Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spring Greens

Spring Greens

Woods and groves are of thy dressing,
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing. 
From Milton’s “May Morning”


     The Lady-of-the-House has been gazing upon a profusion of green. Spring has dressed the woods around her. So much green does indeed boast blessing and it is gratefully received.

wild violets

     Taking a turn about the grounds some weeks ago she spied a violet (Viola papilionacea) at the foot of a tree. Where else have I seen these? Her daughter’s nature notebook from years back - that’s where - and also the country diary of Edith Holden (Viola odorata) 

violets in a Nature Journal

    Certain months of the year the Lady-of-the-House commonly finds herself slipping into a rut in the kitchen. For efficiency ruts are helpful. It is advantageous to have a repertoire of recipes that you can perform easily.  Over time, however, change is welcome to the pallet.  In the countryside spring ushers in this change. Recipes follow the dictates of what gardens produce. Up sprouts green asparagus, green onions, herbs and lettuce - lots of lettuce.

The thyme has revived.

     “I found something you might like,” said the Man-of-the-House. He was searching for an out-of-print book on-line and spotted a book cover with artwork from Edith Holden’s country diary. “Are you interested?” he said.

     “Hmm, it’s a cookbook. Oh, yes, I could use some fresh ideas just now.” 

     So he upped the order.


    When The Country Diary Cookery Notes arrived the Lady-of-the-House found the recipes to be traditionally British – no big surprise - but amusingly so. Her first thought was, I wonder if these were the kind of dishes that Beatrix Potter would have eaten. This probably came to mind because she had recently watched - and was enjoyably immersed in - the film “Miss Potter” with actress Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor (Although food was far from being a prominent feature.) The other reason is plainly found in the book’s introduction. Here, Alison Harding states that she put together a collection of recipes that would be familiar to Edith Holden (1871-1920) in her day – Victorian to Edwardian. 


The ingredients are based on what grew in English gardens or what was farmed, fished or trapped locally. Cooks had to use it up in “ well-tried and ingenious ways.” Parsnip cakes, eel soup, oxtail soup, leek pie are mainstay. How about trout with oatmeal for breakfast or a kidney omelet, and grouse on toast with jugged hare for dinner? Entire chapters are dedicated to puddings - to use up eggs – afternoon tea, jams and preserves - to use up fruit. 

      Of these curious old-fashioned recipes, some of the vegetable dishes are inviting. Most of the recipes will likely remain untried. Several she is adapting. But it only takes a few new ideas to make the Lady-of-the-House lug out the pots and pans with renewed anticipation.

     The Man-of-the-House brought home a couple heads of bib lettuce from a local growers' market. It seemed a little tough for a salad. The Lady-of-the-House could use it for a green smoothie but she recognized that here was the incentive to give her first new recipe - spring herbs soup - a try. It called for a handful of dandelion greens, green onions, a head of lettuce, stock and fresh herbs. (She happened to have some healthy dandelion greens from the Amish grocer on hand.) She used veggie bullion for the stock and then – because the Man-of-the-House likes cream soups - she decided to whip up the soup in the blender when it was cooked, add a dash of coconut milk and a teaspoon of honey.

     Sitting at the head of the table was the Man-of-the-House. At the start of supper he watched his wife slowly ladle murky green liquid it into his bowl and sprinkle it atop with minced herbs. “Is this a new recipe?” he asked.

     “Yes, it’s from the new book you found,” his wife informed him. She made the last bit sound as casual and innocent an accusation as possible.

     “It looks lethal,” he said and made a show of picking up his spoon with uncharacteristic hesitation.

     The Lady-of-the-House held back a laugh. She held back a laugh and held her breath because although she knew he was kidding, after all her taking-care in the kitchen, she would not give him the slightest satisfaction. She had to know if he liked the soup. “Go on,” she quipped. 

The woods are a home to wild roses.

     He brought the soup up to his lips. He did like it. Looks were deceiving for there was a light, springtime freshness to it. The Lady-of-the-House thinks that it was the teaspoon of minced cilantro she used for garnish that contributed to the success. 

     The next day the Man-of-the-House ate the leftovers and so did she. But she wonders when she’ll make spring herbs soup again – next year perhaps. Already the Lady-of-the-House has fitted comfortably back into a rut of making her regular green soup - broccoli with a dollop of sour cream and a pinch of fresh thyme – a green soup that those around her table are most accustomed to. She can see beyond the bend in the road, however, and knows it won’t be too long before she bravely embarks upon another new recipe.   

Their fragrance is a welcome greeting.

     The Country Diary Cookery Notes is out of print but across the Atlantic – here in America you can sample recipes from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood, recipes from a similar time period. The following is a review written by the daughter of the Lady-of-the-House.

broccoli soup
Broccoli soup with thyme and sour cream.

The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
Review by Yolanda Andreola - Mott

     When I open The Little House Cookbook, memories of my childhood come flooding back. Passages from The Little House Series accompany each recipe and so do the beautiful pencil sketches by Garth Williams that are so familiar to me. I especially remember the passages from Farmer Boy that my mother read aloud to us. I can almost taste the apple turnovers, buckwheat pancakes, crackling cornbread, and stuffed roasted hen. One winter Mom helped Sophia and me make molasses candy in a pan of cold gathered snow - just like Laura and Mary. I am delighted to find the recipe for it in this cookbook. The Little House Cookbook, with its story passages, illustrations and more than 100 well-researched pioneer recipes, will inspire you to bring simple, wholesome, frontier food to your table. For ages 8 and up.

Thanks for visiting. Have a tasty week,
Karen Andreola 


  1. I've been in a rut lately too. I'm wanting simple, fresh, local foods.

    Have a lovely day!


  2. A delightful read as always, Karen!! We usually enjoy the pancake recipe from The Little House Cookbook...we love how they aren't very sweet...perfectly compliments the pure maple syrup! :)

    Been thinking of you! <3

  3. Ok, so I did not hold back the laugh, picturing the Man with the hesitant spoon. I get similar reactions when I try something new, but they are willing. I made a veg soup yesterday that called for tossing in a 3 or 4 inch chunk of parmesan cheese rind. Seemed weird, but it was pretty good. Good to experiment and stretch the familiar. Enjoy your fresh produce and creative cooking.

  4. Karen, you had me on the edge of my seat as I waited to hear (read) whether your hubby liked the soup! ;)

    I suppose we all get into ruts in the kitchen. Believe it or not, summer is my most challenging season for cooking, even with abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. I can always fall back on some kind of soup during the cooler months, but I have to force myself to be creative when the heat and humidity arrive.

    Your new cookbook, The Country Diary Cookery Notes, is a lovely book, whether or not you find a host of new recipes.

  5. I have to confess that a green soup would not be a welcome addition to my recipe repertoire -- I just don't think a single person in the house would like it other than my daughter-in-law. :) Oh well, we are enjoying many fresh greens from the garden these days and are enjoying all the green that surrounds us in the landscape. Enjoy your new cookbook, Karen! I'll have to make sure my daughter, who is finishing her year-long read through of the Little House series, pulls our copy of the Little House Cookbook off the bookshelf. :)

    Blessings to you and yours in these late days of springtime,

    Lisa :)

  6. My niece is experimenting with cooking. This is a fairly new experience for her, as she has avoided the subject with great energy for years. She tried a potato salad recipe. It did NOT receive rave reviews. Truly, it was not good at all. I felt for her, because success always makes us more likely to press onward. She was talking about another potato salad recipe that she wanted to try the following week. Her daughters (ages 10 and 8) were at the table with us when she made this pronouncement. One was sitting next to me. The other was sitting next to my husband. We compared notes later, and had to laugh, because both children groaned quietly and said, "Oh, no!"

  7. Thank you for sharing the lovely display of God's Handiwork in the photos, with all the shades of green and the flowery pop of colors. Here in the northwest we, too, are happy to see green again as well as the dandelions, lupine, red clover, and daisies.

    The display of Edith Holden's drawings on those couple of pages are so beautiful ~ I believe I would enjoy perusing that cookbook simply to see her artwork.

    Glad to hear the "green" soup you prepared was enjoyable after all ~


  8. I have the "Little House Cookbook",found at a local thrift store a year or so ago! I haven't prepared a recipe from it,but its been fun looking through it :) All the greens around your home are just beautiful. Blessings friend

  9. I would *love* to have your recipe for broccoli soup. :)

    And I agree with the others...the illustrations alone are enough to make the book a real treasure!

  10. Hello Ladies.
    My little touch of suspense and humor is meant to cheer your day.

    It is fair to say we eat something that is green everyday. A barrel of broccoli is probably our yearly nutritional supply. I make it in different ways and tuck it into conventional recipes. My children didn't know that macaroni-cheese was a dish made without a goodly portion of chopped broccoli until they came of age (smile).

    Steam broccoli until bright green and fork tender, whirl in blender with stock, pour in bowls, add dollop of sour cream (or coconut milk - for a vegan soup) top generously with minced fresh herbs - for a healthy fast-food.

    I enjoy our visits.
    Karen A.

  11. I love this post! Just about every paragraph, I was thinking, Oh, I want to tell her this. . . So I'll pick one thing. My parents gave me the Little House Cookbook when I was a child. I have always loved it.

  12. You are much braver than I. I do love to peruse the old recipes but rarely am I moved to try them! I guess my ruts are dug in too deep. :)

    Blessings, Debbie

  13. I am so excited to find your blog. It's such a comfort to know there's so many kindred spirits. I started a little blog called "Heatherish", come look me up. As you will see I'm "green" at this. I'm always open for suggestions. One thing is for sure I need more confidence. Reminder to self: "Put your confidence in the Lord".
    God Bless You

  14. Hey there!

    I hope you have been able to make another batch of your spring soup. It sounds delicious! Though I've never had dandelion greens. What do they taste like?

    I have reserved Edith Holden's books, except her cookery, at our library. I look forward to when they become available. The drawings you have shown are so lovely!

    I hope everyone has a good week!

  15. Hi Karen! I know that this is an older post, but I have been behind on reading your wonderful words. Would you post the recipe to your beautiful broccoli soup? You are such an inspiration, thank you for writing!

  16. This recipe is an easy one.
    I dissolve a vegetable bouillon in 2 cups of hot water while in a saucepan I am steaming fresh broccoli spears. (It might be two batches of spears.) When broccoli is bright green and fork tender I whirl it in the blender with the veggie broth, adding a quarter cup of coconut milk (for a vegan soup, whole milk or cream for a vegetarian soup) or serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream, salt and pepper. A sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs such as chives or thyme adds a nice touch.
    A handful of chopped basil and a little olive oil and garlic, turns this soup into a fresh tasting Italian green sauce for pasta.
    To your good health,
    Karen A.

  17. I still have the Little House cookbook. I always thought I'd read all the books with my children and cook the recipes as they came, but alas it never happened. Sometimes life gets in the way.
    Be blessed dear friend.
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage