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Tinky’s Kitchen: Combining two of life’s greatest pleasures

  • Weisblat offered a combined cooking and singing program at the Charlemont-Hawley Senior Center last fall. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Weisblat’s recipe for apple brownies was one that she shared with seniors during a program last fall at the Charlemont-Hawley Senior Center. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Tinky Weisblat in her Hawley kitchen. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



For the Recorder
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A few months ago, I had the privilege (and the fun) of cooking with the Charlemont-Hawley Senior Center. The roughly 20 members of this group get together each Wednesday for lunch, conversation and the occasional program.

The Charlemont seniors are major Tinky fans, and I am their fan as well. They often turn up for my musical programs. In preparation for our session together, they applied to the local cultural council for a grant to pay for my time and for materials for the program (i.e., ingredients).

I am told that when they were working on the grant application, a bit of an argument arose. Several seniors wanted a cooking program. Others just as strongly wanted a singing program. They ended up asking whether I would be willing to do both: cook and sing with them.

Of course, I said yes. I enjoy both cooking and singing, although I had never actually combined the two activities in public before.

The logistics on that autumnal day were a little more complicated than I expected. I had two sets of handouts: recipes for cooking and song lyrics for singing along. We started the cooking first; I figured we would have time to sing once the food was underway.

Some of the seniors were so anxious to sing, however, that I had to leave the kitchen area to start the music earlier than expected.

I was a little worried abandoning various seniors at their cooking stations. All in all, things went smoothly, however. Most of the group members had been cooking all their lives and were, in fact, better cooks than I. Prepping food and judging when it was done was child’s play to them.

Small groups competently and happily chopped cucumbers and measured salad dressing, combined vegetables and broth for soup, assembled cornbread, grated cheese and threw together a simple apple dessert. Meanwhile, the entire group launched into song.

My song lyrics covered two basic categories. We harmonized on some old-fashioned sing-along songs like “The Erie Canal,” “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” “Home, Sweet Home” and “An Irish Lullaby.”

We moved on to songs about food and (rather loosely) eating: “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (because someone was in the kitchen with Dinah), “There Was an Old Lady” (she may not have been eating in a conventional sense but she swallowed an awful lot of things), and “The Banana Boat Song.”

We sat down to share our meal in good humor and good voice. While we were waiting for dessert (which took a little longer than I expected, probably because we increased the quantity of the original recipe), I serenaded the group with a couple of my favorite show tunes.

I’m not sure I want to sing every time I cook in public. With less competent sous chefs, I might not manage to put all of the ingredients together correctly. Nevertheless, I and my “audience” found the day highly enjoyable. After all, food and music are two of life’s greatest pleasures.

Here are a couple of the recipes we prepared. Cooking in fall, we used fresh corn and tomatoes in our soup, but frozen corn and canned tomatoes give the recipe a remarkably fresh flavor. As for the apples, we still have some in local orchards from last fall!

We accompanied these dishes with a simple cucumber salad and cornbread.

Southwestern Corn and Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh or frozen corn

2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes (if you have the patience to dip your fresh tomatoes in hot water and peel them, you’ll avoid having pieces of tomato skin in your soup)

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 or 2 seeded jalapeño peppers (to taste), roughly chopped

A handful of fresh cilantro leaves

1 t cumin seed

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated cheddar cheese for garnish

In a large pot, combine all the ingredients except the cheese. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender (about 30 minutes). Cool the soup slightly, and puree it in a blender or food processor.

Serve with or without the cheese. Serves six to eight.

Apple Brownies

Ingredients:

1 c (2 sticks) melted sweet butter

6 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (about 4 c)

2 c sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

½ t salt

2 t ground cinnamon

2 c flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Stir together the melted butter and sugar, followed by the apples. Mix in the eggs, stirring well to incorporate, then add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Stir in the flour, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Watch out for apples; if you put the toothpick in a hot apple it will always come out wet.

Makes about 24 brownies.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.