Archives for : August1953

Mister Cobbler

Our semi-annual trek to purchase school shoes always started and ended at Mister Cobbler’s.  They carried sturdy shoes that would last until the toes touched the front of the shoe.  I’m thankful when a growth spurt doesn’t coincide with the month following shoe shopping.   Jimmy Coin owned and managed the shop.  There were two long rows of seats with foot measuring tools scattered around on the floor.  The store was usually a mad house the week before school started because it made good sense to wait until the last minute to invest in shoes that had no guaranteed shelf life.

Jimmy stocked a nice selection of women’s shoes and I stopped by on a quiet afternoon to pick up a pair that I had ordered for myself.  I’m no shoe collector, but I like my outfits to coordinate and needed a pair of raspberry pumps.  Jimmy dyes shoes any color of the rainbow.  I was hoping to break in the shoes before the weekend.  My feet are a little wide and I was already familiar with the pain of new-shoe blisters.  The shop seemed quiet and Jimmy was assisting a woman who was trying on a pair of sturdy low-heeled shoes.  I could see Jimmy’s face strain as he tried to use the shoe horn to squeeze the woman’s foot into the shoe.  He called out a quick hello and the woman turned her head to look to see who entered.  Holy Toledo!  Mrs. Culver, also known as “cutthroat” by the kids.  Mrs. Culver taught fourth grade and was universally feared.  I smiled a guilty grin even though I had not done anything wrong.  I merely witnessed Jimmy trying to get that shoe on her.  When she stood up to walk around in the shoes, Jimmy excused himself and approached me at the counter.

Mrs. Culver told Jimmy that she would return later in the week to purchase the shoes, changed into her old shoes, and left with a nod to us both.  Jimmy told me that Mrs. Culver insisted on buying shoes that were a full size too small, and it was always an unpleasant experience for both of them.  I sarcastically suggested that Jimmy switch out the shoes in the shoe box with the right size and have them waiting for her.  Jimmy looked like a light had just gone off in his head and pulled out my pumps from under the counter.  The color was perfect and I left with my shoes.  Jimmy still had that stupid grin on his face when I left.

A week or so later, I brought the children in for their shoes.  It was a minor mob scene with kids climbing everywhere, moving displayed shoes and cramming their feet into the measuring tools for each other.  Jimmy had scheduled extra help and we managed to find shoes that everyone liked and looked like they might last a few months.  Jimmy offered the children lollipops from a giant bowl and they happily choose their favorites.   While they were choosing, Jimmy leaned over and told me that he took my advice with Mrs. Culver.  I must have looked a little shocked.  He told me that he removed the ink mark from the inside of the shoe that displayed the size and packed them in the box from the smaller size.  Mrs. Culver picked up the shoes without trying them on again.  Jimmy told me that Mrs. Culver called him two days later, and he thought he had been caught.  Instead, she ordered another pair because they were the most comfortable shoes that she ever owned.  I giggled at his brazenness, and he swore me to secrecy.

Duchess Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

6 large egg yolks, room temperature

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature

1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease baking pans.

Wash and peel potatoes, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks, and place in a large saucepan.  Cover potatoes with 2″ of cold water and salt water when it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer for about 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes, return the potatoes to the pot, and mash until smooth.

While potatoes are warm, mix in egg yolks one at a time with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Make sure each yolk is completely mixed before adding the next.  Add butter, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until mixture is smooth.

Transfer potato mixture into a piping bag with star tip and pipe 12 round mounds onto each pan.  Mounds should be about 2″x2″ and 2″ apart.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Place baking pans into oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Rotate pans and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Dinner In Laws

I don’t wear an apron everyday. but I thought it best to “suit up” for the meal preparation ahead of me.  Mother and Dad Jones were coming over to enjoy an anniversary celebration.  I planned a delicious gourmet meal of Chicken Cordon Bleu with Duchess Jones Potatoes.  When we first married, Dad Jones never made remarks about my lack of cooking skills, child-rearing choices, or clumsy attempts at conversation.  He knew that I had lost my own father early in life and made appreciative comments on how I set up our first home.  I’ve been a very supportive wife to Steve and I know that my encouragement has helped him move up the ladder.  I smile and make witty repartee at company dinners and dress well for the events we attend together.  Mother Jones has clucked at a few of my fashion choices, the way I spoil our children, and the occasional gaps in attention paid to her favorite son.

For a week before the dinner, I cleaned every square inch of the house, even turning the cushions on the davenport.  My table was set with the good china, crystal, and a fresh bouquet from the florist in Mother’s favorite shade of pale pink.  When they arrived, Steve mixed the martinis and served them to Dad and Mother in the parlor. Daisy and Stevie Junior sat quietly in their good clothes, being model children.  I had already had a pre-dinner talk with them about the behavior I expected for the dinner and the possible consequences for the lack of their participation.  Mother was dressed perfectly and her new outfit fit her slim figure like a glove.  She liked to brag that she was within a pound of the weight she enjoyed before Steve was born.  Mother and Dad opened the anniversary cards that Daisy and Junior drew.  Mother opened their gift while explaining how unnecessary it was for us to buy them anything.  She seemed surprised that I had picked out a silver service piece that she didn’t already own.  I take stock every holiday dinner and make a mental note whenever I realize that Mother doesn’t already own a particular piece.

Maybe it was Steve’s extra strength martinis, but Mother didn’t criticize a thing about the dinner.  We lingered at the table eating dessert and Mother even laughed when Junior belched as loudly as possible to show off his new “talent.”  I felt as if I had finally done something right after all these years.  Perhaps Mother is mellowing, or I may actually be getting good at this housewife thing.  I guess time will tell.






Easy Ham Mac-n-Cheese

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons of flour

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded American cheese

2 cups hot cooked macaroni

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 tablespoon yellow mustard


In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter; add flour and stir until smooth and bubbly. Gradually stir in milk. Continue cooking, stirring, until sauce just begins to bubble and sauce has thickened. Combine sauce with cheese, hot cooked macaroni, salt, ham, horseradish, and mustard.  Pour into buttered casserole dish.  Bake at 350° for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Serves 4.

Skating Along

Even with my laces tightly tied, my ankles felt wobbly.  Daisy, Stevie, and I were skating at Kate’s Rink with some other families from Monterey Park.  Daisy is gracefully timid, and Stevie likes to spend his time deliberately running into the side railings and his friends at full speed.  I ventured on and off the rails to gain confidence, gliding forward, testing the front stoppers,  and pushing off again.  The organ music enticed me to skate faster along with the melody.  We all joined each other mid-rink for the hokey-pokey and as soon as I felt confident dancing on wheels, I slid a little, but caught myself before falling.  Daisy and I spun each other in circles until we felt a little dizzy.  Stevie took my other hand and we three spun around the oval a few times together.  It was a good giddy feeling.  I sat down with the other moms who weren’t skating and enjoyed watching the children swirling around the rink.  Wobbly ankles aside, it’s a good feeling to spend time together on wheels.

We returned home to an easy dinner that night.  I knew the children would be tired, so my Ham Mac-n-Cheese was a delicious ending to our day.

Frangelico Fig Cake

olive oil to brush pan

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon table salt

8 ounces of chopped dried figs, without stems

2 teaspoons almond liquor


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a 9 inch cake pan well with olive oil

In a bowl, whisk together:  olive oil, milk, and egg.  In a larger bowl, whisk together:  flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add milk mixture to dry ingredients in a well in the center of the bowl and blend gently until smooth.  Add figs and liquor.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 45 minutes until light brown.  Cool for 15 minutes, remove cake from pan, and continue to cool.

Pass Me the Nuts

It was Judy Anne’s turn to hostess the card party.  Judy Anne makes me smile.  She’s a smooth southern girl at heart and rarely “gets” the sarcastic remarks that we zing while we play cards.  Her husband’s name is Stubs.  I’ve always been afraid to ask why.  Stubs has always sounded like the name of an underworld criminal.  It’s ironic that political conversations make Judy Anne nervous because she is very diplomatic.  I think she was raised to believe that it was inappropriate to discuss politics and religion.  She’ll discuss sex only after her second cocktail, and never in mixed company.  Her table decorations always have a theme, and she wears a coordinating apron over her outfit. I have never seen more than a quarter inch of the true color of her hair because she is so vigilant about maintaining her blond waves.

Judy Anne buys new packs of cards at Mitchell’s 5 & 10 every time she hosts because she serves sugary treats on the card table.  The cards do tend to get a little gritty.  Emmy Wade, her blond daughter, gets to make a lot of card houses with the used packs of cards.

I brought a Frangelico Fig Cake since Judy Anne had chosen to have an Italian buffet.  My Fig Cake should pair well with the robust spread.  We all seem to behave more politely at Judy Anne’s and I think her personality helps us to act like ladies.