Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fiddleheads and Spoon Bread

When I was a girl I went to Charlestown Day Camp in Pennsylvania which was run by Betty Stonorov, Miss Betty to us, wife of the famous architect, Oscar Stonorov. My mother attended the camp when she was a girl and my grandmother taught at Charlestown Play School so by the time I got there, Betty was in her 80's. It didn't matter though, she still rode around in a beat up old yellow jeep wearing a straw hat and denim skirts. She greeted us every morning, could be seen bumping around the fields during the day and saw us, sunburned and smiling, home in the afternoon.

The camp was on her own property, a big modern house at the top. It was filled with paintings and sculptures by famous modern artists and taxidermied animals from safari trips to Africa. It was the one place we were not allowed. Beyond the house there were woods, cow fields and a creek that divided the boys and girls sides and aside from a daily swimming lesson in Miss Betty's spring fed pool there were very few rules or schedules. We were free to roam. It was progressive in every way and those of us who attended or worked there were deeply devoted to the values of the camp.

We fished, played with knives, wandered through the woods playing make believe, rescued baby bunnies, captured unassuming turtles, swung from ropes into the creek and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the shade of our tents. We made root beer and ice cream, dream catchers and gimp bracelets and we put on wild and hilarious plays in the woods every Friday afternoon. 

We were gamblers and maniacs, princesses and fire builders, cow paddy jumpers and a generally muddy, sticky explosion of joy and childhood. I can't remember anyone ever getting in trouble and if they did, the counselors had enough sense to not let one person's mistakes take away the freedoms of everyone else.

Yesterday when I was in the grocery store, I saw a basket of bright, shiny fiddleheads and they reminded me of summer camp, fresh, young and wild, about to spring open, just like we kids back at Charlestown.

I had never had fiddleheads before so after a little research I decided to saute them in olive oil with lots of garlic and fresh herbs. They were delicious.

Chris and I were in the mood for green vegetables and beans last night so I cooked them up three ways and made Deborah Madison's recipe for spoon bread from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, with fresh farmer's market eggs and milk. deborahmadison.com

Thanks Miss Betty, this one's for you.

2 handfuls of fiddleheads 
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. chopped basil and parsley
1 tbs. olive oil

Saute the garlic for a minute or two in the olive oil over medium heat. Wash the fiddleheads well and rub off any brown fuzz. Add them to the garlic and toss around for about six or seven minutes until tender. Add the herbs and some salt, saute a minute longer and serve.

Green Beans
2 handfuls green beans
1 tsp. rendered bacon fat
1 shallot, minced

Wash and trim the beans cutting them in half on a bias. Saute the shallots over medium heat for a few minutes in the bacon fat until they begin to get soft. Add the beans and toss around. I like to add about a tbs. of water and cover the pan with a lid to let them steam for a minute. Remove the lid and cook a minute more until tender. 

1 bunch asparagus

Wash and snap off the bottoms of the asparagus spears. Cut into bite size pieces and steam until tender. Toss in butter and squeeze some lemon on top.

Spoon Bread by Deborah Madison
3/4 cup fine stone-ground white or yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
salt and freshly milled white pepper is savory
4 tbs. butter, cut into chunks
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup of milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart souffle or other baking dish. Stir the cornmeal, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt together, then add the butter and pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over all. Stir to break up any lumps, then let stand until the butter is melted. Add the eggs and milk, pour into the baking dish, and bake until puffed, golden and set, 45-50 minutes. Serve hot.


  1. Oh splendid! Those richly green fiddleheads absolutely delight me. :-)

  2. Erica, I cried while reading this aloud just now! You are such a gifted writer!! I remember the times too....Thank you.

  3. I saw some fiddleheads in Kimberton Whole Foods and thought immediately of you, Erica. I've always been intrigued but never made the plunge...I bought some to try tonight!