Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Air Force One.

The President of the United States of America has got to get better in-flight food than the rest of us, Yes? It should be even better than First Class for the First Man?

Here was the menu for lunch aboard Air Force One, on February 6, 1994.

Assorted Relishes
Vegetable Soup
Tuna Melt on Croissant
Chips

Choice of Beverage

Cookies

It seems a homely menu indeed. Perhaps there was an urgent need for comfort food on that particular day?

I was tempted to divulge the many secrets of ‘relishes’ today. Then ‘chips’ caught my eye. American ‘chips’, presumably. In other words French fries made from super-thin slices of potato. Otherwise known as ‘crisps’, if you eat them (cold) from a packet in the U.K. Initially I decided against ‘cookies’ as a topic because I have previously puzzled over this superb example of the linguistic divide between the English-speaking countries. If you missed the discussion, a ‘cookie’ is a ‘biscuit’ in England – where an American ‘biscuit’ is a ‘scone’. But then I remembered that there is another cookie puzzle.

The accepted origin of the American word ‘cookie’ is that it comes from the Dutch word koekie, meaning little cake, which begs the question of why then are ‘cookies’ not in fact like little cakes but like English biscuits (even if it does fit with the historic fact that the Dutch got an early foothold in the country.) The puzzle deepens when you find that ‘cookie’ is also an old Scottish word – although the OED is unable to hazard a guess as to the Scottish etymology. The idea that the same word/idea could possibly come from two different origins sounds a unlikely to me, but I am a mere linguo-phile, not a linguist. Did the Scots get it from the Dutch, or the Dutch from the Scots, or the Americans from the Scots? Any linguists out there please help.

The Scots ‘cookie’ according to the OED is neither a cake nor a biscuit but a small plain bun – no spice, no fruit. Its first usage is given by the OED as being in about 1730, but there is a mention (spelled 'cuckie') in a Scottish laird’s household book of 1701. The origin of the OED citation is a letter written by a ‘gentleman’ in the North of Scotland to his friend in London, and the full text gives some interesting information:

‘As the Lowlanders call their part of the country the land of cakes, so the natives of the Hills say they inhabit a land of milk and honey. P. S. In the Low-country the cakes are called cookies; and the several species of them, of which there are many, though not much differing in quality one from another, are dignified and distinguished by the names of the reigning toasts, or the good housewife who was the inventor,—as for example, Lady Cullen's cookies, &c.’

So, a Scots cookie is from the Lowlands, and it sounds suspiciously like the many variations could contain fruit and spice, no matter what the OED thinks. For today’s recipe therefore I hied me away to the cookbooks of eighteenth and nineteenth century Scotland, but was unable to find anything called cookie, cuckie, or cukie. Perhaps the Scots cookie is too homely to make it into cookbooks. I will give you instead an American cookie recipe, which is quite nice, even if it should be called a biscuit recipe, and even if it calls for them to be cooked in muffin rings, and eaten like scones.

From the New York Times of 1908, because only the best is suitable for Mr. President, and because I like the idea of using fresh coconut, not the modern improved dried sweetened shredded and hygenically packaged variety ….

Cocoanut Cookies.
To make them cream very lightly ¾ cup of butter with 2 cups of sugar. Add the beaten yolks of two eggs, 1 cup of grated fresh cocoanut, and 1 teaspoon baking powder mixed with a very scant cup of cracker dust. Bake in buttered muffin rings, filling them half full, and place on a baking sheet covered with buttered paper. When baked, allow them to cool, split them open, and spread whipped cream between and on top of each.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Happy Birthday to Charles.

Quotation for the Day …

You can travel fifty thousand miles in America without once tasting a piece of good bread. Henry Miller (1891-1980)

4 comments:

T.W. Barritt said...

What an appropriate post for this evening. As we speak, it is "Super Tuesday" in the U.S. and many states are voting to determine who the Democratic and Republican candidates will be. It promises to be historic, with all sorts of new food and beverage associations. Already there have been reports that Senator Clinton is a Pina Colada person, and Senator McCain is a vodka guy. No doubt, all of the candidates are not dining nearly as well as they did on Air Force One in 1994 - reportedly, most of the candidates are eating pizza as they await the election returns.

martha said...

Dutch cookies :koekjes, (koekies),diminutive,plural: little koeken.
most dutch cookies are made from
a short dough; they are both rich and brittle and can have spices
added like our famous SPECULAAS.
biscuits are not usually home-made. they are harder and dryer.
cakes are made by creaming butter
and sugar and adding eggs. martha

The Old Foodie said...

Thankyou Martha - I guess then that Dutch 'cookies' are like English 'biscuits'. I wonder how/why Koekies got translated as 'cake' not 'bisuit'. Complicated, isnt it?

The Old Foodie said...

Ha! Ha! t.w. But what were YOU eating and drinking while you watched the results coming in?