariously "Game" was split into two chapters – Small Game (rabbit, duck, goose, etc.) and Big Game (bear, elk, venison, buffalo, etc.).  (By the way, I had to laugh when I saw a recipe for "Duck Soup," p. 20 because that is the name of a famous Marx Brothers movie.  I was happy to read that the authors got the joke as well.)

I shall spare you some of the recipes included in these chapters because...ew.  That's all I will say:  "ew," followed by several shudders. 

The "Western Favorites" chapter was also hit or miss so I pretty much skipped over that, as I did with "South Sea Favorites" (Grey liked to travel), and "Fish." 

What did this leave, you ask?  "Soups and Salads;" "Vegetables;" "Quick and Easy;" "Shellfish;" "Breads, Sauces, Marinades, and Stuffings," and "Desserts."  Also included in the book is a "Zane Grey Album" (212-233) containing photos of Zane and friends out fishing and hunting and generally frolicking out in Nature (which is NOT your friend). 

For those of you who like fishing and hunting and eating your catch/kill, this will be a fun cookbook for you.  For the timid like me, this was a challenge but I found a few options that would have worked:

  • Bean Soup – p. 20
  • Wild Scallion Soup – p. 26 (sounded intriguing...and "safe!")
  • Bill's Beet Salad – p. 27
  • Garlic Cream Dressing – p. 36
  • Barbecued Meat Loaf – p. 106-107

For those of you who might like to try some of these recipes (and more) on a camping trip, fear not, for the "Getting Started" section in the front of the book gives you instructions and a drawing for cooking with a reflector oven.  Whew.  For a minute there, I was really worried.  (There are also illustrations about how to "dress" your deer, something I could have done without but instructive for those of you who go deer hunting.)

In conclusion, I took the chicken's way out and made Potato Soup (p. 21).  It was easy, it was good, and all I had to do was peel potatoes and that I can live with.  The soup is a little different from ones I've made in the past in that it starts with a beef broth base to which you add your vegetables, and then after the vegetables have cooked, add your milk and butter to finish it off.  My only complaint was that I wanted the broth to be a little thicker and less milky but that's a personal preference.

This soup also calls for chives and of course, they meant fresh chives which I did not have on hand, so I used dried chives which I did.  I dried them myself and never noticed until I added them to the soup, that they resembled dried grass clippings – ha!  Nature is laughing at me as we speak.  At any rate, the flavor was fine but the appearance, not so much!

Although it would still take a lot to get me to read a western, it doesn't take much for me to be entertained by M*A*S*H, no matter how many times I've seen the episodes.  Personally, the first three seasons were great, but then some actors left the show and I thought it got just a tad strident and just a little off with the costuming.  This show was set during the Korean War and yet little by little, 70's hairstyles and clothing permeated the show (1972-1983) and it has really started to tick me off.  Compare and contrast that show, if you will, with Mad Men that stayed totally on point to the era (1960's) and left no stone unturned as everything was reproduced to exact retro specifications.  Mad Men had it going on.  M*A*S*H took some liberties, particularly with Margaret Houlihan's hair (it became extremely blonde!) and clothing.  In fact, in the early 80's, a friend's hair looked exactly like Margaret's, causing us to dub her hairstyle "'Loretta' hair."

Good times, right?  I could go on and on about the show but that is not why we are here and so dear reader, this concludes The Zane Grey Cookbook, as brought to you by M*A*S*H!

Potato Soup – Serves 8
4 cups beef stock, or bouillon
5 cups cubed potatoes
6 scallions, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon finely minced chives
6 ups milk
Cheddar cheese

Bring beef stock or bouillon to a boil.  Add potatoes, scallions, and celery.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in butter, seasonings, and milk.  Heat, stirring constantly, for approximately 3 minutes.  Cheddar cheese may be grated over individual servings as a matter of personal preference.

Ann's Note:  The potatoes needed about 30-35 minutes to cook, not the 20 listed here.  For best results, try to cut your potatoes to the same size so that they finish at the same time.

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