The Witch’s Bedtable: Wombats, Victorians, Cardoons, Good Knives, and the Letters of Serious Cooks

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So the book is also about a particular group of bustling and talented people. People who were inventing the modern world by diving back into the Middle Ages; rich people who discussed socialism while their servants cleaned around them but who were prepared to go to prison for their beliefs; people who accepted knighthoods; people who made chairs and carpets and cups and saucers and sideboards and fabrics and wallpapers and paintings and illuminated manuscripts; people who exhumed the dead and played with ouija boards. People who were found dying in the gutter with their throats cut and golden sovereigns in their mouths — people who kept wombats.

Rossetti’s Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites and Australian Animals in Victorian London by John Simmons.

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Closely related to Artichokes, Cardoons produce large, silvery, celery-like stalks that taste much like Artichokes when cooked. The inner stalks, if very tender, may be eaten raw like Celery or Fennel. Cardoons are a renowned delicacy in Italy, found in soups, stews, salads, and crudites for warm bagna cauda. Cardoooms should be started indoors 8 to 12 weeks before transplanting into your garden. They require warmth, strong light, and a well-draining fertile spot. In fall, 3 to 5 weeks before harvesting, blanch the hearts by gathering up the outer leaf stalks, securing them with garden twine, and covering the outer bundled leaves with burlap or heavy paper. Appearing much like cloaked monsters for up to 5 weeks, Cardoons are harvested by cutting them off at their bases. Pull apart the fleshy stalks, clean them well, and remove the bitter, spiny leaves as well as any stringy fibers running down the backs of the stalks. Rub them with a halved lemon to reduce discoloration or parboil them in salted water until tender prior to use in cooked recipes. Average seed life: 1 year.

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: Serving America’s Finest Gardens Since 1908 ~2014~

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Dear Julia,

Tuesday we are going up to Williamstown to stay for a couple of days at the Inns — just the two of us — leaving Mark with his organ teacher, and may they not leave my kitchen in the same mess as last time. B. just wants to set and look for a spell, being dog-weary. The western trip was wildly successful, but too much in too short a time. He never learns. Me, I like to travel very, very lethargically only moving when absolutely necessary. We are now catching up with the mail, and I will write you at intervals of copying letters.

B. very low in his mind about politics. Thinks the administration has shown definite signs this last moth of learning the ropes. Terrible blows to us on losing [Lester] Hunt, Moody, and Johnson (Colorado). Thinks public too apathetic about conservation, and the power isssue, to amount to much in the way of votes. Why on earth can’t some Republicans die in office? Got the same, other night, from Schlesinger Jr. Both talking about Eisenhower running in ’56 and possible winning. Very depressing.

From As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto, ed. by Joan Reardon.

One response to “The Witch’s Bedtable: Wombats, Victorians, Cardoons, Good Knives, and the Letters of Serious Cooks

  1. What a wonderful potpourri of things.

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