Friday, June 26, 2009

The Boys And Girls Cookbook

These are strange and crazy times—wars, economic collapses, and passing pop icons. One thing that remains constant, however, is the comfort of old-fashioned simple recipes and foods, like apple crisp, chocolate chip cookies, and mashed potatoes.

The Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook was one of my first cookbooks as a child. Actually, I think it was a hand-me-down from my older sisters, who were 10 years older than me.

The cover of the book has a boy frosting a cake. Throughout the book there are illustrations of boys cooking by themselves and along side the girls.

This was interesting, especially for the era it was originally printed (the fifties), because it didn’t treat cooking as a female specific activity, like many children’s cookbooks of the time period.

I would spend hours examining the photos and drawings, and of course reading the recipes in this beginner’s cookbook.

I rediscovered my cookbook a few years back, while cleaning out my mother’s home. The pages are well worn and stained. I think I made almost every recipe in the book.

As a kid, I’d pester my mom, “Can I make this…?!” She’d always reply, “If you can read the recipe…then you can make it…”

I always wondered why my creations didn’t look as perfect as the photo. I didn’t know about stylists and art directors back then. My "Enchanted Castle Cake" didn't look nearly as dreamy, or neat, as the photo above.

"A picnic with a pal"...a plaid blanket, sandwiches, and "lumberjack cookies"—giant, the size of salad plates, gingebread cookies with pastel icing.

The book also had "menus" for special occasions like mother’s day, and father’s day. I’d plan my own menus too...

Starting with bunny salad…

...then Meatloaf ala mode.

And for desert—apple crisp...admittedly apple crisp conjures up cozy autumn evenings by the fire, but Mr. Peacock makes this old-fashioned comfort food with summer fruits—peaches, plums, and berries.

Here’s Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook recipe for Apple Crisp, which I made countless times as a small child and adapted to a “Summer Crisp.” This recipe is so easy, and is a great starting point for whatever ingredients you have in your kitchen.

Apple Crisp (or Summer Crisp)
Makes 6 servings
Preheat oven 350 degrees

4 cups sliced pared apples (I used sliced peaches, plums, and nectarines with the skins on. You could also use berries, or any combination of summer fruits)
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (I used a combination of white and brown sugar)
¾ cup flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup soft butter.

1. Butter an 8 x 8 x 2” oven safe pan.
2. Evenly spread the fruits in the pan
3. Sprinkle with the water over the fruit (if you’re using juicy plums or peaches, use half the water)
4. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour in a bowl. (Sometimes I substitute quick cooking rolled oats for the flour, or use a mixture of rolled oats and flour. You could also add nuts too).
5. Add the softened butter, and mix with a pastry blender until crumbly (or pulse in a food processor).
6. Evenly spread the crumb mixture over the fruit.
7. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes.
8. It will be hot and bubbly, like lava, when you take it out of the oven. Let it cool for about an hour. It will thicken as it cools.
9. Serve with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.

This simple dessert isn’t fancybut it sure seemed fancy when I was 7 years old. The bubbling fruit with the buttery crumbs is always a comforting treat—especially at crazy times in your life.

What was your favorite treat to make as a kid?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

American Style—Bill Blass

William Ralph Blass, or should I say Bill Blass, epitomized classic American style. This gentleman peacock had an impeccable eye and it showed in his work, home and personal style.

Mr. Blass would have been 87 years old this past Monday, but passed away in 2002 from throat cancer—which was probably accelerated from his lifelong smoking habit.

In photographs, Mr. Blass is usually shot with his trademark cigarette (above: 1940's).

This boy from Fort Wayne Indiana, whose father committed suicide when he was only five years old, went on to create a $700-million-a-year fashion empire (above at the office in the 1970's).

Above: Smokin' in Indiana in the 1970's.

As a teenager, Bill Blass, was already selling his sketches of gowns to a New York manufacturer, and continued to design until his retirement in 1999.

During the 1940’s, when he was in the army, he sketched what would become his Bill Blass logo (above).

Above: Looking casually elegant in a turtleneck and denim jacket—Chessy Rayner and Mica Ertegun are in the background.

He was pals with, and dressed, many of America’s most stylish ladies including: Chessy Rayner, Mica Ertegun, Slim Keith, and Nan Kempner.

Above: A Blass menswear show from the 1970's—you can see Mr. Blass smoking in the background behind the model on the left.

His menswear line, like himself, was impeccably tailored and classic looking.

Because of the popularity of his men’s wear line, Bill Blass licensed his name to Revlon in the late 60’s-early 70’s. They created a Bill Blass men’s fragrance line that included bronzer, deodorant, soap, aftershave, and something called Men’s "Other" Deodorant—for the crotch!

Bill Blass even designed a Lincoln Continental (above), when he partnered with the Ford Motor Company in the 1970's.
When Mr. Blass was a newbie and starting out in Manhattan (above in the 40's), he looked sharp and had a chic apartment. He would buy the best quality things he could afford (Brooks Brothers clothing at the time), and later upgrade to more expensive and higher quality goods.

Above: A Maidenform ad from Glamour magazine, 1961.

Above: Bill Blass with Ralph Lifshitz (Ralph Lauren), c. 1970's.

Whether he was wearing a denim jacket or a tuxedo, this gentleman peacock was always elegant and well groomed. He knew what looked good on him and stuck with it—clean and classic clothing.

His homes were always chic and well appointed and he was a connoisseur of antiquities (above: his home at One Sutton Place in NYC).

Above: A well dressed table and well dressed gentleman—Mr. Blass looking chic in an oversized gingham patterned shirt, navy blazer, pocket square, brown belt, chinos, and his trademark cigarette.

His was passionate about his homes and gardens, and liked entertaining guest.

Mr. Blass bequeathed half of his $52 million estate, as well as several important sculptures to the Metropolitan museum of Art—including the piece above.

To learn more about this talented fellow, click here for numerous books about Bill Blass. Mr. Peacock salutes this quintessential American style icon for his taste and continued influence and inspiration for new generations of peacocks. Thank you Bill Blass!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Proud as a Peacock…

(click image above to enlarge)

The male peafowl, or peacock, has long been known for its display of its dramatic tail feathers. The brilliant hued feathers of the Indian Blue peacock have always been prized as decorative accents, and inspiration for artists and fashion designers.

Did know the brilliant colors of the peacock plumage are due to an optical interference phenomenon (Bragg reflection) based on (nearly) periodic nanostructures found in the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers, which produce the peacock's iridescent hues (which shimmer and change with viewing angle), depending upon the angle of light.

Here’s Mr.Peacock's wish list of “namesake” inspired goodies:

1) This hand-painted Syracuse pattern, by Haviland, reminds me of a stylized peacock feather. My mother inherited a set of Haviland dishes from her great-great grandmother, and the porcelain is sublime. It’s pricey, but a single dish could be very chic used to catch loose change and keys.

2) A gilded Indian peacock mirror would add an exotic touch to an entryway or room. It has a large mirror in the center, surrounded by small mirror discs inset in the “plumes.”

3) This vintage 1960’s brass peacock table lamp would make a unique addition to your home. It has two bulbs, and rests on an ebony stained wood base.

4) A set of personalized note cards would make any gentleman peacock happy.

5) I found this peacock feather bric-a-brac at my favorite hardware store for around $3.75 a foot. The feathers are sandwiched (lightly glued in place) between a folded black grosgrain ribbon, and stitched closed along the seam. My photo doesn’t do this amazing bric-brac justice. It would be chic on the bottom of a lamp or window shade. Order some here, or check here.

6) Mr. Peacock loves these multi-colored leather boots. The sheen of colors reminds me of the iridescent hues of peacock plumage.

7) Peacocks are pheasants, and this little hardcover book, Extraordinary Pheasants, has a plethora of this beautifully plumed group of birds. Buy one here for under a dollar.

8) There are also many great fabrics inspired by the peacock. Mr. Peacock fancies this black and white pattern by Florence Broadhurst (at right).

This gentleman peacock's parents have a real live peacock that just showed up one day. Do you have a favorite peacock item?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Loudmouth Golf Clothing...

In the summertime during my tween years, I would work for my father in his golf pro shop taking golf tee times, light book keeping, picking up golf balls on the driving range (ugh!), and keeping the golf carts clean and charged up. I would also sell golf accoutrements such as golf balls, golf gloves, golf shoes, golf clubs, and of course golf apparel...and do displays and merchandising in his shop.

Above: My dad, on the far right, with fellow golf pros in the early 1960’s. My father was almost 6 feet tall, so the third gentleman has to be a giant.

My father disliked “loud” golf clothing—bright colors, busy patterns, and especially any cute patterns…ie whales. He sold Lacoste in his pro shop, but never wore anything himself with logos or branding. He didn’t want me wearing any “advertisements” either—that’s what he called any clothing with obvious logos and branding.

Above: My dad, second from left, wearing tailor made trousers—sans belt loops in the late 1970's.

As an adult, I understand where my dad was coming from about logos, and by choice I seldom wear anything with logos or obvious branding. However, I’ve always liked patterns (plaid, polka dots, paisley), colors, and even the occasional kitsch wardrobe item. I guess I’m rebelling against my father.

When Mr. Peacock first became acquainted with Loudmouth Golf clothing—I had to chuckle. It’s everything my father disliked...

bright colors and...

...loud patterned pants!

Above: Loudmouth also has shorts.

Loudmouth offers various trouser cuts. The plaid and patchwork pants are 100% cotton, and the printed and striped pants are a summer poplin (97% cotton and 3% spandex).

Above: Loudmouth even has patterned golf grips for a customized look on your golf clubs.

It’s nice to see an alternative to drab sportswear. Loudmouth clothing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Mr. Peacock thinks you can wear “loud” clothes and still look chic.

Above: Alice Cooper wears Loudmouth, and has always been an avid golfer.

Wear one “loud” or patterned piece of clothing, and pair it with a solid color such as white, black, gray or navy—and wear it with confidence!

Above: A peacock golfer in Loudmouth plaid pants.

The US Open Golf tournament championship is this week. My father played in this tournament in the 1960’s—wearing only black, gray or navy trousers, with white, powder blue, and pink polo shirts. Let’s see if anyone is wearing Loudmouth at the US Open.

Above: A custom après golf jacket—you select the fabric...perfect for cocktails at the “19th hole.”

Do you wear any “loud” clothes—bright colors or patterns?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thank you UK Elle Decoration!

A little bird (thanks Susan from Shop Curious) told Mr. Peacock to take a peek at page 67 in the July 2009 issue of the UK Elle Decoration magazine.

What a lovely surprise! Mr. Peacock has the honor of being included in their roster of “cool style blogs” alongside such wonderful folks like:

Jonathan Adler,

An Aesthete’s Lament,

Pure Style Online, and...

...the amazing and charismatic James Andrew, from What is James Wearing?

Mr. Andrew shared his inspirations and influences last March with Mr. Peacock, click here to read the interview.

UK Elle Decoration has always been a favorite read of Mr. Peacock. I’m thrilled for the kind shout-out from this incredibly stylish and inspirational magazine! Be sure to grab a copy of the July 2009 issue. Thank you UK Elle Decoration!