Thursday, February 15, 2007

Steak and Mustard in America.

Today, February 15th …

The myth refuses to go away. Mustard was NOT advertised for the first time in the USA on this day in 1758. Nor was the newspaper was containing the first advertisement the Philadelphia Chronicle. There are fragments of truth in the foundations of many myths however, and the first advertiser may indeed have been Benjamin Franklin, as is usually quoted.

There was an advertisement for mustard in Benjamin Franklin’s own newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette in April 1732. I do not know if it is the first advertisement for mustard in America, but feel compelled to give you a story based on facts not certain to me, in the hope that those of you who are mustard-historians will enlighten me.

The 1732 advertisement read:

Choice Flour of Mustard-Seed, in Bottles, very convenient for such as go to Sea; to a little of which if you put hot Water, and stop it up close, you will have strong Mustard, fit to use, in 15 minutes. Sold at the New Printing-Office near the Market, at 1s. per Bot.

This was hardly the first appearance of mustard in America of course. Mustard has been used by humans since before recorded history, and has always been popular – no doubt because it was easily grown in Europe and therefore cheap compared to exotic imported spices. There may however have been a resurgence in its use about the time of Benjamin Franklins advertisement, as an important new development in the mustard-making business had occurred in 1720 in England. Mustard seeds form an oily paste, not a powder or ‘flour’ when crushed. A Mrs Clements of Tewkesbury developed a way to dry mustard seeds in that year, and mustard history never looked back. Benjamin Franklin had the heart of an inventor and no doubt kept up with who was inventing what around the world, so it does seem likely that he played at least some small part in the mustard industry in America.

I went to America’s first cookbook – American Cookery: or, the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables …., by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796, thinking that a nice ‘first recipe for mustard’ might be appropriate today. Alas, I found none, but this recipe was irresistible. It does rather seem like a recipe for a kitchen fire, so please take care, and do add mustard to make your steak even more grateful.

To dress a Beef-Stake, sufficient for two Gentlemen, with a fire made of two newspapers.
Let the beef be cut in slices, and laid in a pewter platter, pour on water just sufficient to cover them, salt and pepper well cover with another platter inverted; then place your dish upon a stool bottom upwards, the legs of such length as to raise the platter three inches from the board; cut your newspapers into small strips, light with a candle and apply them gradually, so as to keep a live fire under the whole dish, till the whole are expended when the stake will be done; butter may then be applied, so as to render it grateful.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Cod for the Queen.

A Previous Story for this Day …

"Alcohol and other food for Invalids"

Quotation for the Day …

And then you bit onto them, and learned once again that Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler could find a use for bits of an animal that the animal didn't know it had got. Dibbler had worked out that with enough fried onions and mustard people would eat anything. Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures.

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