About Becky Goldsmith

I am a quilt designer/teacher/author, a wife/mother/grandmother, and certified yoga instructor who is searching for balance, strength, and happiness in all things.

Cookbook Obsession: The Beginning

[Note: this is a guest post from my son, Christopher.]

Let’s start with two recipes from Rare Collection: Superb Recipes by The Junior League of Galveston County (1985)—one for moussaka and one for brisket.

photo of a two-page cookbook spread, with recipes for moussaka, deluxe cherry brisket, and steak marchand de vin

This cookbook originally belonged to Lorna’s maternal great-grandmother, and then to Lorna’s mom, Judy, and then to Lorna who took it when she moved out of her parents’ house. She’s cooked a variety of things from it over the years, but particularly the moussaka—most recently last December, which is when I first noticed the brisket recipe on the opposite page.

Season brisket with soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Okay, sure. Sprinkle Lipton onion soup mix, rosemary, caraway seed & celery seed onto brisket. Initially, the soup mix threw me off, but it’s basically a spice mix, so whatever. It’s the last step—where you put the drippings from the brisket into the bottom of a pan, layer the (cold) sliced brisket on top of it, and dump a can of cherry pie filling on top before baking the whole mess another half hour or so—that caught my attention in a wtf kind of way.

That recipe, and browsing through other recipes in the book as Lorna cooked, sparked a new obsession for me. I ordered a few other used Junior League cookbooks that evening (Dallas, Palo Alto, and Colorado), and several others in the following weeks. And more since: I have a cookbook called The Melting Pot: Ethnic Cuisine in Texas, which was compiled by UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures. My mom picked up a stack of cookbooks at a garage sale several weeks ago, including two that were evidently fundraisers for the Sherman School Food Service Association. I found a bunch at an antique mall in Denison last weekend, but only came home with four, ranging from a long-defunct Dallas restaurant to an RV park in Harlingen, Texas.

I’m still trying to figure out what’s behind my interest in these cookbooks, but I think a big thing is a curiosity about how recipes travel and change over time, and from context to context and kitchen to kitchen. I plan to write a guest post here once a week or so—look for one on braised celery next—but I’ll also be writing at inscrutable.substack.com, if you want to follow along in more depth. In the coming months, I’ll be putting out calls for favorite family recipes, as well as variations on particular themes. I look forward to hearing from y’all!

Wednesday Giveaway Winner – Pam Wilkerson!

Applique Stitchery by Jean Ray Laurie is one of my all-time favorite books. It was published in 1966 and it is a delightful reflection of the time then—and it is still relevant today. The book is out of print, but Judy Fine had a spare copy and she gave it to me to share with one of you! The random number generator has chosen Pam Wilkerson to receive this book for her collection!

I showed this book in the Time Out below…

I’ll be back with another Giveaway next Wednesday. Until then you can shop for all sorts of sewing notions, books, and other fun stuff at pieceocake.com!

Fun family projects…

We had a torrential rain last week that caused a room to flood at Chris and Lorna’s. The water poured onto a small deck and into Judy’s apartment and it had to be fixed. I love this sort of DIY project and, happily, I got to help Chris with it! (Steve is recovering from minor abdominal surgery so was not allowed to help this time.)

The physical labor was just hard enough to get our attention but not so hard as to make us give up. My favorite part was thinking about how to get a lot of water to flow quickly away from the house. It took two of us to sort it out and it meant altering the deck and installing a new French drain. Fingers and toes are crossed that it works :-).

Now I’ll go back to the digging up of the Bermuda and nut grass in Chris and Lorna’s side yard. There’s about a 6′ x 6′ section left and I hope I can finish in 2-3 weeks. I don’t have much to do in my own yard and I am in the mood for outdoor work—and it’s good to be busy :-).

I did something crazy…

I did something crazy, on purpose, just for you, so that I could share this learning experience. I will post this on the blog in a few days. Here we go:

Do you remember the two Spring Bling quilts I made for my class with MJ Kinman? The one on the left has turned-edge machine appliqué and I used glue to hold the seam allowances in place. I used SoftFuse for the large raw-edge applique shapes in the quilt on the right.

The fabric came from my stash and I prewashed all of it sometime in the past. There are a lot of hand dyes in these quilts and I didn’t test the fabric before making the quilts because I was lazy. The blue quilt really needed to be washed to get the glue out. The red quilt needed to be washed because I wanted to see how the SoftFuse would look after washing.

This is where the crazy starts…

I put the red quilt in my washer with 3 white dish towels (not good ones), 1 Color Catcher, and 1 TBLS of Orvus Paste (because I have a huge jar of it) and 3 teaspoons of Retayne mixed in water. I chose Retayne in the hopes that it would fix the dyes. It did not as you can see in the photo on the left.

TIP: Do not let the quilt dry at this point!
Wash #2: 2 Color Catchers, plus 1 TBLS Orvus Paste and 3 teaspoons of Synthrapol mixed in water, added to the washer, washing in hot water. The dark pink you see in the photo above, right, is one of the Color Catchers. I moved on to washes #3, #4, and #5 using the same washing products in hot water—the white fabric got cleaner with each wash.

Five washes had taken enough out of the quilt and the white looked good so I placed the quilt face up on towels on my table to dry. I checked it every 10-15 minuted to be sure none of the color was bleeding.

I was not done tempting fate…

The blue quilt still needed to be washed. This was harder for me because there is a lot more work in this one but, at this point, it felt like a science experiment. I used the same mix of Color Catchers, Orvus, and Synthrapol in hot water…

The Color Catchers picked up some dye but the fabrics all looked good. Amazing! I laid it on more towels next to the Sunrise quilt, kept an eye on both as they dried, and eventually turned a fan on them.

TIP: Do not re-use Color Catchers, even if they look white. The chemicals are gone.
Washing changed the quilts. The texture of the quilting is more prominent. Five washes in hot water had an effect on the colors in the red Sunrise Bling quilt, the colors in the blue quilt look about the same as they did before.

What are the important take-aways?

  • If you care deeply about the quilt you are making, test wash your fabrics before you begin!!!!
  • Do not start washing late in the day because it could take longer than you think.
  • Wash with Color Catchers and  Synthrapol. The instructions say to use hot water and it makes sense to do what they say works best. And use either Retro Wash, Orvus Paste, or All Free and Clear. You could also try Dawn liquid dish detergent but only use a very tiny bit in your washer. 
  • Do not let the quilt get dry when dye is running.
  • Do not put the quilt into the dryer until you are absolutely certain that colors are not running.
  • Remain calm.
  • Think carefully before you get a quilt wet. I was mentally prepared for the worst outcome so I forged just did it. If you are going to be heartbroken if disaster strikes, it might make sense to live with your quilt the way it is, unwashed.

But what about prewashing fabric?

I have been prewashing my fabric with Retro Wash, Retayne, and Color Catchers—but if the Color Catchers came out with color, I have not been rewashing the fabric. That is not smart and I’ll be washing until the Color Catchers come out clean from now on.

It’s possible that prewashing with Synthrapol rather than Retayne could be a good idea. I am going to think about it. And, from here on out, when using fabric that I know tends to bleed (like red hand dyed fabric!) I will test them before using them in a quilt.

I hope my experience helps you when you wash your next quilt :-).

Show and tell…

Mary Goyeau sent me these photos of her May Basket quilt for show and tell. Mary had never done applique before! I gave a presentation to Great Lakes Heritage Quilters last year, and that got her interested in appliqué. Well done, Mary!

Thank you, Mary, for sharing your quilt and for letting me know that my presentation inspired you :-). Your applique looks good and your quilting stitches are lovely. I hope you continue to enjoy hand applique and quilting. It brings a special kind of happiness to your life.

If you are interested in this digital pattern, click to find May Baskets on my website. This quilt is also in our book, Curl-Up Quilts.

Show and tell…

Renee Medley sent me pictures (and a letter!) in the mail with her show and tell.

She wrote that her mother hand appliquéd this Thru Grandmother’s Window quilt top about 10 years ago but then passed away in 2016 before quilting it. Renee set quilting aside but, during the pandemic, began hand quilting again. This quilt is the 4th that she has finished in 2 years. Wonderful!

Renee, your hand quilting is lovely. I know your mother must be smiling down on you. And what a joy it must be to sleep under. Thank you for sharing your quilt and your story with me. May you continue to have many happy stitches!

Thru Grandmother’s Window was a block of month published many years ago. The downloadable patterns are still available on my website.