Saturday, March 31, 2007

Surprising Food For April Fool’s Day.

Tomorrow is April Fools' Day, the day when you are entitled to play tricks (before midday only) on your friends and family. There is no rule that I am aware of that says these must be of the embarassing or cruel variety.

If you are a tender-hearted or generous soul you can still play a trick on on the fun people in your life by cooking a Surprise Recipe. We have already collected a few of them in previous stories.

Surprise Potatoes [on the Companion Site]
Rabbits Surprised, from The London Art of Cookery, by John Farley (1800)
Rabbit Surprise [WW II recipe from Marguerite Patten]
Eggs en Surprise [2 recipes, from 1832 and 1912]

Here are a few more for your enjoyment:

Chicken Surprize.
If a small Dish one large Fowl will do, roast it, and take the Lean from the Bone, cut it in thin Slices, about an inch long, toss it with six or seven Spoonfuls of Cream, and a Piece of Butter roll’d in Flour, as big as a Walnut. Boil it up, and set it to cool; then cut six or seven thin Slices of Bacon round, place them in a Petty-pan, and put some Force-meat on each side, work them up into the form of a French Roll, with raw Egg in your Hand, leaving a hollow Place in the Middle. Put in your Fowl, and cover with some of the same Forcemeat, rubbing them smooth with your Hand with a raw Egg; make them the Height and Bigness of a French Roll, and throw a little fine grated Bread over them; bake them three Quarters of an Hour in a gentle Oven, or under a Baking Cover, till they come to a fine Brown, and place them on your Mazarine, that they may not touch one another, but place them so that they may not fall flat in the baking; or you may form them on your Table with a broad Kitchen Knife, and place them on the Thing you intend to bake them on: You may put the Leg of a Chicken into one of the Loaves you intend for the Middle; Let your Sauce be Gravy thickened with Butter and a little Juice of Lemon. This is a pretty Side Dish for a First Course, Summer or Winter, if you can get them.
[From Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy; 1747]

Surprise French Rolls.
Take some French rolls of bread, cut a slit in the side. Remove some of the crumb from the centre, and insert strawberry or raspberry cream mixed with whipped or Devonshire Cream.
[From The Gentle Art of Cookery, by Mrs. C.F. Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley; 1925]

(T.O.F suggests they may well be delicious filled with a chocolate cream instead.)

Have Fun!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Escoffier in America.

Today March 30th …

The first meeting of the society of Les Amis d’Escoffier was held at the Waldorf-Astoria on this day in 1936. The aim of the society was to preserve and honour the memory of the man called “The Chef of Emperors and the Emperor of Chefs”.

There are strict rules at dinner meetings of Les Amis – all designed to ensure that the focus remains on the food. One seemingly strange rule is that the napkin (the "La Serviette au cou") must be tucked into the collar to ensure that all members are seen as equals in the art of gastronomy - presumably as this hides expensive old school or regimental ties, diamond tie-pins and the like. Women were not admitted to the society until the 1950’s, so I do wonder what has happened to the rule since then. All cleavages are not created equal. Do women members have to wear high-necked collared dresses in order to tuck in their napkins? Someone in the know, please enlighted us all.

The dinner rules appear on the menu for the society dinners under the heading “For the Perfect Enjoyment of This Dinner.” Drunkeness, smoking, and the use of cell phones are forbidden which makes obvious sense, but speech-making too is banned as being distracting from attention on the food. The society goes even further on the talking at table with this rule:

Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of New York is dedicated to the art of good living only, it is forbidden, under threat of expulsion, to speak of personal affairs, of one’s own work or specialty, and more particularly, to attempt to use the Society as a means of making business contacts. It is unnecessary to elucidate further on this delicate subject, which everyone understands. Furthermore, at these dinner-meetings reference will never be made on the subjects of: politics, religious beliefs, personal opinions of either members or guests, irrespective of their profession or social status.

Should this rule be more widely applied – or at least encouraged – at a wider range of dinners do you think?

We have previously considered some Escoffier recipes:

Crêpes Suzette.
Laitues Farcis (Stuffed Lettuce)
Pêche Melba
Sarah Bernhardt’s Favourite Consommé.
Roast Chicken
Riz Imperatrice

Today, in honour of the American society, here is one of Escoffier’s
Salades Composées (Compound Salads). I must say, it doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but I cant just include my own favourites, can I?

American Salad.
Tomatoes, pineapple, orange, banana, cos lettuce, mayonnaise.
Peel, seed, and slice the tomatoes, cut the pineapple in small slices, peel and divide the orange into sections and slice the banana thinly. Cut the lettuce in half and arrange the fruits alternately on it.
Serve with a thin mayonnaise sauce or cream to which orange and lemon juice, salt and a pinch of sugar have been added.

Last year on this day …

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

Monday's Story ...

The loves of Casanova.

Quotation for the Day …

So long as people don’t know how to eat they will not have good cooks. Escoffier.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kitchen Rituals

Today, March 29th …

Pearl Bailey was born on this day in 1918. She is best known and much loved for her singing and acting, but she had other loves too. She was a deeply spiritual person with an enormous love for humankind and took very seriously her role as United States Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.

Pearl also loved food and cooking and in 1973 she published her very successful book Pearl’s Kitchen. Her approach to food was infused with that same spirituality she showed in other areas of her life:

“My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me. It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future.”

“I don't like to say that my kitchen is a religious place, but I would say that if I were a voodoo priestess, I would conduct my rituals there”

There are many sub-topics to the study of food and religion, and these I leave for others better qualified than myself. One small angle does intrigue me however, and that relates to dishes with ‘religious' names – the Curate’s Pudding and The Reverend Mr Haggett’s Economical Bread and Pies After the Cardinal’s Way for example. These are surely dishes with Stories behind them, and I do love Stories. I think I shall form a collection of recipes for these dishes.

We have already had:

Monastery soup
Nun’s Sighs
Nun’s Cake.
Macaroni à la Pontiffe
Eggs called in French Ala Augenotte, or the Protestant way.

Here is my current favourite, which appears in several eighteenth century cookbooks:

Pig White Monks Fashion.
Bone the Pig thoroughly, except the Head and Feet, take care not to cut the Skin; make a Farce (viz. Forced-meat, I shall use the Word hereafter in common) with Fillet of Veal, Beef, Suet, Bread Crums, and Cream, chopt Parsely, Shallots, Mushrooms, Salt, and fine Spices, mixed with six Yolks of raw Eggs; cut Dices of Ham and Bacon, to mix with the Farce; stuff the Pig with this as if it was whole, tie it well, and cover the Back with thin Slices of Lard, and tie it in a Napkin to boil in Broth and a Pint of White Wine, a Nosegay of Parsley, green Shallots, one Clove of Garlick, two of Spices, Thyme and Laurel, sliced Onions, Carrots and other Roots, Pepper and Salt; when done, if you propose to serve it hot, wipe it clean, and serve with what Sauce you please; if for cold, let it cool in the Braze, then take off the Napkin, and lare; scrape the Fat gently, and serve upon a Napkin with green Parsley round it.
[The professed cook: or the modern art of cookery, pastry, and confectionary, made plain and easy. Consisting of the most approved methods in the French as well as English cookery; Menon 1769]

Any ideas about the name will be gratefully considered. And while you are thinking on it, how about the 'Parson’s Nose'?

Tomorrow’s Story …

Escoffier in America.

Last year …

On this day we read about the Renaissance Mannerist painter Jacopo Carrucci da Pontormo.

Quotation for the Day ...

The fact is that it takes more than ingredients and technique to cook a good meal. A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation -- he cooks with enjoyment, anticipation, spontaneity, and he is willing to experiment.
Pearl Bailey. Preface, "Pearl's Kitchen," 1973

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

All at sea with Leftovers.

Today, March 28th …

Having food left over at the end of a meal may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. It is a good thing if it provides lunch next day, and some of us connive to have leftovers for that especial reason. Neverthless, the idea of leftovers is always hung about with suggestions of a wasteful approach to food, or a the very least to poor meal planning.

Historically it has been the duty of a good housewife to find useful and palatable ways to use up leftovers, with extra points obtained for disguising them so well that the family don’t recognise them as a previous meal. Nineteenth century cookbooks in particular took Economy in the kitchen very seriously indeed, as Lydia Maria Child shows in her book The Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy, published in Boston in 1830.

The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments, of time, as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be; and whatever be the size of a family, every member should be employed either in earning, or saving money.

She had this idea, for example:

A bit of fish-skin as big as a ninepence, thrown into coffee while it is boiling, tends to make it clear. If you use it just as it comes from the salt-fish it will be apt to give an unpleasant taste to the coffee: it should be washed clean as a bit of cloth, and hung up till perfectly dry.

Which is taking household economy just a little too far if you ask me, but some of you may find that hint useful if you are bothered by un-clear coffee. I would add my own suggestion - that you wash the bit of fish-skin by hand, don’t throw it in with the bits of cloth you use as sheets and towels.

Leftovers on a different scale were used on this day in 1941 during the battle of Matapan off the coast of Greece. Things were hectic aboard the good Australian ship HMAS Perth, and in less than perfect cooking conditions her cooks came up with a quick hot meal using leftovers, and the crew came up with a new bit of Navy slang – ‘Matapan Stew’, meaning – you guessed it – a meal made from leftovers.

In commemoration of that day at sea, I give you a couple of recipes for using leftover pieces of cooked fish (she calles them ‘remnants’) from Mrs Lincolns’ Boston Cook Book (1884).

Chartreuse, or Casserole of Fish, No. 2.
Mix one cup of stale bread crumbs, one pint of cold fish, flaked, and two eggs. Season to taste with Worcestershire or tomato catchup, salt, and cayenne pepper. Put into a buttered mould. Boil thirty minutes, and serve with any fish sauce.

Spiced Fish.

Steep six cloves, six allspice kernels, six peppercorns, and one tablespoonful of brown sugar in one cup of sharp vinegar ten minutes, and pour it over one pint of any cold flaked fish.

Other Leftovers …

Leftover Duck
Leftover Mutton

This Day Last Year ...

Food Adulteration was the theme of the day.
Tomorrow's Story ...
Kitchen Rituals.

Quotation for the Day …

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. Calvin Trillin.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere.

Today, March 27th …

Edward John Eyre was the first European to cross southern Australia from east to west. He set off in 1841 with a party of five, but only he and his aboriginal companion Wylie completed the expedition. It was a gruelling journey of almost two thousand miles, and a large and very thirsty part of it was across the supremely inhospitable desert called the Nullabor Plain.

The party followed the coastline of the Great Australian Bight, and like the narrator in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for much of the time they were in sight of water, but without a drop to drink. On this day in 1841 he noted in his journal the aboriginal method of finding water in the desert.

… Whilst in camp, during the heat of the day, the native boys shewed me the way in which natives procure water for themselves, when wandering among the scrubs, and by means of which they are enabled to remain out almost any length of time, in a country quite destitute of surface water. I had often heard of the natives procuring water from the roots of trees, and had frequently seen indications of their having so obtained it, but I had never before seen the process actually gone through. Selecting a large healthy looking tree out of the gum-scrub, and growing in a hollow, or flat between two ridges, the native digs round at a few feet from the trunk, to find the lateral roots; to one unaccustomed to the work, it is a difficult and laborious thing frequently to find these roots, but to the practised eye of the native, some slight inequality of the surface, or some other mark, points out to him their exact position at once, and he rarely digs in the wrong place. Upon breaking the end next to the tree, the root is lifted, and run out for twenty or thirty feet; the bark is then peeled off, and the root broken into pieces, six or eight inches long, and these again, if thick, are split into thinner pieces; they are then sucked, or shaken over a piece of bark, or stuck up together in the bark upon their ends, and water is slowly discharged from them; if shaken, it comes out like a shower of very fine rain. The roots vary in diameter from one inch to three; the best are those from one to two and a half inches, and of great length. The quantity of water contained in a good root, would probably fill two-thirds of a pint. I saw my own boys get one-third of a pint out in this way in about a quarter of an hour, and they were by no means adepts at the practice, having never been compelled to resort to it from necessity.Natives who, from infancy, have been accustomed to travel through arid regions, can remain any length of time out in a country where there are no indications of water. The circumstance of natives being seen, in travelling through an unknown district, is therefore no proof of the existence of water in their vicinity. I have myself observed, that no part of the country is so utterly worthless, as not to have attractions sufficient occasionally to tempt the wandering savage into its recesses. In the arid, barren, naked plains of the north, with not a shrub to shelter him from the heat, not a stick to burn for his fire (except what he carried with him), the native is found, and where, as far as I could ascertain, the whole country around appeared equally devoid of either animal or vegetable life. In other cases, the very regions, which, in the eyes of the European, are most barren and worthless, are to the native the most valuable and productive. Such are dense brushes, or sandy tracts of country, covered with shrubs, for here the wallabie, the opossum, the kangaroo rat, the bandicoot, the leipoa, snakes, lizards, iguanas, and many other animals, reptiles, birds, &c., abound; whilst the kangaroo, the emu, and the native dog, are found upon their borders, or in the vicinity of those small, grassy plains …

Eyre was unusual for a colonial explorer in that he developed good relationships with the indigenous people he met, and he deplored their ill-treatment at the hands of so many of his countrymen. His good will persisted even when his co-surveyor was murdered by two of the three aborigines in the party, and the third - Wylie - remained his friend and companion and completed the expedition with him. He was still a nineteenth century man and felt that his was a more civilised race, but he was clearly willing to learn from the local people.

Most of us are lucky and we never have to go short of water. In fact historically most of us take it for granted, and even feel we need to improve on it. From medieval times we have made ‘cordial waters’ - the name originally comes from the Latin word for heart, and refers to their medicinal use as tonics. The Celts of course have their own version of ‘the water of life’, which they call uisge beatha, from which we get the word whisky (or whiskey if you like). There range of distilled drinks was huge a few hundred years ago, and the mistress of every household would have been expected to produce a range of them in her still-room.

Today I give you recipe for ‘Cinamon Water’ from Hugh Plat’s Delightes for ladies to adorne their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories with beauties, banquets, perfumes and waters .. (1602). It is of course quite illegal to make it at home nowadays in civilised countries, so I give the recipe to you for its historic interest only. Understand?

Having a Copper bodie or brasse pot that will holde 12 gallons, you may well make 2 or 3 gallons of Cinamon water at once. Put into your body overnight 6 gallons of conduit water, and two gallons of spirit of wine, or to save charge two gallons of spirit drawne from wine lees, Ale, or lowe wine, or sixe pound of the best and largest Cinamon you can get, or else eight pound of the second sort well brused, but not beaten into pouder; lute your Lymbeck, & begin with a good fire of wood & coals, till the vessel begin to distil, then moderate your fire , so as your pipe may drop apace, and run trickling into the receiver, but not blow at anie time: it helpeth much heerin to keep the water in the bucket, not too hot, by often change thereof, it must neverbe so hot but that you may well indure your finger therein. Then divide into quart Glasses the spirit which first ascendeth, and wherein you finde either no taste or very small taste of the Cynamon, then may you boldely after the spirit once beginneth to come strong of the cinamon, draw until you have gotten at the least a gallon in the receiver, and then divide often by halfe pintes and quarters of pintes, least you drawe too long: which you shall know by the faynte tase and milky colour which distilleth at the ende; this you must nowe and then taste in a spoone. Nowe, when you have drawen so much as you finde good, you may add thereunto so much of your spirit that came before your Cinamon water, as the same will well beare: which you must find by your taste. But if your spirit and your Cinamon be both good, you may of the aforesaid proportion wil make up two gallons, or two gallons and a quarter of good Cinamon water. Heere note that it is not amisse to observe which glasse was first filled with the Spirit that ascended, and so of the second, thirde, and fourth; and when you mix, begin with the last glasse first, & so with the next, because those have more taste of the Cinamon than that which came first, and therefore more fit to bee mixed with your Cinamon water. And if you meane to make but 8 or 9 pintes at once, then begin with but halfe of this proportion. Also that spirit which remain unmixed doth serve to make Cinamon water a second time. This way I have often proved & found most excellent; take heed that your Limbecke be cleane and have no maner of sent in it, but of wine or Cinamon, and so likewise of the glasses, funnells and pots which you shall use about this work.

This Day Last Year ...

We learned about the Gay Game of Rugby.

Tomorrow’s Story …

All at Sea with Leftovers.

Quotation for the Day …

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On the Road Again …

Today, March 26th …

Duncan Hines, the original reviewer of roadside eating places was born on this day in 1880. For over thirty years he was a travelling salesman, which meant that he did a lot of eating on the road. In 1935, instead Christmas cards, he made up a list of 167 recommended ‘harbours of refreshment’ and sent this out to friends and family instead, with the message:

I am passing this information on to you, hoping that it may yield enjoyment and delectation, should you find yourself in the vicinity of one of these 'harbors of refreshment' as you travel hither and yon.

The list’s eventual circulation was very wide, and one thing led to another and another and eventually to a syndicated newspaper column and a regular spot on the radio. His success and longevity in the field of food writing came about largely because he was seen as a fair and and independent reviewer with uncompromising standards of cleanliness and quality, which meant that he was trusted by the American driving and eating public. At the height of his popularity he was better known (and presumably better trusted) than the Vice President of the United States, Alben Barkley.

Along the way Hines produced a string of popular guide books, starting with Adventures in Good Eating which he wrote in 1936 at the age of 56 years. A well-trusted celebrity is sought after for his endorsement potential and Hines was no exception. He never took any kind of payment for a favourable review (although establishments recommended by him were entitled to display a sign to that effect), but he was approached in 1948 by a businessman called Roy Park and persuaded to lend his name to a line of packaged foods. It is ironic that this good food writer is best known for his name on packaged cake mix rather than for his writing, but such, perhaps, is Life.

Often, of course, it is safer to take one’s own food when one goes on a motor excursion.
This one sounds interesting:

Miss W. I. Puls, 824 Tenth street, Riverside, Cal.
Cut into small pieces four medium-sized tomatoes, draining off the juice and rejecting it from the salad; two medium-sized heads of lettuce, four stalks of celery and one-half cup pickled olives. Mix thoroughly and put together with the following dressing: Beat one egg until creamy; pour over it four tablespoons vinegar, scalding hot, stirring constantly. Place dish in hot water over fire and stir constantly until mixture thickens. Remove from fire and add one teaspoon butter and stir until melted. Add one-half teaspoon mustard, one-half teaspoon salt, one-quarter teaspoon pepper and dilute with enough sweet cream to make the dressing the consistency of cream. Add two tablespoons Underwood's deviled ham. Garnish with red nasturtium blossoms.
[The Times Cook Book, No. 2: 957 Cooking And Other Recipes.../By California Women; Brought Out By The 1905 Series Of Prize Recipe Contests In The Los Angeles Times.]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Water, Water, Everywhere.

Quotation for the Day …

I've run less risk driving my way across country than eating my way across it. Duncan Hines.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Lady Baltimore Cake.

Yesterday I gave you a recipe for Fannie Farmer's version of Lady Baltimore Cake without giving you any history of the cake itself. My conscience was pricked and my curiosity piqued by the comment posted by T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types, who was intrigued by the name of the cake, and what is more, he actually made it, and it looks fantastic! You can see the pictures HERE.

So, to correct my omission, I give you the results of my very brief foray into the story behind the Lady Baltimore Cake.

Naturally, its origins are disputed and controversial which is good news as such stories are much more fun. We can probably fairly quickly discount the idea that it was named after the real Lady Baltimore, whose Irish husband inherited Maryland in the mid-seventeenth century. The Lady never got to America, and in any case baking powder leavening agents were not invented until well into the nineteenth century – a ‘cake’ in her day was more like sweet fruit bread. Another story says it was a variation of a cake enjoyed by Dolly Madison, the fourth First Lady but this story fails to explain why it is not then called Dolly Madison cake.

The other two common explanations have more substance, and perhaps both of them are right. One says it originated in Charleston at the end of the nineteenth century, at “The Lady Baltimore Tearooms”, and was a variation of another popular cake (aren’t all cake recipes variations of of one that has gone before?). The final story says that the original cake was purely fictional, and made its first appearance in a novel but sounded so good readers clamoured for the recipe. The book was called, in case you cannot guess - ‘Lady Baltimore’, and it was set in a Southern city something like Charleston. It was written by Owen Wister and published in 1906.

Here is the relevant passage from the book:

… at twelve, it was my habit to leave my Fanning researches for a while, and lunch at the Exchange upon chocolate and sandwiches most delicate in savor. As, one day, I was luxuriously biting one of these, I heard his voice and what he was saying. ...

Young he was, very young, twenty-two or three at the most, and as he stood, with hat in hand, speaking to the pretty girl behind the counter, his head and side-face were of a romantic and high-strung look. It was a cake that he desired made, a cake for a wedding; and I directly found myself curious to know whose wedding.

…. "Are you quite sure you want that?" the girl was asking.

"Lady Baltimore? Yes, that is what I want."

"Because," she began to explain, then hesitated, and looked at him. Perhaps it was in his face; perhaps it was that she remembered at this point the serious difference between the price of Lady Baltimore (by my small bill-of-fare I was now made acquainted with its price) and the cost of that rich article which convention has prescribed as the cake for weddings; at any rate, swift, sudden delicacy of feeling prevented her explaining any more to him, for she saw how it was: his means were too humble for the approved kind of wedding cake! She was too young, too unskilled yet in the world's ways, to rise above her embarrassment; and so she stood blushing at him behind the counter, while he stood blushing at her in front of it.

…. My day had been dull, my researches had not brought me a whit nearer royal blood; I looked at my little bill-of-fare, and then I stepped forward to the counter, adventurous, but polite.

"I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore," I said with extreme formality. I thought she was going to burst; but after an interesting second she replied, "Certainly," in her fit Regular Exchange tone; only, I thought it trembled a little.

I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It's all soft, and it's in layers, and it has nuts--but I can't write any more about it; my mouth waters too much.

Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud, and with my mouth full. "But, dear me, this Is delicious!"

A choking ripple of laughter came from the counter. "It's I who make them," said the girl. "I thank you for the unintentional compliment."

The narrator finds that the incident has ‘broken the ice’ with the charming cake-maker, and he returns to continue the flirtation. In case that still isn't enough romance for you, another embellishment of the tale of the novel itself says that Wister had been given some delicious cake by a beautiful Southern belle, and decided to write about it.

No wonder the public clamoured for an actual recipe for this romance-soaked idea of a cake!

Now for the evidence. There seems to be no mention anywhere of a cake with the name of ‘Lady Baltimore’ until 1906. Suddenly there was a spate of newpaper articles mentioning it as the ‘famous’ or ‘original’ cake, with one writer (in January 1907) coyly agreeing to part with the recipe ‘with the sanction of Owen Wister’. The very first mention of the cake that I have been able to find is on October 27th 1906 in the The Post Standard of Syracuse NY, in an article about an upcoming sale and dance on behalf of the Harmony Circle, the auxillary to the Womens and Childrens Hospital. Slices of the cake with the recipe were ‘sold by chance’ that evening, and the lucky winner was Mrs Frederick R Hazard.

The first recipe that I have been able to find appeared on December 24th 1906 in the Daily Gazette And Bulletin of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and here it is:

‘Lady Baltimore Cake’.
Beat the whites of six eggs. Take a cup and a half of granulated sugar, a cup of milk, nearly a cup of butter, three cups of flour and two teaspoonfuls of good baking powder. Sift the flour and baking powder together into the other ingredients, adding the eggs last of all. Bake in two buttered pans for fifteen or twenty minutes.
For the frosting: Two cups of granulated sugar and a cup and a half of water, boil until stringly, about five minutes usually does it. Beat the whites of two eggs very light, and pour the boiling sugar slowly into it, mixing well. Take out of this enough for the top and sides of the cake, and stir into the remainder for the filling between the two layers, one cup of finely chopped raisins and a cup of chopped nuts. This is delicious when properly baked.

Who originated this recipe? We will probably never know for certain, but undoubtedly some entrepreneurial cake-shop owner noted the interest – perhaps had even read the book – tweaked a popular white cake recipe and re-named it. Perhaps it was indeed the ladies at the Lady Baltimore Tea Rooms in Charleston.

P.S there is a yellow-cake version, using egg yolks, called, of course ‘Lord Baltimore Cake’.

P.P.S please let us all know if you find any earlier mentions of this cake!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fannie’s Birthday.

Today, March 23rd ….

Fannie Merritt Farmer was born in Boston on this day in 1857 - which may not mean much to those of you who are not cookbook afficionados. If you like cooking and baking however, you have reason to be grateful as she brought a new level of science to cookery and recipe writing which led to her being called “the mother of level measurements.” If you are an aspiring cookbook writer she could be your guru – her Boston Cooking-School Cookbook (1896) was still being reprinted a hundred years later.

Fannie was set for a college education, her family being progressive for the time and believing in education for girls. Then in her teens she had some sort of illness – perhaps polio – and was an invalid for several years and walked with a limp all her life. There were few occupations open to women who needed to make their own living in those days, and Fannie at the age of about thirty enrolled in the Boston Cooking School, aiming to be a cookery teacher. She did better, and remained on as its assistant principal in 1891. Later she left and started her own school, and one way or another she taught cooking and nutrition until a few days before she died at the age of 56.

Fannie felt that her legacy would be her teaching and writing on nutrition and invalid cookery, in which her own health problems had provided a particular interest, but I am sure that she wouldn’t mind that I have chosen a couple of classic cake recipes for today - for what is a birthday without cake? These are from her book A new book of cookery : eight hundred and sixty recipes, covering the whole range of cookery ... published in 1912.

Grandmother's Pound Cake
1 cup butter, 1 2/3 cups sugar, 5 eggs, 2 cups flour
Work butter until creamy, using the hand, and add sugar, gradually, while beating constantly; then add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously between
the addition of each. When the mixture is of a creamy consistency, fold in the flour and turn into a buttered and floured cake pan. Bake one hour in a slow oven.

Lady Baltimore Cake
1 cup butter, 3 ½ cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, Whites 6 eggs .
Cream butter and add sugar gradually, while beating constantly. Mix and sift baking powder and flour and add alternately with milk to first mixture; then add flavoring and cut and fold in whites of eggs, beaten until stiff and dry. Turn into three buttered
and floured seven-inch square tins and bake in a moderate oven. Put layers together with Fruit and Nut Filling and cover top and sides of cake with Fruit and Nut Filling, then with Ice Cream Frosting.

Fruit and Nut Filling.
3 cups sugar, 1 cup raisins seeded and chopped, 1 cup water 1 cup chopped pecan nut meats, Whites 3 eggs 5 figs, cut in thin strips.
Put sugar and water in a smooth graniteware saucepan, bring to the boiling point and let boil until syrup will spin a thread when dropped from tip of spoon. Pour gradually, while beating constantly, on whites of eggs, beaten until stiff, and continue the beating until mixture is of right consistency to spread ; then add remaining ngredients. One-half this quantity may be made and used between layers only.

Ice Cream Frosting.
2 cups sugar, Whites 2 eggs, 1/3 cup water, ½ teaspoon vanilla.
Put sugar and water in smooth graniteware saucepan; bring to the boiling point and let boil until syrup will spin a thread when dropped from tip of spoon. Pour gradually, while beating constantly, on whites of eggs, beaten until stiff (but not dry), and continue the beating until mixture is of right consistency to spread; then add flavoring.
[see a real version of the cake at Culinary Types]

Monday’s Story …

On the road again.

This Day Last Year …

Every scrap of fat was saved in WW II

Quotation for the Day …

Progress in civilization has been accompanied by progress in cookery. Fannie Farmer.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Teddy in the Wilderness.

Today, March 22nd …

Theodore Roosevelt, ex-26th President of the USA, his son Kermit, and an assortment of scientific types took part in an expedition to Brazil in 1914 to map the course of a river in the Amazon jungle. He published an account of his adventures in Through the Brazilian Wilderness, and it is a fascinating tale of swirling rapids, bizarre animals, strange foods, and the usual quota of episodes of life-threatening high drama appropriate for a wilderness pioneer – including the murder of one member of his party.

In March 1914 the party camped for a few days to build several canoes, having found several suitable trees for that purpose. While the canoe-builders were at work, Roosevelt and his son explored the immediate vicinity

“One morning while the canoes were being built Kermit and I walked a few kilometres down the river and surveyed the next rapids below. The vast still forest was almost empty of life. We found old Indian signs. There were very few birds, and these in the tops of the tall trees. We saw a recent tapir track; and under a cajazeira tree by the bank there were the tracks of capybaras which had been eating the fallen fruit. This fruit is delicious and would make a valuable addition to our orchards. The tree although tropical is hardy, thrives when domesticated, and propagates rapidly from shoots. The Department of Agriculture should try whether it would not grow in southern California and Florida.”

The cajazeira belongs to the Spondias spp. of the same family as the cashew. It goes by many names – ubos, mombin, hog-plum, ciruela and a whole lot more. Apparently the Amazon Indians use it as bait to catch the tapir, which gives rise to one of its local names of taperiba or “fruit of the tapir”. The animal which Roosevelt mentions – the capybara, is a huge aquatic rodent which no doubt also served as food to the indigenous people as well as hungry explorers.

Our problem is that there does not appear to be any blog-friendly, accessible, relevant recipes for the Brazilian delicacies mentioned so far in the narrative. On this exact day in 1914 however, they do find and lose, an important food familiar to us all.

“On the morning of March 22 we started in our six canoes. We made ten kilometres. Twenty minutes after starting we came to the first rapids. Here every one walked except the three best paddlers, who took the canoes down in succession—an hour’s job. Soon after this we struck a bees’ nest in the top of a tree overhanging the river; our steersman climbed out and robbed it, but, alas! lost the honey on the way back.”

A Brazilian honey recipe then? From the same era preferably. I turned hopefully to The international cook book; over 3,300 recipes gathered from all over the world, by Alexander Filippini, published in 1906. The book contains suggested menus for every day of the year, and the 22nd of March 1914 was the third Sunday of the month. The recommended dinner for that day was:

Celery, Peanuts
Creme, Amazone
Salmon, Verdoyant
Potatoes, Viennoise
Chicken, Marengo
Tournedos of Beef, Madere Sauce
Green Peas
Punch, Stanley
Mallard Ducks, Currant Jelly
Chicory Salad
Glace, Mogador

How amazing a co-incidence is that! Creme, Amazone (Cream Soup, Amazon) on the menu. The name comes from the secret ingredient – the alligator pear or avocado, fruit of the testicle tree, and a native of South America.

Creme, Amazone.
Peel and cut into small pieces three fresh, alligator pears and place in saucepan with two branches parsley, two branches sliced celery, four pints cold milk. Season' with one and a half teaspoons salt, two saltspoons cayenne pepper and a saltspoon grated nutmeg. Set the pan on the fire and let slowly boil for thirty-five minutes. Strain milk into a basin, place ingredients in a mortar and pound to a smooth paste, and return to the milk. Heat one ounce of butter in a saucepan, add two ounces flour, stir for a minute with a wooden spoon, then pour contents of basin into this pan. Sharply whisk for two minutes, and, as soon as it comes to a boil add one gill cream and one egg yolk diluted with a tablespoon milk. Mix with a wooden spoon for three minutes, being careful not to allow to boil again ; strain through a Chinese strainer into a soup tureen, and serve with bread croutons separately.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Fannie’s Birthday.

This Day Last Year ...

A wartime Beetroot Pudding was the recipe in our story on this day last year.

Quotation for the Day...

Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business. Dave Barry

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

To the Sugar Camp.

Today, March 21st …

Thoreau headed off to his red maple sugar camp at 10 am on this day in 1856, and these are his comments on the day:

“Found that, after a pint and a half had run from a single tube after 3 P. M. yesterday, it had frozen about half an inch thick, and this morning a quarter of a pint more had run. Between 10.30 and 11.30 A. M. this forenoon, I caught two and three quarters pints more, from six tubes, at the same tree, though it is completely overcast and threatening rain. Four and one half pints in all. This sap is an agreeable drink, like iced water (by chance), with a pleasant but slight sweetish taste. I boiled it down in the afternoon, and it made an ounce and a half of sugar, without any molasses, which appears to be the average amount yielded by the sugar maple in similar situations, viz. south edge of a wood, a tree partly decayed, two feet [in] diameter.

… got back before twelve with two and three quarters pints of sap, in addition to the one and three quarters I found collected.”

Maple Syrup is a magical thing – at least to this little blogger, born in the very temperate North of England and transplanted (not convict-transported) to the sub-tropics of Queensland, Australia. On my one short trip to Canada a few years ago I became instantly and seriously addicted to the Real Thing - which is obtainable here, but in small, relatively expensive bottles totally unsuited to an addiction situation. It may be rosy holiday memory too, but it tasted better 'over there.'

We paid homage to this lovely tree juice on Canada Day, and featured a number of recipes using maple syrup and maple sugar. I am delighted to have an excuse to pay homage to it again today.
Maple Sugar Frosting
Add one cup of sweet cream to two cups of rolled maple sugar; boil slowly until it will thread from a spoon, about three-quarters of an hour. Then let it get about half cool, stir in half a cup of chopped English walnut meats, beat until it becomes creamy, then spread it over the cake.
[The Good Housekeeping Woman's Home Cook Book; c1909.]

Maple Sugar Cookies
One cup of sugar, one cup of crushed maple sugar, one cup of butter, two well beaten eggs, two tablespoons of water, two teaspoons of baking powder, and flour enough to roll out. Do not make too stiff. Bake in a quick oven.
[The Good Housekeeping Woman's Home Cook Book; c1909.]

Maple Sugar Sauce.
Take half maple sugar and half light brown sugar, boil them together with a little water, clarify the syrup with an egg, strain it and melt a small piece of butter in it. All maple sugar, or all common sugar can be used. It is very good on puddings.
[Jennie June's American Cookery Book. 1870]

The cookbooks quoted from can be found at the Feeding America Historic Cookbook Project.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Teddy in the Wilderness.

This Day Last Year …

British Wartime ‘Restaurants’ were the topic of the day, in all their Beige Glory.

Quotation for the Day …

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong. George Carlin

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chocolate for Health.

Today, March 20th …

The scientific name for the tree that gives us chocolate is Theobroma cacao, which roughly, but entirely appropriately translates as ‘food of the gods’. The name was given by ‘the father of modern taxonomy’ Carl von Linné in 1737, but he wasn’t the first to honour its divine taste by suggesting an especially divine origin. He may have been familiar with the work of a Parisian physician called Joseph Bachot, whose medical treatise published on this day in 1684 suggested that cacao could have been, or should have been the food of the gods, rather than nectar or ambrosia.

Chocolate has certainly inspired both more hyperbole and true passion than any other food, so I am ashamed to admit that this blog has not paid it sufficient homage to it to date. In honour of the medical man who first went public with his passion for it, we will address this omission by considering the long history of its use for medicinal reasons.

Historically, newly discovered foods were often suspected of causing disease or promoting undesirable behaviour. In the case of the potato, it was believed it caused leprosy, which did seem to slow down its acceptance somewhat. In the case of chocolate, potential consumers were warned by a series of clerics and physicians that it might ‘incite to venery’. It does of course - otherwise it would be a waste of money on Valentine’s Day – and not surprisingly the campaign was a resounding failure and Europeans adopted this gift from the New World with astonishing speed.

Historically new foods were often used initially for medicinal purposes until they became commoner - therefore cheaper and less mysterious - whereupon they were adapted for pleasurable ingestion. This was certainly true for chocolate, which seems set to have a second popularity as a remedy if we are to believe some recent studies. It seems unlikely that it will ever be as widely prescribed – or as popular via some routes of administration as described in 1898 in King's American Dispensatory.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.
CHOCOLATE, when scraped into a coarse powder, and boiled in milk, or milk and water, is much used as an occasional substitute for coffee, and for a drink at meals. It is a very useful nutritive article of diet for invalids, persons convalescing from acute diseases, and others with whom its oily constituent does not disagree, as is apt to be the case with dyspeptics.
BUTTER OF CACAO is a bland article, rather agreeable to the taste, and highly nutritious; it has been used as a substitute for, or an alternate with, cod-liver oil, and as an article of diet during the last days of pregnancy. It has also been employed in the formation of suppositories and pessaries, for rectal, vaginal, and other difficulties (see Suppositories). It likewise enters into preparations for rough or chafed skin, chapped lips, sore nipples, various cosmetics, pomatums, and fancy soaps; and has also been used for coating pills.
Theobromine when absorbed acts powerfully as a diuretic, and has a stimulant or exciting action which is not possessed by chocolate itself. It is, however, quite difficult of absorption, and is without effect upon the heart and circulation. It enters into the compound known as Diuretin, which, in certain conditions, is an active diuretic.

Chocolate suppositories? I don’t think so!

Here, from Charles Ranhofer’s The Epicurean (1894), is a lovely light Chocolate Souffle, just the thing if you are feeling a little poorly. Take orally, as required.

Soufflé au Chocolat.
Melt in a saucepan at the oven door, in a little tepid water, four ounces of grated chocolate; remove and pour it into a bowl to smooth nicely; mix into it five or six spoonfuls of vanilla sugar, beating it in vigorously, then add four or five spoonfuls of the following preparation: Place in a tureen two tablespoonfuls of flour, a pinch of arrowroot, two tablespoonfuls of sugar and a little salt; dilute with half a gill of milk; strain into a saucepan and add two tablespoonfuls of melted butter and a little vanilla; stir on the fire until it boils and when smooth reduce till it is consistent and detaches from the pan; take out the vanilla and let partly cool. Add eight raw egg-yolks, two ounces of melted butter, four beaten whites and three spoonfuls of whipped cream. When all these ingredients are well incorporated pour the preparation into one or two soufflé pans without filling them too high. Set the pan on a small baking sheet and bake the soufflés in a slack oven from twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Tomorrow’s Story …

To the Sugar Camp

This Day Last Year...

Breaking rationing rules was just not British in 1940.

Quotation for the Day …

The confection made of Cacao called Chocolate or Chocoletto which may be had in diverse places in London, at reasonable rates, is of wonderful efficacy for the procreation of children : for it not only vehemently incites to Venus, but causes conception in women . . . and besides that it preserves health, for it makes such as take it often to become fat and corpulent, fair and amiable. William Coles, “Adam in Eden” (1657)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Maundy Money, Maundy Food.

Today, March 19th …

This day in 1572 was the day before Good Friday. This is known as Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar, and in the United Kingdom is the day that the monarch traditionally dispenses ‘alms’ or gifts to the same number of poor folk as the years of the monarch’s age. Until the time of James II, part of the proceedings of the day included the ceremonial washing (and kissing) of the feet of those poor folk by the monarch, as Christ had washed the feet of his disciples.

In 1572 the monarch was Elizabeth I. She was 39 years of age, so 39 poor women were selected and were lined up to receive the royal wash. It was clearly felt that some concessions had to be made to narrow the gulf between the potentially unpleasant feet of the recipients and the refined hands and lips of The Queen, so the feet were pre-washed by the Yeoman of the Laundry, then the Sub-Almoner, then the Almoner.
After the fourth, final, and royal foot-washing, the lucky 39 were given their alms or ‘maundy’, which in Elizabeth’s time included a selection of gourmet foods:

“ … certain yards of broadcloth to make a gown … a pair of shoes … to each of them a wooden platter, wherein was half a side of salmon, as much lyng, six red herrings, and two cheat lofes of bread. Fifthly, she began with the first again, and gave to each of them a white wooden dish with claret wine. …white purses wherein were thirty-nine pence (as they say) after the number of years of her majestys age … red leather purses each containing twenty shillings a piece … “

Presumably the fish was given because meat-eating was still forbidden for a few more days – but what a great selection of fish! Not much abstention and denial there.

The anonymous author of A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, published in the mid-sixteenth century, gave the following instructions for cooking and serving fish:

A Pyke sauce for a Pyke, Breme, Perche, Roche, Carpe, Eles, Floykes and al maner of brouke fyshe.
Take a posye of Rosemary and time and bynde them together, and put in also a quantitye of perselye not bounde, and put into the caudron of water, salte andyeste, and the herbes, and lette them boyle a pretye whyle, then putte in the fyssheand a good quantitye of butter, and let them boyle a good season, and you shall have good Pyke sauce.
For all those fysshes above wrytten yf they muste bee broyled, take sauce for them, butter, peepper and veneger and boyle it upon a chafyngdyshe and then laye thebroyled fyshe uppon the dysche; but for Eeles and freshe Salmon nothing but Pepper and vyneger over boyled. And also yf you wyll frye them, you muste take a good quantitie of persely, after the fyshe is fryed, put in the persely into the fryinge panne, and let it frye in the butter and take it up and put it on the fryed fyshe, and frye place, whyttinge and suche other fyshe, excepte Eles, freshe Salmon, Conger, which be ever fryed but baken, boyled, roosted or sodden.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Chocolate for Health.

Quotation for the Day …

Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him of the entire weekend. Attributed to many people (all women).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Second Breakfast.

Today, March 16th …

The novelist Sybille Bedford was born on this day in 1911. Her surname was a legacy of her brief marriage to an Englishman – she was in fact born in Charlottenberg, (Germany) of an aristocratic German father and an Italian mother.

Sybille’s childhood was spent in Germany, England, and Italy, and she continued her International life in adulthood. She often wrote lyrically about food, and there is a superb illustration of this in her novel A Legacy, which is set amongst a community of wealthy Berlin jews.

They were at second breakfast. Second breakfast was laid every morning at eleven-fifteen on a long table in the middle of the Herrenzimmer, a dark, fully furnished room with heavily draped windows that led from an antechamber to an antechamber. The meal was chiefly for the gentlemen. They ate cold Venison with red-currant jelly, potted meats, tongue and fowl accompanied by pumpernickel toast and rye-bread, and they drank port wine. Grandmama sat with them. She had a newly-laid egg done in cream, and nibbled at some soft rolls with Spickgans, smoked breast of goose spread on butter and chopped fine. Grandpapa had a hot poussin-chicken baked for him every day in a small dish with a lid; and Cousin Markwald who had a stomach ailment ate cream of wheat, stewed sweetbreads and a special kind of rusks.

This magnificent concept of Second Breakfast is a particularly German idea (did they get it from the Hobbits, or vice-versa?). It is a meal coming between first breakfast and lunch which is too substantial to be called ‘morning tea’ (or elevenses or smoko), and yet is too early for lunch. Apparently special dishes are made just for this meal, which makes me wonder why on earth I haven’t visited Germany yet (soon, I hope, soon ..). One of the very traditional things at this meal, is, I am told Weißwurst – a white sausage made early in the day (presumably before first breakfast) to be eaten within a few hours.

I am given to believe that the average German gets through 67 pounds of sausage per year! I wonder how much of this is at Second Breakfast? We have previously looked at old recipes for Zervelat and Bratwurst from the mid-sixteenth century cookbook of Sabina Welserin, but sadly, she does not include one for Weißwurst – I hope a German reader will enlighten us here.

Here are a couple of other recipes from her book which might be very nice even for Third Breakfast, which someone really ought to invent.

A tart with plums, which can be dried or fresh
Let them cook beforehand in wine and strain them and take eggs, cinnamon and sugar. Bake the dough for the tart. That is made like so: take two eggs and beat them. Afterwards stir flour therein until it becomes a thick dough. Pour it on the table and work it well, until it is ready. After that take somewhat more than half the dough and roll it into a flat cake as wide as you would have your tart. Afterwards pour the plums on it and roll out after that the other crust and cut it up, however you would like it, and put it on top over the tart and press it together well and let it bake. So one makes the dough for a tart.

If you would bake good hollow doughnuts
Take good flour of the very best and pour on it one third quart of cream and beat eggs into it, six, seven, eight, according to how much you will make, and knead the dough as carefully as possible and roll it out very thin. Afterwards fry them, then from the inside they will rise like tiny pillows, then they are ready.

The German version of the Cookbook of Sabina Welserin is HERE.

An English transcription can be found HERE.

Monday’s Story …

Maundy Money, Maundy Food.

This Day, Last Year...

France bans absinthe.

Quotation for the Day …

I detest ... anything over-cooked, over-herbed, over-sauced, over elaborate. Nothing can go very far wrong at table as long as there is honest bread, butter, olive oil, a generous spirit, lively appetites and attention to what we are eating. Sybille Bedford.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Crunchy Cracknels.

Today, March 15th …

Mary Thomas was one of the first settlers in Adelaide, South Australia in 1836. Her husband and his partner published the first London issue of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register in June 1836, and he then set off with his wife and four children to become the first Government Printer for the new colony. They arrived in November 1836, and by the end of December they had built a camp of tents and rush huts to accommodate their family as well as the first printing press in South Australia.

Mary was a resourceful and talented woman – a poet and writer herself. In addition to her role as matriarch of a family coping with a climate and living conditions at the opposite end of the scale to which they were reared, she contributed actively to the newspaper. She also kept up a correspondence with her brother in England, and she must have expressed a wish for some of the food that she missed from home, for he sent her occasional food parcels. On this day in 1840 she wrote to him:

“We have received the bacon and hams, and excellent they are: such a treat as I, at least, have not had since I have been in the colony. The cracknels were as fresh as if they were just out of the oven, but the pot of honey, I am sorry to say, was broken.”

The idea of hams and bacon arriving after many months at sea without refrigeration
horrifies us today, and it is tempting to think that pure nostalgia gave the ‘cracknels’ that just-baked aroma and crunch. The ‘cracknels’ Mary was referring to were thin, light biscuits “bak'd hard, so as to crackle under the Teeth” – although in some parts of the world the same word means “Small pieces of fat pork fried crisp.”

Perhaps Mary still did not have a proper oven, or surely she would have made the biscuits herself?

To make Cracknels
Take half a pound of fine flour, half a pound of sugar, two ounces of butter, two eggs, and a few carraway seeds; (you must beat and sift the sugar) then put it to your flour and work it to paste; roll them as thin as you can, and cut them out with queen cake tins, lie them on papers and bake them in a slow oven. They are proper to eat with chocolate. [English Housewifry; 1764]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Second Breakfast.

The story last year …

A Vegetarian Feast was the topic of the day.

Quotation for the Day …

When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste. Laiko Bahrs

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Authentic Waldorf Salad.

Today, March 14th …

The original Waldorf hotel opened on this day in 1893 with a charity concert in honour of St Mary’s Hospital for Children. The New York Times referred to it as a Mi-Careme event - that is, an event held in the middle of Lent to celebrate the half-way point of abstinence has been reached. It seems unlikely that the wealthy social elite of New York had suffered much deprivation during the first half of Lent, and it seems even more unlikely that they were served a maigre dinner on the night, but the exact details of the meal do not appear to have been preserved.

Oscar Tschirky the famous “Oscar of the Waldorf” was was the maitre d’hotel from the opening of the hotel until he retired in 1943. Although he was not a chef, it seems he had some hand in suggesting or inspiring food ideas, and tradition says he invented the Waldorf Salad for the hotel opening. In 1896 he authored a cookbook called very unpretentiously The Cook Book, and he included his recipe for the salad:
Waldorf Salad.
Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.

Did you notice that there are no walnuts in this recipe? When did they get added?

There is a recipe in The Times Cook Book, No. 2: 957 Cooking And Other Recipes.../By California Women; Brought Out By The 1905 Series Of Prize Recipe Contests In The Los Angeles Times of 1905. I don’t know if it is the first nutty version, but here it is, thanks to Miss K. Hamin of 353 South Alvarado street.

Waldorf Salad.
Three-fourths cup chopped nuts, half cup chopped celery; one cup apple cut fine, dash of paprika, and salt to taste. Mix with mayonnaise or any other salad dressing as preferred. Enough for six persons.

There seems to be an irrepressible human urge to tweak every perfectly good recipe. Mrs Howard P. Denison thought orange rind would be just right, and she contributed her idea to The good housekeeping woman's home cook book (1909) by Isable Gordon Curtis.

Waldorf Salad.
Two cups of celery chopped fine, grated rind of one orange, one cup of apples cut in dice. If fine red apples take six and scoop out insides, making little cups for the salads. Mix the above with the following mayonnaise: One very cold egg yolk with one teaspoon of onion juice and yolk of one boiled egg, one cup of cold olive oil, one tablespoon of sugar, one tablespoon of vinegar, one tablespoon of lemon juice, one teaspoon of salt, one-fourth teaspoon of cayenne, one-half teaspoon of mustard. Mix thoroughly by stirring oil, drop by drop, to the egg and a few drops of vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper, etc, which have been previously thoroughly mixed together; then fill the cups or make plain mixture, serving on white lettuce leaves. Cheese balls are delicious served with this salad.

Anyone out there have any other versions to add?

Tomorrow’s Story …
Crunchy Cracknels.

Last Year's Story ...
Today is Isabella Beeton’s birthday

Quotation for the Day …

To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist - the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil one must mix with one's vinegar. Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Miss Corson Cooks.

Today, March 13th …

Miss Juliet Corson was born in 1841, and became a librarian when her stepmother insisted she earn her own living at the age of sixteen. Her poor pay and conditions (she had to sleep at the library) gave her a great insight into the difficulties women faced when they had to join the workforce and in particular she developed a great sympathy for the poor.

In the early 1870’s she became involved in the Women's Educational and Industrial Society of New York which offered vocational training for women – and one of the few acceptable occupations was domestic work. In spite of not having any training in it herself she was asked to teach cookery – so she taught herself from books. She must have been a very quick learner and had a natural gift for cooking, because in the space of a few years it was suggested that she open a school.

The school opened in 1876 and had a sliding scale of fees, so that it was affordable for any student. On this day in 1877 she went one better and opened a new department to provide free lessons in “plain cooking” to the daughters and wives of working men. The venture was a success, and Miss Corson became the supreme champion of good nutrition and frugal cookery for the poorer folk.

In August of 1877 she published at her own expence a small book called Fifteen Cent Dinners for Families of Six, which gave suggested bills of fare and recipes for each day for a week. She allowed charitable organisations to distribute the book free of charge to the “families of workingmen earning less than One Dollar and Fifty Cents, or less, per day”.

The suggested Tuesday menu from her book was:

Breakfast: Broth and bread 10c.
Dinner: Baked Beans 10c
Supper: Macaroni with Cheese 12c.

The dishes will cost a little more to make today, but here are the recipes anyway:

Baked Beans.

Put one pint of dried beans, (cost six cents,) and quarter of a pound of salt pork, (cost four cents,) into two quarts of cold water; bring them to a boil, and boil them slowly for about twenty minutes, then put the beans, with about a teacupful of the water they were boiled int, into an open jar, season them with salt and pepper to taste, and one tablespoonful of molasses, (cost of seasoning one cent, ) lay the pork on the top, and bake two hours, or longer. The dish will cost about ten cents, and is palatable and nutritious. The liquor in which the beans were boiled should be saved, and used next morning as broth, with seasoning and a little fried or toasted bread in it.

Macaroni with Cheese.
Boil half a pound of macaroni, as above, put into a pudding dish in layers, with a quarter of a pound of cheese (cost four cents), grated and mixed between the layers; season it with pepper and salt to taste; put a very little butter and some bread crumbs over it, and brown it in the oven. It will make just as hearty and strengthening a meal as meat, and will cost about twelve cents.

Tomorrow's Story ...

The Authentic Waldorf Salad.

A Previous Story for this Day …

Military Ice-Cream was the topic for the day.

Quotation for the Day …

Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one which has rendered us the most important service in civic life. Brillat-Savarin.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Paris Markets.

Today, March 12th …

The wonderful markets of Paris have a long history. They had already been trading for perhaps centuries when legislation was enacted on this day in 1322 specifying the hours at which they were to open.

Less than three decades later the population of Paris was halved in the space of about a year by bubonic plague, but at the time it was a thriving metropolis of about a quarter of a million people packed into an area of a few square miles – a huge city by medieval standards.

In 1393 in Paris a wealthy older man wrote a housekeeping manual to help his young wife (he was probably in his 60’s, she about 15) to learn how to manage a household. There is much in Le Menagier de Paris about the various markets. The author advises his wife where she should go for particular goods, and gives her an idea of how much she should pay for various items, using as examples details of the catering for several weddings:

Arrangements for the wedding done by Master Helye in May, on a Tuesday; dinner only for twenty bowls.

… Trencher bread, three dozen of half a foot in width and four fingers tall, baked four days before and browned, or what is called in the market Corbeil bread.

In the market, trencher bread, three dozen. Pomegranates for blankmanger (a sort of fricassee), three costing ... Oranges, fifty costing … Six new cheeses and one old, and three hundred eggs.

At Pierre-au-Lait [the milk market], a sixth of full-cream milk without water added, to make the frumenty …

In the Place de Greve, a hundredweight of coal from Burgundy, thirteen sous two sacks of charcoal, ten sous.

At the Forte-de-Paris: may, green herb, violet, bread-crumbs, a quarter of white salt, a quarter of coarse salt, a hundred crayfish, a half-litre of loach, two clay pots, one of six quarts for the jelly, and the other of two quarts for the cameline.

Oranges and pomegranates are mentioned several times in the manual. They were an expensive luxury in medieval France, and the author does not specify the cost presumably because it varied with the supply. He does give a price for candied orange peel however:

For chamber-spices, that is to say, candied orange peel, one pound, ten sous. - Candied citron, one pound, twelve sous. - Red anise, one pound, eight sous. - Rose-sugar (white sugar clarified and cooked in rose-water (JP), one pound, ten sous. - White sugared almonds, three pounds, ten sous a pound. - Of hippocras, three quarts, ten sous a quart, and all will be needed.

To give an idea of the relative cost of this luxury, compare it with some everyday items:

… three shoulders of veal, four sous ... twenty capons, two Paris sous each … A thin pig, for the jelly, four Paris sous …. A half-pound of ground cinnamon, five sous. Two pounds of ground rice, two sous.

The young wife is given instructions for making candied orange peel herself, as well as advice as to where oranges may be used in what we would now call ‘savoury’ dishes.

Item, partridge must be plucked dry, and cut off the claws and head, put in boiling water, then stick with venison if you have any, or bacon, and eat with fine salt, or in cold water and rose water and a little wine, or in three parts rose water, orange juice and wine, the fourth part.

Mullet is called "migon" in Languedoc, and it is scaled like a carp, then split the length of the belly, cooked in water, with parsley on it, then cooled in its water; and then eaten with green sauce, and better with orange sauce. Item, it is good in pie.

Item, in summer, the sauce for a roast chicken is half vinegar, half rose-water, and chilled, etc. Item, orange-juice is good.

And to use the pomegranate, the ‘fricassee’:

White Soup.
Take capons, hens or chicks killed beforehand at a convenient time, either whole or in halves or quarters, and pieces of veal, and cook with bacon in water and wine: and when they are cooked, take them out, and take almonds, peel and grind them and mix with water from your fowls, that is to say the dearest, without scrapings or any bits, and strain them through a sieve; then take white ginger prepared or peeled, with grain of Paradise, prepared as above, and strain through a very fine sieve, and mix with milk of almonds. And if it is not thick enough, strain fine flour or rice, which has been boiled, and add a taste of verjuice, and add a great amount of white sugar. And when it is ready, sprinkle over it a spice known as red coriander and some seeds of the pomegranate with sugared almonds and fried almonds, placed at the bottom of each bowl

The book is an interesting record of the role of women in the fourteenth century. The author is a man of his time and expects wifely obedience, but he seems kindly, not cruel. A touching part of his motive is that he fully expects his wife to outlive him and will therefore inevitably re-marry, and he wants her to be better prepared to run the household of her next husband.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Miss Corson Cooks.

Quotation for the Day …

You cannot sell a blemished apple in the supermarket, but you can sell a tasteless one provided it is shiny, smooth, even, uniform and bright. Elspeth Huxley.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Great Pastry War

Today, March 9th …

We don’t usually explore the reasons behind international conflict on this blog. Some highly creative justifications for war have been made throughout history – there have been some notable recent examples – and the discussion of these is best left to others with greater interest and superior insight. There is one particular war which does fall clearly into our territory however, and it came to an official end on this day in 1839.

The story took place in Mexico, the protagonists were the Mexicans and the French, and the conflict came to be called The Pastry War.

Civil disobedience was the norm, it seems, in the early days of the Mexican republic. Many expatriates in particular got thoroughly fed up with the damage to property and disruption to business that ensued from the daily strife, but appeals to the Mexican government for compensation fell on deaf ears. A French pastry-cook called M. Remontel claimed that Mexican soldiers had damaged his establishment, and when he was refused compensation (he had asked for what seems like an exorbitant sum), he appealed to his own king, Louis-Phillipe for support and assistance.

The French were not happy. As we know they take their pastry very seriously, and no doubt the fact that Mexico had defaulted on large debts owing to France was also taken into account. The upshot of it all was that the French sent a fleet to Veracruz in December 1838. To cut a military story short, Britain acted as mediator, and Mexico promised payment, so the French withdrew on this day in 1839.

Is invading a country on account of damage to a pastry-shop justifiable? Sillier reasons have been advanced for military action, methinks. But they would have to be very good pastries.

Here is a classic pastry recipe from The professed cook: or the modern art of cookery, pastry, and confectionary, made plain and easy. Consisting of the most approved methods in the French as well as English cookery ... by Menon (1769.)

Pâte feuilletée. Rich Puff-paste.
Mix some fine Flour with cold Water, Salt, one or two Eggs; the Paste ought to be as soft as the Butter it is made with; in Winter soften the Butter, with squeezing it in your Hands; in Summer, ice it; put Butter according to Judgement, to make it very rich, and work it with a Rolling-pin several times, folding it in three or four Folds each Time: use it to any Kind of Pies, or small Cakes.
N.B. The meaning of Feuilletée, is when the Crust breaks ... in thin Leaves or Scales, after it is baked, occasioned by the Richness of it.

Tourte de Franchipane.
Italian, after Frangipani, a proper Name.
Mix three Eggs with a Pint of Cream, two or three Spoonfuls of Flour, a proper Quantity of Sugar, boil this together about half an Hour, stirring it continually; then add some Almond-biscuits, called Macaroni-drops, bruised to Powder, a little Lemon-peel minced very fine, a Bit of Butter, two Yolks of Eggs, a little of the Orange-flower dried and pounded, or a few Drops of Orange-flower Water: use the best Sort of Paste, vix, au Feuilletage or Zephir; put the Cream in it, a few Bars of Paste over, laid according to Fancy, or cut Flowers; sugar it over to give a Glaze; serve cold.

Monday’s Story …

The Paris Markets.

A Previous Story for this Day …

Granny Smith and her apples were the topic of the day.

Quotation for the Day …

In Mexico we have a word for sushi: Bait. Jose Simon.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A little hunting lodge.

Today, March 8th …

The King of France, Louis XIII spent his first night in his new hunting lodge in the forest about 20 kilometres from Paris on this night in 1624. Over the following century and beyond a series of additions and improvements created a grand palace out of this modest little hunting lodge.

It is Versailles of course, a building that has been host to some of the most significant historic events of Europe as well as some of the most lavish over-the-top feasts and entertainments ever held anywhere in the world. Most of the additions (and entertainments) were ordered by Louis XIII’s son and descendant, the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV, who found lots to do there during his 72 year reign. The palace was a favourite of his wife Marie Antoinette and we have previously looked at one of the dinners she enjoyed there in 1788 – a modest little dinner, as things went in those days. Perhaps there were not so many royal paparazzi hanging around for a free feed that day.

In its life as a little hunting lodge in the forest of Versailles a century and a half earlier the catering facilities were presumably not so sophisticated as Marie-Antoinette’s entertaining required. In recognition of this earlier, simpler life I give you a couple of easy recipes for cooking the produce of the hunt. All you need is a fire, a turnspit (and a boy to turn it), and of course that essential member of every hunting party, a saucier (sauce chef.)

From the 1653 translation of The French Cook, by François Pierre de la Varenne:

Young Wildboare, or Grice.
Take off the skinne as farre as the head, dress it, and whiten it on the fire, cut off the four feet, stick it with lardons, and put in the body of it one bay leaf, or some fine herbs; when it is rosted, serve.

Loyne of Stagge.
Take off all the skinnes, stick it, and spit it, serve with a Poivrade.
The Fillet is done up like the Loyne withPouvrade.
The Loine of Roebuck is also done the same way.

The sauce called Poivrade is made with vinegar, salt, onion, or chibols, orange, or lemon peele, and peper, seeth it, and serve it under that meat, for which it is fitting.

Tomorrow’s Story …

The Great Pastry War

A Previous Story for this Day …

Picnics à la Wind in the Willows and Mrs Beeton were the topic of the day.

Quotation for the Day …

The French are not rude. They just happen to hate you. But that is no reason to bypass this beautiful country, whose master chefs have a well-deserved worldwide reputation for trying to trick people into eating snails. Nobody is sure how this got started. Probably a couple of French master chefs were standing around one day, and they found a snail, and one of them said: "I bet that if we called this something like `escargot,' tourists would eat it." Then they had hearty laugh, because "escargot" is the French word for "fat crawling bag of phlegm." Dave Barry.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A new potato.

Today, March 7th …

The famous American horticulturalist Luther Burbank was born on this day in 1849. During his career he developed new varieties of more than 800 plants from poppies to plums (and the plumcot), but it is for the potato that now bears his name that he is best known. The potato story is a magnificent example of the occasional reward of great curiosity and patience.

Potato plants are usually grown from seed potatoes – potatoes from a previous crop saved for replanting - the new plant sprouting from the ‘eyes’. The problem with planting potato seeds is that there is no way of predicting how the potatoes will turn out – the plant from each seed can vary enormously from every other plant in the patch, which makes for great anxiety on the part of potato farmers. Burbank decided to plant the 23 seeds he found one day in a seed ball on an “Early Rose” potato plant, and he succeeded in getting all of them to germinate. As expected, there was a wide variety in the quality of the resulting potatoes, but the best of them was to change the scale of potato production in the USA. The Burbank potato (and its natural offspring the Russet Burbank) is high yielding, stores well, and has become the premier processing potato in the country, which makes for very happy potato farmers. If you ever eat fries from that place with the yellow arches – you are eating Burbank’s babies.

Burbank didn’t make money from his potato. Plant varieties could not be patented in the USA until 1930, and the only money he got for his painstaking gardening experiment was the $150 for selling the rights to the new variety. He was otherwise rewarded by having it named for him, and for being inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Burbank’s birthday gives us a great opportunity to add to our Historic Potato Recipe Collection.

The following recipes were chosen for no better reasons than they come from cookbooks of the first decade of his life, and because I thought they sounded fun.

Potato Omelette.
It may be made with a mashed potato or 2 ounces of potato-flour and 4 eggs, and seasoned with pepper, salt, and a little nutmeg. It should be made thick, and, being rather substantial, a squeeze of lemon will improve it. Fry a light brown.
[The Ladies' New Book of Cookery: A Practical System For Private Families In Town And Country; With Directions For Carving, And Arranging The Table For Parties, etc. Also Preparations Of Food For Invalids And For Children. Sarah Josepha Hale. New York, 1852.]

Potato Sandwiches.
Saute the slices of beef as directed for bubble and squeak, cover one side of each piece with mashed potatoes a quarter of an inch in thickness, egg and bread-crumb over, then proceed the same with the other sides; fry in hot fat of a light brown color, as you would a sole, and serve. Any kind of fresh meat may be used the same way.
[The Practical Housekeeper; A Cyclopedia of Domestic Economy ... Ellet, E. F. 1857]

Both books can be found at the Feeding America site.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A little hunting lodge.

A Previous Story for this Day …

Food related to the singer Jenny Lind was the topic.

Quotation for the Day …

Nor do I say it is filthy to eat potatoes. I do not ridicule the using of them as a sauce. What I laugh at is, the idea of the use of them being a saving; of their going further than bread; of the cultivating of them in lieu of wheat adding to the human sustenance of a country. ... As food for cattle, sheep or hogs, this is the worst of all the green and root crops; but of this I have said enough before; and therefore, I now dismiss the Potato with the hope, that I shall never again have to write the word, or see the thing. William Cobbett (1763-1835)