Friday, May 11, 2018

Asparagus in Ambush

You may have noticed by now that I love cookbooks, and I’m afraid to count how many I have. Some I inherited, some I’ve sought out, and some just fall into my hands. The latest addition to the collection is a cookbook that I grabbed up from a vendor at Malice Domestic. It’s called Nature Cure Cook Book, by Mrs. Anna Lindlahr and Henry Lindlahr, and it was originally published in 1915.

It’s actually two books in one: the first contains a chapter or two describing the Lindlahrs’ philosophy of food, with a lot of recipes, and the second, shorter one is called The A B C of Natural Dietetics. The two combined make up over 400 pages.

Of course I started by reading the recipes. I was only going to skim that section, but I got sucked in and ended up laughing out loud through much of it. What can you says about recipes named “Dark Surprise Soup” or “Soup—Sanitarium Style” or “Dandelion Mint Salad” or “Asparagus in Ambush”? And that was only a small sample.

I also love the instructions—or in many cases, the lack of instructions. The authors assume you know all the basics of cooking, so they don't bother to explain them, or provide specific amounts of a lot of the ingredients. In the cooking section, soups are stirred “over the fire.” One recipe called for boiling cucumbers for twenty minutes. A recipe for Apple Sauce suggested laying a rose geranium leaf on the bottom of the sauce bowl to add flavor. There are stabs at foreign cuisine such as Hungarian Goulasch (sic), which includes apples; Mexican Pudding, which starts with sliced sweet potatoes (huh?); and Sanitarium Chop Suey (one ingredient is savory protose, which apparently was a canned meat substitute invented by Kellogg). 

Amongst the desserts I came upon what was called “Novel Pudding” which consisted of breadcrumbs, an egg, salt, nutmeg, one cup of butter and two cups asparagus, all steamed for two hours. No explanation of what to do with the asparagus, and you’ll note there’s no sugar or other sweetener in it.

I think it’s safe to say that I will never try most of these recipes. But you have to admire the fervor with which the authors promoted their vegetarian principles, and expressed their deep aversion to meat (the word “morbid” appears frequently when they refer to it).

Oh, you want a recipe? Actually I was kind of intrigued by the Asparagus in Ambush (whose title was not explained), which comes down to finely chopped steamed asparagus in a cream sauce hidden inside hollowed-out biscuits.

24 stalks = 1/2 pound

Asparagus in Ambush


1 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp flour
2 cups [whole] milk
2 eggs
24 stalks asparagus (about a half pound), cut fine and steamed (for only a few minutes)

1 dozen large biscuits or rolls (made or purchased beforehand—I made my own, from a classic Fanny Farmer recipe)

Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, then add the milk and whisk until the ingredients are combined. Add the two eggs, beaten well. Stir over the heat until it thickens. (Like the lovely Lindlahrs, I will assume you know how to make a white sauce.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Gently mix in the steamed asparagus.

Cut the tops off the biscuits or rolls and scoop out the soft insides. Put the biscuits/rolls into a pre-heated oven to crisp (dry them out a bit). 

Remove from the oven and fill them with the asparagus mixture. Put the tops back on and brown them quickly in a hot oven.

Sounds perfect for a ladies lunch, doesn’t it? And you can serve it with barley water or flaxseed lemonade.

Were I to make this again, I think I’d look for softer rolls, perhaps made of brioche dough (although you’d have to crisp them up a bit or you’d end up with a soggy mess) and possibly a bit larger, to accommodate more of the asparagus. 

Believe it or not, this cookbook was reissued as recently as last month. You can find it here. Even if you never use it to cook, it's very interesting reading.

Ah, yes, books. Would you believe I still don't have the final cover for the next Relatively Dead book, Revealing the Dead, coming this month? Soon!

The next book, Murder at the Mansion (the first in the new Victorian Village series) is available for pre-order now!

Katherine Hamilton’s goal in high school was to escape from her dead-end hometown of Asheford, Maryland. Fifteen years later she’s got a degree in hospitality management and a great job at a high-end boutique hotel in Baltimore. Until, that is, the hotel is acquired by a chain, and she’s laid off. When Kate’s high school best friend calls with a mysterious invitation to come talk with the town leaders of Asheford, she agrees to make the trip, curious about where this new opportunity might lead.
Once Kate arrives, the town council members reveal that their town is on the verge of going bankrupt, and they’ve decided that Kate’s skills and knowledge make her the perfect person to fix all their problems. The town has used its last available funds to buy the huge Victorian mansion just outside of town, hoping to use it to attract some of the tourists who travel to visit the nearby Civil War battle sites. Kate has less-than-fond memories of the mansion, for personal reasons, but to make matters worse, the only person who has presented a possible alternate plan is Cordelia Walker—Kate’s high school nemesis.
But a few days later, while touring the mansion, Kate stumbles over Cordelia's body. Kate finds herself in the middle of the murder investigation, and she has to clear her name before she can save her town.

Coming from Minotaur Books on June 26th. You can pre-order it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble now!


  1. Going to try this recipe! Love your books, looking forward to Murder at the Mansion!

  2. Being a cookbook collector myself, but having whittled my collection down to perhaps 200 from well over 1000 books at one time, I know all about finding a fabulous recipe that makes that particular cookbook worth buying. So I understand the lure for a book such as this to peruse and try out a few new things, quirky names and all.
    I have loved all of your series especially your orchard mystery series as it was my first real introduction to reading the next series when I was hooked on Meg and Seth. So it is with much anticipation that I look forward to your new series in July. Murder at the Mansion sounds intriguing for sure especially knowing about your wonderful series before this. Thanks for the chuckles with the recipe titles and I will be awaiting, with joy, for the release in July!

    Cynthia B

    1. Thank you! A thousand cookbooks? I don't think I'm anywhere near that, but maybe 200.

      There are apple recipes in the Nature Cure Cook Book, but I got derails by the apple Sandwich: applesauce and whipped cream on bread. (Although my first real school did serve applesauce and cream cheese sandwiches, which I remember fondly.)

      I may have to do a Victorian kitchen book for the new series!

  3. Older cookbooks are so interesting. "You want me to put what with that?!"
    Enjoy exploring this one.