Sunday, April 16, 2017

Potatoes for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper (WW I era)

An American “Southern Food Expert and Lecturer” by the name of Bessie R. Murphy compiled and edited a wonderful set of books called the Three Meals a Day Series during World War II. Each volume was dedicated to

Somebody Somewhere
To be used by
Everybody Everywhere

The editor explains her mission in the Introduction:

This little series of books is a collection of tested and economical recipes for everyday foods that are obtainable everywhere and suitable for any of the three meals of the day. These recipes are written in plain, everyday terms. They are not all original — the authors of many of them are unknown. They form just a little series of everyday books for everybody from everywhere.

The World War gave every homemaker an opportunity to realize the difference between use and abuse of foods. For years we have wasted much of the bountiful supply of food produced by our country. Let us then not go backward, but let us go forward, bending every energy to make lasting the benefit in health and economy gained from a diet that not only eliminates extravagance and waste in buying and serving, but also affords greater variety.

The recipes in this series call for flour, sugar, and butter. To conserve these three foods just as long as our country and the peoples of Europe need them is the loyal and patriotic duty of — not the other fellow — but you.

The principle concept was to give recipes based on a single staple item which were suitable for one or more of the three main meals of the day. I do love that theme. To date I have found volumes focused on rice, corn meal, peanuts, legumes, salad and potatoes. I have featured several of these in previous posts (see the links below) but have not so far covered the potato – which is a strange oversight given that I have not yet met a potato I didn’t like. Today I want to rectify that omission.

Note that in the following recipes the editor refers to the white potato as the “Irish” or “English” potato (Solanum tuberosum) to distinguish it from the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) – which, to add confusion to the puzzle, is in some regions referred to as the yam (Family Dioscoreaceae) which it  most certainly is not. Sweet potatoes are covered in the second half of the book, and I will surely make them the subject of another post in the future.

So, how do you fancy your breakfast potatoes?

For my American friends, who persist in calling a scone a biscuit, and a biscuit a cookie (in spite of which I love you anyway) I have chosen:

Irish Potato Biscuit
1 cup mashed potatoes                            1 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour                                                    1 tablespoon lard
4 teaspoons baking powder                   ½ cup milk (scant)
½ teaspoon salt

Sift the dry ingredients. Add these to the potatoes, mixing well. Work in lightly the butter and lard. Add gradually enough milk to make a soft dough. Put it on floured board, roll lightly to about inch thickness, cut in biscuit shape, place in greased pan, and bake in hot oven.

For my own breakfast, I have chosen

Irish Potato Omelet

1 cup potatoes (mashed)                        3 teaspoons milk
3 eggs                                                            ¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Break the eggs and separate the yolks and the whites. Beat the yolks and add them to the potatoes, beating until mixture is light and there are no lumps. Add seasoning. Beat the whites until they are stiff and carefully fold them into the mixture. Put the omelet into a well-greased frying pan and bake it in the oven until it is brown. Turn the omelet out on a hot platter and serve it at once.

For dinner, I feel sure that the concept of cheesy mashed potatoes will not cause any international disagreement:

Baked Irish Potato and Cheese

2 cups cooked potatoes                          2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons grated cheese                 ¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

Run the potatoes through a sieve, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the potatoes, and mix well. Then add the milk, half the cheese, and the seasoning. Put into well-greased baking dish, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top, and bake in hot oven about 10 minutes.

And for dessert, who can resist a doughnut?

Irish Potato Doughnuts

1 ¼ cups sugar                            ½ teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter                 1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs                                              1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup milk                                      Flour to roll
4 teaspoons baking powder

Cream one-half of the sugar with the butter. Add the remaining sugar and the milk to the well-beaten eggs. Combine the two mixtures. To the cooled potatoes add the dry ingredients sifted together. Mix thoroughly, put on a well-floured board, and roll out and cut. Fry a few doughnuts at a time in deep hot fat.

It is supper time, and what better time to use up leftover mashed potato and cold cooked meat? And as a bonus, you don’t need to put the deep fryer away after dinner!

Irish Potato Surprises

2 cups mashed potatoes                         1 egg
¼ cup cold cooked meat                        Bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt                                        Dash of paprika
½ teaspoon onion juice                          1 tablespoon parsley

To the mashed potatoes, add the salt, pepper, onion juice, and half the parsley. Mix well. Add the rest of the parsley to the chopped meat and season well. Flatten out a teaspoonful of the potato mixture and place a teaspoonful of the meat mixture in the center. Fold the potatoes around the meat, then shape into a roll, being sure that the meat is well covered. Roll balls in bread crumbs, then in the well-beaten egg, again in bread crumbs, and fry in hot fat until a golden brown.

As a final act of homage to the potato, I give you the instructions from the book for drying your own potatoes:

Dried Irish Potatoes

In many parts of the country, owing to weather conditions and improper storage, hundreds of bushels of potatoes spoil by rotting. To prevent this waste the potatoes can be dried. Blanch the potatoes about 3 minutes in boiling water, remove, peel, and slice or cut into cubes. Dry in the sun, in oven of the stove, or in a homemade dryer. When they are dry, run them into a hot oven until heated through. This will prevent bugs and weevils. Put into jars or cans. Soak the potatoes ½ hour before using them.

Previous post from the Three Meals a Day series:

From Rice for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.
From Salads for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.
From Legumes for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.
         

Sunday, April 09, 2017

A Frenchman’s view of English food in 1823.

In 1823 a French liberal economist called Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui visited England and Scotland. The narrative of his travels was later published under the title Voyage d’un jeune Français en Angleterre et en Ecosse, pendant l’automne de 1823. The book was discussed at length and quoted from quite extensively in The Westminster Review (Vol. 4, 1825,) a quarterly British publication founded by the political radical Jeremy Bentham.

The editors of The Westminster Review justified their interest in the book thus:

The book we are now going to notice is neither the work of a slanderer of our women, our institutions and our manners, like the famous performance of the Knight of the Hulks, alias the Chevalier Pillet; nor is it the production of an outrageous Anglomane, furious in defence of everything English, for no other reason than because he misunderstands our language, and can misapply some misquoted passages from our poetry: but it is the genuine effusion of a genuine Frenchman, sufficiently inclined to libéralisme of all kinds, and equally disposed to regard with indulgence the barbarism of our customs, and with horror our treatment of his great idol Bonaparte. It is in short a publication, which will be looked upon in the French provinces, and among certain classes in the French capital itself, as an authority on the subject of England; and it is on this account, and because we know that it expresses the opinion of nine-tenths of the French, on the subject of English manners, that we shall notice it at so much length here.

Naturally, what is of most interest to us here on this blog is the French visitor’s view of English food:

…. At last the author is introduced, "avec le cérémonial inévitable, dans la salle à manger (dining-room).

“The dinner, without soup, consists of a raw and bloody beef-steak, plentifully powdered with pepper and spices, and covered with slices of horse-radish, similar, in appearance and size, to the chips which come from under the plane of the carpenter. The beef-steak is immediately followed by a plate or two of vegetables in naturalibus, that is to say, plain boiled: then a cruet-stand with five or six bottles, containing certain drugs, out of which you choose the ingredients necessary for giving some taste to the insipid mess. Sometimes a fowl succeeds these dishes of the primitive ages: but the English themselves agree that chickens with them, are tougher than beef, and therefore they prefer ducks. I was thus enabled to understand, why our deck on quitting Havre was so crowded with French fowls. [We appeal to every one who has ever been in France, whether the flesh of French fowls does not resemble ivory in all but whiteness.] The dinner finishes with a heavy tart made of cherries, plums, or apples, according to the season— taking care always to leave the stones in them.”

So much for the dinner—now for the wines and the dessert:

“The English have rather more variety in their drinks: the porter, the small beer, and the ale, which is between the two, and better than either. The wines in use are port, madeira, and sherry, which they drink always without water, though abundantly charged with brandy. From thence, perhaps, arises the bright scarlet complexions, injected with blue, and the carbuncled noses of almost all the English gastronomes. After the raw beef and potatoes were removed, we were consoling ourselves, in our absence from France, by talking of its glory and its pleasures, when the waiter appeared with the dessert, consisting of an enormous cucumber, flanked with four raw onions bedded in watercresses: des gateaux de plomb (plumb-cakes) worthy of their name, and what he called Cheshire cheese. At the sight of these preparations for poisoning us, we all deserted the table. Let it not be said that the description of a dinner is an unimportant matter: besides, English good cheer being absolutely the same in every inn, tavern, and hotel, in the three kingdoms, it is right to prepare Frenchmen for the enjoyments they are to expect on the other side of the channel.”

 One of the most popular English cookery books at the time of M. Blanqui’s visit was Apicius Redivivus, or the Cook's Oracle, by the eccentric Dr. William Kitchiner, first published in 1817. The 1823 edition (I am not sure about the earlier editions) includes a recipe for “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings” – which you may or may not agree are a form of “chips,” “crisps,”  or even “French Fries.” Take that, M. Blanqui.

Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings.
Peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping. Take care that your fat and frying-pan are quite clean; put it on a quick fire; watch it, and as soon as the lard boil, and is still, put in the slices of potatoe, and keep moving them until they are crisp; take them up and lay them to drain on a sieve; send them up with a very little salt sprinkled over them.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

A Passion for Passionfruit.


A recent and ongoing glut of passionfruit made me realise that this is a fruit I have not considered on this blog so far, so today I want to remedy that situation. I hasten to add that the glut was not of my own production or harvesting, but that of my sister who lives in a tropical paradise in Far North Queensland. The embarrassment of riches produced by the passionfruit vine in her rainforest backyard garden has to be seen to be believed. And the same goes for the neighbours, who have the same problem – the passionfruit vine growing, as it does, like the proverbial weed in the tropics. Sadly, the 1700 km (over 1000 miles) distance between us means that I cannot help out with the consumption, cooking, and preserving of the fruit – and anyway, passionfruit is very cheap to buy here in subtropical Brisbane.

To help her out, I promised my sister that I would find some recipes – historical of course - to inspire her. But first, a few general points about passionfruit.

Passiflora edulis (the common passionfruit) is a vine which is native to South America. The Anglicised common name was the inspiration of seventeenth century Spanish missionaries who saw in its flowers features which they interpreted as being symbolic of the crucifixion of Christ, and the few days preceding it (called the Passion) which they then used in their strenuous attempts to convert the indigenous folk to Christianity. They gave the flower the name flor das cinco chagas or "flower of the five wounds" which they determined represented the wounds received by Christ at the crucifixion:

·       The five stamens: the 5 wounds.
·       The 3 stigmata: 3 nails used in the crucifixion.
·       The pointed leaves: the Holy Lance
·       Ten petals: the ten faithful apostles.
·       The ‘corona’ of radial filaments: the Crown of Thorns
·       The tendrils: the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
·       The ovary (which is chalice-shaped) and receptacle: the Holy Grail.

Passionfruit is mentioned a number of times in Queensland newspapers in the 1860’s. As would be expected, the plant thrived in the warm and humid climate. I can find no evidence of early attempts to develop the passionfruit as a commercial crop, perhaps because it grew like a weed in gardens and around homesteads, so there was no incentive.

A few mentions from The Queenslander might give an idea of its status in the nineteenth century:

1869: The Qld. Horticultural Society report made mention of the fine preserves presented at its show, which included passionfruit amongst the “most notable”

1870: The Acclimatisation Society report of June 1870 noted the receipt of seed of Passiflora macrocarpa “a new and gigantic passion-fruit.”

1873: In an article “Weeds” The QueenslanderPassiflora edulis, Sims.- Common passion-fruit. This favourite South African fruit is now one of the commonest plants of our scrubs.”

1880: In December 1880, a correspondent to the newspaper proudly opined:
“Any Victorian arriving in Brisbane at the present time, or even during the past three weeks, could not help being astonished, if he looked into the fruit shops at the early date of the ripening of our fruits. Grapes, water-melons, rock-melons, peaches, passion-fruit, pineapples, and bananas are in abundance and of excellent quality, if we except the peaches.”

1883: In a short piece about climbing plants:
“The common passion-fruit (Passiflora edulis) is a rampant grower and an immense bearer… … it is astonishing the amount of fruit it will carry in one season.

Passionfruit was a welcome addition to fruit salads (still a popular use) and of course, jam, but it was some time before recipes for the fruit became popular in newspapers. I have a selection for you here, and hope you find them useful if you are lucky enough to have a surplus thrust upon you in the future.   

Passionfruit Jam.
This is made from the skins. Cut the fruit in two and take out the inside: take a quarter of the skins and boil them in water until quite tender. Scoop out the pulp from the shells with a spoon and add it to the seeds and juice. Add 1 lb. sugar to 1 lb. fruit and boil until of a proper consistency.
The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton) 24 November, 1932

Passionfruit and tomato jam.
Take 36 passionfruit, 4 lb. firm ripe tomatoes, sugar and water. Halve passionfruit and scoop out pulp and seeds. Put skins in a preserving pan, cover with water (about 2 pints), boil quickly for 1 hour and strain. Pour boiling water, over tomatoes, remove skins, cut slightly and put into preserving pan, allowing 1 lb. sugar to every 1 lb. tomatoes. Measure passionfruit pulp and seeds and the liquid from the skins, allow 1 lb. sugar to every pint and add tomatoes. Boil all together quickly for 1 ½ hour or a little longer.
The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton) 24 November, 1932

Passion-Fruit Pulp.
This is the method of preserving passion-fruit pulp: Take the glass jars with screw-top lids and rubber rings, and put them into cold water in a large vessel, and bring it to boiling point to sterilise. While the water is boiling, scrape the pulp from the shells of the fruit, and boil it. without water for five minutes. When finished have a piece of folded damp cloth on the table, and the rubbers ready. Take out one jar at a time from the sterilizing vessel, and the jug or ladle, which also should have been sterilised. Shake the water from the jars, but avoid touching any part of the jars with which the fruit will come in contact. Put the rubber ring on the jar and quickly fill to the very top with the boiling pulp, and screw on the lid immediately, leaving the jar on the damp cloth until cold. It will be more convenient if the pulp can be poured through a wide mouthed funnel, and this also should be sterilised. It is most important if the pulp, is to preserve perfectly, to exercise the greatest care regarding the sterilizing of everything used.
Daily Mercury (Mackay) 7 July 1933.

Passionfruit Butter.
Ingredients: Two ounces butter, 4 ounces sugar, 3 yolks eggs, 3 or 4 passionfruit.
Method: Remove pulp from the passionfruit, strain. Put the liquid into a saucepan with the other ingredients; stir over a low gas until thick.
Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 22 April, 1934.

Passionfruit Icing.
Ingredients: Half-pound Icing sugar sifted, 1 passionfruit, about 1 ½ tablespoons hot water.
Method: Mix the hot water and passionfruit together, add to the icing sugar, mix well, and pour over.
Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 22 April, 1934.

Passion Fruit Wine.
Nine dozen large passion fruit, 2 gallons of cold  water, 8 lb. white sugar, 1 oz. isinglass.
Mix the passion fruit pulp with 1 gallon of cold water, let stand for 36 hours, stirring occasionally and then strain through a jelly-bag. Take out the pulp, mix with the second gallon of water and strain again. Then add the sugar, also isinglass; which should be dissolved in a cup of hot water. Let all stand for six or seven days to ferment in a wooden tub or crock, stirring two or three times. Now strain again and bottle. Do not cork too tightly at first or the bottles will burst. Store in a cool place and it will be ready for use in nine months.
Warwick Daily News, 25 April 1942

Passionfruit Blancmange.
Ingredients: twelve passionfruit, one pint water, three level tablespoons sugar, three level dessertspoons cornflour, one egg.
Method: boil passionfruit pulp and water for 15 minutes, then strin. Add sugar and cornflour and boil another seven minutes, then yolk of egg and boil a minute longer. When nearly cold, add stiffly beaten white of egg. Set mould in a cool place.
The Telegraph, 14 December, 1945

Passionfruit Cake.
Her recipe for the ever popular passionfruit cake wins "The Telegraph" competition prize today for Mrs Mattthews, Winsome Road, Salisbury. Here it is:
Take 2 cups self-raising flour, ¼ teaspoon spoon salt, ½ cup shortening, juice and seeds 1 passionfruit, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs (well beaten), 1 teaspoon lemon essence, cup milk. Sift flour and salt, cream shortening, add sugar gradualy, cream together, until light and fluffy. Add eggs and essence slowly. Add flour after [? Alternating] with milk, small amounts at a time. Add passionfruit. Bake in greased cake tin in moderate oven for 25 minutes.
The Telegraph, 99 January 1946.
                                                            
Passionfruit Pudding.
Take three tablespoons shortening, 3 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons self-raising flour, pinch salt, 2 eggs, juice and pulp 6 passionfruit and a little lemon juice.
Beat butter and sugar to a cream and add beaten eggs, sifted flour and salt. Mix in the passion-fruit pulp and lemon juice. Pour into a well-greased basin and steam for 1 ½ hours.
Brisbane Telegraph, 1 March 1954.

Previous passionfruit recipes on this blog:
Pumpkin Passionfruit Pie (1915)
Passionfruit Cup (1941)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Horseradish from the Drumstick Tree?


There was a great deal of interest in far north Queensland in the early decades of settlement in the potential for developing profitable crops from exotic tropical plant species. The experimentation was spearheaded by the Acclimatisation Society which received many suggestions and samples from the general public as well as scientists and agriculturalists. I came across a rather intriguing mention of a suggested plant of interest (which I had never previously heard about), in The Queenslander of December 18, 1869.

The "mooringay," or horseradish tree—the fruit of which is about a foot long and half an inch in diameter. It makes a delicious vegetable curry, and the root of the tree is horseradish.

The writer was incorrect, the root is not true horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), which is from the Brassica family, but it can be used as a substitute, as will be revealed below.

              The tree referred too is more usually spelled “moringay”, so I had a few false starts before I found any real information. Moringa oleifera comprises 13 species and is indigenous to Africa, Madagascar, western Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree which has been cultivated since ancient times and is used to produce a wide range of products including food, medicine, animal fooder, fuel, fertilizer, and has more recently been suggested as a potential source of biofuel. The tree has two common names – “drumstick tree” from the large, elongated seed capsules, and “horseradish tree” from the pungent root. I admit to not expecting to find any early recipes using parts of the plant, but when I decided on the obvious – the corpus of colonial Anglo-Indian literature – I hit the motherlode in my first source.

              The full title of my source is too good to be shortened: Culinary Jottings: A treatise in thirty chapers on Reformed Cookery and Anglo-Indian Rites, based upon Modern English and Continental principles with Thirty Menus for little dinners worked out in detail and an essay on our kitchens in India (5e, 1885) by “Wyvern” (Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert.) The British army colonel served in India for a number of years, and wrote about Indian cookery for several newspapers, under the pseudonym “Wyvern.”

              From the book, I give you several references to the use of the seeds and root of the moringa:

              “Horse-radish sauce” is the grand standard adjunct to our national food, "the roast beef of old England," and beef in India cries out for help far more piteously than its rich relation far away. Horse-radish grows well at Ootacamund, and I once grew some with success at Bangalore, but the scraped root of the moringa, or "drum-stick" tree, provides so good a substitute that we may rest contented with a sauce thus composed : — Scrape as finely as you can a cupful of the root shavings, simmer them in half a pint of chicken broth; when done, thicken the broth custard-wise with the yolks of three eggs beaten up with a dessertspoonful of tarragon vinegar; add pepper, salt, and a very little grated nutmeg, and serve in a sauce-boat.
              A richer recipe suggests the addition of a coffee-cupful of cream with the yolks of the eggs, and then to let the sauce remain on the fire en bain-marie, stirring well until it is very hot (but not boiling) and serving it in a hot sauce-boat.
              The cold form of this sauce is perhaps the easiest, and I think as nice as any: — you simply rasp the moringa, or horse-radish root, till you have a cupful of fine scrapings, and mingle them with an ordinary mayonnaise, or tartare sauce, iced. Cream is, of course, a great addition, but the usual mixture of eggs, oil, mustard, and vinegar, will give you a good result.

And another recipe for a dish given in one of the thirty menus:

Moringakai au gratin
If you sunmon up courage to try this homely dish, you will often order it again. Buy enough young moringa pods to yield seeds enough to fill a little pie-dish. Boil them, and scrape out the seeds, and the tender flesh inside the pods, into a basin: stir into this a table-spoonful of cream, or a coffee-cupful of milk in which the yolks of two eggs have been well beaten; season with salt and pepper, and add a few drops of anchovy essence; pass this into a well buttered pie-dish, and grate over the surface a good layer of Parmesan or any nice mild dry cheese. Bake for a quarter of an hour, and serve. If you can bake and serve the mixture in silver coquille shells, — one for each guest, — the entremets will, of course, look nicer.


Apparently the Mt. Coot-tha botanic gardens have a specimen of the moringa. I must check it out soon, and take some photos!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Feminine Food: “Food That Looks Pretty” (1934)


Last week I gave you some ideas on how to “feed the brute,” 1930’s style. This week I am delighted to provide, from the same era, some alternatives for the more girly members of your family. The information, which I am sure you will find most informative and entertaining, comes from the same source – the scripts from Housekeepers’ Chat, a regular program from the United States Department of Agriculture Radio Service. Today’s story is from Monday, May 7, 1934.

Feminine Food.

                  A while ago — sometime in March, I believe — you and I had a chat about meals for men. Remember? We discussed what to put on the menu to suit the typically masculine taste. And we came to the conclusion that men generally prefer simple, hearty fare to dressy dishes, that they like old-time, substantial food to novelties or frills. For example, most men will choose corned "beef any time to dainty "bits like sweetbreads or squab. And we agreed that men generally liked roasted or broiled meats best, that they count on the old reliable Irish potato with meat, that they like plain, simple vegetables and salads, and that, if they have a sweet tooth, they will incline toward pie and ice cream rather than any other kind of dessert.

                  But when you're having just women in to a meal, that's quite another story. When you're entertaining the girls at a bridge luncheon, say, or when you're having the other wives in to a May-morning breakfast or a springtime tea, then you'll probably reverse many of these rules about menus for men. You know how we women are. When we're out by ourselves, our taste in the food line is usually very different from that which would please our husbands. Feminine inclinations generally are toward light, dainty food and away from calories. We enjoy the frills. We like food that looks pretty. And we like novelty dishes — new ways of cooking or serving.

                  Colorful fruits and vegetables appeal to us. That's one reason why tea rooms catering to women so often make a specialty of good-looking salads, vegetable plates, and fruit desserts. A successful restaurant in New York made a report on pies recently. The report said that mince and apple pies were most popular with men, but that lemon chiffon pies were the biggest sellers to women guests. Frills again, you see.

                  Men enjoy strong flavors and high seasoning. Women, on the other hand, often prefer the more delicate, subtle flavorings and seasoning. Men like onions and strong cheese and catsup and chili sauce and so on. Women prefer only a delicate trace of onion flavor generally; they'll usually choose milder cheese; and less of the highly seasoned sauces.

                  Quantity appeals to men. They like hearty food in generous amounts. Appearance and daintiness appeal to women. The time to plan your table decorations with the greatest care, the time to work out a pretty color scheme in the menu, and to exhibit your best china and linen — the time to pay the greatest attention to appearances, especially to the so-called "little touches," is when your guests are women . I heard someone say the other day that women wanted quality and men quantity in food. I shouldn't express it quite as strongly as that. But certainly women prefer small, perfect dishes, rather than large helpings. They would rather have a tiny chicken pattie, say, that was cooked to the queen's taste, than a large slice of roast beef or a big steak. The feminine eye and appetite will appreciate clever and dainty garnishing, and new and pretty ways of serving food.

                  Spring and early summer seem to be ideal seasons for feminine parties. You can feature the more delicate shades in your table decorations and in your menu. You have the delicate colors of the spring flowers as your guides. And you have the new tender garden fruits and vegetables for your menu. Spring flowers, new garden foods, new spring clothes — somehow they all go together.

                  A feminine company meal doesn't have to be expensive, either. The food nay be low in cost and you never need to serve large amounts. But everything on the menu must be delicious in flavor and attractive to look at.

                  Suppose now that we plan a May luncheon party, maybe for your bridge club, maybe for some other feminine occasion. This is a medium-priced menu with emphasis on delicate color and flavor.

                  Individual rice rings filled with cream salmon; New green peas; Cloverleaf rolls or tiny cheese baking powder biscuit served piping hot; Spring salad of garden greens or garden vegetables; for dessert, Rhubarb or strawberry tarts; Tea or coffee.

                  Just a word about making those rhubarb tarts. They're very simple. Some people like them made with a meringue over the top. Personally, I like just the rhubarb with no meringue. I like to see that delicious pink color suggesting springtime.

                  Well, bake your little pastry shells on the back of a muffin tin. Fill the shells with rhubarb sauce. You remember that when we spoke of making sauce we suggested dropping the diced rhubarb into a thick hot syrup and cooking gently until the rhubarb was tender. We also suggested that you could make sauce just by mixing the rhubarb with sugar and cooking. Always cook rhubarb gently so it will hold its shape. Never remove the skin. That gives the sauce its attractive color.

                  Some people like rhubarb tarts made spicy with the addition of nutmeg or even a bit of cinnamon. Other people like it cooked with a little orange or lemon peel. You suit yourself about that. Also suit your own taste about the meringue.

                  Once more — that menu: Individual rice rings served with creamed salmon; New green peas; Cloverleaf rolls or tiny hot cheese biscuit; Spring salad; Rhubarb tarts; Coffee or tea.

The recipes for the day come from the same era as the article above, but from the other side of the Atlantic. I give you the ideas for variation on a theme of rhubarb tart (including one topped with meringue) from a feature on seasonal rhubarb recipes which appeared in the Manchester Guardian of March 9, 1936.

Rhubarb in Season
Some Recipes

 …. Several varieties of rhubarb tart can be made, and these are a pleasant change from apple. Here is one. Line a pie-dish with short or puff pastry. Stew three or four sticks of rhubarb with very little water and some sugar until half-cooked. Beat together the yolks of two eggs and two tablespoonfuls of sugar, add the grated rind of half a lemon, and mix with the rhubarb. Put the mixture on the pastry and bake in a moderate oven until it is cooked. Whisk the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, fold lightly in two tablespoonfuls of castor sugar and pile it on the tart. Sprinkle more sugar on the top and put into a cool oven to set the meringue.
With Figs.

Rhubarb and figs are a good mixture. Choose the plump cooking figs usually sold on strings, and cut them into pieces. Cover a pie plate with pastry, put on it a layer of figs, then the rhubarb cut in pieces. Sprinkle liberally with sugar, add more figs, and cover with pastry. Bake for at least an hour, in a hot oven at first, then reducing the heat. Should the figs be at all hard, it is preferable to soak them in water overnight. Rhubarb and pear, rhubarb and pineapple, or rhubarb and banana can also be tried.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Menus for Men: Feed the Brute, 1934.


As regular readers know, one of the sources I return to regularly is the scripts of The United States Department of Agriculture Radio Service program called Housekeepers’ Chat, which aired regularly during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  They always offer an interesting historical perspective.

Today’s story is from the program of March 26, 1934.

Menus for Men.

How about this matter of the way to a man's heart. We women have often been told that food is what takes us there. But that's rather indefinite advice to go to work on. Another humorous maxim says, "Feed the brute." Also indefinite. Feed him what? We need to know what kind of food appeals especially to masculine taste, what certain dishes he likes best, and what kind of menu pleases him. For example, suppose that you have some men guests coming to dinner tonight and want to serve them their idea of a perfect meal. What will you plan for the bill of fare?

Well, I listened the other day to a group of men discussing their ideas versus their wives' ideas of satisfying food. And I'll pass on their remarks to you for what they are worth. How and then a man's viewpoint on matters of food is very enlightening.

The tall, dark man sitting in the corner began the discussion by saying, "Women are funny, aren't they? They all seem to like real he-men. In general their movie favorites are all of the knock-down and drag-out type. Yet when it comes to meals, they will go on serving their husbands or their men guests feminine food — you know, dainty, fluffy- ruffles dishes, dabs of nothing all dressed up."

Another man in the group agreed, "Yes, sir, that's just the way it goes. I've often told my wife that she can't appease a man's appetite with a fruit salad or a bit of marshmallow whip. I've often said to her, 'For goodness' sake, let's have some muscle and brawn food for once!"

Still another man added, "Why don't they save their dainties for women's luncheons and teas and give us some real food when we come home?"

In general they all agreed that the food they liked best was simple, substantial fare; that they preferred corned beef any time to delicacies like sweetbreads and squab; that they liked broiled or roasted meats best, and vegetables simply cooked and simply served without sauces; they preferred simple salads with just plain French dressing, and desserts like those two old-timers — pie and ice cream.

From that conversation I decided that no matter how cultured or refined a man may become, nor how far he has left his football days behind, still his ideas about food don't change much. He still prefers plain fare to dressed up food. And he's still a carnivorous animal and likes steak and roast beef usually better than the daintier meats. And in spite of present day diet fads that rule it out, most men feel that no dinner is complete without the good old potato in some form or other. Men also like highly seasoned foods. They're fond of onions. They're fond of strong cheese. They like catsup and chile sauce and so on. You may be so refined that you shudder at the thought of strong- smelling cheese, but for the sake of household happiness, better have it on the table once in a while, so your husband won't have to leave home to satisfy his appetite.

As for this matter of meal plans, I gathered from the remarks on all sides that the masculine ideal of a menu starts with soup, continues with meat or fish and potatoes and ends with a plain salad, crackers and cheese, and coffee. A man with a sweet tooth may want ice cream or pie or stewed fruit for dessert. Other men may want one good cooked vegetable besides potatoes with the main course.

Well, of course, I'm repeating to you the conversation of just one group of men. Tastes may differ. But I think this group voiced the opinion of the sex in general. Have you ever noticed what specialties are featured in men's clubs? They're usually dishes like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or beef and kidney pie or some other plain substantial food. This is the kind of food universally served in England where everything is planned to please the men.

The soups men like are generally the heavier soups, bean or lentil soup, onion soup with cheese, chowders and oyster stew. Men like Boston baked beans with brown bread. They like calf's liver and bacon. Among the Lenten main dishes they like Welsh rabbit and broiled fish steak. They like big baked potatoes and French fried potatoes. For dessert, you'll find them pleased with deep-dish apple pie, cherry pie, strawberry shortcake and plain ice creams.

So much for my report on a masculine conversation. Now let's plan a dinner to suit men guests. Let's start the meal with a tomato juice cocktail, seasoned with onion juice, a bit of horseradish and so on. Then let's have a planked steak or just a thick broiled steak. Baked potatoes and French fried onions next. And green beans with butter. For dessert, deep-dish apple pie. You can make it "a la mode" if you like it. Finally, coffee.

Once more. Tomato juice cocktail; Broiled steak; Baked potatoes; French fried onions; Green beans buttered; Deep-dish apple pie; Coffee.

Rather unusually for the program, this episode did not give an actual recipe for any of the dishes mentioned. The French Fried Onions leapt out at me as being the most “knock-down and drag-out” dish on the menu so I went in search of contemporary instructions for cooking them. Serendipitously the search led me to a little booklet called French Frying, published by the Home Economics Department of the Procter & Gamble company in 1932 in support of their popular product, Crisco.

French Fried Onions (flour coated)
Cut large onions into slices about ¼ inch thick. Separate slices into rings. Dip rings into milk, dredge with flour, and fry in deep Crisco heated to 365o-375oF. or hot enough to brown an inch cube of bread in 60 seconds. Drain. Salt slightly.


You will be pleased to know that some weeks later, the program did feature Feminine Food. I will be sure to give the insights from that script, at a date in the near future.