“If you took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening, listening to the liquid song of the hermit thrush, you might enjoy life more. Joy is there for the taking.” ~Tasha Tudor
It must have been lovely to join Tasha Tudor for afternoon tea at her beloved Corgi Cottage in southeastern Vermont.
Perhaps her Corgis would greet me at the door, and if I was a little early, she’d put me to work, melting semi-sweet chocolate to fill her speckled cookies. I would happily set the table with her favorite heirloom Blue Canton or hand painted pink lustre tea set, basking in the warmth and charm of her cozy kitchen, only too willing to immerse myself in her 19th century world.
I can’t remember when I first encountered Tasha’s work; it seems like her enchanting pastel watercolors were always part of my read-write-teach existence as they adorned nearly one hundred children’s books and a myriad of greeting cards and calendars. How I appreciated this gentle reminder of simpler times, the idyllic views of New England people, villages, woods, fields, farms, and gardens!
Tasha’s life was a work of art. She often remarked that she was the reincarnation of a sea captain’s wife who lived from about 1800 to 1840. Here was an artist who wholeheartedly lived and dressed the part, making her own clothes from flax she grew, raising her own farm animals, indulging her passions for gardening and traditional handcrafts such as basket-making, candle-making, calligraphy, weaving, sewing, knitting, and doll-making.
Of all her wide-ranging interests, I’m most fascinated with her cooking and baking (no surprise). Even before I saw actual photos of her kitchen, I enjoyed the paintings of her large open fireplace with cast iron pots hanging on hooks, cupboards full of canned fruits and vegetables, shelves laden with salt glaze crockery, yellow ware mixing bowls, antique cooking utensils, copper pots, glass jars, and wooden spoons. And that big wood burning stove! There was often a child or two nearby, happily helping out, eager to taste the spoils.
Tasha gathered recipes (or “receipts” as she called them) over her lifetime, many passed down for generations. Just as she loved cooking with heirloom equipment, she loved making dishes that had been in the family for centuries. One can just imagine how delicious her meals were, having been made with the freshest ingredients available — garden veggies, eggs from her own chickens, milk from her cows or Nubian goats, her own herbs, even flour from wheat she grew herself.
I was happy to learn that a new cookbook came out last Fall — The Tasha Tudor Family Cookbook: Heirloom Recipes and Warm Memories from Corgi Cottage (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016). It was written and compiled by Tasha’s grandson Winslow Tudor, who lives on the Tudor estate with his parents, wife and two daughters. He’s responsible for maintaining Tasha’s home and extensive gardens, and helping to preserve her legacy through the family business.
Winslow grew up next door to his grandmother, whom he called “Granny,” and whom he saw every day until he was in his early 30’s. He’s written a wonderful introduction and many interesting recipe headnotes, interweaving personal anecdotes, cooking tips, and brief backstories about recipe origin, cooking tools and methods, when certain dishes were prepared, how the ingredients were grown. You get a pleasant glimpse of business as usual in this headnote for Beef Stew:
Every so often, the cookstove in Tasha’s house had a pot of stew simmering toward the back beside the copper double boiler. Tasha kept the double boiler full of water with the top on and used it to keep her meals warm or thaw the occasional fledgling waylaid by circumstance. One of the most famous birds resuscitated in this manner was Chickahominy, a bearded Belgium bantam whose mother abandoned him beneath an outbuilding. Tasha rolled the unresponsive orphan out with a hoe one late cold morning and resuscitated him. He lived happily and in great comfort for many years after. He never could stand the cold, however, and was inclined to pass out if exposed to temperatures approaching freezing. He was partial to beef stew.
Oh, to have a Granny like that! Each day brought a new adventure. 🙂
Some of you Tudorites might be wondering how this new cookbook is different from The Tasha Tudor Cookbook published by Little, Brown back in 1993. Of course Tasha wrote and illustrated the older book, but Winslow’s new book contains photographs of most of the finished recipes taken in Tasha’s kitchen. You get to see close-ups not only of the delicious food, but of some of Tasha’s antique plates, bowls, flatware and crockery — and yes, teapots and teacups. 🙂 Tasha’s watercolors are scattered throughout, but the best part is Winslow’s memories.
What about the recipes? There are a few similar ones, like Oatmeal Bread, Pea Soup, Blueberry Muffins, and Baking-Powder Biscuits, but most of the recipes in Winslow’s book are different from those featured in the older cookbook. They’re organized accordingly: Breads and Muffins, Breakfast, Lunch and Supper, Fruits and Salads, Accompaniments, Desserts, and Beverages. Think in terms of traditional, wholesome family fare, nothing exotic or revolutionary, just good comfort food that’s definitely kid-friendly. The key is sourcing the freshest ingredients possible.
Making these recipes is a lovely way to channel your inner Tasha, to remember a woman with an enduring passion for gardening who cultivated enviable practical skills, lived simply and in concert with nature, was a friend to animals, respected history and tradition, created beautiful art, and was always only herself.
LENTIL SOUP AND APPLESAUCE CAKE
The hardest part about using this new cookbook was deciding which recipe to make first — so many were calling to us: Bean Stew, Chicken Pie, Charlotte Cake, Corn Bread, Parmesan Meatballs, Baked Custard, Pear and Arugula Salad.
On a rainy morning Mr. Cornelius said he wanted soup for lunch. Our choices: Carrot, Chicken Noodle, Split Pea, Tomato, Winter Squash or Lentil. All were very tempting, but we decided on Lentil, certain that it would hit the spot. We were right, of course. Lentils, a warm, nourishing bowl of yum for so little effort. Next time we’re making some of Tasha’s Corn Bread to go with it. If you have a furry sous chef chop the veggies, it’s a breeze. 🙂
This is an old and satisfying receipt. Adjustments of herbs and salt can be made to meet most anyone’s taste. Tasha stored dried beans and lentils on a top shelf in a series of graduated glass jars with metal press-on lids.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups chicken stock, or 8 cups water
- 2 tomatoes, diced, or 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 2 cups uncooked lentils
- 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil in large pot. Add celery, onion, and carrot. Stir in basil, oregano, garlic, and bay leaves.
Add chicken stock or water, tomato, and lentils. Bring to boil, then simmer an hour or so. Top each serving with fresh spinach tossed in balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This soup tends to thicken over time and you may want to add extra liquid. Sausage or beef makes a good addition.
As if we needed even more reason to love Tasha, here’s what Winslow said about Tea:
Every afternoon, Tasha set out a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl, cups, and saucers, and put the teakettle on to heat. If she expected more than three or four visitors, she used two teapots and put out an extra plate of crackers or cookies. Once everyone was settled, she lit the beeswax candles, poured the tea, inquired if milk or sugar was desired, and if so how much, then settled into her usual spot. She sat in a rocking chair with a black woolen blanket over the back and blue-check pillow cushion on the seat. She used a cup without a handle and warmed both hands with it. The coziest teatimes occurred in winter by the woodstove, and in familiar company Tasha propped her feet on the fender. There was always a background of corgi dogs pattering about, canaries singing, the grandfather clock chiming every half hour, the cat purring or a teakettle coming to a boil, the soft gleam of candlelight on copper, and the scent of herbs drying and fresh-baked bread or cookies. Tasha did much of her correspondence from this spot, and kept a few art pencils and erasers on the little table beside the chair. The corgis loved to chew those erasers if they fell to the floor.
With a note like that, we simply had to make one of the sweet recipes for tea. Nice choices: Brownies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies, Quick Yellow Cake, Banana Bread, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Applesauce Cake.
We decided on Applesauce Cake after reading about the six apple trees in Tasha’s garden, and how she liked to make applesauce using two or three varieties. Even though we didn’t use homemade applesauce, this cake was mighty good — not overly sweet and oh, so moist. Didn’t frost the cake this time to cut down on sugar intake. Loved this recipe and will definitely make it again. Mr. Cornelius ate such a big piece he had to take a long nap afterwards.
Tasha collected apples in a green-ash-splint basket before they fell and stored them on the counter beside the bread box, where over the next few days she made them into applesauce or pies. She baked cookies or a cake each day to have ready for afternoon tea and visitors. If guests arrived early they helped prepare tea, carried in an armload of firewood, put new candles in the candleholders, or moved weed piles to the compost, depending on the season. Sometimes Tasha frosted the applesauce cake, other times she didn’t.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 8 tablespoons butter, soft
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350° F.
First make the cake. In large mixing bowl, beat together sugar, egg, and butter. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and applesauce. Mix until just combined.
Bake in greased 8×8-inch pan 25-30 minutes or until a fork or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Bring brown sugar and cream to a simmer and cook to 235° F. Turn burner off and cool until about 100° F. Add butter and vanilla. Beat until frosting thickens and frost cake right away.
To go with our cake, we ordered a sample of Tasha’s Welsh Breakfast Tea from the online shop. The tea arrived lickety split, with a nice “W” written on the invoice. Winslow, is that you? 🙂
THE TASHA TUDOR FAMILY COOKBOOK: Heirloom Recipes and Warm Memories from Corgi Cottage
written by Winslow Tudor
published by Skyhorse Publishing, October 2017, 176 pp.
*Includes Conversion Charts and Index
❤️ Be sure to visit The Tasha Tudor and Family Website, a beautiful spot on the web featuring information about Tasha’s life, her books, Corgi Cottage, her family and friends, receipts, tea time stories, DIY projects, the museum, upcoming events, and the shop (prints, greeting cards, fabric, books, family-made items, seeds, and more!).
🐶 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! 🌷
The publisher has generously provided a copy of The Tasha Tudor Family Cookbook for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Tuesday, March 14, 2017. You may also enter by sending an email with TASHA in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced on St. Patrick’s Day. Good Luck!
“I enjoy doing housework, ironing, washing, cooking, dishwashing. Whenever I get one of those questionnaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife. It’s an admirable profession, why apologize for it. You aren’t stupid because you’re a housewife. When you’re stirring the jam you can read Shakespeare.”~ Tasha Tudor
*Recipe photographs posted by permission of the publisher, copyright © 2016 Winslow Tudor, published by Skyhorse Publishing. All rights reserved.
**Tasha’s illustrations shown here all appear in the Tasha Tudor Family Cookbook. Please note that some of the photographs of her in this post were sourced from other publications, and do not appear in the cookbook.
Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.