I was thinking about the dishes home cooks make, in particular the ones everyone acknowledges as “the best.” My sister-in-law’s butter-and-sugar laden “Mrs. Lemke’s cookies,” say, or my friend Josefa’s lasagna. In any age, I’m sure you could have found women with similar expertise if you just asked around.
If we were to travel back to 1663 New Amsterdam, walk down the moonlit streets, knock on the right door, we could find the most delectable stroopwafels in the community, or the most succulent hutspot. The stew in every household on the street might be just average, but Margaret had worked hers up into a simmering, steaming, savory confection of potatoes and carrots and turnips and beef. It would be the best you ever tasted, sitting around the fire in the half dark, listening to the wind whistle outside the window panes.
The only problem is getting there.