Friday, March 31, 2006

Jelly that doesn't.

Today, March 31st …

A young woman called Annabella Boswell recorded in her journal the details of everyday life on her uncle’s magnificent homestead near Port Macquarie, New South Wales in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The well-to-do household had a well-staffed kitchen, but Annabella occasionally tried her own hand at cooking. On this day in 1848 she recorded her preserving efforts:

“Made two pineapples into jelly – when peeled they wieghed 3 ½ pounds each. The gardener weighed several lately, the heaviest weighing 4lb 1 oz. They are very fine and plentiful but none of us like them. I made the jelly as we do apples, but it never jellied properley, and is more like honey both in colour and substance”

Here we have a small mystery partly due to two countries being divided by a confusing culinary language. Was she making ‘jam’(thick conserve to spread on bread), or ‘jelly’(a cold dessert ‘set’ with hartshorn, calves foot, or gelatine)? Surely not the latter, for ‘everyone’ knows that pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which prevents gelatine from setting. Cooking destroys the enzyme, which is why using canned pineapple does not cause the problem, and why there should be no problem when ‘jam’ is being made.

American readers are at an advantage here: ‘jelly’ being to them what English and Australians think of as ‘jam’, they will assume that Annabella’s problem would have been due to insufficient sugar or insufficient boiling. It is English-English which causes confusion, because ‘jelly’ can also mean a semi-transparent ‘jam’ made from fruit juice or strained fruit. Which did Annabella make?

Eliza Acton explains one method of making Apple Jelly in her “Modern Cookery” (1845)

Apple Calf’s Feet Jelly.
Pour a quart of prepared apple juice on a pound of fresh apples pared and cored, and simmer them until they are well-broken; strain the juice, and let it stand until cold; them measure, an put a pint and a half of it into a stewpan with a quart of calf’s feet stock, nine ounces of sugar broken small or roughly pounded, the juice of two fine lemons, and the thin rinds of one and a half, with the whites and shells of eight eggs. Let it boil gently for ten minutes, then strain it through a flannel-bag, and when cool put into moulds. It will be very clear, and firm, and of a pleasant flavour.

[The image of the pineapple is courtesy of . It appeared in the "Historia general y natural de las Indias, Islas y Tierra-Firme del Mar Oceano" (1535) by Father Gonzalode Oviedo y Valdes, who went to the Americas in 1513.]

On Monday: A surgeon’s biscuits.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gin Brandy Beer and Treacle.

Today, March 30th …

James Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson, recorded a dinner with the great man on this day in 1781.

On Friday, March 30, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with the Earl of Charlemont, Sir Annesley Stewart, Mr. Eliot of Port-Eliot, Mr. Burke, Dean Marlay, Mr. Langton; … Mr. Eliot mentioned a curious liquor peculiar to his country, which the Cornish fishermen drink. They call it Mahogany; and it is made of two parts gin, and one part treacle, well beaten together. I begged to have some of it made, which was done with proper skill by Mr. Eliot. I thought it very good liquor.

In Colonial India, ‘mahogany’ was a mixture of brandy and water, perhaps indicating that nostalgic Colonial Cornishmen could source neither their gin nor treacle. According to a reference from 1816 in the OED, ‘It is believed that drinking mahogany (a strong description of brandy pauny) is the best preventive against the sun's heat. The remedy is in general repute in Bombay.’ ‘Pauny’ comes from the Sanskrit for drinking water. Dont say you dont learn useful stuff from the OldFoodie.

The local name for the treacle/gin drink in the county of Yorkshire was ‘whistle-jacket’, even when it was made with brandy. ‘Mahogany’ is obvious, but why ‘whistle-jacket’?

If you prefer beer, have no mangel-wurzels but lots of treacle, you could try Mrs Dalgairns’ (1840) recipe.

Cheap Beer
For a ten-gallon cask allow three ounces of hops, ten pounds of bran, two ounces bruised ginger, four pounds treacle, four ounces good yeast. Boil the hops and ginger in fifteen gallons of water for an hour and a quarter, add the bran, and boil twenty minutes longer; strain the liquor on the treacle; stir the mixture well, and let it stand till it becomes milk-warm, or from 60° to 70° Fahrenheit; then strain it through a thick cloth laid over a riddle or sieve; add four or five ounces of yeast, stir it well, and when cold, put it into the cask; keep filling up the cask till it has done working, which may be in two days. It must then be bunged up, and will be fit for drinking in two days. It will keep good in the cask for ten days or a fortnight – or it may be bottled.
This beer will not be so strong nor so cheap as the mangel-wurzel beer.

Tomorrow: Jelly that doesn’t.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dangerous in Translation.

Today, March 29th …

The Renaissance Mannerist painter Jacopo Carrucci da Pontormo (1494-1557) kept a diary – we dont know for how long – and a portion of it survives to record his day to day activities, including his meals. His frequent asides about health and diet have been interpreted as indicating he was neurotic and hypochondriacal, but his references were perfectly in keeping with the times, when food and medicine were the same thing, and any minor symptom might have sinister implications.

On this day in 1554 he noted:

Friday evening salad, green pea soup and a pancake and bread for 5 cents.

There is a Renaissance salad recipe in Platina’s “On right Pleasure and Good Health” (1475), which sounds delicious – apart from one possibly poisonous ingredient! This is from the Milham translation (1998).

Seasoned Salad.
There may be likewise a seasoned salad from lettuce, borage, mint, calamint, fennel, parsley, wild thyme, marjoram, chervil, sow-thistle, which doctors call taraxicon, lancet , which they call lamb’s tongue, night-shade, flower of fennel, and several other aromatic herbs, well-washed and with the water pressed out. They need a large dish. They ought to be sprinkled with a lot of salt and moistened with oil, then after vinegar has been poured over and when they have sat for a little, their wild toughness demands eating and chewing well with the teeth. This dish requires more oil and less vinegar. It is more suitable in winter than in summer because it requires more digestion, which is strong in winter.

Here we have an immediate conflict with our idea of a salad being healthy. “Nightshade”, especially of the Deadly kind, is, well, – quite deadly.

For Latin scholars, the original text is:“lactuca buglosso menta nepeta feniculo petroselino sisimbrio origano caerefolio cicerbita, quam taraxicon, lanceola, quam arnaglossam, medici vocant, morella, feniculi flore, ad plerisque aliis odorifiris herbis … ”.

We cannot be certain exactly which herbs Platina intended: the translator here has used ‘borage’ for ‘buglosso’, but it could mean ox-tongue (Picris echioides) for example. However, it is ‘morella’ which is the real problem. The word comes from the Latin morus, meaning black, and variations of morel/morella refer to dark berries (as in the nightshades), a variety of cherry, a mushroom, and even a black horse. It seems fairly certain that nightshade berries were not intended in this salad, but an aromatic, leafy herb was. Perhaps one with dark leaves? Any ideas anyone?

Tomorrow: Gin, brandy, beer and treacle.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Death in the Pot.

Today, Tuesday March 28th …

Frederick Accum was born on this day in 1769 in Germany. He grew up to be an analytical chemist, moved to Britain, and was an early and aggressive campaigner for pure food. In 1820 he published a treatise with the grand title of:

A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, Exhibiting the Fraudulent Sophistications of Bread, Beer, Wine, Spiritous Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Cream, Confectionery, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper, Cheese, Olive Oil, Pickles, and other Articles Employed in Domestic Economy, and Methods of Detecting Them.

The book was known better by the phrase “There is Death in the Pot”, which he stole from 2 Kings, Ch. IV, v. 40, and which suited the sensationalist style. Accum not only described the common methods of adulteration, he actually named the perpetrators, not unsurprisingly making a lot of enemies in the process, and eventually having to return to Germany.

“Death in the Pot” was also appropriated by some nineteenth century vegetarians to signify the horrors of Meat in the Pot. To Dr J.H. Kellogg it was in the form of ‘diseased hogs for the dinner table’- the source of ‘loathsome parasites’ and ‘mysterious diseases’. Mary (Mrs. Horace) Mann was OK with meat, but death (and moral decay) came in the pot in the form of many other things, all detailed in her book “Christianity in the Kitchen” (1857). Alcohol, pie-crust made with butter or lard, turtle soup, wheat flour, vinegar and baking soda were indigestible, therefore un-Christian: “Why is not dyspepsia disgraceful, like delirium tremens?” she asked. Her list seems hardly in the same league as some of Accum’s examples: brick dust in cocoa, green vitriol or sulphate of iron to give beer a good ‘head’, alum in bread, and copper sulphate to colour pickles nice and green.

Her recipe for coconut pudding sounds pretty good, and using fresh coconut avoids the propylene glycol, sulphur dioxide and who knows what else in the supermarket dessicated kind.

Cocoa-nut pudding.
Grate a large cocoa-nut, and cook it thoroughly in hot milk. Add a large tumbler of grated bread, the same of sweet cream, half the tumbler of white sugar, five eggs, and flavour with rose water or lemon. It is best to beat the yolks of the eggs and cream together till they froth, add the well-beaten whites last. Line the dish with cream pastry; bake till the paste is cooked. Any other flavour may be added to the taste.

Tomorrow: Dangerous in translation.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A gay rugby dinner.

Today, Monday March 27th …

The Welsh rugby team were entertained at dinner in the Hotel Lutetia in Paris on this day in 1957, during the Five Nations competition. The dinner was as would be expected from such a fine venue, but the actual paper menu has a most unexpected phrase on the reverse. Above a drawing which could conceivably demonstrate two players holding hands, are the words “gay rugby”. It meant that they were “light-hearted, exuberantly cheerful, sportive, merry”?

Le Saumon de l’Adour au Champagne
Le Carré d’Agneau Périgourdine
Les Bouquets de Primeurs
Le Chaud-Froid de Vollaile Rose de Mai
Coeurs de Laitues Mimosa
Le Plateau de Fromage
L’Ananas Voilé a l’Orientale
Les Friandises

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 1954
Chateau Montrose Saint-Estephe1954
Mercurey Clos du Roi 1953
Le Taittinger Blanc de Blanc 1950
Café, Liqueurs

March 27th was also the anniversary of the very first international rugby game in 1871, which took place between England and Scotland in Edinburgh. There is no record of an associated dinner, but surely there was one?

The Baron Brisse, an impoverished French aristocrat who earned a living by becoming probably the first food journalist, wrote a book called “366 menus and 1200 recipes” in 1868. For March 27th, his suggested menu was:

Potage à la purée de pois.
Morue à la maître d’hôtel
Côtelletes de mouton sauce tomates
Pâté de bécassines
Macédoine de légumes en salade
Soupirs de nonne

His recipe for “Soupirs de nonne” (Nun’s sighs) seems to be a ridiculous choice for what started out as a rugby theme, so here it is:

Nun’s sighs.
Warm a lump of butter the size of a walnut, a lump of sugar, a little lemon-peel, and a pinch of salt in a tumblerful of water, let it boil over two or three times; stir in some flour until it becomes a thick paste, and continue stirring until it is cooked, which you can tell, if the paste does not stick to your finger; leave it in the saucepan until cold, then stir in one egg at a time until it is thin enough to drop out of a spoon. Take a dessert spoon and drop lumps of the paste about the size of a walnut into lard which is not quite boiling, take out when swollen to four times their original size and of a golden colour. Sprinkle with sugar and serve hot; they are also nice cold.

[The Baron also goes on to say “The flavouring can be varied by omitting the lemon-peel and stirring in a little orange-flower water with the first egg.”, but that would take me far over my allowed word-count, so please dont try the variation.]
Tomorrow: Death in the Pot.

Friday, March 24, 2006

All the wheat that's good to eat.

The final episode in our week of WW II food.

Today, Friday March 24th …

The Federation of Bakers was formed on this day in 1942, to assist in organising the wartime production and distribution of bread, and in particular to promote the ‘National Wheatmeal Loaf’ – the Plus Loaf.

Eating this brown version of the staff of life became a patriotic duty, and an awful lot of propaganda was applied to persuading the British from away from their standard white bread. The National Loaf was made with flour of 85% extraction, and it was desirable because it was a more efficient way of using imported wheat, at a time when “Ships and more ships are wanted for war materials. Less space can be spared for food. That’s why we must all think of food in terms of ship-savers”.

It might be “All the wheat that’s easy to eat”, but as the war progressed barley and oats were included, and in 1943 potato flour was allowed – probably the point at which some reluctant eaters called it ‘Hitler’s Secret Weapon’. Every propaganda angle was used: customers who bought it were smart as well as patriotic because it was “the wise ones who want it”, because the bread was “one thing better than it was before – better and no dearer!”.

No bread was to be wasted: one way or another all waste played directly into the hands of The Hun.

REMEMBER that if everyone in Great Britain wasted ½ oz. of bread daily we should be wasting 250,000 tons of wheat a year, and that 30 wheat ships would be required to carry that amount.

For the housewife “To-day’s scraps are tomorrow’s Savouries”, and pamphlets and newspapers gave and solicited hints for using every scrap of stale bread. This was one Ministry of Food ‘recipe of the week’:

Savoury Meat Roll.
¾ lb sausage meat
4 oz stale bread
5 oz pinto beans
1 teaspoonful thyme
1 teaspoonful made mustard
pepper and salt
gravy browning.
Soak the stale bread in water until soft. Squeeze out the water and mash the bread with the sausage meat, the beans – cooked and mashed, pepper, salt, made mustard, and thyme. Add gravy browning until the mixture is a rich brown. Press very firmly into a greased 2 lb, stone jam jar or tin, and steam for 2 hours. Roll in browned bread-crumbs and serve hot with brown gravy, or cold with a raw cabbage heart salad, and boiled potatoes.

On Monday: A gay rugby dinner.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Scarcity of Fat.

Today, Thursday March 23rd …

During World War II, every Allied household was encouraged to save every scrap of fat so that it could be re-directed to the making of glycerine, which was a key ingredient in the manufacture of explosives. Fat in all forms was rationed for much of the war in both Britain and America, and the housewife was vigorously encouraged to salvage whatever she could from whatever did make it into the kitchen. Meat was trimmed, roasting dishes scraped, stews skimmed, and the grease strained into an empty can which was then collected by the butcher.

The regular wartime column ‘News of Food’, in the New York Times on this day in 1943 carried an article on how to cope with the ‘fat scarcity’. Readers were advised that butter could be substituted with meat drippings in many dishes, or could be ‘stretched’ by various methods, such as this:

Spread D
(Makes half a pound)
¾ teaspoon gelatine
1 tablespoon cold water
¼ pound softened butter
½ cup evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt.
Put the gelatin in a bowl, add the cold water and place bottom of bowl in hot water until gelatin melts and dissolves.Gradually add the softened butter, the evaporated milk and salt, beating continuously with a fork or electric mixer. When well blended, pack in a mold or in waxed paper and chill until firm in the ice box.

In the event of no fat being available, and therefore a deficiency of Vitamin A looming, it was suggested that this could be obtained from dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, milk and liver.

Spinach as a substitute for bacon grease, now there’s an interesting concept!

The newspaper had been publishing ideas for daily menus. In the light of the scarcity, these had been adapted to be lower in fat. The suggested menu for the following day (24th) was:

Stewed prunes* **
Bran flakes with milk
Toasted muffins* Jelly
Coffee Milk

Toasted cheese sandwiches
Carrot strips
Fresh apples Milk

Broiled porgies
Stewed celery and tomatoes**
Boiled potatoes with parsley
Fruit salad with mayonnaise
Reheated cup cakes* with lemon sauce if desiered
* indicates use of a leftover
** indicates use of a rationed food.

There must have been side-benefits to health from all this fat re-cycling. Can we not find some other vital thing to manufacture from it? Lard-powered computers? Bacon-fat-driven mobile phones?

Tomorrow: All the wheat that’s easy to eat.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Nella's Sadness.

More on this week’s theme of WW II food.

Today, Wednesday 22nd March …

Nella Last was an ordinary British housewife – a bored, slightly neurotic one, prone to headaches and nervous turns – when she responded to the call for volunteers for the Mass Observation campaign of WW II.

The simple act of keeping a diary of the day to day events of the war provided her with a creative outlet that she had not known she needed, and her lowly ‘knack’ of making something out of nothing suddenly made her a local expert in wartime domestic management. She lost her headaches and thrived.

Ironically, she never knew that she had become a writer (an impossible fantasy in her pre-war life) – and a very good one - as her diary was not published until after her death. ‘Nella Last’s War’ is not only a marvellous record of everyday life on the home front, it is a wonderful story of one woman finding fulfillment through day-to-day activities in the most awful circumstances.

On this day in 1941, Nella wrote her diary after returning from the market.

“There were closed stalls everywhere in the market today … no eggs, fowls or golden butter … golden honey or glowing home-made orange marmalade. …Only muddy-looking – and far too small – cockles and pieces of most unpleasant beetroot … I wandered about with sadness in my heart …”.

Nella was far more resilient than she knew, and I have no doubt that once she got home she would have just gotten on with making something pleasant from the unpleasant beetroot, or whatever it was that she finally purchased that day.

The Ministry of Food’s ‘Food Facts’ leaflet No. 40 had a recipe for “using the sweetness of beetroot to make a nice sweet pudding with very little sugar”, which would have been perfect.

Beetroot Pudding.
First mix 6 oz. wheatmeal flour with ½ teaspoonful baking powder, Rub in 1 ½ oz. fat and add 1 oz. sugar and 4 oz. cooked or raw beetroot very finely grated.
Now mix all the ingredients to a soft cake consistency with 3 or 4 tablespoonfuls of milk. Add a few drops of flavouring essence if you have it. Turn the mixture into a greased pie dish or square tin and bake immediately in a moderate oven for 35-40 minutes. This pudding tastes equally good hot or cold.

More Stories about Nella Last appear in 'Nella's Orange Jelly' and 'An indifferent Rabbit'.

Tomorrow: A scarcity of fat.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Beige Meals.

Continuing this week’s theme of WW II food:

Today, Tuesday March 21st …

On this day in 1941, Winston Churchill sent a memo to Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food, in relation to the “Community Kitchens” order.

“I hope the term ‘communal feeding centres’ is not going to be adopted. It is an odious expression, suggestive of Communism and the workhouse. I suggest you call them ‘British Restaurants’. Everybody associates ‘restaurant’ with a good meal, and they may as well have the name if they cannot get anything else”

The concept of “British Restaurants” had arisen out of the need to supply meals for workers who did not have access to a canteen, although anyone could use them. Local buildings were requisitioned, and wholesome hot meals at a maximum of one shilling were supplied with no ration coupons required. Within two months there were 800 of them around the country, and by the end of 1942 there were over 1800.

Anthony Burgess referred to British Restaurants as “that disastrous war-child of Winston Churchill”. Frances Partridge shows why:

"We joined a swelling stream of the citizens of Swindon, all following a series of notices marked 'British Restaurants’, to a huge elephant house, where thousands of human beings were eating as we did an enormous all-beige meal, starting with beige soup thickened to the consistency of paste, followed by beige mince full of lumps and garnished with beige beans and a few beige Potatoes, thin beige apple stew and a sort of skilly. Very satisfying and crushing, and calling up a vision of our future Planned World, all beige also …. "

“Skilly” is defined by the OED as “ A kind of thin, watery porridge, gruel, or soup, commonly made from oatmeal, and traditionally used especially in prisons and workhouses.” The use of that ultra-beige food, oatmeal, was encouraged during the war because it was home-grown. Many recipes were circulated, including this one, which can stand for soup or skilly:

1 oz margarine
2 medium onions, grated or finely diced
2 tablespoons oatmeal
1 pint cold water
salt and pepper
½ pint milk
3 medium carrots grated
Heat the margarine in a pan, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Blend the oatmeal with the cold water, tip into the pan and stir as the mixture comes to the boil; season lightly. Simmer steadily for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the milk and carrots and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Tomorrow: Nella’s Sadness.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The expense of a sugar offence.

And now for Something Slightly Different: we will have an overall theme for this week: the food of World War II …

Today, Monday March 20th …

The Times of London on this day in 1940 reported a breach of the wartime Rationing Order:

“ … an employee of the Food Control Committee saw a Rolls-Royce car drive up the Messrs. Kay’s shop in the High Street, Watford. A chauffeur left the shop carrying a large cardboard container, the flaps of which were widely open and containing blue bags … Mrs. Reekie … was subsequently seen by officials of the Divisional Food Office, who told her that they had reason to believe that she was in possession of about 1 cwt sugar …“I paid Kay’s manager two guineas; I did not get a receipt” she said. Mr Temple said that this was not a technical offence. The sugar ration was enough for 140 people for one week."

That greedy little act cost Mrs. Reekie ₤75. She could probably afford it.

Food may have been plain and uninspiring during the war, but there is no doubt that an awful lot of Britons were better fed than before, because the abiding principle and watchwords were “share and share alike”. The authorities meant it, and Rationing Orders were enforced.

Most of the newspapers’ reports of breaches seem to concern offenders from Britain’s rich and powerful. Strange that. Lots of possible explanations. Later in the year it was Sir Percy Laurie unlawfully obtaining a new ration book (fine ₤550, costs 35 guineas), Lady Sligo “obtaining” a pound of butter from “friends” in Dublin (fine 40s. costs ₤3.3s), the Mayor, Aldermen And Burgesses of Wembley for supplying food without a licence (fine ₤150, costs ₤21).

Mrs. Ordinary Housewife couldn’t afford to “obtain” extra anything, but found ways around the shortages with the help of “Food Facts” leaflets from the Ministry of Food, radio programs such as “The Kitchen Front”, and of course the everlasting housewives recipe-swap network.

Golden syrup was a useful substitute for sugar.

4 oz self-raising flour or plain flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
2 tablespoons warmed golden syrup
¼ pint milk or milk and water
Sift the flour or flour and baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Heat the syrup and milk or milk and water, pour over the flour and beat well. Pour into a well greased 1 lb loaf tin and bake in the centre of a moderately hot to hot oven for 30 mins or until firm.

Tomorrow: Beige meals.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Daynty Sirrups and Grand Sallets

Today, March 17 …

According to the mediaeval calendar, the flower of today, dedicated to St Gertrude of Nivelles, is the Sweet Violet (Viola odorata). Violets have a long culinary and medicinal history in Europe, and these were often one and the same thing – the idea of food as medicine is hardly new. The herbalist John Gerard said: 'It has power to ease inflammation, roughness of the throat and comforteth the heart, assuageth the pains of the head and causeth sleep' – and if it can do all that and taste and look good, why are we not all growing it in our backyards?

An earlier OldFoodie considered the marigold, a flower whose culinary value resides solely in its intense colour; the violet has this and more. Its intense heady perfume and intrinsic sweetness can be imparted to wine, vinegar, sugar and ‘daynty sirrups’; its flowers are just the right size for crystallising, and the leaves are also useful in salads.

Why has our use of flowers as food fallen off so? Has the fragrance been bred out of them as the trade-off for longer vase-life? Is it the pesticide residue? Have the awful Parma Violet sweets in the cellophane roll poisoned our appreciation of the real thing?

We think we are being terribly adventurous today if we toss a few nasturtium flowers into our green salad, but one eighteenth century recipe for ‘A Grand Sallet for Spring’, suitable for a “great feast’, contained violet leaves and flowers as well as strawberry leaves and cowslip buds along with water-cresses, almonds, raisins, and many other ingredients. A fourteenth century recipe for something called “Mon Amy” which is a dish of creamy curds thickened with egg yolks, flavoured with saffron and decorated with “vyollettes” – how amazing does that sound?

To impress your guests and comforteth their hearts, you could keep some violet syrup on hand, to flavour your custards and “Oriental Sherberts”. This one is from John Nott’s ‘Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary’ (1724):

Syrup of Violets.
Beat a Pound of pickt Violets in a Mortar, with a little Water, just to moisten them. In the mean time boil four Pounds of Sugar till it is pearled; take it off the Fire, let the Boiling cease; then put in the Violets, and temper all well together. Strain all through a fine Cloth into an earthen Pan; when it is cold put it in Bottles.

On Monday: The expense of a sugar offence.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Muse and the Murder.

Today, March 16th …

France outlawed the sale of absinthe on this day in 1915. The drink that the New York Times called “the most pernicious and treacherously fascinating of all alcoholic stimulants” had already been banned in several countries. France however was reluctant to vanquish the drink that was so closely associated with the artistic life, the “green fairy” that Lautrec, van Gogh, Degas, Manet, Picasso, Hemingway, Wilde and many others painted, wrote about, and drank to assist the muse. Then in 1905 a man called Jean Lanfray shot his pregnant wife and two daughters (and failed to kill himself), after consuming a huge amount and variety of alcoholic drinks. France was shocked, absinthe got all the blame and the outcry against it became impossible to ignore.

Part of the allure of absinthe was its colour - bright green turning milky yellow when water was trickled into it through the special perforated spoon that was also part of the mystique – and part was due to its supposed psychoactive properties - it contains thujone, a hallucinogenic similar to the active ingredient in marijuana. In reality the alcohol content will do the damage long before you can get enough hallucinogen.

Absinthe is legal again, but if you prefer the aniseed/liquorice flavour in your food, try this eighteenth century recipe.

From “The cook’s and confectioner’s dictionary” (1724)

To stew a Filet of Beef the Italian Fashion.
Take the Skins and Sinews from a Filet of Beef, put it into a Bowl with White-wine, crush it in it and wash it well; then strew upon it a little Pepper, and a Powder called by the Italians Tamara (which is made of one Ounce of Aniseed, an Ounce of Cinnamon, and an Ounce of Cloves, beaten into a gross Powder, with a little Powder of Winter-Savoury; these all kept in a Glass-Vial) and as much Salt as will season it; mingle all these well together, and put in as much White-wine as will cover it; put a Board on it to keep it down, and let it lie in steep for two Nights and a Day; then take it out and put it into a stew-pan with some good Broth, that is not salt, but none of the Pickle [ie. the marinating liquid] ; put in whole Cloves and Mace, cover it close, let it stew till it is tender, then serve it with as much of the Broth as will cover it.

Tomorrow: For Daynty Sirrups and Grand Sallets.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Bloodless Feast.

Today, March 15th …

Two hundred members of the New York Vegetarian Society attended a banquet on this day in 1892. A slightly mystified journalist from the New York Times noted that wine and toothpicks were, like meat, absent from the “bloodless feast”, and gave the menu.

Corn muffins.
Cream of celery soup.
Oyster-plant patties with slices of lemon.
Potato cakes and macaroni stewed with parmesan cheese.
Stewed parsnips and baked tomatoes.
Sorbet “Le Favre”.
Mushrooms broiled, on toast, Saratoga chips, boiled rice, lettuce salad.
Dessert: tapioca pudding with whipped cream sauce; vari-colored ice-cream; cakes; candies; oranges.

The President, Mrs Le Favre, spoke on “The sanctity of the home is disturbed by the presence of meats. Those who eat flesh keep themselves in a condition of brutality”.

Oyster plant and tapioca hold no mysteries or fears for OldFoodie readers, so today we will consider a couple of other vegetarian delights.

From the very English (note the comment on garlic) Cassell’s Vegetarian Cookery (1891):

Macaroni - Italian Fashion.
This is very similar to sparghetti (sic), only ordinary pipe macaroni is used. Take, say, a teacupful of macaroni, wash it, break it up into two-inch pieces, and throw it into boiling water that has been salted. Strain it of off, put it in the stew-pan for a few minutes, with a little piece of butter and some pepper and salt. Add a tablespoonful of tomato conserve, and serve it with some grated Parmesan cheese, served separate in a dish.
Some rub the stew-pan with a head of garlic. This gives it what may be called a more foreign flavour, but this should not be done unless you know your guests like garlic. Unfortunately, the proper use of garlic is very little understood in this country.

From the very American “Science in the Kitchen” (1893) by the very vegetarian Ella Kellogg, something similar to corn muffins.

Corn Puffs.
Mingle the yolk of one egg with one cupful of rich milk. Add to the liquid one cupful of flour, one-half cupful of fine, yellow corn meal, and one-fourth cupful of sugar, all of which have previously been well mixed together. Place the batter on ice for an hour, or until very cold. Then beat it vigorously five or ten minutes, till full of air bubbles; stir in lightly the stiffly beaten white of the egg, and put at once into heated irons. Bake in a moderately quick oven, thirty or forty minutes.

Tomorrow: The Muse and the Murder.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The First Domestic Goddess.

Today, March 14th …

Today was the birth day in 1836 of Isabella Beeton, who did not get to celebrate nearly enough birthdays, dying as she did just before her 29th birthday from complications of childbirth.

In her too-short (and obviously computer-less) life she produced her encyclopaedic ‘Household Manual’ with no more formal education than ladies generally received at the time, between assisting her husband in his publishing business, managing the household, and bearing four children.

In the chapter which gives suggested ‘Bills of Fare’ for each month of the year, for a ‘plain family dinner’ for a Tuesday in March she suggested:

Mock turtle soup.
Hashed mutton, rump-steaks and oyster sauce.
Boiled plum-pudding.

The soup was “made with the liquor that the calf’s head [from Sunday’s dinner] was boiled in, and the pieces of head”.

Perhaps she might have had a small dinner party on her birthday? Her suggested menu for a dinner for 8 persons in March was:
First Course.
Calf’s head Soup.
Brill and Shrimp Sauce. Broiled Mackerel à la Maitre d’Hôtel.

Lobster Cutlets. Calf’s Liver and Bacon, aux fines herbes.

Second Course.
Roast Loin of Veal. Two Boiled Fowls à la Béchamel. Boiled Knuckle of Ham.
Vegetables – Spinach or Brocoli (sic)

Third Course.
Wild Ducks.
Apple Custards. Blancmange. Lemon Jelly. Jam Sandwiches.
Ice Pudding. Potatoes à la Maitre d’Hôtel.

Dessert and Ices.
The menu has two dishes “à la Maitre d’Hôtel” - literally meaning “by the master of the house”, but in practice referring to a base of classic “Maitre d’Hotel” butter – butter creamed with chopped parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper, either used alone or incorporated into another sauce.

From her magnificent manual:

Potatoes à la Maitre d’Hôtel.
Potatoes, salt, water; to every 6 potatoes allow 1 tablespoonful of minced parsley, 2 oz. of butter, pepper and salt to taste, 4 tablespoons of gravy, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Wash the potatoes clean, and boil them in salt and water; when done, drain them, let them cool; then peel and cut the potatoes into thick slices; if these are too thin they would break in the sauce. Put the butter into a stew pan with the pepper, salt, gravy and parsley; mix these ingredients well together, put in the potatoes, shake them two or three times, that they may be well covered with the sauce, and, when quite hot through, squeeze in the lemon juice and serve.

Tomorrow: A bloodless feast.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Flying fortresses and freezers.

Today, March 13th …

There was an article in the New York Times on this day in 1943, describing a novel way of making ice-cream. The geniuses were American airmen serving in England, flying Boeing B-17’s – better known as “The Flying Fortresses”. They probably considered it their patriotic duty to find a way to prepare their rations since the Secretary of War in the USA had declared ice-cream an “essential foodstuff”, presumably along with peanut butter and jelly.

The article said:

United States airmen based on British stations have discovered a handy way of making ice cream. They place prepared ice-cream mixture in a large can and anchor it to the rear-gunner’s compartment of a Flying Fortress. It is well shaken up and nicely frozen by flying over enemy territory at high altitudes. Care must be taken to drop bombs and not ice-cream on enemy targets, and to avoid Nazi fighters and anti-aircraft fire. That is all there is too it.

The ice-cream mix may have been simply some powdered flavouring added to milk or cream, or it may have been a complete mix, prepared by spray drying. Not to get too technical here, there are technological problems with spray drying because “dehydration of sugar-rich foods is often difficult because of caking and stickiness problems”. No doubt this difficulty was behind NASA’s development of Freeze-Dried Ice-Cream (amazing phrase, that) for the use of its astronauts in space. What is it about men who fly, and ice-cream?

A recipe for a war-time ice-cream had appeared in the New York Times the previous year.

Vanilla Ice-Cream.
2-3 cup condensed milk
½ cup water
1 ½ teas vanilla
1 cup whipping cream or condensed milk, whipped
Mix the condensed milk, water, and vanilla, and chill. Whip the cream, or condensed milk to a custard-like consistency , and fold into the first mixture. Freeze in the freezing unit of the refrigerator, with the temperature at the coldest possible point, until about half frozen. Then scrape from the freezing tray and beat until smooth, but not melted. Replace in the freezing unit until frozen.

The article went on to describe how to ring the changes on this basic recipe by using additives such as lemon extract or maple flavouring, but quite frankly, the basic mix sounds awful enough, without these ‘improvements’.

If the military version was anything like this, it would have served very well as a weapon of war.

Tomorrow: The First Domestic Goddess.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A cheering and strengthening sauce.

Today, March 10th …

The English writer John Ruskin described supper at the “salon” of “Mme. C” in Paris on this day in 1865.

The day had started quite well for the guests, as “Choice Yquem, Johannisberg, Laffitte, Tokay, and champagne of the finest vintages were served most lavishly throughout the morning”

Naturally, that raised an appetite:

Some English peers and members of Parliament were present, and appeared to enjoy the animated and dazzlingly improper scene. On the second floor the supper tables were loaded with every delicacy of the season. That your readers may form some idea of the dainty fare of the Parisian demi-monde, I copy the menu of the supper, which was served to all the guests (about 200) seated at four o'clock.

The menu was:

Consomme de volaille a la Bagration. 16 hors-d'oeuvres varies. Bouchees e la Talleyrand. Saumons froids, sauce Ravigote. Filets de boeuf en Bellevue, timbales milanaises, chaudfroid de gibier. Dindes truffees. Pates de foies gras, buissons d'ecrevisses, salades venetiennes, gelees blanches aux fruits, gateaux mancini, parisiens et parisiennes. Fromages glaces. Ananas. Dessert.

True to the trend of the day, classical dishes named for famous persons were served.
Prince Bagration (1765-1822) was a Russian general killed at the Battle of Borodino, and even in his own lifetime was known to be more interested in dining than in commanding his men. The French diplomat Talleyrand (1754-1838) has appeared before in TheOldFoodie, he also was passionate about food and its important role in facilitating diplomatic events, and had many dishes named in his honour.

Today, it is the sauce for the cold salmon that gets our attention. The sauce Ravigote gets its name from the French verb ravigoter, meaning to cheer or revive. This ability supposedly comes from the four herbs it traditionally contained - tarragon, chervil, chives, and burnet - which together had the reputation for being restorative. There are several versions – one with a velouté base served warm as an accompaniment to grilled meat or poultry, and the one served here, a vinaigrette type with a bright green colour which would have been a wonderful contrast to the salmon.

The classic vinaigrette version from Larousse is simple:

Sauce Ravigote.
Season with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper a mixture of capers, onions, chives, parsley, chervil and tarragon, all chopped

Try it over cold poached salmon when next you host an animated and dazzlingly improper scene.

On Monday: Flying fortresses and freezers.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The accidental apple.

Today, March 9th …

Maria “Granny” Smith died on this day in 1870 in Ryde NSW, never knowing that her name would be immortalised by an apple. The experts are still debating the botanical details, but it seems that the fruit discovered by Maria was an accidental hybrid between a domestic apple and a “French Crab” variety from Tasmania.

Perhaps Maria bought the Tasmanian apples at market and threw some rotten ones out, or perhaps it was the trimmings and peelings from a pie-making session that sprouted in the garden compost heap? Whatever the source, she found the tree growing on the family property in about 1868 and recognised the virtues of its crisp green fruit - it was tasty, versatile, and best of all, had excellent keeping quantities.

The French Crab had been known in Europe since the eighteenth century, and may well have been one of the varieties brought by the First Fleet - if it had not arrived via an early exploratory voyage, it being the habit of sailors to plant seeds whenever they reached landfall, for future provisioning of ships or shipwrecked mariners. By the mid nineteenth century over 70 varieties of apples were being grown in the colonies – far more types than we find in the supermarket today – a fact which needs explaining as well as grieving over.

The “Granny Smith” was winning prizes at local agricultural shows by the 1890’s. In 1895 the fruit advisor for the NSW Department of Agriculture gave it official approval as being suitable for export, and the first significant cultivation began at the Experimental Station in Bathurst the same year. By 1924 a local orchardist claimed it was “the most valuable of all apples grown in Australia”.

Strangely, for so popular a fruit, Phillip Muskett’s “Art of Living in Australia” (1893) contained only one apple recipe. Or should that be a rice pudding recipe?

3 Large Apples, 2 oz. Rice, 2 oz. Sugar, 1 tablespoonful Jam,1 Egg,1/2 pint Milk
Peel the apples and scoop out the core and fill in with jam; put into a pie-dish and bake till the apples are soft. While they are baking, boil the rice and milk together till the rice is soft and the milk absorbed. Beat in the egg and sugar, pour over the apples; brush over with milk, and bake till a nice colour. Serve either hot or cold.

Tomorrow: A cheering and strengthening sauce.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The perfect picnic.

Today, March 8th …

Kenneth Grahame, author of “The Wind inThe Willows” was born on this day in 1859.
In one of the classic scenes in the book, Mole asks about the large wicker basket that Rat brings aboard the boat.

'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; “coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrolls

Not a bad little picnic for two little animals. In case of a bigger crowd they could have followed Mrs Beeton’s suggestions (1861):


A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf's head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6

Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course, includes the butter for tea), 4 quartern loaves of household broad, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb, of tea. Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make.

Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic.

A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Take 3 corkscrews.

Beverages: 3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne a discretion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it.

The accidental apple.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Soup for the singer.

Today, March 7th …

“Anonymous” once said: “Stock to a cook is voice to a singer”, which is indisputably true.

The two associations come together beautifully in the story of Jenny Lind, “the Swedish Nightingale” who debuted on this day in 1838 at the Stockholm Opera. She became an international star and generated the sort of hype, hysteria and merchandising power that we associate with today’s Hollywood celebrities. In the “Jenny Rage” to glimpse her when she appeared in America “coats were torn, headdresses were crushed, several ladies were carried off”, and her name was given to the latest fashion in topcoats, cravats, boots and scarves, to carriages, locomotives, babies and family pets.

In the culinary field, a new variety of potato with blue ‘eyes’ was named for her, as was a melon (the association here was not recorded … ) a cake, and her famous soup with sago and eggs – which “have always been deemed very beneficial to the chest and throat”.

From “A Cyclopaedia of Domestic Economy” (1857):

Make about three quarts of stock, which strain through a fine sieve into a middle-size stewpan; set it to boil; add to it three ounces of sago; boil gently twenty minutes; skim; just previous to serving break four fresh eggs, and place the yolk, entirely free from the white, into a basin, beat them well with a spoon; add to it a gill of cream; take the pan from the fire, pour in the yolks, stir quickly for one minute, serve immediately; do not let it boil, or it will curdle, and would not be fit to be partaken of. The stock being previously seasoned, it only requires the addition of half a teaspoonful of sugar, a little more salt, pepper, nutmeg; also thyme, parsley, and bay-leaf will agreeably vary the flavor without interfering with the quality.

From the Congregational church ladies of Holyoke, Massachusetts (1886):

Two and one-half cups of sugar; one cup of butter; one cup of milk; four cups of flour; four eggs; two teaspoonsful of baking powder; bake in three sheets, two plain; after taking out the two plain, leaving less than a third, add one cup of raisins; one cup of currants; one-half cup sliced citron; two teaspoonsful molasses; one grated nutmeg; one teaspoonful each of cloves and cinnamon; spread with jelly and frost; putting the fruit cake between the two plain

Tomorrow: The perfect picnic.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A fruit worth gathering.

Today, March 6th …

The “Scientific American” of this day in 1847 published an article taken from a London newspaper, which gave a method for drying strawberries. Frankly, the story stretches culinary belief.

Last summer, by way of experiment, when strawberries were plentiful, I attached threads to their stalks, and hung up a few which were over-ripe to dry. I placed them inside a window facing the south, where they remained from June last until the present time, (Jan.28.) They have just been tasted, and the result is most satisfactory. That sweet refreshing acid which is peculiar to the strawberry in full perfection; the flavor of the fruit, without any watery taste, is delicious; … The experiment may be tried when the fruit is so ripe as to be scarcely worth gathering, without any further expense or trouble than being hung up.

I do not believe that this method would have worked. Not even for an “Ave-Maria while” do I believe it (see Dec 7th Old Foodie if you have forgotten this!).

Air-drying food requires long hot days with low humidity – not likely even in the best English summer - and the fruit most likely to fail would be whole, soft, juicy, over-ripe strawberries. It is stretching belief that they would be hanging nice and dry in the window six months later. Oozed off the stalks and bled all over the window sill more likely – if insects, birds and mould didn’t get to them first.

Housekeepers with a surplus have ever been desirous of preserving the fruit about which the seventeenth century William Butler said: "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did". The main method until the advent of home freezers and home dryers was as strawberry jam or conserve, but here is an alternative worth trying, from Mrs Beeton (1861).

To every quart bottle allow 1/4 lb. of finely-pounded loaf sugar; sherry or Madeira.
Let the fruit be gathered in fine weather, and used as soon as picked. Have ready some perfectly dry glass bottles, and some nice soft corks or bungs. Pick the stalks from the strawberries, drop them into the bottles, sprinkling amongst them pounded sugar in the above proportion, and when the fruit reaches to the neck of the bottle, fill up with sherry or Madeira. Cork the bottles down with new corks, and dip them into melted resin.

Tomorrow: Soup for the singer.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Dinner for the taking.

Today, March 3rd …

In 1769, Capt James Cook was aboard the Endeavour, en route to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus. After spending some time in Tierra del Fuego, they rounded Cape Horn in late January and entered the Pacific ocean.

The botanist Joseph Banks was aboard, and on this day he took advantage of calm weather and went out in a small boat. He killed 69 birds, but made his dinner from the piscatorial equivalent of road-kill.

I found also this day a large Sepia cuttle fish laying on the water just dead but so pulld to peices by the birds that his Species could not be determind; only this I know that of him was made one of the best soups I ever eat.

Very few of his contemporaries back at home would have eaten such a thing. One person who had was the writer Tobias Smollett, who was in Nice, France in 1766. He mentioned “The sepie or cuttle-fish, of which the people in this Country make delicate Ragout”.

Cephalopods were not part of the English diet until very recently: there is certainly no mention of them amongst Mrs Beeton’s almost two thousand recipes. Perhaps they were too “foreign”. The ancient Romans ate them, and there are plenty of recipes for them in fourteenth and fifteenth century European cookbooks, but strangely they do not feature in the haute cuisine of nineteenth and early twentieth century European chefs such as Escoffier. Perhaps they were too “peasant”.

This delicious-sounding recipe from the Spanish "Libro de Guisados" (1529) shows the Arab influence of that time, and would have been far from peasant food.

Pottage of Squid and Cuttlefish
The squid and cuttlefish must be well washed and clean, and after gently frying them, but not entirely, and when they are almost half cooked, take them out of the frying-pan and put them into a pot; and then put with them blanched almonds and raisins and pine nuts; and then take a few toasted almonds and pound them and strain them with a little vinegar watered down with fish broth if you have it; if not cast in a litle water so that it will not be too strong; and when the raisins and the almonds have been slightly fried with the squid and cuttlefish, take them and finish frying them; then cut them into pieces and when this is done prepare dishes

On Monday: A fruit worth gathering.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The sailors’ feast.

Today, March 2nd …

In 1933 on this day, the U.S.Naval Ration was revised, so that “Each person, so entitled, may be served the following quantities of food each day”:

8 oz. biscuit, or 12 oz. soft bread or 12 oz. flour
12 oz. preserved meat, or 14 oz. salt or smoked meat, or 20 oz. fresh meat or fresh fish or poultry
12 oz. dried vegetables, or 18 oz. canned vegetables, or 44 oz. fresh vegetables
4 oz. dried fruit, or 10 oz. canned fruit, or 6 oz. preserved fruit, or 16 oz. fresh fruit, or 6 oz. canned fruit or vegetable juices or 1 oz. powdered fruit juices or 6/10 oz. concentrated fruit juices
2 oz. cocoa, or 2 oz. coffee or ½ oz. tea
4 oz. evaporated milk, or 1 oz. powdered milk, or ½ pt. fresh milk
1.6 oz. butter
1.6 oz. cereal, or rice, or starch foods
½ oz. cheese
1.2 eggs
1.6 oz. lard or lard substitutes
2/5 gill oils, or sauces, or vinegar
5 oz. sugar
Sundry spices and flavourings “as required.”

Navy men of 1794 had received:

Sunday 1 lb bread, 1½ lb beef, ½ pt rice
Monday 1 lb bread, 1 lb pork, ½ pt peas, 4 oz cheese
Tuesday 1 lb bread, 1½ lb beef, 1 lb potatoes or turnips and pudding
Wednesday 1 lb bread, 2 oz butter or, in lieu thereof, 6 oz molasses, 4 oz cheese and ½ pt rice
Thursday 1 lb bread, 1 lb pork, ½ pt peas or beans
Friday 1 lb bread, 1 lb salt fish, 2 oz butter or 1 gill oil, 1 lb potatoes
Saturday 1 lb bread, 1 lb pork, ½ pint peas or beans, 4 oz cheese.

I bet the 1.2 eggs of 1933 were not made into anything as delicious as this dish.

To dress a Military Omelet (1845)
Stewed sorrel, Parmesan cheese, Crumbs of bread, Drawn butter.
Make a ragout of stewed sorrels, with a little parmesan cheese rasped and mixed with the crumbs of bread; make two omelets, put this ragout between, and garnish the dish round with fried bread, standing up like a paste-board, which is done by dipping the edge of each bit in whites of eggs, to make them stick; pour a little melted butter over it, and strew bread crumbs and parmesan cheese as before; give color by setting it in a hot oven

Tomorrow: Dinner for the taking.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Rice pudding to complain about.

March 1st …

On this day in 1853 the Committee of Management of the Carlton Club in London considered “most seriously” a complaint from the the Duke of Birmingham about “the unfair way in which Members helped themselves to rice pudding”. It was resolved that in future, the Steward would “point out … to any Member who may help themselves unfairly, to the impropriety of so doing”.

It is difficult to understand, this attachment of grown men to rice pudding, considering its Victorian associations with the nursery (being bland) and boarding school (being cheap).
It was once an exotic and interesting dish, and it is difficult to understand how it had sunk so low from its origins – although such is often the fate of expensive imported foods when they become common enough for the common folk.

Rice appears in European cookery books of the fourteenth century as a thickening agent. It was an essential ingredient of “blancmange” (“white food”), the distant ancestor of our rice pudding, as well as the insipid jellied milk pudding which we still call by the same name. Blancmange was originally a dish made from shredded chicken mixed with boiled rice, almonds, sugar and sometimes cream and eggs. Even when the chicken got left out, it remained exotic and interesting - for a while.

From Thomas Dawson's The Good Huswifes Jewell (1596)

To Make a Tart of Ryse
Boyle your rice, and put in the yolkes of two or three Egges into the Rice, and when it is boyled put it into a dish and season it with sugar, synamon and ginger, and butter, and the juice of two or three Orenges, and set it on the fire againe."

Gradually it was reduced to this, from Mrs Beeton’s Household Manual (1861) - the dish that the Carlton Club gentlemen squabbled over:

Plain and Economical; a nice Pudding for Children.
1 teacupful of rice, 2 tablespoonfuls of moist sugar, 1 quart of milk, ½ oz of butter or 2 small tablespoonsful of chopped suet, ½ teaspoonful of grated nutmeg.
Wash the rice, put it into a pie-dish with the sugar, pour in the milk, and stir these ingredients well together; then add the butter cut up into small pieces, or intead of this the above proportion of finely minced suet; grate a little of the nutmeg over the top, and bake in a moderate oven, from 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Tomorrow: The sailors’ feast.