Whidbey Recipes

"Life Without Moonbeam Mcswine, Pogo and PeanutsIt’s true, that old saw that we never really miss something until we don’t have it any more. And I am fully aware that in the overall scheme of things, a cartoon strip shouldn’t be of such importance, but the plain fact is, the retirement of Charles Schulz and “Peanuts” is a blow. How, I wondered, can a simple little thing like the ending of a cartoon strip suddenly cause such a real sense of loss? Few comic strips have that impact; most are just OK; and some I’d gladly see disappear instantly. I personally find “Rugrats” pathetically silly and that lisping cat and cohorts in “Mutts” is enough to put you off the comics page altogether. One or two, such as “Doonesbury” and, currently, “Dilbert” are almost required reading if only to keep up with current political/social satire. But every now and then, a cartoonist comes along who captures the minds, hearts and humor of millions of readers; for myriad different reasons, he/she reaches people of all ages and levels and the characters of their cartoons or comic strips become as familiar to us as members of our own family. Looking back, and realizing how I’m dating myself in this process, I can easily recall some of the comic strip characters that were an everyday part of my life from earliest memory on, some of whom I still miss seeing when I pull out the comics section every Sunday morning. Brenda Starr, for example, fiery redhead with ever-present stars in her eyes, early precursor to “modern” woman; and the inimitable Moonbeam McSwine, exact opposite of Brenda, but equally endearing, with her overly lush, scantily clad body (early Barbie?) and abundant black locks which looked much like some of today’s popular hairdos for the young set. Poor Moonbeam yearned for naive (dumb?) Lil’ Abner, but he, of course, had eyes only for luscious Daisy Mae. Their creator, Al Capp, was a genius who left us many unforgettable characters, including the Shmoos and Fearless Fosdick. Yes, I even remember Popeye, the Katzenjammer Kids, Alley Oop and Felix the Cat. And of course, Dick Tracy, who had a seemingly endless stream of weird enemies with names like “Flathead” and “Pruneface.” We in turn gleefully planted many of those unpleasant nicknames on schoolmates, some of whom live with them yet. And then there was Pogo. Today, if the phone rings and the voice on the other end says, “Is this Pogo? This is Albert,” I know who’s calling. Is there anyone over the age of 40 who doesn’t, to this day, miss Pogo? Walt Kelly took us to new levels of comic strip sophistication when he introduced Pogo and all his swamp pals to “funny page” addicts. As I’m sure you may recall, Pogo reached such heights of popularity he even ran for President, and I dare say he’d have never besmirched the office like.....oh, well, that’s history. So, now another era passes and Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder, Pattie, Lucy, Sir, Pigpen...all the lovable, unforgettable characters who inhabit the world of Charlie Brown, will become comic strip history. Yes, I know there will be re-runs, that I won’t be instantly bereft, but you and I know that when it comes to cartoon strips, just as in life, the re-run is never as good as the real thing. Thank you, Charles Schulz, for improving and lightening our daily lives for more than 40 years. May you recover your health and live peacefully and quietly until the Great Pumpkin finally appears in your garden. RecipesSince we’ve been harking back to cartoon strips and times past, it’s a good time, also, to recall recipes from the same era, some of which are as much a part of our memories as the comic strip characters. When, for example, is the last time you had real, homemade, old-fashioned custard? It fell from favor during the non-egg era, but is making a huge comeback on menus great and small; it’s so easy to do and so comforting on a cold, damp night, you might want to bring it back to your table. First, however, let’s be quite clear about one thing: Custard may be part of a pudding, but pudding can never be custard. Please don’t call that which is custard “pudding” because that it will never be, unless, please say no, you’re using some sort of packaged powder to make it. Basic Baked Custard4 eggs2 cups milk (don’t use skim or low-fat; it just won’t work)1/2 cup sugar1 t. vanilla1/4 t. saltGround nutmeg (if desired) 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Place six custard cups (6 oz.) in a 13x9x2 baking pan and divide the custard mixture among the cups. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired. Place baking pan on oven rack and pour boiling water into pan around custard cups to a depth of 1 inch. Bake about 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm, or place plastic wrap over surface of custard and refrigerate to serve chilled. To unmold chilled custard, run a knife around the outside edge of custard, slip point of knife down the side to let a little air in, then invert onto a plate. Serves 6. Now let’s do it the Italian way... Zabaglione Crema8 egg yolks3-4 T. sugar1/3 cup Marsala, sweet or dry (using the whipped cream base for this, I prefer dry)Whipping cream, sweetened and whipped to soft peaks 1. In a round bottom pan you can fit over another pan of simmering water, or in the top of a double boiler, beat together the egg yolks, 3 T. of the sugar and the Marsala. Place pan over gently simmering water and whip the mixture constantly with a wire whisk or electric mixer until it thickens enough to hold a slight peak briefly when you lift the beater or whisk. Test for sweetness and add additional tablespoon of sugar if necessary. 2. In a long stemmed serving glass, spoon a little of the whipped cream into the bottom, then top with warm Zabaglione. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon, if desired. Note: For a delicious variation, use a very dry white wine instead of the Marsala and add 1-2 t. anisette liqueur and about 1/4 t. finely grated lemon peel. Serve in tall glasses with a curl or two of lemon peel on top. "

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