Thursday, July 31, 2008

Curried What?

July 31

It must be time for me to give you a menu. I think about little else, these days, with the deadline for my Menus from History Book scarily close. Today, for fun, I give you the recommended luncheon menu for the day from Daily Menus for War Service (1918), - a book from wartime America by Thetta Quay Franks (impressive name, that). I hesitated, on account of the awefulness of one of the luncheon dishes for the day.

Curried Bananas with Rice.
6 bananas, peeled and scraped.
2 tablespoons of butterine or oil.
1 tablespoon of curry powder.
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
1 ½ cups of milk
2 cups cooked rice.
Cut the bananas in half - lengthwise. Fry them until they are quite soft, in the butter which has been mixed with the curry powder. Put the bananas in a serving dish. To the fat remaining in the pan add the cornstarch, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix them thoroughly. Add the milk. Cook the mixture until it is smooth and thick. Add a small amount of the sauce to the egg (slightly beaten.) [the egg was missing from the list of ingredients] Add the egg to the mixture and pour it over the bananas. Serve the cooked rice around the bananas.

This dish is best appreciated in the context of the rest of the menu.

Curried bananas with brown rice chutney.
Stewed celery.
White sauce.
Ripe Olives.
Baking powder biscuits (wheatless)
Cream (thin)
Sugar (powdered)
Pecan cakes.

Hmm. Not sure what ‘brown rice chutney’ is – or is it meant to be ‘brown rice, chutney’? Innovative though. Who would have thought of olives with curry? And what was the white sauce to go on or over or with? Surely not the curried white sauce already over the bananas? As for the butterine and nutmargarine, – they surely deserves a blog post of their own. Watch out for it.

It is rather small-minded of me to scoff at our cook-ancestors in this way. I have no doubt that future food historians will scoff condescendingly at some of our ‘modern’ foods (anyone care to suggest a few?). I do struggle however with this concept of ‘curry’ – the Anglo-Indian (or perhaps in this case the American-Anglo-Indian) concept that is so far removed from its inspiration as to often be unrecogniseable. There have been some terrible things done in the name of curry – something with apple and hard-boiled egg that I remember from my childhood, and more recently I gave you Curry and Egg Scones.

I am also interested in early recipes for the banana – the ordinary everyday eating banana that is, not the plantain or other cooking sort. It seems that the earliest of these are probably from the Americas – closeness to sources for such a perishable fruit being an issue. In England, until more rapid transport and technological ‘advances’ which enabled the ripening to be slowed, bananas remained a rather exotic luxury until well into the twentieth century. The earliest banana ‘cake’ recipe I have found so far is from Mrs.Rorer (American) in 1902, and I have given it to you previously, but it is a far cry from a real ‘cake’. Perhaps you can offer something earlier?

Quotation for the Day …


I thought I'd win the spelling bee
And get right to the top
But I started to spell "banana"
And I didn't know when to stop.
William Cole

1 comment:

srhcb said...

In The Measure of My Powers MFK Fisher reports that one of her early efforts at improvised cooking was a dish she called "Hindu Eggs".

She thought she recalled the recipe from Fanny Farmer, and it seemed simple enough. Just add curry powder to a white sauce which was poured over sliced hardcooked eggs.

Unfortunately, she got carried away with the rich coloring of the curry, and ended up using five tablespoons in a recipe for two persons!

She and her "guinea pig" sister dutifully ate as much as they could stand, and awoke the next morning with blistered mouths!