Friday, February 29, 2008

Bachelor Cooking.

February 29 ...

I don’t need to tell you that today is Leap Year Day – a once in four years opportunity for a girl to do the marriage proposing. Society is much more relaxed about such things nowadays however, and most girls would not wait four years to take the initiative – and I doubt that many confirmed bachelors today are having sick days and locking themselves safely indoors, in fear of the office harridan giving them a lustful look. There are no firm food traditions for the day, which is a little sad, but I cannot let this once in four years opportunity go by without finding some food connection.

Most modern girls thinking of making a man permanent in their lives would consider the question “Can he cook?” before popping the question. Not so long ago the only men who cooked were professional chefs – it was very rare for an mere man to take up kitchen implements and those who did were viewed with some suspicion. Nevertheless, occasionally it must have been an absolute necessity, and there was such a thing as a Bachelor’s Oven to assist. This was a sort of enclosed, portable mini-oven - ‘ a most useful utensil in the kitchen for baking small puddings or potatoes’. There are a lot of recipes for Bachelor’s Puddings in old cookbooks, so presumably these were considered essential in the life of a single man, and the thing for which he needed specific instruction.

Today I give you a couple of recipes for Bachelor’s Pudding – and a third recipe, which is cooked in a Bachelor’s oven, so is allowed into the theme today, and which I could not resist because of the suggested final decoration.

Bachelor’s Pudding. (1)
Half a pound of bread, 1 ½ cups of flour, 1 cup of currants, ½ cup of butter or dripping, mix with 1 ½ cups of milk, 1 teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, some lemon juice, a little ground ginger, and one wineglassful of brandy. Boil for two hours. [This meant, boil in a pudding bowl or cloth]

[An African Colonial Cookery Book. 1890]

Bachelor’s Pudding. (2)
Break, or grate, ripe bread into new milk, and permit it to get soft before adding a good portion of boiled rice, some eggs, butter, and other condiments the taste may dictate, and sweeten with molasses.
[An American Agricultural Journal, 1844]

Delicious Fruit Pudding.
Mix two and a half pounds of red currants and raspberries with one and a quarter pound of raw sugar, then fill a pudding-dish with sliced bread (without crust), and layers of the fruit alternately, leaving a thick layer of the fruit at the top. Bake it in the bachelor's oven for nearly an hour before it is served, and serve it in the same dish, which may be improved in appearance by a knitted cover tied over the edges.
[The English cookery book, receipts collected by a committee of ladies, 1859]

Still vaguely attached to today’s theme, we have had in the past a Busy Bachelor’s Marble Cake, Old Maid Pie, and a sixteenth century recipe for ‘A Tart to provoke courage in a man or a woman’ (‘courage’, in this case, being an old word for lust.)

Have Fun.

Monday’s Story …

Nutmeg Dreaming.

Quotation for the Day …

An American Monkey after getting drunk on Brandy would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men. Charles Darwin.


Lidian said...

Your post reminded me of a cookbook I have by a man who called himself "the Mystery Chef' because he feared that it would embarrass his mother, if people knew that her son was a chef! (This would have been in the 1940s).

The Old Foodie said...

hello lidian - I hope you give us something from that book soon on your blog - sounds like it is fun.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I can cook (and bake) and received no marriage proposals today. Shall we talk again in 2012?

The Old Foodie said...

That is very sad, t.w. We will make sure we allow more lead-time in 2012 (unless you become "taken" between now and then). You must draw up a list of specifications, so that we can start advertising you well in advance (we will emphasise your baking skills of course).

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of how fortunate I was to have a father who loved to cook -- and he was born in 1922 and was in North Africa during WW II, so it's not because he's part of the batch of new men or because he wasn't tough. Of course, on the flip side of that, it never crossed his mind that there was anything I couldn't do because I was a girl.

The other thing that struck me is, other than being cooked and layered, how similar the Fruit Pudding is to English Summer Pudding, which is a lot of currants and raspberries, a bit of sugar, and bread -- though weighted, chilled, and then unmolded for serving. No little knit cap.