Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Birthday Competition Quiz.

Today is Birthday Competition Day …

Today The Old Foodie is one year old. Her body is considerably older, and the blog is slightly younger, but these events will be celebrated in their own time.

To celebrate The Old Foodie birthday, and to thank you for your enthusiasm and kind comments, The Old Foodie is going to give a prize for the first correct answer drawn out of her biggest mixing bowl, to a ten-question quiz.

The Prize:
The prize is a copy of “A Good Plain Cook: An edible history of Queensland” by Susan Addison and Judith McKay, and published by the Queensland Museum. If you have ever wondered how to roast bandicoot or wallaby, or use dry coffee as a preservative, or make Poor Man’s Goose, then this is the book for you. If not, it also has recipes for Anzac biscuits, Miss Schauer’s Cup Cake, and pikelets and such like, which are sure to please. The book is delightfully illustrated with photographs, advertisements and images from by-gone days.

The Conditions: [Note: changed deadline]

In order not to penalise those of you around the globe who will be sleeping soundly at that time, it will not be “first correct answer wins”, it will be “first correct answer drawn out of my largest mixing bowl wins”. I will give until "the end of the weekend" - which I have designated as Monday 6th November 5 pm Australian Eastern Standard time (2 am in New York and 7 am in London).

I will print off all correct answers and will pick a suitably qualified person to draw out a winner.

Please respond by email to THE OLD FOODIE, or post your answers in the comments to this post.

The winner will be announced on Monday morning, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

The Questions:

1. When is “Split-Stomach Day”?

2. What is the principal ingredient of “black butter”, as enjoyed by Jane Austen?

3. The first cookbook to give instructions for the now traditional wedding cake’s almond icing plus white icing, was …… ?

4. What year was “Vegemite” launched?

5. When is Woodruff Wine traditionally drunk?

6. What did Edmund Hilary and Tensing Norgay eat at the summit of Everest in 1953?

7. Whose coronation is associated with the dish “Coronation Chicken”?

8. What is the “Scarcity Root”?

9. Who is “Chicken Tetrazzini” named for?

10. What is “Sack” better known as today?

There, that wasn’t too hard, was it? If you’ve been paying attention, all the answers are in an Old Foodie story on this blog.

P.S. There is a also real food story for this day, with a recipe of course – you will find it by scrolling down a little further ….

Dinner for the Workers.

Today, October 31st …

The five hundred workmen who had completed the renovated the exterior of Buckingham Palace in only 13 weeks were entertained at dinner by King George V on this day in 1913, at a Holborn restaurant.

The King himself did not attend, but his “gracious thought” was carried out with “tact and hospitality”. The tact presumably included the fact that “there was no ceremony or formality on the part of the members of the Royal Household”, who merely wore morning dress so as not to intimidate the workers, who had their own hierarchical dress code:

“The men came in their best clothes, and although black coats and linen collars were predominant, many were to be seen in tweeds, corduroys, and woollen mufflers, for there were labourers of all kinds in the company as well as masons and carvers.”

A large number of the public who “recognized that the dinner was a well-deserved tribute to the craft and discipline of British workmanship”, came along to watch the men arriving, and a large number of souvenir sellers had a nicely profitable evening.

A letter of thanks from the King was read out by the Master of the Household.

“I congratulate you upon an achievement both in handicraft and rapidity of execution. You have raised what is acknowledged to be a distinct architectural improvement in London, and a worthy addition to the Empire’s memorial to Queen Victoria”.

The “comrade who lost his life in the execution of his duties” was given an honourable mention, and the men were finally able to tuck into what was probably for many of them the most spectacular meal they had ever had in their lives, accompanied by “an abundant supply of good ale”.

Scotch Broth
Boiled Turbot with Hollandaise Sauce
Roast Saddle of Mutton
Roast Beef
Baked Potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Saxon pudding

Recipe for the Day …

Saxon pudding may or may not have been chosen as a nod to the King’s German heritage, but it would certainly have been popular with his dinner guests on the day, who would all have loved steamed puddings. This one is a lighter and more elegant version than the solid suet pudding which would have been more familiar to the British Victorian working man.

Saxon Pudding.
According to high authority this is one of the best puddings of Germany. Boil a gill of milk, put into a stewpan half a pound of flour. Gradually dilute the flour with the milk, so as to obtain a fine smooth paste. Add four ounces of butter, and salt to taste. Place the saucepan on a moderate fire, stir the preparation till it begins to thicken, then take it off the fire, but still continue working it. When the paste is smooth, place it again on the fire, working it still, and gradually introduce into it the yolks of ten eggs, four ounces of oranged sugar, four ounces of butter, and a little salt. When the preparation is frothy, introduce seven or eight whipped whites of eggs. Pour the preparation into a dome or cylinder mould which has been buttered and glazed with sugar and potato-flour. Set the mould in stewpan with boiling water reaching to half its height. Bake in a slack oven for forty minutes.
[Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, 1870’s]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Sundae any Day.

Quotation for the Day …

That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted. Reported last words of Lou Costello, died March 3rd 1959.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Fish dinner on the Beach.

Before We Start ...

The Old Foodie has two announcements:

1. There was an extra posting on Saturday, as my belated contribution to October's Breast Cancer Awareness "Pink" theme. To find it, please scroll down to below today's story, which will first take you past ...

2. A competition announcement:
As a celebration of the one-year birthday of The Old Foodie on Tuesday, October 31st, there will be a quiz, with a prize. The questions will be posted on Tuesday. If you have been paying attention the answers will be easy. For more details as to the prize and the entry conditions, please scroll down below today's story, which starts now ...

Today, October 30th …

John Oxley and his men explored the course of the Macquarie River (in New South Wales) in 1818 - at one point believing that it led to a vast inland sea, thus creating a persisting, and sadly untrue myth to intrigue a later series of explorers. On this day they finally reached the continental coastline.

“ … We passed for five miles and a half through the country described yesterday, when we arrived on the beach south-west of the Sugarloaf Point. … we went nearly six miles farther on the beach, and halted near a rocky point for the evening. This beach was a peculiarly productive one to us; a great number of fine fish resembling salmon, had been pursued through the surf by larger fish, and were left dry by the retiring tide: we picked up thirty-six, and a welcome prize they proved to us.”

Hunger has been an occupational hazard of explorers throughout history, and sufficient hunger will make almost anything palatable, so it is no wonder Oxley’s men were delighted with their serendipitous dinner. We don’t know exactly what they ate, but the coastal waters of eastern Australia provide a magnificent variety of fish, so it is reasonable to assume it would have been not just dinner, but delicious dinner - which makes the attitude of early settlers quite strange. For those who chose to settle in Australia in the early days, everything at “Home” (i.e England) was the Gold Standard, and that included the fish. An awful lot of “English” salmon found its way to the country (preserved of course) as the fish course for elegant dinners, and there were serious and prolonged attempts to establish an English salmon industry in Tasmania.

Ironically, now that we truly appreciate our fish, such largesse would be an unlikely find on a beach walk on the beautiful northern New South Wales coastline. Such appreciation took some time to develop. Even by 1893, when Philip Muskett published his “Art of Living in Australia”, he felt moved to say:

“ Along with its great ally, the oyster, fish undoubtedly occupies one of the highest places on the food list. Unfortunately, it is not met with in every home as it should be, its high price and scarcity combining to make it conspicuous by its absence. That such a state of things is actually the case in Australia can only be deeply deplored. Let us suppose, for instance, that we were as well supplied with fish as we are entitled to be, considering that we are of a maritime race and that we live near the sea. If such were the case—and I would it were so— how would a sudden reversal to the present state of our fish supply be received? Would it not give rise to protestations, to indignation meetings, to questionings in the House, and to the papers being filled with complaints, till matters were put right again? Yes, indeed, all these things would happen! meanwhile, however, we continue placidly in our fishless state of existence, and the finny tribe, outside in the deep sea, have a good time in consequence.”

The book did include some recipes “created by Mrs H. Wicken, Lecturer on Cookery to the Technical College, Sydney”. Here is one of them, chosen for no better reason than its “S” shape, proving that one can make something interesting and elegant with mere local fish.

1/2 lb. Blue Cod*—5d.
1 lb. Potatoes—1d.
1 oz. Butter—1d.
1 Egg
Pepper and Salt—1d.
Total Cost—8d.
Time—Half an Hour
Use cold fish and potatoes, if there are any in the larder; if not, boil a piece of blue smoked cod in some water for five minutes. Flake it up free from skin and bone and put it into a basin; mash up the potatoes and mix them in with the pepper and salt. Bind into a paste with an egg; rub some dripping on a baking sheet, turn the mixture on to it and shape into the letter S, brush over with egg or milk, and bake till brown. Slip it off on to a hot dish, and garnish with parsley.

*Common fish names are always problematic, and it is not possible to be certain that the cook was referring to what we now call Blue Cod or Trout Cod, and which was officially named Maccullochella macquariensis a century after Oxley’s journey. It would not have been Oxley’s fish, in spite of the fact that it was named after the river he explored (which was named for Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of NSW from 1810-1821), as it is a fresh-water fish. In another irony, it is one of the species that is now sufficiently rare that it is fully protected.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Dinner for the Workers.

Quotation for the Day …

A correspondent in the “Magazine of Domestic Economy” asserts that it is a well-known fact, not only in our own country, but in every part of the world, especially on the North American continent, that icthyophagists, or feeders on fish, who dwell on the sea-coast, are a hardy, well-conditioned, and healthy race of men. Edward Abbott, “The Australian Aristologist” (1864).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Old Foodie Birthday Competition.

The Old Foodie will be one year old on October 31st (her actual body has a rather larger-numbered birthday in December, and the actual blog has a birthday in March, but lets not get too complicated), and in celebration she invites you to enter a competition for which she will give a prize.

The prize is a copy of “A Good Plain Cook: An edible history of Queensland” by Susan Addison and Judith McKay, and published by the Queensland Museum. If you have ever wondered how to roast bandicoot or wallaby, or use dry coffee as a preservative, or make Poor Man’s Goose, then this is the book for you. If not, it also has recipes for Anzac biscuits, Miss Schauer’s Cup Cake, and pikelets and such like, which are sure to please. The book is delightfully illustrated with photographs, advertisements and images from by-gone days.

There will be ten questions taken from Old Foodie stories. If you have been paying attention they will be easy to answer.

The questions will be posted on Tuesday morning, October 31st at whatever time I get around to posting (usually quite early Australian Eastern Standard Time). In order not to penalise those of you around the globe who will be sleeping soundly at that time, it will not be “first correct answer wins”, it will be “first correct answer drawn out of my largest mixing bowl wins”. I will give until the end of the weekend, which I have determined to be midnight on Sunday the 5th November, Australian Eastern Standard Time. You can work it out, I know you can.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Pink Tea for Breast Cancer Month.

With the month of October almost over I am almost too late to make my contribution to the Pink Theme for Breast Cancer Awareness. I offer my small effort to redress this with a short extract from a late ninteenth century American cookbook on the subject of a Pink-Themed Tea Party, and some "pink" recipes from two eighteenth century English cookbooks.

From: Aunt Babette's cook book. Foreign and domestic receipts for the household. A valuable collection of receipts and hints for the housewife. Many of which are not to be found elsewhere. By "Aunt Babette" (America, 1889).


"Pink Teas," just now so fashionable, are rather novel if carried out to the letter, and an expensive way of entertaining, too, yet, as the old saying is, one might as well be dead as out of fashion. So all those who wish to be fashionable come and listen, and I will give you a few hints in regard to getting up a "Pink Tea." As a matter of course the table linen should be in harmony. If you possess a tablecloth with a drawn-work border, line the border with pink cambric. If not, cut the cambric the width desired and sew it on to any tablecloth and cover it with some cheap lace inserting; it will look very pretty. You may draw pink ribbons through the napkins. Suspend sash ribbons from the chandeliers in dining-room to reach half way down the center of the table, or, better still, to reach the four corners. Your lamps all over the house should have pink shades. They may be of pink paper; the dishes also of a delicate pink shade, which you may borrow for the occasion. Arrange the white cakes on high cake-stands, lined with fancy pink paper, or pink napkins, and put the pink frosted cakes on low cake-stands lined with fancy white paper or napkins. The flowers for decoration must also be of pink. Serve the creams and ices in novel designs made of pink paper, such as baskets, boxes, buckets, freezers, cups and saucers, shells, wheelbarrows, vases, etc. I am not able to tell you all the different designs they have for this purpose. You may procure these and many more beautiful designs at almost any fashionable caterer's. Each guest should have a pink boutonniere, or a white hyacinth, tied with a pink satin ribbon. Have miniature fans placed for each guest, with a card attached containing his or her name. These are to be taken home as souvenirs. Serve the butter in pink individuals, each piece of butter moulded differently and garnished with a wreath of parsley. A handsome center-piece for the table is indispensable, so get a large fruit-stand and trim it prettily with ferns, smilax and flowers, or have an ornament of spun sugar for a center piece. If you live where there are no caterers you may try this: Make a large nest of macaroons, oval in shape. Join the macaroons with sugar boiled until it candies and have this filled with charlotte russe and resting on a rock of spun sugar. You may color the charlotte russe pink and the effect will be beautiful, for the spun sugar will look like crystal. A nice way to serve charlottes at a "Pink Tea" is to hollow out large "Acme" tomatoes, skin them carefully, cut off the tops and scoop out the inside, set on ice until wanted, then fill with whipped cream and ornament with candied cherries. (At a "Yellow Tea" you may substitute oranges for this purpose.)

("Aunt Babette" does give a recipe for Pink Cream Cake, but it uses “Dr. Price's fruit coloring”, which sounds a little dubious today)

And now for the eighteenth century "pink" recipes:

Pink-coloured Pancakes.
Having boiled a large beet-root till it is tender, beat it fine in a marble mortar. Put to it the yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, and three spoonfuls of cream. Sweeten it to your taste, grate in half a nutmeg, and add a glass of brandy. Mix all well together, and fry them as before directed. Garnish with green sweetmeats, green sprigs of myrtle, or preserved apricots.
(‘The universal cook, and city and country housekeeper…. ‘ F.Collingwood; 1797)

To Make Raspberry Fritters.
Grate two Naples biscuits, pour over them half a gill of boiling cream. When it is almost cold, beat the yolks of four eggs to a strong froth, beat the biscuits a little, then beat both together exceeding well. Put to it two ounces of sugar, and as much juice of raspberry as will make it a pretty pink colour and give it a proper sharpness. Drop them into a pan of boiling lard, the size of a walnut. When you dish them up stick bits of citron in some, and blanched almonds cut lengthways in others. Lay around them green and yellow sweetmeats and serve them up. They are a pretty corner dish for either dinner or supper.
(Elizabeth Raffald “Experienced English Housekeeper” (1769)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Emily Post does Lunch.

Today, October 27th …

Emily Post, the woman who was to become the authority on good manners, was born Emily Price on this day in 1872 in Baltimore. Her book “Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home” was published in 1922, and the rest, as they say, is etiquette history.

Her theory was quite simple: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use”. The practice, however, was not. Luncheon, she says “is never so formidable as dinner”, even though it differs from that meal “in minor details only”. Some of the minor details in relation to luncheon are:

… fashionable ladies never take off their hats. Even the hostess herself almost invariably wears a hat at a formal luncheon in her own house …

The usual lunch hour is half past one. By a quarter to three the last guest is invariably gone.

The hostess, instead of receiving at the door, sits usually in the center of the room in some place that has an unobstructed approach from the door. Each guest coming into the room is preceded by the butler to within a short speaking distance of the hostess, where he announces the new arrival’s name, and then stands aside.

The gentlemen never offer their arms to ladies in going in to a luncheon.

The places are never left plateless, excepting after salad, when the table is cleared and crumbed for dessert.

… “corsage bouquets” laid at the places with flower pins complete are in very bad taste.

Emily also has something to say about the luncheon menu itself.

Five courses at most (not counting the passing of a dish of candy or after-dinner coffee as a course), or more usually four actual courses, are thought sufficient in the smartest houses.

She goes on to give more details as to the alternative menus:

Fruit, or soup in cups
Meat and vegetables

Meat and vegetables

Fowl or “tame” game with salad

And yet more details about the individual courses, (without, of course, giving actual recipes). She says about eggs at luncheon:

Eggs that are substantial and “rich,” such as eggs Benedict, or stuffed with pâté de foie gras and a mushroom sauce, should then be “balanced” by a simple meat, such as broiled chicken and salad, combining meat and salad courses in one. On the other hand, should you have a light egg course, like “eggs surprise,” you could have meat and vegetables, and plain salad; or an elaborate salad and no dessert. Or with fruit and soup, omit eggs, especially if there is to be an aspic with salad.

Recipe for the Day …

The aim of the rules and formulae of etiquette was to ensure every social event proceeded in calm and predictable fashion, and that no guest was embarrassed, upstaged, or unnerved. It appears that only the eggs were allowed to be a surprise. There are savoury and sweet versions of “Eggs Surprise”, although the placement of her comment suggests she meant the savoury version. Etiquette is all about certainty however, so I give you both versions, rather than risk making a gaffe.

Cut stale bread in two-inch slices and then in circular or elliptical shapes. Remove centres, leaving cases. Fry in deep fat until delicately browned and drain on brown paper. Half fill cases thus made with Creamed Asparagus tips. French poach six eggs, coat with egg (slightly beaten and diluted with one tablespoon cold water), roll in bread crumbs to which has been added Parmesan cheese (allowing two tablespoons cheese to three-fourths cup crumbs) and fry one minute in very hot, deep fate. Drain and arrange in croustades. Garnish with parsley.
(A New Book of Cookery; Fanny Farmer, 1912)

[Other versions of the era have the cooled poached eggs being battered and deep fried. TOF]

Take a dozen eggs, and make a small hole at each end of every egg, through which pass a straw and break the yolk; then blow out the yolk carefully. Wash the shells, and having drained, dry them in the open air; mix the yolk of an egg with a little flour to close one of the holes of the shells, and when dry, fill half the number by means of a small funnel, with chocolate cream, and the remaining six with coffee or orange-cream; close the other end of your eggs, and put them into a saucepan of hot water; set them on the fire, taking care they do not boil; when done, remove the cement from the ends; dry, and serve them on a folded napkin.
(The Cook's Own Book; Lee, N. K. M., Mrs. 1832)

Monday’s Story …

A Fish dinner on the Beach.

Quotation for the Day …

Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is honour. Emily Post.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In the name of Coleslaw.

Today, October 26th …

The Thursday “Household Hints” column of “The Perry Chief” (an Iowan newspaper) on this day in 1876 included a recipe for “Coldslaw”, or as we are more commonly (and correctly) likely to call it now “Coleslaw”. The word comes from two Dutch words – kool meaning cabbage and the word for salad, pronounced sla, but it is easy to see how the word was heard as indicating “cold” (sometime in the mid-eighteenth century) as that was the how the dish was served. It is a mysterious victory for the word police that the original version was restored, but it is not a complete victory. “Slaw” was not only sometimes spelled “slaugh”, it was occasionally used as if it was the cabbage word, so we can find “hot slaw” recipes (although I have not seen “hot slaugh”, thank goodness).

This whole wordy saga took place in America, for reasons which remain (to me) obscure. Cabbage is the quintessential English vegetable, as the number of jokes of the boarding-house/overcooked-cabbage variety will attest – but recipes for it served raw in salad simply don’t exist until well into the twentieth century, and probably not to any significant extent until after the second world war.

Coleslaw lost its virginity somewhere along the way. Cooks who want it “fancy” can make it with red cabbage (and maintain the colour theme by adding beetroot), and almost all cooks add other vegetables such as celery and carrot. A strange variation that merits specific mention is the jellied version. The short dark period of culinary history when the pinnacle of housekeeping was to place on the luncheon table a moulded jellied vegetable salad will, I am sure be a source of much discussion by future culinary historians. It seems to have been an American phenomenon, and the rest of us find it very puzzling. Perhaps an American reader could enlighten us as to what, exactly, is the appeal of jellied salad, especially as it is usually made, with sweet, coloured, fruit-flavoured Jell-O?

Recipe for the Day …

Here is the recipe from The Perry Chief of October 26th 1876 that started this discussion.

Coldslaw. – Cut up the cabbage very fine with a sharp knife, and sprinkle over it a teaspoonful of salt. For a large dish, say a quart of cut cabbage, use two eggs, a piece of butter the size of an egg, half a teacup of water and half a teacup of good vinegar. Beat the eggs, whites, and yolks together, very light, add the water ,vinegar, and butter, and put all in a tin on the fire, stirring all the time until it is of a creamy thickess. Pour it hot over the cabbage, stir up well with a fork, and leave to cool.

And here, just to prove that it can be done, is a recipe from the Jell-O pamphlet of 1927

Salad Supreme.
1 package Lemon Jell-O
1 pint boiling water (less 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
shake of Cayenne pepper
2 cups cabbage, cut fine
1 cup tart apples, cut fine
8 stuffed olives, cut fine.

Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Add vinegar, salt, and cayenne pepper. Chill. When slightly thickened, stir in cabbage, apples, and olives. Put into individual molds. Chill until firm. Serve on lettuce with mayonnaise. Serves 6.

Tomorrow’s Story.

Emily Post does Lunch.

Quotation for the Day ..

The English have only three vegetables - and two of them are cabbage. [Variously attributed, usually to a Frenchman]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chaucer’s Cook.

Today, October 25th …

Geoffrey Chaucer died on this day in the year 1400, with his Canterbury Tales still unfinished. The Tales consist of a collection of stories in prose and verse told to while away the time, by a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. One of the pilgrims is a Cook:

A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones,
To boil the chiknes with the marybones,
And powdre-marchant tart and galingale.
Wel coude he knowe a draughte of London ale.
He coulde roste, and seethe, and broile, and frye,
Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pie.
But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That on his shine a mormal hadde he.
For blankmanger, that made he with the best.

In other words, the Cook is skilled at roasting, boiling and frying, he can make pies and stews and many other dishes, he knows how to use spices, and can determine the quality of ale. Unfortunately he also has a running sore on his shin (possibly leprous or syphilitic), which disgusts the narrator, as does his habit (mentioned later in the story) of repeatedly re-heating his pies – after he has drained off the gravy so that he can re-use it – and his shop is full of flies, which may make up some of the “parsley” in his stuffed goose. The reader is equally disgusted, and is grateful for modern times and modern food laws.

Rather than focus on bakers who ooze pus, and thereby risk losing our appetites for dinner, let us look at food words instead.

Marybones” are marrow-bones, for many centuries prized for their rich, unctuous, fatty, contents that were added to sweet and savoury dishes alike – although as we have discussed before, there was no such distinction in medieval times.

Poudre Marchant” appears to have been some sort of prepared spice mix, which seemed to be “tart”, although it seems that no-one recorded its exact composition. “Galingale” is interesting. Does it mean what we now call “Galingal”, or Alpinia galanga, the slightly gingery root familiar to us in South East Asian cuisine, or the European sedge Cyperus longus, which also has an aromatic root? The latter, most likely?

Blankmanger” means “white food”, and originally was a sort of custard or thick pottage made with almond milk and chicken – nothing at all like its modern bastard offspring – the sweet, insipid children’s party food we call “blancmange”.

Mortreux” (or Mortrews) meant a sort of meat stew which was ground up in a mortar (hence the name) and was sometimes (as in the recipe following) meant to be so thick “that it be standing” – in other words, similar to a meat paste or paté. The recipe uses two other spice mixes, powdour fort (strong) and powdour douce (sweet) – and again we must guess at the actual blend.

Recipe for the Day …

The cookbook of the Master Cooks of King Richard II, and called “The Form of Cury”, was published in the last decade of Chaucer’s life.

Take hennes and pork and seethe hem togyder. Take the lyre of hennes and of the pork and hewe it small, and grinde it al to doust; take brede ygrated and do thereto, and temper it with the self broth, and alye it with yolkes of ayren; and cast theron powdour fort. Boile it and do therin powdour of gynger, sugur, safroun and salt, and loke that it be stondying; and flour it with powdour gynger.

Which means, very loosely:

Take chicken and pork and simmer them together. Take the liver of the chicken and pork, and chop it fine, and grind it until smooth. Take grated bread and add it, and blend it with some of the broth and thicken it with egg yolks, and sprinkle on some “powder forte”. Boil it and add “sweet powder” of ginger, sugar, saffron, and salt, and make it stiff, and dust it with powdered ginger.

Tomorrow’s Story …

In the name of Coleslaw.

Quotation for the Day …

We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience and live without heart;
We may live without friends;
We may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks
Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thoughts on Puddings.

Today, October 24th …

Another story about Samuel Johnson today folks, with no apologies for referring to the man so often - he is a culinary-quotation lover’s one-man source. His eager biographer James Boswell scribbled down The Man’s fairly lengthy musings on the topic of pudding, on this day in 1773.

“ …. He then indulged in a playful fancy, in making a Meditation on a Pudding, of which I hastily wrote down, in his presence, the following note; which, though imperfect, may serve to give my readers some idea of it.


Let us seriously reflect of what a pudding is composed. It is composed of flour that once waved in the golden grain, and drank the dews of the morning; of milk pressed from the swelling udder by the gentle hand of the beauteous milkmaid, whose beauty and innocence might have recommended a worse draught; who, while she stroked the udder, indulged no ambitious thoughts of wandering in palaces, formed no plans for the destruction of her fellow-creatures; milk, which is drawn from the cow, that useful animal, that eats the grass of the field, and supplies us with that which made the greatest part of the food of mankind in the age which the poets have agreed to call golden. It is made with an egg, that miracle of nature, which the theoretical Burnet has compared to creation. An egg contains water within its beautiful smooth surface; and an unformed mass, by the incubation of the parent, becomes a regular animal, furnished with bones and sinews, and covered with feathers. – Let us consider; can there be more wanting to complete the Meditation on a Pudding? If more is wanting, more may be found. It contains salt, which keeps the sea from putrefaction: salt, which is made the image of intellectual excellence, contributes to the formation of a pudding.”

The Great Man was rather less lyrical in his famous dictionary, as would be expected.

1. A kind of food variously compounded, but generally made of meal, milk, and eggs.
2. The gut of an animal.
3. A bowel stuffed with certain mixtures of meal and other ingredients

1. The time of dinner, the time at which pudding, anciently the first dish, is set upon the table.
2. Nick of time; critical minute.

Johnson’s definition of pudding clearly refers to the earlier meaning of a savoury dish, either a suet or batter pudding or the meaty version which is essentially sausage, rather than the sweet, dessert meaning more in use today. A suet or batter pudding (such as Yorkshire Pudding) was commonly served at the beginning of a meal, to fill the stomach before the rather more expensive meat was served – if indeed it was served at all. He nowhere hints at the use of sugar, and yet cookbooks of the time had many sweet versions, including the following one from the first Scottish cookbook, printed several decades before Sam’s pronouncements on the topic.

Recipe for the Day …

From “Mrs McLintock’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastrywork”, 1736.

To make an Orange Pudding.
Take four Oranges, and a Pound of Sugar; take the Skin off the Oranges, and beat the Pulp, boil the skins tender, and beat them very well, then take nine Eggs, keep out three of the Whites, and beat the Eggs and Sugar together, and beat your Oranges with a Quarter a Pound of Butter; then grate a half Penny Loaf, and beat the Loaf and them together; then put in your Sugar and Eggs, and half a Mutchkin of Sweet Cream, and beat them all together; then put on the Cover, and send it to the Oven.
[no salt]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Chaucer’s Cook.

Quotation for the Day …

If you could make a pudding wi' thinking o' the batter, it 'ud be easy getting dinner. George Eliot in "Adam Bede,"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Crisis Food.

Today, October 23rd …

A week into the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedys dined with friends at the White House on this day in 1962. This was the menu:

Rockfish Souffle Ambassade
Breast of Pheasant St. Hubert
Wild Rice
Green beans aux Amandes
Salade Mimosa
Brie Cheese
Biscuit Glacee aux Peches
Petits-fours sec

A menu appropriate for the particular times? Heavily symbolic of the gravity of the situation and the intended unflinching response? Rockfish to indicate fine fighting ability, the dish “St. Hubert” because he was the patron saint of The Hunt, and rice that was very Wild? Sadly for the semiotically inclined – the answer is No. The menu was a very standard one for the White House at the time – firmly based in the French classic tradition, and of course, written in French. In any case, the Mimosa Salad would have been a mistake - certainly much mimosa is thorny, but much also is “sensitive” and the leaves curl up at the approach of danger, added to which the yellow of the egg-yolk garnish of the salad, (which imitates the fluffy mimosa flowers) would definitely have given the wrong message.

For years, as the Cold War continued, the American public had been offered advice as to how to prepare for the worst – that is, for Atomic War. A whole raft of leaflets with titles like “Facts about Fallout” gave advice about building or improvising shelters, none of which would actually have saved anyone from radiation poisoning, but no doubt gave the voters a satisfying illusion of security. One pamphlet advised the shelter to be stocked with “A two-weeks’ supply of water and pre-cooked foods for your family. Plenty of fruit juices and water. Your family’s favourite canned foods can be a morale lifter. Don’t forget a can opener and a bottle opener.” What? And by the time your rations were used up you emerged from your sandbagged pantry and went to the newly re-opened supermarket?

These were certainly uncertain times, and although we will never know what the Kennedys and their guests discussed over their petits-fours and coffee, one thing we can be certain of is that the petits-fours were plain, dry, un-iced. It seems appropriate to end the meal with a little comfort food in the form of a little cake. The name “petits-fours” comes from the French words meaning “little oven”, indicating that these little cakes were placed in the cooling oven after the bread and larger cakes were removed, and there are two classical types - plain and dry (sec), which includes such things as biscuits, meringues and perhaps madeleines, and iced or decorated (glacé) cakes made from a pound-cake-like base

Recipe for the Day …

Here is a recipe for Petits Fours of the glacé type – actually a series of recipes – from the New York Times, May 24th 1964.

1 recipe almond butter cake.
1 recipe hot apricot glaze.
1 recipe mock fondant.
1 recipe butter cream frosting.
1. Slice the cake into two layers using a long serrated knife.
2. Spread one layer with a thin coating of apricot jam. Top with the second layer. Brus the loose crumbs from the surface.
3. Brush the surface with hot apricot glaze. Allow to set twenty to thirty minutes. Cut into small rounds, crescents, oblongs, and triangles. Place the cakes far apart on a cake rack placed over a piece of waxed paper.
4. Pour the warmed mock fondant over the cakes to coat all sides evenly. The excess will run down onto the paper and may be scraped back into the pan and rewarmed to use again. Do not overheat the fondant or it will lose its shine.
5. Allow the cakes to harden. Cut off the rack and place in small paper cases. They may be decorated with butter cream frosting forced through a parchment paper cornucopia fitted with a decorating tube.
Yield: three dozen petits fours.

3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
¼ cup almond paste
¼ cup butter, melted and clarified (see note)
¾ cup sifted flour.
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line jelly roll pan [swiss roll pan] with parchment paper.
3. Combine the whole eggs, one egg yolk, vanilla, sugar, and rind. Heat over hot water until lukewarm.
4. Cream the almond paste with remaining yolk.
5. Beat the warm egg mixture, preferably in an electric mixer, until tripled in bulk.
6. Add the melted butter to the almond paste and fold into the egg mixture with the flour. Fold gently. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake fifteen minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.
Yield: one 10 by 15 by ¾ inch cake.
Note: to clarify butter, melt until foamy and pour off clear yellow liquid. Discard milky residue.

1 cup apricot jam, sieved.
1 tablespoon cognac.
Heat the sieved apricot jam and stir in the cognac.

1 cup simple syrup.
3 cups sifted confectioners sugar (icing sugar), approximately.
2 teaspoons melted butter
2 teaspoons egg white
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted.
1. Place the simple syrup in a pan and gradually stir in the sugar until a stiff paste is formed.
2. Warm the mixture to lukewarm while stirring. Add the butter and egg white. Adjust the consistency if necessary for coating the petit fours by adding more simple syrup or confectioners sugar.
3. Add the chocolate to half the mixture. Use other half white.
Yield: one and one half to two cups.

2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup white corn syrup
1 ¼ cups water.
1. Combine the ingredients in a large pan.
2. Heat gently while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Brush the sides of the pan with plain water to wash any undissolved sugar crystals down.
3. Raise the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for five minutes.
4. Cool. Store in a jar in the refrigerator until needed.

4 tablespoons soft butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar), sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla.
1. Beat the butter with half the confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Gradually add the remaining sugar and vanilla until the desired consistency is reached.
The frosting may be flavored and colored if desired.
Yield: One cup.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Thoughts on Puddings.

Quotation for the Day …

Food is the most primitive form of comfort. Sheila Graham.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Recipe Archive Updated!

The recipes from the September posts have been added to the RECIPE ARCHIVE.

The latest additions have been added to the bottom of each category, and each recipe is listed twice - under its "Type" and under "Date" (i.e century). The final listing, of recipes by cookbook author or cookbook is lagging behind, because each hyperlink is very slow to make, and I get bored.

Please enjoy, and do email me if you have any general comments.

The Old Foodie is about to complete 12 months worth of stories, and fully intends to continue. Watch out for the birthday competition announcement in a few days time.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Leftover Duck, again.

Today, October 20th …

By October 1770, Captain James Cook’s ship the Endeavour was worn and damaged after two years of exploration, and on the eleventh he had put into harbour in the Dutch colony of Batavia (Jakarta) for repairs. The botanist Joseph Banks wrote on this day:

“ …We concluded that the Hotel would be the best for us, certainly the least troublesome and may be not vastly the most expensive. Accordingly we went there, bespoke beds and slept there at night.

The next Morning we agreed with the keeper of the House whose name was Van Heys the Rates we should pay for living as follows: Each person for Lodging and eating two Rix dollars or 8s pr Diem; for this he agreed as we were five of us who would probably have many visitants from the Ship to keep us a seperate table: for each stranger we were to pay one Rix dollar 4s for dinner, and another for supper and bed if he staid ashore: we were to have also for selves and freinds Tea, Coffee, Punch, and Pipes and tobacco as much as we could destroy, in short every thing the house afforded except wine and beer …. For these rates, which we soon found to be more than double the common charges of Boarding and lodging in the town, we were furnishd with a Table which under the appearance of Magnificence was wretchedly coverd; indeed Our dinners and suppers consisted of one course each, the one of fifteen the other of thirteen dishes, of which when you came to examine seldom less than 9 or 10 were of Bad Poultrey roasted, boild, fryd, stewd &c.&c. and so little concience had they in serving up dishes over and over again that I have seen the same identical roasted Duck appear upon table 3 times as a roasted duck before he found his way into the fricassee, from whence he was again to Pass into forcemeat.”

Home cooks and hoteliers both need to be mindful of waste, and the basic idea of roast duck being recycled as fricassee and forcemeat is not in itself unpleasant, but most of us would not present the initial roast duck three times before giving it leftover status – and, remember, in 1770 there was no refrigeration. I guess seamen had tough digestions in those days from thorough training on very old, very tough, very salty meat and very hard, very dry, very weevily ships’ biscuits.

Recipes for the Day …

Catherine Brooks published the fourth edition of “The complete English cook; or, prudent housewife. Being an entire new collection of the most genteel, yet least expensive receipts …” in the same year as Banks' and Cook's adventure in Batavia. She gives recipes for Duck Fricassee (using fresh duck, not pre-roasted), and for forcemeat balls made with veal. Please feel free to substitute duck for the veal, but please don’t make it with thrice-served roast duck, however good your refrigeration.

For fricaseying Ducks.
Quarter them and beat them with the back of your Cleaver, dry them well, fry them in sweet Butter; when they are almost fried, put in a Handful of Onions shred small, and a little Thyme, then put in a little Claret, some thin slices of Bacon, Spinage and Parsley boiled green, and shred small; break the Yolk of three Eggs with a little Pepper and some grated nutmeg, into a Dish, and toss them up with a Ladleful of drawn Butter; pour this on your Ducks, lay your Bacon upon them, and serve them hot.

For making Force-meat Balls.
Take half a pound of Suet, as much Veal cut fine, and beat them in a marble Mortar or wooden Bowl; have a few sweet Herbs shred fine, and a little Mace dried and beat fine, a little Lemon-peel cut very fine, a small Nutmeg grated, or half a large one, a little Pepper and Salt, and the Yolks of two Eggs; mix all these well together, then roll them in little round Balls, and some in long ones; roll them in Flour, and fry them brown. If they are for any thing of white Sauce, put a little Water on a Sauce-pan, and when the Water boils put them in, and let them boil for a few minutes; but never fry them for white Sauce.

Monday’s Story …

Crisis Food.

Quotation for the Day …

I travel not so much for the sake of my music as for that of my stomach. Gioacchino Rossini.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Supping on Crane.

Today, October 19th …

By this day in 1805, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, on their expedition westwards across the North American continent had reached the Columbia River. Several of the party kept diaries, and on this day Clark wrote:

“I suped on the crane which I killed today.”

Clark did not make any comment on his cooking method or the flavour of his supper, as is common with wilderness explorers, who did not take into account the curiosity of future gourmets. Luckily, others over the ages have commented, although those of us who have not eaten it are no closer to an honest vicarious experience as descriptions of the taste range from anything between chicken (not surprisingly) and beef, and the overall experience as being everything from palatable” to “excellent table meat”.

Perhaps the variety of the taste experience reflects the fact that the fifteen species of crane around the world inhabit a wide range of habitats and eat almost anything, so we should expect the flesh to taste different in different environments. There are other things too which influence our experience of a particular meal. Hunger – which Lewis and Clark had become very familiar with – is a powerful positive seasoning for the most indifferent food, but the symbolic aspect is also important – sometimes more important than mere taste.

Crane mythology covers a very full spectrum, from the bird being symbolic of death in some Celtic traditions, and taboo in others (perhaps due to the belief that it was a “shape changer”), to being auspicious and sacred in Japan (probably because it was believed to have a long life and to mate for life). In Japan, it being a sacred animal, the crane was reserved for those of high rank, and carvers were trained in a special method of serving it called tsuro-bocho which would preserve the “spirit” of the bird, presumably so that this would be imparted to the emperor or honoured guest. Carving has always been a skill imbued with great significance and mystique, and the English language has many individual terms for carving specific meats. In the case of the crane, one “displays” it.

Displaye that Crane.
Take a crane and unfold his legges and cut of his wynges by the Joyntes; than take up his wynges and his legges and sauce hym with poudres of gynger mustarde vynegre and salte. ["Book of Kervynge” 1513]

Recipe for the Day …

Knowing how to display your crane is all very well, but first, you have to know how to cook it. In case an even earlier stumbling block is actually obtaining a crane in the first place, then the following recipe is perfect, for you can use turkey instead. The “pie” method refers to the use of a pastry “coffin” which functioned like a casserole dish, the pastry not necessarily being intended to be eaten.

To bake all manner of Land-Fowl, as Turkey, Bustard, Peacock, Crane, &c., to be eaten cold.
Take a Turkey and bone it, parboil and lard it thick with great Lard, as big as your little finger; then season it with two Ounces of beaten Pepper, two Ounces of beaten Nutmegs, and three Ounces of Salt, season the Fowl, and lay it in a Pie fit for it; put first Butter in the bottom, with ten whole Cloves, then lay on the Turkey, and the rest of the Seasoning on it, and lay on good store of Butter; then close it up and baste it either with Saffron-water, or three or four Eggs beaten together with their Yolks; bake it, and being baked and cold, liquor it with clarified Butter, &c.

[From “The queen's royal cookery: or, expert and ready way for the dressing of all sorts of flesh, fowl, fish: ... " By T. Hall, free cook of London. (1709)]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Leftover Duck, again.

Quotation for the Day …

Crane is hard of digestion, and maketh ill juice, but being hanged up a day or two before he be eaten, he is the more tender and lesse unwholesome. Thomas Cogan, 1584.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The English Peach.

Today, October 18th …

King John of England, who had reigned since 1199, died in Newark sometime during the night of October 18-19th 1216, some say from overindulging in peaches at a banquet nine days before.

King John had a lot of enemies amongst his own barons and the clergy, and there are many rumours as to the cause of his death. Perhaps he was poisoned (with ale or plums) by the monks at Swinehead Abbey, probably he caught dysentery (or an “ague”) while retreating from the French across the marches of East Anglia, but just maybe his own greed did get the better of him.

The “surfeit of peaches” (with or without an accompanying surfeit of either ale or wine or cider) story wont go away, and history as she is wrote in most ordinary texts has determined him a bad king – irritable, irreligious, capable of murdering his own nephew, incapable of defending Britains territory in Normandy – and greedy into the bargain.

Peaches probably originated in China, whence they travelled the Silk Road to the Middle East and the Mediterranean - to the delight first of the Greeks, and later the Romans, who then introduced them throughout their empire. There is a record of peaches being planted in the gardens of the Tower of London in 1272, but they were not cultivated to any extent until the mid-sixteenth century, and then only in very lucky sheltered warm spots.

So – peaches would certainly have been available in Britain at the time of King John, and he would surely have availed himself of them if he could. There are some hints that he had an interest in food. The first English food quality law – the Assize of Bread - was enacted during his reign, and also we know he fined the city of Gloucester for not fulfilling their obligation to provide a tithe of lampreys to the royal household. But death by peaches in England in mid-October? It seems a little far-fetched a theory. Peaches can be preserved of course – either in syrup (or honey) and by drying – but sugar was an expensive, exotic “spice” until sugar refining began in England in the mid-sixteenth century. When the English did start preserving fruit with sugar, they did so with great creativity.

Recipe for the Day …

Marmalade was once a solid preserve, more like the quince paste we serve with cheese today. The mixture was cut into shapes when it was cool, or pressed into moulds which printed a design on the surface. Here is a sixteenth century recipe for a peach “marmelet” made even more fragrant with rosewater.

To make drie Marmelet of Peches.
Take your Peaches and pare them and cut them from the stones, and mince them very finely and steepe them in rosewater, then straine them with rosewater through a course cloth or Strainer into your Pan that you will seethe it in, you must have to every pound of peches halfe a pound of suger finely beaten, and put it into your pan that you do boile it in, you must reserve out a good quantity to mould your cakes or prints withall, of that Suger, then set your pan on the fire, and stir it til it be thick or stiffe that your stick wil stand upright in it of it self, then take it up and lay it in a platter or charger in prety lumps as big as you wil have the mould or printes, and when it is colde print it on a faire boord with suger, and print them on a mould or what know or fashion you will, & bake in an earthen pot or pan upon the embers or in a feate cover, and keep them continually by the fire to keep them dry.
[The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, (1597); Thomas Dawson]

Tomorrow’s Story ….

Supping on Crane.

Quotation for the Day …

I remember his showing me how to eat a peach by building a little white mountain of sugar and then dripping the peach into it. Mary McCarthy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Recommended to the German Housewife.

Today, October 17th ...

Three weeks after Britain’s declaration of war in September 1939, rationing of all foodstuffs started in Germany. In October, radio programs began to broadcast menu and cooking advice to German housewives, to assist them to deal with the food restrictions. Naturally this was of interest to Britons, who were themselves gearing up for rationing (which started in January 1940), and to newspaper editors who got some propaganda mileage out of reporting the details.

On this day in 1939, an article in The Scotsman newspaper said:

The following menu is recommended to the German housewife on the German radio for the next three days (says Reuter):

Tuesday – Breakfast – soup made of rye flour, bread. Lunch – Spinach soup, pumpkin, potatoes, and bacon. Supper – Vegetable noodles and tea made from blackberries.
Wednesday – Breakfast – Coffee, with milk, bread and jam. Lunch – Goulash made with venison, potato balls. Supper – Vegetable and bread soup and flummery and berries.
Thursday – Breakfast – Flour soup and bread. Lunch – Vegetable soup, yeast puff pastry, and stewed fruit. Supper – Bread, with various spreadings such as remainders of venison, goulash, and synthetic butter mixed with herbs.

The London Times had published another set of menus less than a week previously and commented that “it compares unfavourably with the war-time cooking hints given to Viennese housewives by their newspapers”.

Meat, milk, and sugar, were rationed in Germany in 1939, as were fat (80 gm of butter, lard, margarine, cocoa butter, olive oil, cheese, or bacon), and bread (2,400 gm, or 1,900 gm bread plus 375 gm flour). In reality however, the German housewife must have had great difficulty preparing even these very sparse menus because the food situation in Europe was very serious and rapidly getting worse and it was often impossible to obtain even the ration amounts.

No doubt, as in Britain, German civilians grew their own food when and where they could, and perhaps also German newspapers gave recipe advice as did British papers. Perhaps a German reader could enlighten us on this? Until then, spinach soup recipes from English newspapers of the time will have to suffice as our inspiration. Here are two from The Times.

Recipes for the Day …

Spinach Soup.
To sufficient cooked and sieved spinach for four people allow one small onion, also cooked and sieved. Mix the vegetables, reheat, and when thoroughly hot but not boiling add the yolk of an egg, a little butter, and seasoning to taste. Thin to desired consistency with milk. Do not let the soup boil after adding the egg or it will curdle, but bring the soup to just below boiling point. [The Times, May 6th 1938].

This next recipe – sent in by “A Correspondent” of the newspaper, would have seemed an impossible dream in Britain twelve months later, by which time butter was under rationing.

Italian Soup.
This spinach soup comes from Italy and is delicious.
Boil and mince finely 2 lb of spinach. Put it in a saucepan with 4 oz of melted butter. Stir well, adding salt to taste. Now remove from the fire and mix in two eggs, a flavouring of Gruyere, and a pinch of grated nutmeg. Pour this puree into a pint of boiling veal stock, remove from the fire in a few minutes, and put it under the grill for a minute. This will coagulate the eggs and turn the puree into a soft green paste. Serve very hot with croutons. [The Times, Jan, 30th 1939].

Tomorrow’s Story …

The English Peach.

Quotation for the Day …

Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite. Auguste Escoffier.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Big Fish of the Sea.

Today, October 16th …

Ichthyologists may not be in any doubt as to what, exactly, is bonito, but the rest of us can be forgiven for being confused, for not all that goes by the name is bonito, and much “bonito” is something else again. There is no doubt at all however about their value as a food source (whichever “bonito” is being discussed), as the captain of a ship engaged by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell during their journey in the Hebrides on this day in 1773 had found.

“ The captain informed us, he had named his ship the Bonnetta, out of gratitude to Providence; for once, when he was sailing to America with a good number of passengers, the ship in which he then sailed was becalmed for five weeks, and during all that time, numbers of the fish bonnetta swam close to her, and were caught for food; he resolved therefore, that the ship he should next get, should be called the Bonnetta.”

Bonito comes from the same family as mackerel and tuna, and the captain’s fish was probably the common Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda). Sometimes the Atlantic bonito is called “skipjack”, but “skipjack” more commonly refers to skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), but skipjack tuna is also sometimes called arctic bonito or oceanic bonito, and the very fine albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga), caught off the coast of Northern Spain is called “Bonito del Norte”. The random naming problem is exacerbated by the confusion between bonito and mackerel, but luckily for those of us with a culinary rather than a zoological interest, it is an academic debate because they can all be cooked in the same way. Of course, if you want to temporarily confuse your guests even further you could cook your bonito / tuna / mackerel as you would quail, as in the following recipes.

Recipes for the Day …

The eighteenth century French cookbook writer Menon (his first name is not known), published his book 'La Cuisiniere bourgeoise' in 1748, and English translations appeared under several names shortly afterwards. Here are two slightly different versions of a recipe for “Mackeral cooked as Quail” from the 1769 and 1796 translations. Another puzzle: why have the recipes changed between editions? It does not seem to be a translation issue, as there are clear differences.

Maquereaux en Cailles; as Quails.
Cut one or two Mackerels, each in three Pieces; give them a few turns on the Fire with butter, chopped Parsley, Shallots, Mushrooms, Pepper and Salt; wrap up each Bit in Vine-leaves and a slice of Bacon, with some of the Seasoning; lay them separately on a Baking-sheet and pour the Remainder of the Seasoning in it, if any; bake them in the Oven; when almost done, strew Bread-crums over; put it back to take Colour; and serve all together with Sauce au Vin de Champagne, meaning Wine mixed with the Sauce. [The Professed Cook; 1769]

To dress Mackerel like Quails.
Cut them into three pieces and steep them in oil, with salt, pepper, parsley and scallions shred; then put them on an iron skewer with a thin rasher of bacon between each piece, as you do quails; pour over the marinate, that is to say the oil and herbs, and enclose the whole with paper. Then put it on the spit, and when the fish is done, with a knife collect all the herbs that stick to the paper and put them into a good sauce: grate bread over the mackerel and bacon, and when it is of a pale brown, serve them with the sauce in the dish. [The Complete Family Cook, 1796]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Recommended to the German Housewife.

Quotation for the Day …

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tunafish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Coronation of Henry IV.

Today October 13th …

Henry IV was crowned at Westminster on this day in 1399, and what a feast was had! The service of food was quite different in the 14th century. There were three courses at elaborate affairs, with a huge number of dishes in each course, but without any clear distinction between savoury and sweet. The general trend was from the bigger dishes in the first course to the smaller more delicate in the third. Different tables would have received different selections, depending on rank.

The first course:
Braun en peuerarde. (Brawn in a sort of spiced wine pottage).
Viaund Ryal. (A soup of almond milk, wine, and spices)
Teste de senglere enarme. (Boar’s head with tusks)
Graund chare. (Large roasts)
Syngnettys. (Cygnets)
Capoun de haut grece. (Capons, larded)
Fesaunte. (Pheasant)
Heroun. (Heron)
Crustade Lumbarde. (A sort of savoury custard pie with marrow and dried fruit)
Storieoun, graunt luces. (Sturgeon, large pike)
A Sotelte. (A “subtlety” or decorated symbolic piece)

The second course.
Venyson en furmenty. (Venison with Frumenty)
Gely. (Jelly or Aspic)
Porcelle farce enforce. (Stuffed Sucking Pig)
Pokokkys. (Peacocks)
Cranys. (Cranes)
Venyson Roste. (Roast Venison)
Conyng. (Rabbit)
Byttore. (Bittern)
Pulle endore. (Gilded chickens)
Graunt tartez. (Great tarts with game, birds, etc, marrow, spices and eggs)
Braun fryez. (Brawn cooked in a sweet batter)
Leche lumbarde. (A paste of dates, wine, and spices, in slices)
A Sotelte. (A “subtlety” or decorated symbolic piece)

The third course.
Blaundesorye. (A white soup)
Quyncys in comfyte. (Preserved quinces)
Egretez. (Egrets)
Curlewys. (Curlews)
Pertryche. (Partridge)
Pyionys. (Pigeons)
Quaylys. (Quails)
Snytys. (Snipe)
Smal byrdys. (Small birds)
Rabettys. (Young Rabbits)
Pome dorreng. (Meatballs, cooked in a golden batter)
Braun blanke leche. (Brawn cooked with almond milk)
Eyroun engele. (Jellied Eggs)
Frytourys. (Fritters)
Doucettys. (Small cheesecakes)
Pety perneux. (Small tarts)
Egle. (Hedgehog??)
Pottys of lylye. (Pots of Lilies??)
A Sotelte. (A “subtlety” or decorated symbolic piece)

What to choose from such a feast? Some of the ingredients would be impossible to come by today – there is not too much bittern and crane at the butchers nowadays. Some dishes – the sweetened meat dishes for example – would probably not suit most modern palates. There are a few however that sound delicious, and could easily appear at a modern dinner party.

Recipe for the Day …

Chike Endored (Gilded chicken).
Take a chike, and drawe him, and roste him, And lete the fete be on, and take awey the hede; then make batur of yolkes of eyron and floure, and caste there-to pouder of ginger, and peper, saffron and salt, and pouder hit faire til hit be rosted ynogh.

Take a chicken, remove the viscera and roast him. Leave the feet on, and take away the head. Make a batter of egg yolks and flour and add powder of ginger, pepper, saffron and salt, and powder it fair till it be roasted enough.

Monday’s Story.

Big Fish of the Sea.

Quotation for the Day ….

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety. Aesop’s Fables.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The First Oktoberfest.

Today, October 12th …

When Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (later Ludwig I, the grandfather of poor mad Ludwig III) married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on this day in 1810, a five day festival was held in Munich as part of the celebrations. It was so much fun (and there was so much potential for commercial success) that it has been held every year since, apart from the 24 times when one or other Apocalyptic horseman has been galloping by.

Events tend to grow when they are both fun and lucrative, and the Oktoberfest now runs for two weeks and attracts over 6 million visitors who drink a lot (especially beer) and eat a lot (especially sausage). To be more specific, in 2004 the consumption factoids are:

Beer: 60,000 hectoliters (multiply by 100 to get liters).
Wine: 33, 358 liters (not including bubbly)
Pork sausages: 179, 889 pairs.
Pork knuckles: 560, 089 units.
Oxen: 95 units.

The beer is sold in liter glasses, which, I have to say, put the wussy Aussie “schooner” (425 ml) to shame. Some of the beer is specially brewed for the occasion, and can qualify for the name “Oktoberfestbier” if it is made within the Munich city limits.

I have a question: is it the usual thing in Germany to measure sausages in pairs?

Recipes for the Day …

Naturally, we have to have genuine German sausages today. We have discussed sausage several times before, and today we discover bratwurst, and re-discover cervella/saveloys – this time called zervelat, in a sixteenth century German cookbook by Sabina Welserin.

How one should make Zervelat.
First take four pounds of pork from the tender area of the leg and two pounds of bacon. Let this be finely chopped and add to it three ounces of salt, one pound of grated cheese, one and one half ounces of pepper and one and one half ounces of ginger. When it is chopped then knead the following into it, one and one half ounces cinnamon, one fourth ounce of cloves, one fourth ounce of nutmeg and one ounce of sugar. The sausage skins must be cleaned and subsequently colored yellow, for which one needs not quite one fourth ounce of saffron. Tie it up on both ends and pour in approximately one quart of fresh water. The entire amount of salt, ginger and pepper should not be added, taste it first and season it accordingly. It should be cooked about as long as to cook eggs. The seasoning and the salt must be put into it according to one's own discretion, it must be tried first. [Sabina Welserin, 1553]

If you would make good bratwurst.
Take four pounds of pork and four pounds of beef and chop it finely. After that mix with it two pounds of bacon and chop it together and pour approximately one quart of water on it. Also add salt and pepper thereto, however you like to eat it, or if you would like to have some good herbs , you could take some sage and some marjoram, then you have good bratwurst. [Sabina Welserin, 1553]

On this Topic …

Bologna/Baloney sausages were the topic on December 19th 2005.

Tomorrow’s Story ...

The Coronation of Henry IV.

Quotation for the Day …

Beer is proof that God loves us. Benjamin Franklin.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Eating in the Air.

Today, October 11th …

The very first airline meals were served on this day in 1919, on a Handley-Page flight from London to Paris, and a whole new chapter of dining history was opened up. These first meals were, in fact, simply pre-packed lunch boxes containing sandwiches, fruit, and coffee. The passenger paid 3 shillings (equivalent to about ₤4.50 today) for one of the boxes, which would have been an insignificant amount to anyone able to afford the ₤21 fare for the one-way trip at a time when a good craftsman could earn only ₤1 a day.

Nowadays, on all but the longest flights in the most expensive seats, airline meals are somewhere on the spectrum of boring to awful, and for most passengers their main purpose is to briefly relieve the monotony. Often there is no meal at all offered. Sometimes a totally unmemorable lunchbox option appears. Increasingly, passengers are not leaving it to chance and are pre-packing their own sustenance.

Somewhere between the two lunchbox eras there were a wonderful couple of decades of fine dining in the air. In the 1920’s Britain’s Imperial Airways, flying the Empire routes, five course dinners were standard, and in the 1930’s Handley-Page’s H.P. 42’s passengers had seven-course meals served at tables set up between facing seats. The short but exciting life of the great airships was not without its culinary delights either. Here is an example of a meal served aboard a Zeppelin flight:

Cream Soup Hamilton
Grilled Sole with Parsley Butter
Venison Cutlets Beauval with Berny Potatoes, Mushrooms and Cream Sauce
Mixed Cheese Plate

Naturally, fine German wine accompanied the meals aboard the Zeppelins, and the Riesling of Mülheim was so popular it became called Zeppelinwein.

Back to reality. If we must have a lunchbox filled with sandwiches to eat in the air, let us at least make them suggestive of far-away places. The lovely ladies of “The Gentle Art of Cookery” (1925) , Mrs Leyel and Miss Hartley, whose sandwiches we have encountered before, have some ideas.

Recipes for the Day …

Delhi sandwich.
Six anchovies, three sardines, one teaspoonful of chutney, one egg, one ounce of butter, one small teaspoonful of curry powder.
Free the sardines and anchovies from bones. Pound them with the seasonings, the chutney and butter. Beat up the yolk of the egg and stir this in, with a pinch of cayenne. Heat the mixture, stirring it into a smooth paste.
This is excellent spread between toast. The toast should be made in rather thick slices, split in two, and the soft sides buttered.

Russian Sandwich.
Chop watercress very finely and mix it to a paste with butter, and spread it on toast; sprinkle it with salt and paprika. Cover it with caviare seasoned with lemon juice.

American Salad Sandwich.
Mix cold cooked spinach and chopped hard-boiled eggs, with tartare sauce, and spread between bread.

Tomorrow’s Story ….

The first Oktoberfest.

Quotation for the Day …

About airline food “Anything that’s white is sweet. Anything that’s brown is meat. Anything that’s grey, don’t eat. Hermione Gingold.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nelson’s Onions.

Today, October 10th …

HMS Victory, with Admiral Lord Nelson aboard, was moored off Cadiz on this day in 1805. He was waiting the opportunity to engage England’s greatest enemy, Napoleon Bonaparte, and took the opportunity to write to the captains under his command on routine matters of victualling.

To the Respective Captains.

…. Having frequently known that onions have been purchased on account of Government when in Port, where the Pursers could and ought to purchase vegetables to put into the Ships Companies’soup, and that the onions so purchased by Government for recruiting the health of the Ships’Companies, have been used for the benefit of the Purser, by putting these vegetables into the soup, which the Purser should be obliged to purchase when to be procured; it is, therefore, my positive directions that the Pursers are obliged to purchase vegetables for the Ships’ soup when it is possible to procure them; and that the Government onions are not used for the soup, if the Purser has the power of obtaining onions or other vegetables, as he is bound to do. And it is my further directions, that whenever fresh provisions can be procured on reasonable terms, that it is purchased; but that onions, for the account of Government, are not purchased without my orders. Ships, absent for any length of time from me, are at liberty to purchase the gratuitous onions of Government for the recruiting the health of their Ships, Companies, who may have been long fed upon salt provisions.

Nelson’s letter indicates that he believed onions were important for the health of his seamen, and he seems to be indicating that the “Government Onions” were to be eaten raw when possible. The greatest health problem of seamen on long voyages was scurvy due to Vitamin C deficiency, and Nelson had suffered its ravages as a young man. Perhaps he thought onions would be help? The knowledge of scurvy prevention had been discovered, forgotten, rediscovered, disputed, and lost again repeatedly for centuries, but the British Navy was, thanks to the work of James Lind in 1747, by that time supplied with citrus juice in various forms. It is possible that the ability to remain at healthy at sea for long intervals without the need to re-provision was a factor in Nelson’s victory because it enabled the Navy to maintain its prolonged blockade of the French coast without returning to re-provision.

Eleven days later after he wrote this memo Nelson was dead, shot in the spine in the final hours of the Battle of Trafalgar, but not before he knew that he had soundly defeated Napoleon and ruined for ever his dream of conquering all of Europe.

Recipe for the Day …

From “Adam’s luxury, and Eve’s cookery; or, the kitchen-garden display’d” (1744)

To boil Onions that they shall taste as sweet as Sugar.

Take the largest Onions, and when you have cut off the Strings of the Root, and the green Tops, without taking off any of the Skins, fling them into Salt and Water, and let them lie an Hour; then wash them in it, and put them into a Kettle, where they may have plenty of Water, and boil them till they are tender. Then take them off, and take off as many Skins as you think fit, till you come to the white part, and then bruise them and toss them up with Cream or Butter, if you use them with boiled Rabbits or under a roasted Turkey; but in the last Case, this Sauce should be served in Basons, or on Plates. You may also bruise them and strain them through a Colander, and then put Cream to them, which is esteemed the nicest Way for a Turkey: or if you don’t bruise them, you may warm ‘em in strong Gravy well drawn, with Spice and sweet Herbs. And when that is done, thicken the Gravy with burnt Butter, adding a little Claret or white Wine, or for want of that a little Ale. This is sauce for a roast Turkey, roast Mutton, Lamb, &c.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Eating in the Air.

Quotation for the Day …

Let first the onion flourish there, Rose among the roots, the maiden-fair Wine scented and poetic soul of the capacious salad bowl. Robert Stevenson

Monday, October 09, 2006

On gods, mice, and leaves.

Today, October 9th …

The Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill in Rome was dedicated on this day in 28 B.C.E. Apollo was the god of music, poetry, light, healing, truth and prophesy. He was also the god of justice, order, and reason – although it appears that he did make unreasonable requests of the beautiful river nymph Daphne, who had sworn a vow of virginity. Daphne, so the story goes, was fleeing his advances and appealed to her father, the river god Peneus to save her, whereupon he changed her into a laurel tree. Apollo, grief-stricken (and chastened?) swore always to wear a laurel wreath on his brow in remembrance of her.

Apollo was also a god in the Greek firmament, and laurel leaves - which we usually now call Bay leaves - were used in rituals at Apollo’s temple in Delphi, perhaps because sufficient bay oil is mildly narcotic. On the Aegean island of Tenedos however, Apollo was associated with mice – although the reasons are obscure – and priests certainly used mice in rituals there, perhaps even eating them.

So, today’s theme being bay leaves and mice in ancient Rome, what do we do for recipes? The Romans were known to enjoy a dormouse or two, and there are recipes to prove it, but dormice are not, technically speaking, mice. They are both rodents, but the scientists have placed them in different families, which matters not a whit to us, as substitution of ingredients is a time-honoured technique in cookery.

The edible dormouse (Glis glis) gets its common name from its habit of sleeping up to three-quarters of its life (dormir = to sleep), and its scientific name refers to its luscious fat (gliscere = to grow). The Romans reared them for the table in pens called gliraria, supposedly feeding them on hazelnuts which must have improved the flavour no end.

If, perchance, you are unable to procure dormice for today’s recipe, you could substitute another rodent such as squirrel, beaver, guinea-pig or nutria for example. The green sauce with bay leaves, “for fowl”, would surely go well with the dormouse flesh?

Recipes for the Day …

From the Vehling translation of Apicius, “Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome”, we have:

Green Sauce for Fowl.
Pepper, Caraway, Indian Spikenard, Cumin, Bay Leaves, all kinds of green herbs, Dates, Honey, Vinegar, Wine, Little Broth, and oil.

Stuffed Dormouse.
Is stuffed with a forcemeat of pork and small pieces of dormouse meat trimmings, all pounded with pepper, nuts, laser, broth. Put the dormouse thus stuffed in an earthen casserole, roast it in the oven or boil it in the stockpot.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Nelson’s Onions.

Quotation for the Day …

“In Physick they [dormice] have also place. Eating the flesh frees from dog-hunger; the fat provokes sleep, if you anoint the soles of the feet therewith: the dung druncke, breaks the stone; the same with vinegar, and rosemary, cures shedding the hair; the ashes cleare the eye-sight.” Jonstonus, Joannes, “A description of the nature of four-footed beasts … “ (1678)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Womens’ Cakes.

Today, October 6th …

Modern girls can go to online dating services to choose a partner - which is probably as much a lottery as the old-fashioned method of choice-by-parent – but modern girls don’t seem to need or want to ‘forsee-by-ritual’ the man of their ultimate destiny. In older times it was quite the thing to participate in divination rituals, probably for that precise reason - that the girls had no choice of who to marry, so forewarned was forearmed – or hopefully, happily reassured. At the very least they provided an opportunity for a girly sleep-over party.

In olden times, if the previous evening’s rituals had gone well, a girl should have woken up today having dreamt of her future husband, for today is St. Faith’s day. According to legend, St.Faith was martyred in the third century by being baked on a gridiron and then beheaded. The fact that she was beautiful and virginal apparently qualified her to intervene on the part of young women, and her death by baking determined that the method of divination would be by cake. Of course, as in most rituals as well as lotteries, getting the numbers right is essential, so with this understanding we come to the details of the routine.

On St. Faith’s Eve, three girls would make a simple cake of flour, salt, sugar, and water, and bake it on a griddle. Each girl would turn it three times during the cooking. When it was cooked, the cake would be cut into three and each girl’s share cut into three times three pieces. Each of the nine pieces for each girl would be passed three times through the wedding ring of a woman married seven years. Presumably if she was happily married it would all have been more auspicious, but this is not part of the official ritual. Each girl then ate her nine pieces while she recited:

O good St Faith, be kind tonight
And bring to me my heart's delight
Let me my future husband view
And be my vision chaste and true.

The ring would be hung from the bed-head, and the girls would go to sleep, perchance to dream of the man of their dreams. And dreams always come true, don’t they?

If perchance the sleep was dreamless, or the dreamed-one unsuitable, there were other opportunities for divinations of love and marriage, including St. Agnes Eve, St. David’s Day, St. Anne’s Eve, and New Years Eve. It is hardly surprising that so many days were needed; it must have been a very anxiety-provoking time in a girl’s life, for in the absence of many other career options, if she did not become a wife she remained a family liability for ever.

Career options were not totally absent of course. A couple of the alternative jobs that were available for women are the inspiration for today’s recipe choices.

Recipes for the Day …

Pets de putain (Farts of a Whore).
Make your Fritters paste stronger than ordinary, by augmentation of flower and egs, then draw them small or slender, and when they are fryed, serve them warm with sugar and sweet water. [The French Cook, by la Varenne, 1653]

Nun’s Cake.
Beat eight ounces of fresh butter to a cream; add half a pound of fine flour, a small nutmeg grated, eight ounces of powdered sugar, the well-beaten yolks of four eggs, and a table-spoonful of cold water. Mix thoroughly, then stir in the whites of two of the eggs whisked to a solid froth. Work all briskly together for some minutes. Pour the mixture into a buttered mould, and, being careful to leave room for it to rise, bake in a moderate oven for about an hour. Probable cost, 1s. 4d. Sufficient for a quart mould. [Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, 1870’s]

Monday’s Story …

On gods, mice, and leaves.

Quotation for the Day …

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes salt. George Herbert

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"A Solace of Ripe Plums"

Today, October 5th …

Our old friend Parson James Woodforde sat down to “a Loin of Veal rosted, some hashed Hare and a Damson Pye” for dinner on this day in 1789. Not a mere plum pye, mind you, but a damson pye. The distinction was important.

The exact origin of the plum is shrouded in some guesswork, but this not being a history of horticulture blog, it will have to suffice to say that the origin is ancient and Asian. There are many Prunus species - wild, semi-wild, and cultivated, which give us a veritable feast for all culinary reasons, from jam to gin. “Damsons” were originally “Damascus plums”, because it was believed that they originated in that most ancient of cities. The many different spellings of the word over the centuries (damasons, damysyns, damasins etc), may indicate that sometimes a different variety was being specified, if a legal case before the courts in Nottinghamshire in 1891 is any clue. A greengrocer complained that he had ordered damsons but got damascenes - suggesting that damsons were superior.

There is then, a hierarchy of plums that runs from the sublime to laxative (for what is a prune but a dried plum?). Where is the damson on this scale? Below the regal “Reine Claude” (or Green Gage) named after the Queen consort of François I of France, surely? Well above the wild sloes and bullaces available to the foraging peasants, certainly.

Plums are not just good to eat, they have a long history of medicinal use too, and sometimes damsons were specified in old remedies. The fifteenth century physician and monk, Andrew Boorde, said “damysens eaten before dyner, be good to prouoke a mans appetyde”, which is an entirely different sort of gastrointestinal provocation than we normally associate with plums (the dried ones anyway). The absence of a medical qualification was not always a barrier to writing medical texts, and the scientist Robert Boyle (of “Boyle’s Law” fame) wrote a little book called “Medicinal experiments: or, a collection of choice and safe remedies … ” in 1718, which gives this tasty remedy for an annoying problem:

For the Hiccup (even in Fevers.)
Give two or three preserv’d Damsons at a time.

Recipe for the Day …

Plums of all types are ideal for jams, jellies, and conserves. Hannah Woolley in her “The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex.” (1670) gives a recipe for “marmalade” made with damsons. It sounds quite delicious, with the inclusion of apples and some ginger.

Marmalade of Damsons.
Take two Pounds of Damsons, and one Pound of Pippins pared and cut in pieces, bake them in an Oven with a little Ginger, when they are tender, poure them into a Cullender, and let the syrup drop from them, then strain them, and take as much sugar as the Pulp doth weigh, boil it to a Candy height with a little water, then put in your Pulp, and boil till it will come from the bottom of the Skillet, and so put it up.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Womens’ Cakes.

Quotation for the Day …

To A Poor Old Woman
munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her
You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

William Carlos Williams.