Back when the group did Irish Soda Bread, my nieces and I watched a clip of the episode of Baking with Julia that featured Marion Cunningham baking soda bread and popovers. The girls immediately said that they wanted to try the popovers next, but we ran out of time that round and moved on to other projects.
So, I’m not surprised to see these popovers come up in the rotation so soon. I think a lot of us watched that video clip and wanted to try our own favourite spreads on those pillowy-looking popovers.
J was set to write this week’s post, but she didn’t have the opportunity before she went off on a family vacation. I want to share what she said about the recipe, though:
“I have wanted to make these since I started Baking with Julia. it was probably the easiest recipe so far, because all you have to do is put the ingredients in a blender. Amazing and fluffy when they came out of the oven, I quickly put some raspberry jam on mine and ate it.”
It happened that quickly for all of us. As soon as the popovers came out of the oven, we started pulling out butter, jams, and marmalades. Everyone chose their favourite spread and tore into a popover. Just like that, almost the entire batch was gone. (There were several of us there. Really.) The two that were set aside for the photo were eaten later in the day – a few seconds in the microwave brought back all of their goodness. Thanks, TwD – it was an excellent idea to choose an easy and delicious project to motivate bakers in the heat of summer.
There is, however, another reason that this recipe was chosen relatively soon after the Irish Soda Bread. Marion Cunningham passed away last month and the Baking with Julia group wanted to pay her tribute.
The popover may be a simple recipe, but it’s significant in relation to Cunningham because it’s so emblematic of what she tried to promote throughout her cooking career – learning the skills to cook and enjoy food at home doesn’t have to be difficult. She’s famous, of course, for revising the Fanny Farmer Cookbook in the early seventies and her work helped lay the groundwork for a renaissance of scratch cooking and baking.
This quotation cited in the Washington Post’s obituary for Cunningham sums up her motivation:
“We are living motel lives,” she once told the Chronicle. “The idea of sitting down to dinner is being lost in the rush. No one is cooking at home anymore, so we are losing all the wonderful lessons we learn at the dinner table. And the memories of the past tell us who we are and where we’re from. It carries us into the future.”
It’s also a good expression of why we joined this baking group. Cooking and eating together, sharing skills and learning new ones, is the antithesis of motel living. Our culture may have finally caught up with Cunningham, but should never forget the debt it owes her, and Julia Child, too.