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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Size matters.

July 30 ....

Only a little story today my friends, but on a big topic.

Families (or ‘households’, for one had to count the servants) were much larger in previous times, and recipes simply had to be bigger. Yesterday’s source – the American Farmer journal of 1823 – included the following cake recipe (remember – this was way before electric blenders, beaters, processors)

Black Cake, much esteemed.
Three pounds of butter and three pounds of sugar beat to a cream, three glasses of brandy and two of rose-water, twenty-eight eggs, and three pounds of flour added by degrees together, six pounds of currants, six pounds of seeded raisins, one ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of cloves, half an ounce of mace, one pound of citron. (Two large loaves baked five hours).

That’s a lot of beating. Bakers must have looked like body-builders in those days. No need to go to the gym to work off the extra slice of cake – you worked it off in advance.

‘Black’ cake intrigues me. When did simple old dark ‘fruit’ cake become ‘black’ cake?

Quotation for the Day …

"I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts."
Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet) 1960s

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Westphalia Coffee.

July 29 ...

It seems that subsitutes for coffee have been a long-term pre-occupation for the whole world. An expert writing in American Farmer in 1823 had something to say on the topic. He had been given a sample of ‘Germanic or Westphalia Coffee’ – or substitute coffee made from Chicory (Chicorum intybus).

'… It is very much used in the north of Europe, and in France, as a surrogate for coffee, and that it is used in the latter country to adulterate the coffee which is sod in powder or ground in the shops … immense factories are established in Germany, for the sole purpose of its preparation. The manufacturers collect the root towards the end of autumn, it is then cut in slices, dried, afterward torrified and pulverised or ground. The French authors say “It is used in infusion or decoction with water, to make a drink which has all the appearance and bitterness of coffee, without possessing the other precious qualities of that useful beverage. But that it is nevertheless applied to the same uses, either alone or mixed with milk or cream. They state that it is necessary to take great precaution in keeping it, since, in large masses, it is liable to spontaneous combustion.'

The author goes on to extoll its ‘health’ virtues compared to the real thing.

'From the trials I have made of it, I believe, as a dietetic article of family use, it is more healthful than rye coffee, and has a softer and more agreeable taste: it is less injurious to delicate constitutions than coffee – it is less heating, more perspirative, less stimulating than coffee; and, though far inferior, as every substitute must be, to genuine coffee taken in moderation, I yet believe the health of the community, the female part of it especially (to whom there can be no doubt that coffee is particularly injurious), would be benefitted by using a moiety or two thirds of this article, mixed with one half or one third of genuine coffee.'

One of the nice thing about that little story is a new word (to me) – ‘torrified’, which means “roast, scorched, or dried by fire” (from the verb ‘torrefy’).

The most astonishing (or amusing) thing is the reported propensity for chicory root to spontaneously combust! The author attributes several large fires in German factories to this (wonder why the roasting equipment was not thought responsible?). And who would have thought that coffee was more injurious to the fairer sex? On account of it being more ‘perspirative’ I suppose.

In the same journal, but not by the same author, is this wonderful-sounding recipe:

Mrs. G’s Famous Buns.
One pound and a half of flour (a quarter pound left to sift in last) and half a pound of butter cut up fine together. Then add four eggs beat to a high froth, four tea-cups of milk, half a wine glass of brandy, wine, and rose-water each, and one wine glass of yeast*; stir it all together with a knife, and add half a pound of sugar, then sift in the quarter of a pound of flour, and when the lumps are all beaten fine, set them to rise in the pans they are to be baked in. This quantity will make four square pans full.

* presumably she means a sloppy mix of yeast, flour and water, not pure yeast)

Quotation for the Day …

A cup of coffee - real coffee - home-browned, home-ground, home-made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a coffee is a match for twenty blue devils, and will exorcise them all.
Henry Ward Beecher, "Eyes and Ears"

Monday, July 28, 2008

America.Coffee. The War.

Juy 28 ...

President Roosevelt announced the end of wartime coffee rationing on this day in 1943 in the USA. So, in the dark coffee-restricted days, how had the populace managed?

The ‘nationally famous home economist, dietitian, and nutrition expert’ Prudence Penny gave a lot of hints on ‘Long Drinks On Short Rations’ in one of her wartime cookbooks (Coupon Cookery, 1943). She gave some remarkably good suggestions - for a totally fictitious person (I wonder if she is friends with ‘Betty Crocker’?).

Coffee-Saving Ways.

Buy coffee one pound at a time. Keep tightly covered. Preserve metal lids and use them instead of the past-board ones that come with the jar.
Keep coffee in dark, cool place, preferably in the refrigerator.
Use the right grind – the one suited to your coffee-maker. Use regular grind for steeped and percolated coffee; use drip grind for the drip method and use fine grind for the vacuum type pot.
Measure both coffee and water accurately and make only as much as you need.
Experiment: you will find you can use less coffee by steeping or percolating the coffee a little longer; in the Cory or Silex pot, let water remain in contact with coffee in top of bowl for slightly longer than recommended by the manufacturer.
Warm cups by rinsing out in hot water.
Scour, air, and clean coffee-makers regularly.

Stretched Coffee.
Many people whose coffee ration is simply not adequate, are successfully mixing one pound of coffee with one pound of unrationed coffee-like beverage, such as Fiego, Soyfee, or any one of several others and using it identically as coffee.

And to go with your stretched coffee, why not try one of Prudence’s cakes?

Honey Chocolate Cake.
½ cup shortening
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon double action baking powder
¾ teaspoon soda
½ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup sour milk
¾ cup honey

Cream shortening and brown sugar thoroughly.
Add well-beaten eggs. Sift dry ingredients, add alternately in thirds with the milk, mixing each time until smooth.
Add the honey last and mix lightly. Add flavouring; pour into well-greased 9 inch layer tins.
Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Quotation for the Day ...

"After a few months' acquaintance with European 'coffee' one's mind weakens, and his faith with it, and he begins to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with it's clotted layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream after all, and a thing which never existed." Mark Twain, in A Tramp Abroad.

Friday, July 25, 2008

On the Naming of Dishes, Part 3.

July 25 ...

My story on Matrimonial Cake the other day prompted a reader to ‘come out of lurkdom’ with a lovely alternative idea about the name of the dish. Laurie said ‘According to some sources, they're supposed to be a metaphor for marriage because they have a rough top but a sweet filling and a firm base.’ Thankyou Laurie!

I am reminded of other dishes with a ‘paired’ ingredients. I remember ‘blanks and prizes’ (broad beans and bacon), and thought of ‘thunder and lightning’ (black treacle and clotted cream) – which hardly need recipes. The I came across this.

Siamese Twins.
Prepare some choux paste, and put it into a forcing bag with a plain pipe. Force it out in two rounds, each about the size of a walnut, join the two together, brush over with whole beaten-up egg, and bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour; they should then be a pretty golden colour. When baked, put them aside till cold, then glaze over with a maraschino glacé. When this is set, put some cream prepared as below into a forcing bag with a small rose pipe, and force a little rose shape on the top of each ball. Dish up on a dish paper or napkin, and serve for dinner or luncheon sweet, or any cold collation.
Maraschino Glace. To ¾ lb. of Marshalls’ icing sugar add two tablespoonfuls of maraschino syrup, one tablespoonful of warm water, and six or eight drops of sap green. Mix together, just warm over the stove, and use at once.
Cream for Siamese Twins. Whip till quite stiff half a pint of cream, and sweeten it with 2 oz. of caster sugar, then add a few drops of vanilla essence, a few drops of Silver Rays (white) rum, and six or eight drops of carmine. After this is added, draw a fork through the cream, which will give it a marbled appearance and make a very pretty effect.
Menus for Every Day of the Year. M. Jebb Scott.

Any other ‘pairs’ you can think of?

Quotation for the Day …

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. By a small sample we may judge of the whole piece.
Miguel de Cervantes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Natural Diet of Man.

John Harvey Kellogg of cornflake fame was a serious vegetarian (he had some other rather strange ideas too, which we have considered previously.) He was not just a vegetarian, he was an evangelical vegetarian, and like all good evangelists he lost no opportunity (and probably created quite a few) to promote his cause. In his book The Natural Diet of Man ( 1923), one of his theories was that vegetarians were physically stronger. He published a list, compiled by ‘Russell’ (I don’t yet know who this is) of thirty-nine examples of races capable of great strength and endurance which showed (he said) that only three (less than 8 per cent) were associated with ‘flesh eating’. A further 14 examples (one third) ate meat occasionally, and the remaining 25 had completely flesh-free diets.

The list and conclusions would hardly be accepted as having much scientific validity today (which goes for a lot of modern ‘health’ claims too), but it is an interesting insight into ….. something. An interesting insight into the opinions of a nineteenth century evangelically vegetarian teetotal anti-sex American on the diet and strength of ‘others’, I suppose.

Grain, milk, cheese, etc, probably fish also.
Flesh, blood, barley, coffee, alcohol.
Rye, barley, potatoes, fruit
Eight lb. black bread, 4 lb. oil, 1 lb. salt, for eight days.
Rye bread, garlics, etc.
Rye bread, soup
Black rye or wheat bread, raisins or figs, etc
Bread, mutton, beans, rice, butter, salt.
Vegetarian generally, water drinkers
Bread, cucumbers, sherries, figs, dates, or other fruit, a little fish.
Vegetables, grain, or fruit.
Maize, milk, oil, onions, mutton
Beans and barley bread; flesh rarely
Rice, vegetables; sometimes a little fish or flesh; in some parts, rice, millet, sweet potatoes, beans etc.
Rice, eggs, dried fish, flesh; or rice, beans, spice, vinegar, radishes, occasional flesh.
Rice, 36 oz. vegetables, some fish, barley and beans at times.
Unhulled rice chiefly, some fish or eggs, dried fruit, tea, cool, not cold, water.
Flesh, alcohol, etc
Boiled rice, etc.
Rice, etc.
Vegetarian chiefly, wheat flour.
Bread, olives, cheese, onions, salad.

Chiefly yams and maize
Dates, milk etc
Coarse vegetables, fruit, grain
Millet, sour milk.


Maize, sugar, etc
Maize, sugar, omelets, vegetables.
Two small loaves, 16 figs, boiled beans, roasted wheat.
Boiled beans and bread
Maize, cocoa, water.
Rice, fruit, bread, roots.
Maize, sugar-cane, game, bananas, bread-fruit, mangoes, oranges.
Bread-fruit, potatoes, taro, fruit, fish.
Bread-fruit, vegetables, fish, yams, potatoes, taro, bananas, coconuts, birds, eggs, turtles, etc.
Animal, chiefly; buffalo, piñon-nut, etc.
Buffalo, maize, beans, pumpkins, wild plums.

Well, there you are. Glean what you may from that list. Start your own health-fad industry from it. Drink cool, not cold water. Revel in the idea that Cypriot Monks are amongst the strongest men in the world. Find out where the Ipalaos Islands are (and let me know).
John Kellogg’s wife Ella Eaton Kellogg assisted him in his work, and in 1893 published a book on diet and nutrition called Science in the Kitchen. I have to say there is not much in there that is fun. I have given you recipes from it before, so instead today I give you a recipe from Favorite dishes, by Carrie V. Shuman, published the very same year but with a different attitude.

Chicken Croquettes.
From MRS. SARAH H. BIXBY, of Maine, Alternate Lady Manager.
Chop one-half pound chicken quite fine; add one teaspoonful salt; one saltspoonful pepper; one saltspoonful celery salt; one teaspoon lemon juice; one tablespoon chopped parsley and a few drops of onion juice; moisten with the thick cream sauce.
Thick Cream Sauce --Melt two tablespoons butter; add two heaping tablespoons cornstarch; one teaspoon salt and one saltspoon pepper; add slowly one pint hot cream and beat well.
[The Alternate Lady Manager did not feel the need to spell it out, but these croquettes would probably have been crumbed and fried.]

Quotation for the Day …
The hippopotamus is a vegetarian and looks like a wall. Lions who eat only red meat are sleek and slim. Are nutritionists on the wrong track? Erma Bombeck.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Food Signals.

July 23

I have a wonderful find for you today! Have you ever wondered about a quiet life? A very quiet life. Life in a silent monastic order? (I can hear a lot of my friends roaring with laughter at the thought of myself adhering to a no-speaking rule. But I digress.)

Lots of questions about the life. How would one communicate to Sister Bertha that she wais a miserable, nasty old biddy? That one’s cell was too austere, and could one please brighten it up with a pic of Brad Pitt? That one was not up to spending one more day on one’s knees in the herb garden – wasn’t there enough time on the knees already? An how would one get another ladleful of the delicious monastery gruel or morsel of hard monastery bread at dinner-time?

The sisters of the Monastery of Sion in Middlesex in the fifteenth century had a ‘Table of Signs’ to get around the rules of silence. I have searched the list, and cannot find the signs for the cursing, lusting, and work-avoiding issues that came immediately to my own mind (I am clearly not monastery material), but luckily a large percentage of the signs relate to dinner-table manners are there. I give you a selection, just in case you ever need them. They do also indicate that perhaps the dining life was not too austere.

Depending on whether you want white or brown bread:

BREDE: Make with thy two thombes and two forefyngers a roude compas. And if thou wole haue white make the sign thereof. And if brown, toche thy cowll sleue.

So if your desire is for ‘White’ bread you would:

Drawe thy two right fyngers by thy cheke douwarde.

Want butter on your bread?

BUTTUR OR OTHER FATNES. Draw thy two right upper fyngers to and fro on thy left palme.

Ale to wash it down?:

Make the signe of drynk and drawe thy hande displaied afore thyn eer dunwarde

The sign of drink being:

DRYNK. Bowe thy right fore fyngere and up it on thy neder lyppe.

For an Egg:

Bowe thy right fore fyngere’ upon they left thombe to and fro. As though thou should pill [peel] eggs.

And the fish or the meat today, sister?

FYSSHE. Wagge thy hand displaied sidelynges, in maner of a fissh taill.

FLESSHE. Reyse up with thy rigt fyngers the skyn of thy left hande.

And a nice piece of fruit to finish off?:

PERE. Joyne all thy fyngers in length of thy right hande and wagge douwarde.

I particularly love the fish request!

Perhaps more of these signs another day, if you are interested.

As for the recipe for the day, we have previously had Nun’s Sighs, Monastery Soup, Pig White Monks Fashion.

Today I give you:

The Lady Abbess’ Pudding.
Take the thin rind of a fresh lemon, and let it soak for half an hour in half a pint of new milk, then sweeten with two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Put the whole into a saucepan, and when well heated, add two large fresh eggs and the milk of a cocoa-nut, and put the custard aside to cool. Shred four ounces of beef suet very finely, grate two ounces of fresh cocoa-nut and stone and mince two ounces of Muscatel raisins. Cut four ounces of stale bread into thin slices. Butter a plain round mould, and stick raisins upon it in even rows. Put a slice of bread at the bottom, and place upon it a little suet, a few raisins, a little chopped lemon-rind and juice, three grates of nutmeg, and a little custard, and repeat until all the ingredients are used, being careful to place bread and custard on the top. Let the pudding soak for an hour, then lay a buttered paper on the top, tie in a floured cloth, plunge into boiling water, and let it boil quickly until done enough. Turn it out carefully, and serve with the following sauce in a tureen. Mix a teaspoonful of arrowroot very smoothly with two table-spoonfuls fo cocoa-nut milk. Pour over it a quarter of a pint of boiling syrup flavoured with lemon rind and cinnamong, stir all together until the mixture is nearly cold, then add two tablespoonfuls of cream, a few drops of vanilla essence, and a dessertspoonful of brandy.
[From: Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery. c1870]

Quotation for the Day ..

What an idiot is man to believe that abstaining from flesh, and eating fish, which is so much more delicate and delicious, constitutes fasting.
Napoleon Bonaparte ?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cheese for Supper.

July 22 ...

July 22 is said to be the anniversary of the day in 1376 that the Pied Piper led the children out of the German town of Hamelin. Undoubtedly a mythical date for a mythical event, but part of all our heritage thanks to Robert Browning’s poem.

“Rats! They fought the dogs and killed the cats, And bit the babies in the cradles, And ate the cheeses out of the vats.”

The ‘anniversary’, real or not, made me think (as every story does) about food. Not rats, I will save the ratty food story for another day, but cheese. I feel that this blog has been sadly lacking in cheese stories and recipes. The Welsh Rabbit series (here and here) has been sadly neglected, and very few were able to shed any light on Potato Cheese.

I give you two cheese dishes, both now merely faint ancestral dreams, having suffered death by nutritional correctness. Battered deep fried cheese. For supper. Cheese Patties (with Cream). For supper. From a time when people were not frightened of food. From Domestic Economy for Rich and Poor, by a Lady (1827).

Cheese Fritters for Supper.
Prepare the cheese with pounded curd, bread-crums, raw eggs, rasped ham, &c. ; roll it in balls, dip them into a stiffish batter, and fry, keeping them separate. They
may be rolled in a little oyster truffle, morel, or anchovy powder : rasped ham or bacon may be put into the batter. They are good without either.

Cheese Patties for Supper.
Beat up some yolks, mustard, cheese, wine, or cream and butter ; fill some baked patties, and put them in the oven ; serve them very hot, after the company is seated.

Expect the series to be continued, at intervals, at whim. And do send your own ideas or requessts.

Quotation for the Day ...

Cheeses, built up like bricks, formed walls and two cauldrons of oil, bigger than dyerÿs vats, were used for frying pastries, which were lifted out with two sturdy shovels and then plunged into another cauldron of honey standing nearby." One of the items described at the wedding feast of a farmer named Camacho. From Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Black Pudding 2.

July 21 ...

Some of you (including The Old Foodie Spouse) were mildly shocked and disappointed that the Black Pudding story a few weeks ago was about a sweet fruity dessert dish, not a savoury sausagey breakfast dish. The second sort is of course the older – black because it is made from blood (and is sometimes called Blood Pudding). Usually pigs’ blood. A dish for the peasants when they got lucky at pig-killing time when most of the flesh was salted down or made into ‘keeping’ sausages and hams. Fat is not stinted in its making, and it often also contains starchy cereal such as oats or flour. This ‘savoury and piquant delicacy is a standing dish among the common people in the North [of England]’ where it used to be sold by street vendors, and in the parts of Europe where the pig is king of the kitchen garden.

Here is a very elegant version with no starch at all, from William Salmon’s wonderful book published in 1695 The Family Dictionary ; or, Household Companion.

Black-Pudding; to make this the best, and fare exceeding the common way. Boil th Umbles of a Hog tender, take some of the Lights [lungs] with the Heart, and all the Flesh about them, taking out the Sinews, and mincing the rest very small; do the like by the Liver: add grated Nutmet, four or five Yolks of Eggs, a pint of Sweet Cream, a quarter of a pint of Canary [wine], Sugar, Cloves, Mace and Cinnamon finely powdered, a few Carraway-seeds, and a little Rose-water, a pretty quantity of Hog-fat, and some Salt: roul it up about two Hours before you put it into the Guts, then put it into them after you have rinsed them in Rose-water.

I love the ‘pretty quantity’ of hog-fat!

The alphabetical format of Salmon's book is very strict so that the topic that immediately precedes ‘Black-Pudding’ is ‘Biting by a Snake, Adder, or Mad Dog.’ No-one writes or publishes books like Salmon’s any more. It was the only household reference a housewife would need. I will give you the much abbreviated title page, so that you can begin to appreciate its contents.

The Family Dictionary ; or, Household Companion . Wherin are Alphabetically laid down Exact Rules and Choice Physical RECEIPTS FOR The Preservation of Health, Prevention of Sickness, and Curing the several Diseases, Distempers, and Grievances incident to Men, Women, and Children. Also, directions for Making Oils, Ointments, Salves …. Likewise, Directions for Cookery …. Also, the Way of Making all sorts of Perfumes, Beautifying Waters, …..Together with the Art of making all sorts of English Wines ….. The MYSTERY of Pickling …. ’

By a lovely and surprising co-incidence, today’s black pudding story fits with the ‘matrimonial food’ story of last week. Today I give you twoQuotations for the Day’ to illustrate.

One of the Apothogems of Francis Bacon.
‘Marriage … was like a black pudding; the one brought blood, the other brought suet and oatmeal’

A Scottish metaphor about marriagable women ‘Blood without groats (husked oats) is naught without blood’. ‘By a homely illusion to the composition of a black pudding, it intimates that a woman, though of good family, is not eligible without a good fortune.’

Friday, July 18, 2008

Matrimonial Cake.

July 18 …

Just a simple little cake recipe for you today my friends, for no other reason that it adds to the collection of recipes on a similar theme. We had Matrimony Sauce and Matrimony Pudding in a story over two years ago, today I give you Matrimonial Cake, and ask for you to help find the earliest recipe, just for fun, because it is disputed. We will allow ‘Matrimony’ as being an equivalent name, OK?

First, here is the recipe, as it appeared in an Ohio newspaper in 1933.

Matrimonial Cake.
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups pastry flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp soda
1 cup butter or oil.
1 lb. stoned dates
¼ cup brown sugar
juice of 1-2 lemons
1 ½ cups boiling water.
Cook slowly over a low fire until soft. Cool Mix often to prevent burning.
Mix all dry ingredients with butter. Grease shallow cake pan. Cover with ½ of ingredients and then cover with date filling and with balance of dry ingredients.
Bake in oven at 325 degrees F. for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. When cold serve with whipped cream. Serves about 15.

The common theme to these recipes for sauce, pudding, and cake, is a mixture of two different items – existing, we hope, in delicious harmony rather than remaining rigidly aloof.

The OED gives other examples of ‘matrimony’ or ‘matrimonial’ as they apply to food. It may refer to ‘that injudicious mixing of wines, which is called matrimony’, or ‘a name given jocularly to raisins and almonds mixed’, or ‘oranges and star apples [peeled and sliced] mixed’, and even ‘a slice of cake between two pieces of bread and butter’ eaten together like a sandwich.

As for matrimony (or matrimonial) cake, the ownership is in dispute. Canada claims it in the above form of an oaty slice with a datey filling, although Ohio was clearly given permission to publish the recipe early in its life. There seem to be recipes appearing for it in the 1930’s, although I am not sure we should allow ‘date squares’, even if dates, in the normal order of things, precede the marital state.

There are ancestors of course – a Jewish cookbook of 1871 has a Matrimony Cake, although I do not know its composition. An oldish Northern England recipe has a one too, which is ‘a large round cake … having a layer of currants between two layers of pastry, covered with sugar … and cut into as many pieces as there are persons at the feast.’

Can anyone add any more anecdotes or recipes to this search for the perfect marriage of cake ingredients?

Quotation for the Day …

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tunafish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

High and mighty tasty?

July 17 ...

I have never quite understood the desire to eat decomposing flesh, even when it is referred to as ‘well hung’ or ‘high’ rather than half-rotten. Call me plebeian if you wish. It seems however that I am in good company.

The poet John Keats and his friend Charles Armitage Brown wrote a joint letter from Bedhampton in the south of England to ‘Mrs Dilke’ in January 1819 – Keats writing in black ink, Brown in red.

“ … Keats is much better, owing to a strict forbearance from a third glass of wine. He & I walked to Chichester yesterday, we were here at 3, but the dinner was finished; a brace of Mure fowl had been dresse; I ate a piece of the breast cold, & it was not tainted; I dared not venture further. Mr. Snook was nearly turned sick by being merely asked to take a mouthful. The other brace was so high, that the cook declined preparing them for the spit, & they were thrown away. I see your husband declared them to be in excellent order: I suppose he enjoyed them in a disgusting manner, - sucking the rotten flesh off the bones, & crunching the putrid bones. Did you enjoy any? I hope not, for a woman should be delicate in her food. ”

The muir-fowl (or moor-fowl) is a Scottish red grouse, I believe. Or it may be the ruffled grouse, or a ptarmigan. Usage seems to overlap, and it certainly overflows my intelligence on the topic.

In the early nineteenth century a leisurely trip from the moors of Scotland to the south of England might have been sufficient for it to be quite enjoyable (for those inclined to tainted flesh) by the time it arrived.

Here is Mrs. Rundell’s method for potting Moor Fowl – a nice trick if you have an embarrassing supply of them, as they should keep nicely this way. You are making a confit, really, and it does not matter whether you have the grouse or the ptarmigan or any other small bird for that matter. She only wants them ‘pretty high’ in the spicing department, which is quite acceptable to me.

To Pot Moor Game.
Pick, singe, and wash the birds nicely; then dry them; and season, inside aud out, pretty high, with pepper, mace, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Pack them in as small a pot as will hold them, cover them with butter, and bake in a very slow oven. Whon cold, take off the butter, dry them from the gravy, and put one bird into each pot, which should just fit. Add as much more butter as will cover them - but take care that it does not oil. The best way to melt it is, by warming it in a basin set ii a bowl of hot water.
A New System of Domestic Cookery. Maria Rundell. 1814

Quotation for the Day …

“Ham: 40 days in salt, 40 days hanging, in 40 days eaten … Pork at walking pace, beef at a trot, game at a gallop.
Joseph Delteil, La Cuisine paleolithique, 1964

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On the naming of dishes, Part 2.

July 16 ...

Global citizens that we are, connected to everyone, everywhere, 24/7, it is almost impossible to imagine what life was like in the days when the circle only stretched to your immediate community. For most folk, for most of history, the circle was as far as you could walk in the course of your daily work. For some folk, who could read, knowledge of the wider circle could come from books (and newspapers), depending on which were available. There is a delightful point in the diary of the eighteenth century country Parson James Woodforde (who we have met many times before in this blog) when he has sent ‘the boy’ into the big town on an errand. The boy brings the newspaper back to the village – the news by now days to weeks old. The good parson notes briefly in his diary the news about some sort of kerfuffle in France (i.e the beginnings of the Revolution) – the brief note given perspective by appearing in the midst of great detail about the vitally important trivia of day to day life in the parish.

Are we less on mystery and adventure now, for knowing (or being informed of) so everything that is happening everywhere else? For an island nation (like Britain, or Australia), by definition ‘everywhere else’ is ‘overseas’. ‘Overseas’ is far more mysterious than ‘over the border’. Imagine living a couple of hundred years before the good parson, when a dish was strangely, slightly exotic, so that you knew it was not local, but all that you could guess was that it came from ‘beyond the sea.’

To make a stewe after the guyse of beyonde the sea.
Take a pottel of fayre water, and as much wyne, and a breste of mutton chopt in peces, than set it on the fyre and scome it cleane, than put therto a dyschefull of slyced onyons, and a quantite of synamon, gynger, cloves and mace, wyth salte and stewe them all together, and than serve them with soppes.
[Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye, c1545]

Tomorrow’s Story …

High and mighty tasty?

Quotation for the Day …

The only cooks in the civilized world are French cooks. . . . Other nations understand food in general; the French alone understand cooking, because all their qualities - promptitude, decision, tact - are employed in the art. No foreigner can make a good white sauce. Louis Victor Nestor Roqueplan, 1853.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On the naming of dishes.

July 15 ...

As an extension to yesterday’s theme, I am also constantly amused and intrigued by the naming of individual dishes. This one, for an eighteenth century example.

Spread-Eagle Pudding.
Cut the Crust off three stale Halfpenny Rolls, and slice them into a Pan; then set three Pints of Milk on the Fire, making it scalding hot, but not to boil; pour it over the Bread, cover it close, and let it stand an Hour; sweeten it with Sugar, add a very little Salt, a Nutmeg grated, a Pound of shred Sewet, half a Pound of Currants, half a Pint of cold mlk, ten Yolks and five Whites of Eggs; stir it well, butter your Dish, and bake it half an Hour.

This particular example appears in Richard Bradley’s The country housewife, and lady’s director, published in 1762, but it can also be found word for word (as was the habit at the time) in many other eighteenth century coobooks.

How did a fairly simple variation on the theme of bread pudding get a name like this?

A ‘spread eagle’ is a heraldic term. The motif appears on coats-of-arms in many places around the world, to represent noble virtues such as courage and far-sightedness. But these themes are hardly likely to be related directly to an innocuous, homely bread pudding, are they?

The term can also be used of course to represent a position of punishment – as when a prisoner is secured in a stretched out position in order to be flogged, or one of extreme subjugation with sexual overtones. How could a harmless little mix of bread and milk attract these connotations?

In one copy of the recipe, it is referred to as The Spread-Eagle pudding. There are many very old hostelries with the name, so perhaps it was a specialty in one of them, and was so popular it acquired the name.

Any other theories gratefully accepted for discussion.

Regardless of its name, it might attract you a certain cachet (and provide a dinner table conversation gambit) if you whip up a Spread-Eagle pudding for your guests!

Tomorrow’s Story …

On the naming of dishes, Part 2.

Quotation for the Day …

A philosopher is a person who doesn't care which side his bread is buttered on; he knows he eats both sides anyway. Joyce Brothers.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The language of menus.

July 14 ...

Just a simple little story today, friends. A little musing on the naming of dishes. Once upon a time, when the language of menus was French, French, or French, every averagely sophisticated diner would have understood the likes of Truite à la Normande or Sweetbreads à la Financière, even if they could not hum La Plume de Ma Tante or ask the price of a pedicure. Then, as the nineteenth century wore on and eventually gave way to the twentieth, Americans and Britishers began questioning the practice, for reasons of national pride. A couple of world wars reinforced the changes, and although royals and heads of state hung out the longest - for reasons of elitistm, I guess – French was eventually dropped from menus everwhere but in its own country.

By the sixties and seventies, the desire for novelty (often for its own sake) meant that the ability to provide this became part of the definition of culinary skill and creativity. A new dish was required every week. Gone were the days (centuries or decades, actually) when one’s ancestors would have recognised every item on the menu in your hand. Classical menu phrases gave way to long-winded descriptions that almost substitute for recipes.

Away from restaurant dining and civic banquets and high-profile chefs, the little woman at home had a different menu challenge. How to disguise the leftovers as a new dish. And then – what to call it so that the family did not guess the ruse. Occasionally, home cooks almost willfully refused to be part of that deception, and presented things with names such as Old Maid Pie (or Scrap Pie).

I give you a couple of other failures to hide the culinary truth by the use of creative language. The first is from that canny Scot, Mrs.Dalgairns, who undoubtedly saw frugality as a virtue to proclaim.

Debris Pudding.
Mash a few boiled potatoes with a little salt, milk, and a good bit of butter; mince very finely the lean part of some cold boiled salted beef, mix it with the mashed potates, and brown it in a Dutch oven in the same way that a salt fish pudding is done. This pudding may be made of the remains of a piece of boiled beef, allowing to one pound of the beef one pound and a quarter of potatoes.
[The Practice of Cookery; Mrs Dalgairns. 1830.]

The second one puzzles me. Why not call it Bread and Butter Custard?

Save-All Pudding.
Put any scraps of Bread into a clean saucepan, — to about a pound, put a pint of Milk ; set it on the trivet till it boils, beat it up quite smooth, then break in three Eggs, three ounces of Sugar, with a little Nutmeg, Ginger, or Allspice, and stir it all well together. Butter a Dish big enough to hold it, put in the pudding, and have ready two ounces of suet chopped very fine, strew it over the top of the pudding, and bake it three quarters of an hour ; four ounces of Currants will make it much better.
[Cook’s Oracle, William Kitchiner, 1823.]

Tomorrow’s Story …


Quotation for the Day …

In America, even your menus have the gift of language.... "The Chef's own Vienna Roast. A hearty, rich meat loaf, gently seasoned to perfection and served in a creamy nest of mashed farm potatoes and strictly fresh garden vegetables." Of course, what you get is cole slaw and a slab of meat, but that doesn't matter because the menu has already started your juices going. Oh, those menus. In America, they are poetry. Laurie Lee.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gravy, Part 2.

July 11 ...

The most basic ‘gravy’ is of course what we call jus – the ‘essence’ of roast meat if you like. A true roast is done on a spit in front of a fire, this juice dripping off to be collected in a pan underneath (which, if you are very lucky indeed, contains Yorkshire Pudding batter.) Nowadays – not many of us having open fires in the kitchen and little boys willing to sit beside the same fire and turn the roasting jack for hours – we ‘bake’ our ‘roasts’ in the oven. No matter how well we ‘rest’ our ‘roast’, some of this jus waits to do its oozing until we carve. One eighteenth century writer was aware of how precious these droplets are, and gave thanks:

All honour to Wedgwood, for much do we owe to him ! Well will his claims on the regards of a grateful posterity of carvers be appreciated on reading the following account from the pages under review of what he has done for us : — " Mr. Wedgwood made a number of little every-day useful contrivances ; that dish, in which there is a well for the gravy. In the olden times, unhappy carvers were obliged to poke under the heavy sirloin for gravy ; or to raise and slope the dish, at the imminent hazard of overturning the sirloin, and splashing the spectators. Knife, fork, spoon, slipping all the while, one after another, into the dish! And, ten to one, no gravy to be had after all ! Nothing but cakes of cold grease. But now, without poking, slopping, splashing, the happy carver, free from these miseries of life, has only to dip his spoon into a well of pure gravy. Thanks to the invention of one man, all men, women, and children, may now have gravy without stooping the dish. So I give you, gentlemen and ladies, for a toast, ' The late Mr. Wedgwood, and the comforts of life.’

So good is gravy, in all its incarnations, that many say it is good for the health. Soup, in some of its incarnations is universally considered a panacea. Put them together and you have Gravy Soup, which surely must be amost magical in its health properties ? The author of one eighteenth century cook book did, calling it Soup Santé (healthy soup).

Gravy Soup or Soup Santé.
Put at the bottom of a stewpan six good rashers of lean ham, then put over them three pounds of lean beef, and cover the beef with three pounds of lean veal, six onions cut in slices, two carrots, and two turnips sliced, two heads of celery, a bundle of sweet herbs, six cloves, and two blades of mace. Put a little water at the bottom, draw it very gently till it sticks, and then put in a gallon of boiling water. Let it stew two hours, season it with salt, and strain it off. Then have ready a carrot cut in small pieces of two inches long, and about as thick as a goose quill, a turnip, two heads of leeks, two heads of celery, two heads of endive, cut across, two cabbage lettuces cut across, a little sorrel, and chervil. Put them into a stewpan, and sweat them gently a quarter of an hour. Then put them into your soup, and boil it up gently for ten minutes. Put it into your tureen, with the crust of a French roll.
[The Universal Cook, Francis Collingwood. 1792]

Monday’s Story …


Quotation for the Day …

There is no such passion in human nature as the passion for gravy. Charles Dickens.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gravy, Part 1.

July 10 ...

Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1875, of Edmund Clerihew Bentley. He is the inventor of the ‘clerihew’ – ‘a short comic or nonsensical verse, professedly biographical, of two couplets differing in length.’ Why this little poetical exercise got his middle name is a mystery (I suppose ‘Bentley’ was already taken?) – would it have been so successful if it had been ‘John’? Anyway. I digress.

Edmund is on my radar for one reason only. The first ‘clerihew’ he wrote, as a sixteen-year old schoolboy happens to be on one of my favourite topics. And my favourite dinner tables.

“Sir Humphry Davy/ Abominated gravy./ He lived in the odium/ Of having discovered Sodium.”

The topic is gravy, not Davy.

Whether or not Sir Humphrey Davy did in fact abominate gravy is immaterial: the clever little rhyme pops up regularly in every food quotation site in the cybersphere. If Sir Humphrey did indeed dislike gravy, he was a very rare Englishman. There is a hoary old joke that England only has two sauces (compared to France, which considers itself to be the expert). I assume and believe that the two sauces are gravy (savoury) and custard (sweet).

What is amazing of course is that the simple word ‘gravy’ refers to a sauce of such infinite variation, that only one primary sauce is needed (compared with the French, who need four). The word appears to derive from the Old French word grané for ‘grain’ – suggesting that the original ‘gravy’ was a porridg-y dish, or at least one thickened with something. At some point in time the ‘n’ in ‘grané’ was mis-transcribed perhaps, as a ‘v’. The Oxford English Dictionary thinks so anyway.

It appears that the original ‘gravy’ was for white meats, and was made from broth thickened with almonds, nicely spiced, with the addition of wine or ale. The word can now mean anything from pure, unadulterated meat jus, a simple broth, a broth thickened with a roux, to all manner of complicated sauces and simple packet mixes made of brown powder and salt.

I intend to collect these gravy-variations. There will be another tomorrow, and thereafter they will be random, as the whim takes me. Or you, if you wish to be a random gravy-poster.

Here is one to start us off:

An excellent keeping gravy.
Burn an ounce of butter in a frying-pan ; always taking care to do it at such a proper distance from the fire, that while the flour is strewing into the butter, it may become brown, but not black. Put to it two pounds of coarse lean beef, a quart of water, half a pint of either red or white wine, three anchovies, two shalots, a little white pepper, a few cloves, and a bit of mace, with three or four mushrooms or pickled walnuts. After letting the whole stew gently about an hour, it may be strained for use ; it will keep several days, and is proper for any savoury dish.
[A Modern System of Domestic Cookery. Mrs. Radcliffe. 1823]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Gravy, Part 2.

Quotation for the Day …

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage. Erma Bombeck.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Entertaining the Queen.

July 9 ...

Queen Elizabeth I arrived at Kenilworth, the home of her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester on this day in 1575. It was the highlight of her summer ‘progress’ (Royal Tour): the visit, the feasting, and the pageantry lasted eighteen days. Impressing the Queen was an expensive exercise and the honour cost Dudley an unbelievable thousand dollars a day.

There was morris dancing, ‘sundry kinds of very delectable music’, play-acting, stag-hunting, bear-baiting, and all sorts of other frolicsome pastimes in addition to many extravagant dining experiences. The details of this fine little holiday were recorded by one Robert Laneham. He hints at the vast quantities of dainty viands and says that there were ‘full cups everywhere, every hour all kinds of wine’, but unfortunately for us does not give any detailed bills of fare. We must be satisfied with a general description of one of the banquets:

“After the play, out of hand followed a most delicious and (if I may so term it) an ambrosial banquet: whereof, whether I might more muse at the daintiness, shapes, and the cost; or else, at the variety and number of the dishes (that were three hundred), for my part, I could little tell then; and now less, I assure you. Her Majesty eat smally or nothing; which understood, the courses were not so orderly served and sizely set down, but were, by and by, as disorderly wasted and coarsely consumed; more courtly, methought, than courteously : But that was no part of the matter : it might please and be liked, and do that it came for, then was all well enough.”

I have chosen a chicken recipe for you from the Elizabethan era. Simple, but quite good enough to serve a Queen.

To bake a Capon with yolkes of Egges.
When the Capon is made redi, trusse him in to a Coffyn: then take .viii. yolks of egges sodden hard, a pick into every one of them, .v. Cloves, and put the yolks into the Coffyn with the Capon. Then take a quantitie of gynger and salt, and cast it upon the Capon and bake it .iii. houres. Then take .ii. raw yolkes of egges beaten into a Gobbett of veriuce, with a good quantitie of sugre sodden togither, put it into ye Coffyn and so serve it.
[A Treasurie of commodious Conceits, & hidden Secrets. John Partridge, published in 1573.]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Gravy, Part 1.

Quotation for the Day …

I never see an egg brought on my table but I feel penetrated with the wonderful change it would have undergone but for my gluttony; it might have been a gentle, useful, hen leading her chickens with a care and vigilance which speaks shame to many women. St. John de Crevecoeur.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Humble Pie.

July 8 …

Samuel Pepys, bless him, alerted me out of my topic-neglect with his diary entry for this day in 1663. His wife was away in the country, but he managed not to starve.

“And then at noon home to dinner alone, upon a good dish of eeles given me by Michell the Bewpers-man. … I stepped to Sir W. Batten and there stayed and talked with him, my Lady being in the country, and sent for some lobsters; and Mrs. Turner came in and did bring us an Umble-pie hot out of her oven, extraordinarily good, and afterward some spirits of her making (in which she has great judgement), very good, and so home, merry with this nights refreshment.”

I can hardly believe that I have not given you a story about ‘umble pie’ in almost three years of blogging – and me about to give birth to a pie book sometime almost soon. I hope. A pie book has a gestation period of about fifty images, did you know that? The writing was the easy bit. No need to understand pixels, dpi’s, KB’s, jpegs, or how to get rid of red-eye. A piece of chalk and a blank wall will suffice, for words. But I digress.

Umbles’ or nombles, or humbles are ‘the inwards of a deer or other beast’ – in other words, the offal from your venison. A most prized part of the beast in Samuel’s day, not one to be shuddered at briefly before being slipped to the hounds or made invisible in sausages. A part traditionally the perquisite of the gamekeeper, but occasionally snaffled by the ‘better class of folk’ for their own enjoyment in ‘umble pie’. An interesting dish, Umble Pie. Quite paradoxical, really. Inferior enough to give us the ‘humble pie’ we eat symbolically when we are mildly humiliated, yet capable of being ‘extraordinarily good’ - good enough to give all fresh and hot from the oven, to your visitors. Desirable enough that if you didn’t have any umbles handy, a recipe book of 1617 could tell you how to fake the recipe, so that no-one could tell.

To make an Umble-pye, or for want of Umbles, to doe it with a Lambes head and Purtenance.
Boyle your meate reasonable tender, take the flesh from the bone, and mince it small with Beefe-suet and Sparrow, with the Liver, Lights, and Heart, a few sweet Hearbes and Currans. Season it with Pepper, Salt, and Nutmeg: bake it in a Coffin raised like an Umble pye, and it will eate so like unto Umbles, as that you shall hardly by taste discerne it from right Umbles.
[A New Booke of Cookerie; John Murrell, 1617]

Lamb’s Purtenance? The ‘innards or entrails of an animal, esp. as used for food’. Sheep Umbles, in other words.

Tomorrow’ Story …

Entertaining the Queen.

Quotation for the Day …

I think that I should like to sing of pies

Walter Elliot

Monday, July 07, 2008

Food & Finance, Part 2.

July 7 ...

Last week I puzzled over dishes ‘à la Financière’. The answer has been staring me in the face all this time, thanks to M. Menon, the eighteenth century French author of The Professed Cook. M. Menon gives a recipe for a dish entitled simply Financière, which he explains as ‘Meaning a rich expensive dish.’ It would certainly be that, although perhaps not to modern tastes, being a fantastical melange that would put the average ‘surf and turf’ (or ‘reef and beef’) to inadequate shame.

M. Menon’s recipe for his sort of surf/turf/bird/seafood truffled, larded and be-fricandeaud concoction is:

Meaning a rich expensive dish.

Take a head of Salmon, pretty long of about five or six Pound, clean it as for boiling; lard the upper part with fine Lardons, and fill it with a Ragout of Sweet Breads, Truffles, or Mushrooms, and fasten it so as the Ragout don’t get out; put it in a Braizing-pan much of its Bigness, upon thin slices of Lard and Veal, one or two slices of Ham, a Nosegay of Parsley and green Shallots, two Cloves, a Bit of Nutmeg, a Laurel Leaf and Thyme, few sliced Onions and Roots; soak this over a slow Fire about an Hour, then put the Salmon to it well tied; add some good Broth, a Pint of white Wine, Pepper and Salt, simmer it about an Hour; while this is doing, boil six small Pigeons, as many small Fricandeaux, called Grenadins larded, and a Dozen of large Crawfish, as many Truffles peeled; prepare a Glaze with Veal and Ham; when it is all done, dress the Salmon upon the Dish, and the second Preparation intermixed round it, and glaze the Meat, not the Salmon; for sauce, mix some good Consumée and Cullis, a Glass of white Wine, a little Pepper and Salt; give it a boil, and serve it round the Salmon upon the Meat Part.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Humble Pie.

Quotation for the Day …

“I want a dish to taste good, rather than to have been seethed in pig’s milk and served wrapped in a rhubarb leaf with grated thistle root.” Kingsley Amis.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"The Fourth"

July 4 ...

Today being ‘The Fourth’, I have a Civil War era menu for you, my American friends. It is from the town of Prescott, Arizona – a town of the very young age of 35 days when it held its Independence Day celebrations at the ‘Juniper House’ in 1864. The restaurant itself being still in a state of construction, the dinner was held in a makeshift tent under a large juniper tree. Presumably many of the 400 party-goers (almost all male, there being a terrible dearth of women in the fledgling mining town) did not manage to fit inside the ten by fifteen foot space but stayed outside – where they could watch the food cooking on campfires.

The Juniper House Bill of Fare' July 4, 1864

Breakfast until 9 o'clock

Beef Steak Fried Liver

Venison Steak Mutton Chop

Tea and Coffee, with Milk

Dinner from 12 to 3

Beans Mutton Broth Bean Soup Beef Stew

Venison Barbecued Beef Barbequed Beef Potpie

Venison Potpie Mutton Barbequed Beef Potpie

Apple Roll, with Sauce.

Tea and Coffee, with Milk

Supper from 4 o’clock.

And here is how to cook any one of those pot pies without an oven.

Pot Pie.
Take raised pie-crust, line a pot, or small Dutch oven, or a very deep stewpan, bottom and sides, with one-half an inch thickness; lay your fowls and pork, or veal, in very small pieces, (the pork is always best boiled first,) in, with salt, and pepper, and small pieces of butter, then potatoes, cut in very delicate slices, then a layer of crust, one, again, of meat, then potatoes, then crust. Then pour in the water in which the pork has been boiled, through a hole in the top crust. The pie must be baked very judiciously, or it will be a failure. It is, therefore, always best to cook the meat and fowl, unless they are very young and tender. Lay a sheet of foolscap over the top, to keep it from baking too rapidly.

This is a most excellent dish for a harvest-party, or log-rolling; it can be made at any season of the year; in winter they are very fine, made of sweet-breads, tender-loins, and spare-ribs, finely sliced, or cut up.

The Great Western Cook Book, or Table Receipts, Adapted to Western Housewifery.New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1857. c1851

Monday’s Story …


Quotation for the Day …

“If there hadn't been women we'd still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girl friends. And they tolerated it and let us go ahead and play with our toys.” Orson Welles.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Travel Language No. 2

July 3 …

The Old Foodie Spouse often comments, in response to one of my stories, that I am “having a go at” (that is, “taking the mickey out of”) Americans “again”. He did not say it yesterday, surprisingly, - being more miffed that the story was not about real black pudding, as he had anticipated. Nothing could be further from the truth however, for those of you from “Over There” are amongst my most loyal readers, and I never intend to mock. I am merely bemused on a permanent basis about how we can share a common heritage and language and yet still get something as basic as our puddings and biscuits mixed up. Nevertheless, I will say to my American friends, that I do not intend to travel to your country again, without some intensive education on how to negotiate the breakfast order. I am baffled by “sunny side up” and “over easy” and disturbed by “half and half” and the immoderate size of a stack of pancakes. But I digress.

The problem is very widespread. The complexities of travel in America, for an Englishman, are nothing compared with those of travel in Scotland, for an Englishman. Technically - although recognising that the Scots have never been wholeheartedly in favour of the union - Scotland and England are in fact the same nation. The language difficulty is of long standing. In 1827 an English army officer called Capt.Thomas Hamilton wrote a novel about a character called Cyril Thornton. A work of fiction it may be, but certainly the author had travelled to Scotland, otherwise he could not have gotten the story so right. Here is the dialogue:

“It was already evening. My uncle's dinner-hour was past; and it was, I thought, on the whole, better to delay my visit till the following morning. I therefore declared myself stationary in the Buck's Head till the following day, and feeling at the moment a more proximate and cogent want than that of sleep — for during my day's journey I had tasted no refreshment — I requested a sight of the bill of fare. "Bill o' fare ! " replied the jolly and facetious dowager, " troth that's puttin' the cart before the horse; for ye maun ha'e your fare first, and syne it will be time enough to speer for the bill." "Perhaps you do not understand me, or it may not be your custom in Scotland to keep one." "I understand you weel eneuch, Major, and it's what you Englishmen often ca' for ;' but I never trouble mysel' to put pen to paper aboot the matter, for I was aye glegger at the speaking than the writing; and weel I wat, a souple tongue comes better
speed than the best pen that ever came out o' a goose. You'll be for soup, I'se warrant ; and there's baith stot's tail and hare soup in the house, besides barley broth, gin ye like that better. Then, in the way o' fish, there's haddocks, partins, and herrings, fresh from the Broomielaw. For meat, ye can ha'e a chop, a stake, or a nice veal cutlet, for ye'll maybe no like to wait for the roasting o' a joint ; or ye can get a spatch-cock made o' a chicken in ten minutes. Then there's game — paitricks or muir-fowl, wham o' them ye like best ; and, gin ye like nane o' thae things, I daursay there's mair in the house, though I canna just mind them at the present moment." I assured her, however, there was not the smallest occasion to tax her memory any further, and made my selection from the numerous delicacies of which she had already satisfactorily indicated the local habitation and the name.”

There are a host of words here that are not “English”. Partin (partan) we have come across before; a stot turns out to be ‘a young castrated ox’, so a stot’s tail is ox-tail; paitricks are partridges, and muir-fowl are red grouse. “Broth” is easy enough, and international enough thank goodness, for no traveller to go hungry. We did have a story once before on Scotch Broth - the pot au feu of Scotland - without managing to give a recipe. Today I make good with the version from that wonderful Scottish book The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, by Christian Isobel Johnstone (or Mistress Margaret Dods, if you prefer.)

Scotch Barley-Broth, With Boiled Mutton Or Beef, as Bouilli Ordinaire.
To from three to six pounds of beef or mutton, according to the quantity of soup wanted, put cold water in the proportion of a quart to the pound, — a quarter-pound of
Scotch barley, or more or less as may suit the meat and the water, and a spoonful of salt, unless the meat is already slightly salted. To this put a breakfast-cupful of soaked white or split peas, unless in the season when fresh green peas are to be had cheap, a larger quantity of which must be put in with the other vegetables, using less barley. Skim very carefully as long as any scum rises ; then draw aside the pot, and let the broth simmer slowly for an hour, at which time put to it two young carrots and turnips cut in dice, and two or three onions sliced. Ten minutes before the broth is ready, add a little parsley, picked and chopped, — or the white part of three leeks may be used instead of onions, and a head of celery slice, instead of parsley seasoning; celery requires longer boiling. For beef-broth a small quantity of greens roughly shred, and the best part of four or five leeks cut in inch lengths, are better suited than turnip, carrot, and parsley, which are more adapted to mutton. If there is danger of the meat being overdone before the broth is properly lithed, i. e. thickened, it may be taken up, covered for a half hour, and returned into the pot to heat through before it is dished. Garnish the bouilli with carrot and turnip boiled in the broth, and divided ; or pour over it capsr-sauce, parsley and butter, or a sauce made of pickled cucumbers, or nasturtiums heated in melted butter, or in a little clear broth, with a tea-spoonful of made mustard and another of vinegar. Parsley, parboiled for two minutes and minced, may also be strewed over bouilli, — or a sprinkling of boiled carrots cut in small dice.

Tomorrow’s Story…

The Fourth.

Quotation for the Day …

It has been claimed for the British baker that he alone can make a muffin; but it is almost to be feared, if this were ever so that the prestige has been passed over to America, where muffins are made of various flours, and so light and digestible that it is a question if they are not rather an American dish. Theodore Francis Garrett.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Black Pudding?

July 2 ...

There are many travel hazards that books don’t warn you about. Language traps in particular – especially those that happen when you are travelling in a country with the same language as your own, for example. Eating out traps that have nothing to do with food poisoning, for another example:

The confusion of ‘biscuits’ appearing on the breakfast menu instead of at afternoon tea.

Mayonnaise instead of tomato sauce (ketchup) with your chips (fries).

Getting your salad in the wrong place in the order of things.

I came across a really scary one recently (in my reading), and in the interests of preserving good international relationships, I want to warn any Britishers or Australians travelling to the U.S of A of this example.

If you see ‘black pudding’ on the menu, and fancy some with your breakfast – you might be shocked. You might not get a sausage made of pigs blood - all dark and savoury and salty-spicy – you might get an entirely different sort of pudding. The sort that in your home country you might expect to come at the end of a satisfying dinner. An entirely delicious dish in its own right, but not one to cosy up beside your fried eggs (which ever way up or over you order them.)

Black Pudding.
One quart of blueberries, one pint of water, one cupful of sugar, a five-cent baker's loaf, butter. Stew the berries, sugar and water together. Cut the bread in thin slices, and butter these. Put a layer of the bread in a deep dish, and cover it with some of the hot berries. Continue this until all the bread and fruit is used, and set away to cool. The pudding should be perfectly cold when served. Serve with cream and sugar.
Any other small berries can be used instead of blueberries.
[Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook..1880]

I love the sound of this pudding.

On second review, it might make a pretty good breakfast after all. Just not beside the eggs, please.

Tomorrow’s Story.

Travel Language No. 2

Quotation for the Day.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may work.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dominion Day, 1933.

July 1 ...

Today is Canada Day - or for old Colonials it is Dominion Day, or I guess it could have been called Federation Day. Whatever it represents nationally, today does a reasonable stand-in for Canada’s birthday - the day I salute my Canadian readers and hope every last one of you has a fine, maple-syrup drenched time.

What might a vaguely mysterious arisocratic Frenchman living in England in the 1930’s suggest as an appropriate menu for this day? The Vicomte de Mauduit – the “wandering nobleman” as he liked to call himself – wrote several books on food. In his book The Vicomte in the Kitchen (1933) he made menu suggestions for several important occasions such as “After Eighteen Holes of Golf”, and “When your Husband brings home an Influential Business Friend” and “Before the Races”.

For ‘Dominion Day’ in Canada he suggested:

Canadian Corn Soup.
Canadian Salmon, Sauce Vert.
Poulet Sauté Marengo.
Sweet Corn – Peas Sautés.
Canadian Apple Pie, Maple Cream Sauce.

To assist you on the day, here are his versions of the sauces.

Sauce Vert.
Take some finely chopped tarragon, chervil, parsley, and a little shallot, also chopped. Blanch and pound in a mortar with a little butter, and pass through a hair sieve into some Sauce Hollandaise. Add salt, pepper and cayenne, and stir well.

Canadian Maple Cream Sauce.
Whip one cup of cream stiff. Fold in half a cup of shaved maple sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon and grated maple sugar on top, and serve at once.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Black Pudding?

Quotation for the Day …

The (apple) pie should be eaten “while it is yet florescent, white or creamy yellow, with the merest drip of candied juice along the edges, (as if the flavor were so good to itself that its own lips watered!) of a mild and modest warmth, the sugar suggesting jelly, yet not jellied, the morsels of apple neither dissolved nor yet in original substance, but hanging as it were in a trance between the spirit and the flesh of applehood...then, O blessed man, favored by all the divinities! eat, give thanks, and go forth, 'in apple-pie order!” Henry Ward Beecher.