Thursday, November 3, 2016

Food and Faience, Yum!

I was lucky to be raised by a very good cook: my mother, who just instinctively prepared delicious, appetizing meals, and always well presented. Over the years, in addition to her repertoire, I've added lots more from books, magazines, friends, dining-out experiences, trading tips with my three children.

But times have changed and everyone's eating habits have changed. When I think back to my catering career, when every menu started with three hot hors d'oeuvres, and three cold ones, before the dinner, be it seated or buffet, I wonder now: "How did we do it? How did we all manage to eat and drink so much?"

So my kitchen research nowadays is much more into: Easy, Nourishing, Healthful. These are just three of the recipes I am currently using, one I developed some years ago, one quite new, and one from a friend.

On to the kitchen!

A Good Green Soup:

 Basic Ingredients: Bag of Broccoli Florets, Carton of Baby Spinach and one of Baby Kale,
             One or two large Onions, Chicken  Bouillon and or Vegetable Bouillon, Milk

Method:In a large soup pot, steam the broccoli in the bouillons until quite soft, put spinach and kale in on top,put lid back on and turn off heat. Those greens will be wilted-cooked in no time. In a separate pan, saute sliced onion until lightly caramelized. Add to main pot, coarsely puree with an immersion blender, and add milk to thin as desired. Season to taste: little or no salt needed depending on your bouillon stock,; I like lots of black pepper, and nutmeg on top.

A Winter-Summer Salad:

Basic Ingredients: Romaine Lettuce, Feta Cheese, Watermelon, Croutons, Oil and Vinegar

Method: I find this is best created directly on each plate as it composes better that way than if all tossed together. Make croutons first: I use any crusty French bread, Mexican rolls, or whatever, just dice, slide onto a flat baking pan and into a 375o oven. While they are toasting, chop the lettuce, dice watermelon cubes, and crumble cheese ...assemble in layers, dress very lightly ( olive oil and white balsamic vinegar are my choices), salt and pepper to taste, and at the last minute, a handful of toasty-hot bread cubes on top.

The Delicious Protein Snack:

Basic Ingredients: Large carton Cottage Cheese, 6 Eggs, Lemon Juice, Sugar, Cinnamon

Method:   Blend all to a soupy consistency in a regular blender , pour into individual ramekins, set them on a rimmed pan, and pour hot water around them. Bake at 350o until they puff and crack slightly at the edges...usually about 45 60 minutes.  The variables here are the lemon juice...I like lemon flavor,(think good cheesecake!)but one could omit or use vanilla instead and I use as little sugar as possible; could be varied with honey or possibly a sugar substitute. Cinnamon is also a variable; can be baked in, as here, sprinkled after, or omitted.

These keep very well, refrigerated, for as much as a week, and I have even frozen them on occasion.
Garnish with orange sections, or grapes, or, as I am about to do right now, eat one still warm from the oven!


Where does the faience come into it?  I do use interesting old pieces in my kitchen, I do eat on it, and, of course, I am still buying and selling it. All the pieces shown in this blog are from stock and are for sale.

The soup was to be served on one of my 19th century plates (of which I have a good shelf-ful) that are not Quimper, but what I think of as O.F.F.., meaning Other French Faience.

The duck plate, and the floral to its left are from the Bourgogne_Auxerre region. The bird plate to the left of that is old Nevers.


Salad plate is from St. Clement, late 19th century

As is its mate on the right. The little tureen is from Tours.

The delicious snack fixings are piled in a wonderful old Quimper server.

It  awaits a new home with other pieces from that factory, that era.

You are welcome to contact me about the food, and/or the faience.
   Joan Datesman

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Garden Room!

When I moved several years ago, my children came and did yeoman duty with the packing; but it was up to me, in the new, much smaller home, to unpack and decide where things were to go.

I had already made the second bedroom into my office/showroom: took off closet doors, moved office furniture and shelving in ahead of time.


So all of the important components of MerryWalk Antiques were arranged for. But that first week, I often found myself standing in that space, some precious object in hand, and thinking,"This will go in the other room", and then realising, "THERE IS NO OTHER ROOM!" Fortunately, the two-car garage, where I had also installed shelving, took lots of the dilemmas.(We'll take a stroll through all of that later on!)

Including a big box too heavy for me to lift, that I'd been toting around for 25 years or so.Did I really want to burden myself one more time with this weight? After all, this was downsize time! But the box contained three large fragments of a Porquier Beau fireplace surround, and I had always intended either to use them myself, or sell them to a client who was adding on a room or was willing to reconfigure a wall to use them. No such event ever occurred, and here I was, one more time, with this lugubrious problem.

Well, I did indeed bring them along, and a year or so after the move, I was ready to knock out a wall and create what the French call a "jardin d'hiver". Basically, I was just enclosing the outside deck, so it was not a large addition, 10'x12', to be precise. As I planned it, I thought about the old house, and realised the only thing I truly missed was my gas log fireplace. A FIREPLACE! Yes! And a place, after all these years to use the Porquier Beau pieces. The builder liked the idea and created exactly the right framework for the tiler to make the installation.
                  The three large fragments:


Just as I was searching through my inventory for appropriate additions...and I really didn't start out to make a  PorquierBeau/Rouen annex...I saw a gorgeous umbrella stand coming up for auction in France. I knew it wasn't of the period, but here was the pattern, which I had never seen on an umbrella stand. Had to have it! With the assistance of my French connection, Judy Datesman, we got it: it has trundled its way across France, and was actually shipped just one day before the Paris bombing last December (I was relieved that French Customs didn't think it was a bomb casing and destroy it, but no, it arrived in all its pristine glory.)

There is no mark on it; I would theorize it was a special order for someone any time from the 1950's to the 1980's. A worthy research project in its own right.

So the fireplace wall composed itself thusly:

 And there are other interesting plant holders. Some are good old French faience:

  As well as a handsome set of large American jardinieres:

And a glorious big swan found in a local consignment shop:


Any time of day, the light is wonderful in this room, and it has added, both literally and figuratively, an important new dimension to the house and my life here.

Last fall, I brought in the begonias and lots of other things; they wintered over reasonably well, but now everything has gone outside to fill out planters that have fresh blooms. Now, only an occasional flower comes in to add a touch of color to the room:

We are having a long, cool spring, so the tulips lasted well, and my magical peach-colored iris (one spray in the Porquier Beau wall pocket above) are coming out everywhere! More about those another time; it is time to do new web you'll hear from me soon again...Joan