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

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