Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Lawless Kitchen.

It was the name of a book chapter, not the name of a dish, or even the name of a whole book, that led me to today’s topic. Once upon a time I came across a reference to ‘Law and Order in the Kitchen’, which intrigued me enormously, for a lawless kitchen is indeed a terrifying idea. The book turned out to be Housekeeping, Cookery, and Sewing for Little Girls, by Olive Hyde Foster, and published in New York 1925. Not the sort of title that would get many sales today, for all sorts of reasons – although the chapter titles are quite interesting. I particularly like ‘The Chemistry of Cleaning’, and ‘Why and How to Fight Dust and Flies’ as well as the one that drew me to the book. One can see how one would rush out and buy it for one’s little girl, cant one? I shouldn’t scoff, should I? Masses of historical precedent indicates that, without a shadow of doubt, our ideas will be scoffed at just as heartily in 80-odd years time. It does make you grateful for how much work our feminist grandmas have achieved, however, doesn’t it?

Anyhow, I digress. On further study, it turns out that the lawlessness that is a constant risk in one’s kitchen is not on behalf of family members who are fed-up of being guinea-pigs for one’s culinary experiments or jealous girl-friends who want to steal one’s secret bestest recipes. It is entirely on behalf of the undisciplined splashes of dishwashing water, the sneaky stove ashes and the positively criminal grease-spots. The only solution is – after the application of the scientific principles of Cleaning Chemistry (and a lot of elbow grease) - to police one’s kitchen with great vigilance.

“After it [the floor] has been freshly scrubbed, see that no grease is allowed to spatter from the stove, or dishwater be spilled around the sink. After a time it will come so natural to be careful about these little details that you will scarcely think of them.”

The author sticks strictly to the chapter heading in Principles of cookery. She notes that ‘Every girl wants to become a good cook … ’ and believes that ‘A good cookbook is necessary, (though often too much importance is given to recipes,) and every time a new dish is tried and found satisfactory, the directions should be written down and kept for future reference.’ She does not therefore actually give any recipes.

So, today’s choice comes from another book specifically for children (clearly also for girls) - When Mother Lets us Cook, from 1908. It is ‘A book of simple receipts for little folk with important cooking rules in rhyme’, and is actually quite good fun. I was sorely tempted by Curlylocks Pudding, but it turned out to be a not-very exciting strawberry-cornflour pudding. I chose this one instead, which I am sure will be be familiar to all of you in the USA. In Olde England and here Down Under it would probably have the molasses replaced with Golden Syrup, which would make it Blond Betty, I guess.

Brown Betty
6 cooking apples Apple corer
½ cup molasses Measuring cup
½ cup cold water Baking dish
4 tablespoonfuls brown sugar

Take 6 large, tart apples, core them and peel them and cut them into small slices.
Take a baking dish, butter the inside and cover the bottom with one layer of apple slices. Sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs over the apple, then lay more apple over the crumbs, and so on until you have used all the apple.
There must be a layer of crumbs on top
Measure ½ cupful of black molasses and ½ cupful of cold water.
Add to this 4 tablespoonfusl of brown sugar and stir till the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the mixture over the apple and crumbs and drop four little bits of butter on top of all.
Put the dish in a moderate oven for about ¾ of an hour, or until it is nicely browned on top, and the apples are soft. Try them with a fork.
Serve hot with cream or hard sauce.

Quotation for the Day …

Apple-pie is used through the whole year, and when fresh apples are no longer to be had, dried ones are used. It is the evening meal of children. house-pie, in country places, is made of apples neither peeled nor freed from their cores, and its crust is not broken if a wagon wheel goes over it."
Swedish parson, Rev. Israel Acrelius writing home from America (1758)


srhcb said...

My Mother used to make an apple dessert like that back in the 50-60's and called it simply "Apple Betty". We just assumed the "Betty" was "Crocker"?

Alton Brown did a show on the various baked fruit/crust desserts. (Crisps/Crumbles/Cobblers ....), and I believe that the bread crumbs were the distinguishing aspect of a Betty.

Rosemary in Utah said...

Though I see the bad unfair sexist side, old-fashioned books for little girls often have SUCH charming illustrations,don't they?
Children can take things very literally. I really remember thinking that "elbow grease" was an actual substance--sounded very useful to me!