Friday, December 2, 2011

Company's Coming for the Holidays

Do you know Jean Paré?

I feel certain that you do - if not by name, then in your subconscious, the primal palate that has been shaped by your earliest holiday dinner experiences, your first taste of sugar, and the vegetable you had to sit at the table until you finished. Purple cabbage with sesame seeds and soya sauce, in my case.

Jean's recipes have been shaped by generations of prairie cooks, and have in turn influenced another generation through the publication of her "Company's Coming" line of cookbooks. She is one of the main reasons that, in this era of rural population decline, we are still served Those Squares at potlucks, funerals, and weddings:

Yes, those squares. In 1981, Jean published her first cookbook: "150 Delicious Squares". Now, her books have sold in the tens of millions.

One of the appeals of the cookbooks is Jean's principle that recipes should only include ingredients you could easily get at a local supermarket. Unfortunately, I was raised by a hippie mother, so it goes against the grain to keep ingredients like coloured marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs in my pantry. However, they soon will appear. I am going to begin my holiday baking, and it must include squares.

I inherited "150 Delicious Squares" from my husband's great-aunt. Last year, I tried "Flat Truffles". After I'd made them, I realized that the ingredients - icing sugar, cocoa, butter - were the same as those in the recipe for icing on the Roger's sugar bag. Basically, I made a log of icing and rolled it in nuts and sliced it. My husband loved it. I think Jean went a little too far with that one. However, the Lemon Bars and Apricot Chews quickly became a favourite.

This holiday season, stop by my place and I'll feed you up. And remember Jean's homespun wisdom: "The horse is such a respected, noble animal. So if you eat like one, why would you be any different?"

P.S. The squash recipe contest has closed. I am busy testing and will announce the winner soon!

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