Since this blog began–only last December!–I’ve been plugging a book for holiday reading during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This year’s Yule book, offered in keeping with the hoary InkWell tradition of exactly one year, is a cookbook, How to Eat Like a Republican, by Susanne Grayson Townsend, who bills herself as the only Republican in New York City. (I don’t believe that–isn’t there some guy named Bloomberg, author of the nanny law that banned smoking in even the most traditionally smoke-filled of the Big Apple’s restaurants and bars?) As Townsend writes for New Yorkers who have never seen a Republican:
“[U]nless you accidentally attend a rally for George Pataki, George Bush, or Georgette Mosbacher, you could easily live a life in the northeast corridor without ever setting eyes on one.”
Townsend warns that her cookbook, which features a huge Middle-American slice of white bread on its cover, is likely to have shown up as a “gag” gift in many a stocking. I wouldn’t have taken the book seriously myself, except that I recall that I saw a version of one of Townsend’s shrimp recipes (Republicans hate fish but adore seafood, she tells us) in the Washington Post a few weeks ago. It looked delicious–and so my husband gave me “How to Eat Like a Republican” for Christmas. And sure enough, the book is chock-full of seriously tasty-looking dishes (Townsend, although an advertising exec by trade, is a skilled cook and onetime national finalist in the Gilroy Garlic Festival Great Garlic Cook-off, one of the toughest cooking contests in the country).
Sure, a number of the recipes call for Coca-Cola and condensed Campbell’s soup as ingredients. I’m a purist, and I always substitute my own homemade sauce veloute–it’s easy to make, honest!–for that “cream” o’ mushroom gunk), and I absolutely refuse to allow Kraft’s Velveeta Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product into my home, so I won’t be fixing up Townsend’s Vel-Veto Power RO*TEL Dip (Velveeta plus RO*TEL canned tomatoes) any time soon. But the Deep-Dish Nacho Pie, Rush’s (as in Limbaugh) Mom’s Fluffy Potato Casserole, the Chinese Garlic Chicken, and the pasta salad that won Townsend her finalist status at Gilroy all look like winners to me. “How to Eat Like a Republican” falls into the same category as the Tequila Cookbook (mmm!-but out of print) the Tabasco Cookbook, and any number of recipe collections proffered by Junior Leagues all over the country (but especially in Louisiana): simple but surprisingly sophisticated dishes whose ingredients you can buy in your local supermarket and for which your family and friends will be back with their plates for seconds. No hand-sorted mesclun, no sea urchins, no arty “foams” (they’re for shaving, not cooking, in my book), and nothing–thank God!–ironic. Republicans don’t do ironic.
I’m passing along with high recommendations one of Townsend’s recipes, for her mom’s ham loaf, which my husband and I tried yesterday as part of our Chintziest Christmas Weekend Ever. I was going to roast a duck this Christmas and serve it a l’orange or aux cerises with wild rice. That plan went by the wayside fast. I teach at a university, so I had a stack of term papers and bluebooks to grade that kept me busy through Dec. 20 with marathon bouts of marking punctuated by odd hours of snoozing. Then came a couple of free-lance writing assignments that demanded the same sleep-deprived schedule. I finished up the last one at noon on Dec. 23 and staggered out the door to buy the last Christmas tree on the lot just as my husband was staggering home like Santa Claus with a sackful of all the leftovers from his office’s holiday party (they would have else been thrown out, and my husband’s a thrifty guy). So, hell–why cook for Christmas? I barely got the lights onto the tree, and I slept through the sermon at midnight Mass.
On Dec. 25 we dined on French-dipped roast beef sandwiches (courtesy of an office-mate of my husband’s who’d fixed a tenderloin) and potato salad from the Red Hot ‘N Blue barbecue chain, washed down with the designer beer my main man had snagged in the office gift exchange. Yum! Yesterday, feeling more energetic, I turned some of the Honey-Baked ham into a Republican loaf. Here goes:
Mother’s Company Ham Loaf
2 pounds ground ham [cut into hunks and switch on the Cuisinart]
1 pound ground lean pork
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs [Townsend suggests Ritz or saltines, but I had a coupon for Wheat Thins so I used those–and don’t forget the Cuisinart]
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 cup vinegar
In a large bowl, combine all the loaf ingredients except the parsley. Shape into 2 loaves and place into greased loaf pans. [You can freeze one or both of them at this point–I myself simply halved the recipe.] Preheat the oven to 350. Cook all the sauce ingredients over low heat until the sugar and mustard are dissolved. Pour the sauce over the loaves and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Move the loaves to a platter, pour the pan juices over them, and sprinkle with the parsley.
Delish! I served up our loaf with leftover sweet potatoes baked with garlic and cream (my own, not from the office party) and butter-soaked George H.W. Bush broccoli blanched a la Julia Child so both tender and emerald green. Isn’t it nice to eat like a Republican?
Now to start addressing those Christmas cards I bought three weeks ago.