At Home on the Range

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The Philadelphia Story

Art by GOLD Collective (who also designed the cover of the book!)

There are many advantages to having chucked both your federal career and your PhD for the allure of self-employment, but as anyone who has embarked on this path knows, the main perk is the ability to undertake nearly all work-related activities in your underwear while eating off brand ice cream sandwiches, with only your own sense of shame and your cat’s palpable revulsion to goad you into putting on pants. 

Self-employment also means that when your aunt from Oregon whom you’ve had little contact with over the last thirty years asks you to join her on an At Home on the Range inspired genealogical expedition to Philadelphia, you can say yes without hesitation. It’s only after you’ve given an enthusiastic “yes” that you wonder what you’ve agreed to. That’s a lot of hours with an aunt you no longer know.

Were it not for Gima and my desire to piece together her life, I doubt I would have bothered with pants. But I’m nothing if not intrepid when it comes to a research junket, and Aunt Ann is a maven when it comes to things genealogical. As it turns out, she’s also a beast when it comes to digging up graves in abandoned cemeteries. 

I had envisioned a few days in Philadelphia, cruising around neatly manicured cemeteries and quaint suburbs, with most of my time spent pawing through paper records. Instead we arrived at the ruinous Mount Moriah cemetery in ruinous central Philly for my genealogical trial by fire. Finding the family plot involved GPS, an ATV, and a burly ginger packing heat in case she happened upon “dumpers.” After several hours of fruitless digging, almost entirely on Ann’s part, she was able to locate one of our relations, and some strangers who had decided our stretch of turf looked like a nice place to spend eternity. The entire process was made all the more tale worthy by our guide, who was convinced that every other rock was a Native American artifact. Losing patience, and because I am more often than not a jerk, I crushed her dreams. Sometimes schist is just that. She did unearth a partial femur, though. Not wanting to prolong my time there, I lied and told her it was a petrified branch. I freely admit that I was so hot, tired, and sick of being eaten by bugs that any notion of the sanctity of human remains had long dissipated. Whoever’s femur is now irrevocably disassociated from the rest of its skeleton, I apologize. I was never a responsible archaeologist. 

Fortunately Ann went easier on me after that, and we eventually made our pilgrimage to Gima’s grave in West Laurel Cemetery where Gima is buried along the edge of the Dougherty family plot. The Doughertys, her mother’s relations, had owned a successful distillery, and the large family marker, simple yet monolithic, unmistakably spoke of Main Line Philadelphia wealth. As has been established, Potters aren’t remarkably sentimental folk, but both of us were a little choked up once we found Gima—Ann for missing her, and me for having just gotten to know her and liking her so much. She and her other relations lie below a towering sassafras tree, which provides shade, and a hangout for birds (who poop). The raised lettering that someone in the Dougherty line chose for the headstones is a perfect catch all for droppings. I scrubbed Gima with a toothbrush we had for just such an occasion while Ann dutifully documented everyone there. 

I felt a bit sad when I realized that she was alone, Gia having been buried with Marie thirty years later in a Sheldon family plot. But she died so unexpectedly, I’m sure that Gia hadn’t made any preparations for such an event. Hell, even if she had lived to a ripe old age, I’m sure he wouldn’t have made plans. It was not his strong suit. But at least she’s with her parents, grandparents, and her uncles Sherborne and Parke. 

Ann and I traipsed through at least nine different cemeteries in Philadelphia, each one chock full of our Potter and Simonin relatives. It seems that both sides of the family have always been rather poor at the maintenance of our ancestors, seemingly to the point of forgetting that they’re even there. Many a cemetery staffer gleefully indicated that there was room for at least three full burials and several cremations at each site. Perhaps earlier generations aspired to more fecund offspring, but we’ve failed to fill up a single reservation. Part of me is delighted to know that should I come to Jesus at the end of my days, there is many an earthly home for me to choose from. But I am further burdened by the knowledge that there are now all these ancestors who were once nothing more than names on a handwritten genealogy chart from Gia who are in need of attention. Who’s going to take care of them? As was abundantly clear from the litter of broken stones we came across, the perpetual care that we’d paid for amounts to little more than mowing if there isn’t a living relation demanding customer service. Which I did. Might as well get our money’s worth.

At the very least, Aunt Ann has undertaken the task of documentation, and has done a beautiful job of it. So it seems incumbent on me to finally accept the role of family historian. I just hope that the rest of the family proves to be half as interesting as Gima. 

And all those hours with Aunt Ann? Turns out I like her even more now then when she was our babysitter all those decades ago. The trip to Philadelphia was definitely worth pulling on pants for. 


You can see photos of Alexa’s trip at her Flickr page.  

Long Live Our Livers!

Cocktails by Marci Washington

I realize there’s a certain irony to writing about your great grandmother’s alcoholism right after you’ve attended your third wine tasting in as many days, but it was Austrian wine, which doesn’t really count, and I think Gima would appreciate it.

Gima was, by all accounts, the life of every party. Unfortunately that cut her life short by a considerable amount, as she was dead at 62, having aspirated sometime during the night of April 25, 1955. As we’ve established, my father didn’t talk much about his childhood, but one of the few things I knew about Gima was that she had died unexpectedly, possibly by her own hand, as a result of a combination of booze and pills. It’s actually a lot to take in when you’re a kid, and your brushes with death haven’t encompassed much more than the loss of your pet hamster, Ms. Bianca. Surprisingly, perhaps, we still didn’t talk about alcoholism when Grampa Shel died after several decades of taking his frustrations out on his liver, and no one mentioned Gima as my brother’s incipient alcoholism reared its ugly head in his late teens. I feel a bit bad about that—while some of us seem to have inherited Gima’s flair in the kitchen or her breezy and intrepid writing style, more than one member of the family inherited her deadly attachment to drink.

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Reluctant People of the Ham

Art by Rachell Sumpter

From the March 25, 1951 Wilmington Sunday Star:

Easter’s here and if we didn’t know it by The-Man-Who-Washes-the-Dishes constantly humming ‘The Strife is o’er, the Battle Won’ preparatory to choir practice, there would still be grandchildren demanding more eggs for dyeing than all the hens in Delaware could lay in a year, strange splotches of color on the kitchen floor and shreds of green waxed paper in every corner of the house.

After the hardship of giving up vegetables for Lent, Potters reward themselves with a tender, succulent, roast leg of lamb. Gaunt after nearly a month of vegetable-free dining, I was really looking forward to making Gima’s Easter lamb. The Potters have had roast lamb every Christmas and Easter for as long as I’ve been around, and I took over the production a decade ago. And while mine is good, it has never been a match for Grandma Sue’s. For some reason her roasted potatoes achieve an effortless, golden crust that I’ve yet to divine the secret of, and her gravy is plentiful yet lamby without the pollution of stock. With great anticipation I ordered a little spring lamb leg from the grocer, planned my menu and alerted my dining companions. And then I looked through Gima’s scrapbook to find out how she did her lamb. Maybe I would finally figure out those potatoes. But, where was the lamb? There’s a picture of a bunny, and a recipe for…ham? Potters aren’t ham people! We’re lamb people! Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was confused, as Gima writes in her column— “Several readers have asked us: ‘How come ham for Easter?’ We have to admit we are completely ignorant as to when and where the idea first started, for baby lamb always graced the Easter table of our youth. But for the last few years, pink delicate, smoked pork has taken its place and now seems as much a part of the occasion as turkey at Christmas.”

Aw, crap. With a regretful whimper, I canceled the lamb, and set about getting my mitts on an uncooked, Virginia country ham. Thankfully, I know people. Who know Virginia people. A few days later, I had a ham. I have very limited experience with pig in this form: it starts with the high school boyfriend who waxed poetic about the wonders of a good ham sandwich, made with “black forest ham—not that chip-chop kind” and ends a few years later with my mother placing her holiday gift ham in the oven, having failed to remove the plastic wrap. Several hours later, what we all thought looked to be a lovely ham glaze turned out, in fact, to be toxic melted plastic. But at least those pineapple rings were firmly glued in place.

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Gima, Crack Food Reporter

No one in the family seems to know how Margaret Yardley ended up on the pages of the Wilmington Sunday Star, but my guess is it wasn’t by accident. Grandma Sue has always made it very clear that Mrs. Potter was a forceful, sometimes intimidating woman. The two of them worked together at the Dorothy Bullitt dress shop on Ardmore Avenue in Chestnut Hill. It was an exclusive retailer for women of means, which Suzanne Simonin and Mrs. Potter had both once been. Grandma Sue, just eighteen but infectiously charming and self-possessed, was a good catch for any young man, despite her reduced circumstances. She had a good pedigree, but I suspect more importantly for Mrs. Potter, the makings of a good daughter-in-law. She was vivacious, attractive, and most of all, she was game. One weekend, Mrs. Potter invited Suzanne to accompany the family on a trip to Atlantic City. Suzanne, unaccustomed to the heavy drinking that the Potters introduced her to, took ill on the drive home and threw up in her hat. Mrs. Potter was wise enough to know that the Simonins would not thank the Potters for intoxicating their daughter to the point of regurgitation, so she telephoned the Simonins and informed them that Suzanne had taken ill and would be spending the night at the Potter domicile. The next morning, Mrs. Potter nursed a future Mrs. Potter’s first hangover with a homemade elixir and the mutual understanding that she was now part of the family. This is a long-winded way of explaining that Gima was a woman who generally got what she wanted, be it my grandmother for her son or a newspaper gig.

Cookbooks and women’s magazines were one of the few outlets of an aspiring female writer of the time, and Gima did her due diligence in the attempt to be recognized for her work. I imagine that a combination of gracious dinner parties and dogged legwork led to Gima’s winning a spot in the Wilmington Sunday Star’s new and improved women’s section. She makes her first appearance in the November 19, 1950 edition, with a letter about herself and her first episode of “Potter’s Kitchen.” She wrote two features almost every Sunday until the paper folded in 1954. There was some version of “Potter’s Kitchen”—sometimes you were “In Mrs. Potter’s Kitchen”—and “What’s Cooking in Delaware: Favorite Recipes from the First State” every Sunday. For the latter, Gima would convince a local housewife to allow her and a photographer to come in and observe while she made whatever delectable she was known for, be it the barbecued chicken of Mrs. John Brentlinger, of 5 Cragmere Road, or Mrs. Edwin Nielan’s guacamole.

Thanks to funding from Elizabeth Gilbert, the scrapbook has been digitized in its entirety. As time and intern labor law allows, we’ll make excerpts available to you here, dear readers.

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Flat Cakes and Boiled Icings


Art by Shannon May (who also did the gorgeous illustrations in the book!)


I approached the dessert section of At Home on the Range trepidatiously. The last time I’d really looked at Gima’s cookbook was as a teenager, when I was much more ambitious in the dessert department. It was the 80s, and death by chocolate was all the rage. Gima’s basic cakes and custards seemed lackluster, at best. I put her back on the shelf, and moved on to the chocolately seductions of the times. 

Revisiting Gima’s cookbook all these years later, I pondered whether or not I’d erred as a teenager. Obviously, everyone errs as a teenager when it comes to dating, hairstyles, and acid-washed Guess jeans with leather patches. But had I been unfair in my dismissal of Gima’s desserts? While I wasn’t going to dispute her kidney stew prowess, had I overlooked her genius with chocolate cake? I decided a taste test was in order.

I believe that one’s success with chocolate cake is entirely audience-dependent. My maternal family of chocoholics would have disdained my flat, leaden effort. In fairness to Gima, I took liberties with her recipe, and the addition of mascarpone cheese was a no-no. But when combined with her serviceable boiled white icing, and graced with a heap of coffee flavored Häagen-Dazs, several Gilberts had no trouble clearing their plates. John and Nick, two of Gima’s grandsons, recognized this cake as a childhood friend, and were happy to welcome it home.

My childhood friend is caramel frosting. Chocolate cake, in any form, serves only as its delivery vehicle. So whether it’s the effort of a homemade cake, or a box of Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix makes little difference. 

It was from my maternal grandfather, Gramps, whom I inherited a burning desire for the elusive, caramel sweetness of penuche. It was his traditional birthday frosting, and mine, too. But it’s a bitch to make, and Aunt Barby made no bones about her distaste for the temperamental nature of boiled frostings. So if I wanted penuche frosting, I was making it myself. I’d made it so many countless times that I’d not only taken the magic of its creation for granted, I’d come to resent it. And yet I continued to make it for every bridal shower, office party, and holiday hoedown that I was invited to, cursing myself and those who requested its presence.

But sometimes all it takes is gilding the caramel-frosted lily to remind you how delicious a tried-and-true recipe actually is. And sometimes, the way to gild that lily is with the addition of maple sugar. In Somerset, PA, while serving an appointment as the oral historian for the Flight 93 Memorial, I learned about the miracle of maple sugar. Pennsylvania supplies most of the maple syrup consumed in the United States (suck it, Vermont!). The folks of rural Somerset know their liquid gold. They also sell it in the museum gift shop. One slow workday, our friendly educational director showed me the alchemical properties of this amber delight. When it is put into a saucepan, brought to a boil, and allowed to cook—stirred vigorously, all the while—it will turn to maple sugar. From a liquid to a granular solid, before your very eyes. The very moment that you fear it will boil over and burn, it magically transforms into sugar. The first time I tried it in my caramel frosting, the transmutation of flavors made me feel like the Tycho de Brahe of desserts. This maple sugar can and should be substituted for brown sugar in any and every baking application. And that pot that you made the maple sugar in: guard it with your life. You have given yourself the tool to make the most ethereal batch of oatmeal you will ever consume. If you’re me, you will consume it greedily in the communal office kitchen, hoping that no one else sees your gluttonous weakness and takes it as a sure sign of your unsuitability for the job.

Maple sugar is something I wish I could have told Gima about. I’ve made caramel frosting using Gima’s recipe, and with maple sugar; it may be my maple bias, but I think I come out the winner. Gima’s writing radiates with her love of traveling, meeting new people and learning new recipes, from rabbit stew to Guadalcanal pigeon milk. Maple sugar would have delighted her.

ALEXA’S CARAMEL FROSTING

Melt one stick of butter over medium low heat. Add one cup brown sugar, or substitute up to 1/2 cup of it with maple sugar. Bring just to a boil, stirring; remove from heat. Add 1/4-1/3 cup light or heavy cream, even half and half, but not plain milk. Return to heat; bring just to a boil while stirring.

Allow pan to cool to lukewarm; you can also put it over an ice bath, but don’t bring the temperature down too much, as mixture should still be quite loose.

Gradually beat in powdered sugar just until you reach spreading consistency. While the original recipe calls for two cups, I think it far too much. Start with 1/2 cup and work up from there. Too much sugar will overwhelm the delicacy of the maple. If it gets too stiff while frosting, you can warm the frosting gently (too much and it can separate). This should make enough to frost and fill a nine-inch cake. You can also double it, which is my general advice. Much will be lost to tasting while frosting.

I like to refrigerate the cake, and serve it just slightly chilled. It is also worth making a tester so that you can shove the warm frosting down your gullet on the back of a warm, tiny cake.

The Roast Post

Art by Chris Roberts-Antieau

My grandmother, Suzanne Simonin Potter, or as I call her, Grandma Sue, has slowly but surely declined into dementia over the course of the last decade. While lacking short-term memory, she has no difficulty identifying Gima when we look through family photos. “That’s my mother-in-law!” is the usual exclamation that accompanies a Gima sighting. I am fortunate to have a few original copies of At Home on the Range, including Grandma Sue’s. Gima inscribed the book in her distinctive hand: “For Susie so that she need never hear again about how ‘mother used to cook’!” It was the only cookbook to grace her kitchen. 

Grandma Sue’s copy is well used, if not necessarily well loved. The linen boards long ago parted from their binding; the end papers are covered in my grandmother’s careful, copperplate notes. POT ROAST, p. 34, is underlined in pencil. Gima’s accompanying introduction describes it as my grandfather’s favorite, so it makes sense that this, of all recipes, received Grandma Sue’s dutiful attention. The corner is folded over; the pages are splattered. These are telltale signs of good eating to come. 

My grandfather, Grampa Shel, was a career naval officer, and much of At Home on the Range was written while he was at sea during WWII. While Gima herself says, “we’re not…a sentimental family”, Pot Roast à la mode Sentimentale is the closest she comes to sentimental in any of her writing. This pot roast makes me a bit sentimental, too. Unlike my cousin Liz, I didn’t grow up on Gima’s food. It doesn’t evoke homey memories of family dinners and reminiscences of our shared great grandmother. The double whammy of Gima’s death and my grandparents’ divorce effectively severed my father—and thus me—from the Potter family for the next thirty years. I suspect that Grandma Sue’s interest in making pot roast died not long after her marriage. Subsequently, my youth was pot-roast free.

I would love to tell you that this pot roast will change your life, or bring your youngster home safe from the war, as Gima seems to have believed. I think the strength of this pot roast isn’t so much the unique flavor as the memories that Gima and each subsequent generation has come to equate it with. It is hard to go wrong when you soak meat in good wine, brown it in fat, and cook the crap out of it.

My greatest culinary interest in Gima’s pot roast was her direction to brown the meat in suet. I knew of suet only as those odd white blocks covered in seed that you’re supposed to put outside for tiny birds in need of bulking up. Tiny birds in Baltimore steal puffer jackets from preemies, so there’s no need for it here. I found “beef kidney suet” in a corner of the Wegman’s frozen foods section that I had overlooked on my 8000 previous visits. It was cheap and disturbing looking. Turns out, suet is the fat surrounding the kidney. How unpleasant.

What to do with this giant, foul blob of hard fat resembling Spock’s pained alien friend, the horta? Mind melding with the suet didn’t work, so I went with Google. I decided that grating it was going to be nasty, and opted for rendering. I stuck it in a saucepan, turned it on low, and hoped for the best. It took a good thirty minutes for all of the fat to melt away from the remaining bits of sinew? Cartilage? Vein? I don’t know, and don’t want to know. I tipped those gray bits down the disposal and ground them up. Gima probably had some recipe, somewhere, that made good use of those cow nubbins for marmalade or a meat paste.

I poured the melted suet, now tallow, into an ice cube tray, calling to mind a 1970s family craft night of candle making, and reserved Gima’s requested four ounces for browning. And brown I did. The resulting smell of the suety Maillard reaction was so tantalizing, in fact, that I thought, “Why not brown the vegetables, too?” Well, here’s why: dumping cold, slightly damp vegetables into boiling hot kidney fat results in a greasy splatter which will blister and burn whatever exposed flesh is nearby. Two weeks later, I am still picking flakes of scorched skin from my forearm. But my pot roast suet burn is one little connection to a Potter past I once longed for, and leads me to wonder what might have been.

The Bread Also Rises. Sometimes.

Art by Mark Weber

The Potter hesitancy to tackle things that don’t come naturally portends a life free from ball-related sports, successful marriages, long-term employment, and, in my case, yeast-dependent baked goods. My bread never, ever rises. Practice might make perfect, but we Potters wouldn’t know. I simply haven’t bothered trying to make bread in the last thirty years or so.

According to my father, Sheldon Potter IV, Potters have a predisposition for bread making. Dad spent a significant amount of time in Gima’s kitchen as “the beater and the whupper”—“whupper” being the technical term for the performer of a variety of kitchen duties such as pounding meat, sifting flour, and kneading dough.

My father, all Potter, flunked out of college on his first run-through. But that didn’t keep him from a number of interesting jobs. Prior to my birth, he served as cameraman for a local television variety program, The Jeanne Carnes Show, in Erie, Pennsylvania. On one episode he was called from behind the camera to demonstrate the art of Swiss braided egg bread to a rather hefty woman in a muumuu. Hearing of his appearance on television led me to make two (erroneous) assumptions: first, that my dad was a world-famous bread-baker; second, that being his daughter, I would also be a natural at bread baking.

I was not similarly gifted. At eight years old, I lacked both an understanding of yeast chemistry and the upper body strength to effectively knead dough. My efforts resulted in hard, flat, inedible oblongs. My father did not attempt to instruct me in the error of my ways. Glancing at my unleavened results, he instead made a biting comment along the lines of “how kind of you to think of your Israelite brethren during Passover” before sliding back under his Lotus Europa. Thus endeth Adventures with Yeast.

Fast-forward some thirty years, and the reissue of At Home on the Range. The time had come for me to face my foe. I thought “if anyone can get me through bread making 101, Gima can.” I scooped, I sifted, I kneaded for the “ten minutes” Gima demanded—I even timed it!—and was pleased to end up with the “satin-smooth elastic mass” she promised. Had Gima been alive to advise me, I feel she would have also divulged that, for a woman in her forties, vigorously kneading bread undoubtedly results in tremendously sweaty breasts. (Note to anyone whose 36Cs are now a 40 long: don’t bother showering before bread making.) As it turns out, Gima’s bread recipe will rise to the exact top of Yellow Bowl. I took it as a very promising sign.

I decided I would try my hand at Gima’s dinner rolls and cinnamon buns, too. Actually, the decision was basically made for me—her recipe yields four loaves and I only own two loaf pans. Why not transform it into other things, which is exactly what she tells me to do? So only half the dough went into bread pans, where it rose beautifully, covered, on the top of my 250° range.

Gima’s dinner rolls could not be any easier. She instructs you to take your bread dough and roll it into balls “the size of an English walnut.” I wasn’t sure what made a walnut “English” (I hoped that American ingenuity hadn’t morphed our version of the walnut into a supersized monster). In the end, I went with something resembling a golf ball. I bathed the golf balls in melted butter, and nestled their golden bottoms in concentric circles in a cake pan. This turned out to be an excellent decision. The cake pan was the perfect size and, after baking, the dinner rolls simply pulled away from their buttery brethren without anguish at the filial loss. And Gima’s direction to slightly underbake and then reheat at dinnertime was spot on.

As for Gima’s cinnamon buns, which I fashioned from the remaining dough, they rose like champions, rallied by the addition of fats and sugar. I’m hard pressed to think of a baked good not improved by the addition of a nut, so I added a cup of chopped, toasted pecans to the interior of my jellyroll.

While I was burbling about with these other yeasty distractions, something happened to my loaves. Whereas they were once gloriously overflowing their pans,  now they were deflated. In my heart, I knew that I had once again flunked bread. I baked the sunken loaves anyway, and felt myself to be a soulless disappointment to my dead great grandmother when I removed them, still flat, from the oven. But the bread smelled good, and after eight hours, I was damn hungry, and needed fortification to face the mountain of dishes. Oh Gima, I am the girl you think I am—I cut off a hunk, slathered it in butter, and munched away happily.

Art by Alex Fine


For the past eight years, a large, yellow, earthenware bowl has been cluttering up my precious kitchen space. It’s really quite crappy. It’s not so much yellow as a dingy ochre, with two long cracks and a hefty chip. For a while, I used it to hold fruit. But as someone who lives in constant danger of scurvy, this resulted in unsurprising neglect of Yellow Bowl and its contents. Many times I thought of just getting rid of the damn thing, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Yellow Bowl survived namely because it once belonged to my great grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter, known to the family as Gima. Kitchen implements were my sole connection to a woman I never knew, and knew very little of.

Growing up, I had a great grandmother, but it wasn’t Gima. Marie married my great grandfather, Gia, six years after Gima’s untimely death in 1955. Marie was a tall, practical, Victory gardener who liked to smoke a pipe after dinner. She was intimidating but inspiring to a shy little girl with a ferocious imagination. Marie’s first husband had been in the British Diplomatic Corps, and they had lived in exotic locales that still bore their colonial names in her English-accented conversations. Early exposure to her collection of tiny Siamese opium weights and brass Buddhas gave me a taste for adventure. As I traveled the world, I wrote to and thought of Marie, and a mutual fondness and understanding developed. When Marie died, at the house she and Gia had shared for decades, her daughter Priscilla invited me to Rehoboth to claim my Potter heritage. 

 It’s important to understand that I’m the last of the Potter line. The death of my brother Jeffrey and my own disinclination to make use of my ovaries for their intended purpose (“purely decorative” cousin Liz would say) has ensured that the race is at an end. The family name dies out with me, unless feline offspring count. 

But back to the stuff. Priscilla, in a spirit of generosity and kindness that still amazes me, offered me everything in the house at 4 Sherbrooke Road that had belonged to Gia and Gima. Having finally adopted some of Marie’s practicality, I didn’t abscond with the lot—just the kitchen. Priscilla took pains to tell me about Yellow Bowl, and that my “real” great grandmother had used it for everything. And that most of the things in the kitchen, really, had been Gima’s. I returned to Maryland in a U-Haul laden with some furniture made by Gia, a few choice books, a charming statue of Ganesh, a picnic basket laden with various cherry pitters, meat grinders, and melon ballers, and Yellow Bowl.

Those kitchen implements have plagued me for years. Although a sous chef for a time in my twenties, the work of my thirties, as an historian, allowed little time for balling melons or grinding meat. So they took up space, and their tendency to become attached to the item I did want from the utensil drawer—spatula, measuring spoon, thermometer—vexed me. And by vexed I mean ranting, expletive-filled tantrums that involved me vigorously shaking apart a utensil snake ball while I wondered for the thousandth time “why don’t you just throw this shit out, Alexa?” That is until I reread Gima’s cookbook, At Home on the Range, for the first time since Marie presented me with a copy as a teenager. I realized that useful picnic basket with the old bottle opener tied to it had seen countless outings to the shore and the boat, full of the meat pastes, pickled things, and iced beer bottles she describes in such loving prose. And then I came to the chapter on baking, and Yellow Bowl appeared. It turns out that Yellow Bowl is actually quite famous, and older than I could have guessed. It seems he did service in Gima’s grandmother’s kitchen, and that young Gima waited impatiently to lick it dry of batter over a century before I thought of eighty-sixing him because he struck me as ugly and awkward.

From there began a love affair with Yellow Bowl, and the cherry pitter, and the meat grinder, and any and all things Gima. Over the next few months, Yellow Bowl and I will take you on a journey through Gima’s recipes and her life, with help from other charming members of the Gilbert and Potter families. Many wonderful artists will also contributing each week, offering their interpretations of Gima and her recipes. 

Please join us.

Welcome to the family—

Alexa Potter