When I visit my cookbook assortment seeking culinary inspiration, the nearly 100-year-old Girl Scout chant sung around the campfire, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold,” reminds me that when it comes to practical matters in the kitchen, old friends still have a lot to offer.
One of the most cherished books in my collection, “The Bentley Farm Cookbook,” was a 1975 wedding present. A trade paperback written by Virginian Williams Bentley, the font is entirely hand-scripted, with whimsical pen-and-ink artwork and a few black-and-white photos.
The Danville, Vt., author, who viewed cooking as a fine art, believed that recipes must follow the “happy trilogy” of cooking: 1) good, 2) good for you, and 3) easy to prepare.
Bentley’s experience-based rural agrarian living and common sense advice was perfect for me, a young bride fresh off the farm just setting up housekeeping in the big city of Bangor, Maine. I pored over the pages; learning how to Roast a Chicken and a Tenderloin of Beef, prepare Martha’s Company Casserole, Perfect Wild Rice, and Twice Baked Potatoes. Neepie’s Appetizers, bacon-wrapped dates baked and smothered with barbecue sauce were the hit of cocktail parties, and Amundsen’s Delight, a sugary, buttery, rich pineapple dessert had no equal.
As both my cookbook collection and confidence grew, my kitchen repertoire expanded with limitless creativity. Cooking sustained me in sickness and in health, through joy and sorrow.
I remembered Bentley’s recipe for chocolate mousse in my recent search for a festive Easter dinner dessert. The Virginian writes that this dreamy and sophisticated creation is exactly like a status recipe from a famous French cookbook. Comprised of just three basic ingredients: eggs, chocolate, and flavoring, this version of Easy Chocolate Mousse takes just minutes to prepare.
Make the mousse in the morning, spoon into cocktail glasses or festive ceramic bowls and chill. Just before serving, top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with a mint leaf, flower blossom, or a few fresh raspberries: the perfect ending for a special meal.
Because the preparation relies on separating and using uncooked eggs, there is the hazard of a potential food-borne illness. To minimize this hazard, use local eggs from farmers you know. As with any product containing uncooked eggs, this chocolate mousse is not recommended for small children, older folks, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.
My copy of “The Bentley Farm Cookbook,” bound together with duct tape, and filled with scribbled notes on brown and spotted pages, is an old and trusted friend. The memories of meals gleaned from its pages will be passed on to the next generation, and the recipes like Easy Chocolate Mousse, are pure gold.