Thursday, April 21, 2011

story-inspired recipes

One of the great pleasures of reading for me is having the chance to do some vicarious eating. My husband and I often read at bedtime, and we've discovered that many of the books I read mention food but very few of his ever do. (Hm!) My earliest memory of food in books was Ramona Quimby talking about how her father used to bring home a white paper sack of gummy bears as a treat, and of course reading about Mrs. James Wilder's groaning feasts just encouraged this fixation on food further.

As such, it was only natural that our little children's swap group would do a trade for recipes inspired by children's books. I printed mine at home and included recipes for Anne Shirley's raspberry cordial, Ma Ingalls' vanity cakes, and Mary Poppins' thin, crisp gingerbread cookies.

I've always loved the anecdote in Mary Poppins when the children are taken to a gingerbread shop, where they choose cookies wrapped in paper gilt stars. Later on that night, Jane and Michael see Mary standing on a tall ladder pasting the silver stars to the sky with a bucket of glue...amazing! If you watch the film and pay attention to the scene when Mary and the children are headed out for errands, there's a mention of stopping by the gingerbread store, although they don't actually show it in the movie.

I also included a recipe for Chicken and Almond Mousse, a recipe I adapted from the Ginnie and Geneva Cookbook. The Ginnie and Geneva series is one of those gems like the Betsy-Tacy books that I'm surprised more people haven't read. Set in the idyllic 1940s and 50s, the books were similar to the Beverly Cleary books in that they are just everyday stories about a girl growing up and her place in the world. Along the way, Ginnie discovers a love for the kitchen in Ginnie and the Cooking Contest  and runs into various trials and tribulations with deciding what recipe she wants to submit.

When I read the book, I dearly wanted to taste what's described as a "rich, succulent concoction" with "tender white meat of chicken, whipped cream, olives, almonds, and flavoring." It wasn't until 20 years later that I discovered that the author had written a cookbook, and I was so happy to find the recipe for chicken loaf in it. I've posted a slightly altered version below in case you'd like to try it out.

Ginnie Fellows' Scrumptious Chicken and Almond Mousse


3 egg yolks
1 cup chicken broth
unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
1 chicken breast, poached and shredded
1/2 cup almond flakes, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 pint heavy cream
pimento olives, roughly chopped


Beat the egg yolks in a medium heat-proof bowl with a whisk. Add in the chicken broth.

Bring a pot of water (filled 1/3 of the way) to boil and set your bowl on top for a double boiler effect. Cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring every so often.

Dissolve gelatin packet into a small dish with a tablespoon of cold water. Take your egg mixture off the heat and stir in the gelatin. Add the chicken to the mixture, and season with salt and paprika. Let the mixture cool to room temperature using an ice bath, stirring every now and then so it does not set.    

Using a stand or electric mixer, whip the cream until it’s thick and firm and fluffy. Gently fold the cream into the egg mixture along with the chopped olives, but don’t mix too much or the whipped texture will be destroyed. Pour the mousse into a loaf pan sprayed lightly with vegetable oil.

Chill the mousse for several hours until very firm. To unmold, run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn it carefully over onto a serving plate. 

Adapted from the Ginnie and Geneva Cookbook by Catherine Woolley.

This is a really delicious dish that's easy to do but elegant enough for company, and I highly recommend trying it if you're intrigued. With warm weather coming up, it'll be just the thing for a summer evening with a crisp salad and a glass of white wine. Enjoy!


  1. Oh, I wish I paid closer attention to the swap details! I thought all the recipes had to come from the SAME book. If I had read it properly, I would have joined this swap. Ah well, I shall let this be a lesson, and read them all TWICE from now on!!

  2. Sorry for the confusion Mama Hen! No worries, I'm sure it'll come back around again. :)

  3. That is such a cool idea. We love food journeys inspired by books so will definitely try this one. Felicity


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