I came across an interesting little piece in a magazine called The Metropolitan – ‘a monthly magazine devoted to Religion, Education, Literature, and General Information’ (1854). We don’t seem to ‘do’ General Knowledge any more, do we? Did I miss something? Did it become un-PC?
Any good article raises as many interesting questions as it answers, I think.
“The Watermelon is a fruit of great importance in
Watermelon seed are in fact a real treasure to amuse and beguile at small expense the three hundred millions of inhabitans in the
We have always thought that the natural propensity of the Chinese for all that is fictitious and unreal had inspired this mad taste for water-melon seedss, for if there be in the world as fantastic nourishment, it is, beyond a doubt, these same seeds. Accordingly the Chinese use them at all times and in all places. If friends meet to drink tea, or rice wine, a plate of water-melon seeds is a necessary accompaniment. They eat them while travelling, while going through the streets on business: if children or laborers have a few …..? [cant read it] to dispose of they to, as a matter of course, for these delicacies. You can buy them everywhere, in cities, in villages and on all the great and small roads. In the most desert country, bereft of all kinds of provisions, you may be sure that you will not be deprived of water-melon seeds. In this vast empire the consumption is incalculable, and enough to confound the wildest imagination. Junks laden exclusively with this commodity are constantly met on the rivers; you would indded suppose the nation to belong to the family ‘Rodentes.’ It would be a curious work, and worth the attention of our great compilers of statistics, to estimate how many water-melon seeds are consumed daily, monthly, yearly, in a country of more than three millions of inhabitants.”
Now this is a wonderful example of mid-nineteenth century ethnocentricity. But it is confused, is it not? The writer cant quite decide whether he admires the canny Chinese, or not. They have a rodent-like ‘unnatural appetite’ for a most nutritious food. They have a very clever everyone-wins way of ‘working the vegetable mines’ (I love that phrase - I will look at a water-melon in quite a different way from now on.)
Surely the Chinese pickle the water melon rind too? I can hardly imagine that it would be thrown away.
Today, I give you a very value-added way of using up that pesky flesh of the fruit.
Watermelon, how to serve.
Use only those melons that are perfectly ripe. Do not select those that are very large in circumference; a rough melon with a bumpy surface is the best. Either cut in half or plug and fill with the following: Put on to boil some pale sherry or claret and boil down to quite a thick syrup with sugar. Pour this into either a plugged melon or over the half-cut melon, and lay on ice for a couple of hours before serving. If you use claret you may spice it while boiling with whole spices.
Aunt Babette's Cook Book: Foreign and domestic receipts for the household: A vaulable collection of receipts and hints for the housewife, many of which are not to be found elsewhere. c1889.
Quotation for the Day …