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Shot in the Kitchen: Sue Clancy
Dublin Coddle, Irish Coffee and Mason Jar Moments
By now, you’ve probably noticed that the original Cook & Tell newsletter was not just about recipes. Each issue was chock-full of small bites in cleverly titled sections like Chocolate ChitChat, Cook It Easy, The Real Meal and The Men in MENu.
As her readership grew over the years, Mom’s subscribers often mailed in photos of themselves in their kitchens. And in those non-digital days of stamps and instamatic cameras, Mom would create a word snapshot of the reader and their kitchen for her Shot in the Kitchen feature.
I’m excited to revive Cook & Tell’s “Shot in the Kitchen” section, a cyberspace reincarnation of sorts, with a deeper dive into my readers’ lives. This month features Sue Clancy, an author and artist who also loves to cook. Sue publishes “A.M. Sketching,” an (almost) daily dose of whimsical drawings and musings from her sketchbook.
Sue calls her morning habit of sketching while having coffee and breakfast “a fun, lighthearted way to wake up.” And it’s led to national and international fine art exhibits and illustrations for publication.
With animal characters, most often dogs or cats, she playfully explores the concepts of time, food, nature and human culture, and—my personal favorite—her recipes for dinner.
Cook & Tell’s Shot in the Kitchen cub reporter (ahem…me) asked Sue a few questions about creativity, cooking, her kitchen (naturally), and her St. Patty’s Day dinner plans. Check it out!
You’ve mentioned that cooking complements your creative process. What’s your favorite dish to cook? Do you bake?
In my mind cooking and creativity have similarities to each other; both are about loving and making connections. Also, in both life and creativity, things sometimes simply need to "cook a while" on the back burner. When I'm in the midst of creating fine art, I find I often need to sleep on it, or do something else, like cook a meal, and let my unconscious mind work in the background on my creative projects.
My favorite dishes to cook resemble this "let it cook" remark: I like easy-to-cook soups, stews, sauces or bean and grain bowls that can be assembled and allowed to cook on their own with minimal attention. I also like making dishes that can taste better as leftovers and/or can be creatively recombined so that the leftovers have variety. When I cook, I make use of stovetop stock pots, electric rice cookers, clay olla pots, Dutch ovens and slow cookers - whatever devices that enable me to throw ingredients in and go to my studio!
I don't do much baking. My wife, Judy, is the baker in our family. Typically, I'll cook the stew and she'll bake bread to go with it. I'll make the gravy and she'll make the biscuits. I'll make a sauce and she'll make the pasta. Playing in the kitchen together is both functional and fun!
In your recent newsletter, you wrote about how sketchbooks and notebooks become a “Mason jar of mental moments,” and how your sketchbook hatched a family cookbook and recipe postcards. Tell us a little more about those projects.
For decades I've been keeping topical sketchbooks: travel or recipe related sketchbooks as a way of collecting and cherishing our daily life together as a couple. The sketchbook of recipes are food dishes that my wife and I both like, recipes that are reliable and for which we usually already have the ingredients. I started keeping the small, 3 x 5-inch, kitchen sketchbook because it makes answering the "what's for dinner" question easier. But because I'm me, and I associate food with memories, sometimes on the sketchbook page with the recipe I'd write feelings, memories or stories related to the food. It's a way of collecting, a "Mason jar" full of both recipes and related experiences. Memorable, collectable, moments happen every day if I remember to look for them.
For the 2019 holiday season my wife and I selected recipes from my various kitchen sketchbooks and reproduced them in a book we call Favorites So Far which we gave as holiday gifts to family members. In early 2020 we had planned to do a slow book release, a wider share, about the book to our friends and then to the general public. But the pandemic happened, and everything was on hold.
Then, still in 2020, a chef friend of mine, Bernadette Laganella, who writes the blog New Classic Recipes, asked me for my magic beans recipe cooked in a clay olla. I gave my recipe and also shared how learning about cooking magic beans during my college years got me started keeping a kitchen sketchbook—a concept I continued later in life after I met my wife.
In the course of our conversation about beans, Bernadette encouraged me to make recipe postcards from my sketchbook. So, I did! My wife and I have had such fun, since beginning in 2020, sending our recipes, aka love, out via snail mail! You can see the postcards and get them here.
What’s on your St. Patrick’s Day menu?
Both my wife and I have some Irish in our heritage, so our St Patrick's Day starts out leisurely with at least one Irish Coffee.
During or shortly after breakfast I start the Dublin Coddle. Once the meat is browned, the assembled stew cooks slowly on low heat for hours. Have another Irish coffee; the longer the Coddle cooks the better!
I've cooked Dublin Coddle in a Dutch Oven put into the electric oven. I've cooked it in a cast-iron pot outdoors over coals. I've also cooked it in an electric slow cooker. This is an unbelievably flexible and forgiving recipe that's cooked according to taste, preferences and whatever ingredient amounts desired! I learned this recipe from an art gallery owner in Wexford, Ireland—see the story below, in the recipe itself.
Dublin Coddle is yummy on non-holiday days, too, and if you make it, I hope you'll enjoy it! Besides Irish Coffee or shots of whiskey, the Coddle also goes well with beer.
So please lift your drink for this traditional Irish toast: To all the days here and after, may they be filled with fond memories, happiness and laughter…