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.

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