Archive for the 'Guest Posts' Category

Good Cook II: The Sequel

Monday, July 12th, 2010

In May, I put up a few musings about what makes a good cook.  The original post prompted a flurry of activity on the site (1 comment), which in turn prompted my other reader (thanks, Mom!) to draft a formal response on what she believes makes someone to be a good cook:


A few weeks ago, you answered the question, “What Makes a Good Cook?”  I consider myself to be a good cook and at least partially responsible for your interest in cooking and your enthusiasm for food and fresh ingredients.  I have been thinking about this and mulling over my response and have finally come up with several ideas on the subject.


Making Blackberry Jelly

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Guest Post by Clara Lee Sharrard; Photos by Jim Sharrard

Blackberries are ripe!  Thanks to a very wet spring and summer, we have a bumper crop of blackberries this year.  Thus far we’ve had them with ice cream and made into sorbet.  I have been picking about 2 quarts per day from my “bramble” that is growing between our driveway and our neighbor’s fence.  Picking them is a lot of work since the thorns are plentiful and very sharp.  The berries do a great job of hiding under leaves.  Every time I think I have picked all of the ripe berries in one spot, I move slightly or disturb a leaf and discover another bunch ripe for the picking.

Picking berries is much different in the city that it was in the country where I grew up.  The thorns are the same, but at least I don’t have to worry about my sandal-clad toes sharing space with a snake hiding under the bushes!

I have decided to use a large portion of this year’s berries for jelly.  Homemade jelly takes a while to make but it is well worth the final effort.  You need a ratio of about three-fourths well ripened to one-fourth slightly under ripe berries.  The reason for this is that the less ripened fruit contains more pectin, which is essential for the jelly to be firm.

It takes about 4-5 quarts of berries to yield 4 cups of juice, which will make about 4 jars of jelly (6 ounces each).  If you happen to find a mother lode of berries and are wondering what to do with them, I definitely recommend trying the jelly.  We have so many berries that many of the folks on my gift list will probably be receiving blackberry jelly this Christmas.  I just hope they will appreciate the amount of work that went into producing such a heavenly product.


These Food Jokes Are Punny

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Don’t blame me… blame my mother-in-law, who tells a bad joke really well. She’s been sending me these puns for months and I haven’t done anything with them yet. Until now…. So, without further ado, Diana’s food puns:

I couldn’t decide whether or not to make spiced apple cider, so I mulled it over.

I beat the eggs and I whip the cream, but the onion always makes me cry.

One ear of corn said to the other ‘You’re getting husky’.

When the orchard owner went to trial he was judged by a jury of his pears.

The pod vegetables I bought for the gumbo I was making were so-so. They were medi-okra.

A fight broke out in a kitchen. Egged on by the waiters, two cooks peppered each other with punches. One man, a greasy foie gras specialist, ducked the first blows, but his goose was cooked when the other cold-cocked him. The man who beat him, a weedy salad expert with big cauliflower ears, tried to flee the scene, but was cornered in the maize of tables by a husky off-duty cob. He was charged with a salt and battery. He claims to look forward to the suit, as he’s always wanted to be a sous-chef.

The compensation received by the Italian chef was a pretty penne.

What should you put into your garden to watch over your beets? A metro-gnome!

Pie Survey/ Grasshopper Pie

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

With Thanksgiving quick approaching, I’m starting to think about my menu for the day. All in attendance will help with the food, of course, bringing a dish that their families think essential for a Thanksgiving feast. But come the end of the meal, it’s essential that there’s more than enough pie to go around. One pie for every two people is the ideal ratio, I think; though if the feast gets quite large, I’d settle for a pie per three.

The advantage to having so many pies is that every individual has a different idea of which pies are need-to-have, which are nice-to-have, and which are worth ignoring. For instance, I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without a pecan pie; whereas my sister can’t imagine taking a bite of one.

The first four pies that I make (or sign up a volunteer to make) are easy to determine: pumpkin or sweet potato, pecan, apple, and grasshopper. Beyond that, cherry would probably sneak in for number five. I’m open to lots of other pies to fill in any additional spots, but the one that I will never invite to dinner is mincemeat. I’ve never had a mincepeat pie that I have enjoyed, though every time I happen across one, I’ll take a sliver to see if this one is any better than the rest that I’ve sampled.

I’m curious, though, as to what anyone else has to say about which pies are essential and which are less than welcome.

And for anyone who is interested about the grasshopper pie, you should have started harvesting your insects in July, when they were plentiful. You’ll be hard pressed to find any still breathing at this point. Just kidding. It’s creme de menthe and marshmallow in a chocolate cookie crust, and it’s delectable. Here’s the recipe for it, courtesy my mother. Don’t pay attention to any of her blasphemous talk of purchasing a pre-made chocolate cookie crust. I don’t believe she actually means it, and to my knowledge she’s never actually followed that advice. Certainly not when she’s cooking for me, anyway!

Grasshopper Pie

Chocolate crust (you can buy these in the grocery store)

If you want to make one, check your Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It has the recipe. I usually bake mine for 8 minutes at 375 degrees. This book says not to so take your pick.

Grasshopper Filling:

  • 32 large marshmallows or 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup green crème de menthe
  • 3 Tablespoons white crème de cacao
  • 1 ½ cups chilled whipping cream

Heat marshmallows and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until marshmallows melt. Chill until thickened; blend in liqueurs.

Beat the cream until stiff. Be sure the marshmallow mixture is cooled or it will melt the cream. Fold the marshmallow mixture into the whipped cream.

Pour this into the crust. If desired, sprinkle with grated semi-sweet chocolate. Chill at least 3 hours or until set. Serve with additional whipped cream, if desired. [trust me, it's desired...]

Country Living in the City

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Guest Post by Clara Lee Sharrard

We live in an old Victorian home on a 50 x 125 foot lot in Springfield, MA. As I look around the yard, I am amazed at how many different foods we are managing to grow in this small amount of space. I sometimes hear people claim that they live in the suburbs because they need a big yard to be able to do anything with it. Taking an inventory of what I’ve got on my small patch of land, I’m not sure I agree.


Cookie Night Recipes

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

If you read the PIttsburgh Post-Gazette this morning, maybe you saw a little piece in the Food section about cookie night at the Frick Park Lawn Bowling Club.  As promised, here are some of the recipes that wouldn’t fit into the newspaper:


Tip from Mom

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Whenever you’re using lemon juice for something, zest the lemon before squeezing it and keep the zest frozen for the next time a recipe calls for lemon zest. Also, anytime you have a little leftover lemon juice, freeze it and keep it on hand for recipes. I find that a few seconds in the microwave will thaw just enough of the lemon juice to use in a particular recipe and the rest goes back to the freezer.

Submitted by: Clara Lee Sharrard

Addendum from Jesse:

Obviously, this tip would work for limes and oranges as well.  Also, whenever I zest a citrus fruit, i wash it with soap and water—it makes me feel better about ingesting something that’s been exposed to so many chemicals during the growing process.

Do you have a tip that saves you time in the kitchen that you’d like to share with the readers of Corduroy Orange? If so, email it to me for consideration as a guest post.

A Stranger Stood At The Gates of Hell

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Guest Post by Lewis Sharrard Author Unknown

My dead grandfather wrote typed today’s post for me. I was planning on exploring the history of margarine by tracing its definitions through 150+ years of dictionary definitions, thereby demonstrating that historically, margarine has not been a vegetarian product, and moreover the “spreadable butter” butter-canola oil mix that has recently been introduced to the market ought to be classified as margarine. That research has been mostly done, and no doubt I’ll regale you on that fascinating topic soon enough.

But, while I was browsing my dictionary collection (yes, I collect dictionaries, and no doubt I’ll explain more when I’m re-introducing the history of margarine), I stumbled across a poem written typed by my grandfather who-knows-when, folded and tucked into the pages of his old Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. I was thrilled to read new work by this brilliant man, and am even happier to be able to As comments at the end detail, the source of this poem is unknown, but I am glad to be able to publish this truly unearthed text as its content relates, in part, to the reforms in farming policy during the FDR administration that have led to the prevalence of agribusiness conglomerate-run factory farms that dominates our agricultural landscape today. And so, without further ado….

A Stranger Stood at the Gates of Hell
by Lewis Sharrard ???

A stranger stood at the gates of Hell,
And the Devil himself answered the bell.
He looked him over from head to toe,
And said, my friend, I’d like to know
What have you done in the line of sin
To entitle you to come within?
Then Franklin D. with his usual guile,
Stepped forth and flashed his toothy smile.

When I took charge in thirty
A nation’s faith was mine, said he.
I promised this and I promised that,
And I calmed them down with a fireside chat.
I spent their money on fishing trips,
And fished from the decks of their battleships.
I gave them jobs on the WPA,
Then raised their wages and took it away.
I killed their pigs and burned their crops.
I raised their wages and closed their shops.
I double-crossed both old and young,
And still the fools my praises sung.
I brought back beer and what do you think?
I taxed it so high they couldn’t drink.
I furnished money with government loans
When they missed a payment I took their homes.
When I wanted to punish the folks,you know,
I’d put put my wife on the radio.

I paid them to let their farms stand still,
And imported foodstuffs from Brazil,
I curtailed crops when I felt real mean
And shipped corn in from the Argentine.
When they’d start to worry, stew and fret
I’d get them chanting the alphabet
With the A.A.A. and the N.L.B.,
The W.P.A. and the C.C.C.
With these many units I got their goats
But still I crammed it down their throats.
My workers worked with the speed of snails
While the taxpayers chewed their finger nails.
When the organizers needed dough,
I closed up plants for the C.I.O.
I ruined jobs and I ruined health
And I put the screws to the rich men’s wealth.
And some who couldn’t stand the gaff
Would call on me, and how I’d laugh.
When they got strong on certain things
I’d pack and head for Warm Springs.
I ruined their country, their homes, and then
I placed the blame on Nine Old Men.

Now Franklin talked both long and loud,
And the Devil stood, and his head was bowed.
At last he said, Let’s make it clear
You’ll have to move, you can’t stay here,
For once you’ve mingled with this mob
I’d have to hunt myself a job!

I’m not really familiar with many of the political references that are made in the poem, but it smacks of being current: of indignation at the policies as they were being implemented, and I really enjoy how the farm policy changes that made it tougher for family farms to survive are cited as damning evidence.

If you have a piece of food-related writing that you think belongs on Corduroy Orange, email it to me and I’ll see if I agree. All submissions are subject to editing.

Orange (MA) Garlic Festival

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Guest Post by James Sharrard

On September 16th, we went to the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. Its subtitle was “The Festival that Stinks.” Big name for a fun, little fair. It was a two day event - Saturday and Sunday - and the total attendance was approximately 10,000 people. Saturday was rainy and windy. We went on Sunday when it was clear and cool. After a dry August, the trees in the hills were just starting to turn.

Obviously, the theme was garlic. Most of the food sold there (from 16 different vendors) contained garlic, from salad with garlic vinaigrette, garlic puled pork, baked poatoes with roasted garlic spread to garlic ice cream (which was made with raw, not cooked, garlic!).

There were 38 booths worth of artists and woodworkers, 14 booths for community organizations, a handful of booths for local forest products and for renewable energy, and about a dozen for the ‘healing arts.’ There was a small animal area, plus there were 40 booths for farmers and agricultural products. The festival even had its own mascot—Garlic Man!

But all that is just numbers. One of the most interesting things about the festival is an aspect that the organizers documented in their publicity, but it really didn’t register until I was there what they meant, that this really was the festival with no trash. The first thing that got my attention was the recycling/composting stations.

After my first snack, I looked for a trash can for my napkin and plastic spoon. What I found was a counter with holes for different categories of waste. All the silverware, cups, plates, and napkins used there were compostable. Cans and bottles were recyclable. The festival didn’t sell bottled water; the organizers requested that people bring their own bottles and drink the free water available there. Or they could buy a reusable water bottle at a stand. And nobody dropped anything on the ground! I finally read in the program/map they handed out that in 2006, the total trash generated was two trash bags!

Here are two links with even more information: first the festival’s own website, and an article about it from the Worcester Telegram.

Photos and text both courtesy of James Sharrard. If you want to see higher resolution versions, go to

If you’ve had a noteworthy food-related experience and are interested in writing a guest post for Corduroy Orange, email me your story for consideration. All submissions are subject to editing.

What It’s Like to Be Married to / Live With a Chef

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Guest post by Aurora Sharrard

“So, what does your husband do?”

“He’s a chef.”

“Ohhhhhhh, that is so great! Where does he work?”


[One of two answers] “That place is so great!” OR “I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s wonderful.”

“So does he cook at home?”

“About 85% of the time.”

“You are so lucky. You must eat really well. What’s his favorite thing to cook?”

Now, I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times in more complex forms. It’s become fairly obvious to me that as soon as someone says, “So, what does your husband do?” that the conversation is no longer about me. I have no problem with this conversation shift, I’m just amazed that so many people are enthralled when they learn that my husband is a chef, which is why I’ve decided to explain a few things: