Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Pudding Hollow Cookbook by Tinky Weisblatt

My guest today is Tinky Weisblat, auhor of the Pudding Hollow Cookbook and a wonderful food blog, In Our Grandmother's Kitchens:

I began writing my Pudding Hollow Cookbook by accident. I finished writing it with love.

Years ago I participated in the bicentennial pageant here in Hawley, Massachusetts.

Folk artist Judith Russell created a painting of a seminal scene in that pageant, the reenactment of a pudding contest that took place in the town when it was first settled. The winner was forever after known as Pudding Head, and her home area of town was called Pudding Hollow.

Appropriately, the winner’s name was Mrs. Baker. I hammed it up no end playing her.

Judy loved her painting. (So did I.) And she knew that I had begun writing food journalism.

“Let’s put together a cookbook,” she suggested. “You’ll do the art, and I’ll do the writing. We can name it after Pudding Hollow.”

What the heck, thought I. How hard could it be to write a cookbook?

Well … it turned out that writing one wasn’t exactly easy. I encountered a number of obstacles along the way, among them Judy’s untimely death of leukemia when we had barely begun the project. Happily, her family wanted the cookbook project to continue in her memory. Her daughter helped me track down paintings and sketches to use as illustrations.

Copyright 2004 by the Estate of Judith Russell
Our cookbook shares recipes and stories from my heart’s home, the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. It’s not just about my own stomping grounds, however. Thanks to Judy’s gorgeous illustrations—and to the area’s old-fashioned, rural character—the book speaks to country cooking in general.

It also conjures up the feeling of community that still permeates rural America through agricultural fairs, minor festivals, and church suppers.

Working on it reminded me of something I had long known but didn’t always remember: food is one of the strongest connections we have to our neighbors, our friends, our relatives, and our culture.

The book follows the seasons from January through December, starting out with warm winter meals, greeting the spring with a chapter on May baskets, and continuing through glorious summer to the harvest and year-end holidays.
Copyright 2004 by the Estate of Judith Russell

One of my favorite chapters is in full season right now. “Learning from Rhubarb” talks about the ways in which the astringent, assertive rhubarb plant reminds me of strong women who helped raise me. Here is a recipe from that chapter.

Rhubarb Bars
3 generous cups chopped rhubarb stalks (try for 1-inch pieces)
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1-1/2 cups uncooked oatmeal
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add the cornstarch paste and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the rhubarb is tender and thick. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients and cut the butter into the mixture. Add the nuts, if desired. Pat 3/4 of this crumb mixture into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the cooled rhubarb mixture. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top.
Bake for 40 minutes. Makes up to 32 bars, depending on your slicing skills.


  1. What a beautiful and colorful cover!

    Thanks for the recipe -- I'm a big fan of rhubarb.

  2. Would love to read the cookbook.
    Maybe I can get the lending librarian to borrow it from some library so I can read it.
    Since I retired from the library, my book-buying budget is so low.
    The illustrations shown are lovely, and I know that Tinky's writing is always interesting.


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