Thursday, September 20, 2007

Meat From The Jungle.

Today, September 20th

The Pulitzer-prize winning author Upton Sinclair was born on this day in 1878. Twenty-eight years later to the day his book The Jungle was published – and what a stir it caused! Sinclair was a passionate socialist and intended his book to expose the awful working conditions of ordinary wage-earners - the victims of expoitation by greedy capitalist bosses in the meat-packing industry. His novel also described the appalling public health problems posed by the slaughterhouses - and as it turned out, this was the issue picked up by the reading public, who were outraged and vocal. A couple of sentences will suffice as examples of the situation described by Sinclair:

“ … the first cattle of the morning were just making their appearance; and so, with scarcely time to look about him, and none to speak to any one, he fell to work. It was a sweltering day in July, and the place ran with steaming hot blood - one waded in it on the floor. The stench was almost overpowering …. ”

“ … In summer the stench of the warm lard would be nauseating …”

Animal activists got plenty of ammunition too from the book too:

“The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing - for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back; at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and then another, and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by a foot and kicking in frenzy - and squealing. The uproar was appalling, perilous to the eardrums; one feared there was too much sound for the room to hold - that the walls must give way or the ceiling crack. There were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony; there would come a momentary lull, and then a fresh outburst, louder than ever, surging up to a deafening climax. It was too much for some of the visitors - the men would look at each other, laughing nervously, and the women would stand with hands clenched, and the blood rushing to their faces, and the tears starting in their eyes.”

There is no doubt that the public uproar over the public health issues exposed in The Jungle that contributed significantly to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. It is good to know that novelists can influence politics.

The book also did no harm to the vegetarian cause either – and after all that blood and squealing, the only suitable recipe for today is something gentle and vegetarian, don’t you think? From Mrs. Mills’ Reform Cookery (1909), here is an “instead of sausages” recipe, and it fits nicely into the Variations on a Theme of Yorkshire Pudding suggested by a recent post.

Make the sausages the same as in previous recipe*, only using brown lentils instead of German lentils. Put in a buttered pie-dish and pour over the following

Beat up one or two eggs. Add 3 tablespoonfuls flour, and by degrees two gills milk, also seasoning of grated onion, chopped parsley, white pepper, "Extract," &c.

are made of the same ingredients as savoury brick**. Pound well in a basin, so as to have all the materials nicely blended, or put in a saucepan over gentle heat, and mash well with a wooden spoon. See that the seasoning is right. Some chopped tomatoes and mushrooms are an improvement, also some grated onion, ketchup, and "Extract." These should be put in saucepan with a little butter until lightly cooked, then the lentils, &c., should be added, the whole well mixed and turned out to cool. When quite cold, flour the hands and form into small sausages. Brush over with beaten egg and fry, or put on greased baking tin and bake till a crisp brown. They may need a little basting, or to be turned over to brown equally.

**Savoury Brick
Take about 2 teacupfuls cooked German lentils - not too moist. Put in a basin and add a cupful fine bread crumbs, and a cupful cold boiled rice or about half as much mashed potatoes. Add any extra seasoning--a little ketchup, Worcester sauce, Marmite or Carnos Extract, &c. - also a spoonful of melted butter. Mix well with a fork and bind with one or two beaten eggs, reserving a little for brushing. Shape into a brick or oval, and press together as firmly as possible. Brush over with beaten egg, put in buttered tin, and bake for half-an-hour. Or it may be put in saucepan with 1 oz. butter or Nut Butter that has been made very hot. Cover and braize for 10
minutes. Turn and cook for another 10 minutes. Add a little flour and seasoning to the butter, and then a cupful boiling water, stock, or diluted "Extract," and allow to simmer a little longer. Serve with garnish of beetroot or tomatoes.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Crime and Punishment in the Kitchen.

Quotation for the Day …

Veal is the quintessential Lonely Guy meat. There's something pale and lonely about it, especially if it doesn't have any veins. It's so wan and Kierkegaardian. You just know it's not going to hurt you. Bruce Jay Friedman, The Lonely Guy Cookbook.

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