Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A couple of Sundays ago I came across the recipe for gingerbread that Mary Hayes ran in her Around Aspen column in the weekly paper and thought, “Gingerbread! Now there’s an idea for a chilly Sunday afternoon ” gingerbread with lemon sauce.”
As I began amassing the ingredients, I noted that the recipe did not call for ginger in any form and, remembering the time I left the flour out of my annual Christmas cookie column, decided to go to the source: Mary Hayes’ book, “Aspen Potpourri”The People, Places and Food of Aspen.”
There I indeed found a half teaspoon of ginger in the gingerbread recipe and, as it baked in the stove, I began leafing through the pages of “Aspen Potpourri,” then found myself going to the beginning and reading it straight through.
Although I use “Aspen Potpourri” as a reference book for recipes for serviceberries and other local fauna, it had been nearly two decades (the updated edition came out in 1990, the original in 1968 ” I have both) since I had read it cover to cover, and it had ripened with age into a whimsical history of the good old days, the photos of the people and places (alas, many of them now gone) alone worth the price.
The recipes from the early edition reflect the times: calling for margarine or even (gasp) lard, canned ingredients since so few fresh ones were available, condensed milk, “wine” spoken of generically in that gallon-of-Gallo pre-gourmet era, double-boilers suggested often, something rarely found in homes today.
Recipes for crabapples and rhubarb abound, both as common as weeds in town in the ’60s, as do those for wild game (a staple in the early Aspen diet), including a couple for sausage-making (buy your hog casings ” intestines ” at the local market).
The recipes are often as casual as the populace back then: stir ingredients and bake (how long? What temperature?). Throw in this, throw in that, whatever you have at hand. “Spaghetti for a whole bunch of people,” by the late local artist Bert Cross. “Potage garbage,” which recommends saving all vegetable and meat scraps, including bones from plates, to be used as a soup stock, by Pat Dasko, one of our earliest PR people.
Included are tips for making your own sun hats, pressing and planting wildflowers, Art Pfister on water-witching and, my favorite: how to build a humane mouse trap by cutting four slices across the plastic top of a coffee can, set books next to the can for the mouse to use as stairs, place a piece of cheese in the center and, when the mouse falls in, gently relocate it.
Interspersed with these 250 photos, profiles and recipes of locals are photographs of old Victorians, details of doorways and gables, amateur local rodeos and the massive sheep runs through downtown Aspen on their way to and from summer pasture.
I was drowning in nostalgia by the time I finished reading “Aspen Potpourri,” loving the spirit of those true mavericks (McCain and Palin, my ass), saddened that so many have gone on ahead and that those who are left are in varying states of decrepitude, even the youngsters in the photographs turning the corner into their 50s.
It flies by so fast, and this book is a snapshot of Aspen in motion. I don’t know how many copies Mary Hayes has left, but you can still order it if you call her at 925-7127.
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Though many are fatigued from the pandemic, rules for health and safety must be followed even more closely as winter approaches.