February 1, 2015

Christening Gowns & Cheese Straws

Just in time for the big game, the big party or any celebration, here
is a recipe for cheese straws from Martha Baker, the lovely woman who taught me French heirloom hand sewing.  Martha showed me how to make christening gowns and told me an interesting tidbit about their length.  I worked that fact into Amelia Island's Mark of a Man.  

Excerpt from Amelia Island's Mark of a Man, set in 1898 north Florida ( ... represents part of the story left out so as not to give any plot away. )

    Angelique was having a difficult time of it, having forced herself to wash and iron the long, hand-stitched, family heirloom as Marie requested. Many Dunnigan descendants had worn the christening gown, as this child had. ... 
   ... She also realized the occupants of the table were waiting for her reply to Marie's praise. Haltingly, the maid answered, "Thank you," to the compliment. There was no other reply possible.
   "I would have ironed the gown," Jency said, "but I admit my ironing is about equal to my cooking."
   “I’m sure both are fine," Marie countered. "Still,you did plenty. After all, you provided the baby!" 
   "It's good thing you didn't try, sis, or you'd have scorched it to char," Pat scoffed. "The only thing you're fit to iron is Blackie's dog blanket."
   “Pat! You sound like a mean older brother,” Sophie Belle scolded.
   He shrugged, not caring how he sounded.
   Could it be, Marie wondered, that Sophie Belle had achieved some control over her severe crush on Pat and that she finally saw him for the bad tempered dolt he was?  It hurt Marie how Pat had no care to embarrass her in front of the others. So tired of his sneering remarks, her patience with him had eroded to none.
   Sensing the serious tension, Jency watched Angelique brush the tidbits from the table into a silver-lidded crumb pan. "I truly admire your lovely fancywork in embroidering the baby's initials on the hem."
   "Mama tells us how her mother made it for her when she was born and how every child in the family since has worn it," Marie continued. "Their initials are there to prove it. Since Mama and Peeper aren't here, we have a wonderful sewing substitute in Angelique."
   "I'm glad I could help you."
   Sophie Belle sipped the last of her tea, rose and walked to the window to look out into the hard falling rain. “Does anybody know why christenin' gowns are always so long? They’re inches longer than needed ta cover the child’s toes.”
   Marie shrugged. “I never thought on it before.”
   "Neither have I,” said Jency.
   When Pat offered no comment, Angelique spoke as she brushed more specks from beside Marie’s plate. "I remember something my mother said when I was a little girl. She occasionally did French heirloom hand sewing to have extra money for us. She was making pin tucks to the front of a christening gown and I asked her that very question. She explained that as the godmother is holding the child, the gown is supposed to drape over her arm and be long enough to cover her knees."
   Pat infused some sour. "Why all this gum-bumpin' over a baby dress?  It's one of those worthless things you women care about." 
   "Some people have no manners, is all I can say," accused Marie. "And Jency, I don't mean you!"

Miss Martha's Cheese Straws

You'll need:

  • 1 stick butter or margarine (low fat for baking is optional)
  • 4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (My sister, Nancy Kamp, jewelry designer, editor and Lord High Executioner, recommends equal parts of Gouda, Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of Tabasco®
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sifted flour

Mix ingredients and form dough into three tube-like logs about 2 1/2" in diameter. 

Cover in plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

Cut cheese rolls into 1/4" slices.

Place them on a flour-dusted cookie sheet and bake at 375° F for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown and semi-crisp.

Makes almost four dozen.

(Recipe originally printed on graciousjanemarie.com site)

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