Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What Women Eat: By a Woman (1922)

I found the article which appears below fascinating for many reasons. The first point of interests is that it was written by a woman (who is unfortunately not named,) although female opinion pieces were uncommon in high-profile newspapers of the time, even on “women’s issues”. The piece is also interesting because it speaks to so many topics which remain current almost a century later, - including gender equity, nutrition choices, dieting, and fat-shaming. I am particularly interested in your comments on this one, folks, so please don’t hold back.

(By a Woman Correspondent.)
While Sir Malcolm Morris is undoubtedly right in saying that some women eat too little, “partly because the pleasures of the table made little appeal to them, and partly because of their instinct for frugality,” he is certainly not right about all. He speaks of the chronic malnutrition of so many girls engaged in business and professional life and the illnesses that result from it. The feeding of women is far more a matter of what they can afford than most men, who like to regard them on certain occasions as a race rather than a sex, would care to admit.
While there are many women of the middle-classes who under-feed because food, in the choice of which and the preparation of which they find the routine of their lives, creates in them a feeling of nausea, the fact that families of this class have suffered so much from depletion of income is the real reason why the housewife denies herself, that there may be more for others – and not because she is frugal by choice. There are an immense number of women in every class of life who would eat more if they could afford it. This has been proved, and is being proved daily. As long as women have not got to choose or handle food they can eat just as heartily as men. The tradition that sugar and spice and everything nice is a feminine failing dies hard even when, as may be seen in the West End any day, numbers of men buy sweet dainties for themselves. The ordinary business woman in the business houses, where she “loves in,” has a solid meat breakfast, a meat meal in the middle of the day, afternoon tea, and a relish with her supper. She can supplement these meals from her own pocket or by parcels from home. When the firm supplies the food, she eats it because she needs it. She likes it, and she does not get any more money if she goes without it. The big drapery firms know this. They feed their girls well, on the whole, and though, as in all routine feeding, there is monotony, the complaints made to the housekeepers of the great hostels are very few.
            It is the girl who lives out who feeds badly; the City girl who is forced to have her lunch at one of the great multiple restaurants, which cook centrally and distribute the food to be reheated later, and where the food is not appetizing nor particularly nourishing. The amount spent by girl who live out has to be carefully balanced from a sum which pays rent, fares, and clothing. It is quite fair to say that, while the City male clerk is paid more than the women, his clothes cost him less, his rent is about the same, and he consequently has more money for food.
            During the war there were two interesting discoveries on the question of feeding. The women’s services, allowing the same rations per woman as the fighting men, found that women could not eat as much meat, and they consequently arranged to exchange art of their meat rations for dried fruits, sardines, and relishes. But the ordinary civilian man did not eat as much in civil life as in khaki. The women, who were in the main doing civilian work at the base, did in many cases eat as much as a civilian man and “filled out” accordingly. They ate it because it was put before them and they gained nothing by going without. During the war also an experiment in feeding working girls, called “Dining Centres, Limited,” was started by Mr. Arnold Glove – a series of restaurants where the working girl was able to get a cut from the joint, two vegetables, a sweet, and a cup of teas for a sum varying from 6d to 8d., which sum would have only given her a very meagre meal in one of the multiple shops. These dining centres actually paid a small dividend and proved not only that the working girl could be given cheap meals, but also that she preferred a good meal to a poor one when she got it for the same money.
            These centres had to be closed with the exception of one or two during the terrible unemployment among women of the past year. Many of the girls who used these restaurants were dismissed or put on half-time, and they could not afford to pay for their meals. Instead those who had half-time brought bread or a sandwich from home and ate it in the streets. Some of them took to the milk lunch, which is not a bad thing, and the West-end dairies had strings of girls at lunch hour having glasses of milk at 2 ½ d. each to go with their bread. On their pay day they usually went elsewehere. But the closing down of “Dining Centres, Limited,” was a proof that the state of a girl’s exchequer and the food she eats are far more closely connected than men critics, whether doctors or publicists, would like to admit.
Women are far more fastidious than men about food, and in the “dieting” in the large schools, the girls demand more frequent changes than the boys, though at the growing ages they are found to eat quite as much. At one large school there is a committee, consisting of a girl from each form, with a mistress as chairman, which hears complaints about food or suggestions for variety. The only starvation that goes on in girls’ schools is among the older classes, where slimness of figure and personal appearance become burning questions, and the naturally plump girl suffers agonies by comparison with sylphs who can eat heartily and not show it by increase of waistline. When voluntary starvation of this kind is detected by the house-mistress it is promptly dealt with.
            A good many women not of the working class pretend, from force of tradition, that they eat very little. When alluding to their fastidious and frail appetites they neglect to say how often they satisfy them. They omit the glass of port and the sandwich at 11 o’clock, which make up for the diminutive portion of grilled kidneys and bacon they had a breakfast; the many times they dive into the “nibbling tins” which are to be found in many boudoirs, the malted milk which they take after the exertion of a walk, and the very hearty tea with savoury as well as sweet sandwiches which they consume midway between lunch and dinner. The nibbling woman often consumes as much in a day as a working man. That she eats many of the wrong things is the reason for her visits to the doctor or to the chemist.

As the recipe offering for the day I give you several examples of sweet sandwiches, which are mentioned in the above article, and which seem to have been quite popular in the 1920’s.

Sweet Sandwiches.
Chocolate Sandwiches.-Stir one and a half tablespoonful of cocoa into two tablespoonsful of hot water and when smooth, add one quarter teaspoonful of
vanilla and one cupful confectioners' sugar. Blend all together well and stir in half a cupful of finely-ground nuts. Spread this paste on thin crustless slices of milk bread and put together in sandwich form, cutting into attractive shapes.
Orange Sandwiches. To one cupful of powdered sugar add two tablespoonsful of orange juice and one teaspoonful of lemon juice. Mix until smooth, then cream into it two tablespoonsful of softened butter. Spread on thin slices of white bread cut into diamond shape.
Cairns Post (Qld.) 17 June 1927

Sweet Sandwiches. American Recipes.
Marzipan: Work together a quarter of a cupful each of ground almonds and powdered sugar, add a pinch of salt, and bind with a very small amount of beaten yolk of egg. Mix to a stiff paste, then add enough thick cream to make the right consistency for spreading. Place between slices of thin white bread and butter and cut into fancy slices.

Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld.) 8 June 1926

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Eight Different Kinds of Drunkards.

On Friday last week I gave you a short extract from a very long article in London Society. An Illustrated Magazine of Light and Amusing Literature for the Hours of Relaxation, published in 1867. I cannot resist giving you a few more paragraphs from the same piece, and hope you find them amusing and interesting.

A treatise might be written upon our ancient drinking customs. What wine-bibbers and beer-bibbers were the Elizabethan swash-bucklers, and the Stuart cavaliers! No thin potations; no half-filled cups for them! In those days he was nobody that could not ' drink superoragulum;' 'carouse the hunter's hoope;' or ' quaff upse freeze crosse.' The satirist Nash gives a curious picture of society in the thirsty Tudor days. He delineates eight different kinds of drunkards, and each must have been sufficiently common to enable him so accurately to detect and describe their humours. ' The first,' he says,' is Ape-drunk, and he leaps and sings, and hollows and dances for the heavens; the second is Lyon-drunk, and he flings the pots about the house, breaks the glass windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrel with any man that speaks to him; the third is Swine-drunk, heavy, lumpish, and sleepy, and cries for a little more drink, and a few more clothes; the fourth is Sheep-drunk, wise in his own conceit when he cannot bring forth a right word ; the fifth is Maudlin-drunk, when a fellow will weep for kindness in the midst of his drink, and kiss you, saying, " By God, captain, I love thee; go thy ways, thou dost not think so often of me as I do of thee: I would (if it pleased God) I could not love thee as I do;" and then he puts his finger in his eye and cries. The sixth is Martin-drunk, when a man is drunk, and drinks himself sober ere he stir; the seventh is Goat-drunk, when in his drunkenness he had no mind but on lechery. The eighth is Fox-drunk, when he is crafty drunk, as many of the Dutchmen be, which will never bargain but when they are drank. All these species, and more, I have seen practised in one company at one sitting; when I have been permitted to remain sober amongst them only to note their several humours.'
To drink super-ragulum, that if, on the rail, is thus explained by Nash: 'After a man has turned up the bottom of his cup, a drop was allowed to settle on the thumb-nail. If more than a drop trickled down, the drinker was compelled to drink again by way of penance.'

As the recipe for the day, may I give you a lovely champagne punch?

Champagne Punch, (Per bottle.)
1 quart bottle of wine,
4 lb. of sugar.
1 orange sliced.
The juice of a lemon.
3 slices of pine apple.
1 wine-glass of raspberry or strawberry syrup. Ornament with fruits in season, and serve in champagne goblets. This can be made in any quantity by observing the proportions of the ingredients as given above. Four bottles of wine make a gallon, and a gallon is generally sufficient for fifteen persons in a mixed party.

How to Mix Drinks, or, The Bon-vivant's Companion (1862) by Jerry Thomas.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Curiosities of Fashion in The Matter of One’s Food.

It is time for a change of topic – I fear that too much more on food words may make some eyes glaze over. I have a nineteenth century piece on fashion in food for you, and I think much of it will resonate with you today, thereby proving that some topics have almost eternal lives and are regularly resurrected or reincarnated at the whim of one or more bored food writers, cooks, or diners.

The article is extremely long, so I have selected the paragraphs that particularly appeal to me. I do feel that the author of the piece in London Society. An Illustrated Magazine of Light and Amusing Literature for the Hours of Relaxation, (Volume 11; 1867) is rather harsh about cooks – but very funny all the same. 

Curiosities of Fashion in The Matter of One’s Food.

FASHION is society's Chancellor of the Exchequer, and fails not to tax the lieges with ingenuity and unrelenting sternness of purpose. … Fashion tempts you to live on a thousand a year when your income is only eight hundred. … Fashion makes you wear a hat that pinches your ample brow, and puts on Amanda’s head a bonnet that does not become her. Fashion tempts you to live on a thousand a year when your income is only eight hundred. …

But perhaps the most personal and humiliating of Fashion's provocations is its interference with our food. Not even the kitchen and the salle à manger are safe from its vexatious intrusion. As sternly as an Abernethy to a dyspeptic patient, it says to society, “This thou shalt eat, and this thou shalt not eat. This dish is vulgar; yonder plat is obsolete; none but the canaille partake of melted butter; only the ignorant immerse their souls in beer.” And changeable as that sex which is supposed to worship it most humbly, Fashion proscribes in 1863 what it sanctioned in 1763; and approves now, what in the days when George III was king - consule planes - it most sternly condemned. The meals which now do (too often) coldly furnish forth the table were regarded with contempt by our great- great-grand fathers. Fancy Sir Roger de Coverley examining a salmi des perdrix or a pâté de foie gras
In like manner the Honourable Fitzplantagenet Smith would regard as 'deuced low' the boar's head that delighted his cavalier ancestor, or the peacock pie that smoked upon Elizabethan boards.

… The great ministers of Fashion, its agents in enforcing its decrees upon unhappy society, have been the cooks - always a potent, a conceited, and, sooth to say, an ignorant fraternity. From the days of Aristoxenes and Archestratus to those of Ude - Ude, who refused four hundred a year and a carriage when offered by the Duke of Richmond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, because there was no Opera at Dublin - from the days of Archestratus to those of Ude, they have studied rather the display of their inventive powers than the laws of physiology and the stomachs f their patrons. Ben Jonson furnishes us with an admirable description of one of these gentry, who are more solicitous about the invention of wonderful novelties than the provision of a wholesome and sufficient dinner :- ' A master cook!' exclaims the poet;

Why, he’s the man of men
For a professor; he designs, he draws,
He paints, he carves, he builds, he fortifies;
Makes citadels of curious fowl and fish.
Some he dry-dishes, some moats around with broths,
Mounts marrow-bones, cuts fifty-angled custards
Tears bulwark pies, and for his outerworks
He raiseth ramparts of immortal crust;
And teacheth all the tactics at one dinner:
What ranks, what files to put his dishes in;
The whole art military. Then he knows
The influence of the stars upon his meats,
And all their seasons, tempers, qualities;
And so to fit his relishes and sauces,
He has Nature in a pot, ‘bove all the chemists
Or airy brethren of the Rosy-Cross.
He is an architect, an engineer,
A soldier, a physician, a philosopher,
A general mathematician!

It is the cooks who are responsible for the untasteful monstrosities and semi-poisonous plâts that still figure in our bills of fare. Just as the cooks of ancient Rome served up to their patrons the membranous parts of the matrices of a sow, the echinus or sea-hedgehog, the flesh of young hawks, and especially rejoiced in a whole pig, boiled on one side and roasted on the other—the belly stuffed with thrushes, and yolks of eggs, and hens, and spiced meats; so the cooks of modern London love to disguise our food with an infinite variety of flavours, until the natural is entirely lost, and the most curious examiner is at a loss to detect the component arts of any particular dish. The ancient cooks, with a vegetable, could counterfeit the shape and the taste of fish and flesh. We are told that a king of Bithynia having, in one of his expeditions, strayed to a great distance from the seaside, conceived a violent longing for a small fish called aphy, either a pilchard, an anchovy, or a herring. His cook was a genius, however, and could conquer obstacles. He had no aphy, but he had a turnip. This he cut into a perfect imitation of the fish; then fried in oil, salted, and powdered thoroughly with the grains of a dozen black poppies. His majesty ate, and was delighted! Never had he eaten a more delicious aphy! But our modern cooks are not inferior to the ancient. Give them a partridge or a pheasant, a veal cutlet or a mutton chop, and they will so dish you up each savoury article that nothing of its original flavour shall be discernible. O Fashion! O cooks! O confectioners ! We are your slaves, your victims; and our stomachs the laboratories in which you coolly carry out your experiments. Look, for instance, at vegetables: no food more wholesome, or more simple, and yet how the cooks do torture and manipulate them, until the salutary properties of these cibi innocentes utterly disappear!

… The vagaries of fashion have not as yet introduced frogs into our English bills of fare, and, as far as our own taste is concerned, we trust no such innovation will be attempted. But if ever frogs should figure on our tables, it is some consolation to reflect that our cooks will prevent them from tasting like frogs,—they will so spice, and flavor, and combine, and dilute the dish. As Sam Slick says, — ' Veal to be good, must look like anything else but veal. You mustn't know it when you see it, or it's vulgar; mutton must be incog., too; beef must have a mask on; any thin' that looks solid, take a spoon to; any thin' that looks light, cut with a knife; if a thing looks like fish, you take your oath it is flesh; and if it seems real flesh, it's only disguised, for it's sure to be fish; nothin' must be nateral—natur is out of fashion here. This is a manufacturin' country; everything is done by machinery, and that that aint, must be made to look like it; and I must say, the dinner machinery is perfect.'

I give you as the recipe of the day, a strictly no-nonsense, no-frills, completely undisguised way of dealing with leftover veal from The Englishwoman’s Cookery Book, published in 1872 several years after the death of Isabella Beeton, to whom it is attributed.

BAKED VEAL (Cold Meat Cookery).
Ingredients.— ½ lb. cold roast veal, a few slices bacon, 1 pint bread crumbs, ½ pint good veal gravy, ½ teaspoonful minced lemon-peel, 1 blade pounded mace, cayenne and salt to taste, 4 eggs.
Mode.—Mince finely the veal and bacon; add the bread crumbs, gravy, and seasoning, and stir these ingredients well together. Beat up the eggs; add these, mix the whole well together, put into a dish, and bake from ¾ to 1 hour. A little good gravy may be served in a tureen as an accompaniment.
Time, from ¾ to 1 hour. Average cost, exclusive of the cold meat, 9d. Sufficient for 3 or 4 persons. Seasonable from March to October.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

What, exactly, is a Ramekin?

I was hoping to find some interesting word-stories to share with you this week as we approach World Dictionary Day, and I think I may just have another one in the word ramekin.

A ramekin is a small, single-serving sized round dish, usually with ribbed sides, is it not? That would have been my definition anyway. The Oxford English Dictionary agrees that a ramekin is a dish.

Ramekin: A small mould or dish, traditionally round with a fluted exterior, in which ramekins or other individual portions of food, such as soufflés or mousses, are baked and served; (also) a small container for an individual serving of sauce.

The first supporting quotation is:

1895   I. K. Funk et al. Standard Dictionary of the English Language: Ramekin, a dish in which ramekins are baked.

A ramekin is a dish in which ramekins are baked? Let us back-track.

This particular definition from the OED is of the second usage of the word ramekin. The first meaning given is:

Ramekin: A type of savoury dish based on cheese, mixed with butter, eggs, and seasonings, and usually baked and served in a small mould or dish (or formerly in a paper case). Formerly also: a dish of minced meat, pounded onion, or melted cheese, toasted with butter and other ingredients on bread.

The first two citations given are from the seventeenth century, almost two and a half centuries before the ‘ramekin as a dish’ usage:

1653   tr. F. P. de la Varenne French Cook Alphabet. Table sig. A12,   Ramequin, it is a kind of toste.
1653   tr. F. P. de la Varenne French Cook 88   Ramequin of kidney... Ramequin of flesh... Ramequin of Cheese. Take some cheese, melt it with some butter, on onion whole, or stamped … spread all upon bread, pass the fire shovell over it red hot, and serve it warme.

So, the food ultimately gave its name to the container. Nothing really unusual there. The fun is in the etymology. The French word ramequin has its roots Flemish, and in the mid-sixteenth century was had military connotations. It seems to have referred to a battering ram – although the OED says “the semantic motivation is unclear.”

But … in 1547 there was a small sea-fort constructed in Zealand. It was called Fort Rammeken, and it was “of angular and pointed design.” From 1585 to 1616 this little military outpost was under the control of the English, and the name was adopted to refer to similar small fortifications. Florio’s English-Italian Worlde of Wordes, published in 1598 has:

Belloardo, Bellouardo, a bulwarke, a blockhouse, a skonce, a forte, a ramekin.

So, a small dish with a rather turret-like shape and with the name ramekin is not a great stretch, is it? Which makes it all the more puzzling that it was not recorded as a dish until 1895.

I leave further thoughts on the subject to my logophile friends, and leave you with two fine version of ramequins from The Art of Cookery (182) by John Mollard.

Warm in a stewpan two spoonsful of milk with two ounces of fresh butter; mix over a slow fire for five minutes with three ounces of sifted flour then add two ounces of fresh butter, four ounces of grated Parmesan cheese, two eggs, a small quantity of mignionette pounded with a little sugar, the white of an egg beaten to a solid froth with a table spoonful of cream, and a little salt; mix the ingredients well together. Put the mixture in cases of writing paper four inches square, wash the tops with yolk of egg, bake in a brisk oven for a quarter of an hour, and serve hot.

Ramequins (another way).

Roll out puff paste, and strew grated Parmesan cheese over it; fold, and roll it again. Stamp it with a patty cutter, mark the top with a smaller cutter, brush over with yolk of egg, and bake of a light colour. Before serving, take out the top, and fill with bechamel.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Recipes from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Have you ever played that conversation game in which you have to say which book (you are only allowed one) you would want if you were shipwrecked on a desert island? A wilderness survival manual would probably be a good choice, but I would probably decide in favour of the Oxford English Dictionary (am I allowed all volumes?) There is a world of information and fun in the OED.

As a matter of fact, there is a great deal of cooking information in the greatest dictionary in the world. Cook books are not uncommonly cited as sources for word-usages – sometimes the first known usage. This seems to happen particularly in the case of food and dishes ‘foreign’ to Britain. One example is The Belgian Cook Book, a compilation of recipes provided by Belgian refugees to England during World War II. It is the source of the first reference given by the OED to Croque-monsieur – which is, after all, only a posh Continental version of cheese on toast, a concept already very familiar to the English. I give you the complete recipe from which the reference is taken: I have placed the phrase selected by the editors of the OED in italics.

Entrée (Croque-monsieur)
Cut out some rounds of crumb of bread, of equal size, with a tin cutter; or, failing that, with a wine-glass. Butter all the rounds and sprinkle them with grated cheese — for preference with Gruyere. On half the number of rounds place a bit of ham cut to the same size. Put a lump of butter the weight of egg into a pan, and fry with the rounds
in it, till they become golden. When they are a nice color, place one round dressed with cheese on a round dressed with ham, so as to have the golden bread both above and below. Serve them very hot, and garnished with fried parsley.

Rather interestingly, under the primary word “hash”, the first reference for “hashed brown potatoes” is given as appearing in The Complete Cook Book, by Jennie Day Rees (Philadelphia, 1900.)  I would have expected an earlier instance than 1900 (as “hash browns,” the word appears in 1917)– so if you find one, please let the editors of the OED know.

The definition of “hashed browns” is “chiefly U.S., a dish made of cooked potatoes, chopped (often pressed together to form a cake) and then fried until brown.”

Here is the full recipe from which the reference is taken:

Hashed Brown Potatoes.
One large boiled potato chopped fine; grease a pan with one tablespoonful of butter and press the potatoes into it with the palm of your hand. Dust with a little salt and sprinkle over the top one tablespoonful of finely chopped parsley. Place in the oven and when brown fold like an omelet and serve.

The OED even includes a definition of Lobster Newburg. It is, as you know, “lobster cooked in a thick cream sauce containing sherry or brandy.” The first supporting references is The Century Cook Book by Mary Ronald (New York, 1895.)  Here is the complete recipe:

Lobster à la Newburg.
One and a half cupfuls of boiled lobster meat cut into pieces one inch
            1 tablespoonful of butter.
            ¾ cup of Madeira or sherry.
             1 cupful of cream.
             Yolk of two eggs.
            1 truffle chopped.
            ¼ teaspoonful of salt.
            Dash of cayenne or paprica.

Put the butter in a saucepan; when it has melted add the lobster meat, the chopped truffle, the salt, and the pepper; cover and let simmer for five minutes; then add the wine, and cook three minutes longer.
Have ready two yolks and one cupful of cream well beaten together; add this to the lobster, shake the saucepan until the mixture is thickened, and serve immediately. This dish will not keep without curdling, and should not be put together until just in time to serve. The lobster may be prepared and kept hot. The rest of the cooking, from the time the wine goes in, requires but five minutes, so the time can be easily calculated. If the mixture is stirred the meat will be broken; shaking the pan mixes it sufficiently. This is a very good dish, and easily prepared; but it will not be right unless served as soon as it is
cooked. The quantity given is enough for six people. Crab meat may be used in the same way.

I don’t suppose for one minute that you will go to the Oxford English Dictionary for cooking information – but you could. I do hope however that you enjoy the idea!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Grub, Glorious Grub.

I know that many of you can hardly wait for World Dictionary Day on Friday of next week, and I am sure you are planning your celebrations already. My own plan - or challenge, if you like – in the build-up to the day, is to entertain you with some posts inspired by food words. These little stories are especially dedicated to fellow logophiles and writers, and of course, every marvelous librarian and other type of book custodian in the galaxy.

Firstly, to explain World Dictionary Day. This is celebrated on the anniversary of te birth of Noah Webster in colonial Connecticut in 1758. Webster was a lexicographer, educationist, and spelling reformer who produced his first word-book, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language in 1783, a blue-bound text which remained a school-room classic for over a century. In 1806 he published his first dictionary-proper, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It was another two decades before (in 1828), the work for which he is best known was published - the two-volume American Dictionary of the English Language.
Today, to start things off, I want to consider the food-word ‘grub.’

Interestingly, the 1857 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language does not contain any food-related uses of the word ‘grub’. I find this surprising, as the Oxford English Dictionary cites the first written occurrence of the word as referring to food as being in 1659. The reference is from A Dialogue betwixt an Exciseman and Death, which is “transcribed from a printed copy in the British Museum” and appears in Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry of England, published in 1846.

1659:  Exciseman:
Let's joyne together; I'le pass my word this night
Shall yield us grub, before the morning light.

It seems strange to me that a word in use in England in 1659 did not find its way into a nineteenth century American dictionary. Perhaps it was lost in the migration. Or perhaps I have simply not done enough research.

So, let us see what else the OED has to say about the word “grub. As a slang expression, it means “Food or Provender of any kind.” No surprises there. The etymology is related to the verb, “to grub”, meaning “to dig superficially; to break up the surface of the ground,” and has very old Germanic roots. No doubt the meaning of grub as food relates to the foraging for, or storage of, very basic root crops, or perhaps even grubs as “larvae of insects …”  

Other dictionaries, you ask?

The English writer Samuel Johnson’s famous work A Dictionary of the English Language was first published in 1755, so pre-dated Webster’s seminal work by over seven decades.  It gives the noun ‘grub’ as having two meanings: (1) a small worm, and (2) a short thick man, a dwarf. Hmmm … no food reference, in spite of the OED’s (admittedly second-hand) citation from 1659. I find it hard to believe that Johnson made an error of omission. Methinks one of us ought to find a copy of A Dialogue betwixt an Exciseman and Death, and check the authenticity of the reference. When one of us has the time, of course.

Time is fleeting however, so proper research must wait. In the meanwhile, may I give you a recipe from a cookery book published in the same year as Samuel Johnson’s dictionary? I have chosen Poor Knights of Windsor, a variation on the theme of French toast from A New and Easy Method of Cookery, by Elizabeth Cleland (Edinburgh, 1755.) I have given a recipe for a World War II version of Poor Knights of Windsor previously, so I thought it might be an interesting comparison – and very fine grub indeed.

Poor Knights of Windsor.
Take a Roll, and cut it into Slices; soke them in Sack [sherry], then dip them in Yolks of Eggs, and fry them; serve them up with beat Butter, Sack, and Sugar.

Monday, October 05, 2015

A Funeral Procession for a Cook.

I have a piece of fun for you today. We have had a few heavy-duty topics over the last week, so it is time for a laugh. I retrieved the following satirical piece from the Early American Newspapers database a very long time ago, but unfortunately omitted to record the actual newspaper. I do have the date however – the article was dated 30 June 1803.  I would love to know the background to the story – I am sure it is a story in itself! 

Funeral Procession of Bonaparte’s Cook.
The First Consul, impressed with a deep loss in the death of this favorite domestic, and anxious to show the world he knows, as well as Moreau, or any man in France, to appreciate the service of his household officers, has decreed funeral honours to his cook, as follows:

Scullions of the Palace, to clear the way.
Marrow bones and cleavers, muffled.
Under Cooks, bearing the Great Knife, sheathed.
Others, with tureens and dishes empty.
The Salt Box of State, borne by four.
Cooks to Foreign Ambassadors, bearing the implements
of modern cookery.
The Hearse.
Eight principal Cooks, for pall bearers, supporting a tablecloth.
Servants, two, and two, bearing the implements of ancient cookery.
Mamelukes, carrying the ladle and kettle.
French Officers from Egypt, bearing monuments of ancient Egyptian cookery.
Delegates from the Beef steak Club in London.
An allegorical personage to “signify Good Living,” bearing garlick and frogs for sacrifice.
Under Cooks, trailing the gridiron of the deceased.
Kettle drums and sauce-pans, muffled.
Cooks, Under-cooks, Scullions, Helpers, Dishwasher, &c. to close the procession.

The recipes for the day are from Cookery for English Households. By a French Lady (London, 1864)

Grenouilles (Frogs).
I shall venture to give receipts for cooking frogs, although I know that English people have very strong prejudices against this dish, for to express their contempt for French people they frequently call them frog-eaters and even toad-eaters; we plead guilty to the first offence, we are innocent of the second, and if my readers find courage enough to try the dreadful experiment of frog-eating, I fancy that they might become as barbarous as the French.
None except river frogs are to be used; it is easy to know them by their green colour and black spots; the hind part only is employed, the rest being cut off. Young frogs taste like young chickens, old ones like thread. In the French markets frogs are sold ready for cooking, that is, skinned.
Grenouilles a la poulette.

Have some boiling water into which you throw the thighs of the frogs, previously skinned, let them remain a minute, take them out and throw them into cold water; drain them and put them in a pan on a slow fire, with six ounces of fresh butter, a handful of mushrooms, some parsley, a little garlic, thyme and bay-leaf, salt and pepper. Sprinkle a tablespoonful of flour, and a wine-glass of white Burgundy or white Bordeaux; let it boil slowly for half an hour. Take the pan off the fire and dish the frogs; take the parsley, thyme and bay-leaf out of the pan; add a liaison to the sauce (see Liaison, No. 66), to thicken it, and pour it upon the frogs.