Monday, 17 August 2009

Smidgens of Family Wisdom

Last summer we were in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina and were introduced to Ferrell and Becky Shuford by our amazing hosts, Hugh and Bambi MacRae. As we spent most of the holiday swimming, it was a treat to be invited for a sail on the Shuford’s yacht. Hugh had told me that he wasn’t sure how old Becky was but she seemed extraordinarily youthful and this I can confirm. She is also very pretty. (Ferrell, you’re not so bad yourself!)
[Photo by Freda]

As I relaxed in the cockpit with the sun on my face and the salt breeze in my hair, Becky was all over the boat trimming the sails, keeping us ship shape. The Shufords spent many years ocean racing and she was a formidable foredeck hand.

Now as a grandmother, Becky has looked back over a fulfilling family life and pulled together a number of threads that are important to her in Smidgens – Bits & Pieces of a Southern Family’s Life. I have just received my copy.

Woven into anecdotes from her life is her gentle faith-based philosophy, advice on a happy marriage (‘share domestic tasks’), bringing up children, running a household and, most importantly, her love of entertaining.

Isn’t this picture great of her as a newly wed/novice cook and I love the anecdote about inviting her brother and his wife for an evening meal. Working full-time as a teacher she decided on a simple supper of her mother’s wonderful vichyssoise, hot herb bread and, wait for it, prune cake. Becky only found out years later why her brother turned down a second helping of soup. He was waiting for the entrée. It made them both laugh.

Since then her entertaining became more varied, more appropriate to family high days and holidays and more sophisticated.

Her formal table setting

I have been drooling over the good old-fashioned recipes and there are dozens of them. But let’s have that Vichyssoise:

4 leeks or 1 ½ cup chopped onion
3 cups peeled chopped potatoes
3 cups strained chicken stock or 3 bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups water
3 tablespoons Chicken fat, butter or margarine
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 tsp salt
About 1 tsp white pepper

Chop washed leeks and about 3 inches of their green tops into small pieces. Boil leeks and potatoes in stock from which fat has been skimmed until very tender (about 40 mins). Without draining, blend until smooth. Add fat, cream, milk, salt and pepper. Reheat in top of double boiler to blend flavors.

Vichyssoise should be thicker than the average cream soup and served thoroughly chilled, garnished with minced chives. In winter you may choose to serve hot, garnished with paprika.
Serves 6

One of the reasons I love the book's cover is the washing line! Since I don't own a tumble drier it gladdens my heart to see a line full of clothes billowing in the wind. It also appeals to my inner Mrs. Tiggywinkle: I mostly love doing the laundry. It is about my only domestic accomplishment. For that reason I was ecstatic that in her chapter on ironing, Becky described the production of a fragrant, pressed masterpiece of a shirt on a hanger. It had been washed, liquid starched (yes!) line dried, sprinkled with water and then rolled into a ball to allow an even dampness for pressing. Yes, again! Call me old-fashioned but that's how I do it (when I'm in the mood).

Smidgens is privately published and edited by Ferrell Shuford MD who admits that helping his wife put this book together has been one of the greatest sources of pleasure since his retirement.
To order a copy for $25 (including shipping in the USA) contact Boatshu Publisher, 2602 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403-4037


  1. She looks marvelous.
    Years ago, there were a few of us who would gather for soup and salad.
    We somehow stopped, but this reminded me of our soup luncheons.

  2. Ah! the South, Come back Rose. I think every woman of the era-my mother included has a number of kitchen action shots in her look book.That one is my favourite. Thanks for the peep into this labor of love. la

  3. Such loveliness. One of the things I have noticed as I age (almost 60) is that men can really get sweetness about them as they take on retirement's new opportunities. All that pumped up Y chromosome gets to take a rest. The now sweet doctor's comments on the cookbook case in point. Sail on to new horizons with tasty results!

  4. Thanks all for great comments.Becky certainly does embody those old-fashioned values that we need to hold on to still. . Not sure about the state of the doctor's Y chromosomes but I can vouch for his sweetness!

  5. To put the record straight, sweet is not actually the appropriate word to describe Dr Ferrell Shuford. He is kind and charming but still robust, oh yes. We need not speculate further on the Ys and wherefores.

  6. I was riding on the bus this week, sitting behind a woman with the most crisp, perfectly ironed white shirt - it was so hot and humid, and yet she looked immaculately cool - it must MUST have been liquid starched! am ordering my copy anon - I need more than a smidgen...perhaps there will be "Truckloads" as a sequel? EEE

  7. It's hard to find the kind of starch you boil up these days and it takes a bit of practice but it's worth it. And then the crumpling of the crisp linen.. like the withering of a rose, perhaps!


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