Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer, 1674

Today we go back in time to the seventeenth century – to 1674 to be exact, the year that the Treaty of Westminster recognised the inhabitants of New York and New Sweden as British subjects, the year that the Drury Lane theatre in London was rebuilt and re-opened after the great fire, and the year that the opera Alceste opened in Paris. The English hoi-poloi’s tastes were getting Frenchified, much to the disgust of many of the slightly less hoi-polloi. One of the results was the publication of a number of cookbooks to assist the fashionable transition, such as The English and French Cook; by several approved Cooks of London and Westminster, in 1674. A sampling of bills of fare was included, and to reproduce this one in time for dinner you will need to get your servants working as soon as they don their aprons for the day.

A Bill-of-Fare for Summer, for Flesh Days.

First Course.
A boiled meat of Cockerels
A chine of Mutton drawn with Lemon pill
A dish of Turkeys, larded.
Stewed Carps
A Haunch of Venison, boil’d with Colli-flowers
Leverets larded
A venison pasty
Capons roasted
Marrow puddings
A Lamb-pye
Geese roasted
A haunch of venison roasted
Udders and tongues boil’d with Cabbidge
A piece of boil’d Beef.

Second course.
Quails larded and roasted
Young Heron-sews larded
Young greese Pease
A dish of Soals
An Artichoke Pye
A dish of Cream
A dish of Ruffs
Butter’d Crabs
Cream and green Codlings
A dish of Chickens
A Kid roasted whole with a Pudding in its Belly
A souced Turbot
A dish of Artichokes
A chine of boil’d Salmon
A cold jole of Salmon
A dish of Knots
A dish of Partridges
A jole of Sturgeon
Gooseberry and Cherry-tarts
Young Ducks, boil’d
Potten Venison
A Westphalia-ham
Dryed Tongues

Almond Tart.
Take three quarters of a pound of blanch’d Almonds, and soak them a whilein Water, then pound them in a stone Morter, a wooden one will serve, or a deep Tray, put to them some Rosewater, when you have pounded them very well, pound them over again with a little Cream, then set on about a pint and a half of Cream over the fire, and put your pounded Almonds therin with some Cinamon, large Mace, and a grain of Musk fastened to a thread, stir it continually that it burn not to the bottom till it be thick, then take it off the fire, and beat in the yolks of four or five Eggs, and the whites of two, so season it with Sugar or Orengado, and bake it either in a dish or Paste.
Or you may only strain beaten Almonds with Cream, yolks of Eggs, Sugar, Cinamon and Ginger, boil it till thick fill your Tart, and when it is baked ice it.

Quotation for the Day …

There can be economy only where there is efficiency. Benjamin Disraeli

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hotel Dining

We are going upmarket today, into the world of fine hotel dining. The Hotel St.Francis in that wonderful food city of San Francisco. The famous chef at the hotel, Victor Hirtzler wrote a cookbook which was published in 1919. He suggested menus for each day of the year, and naturally gave recipes for many of the dishes. Here they are for today.

Sliced figs with cream
Pulled bread

Olive and anchovy salad
Broiled pigs' feet
Chow chow
Potatoes, surprise
Corn starch blanc mange with stewed fruits
Demi tasse

Potage Colbert
Salted hazelnuts
Eels, marinière
Roast leg of mutton
String beans with shallots
Mashed potatoes
Endives salad
Dariolets, Duchess

The recipe I have chosen for you is a simple salad, and I chose it because it introduced me to a new kitchen must-have: the ravier.

Olive and anchovy salad.
Lay on a ravier, or flat celery dish, two dozen fillets of anchovies, crosswise. Cut the stones out of one dozen large queen olives, and slice the olives thin. Lay them over the anchovies, sprinkle with a very little salt, some fresh- ground black pepper, a spoonful of vinegar, and a spoonful of olive oil. Garnish with hard-boiled eggs cut in four, and chopped parsley.
The Hotel St Francis Cook Book. Victor Hirtzler. 1919

A ravier is ‘is a small dish varying in shape and material in which hors-d'oeuvre are served. I wish I had one. I’ve always wanted a bacon fork too. I do have grape-scissors (it’s a longish story).

Quotation for Day …

Celery contributes to a stimulation of the digestion, but is also suspected to be somewhat sexually exciting or even straightforward arousing. These effects can be reduced by boiling. It is not a food for everybody. C.E. Hagdahl. Cooking as Science and Art, 1879.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Promotional Menus.

A short but sweet story for you today folks. This time it is from a menu book put out by a commercial company in 1916 to promote their product. It is the Crisco Book, from Procter & Gamble, and gave lots of ideas for incorporating more trans-fats into the diet in a completely flavourless way in the form of processed cotton-seed oil. I understand that modern science and consumer pressure have led to a trans-fat free version, now made from soybean oil, which may or may not be healthier – which we may not find out until another generation of consumers have trialled it. For my Australian readers – it is the same concept as Copha, (made from fully hydrogenated coconut oil) - and who amongst our citizens could have negotiated their childhood in any meaningful way without Chocolate Crackles, for which it is an essential ingredient?

The dinner menu for August 27 suggested in this little book is:

Steamed Clams
Vegetable Salad
Brown Bread Sandwiches
Peach Tapioca
Princess Cake

And the recipe included for the day is:

Princess Cake
Line small square cake tin with plain Crisco pastry. Sprinkle in ½ cup cleaned currants. Cream ½ cup Crisco with 1 cup sugar, then add 3 well beaten eggs, 3 cups flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt. Divide mixture into 2 portions. Add 1 tablespoon grated chocolate and 4 tablespoons milk to 1 portion. Put cake mixtures in spoonfuls on top of currants and bake in moderate oven for 35 minutes. Serve in square pieces.

Copha-lovers do not despair, I will give some ideas soon from an equally vintage Copha cookbook.

Quotation for the Day …

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. Joan Gussow

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Regency Eating.

We are eating in Enland during the Regency period today, which will be nice for a change. John Simpson gives a suggested menu for each day of the year in his book the Complete System of Cookery, published in 1816. Cook books of the time often showed how to set the dishes out on the table too, because the style of service was quite different to today, and the overall display as the diners approached the table was most important. There were generally two courses, each course containing a number of dishes which were arranged on the table with great symmetry. The guests certainly got to appreciate the spectacle, but the food must often have been cool before they got to it. There was no clear distinction between savoury and sweet dishes, although in the particular example today there is nothing that we would confuse with ‘dessert’. When the two courses were eaten, guests would then enjoy the ‘banquet’ – often in a different location. The banquet consisted of fruit and sweetmeats, and eventually all the sweet dishes moved over to the banquet ‘course’ – which eventually became ‘dessert’, from the French verb meaning to ‘un-serve’ or clear away.

We are eating in Enland during the Regency period today, which will be nice for a change. John Simpson gives a suggested menu for each day of the year in his book the Complete System of Cookery, published in 1816. Cook books of the time often showed how to set the dishes out on the table too, because the style of service was quite different to today, and the overall display as the diners approached the table was most important. There were generally two courses, each course containing a number of dishes which were arranged on the table with great symmetry. The guests certainly got to appreciate the spectacle, but the food must often have been cool before they got to it. There was no clear distinction between savoury and sweet dishes, although in the particular example today there is nothing that we would confuse with ‘dessert’. When the two courses were eaten, guests would then enjoy the ‘banquet’ – often in a different location. The banquet consisted of fruit and sweetmeats, and eventually all the sweet dishes moved over to the banquet ‘course’ – which eventually became ‘dessert’, from the French verb meaning to ‘un-serve’ or clear away.

There were two dishes ‘à la Flamond’ on this day, which seems to be taking balance a little too far, to me.

Soup à la Flamond.
Shred turnips, carrots, green onions, and one Spanish onion; add lettuce, half a pint of asparagus peas; put them into a small soup-pot, a little stock, and about two ounces of butter; put them on a slow stove to sweat down ofr an hour; put in as much flour as will dry up the butter; then fill it up with best stock, and let it boil by the side of the stove for half an hour. Make a laison of the yolks of four eggs (for two quarts of soup) beat the yolks up well with a spoon; put a pint of cream that has been boiled and got cold; strain it through a sieve, and put a large spoonful of beshemell to it: take the soup from the fire and put in the laison, keep stirring while putting it in, then put the soup on the fire; be sure to keep stirring it until it comes to a boil, then take it off: keep it hot by putting the soup-pot into a stew-pan of hot water

Cauliflower à la Flamond
Boil the cauliflower: when done take it up and lay it on the back of a sieve to drain all the water from it, then put it into a stew-pan with a little beshemell; when quite hot, dish it up, put parmasan cheese, then brown it with a salamander.

Quotation for the Day …

In cooking, clear as you go. Isabella Beeton.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dinner Plans

This week I am going to give you a menu a day to help you answer the pesky question of what to have for dinner (and breakfast). Today it is from Cre-Fydd’s Family Fare, or Young Housewife’s Daily Assistant, published in 1864. The ‘Kitchen’ means the servants. I assume supper consisted of dinner leftovers (‘dinner’ was in this menu book, the midday meal).

Potted tongue, pigeons, omelet.

Broiled Mackerel.
Boiled Leg of Lamb (5 lbs.), Caper Sauce.
Mashed Turnips, Carrots, Potatoes.
Mould of Greengages, Devonshire Cream.
Cheese &c.

KITCHEN (i.e servants)
Mutton Pudding, Potatoes.

When you look at the whole spread of menus, it is easy to see the ‘progress’ of food. The following day, for example, the family had soup made from this day’s mutton liquor, and the servants had Cold Lamb and Salad.

I am enamoured of greengages – I am not sure why, in this fruit-fertile country – we cannot get them. I hope to feast on them in two weeks time when I am in England (any of you attending the Oxford Symposium?). I therefore give you Mould of Greengages. It is a variation of Rhubarb Mould, so I will give Mr(Ms) Cre-Fydd’s version of this first.

Rhubarb Mould.
Skin and cut into small pieces enough fresh young rhubarb to fill a quart measure; put it into a skillet, with a pound and a half of loaf sugar, the grated rind and strained juice of half a lemon, and twelve bitter almongs, blanched and chopped; boil fast; skin and stir till it becomes a rich marmalade. Add half an ounce of isinglass dissolved int two tablespoonfuls of boiling water; rub a mould with sweet almond oil, put in the fruit, and let it stand in a cool place till firmly set. Turn out, and serve, with Devonshire cream around it.

Greengage Mould.
Follow the preceding receipt, using three pints of greengages, and the kernels, blanched, instead of rhumbarb and almonds; whip a pint of sweet cream to a froth, and pour over; garnish with macaroons.

Quotation for the Day ..

Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. David Adams.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Watermelon Seeds

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 China, especially on account of its seed, for which the Chinese are possessed of a real passion, or rather a most unnatural appetite. In some parts when the melon crop is abundant, the fruit is valueless and has no price attached to it except for its seed. Loads of melons are sometimes taken to the public road and given to passengers to eat, on condition that they save the seeds and put them aside for the proprietors. By this, not disinterested generosity, they have the gory of refreshing the public in hot weather and then avoid the trouble of working those vegetable mines to extract the precious treasure which they conceal.
Watermelon seed are in fact a real treasure to amuse and beguile at small expense the three hundred millions of inhabitans in the Celestial Empire. In the eighteen provinces these wretched trifles are for all an object of daily gluttony. It is amusing to see these astonishing Chinese attack their melon seeds before dinner, as it were to try the tone of their stomachs and gently sharpen the appetite. Their long pointed nails are on these occasions of immense service. It is worth while to see with what speed and skill they open the hard shell to extract an atom of kernel or perhaps nothing: a flock of squirrels, or apes, could not do it with more ability.
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 …

Watermelon -- it's a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face. Enrico Caruso.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Milanese Soup

Once upon a time I tried to unravel the truth about risotto. The story was specifically about Risotto à la Milanaise, which is the sort of risotto you have when you want risotto in French. I came across an English interpretation of Milanaise risotto recently, and I present it here for the amusement or horror of my lovely friend Marisa, who lives all the way away in Melbourne. I can just see her now, in my kitchen, showing me how real Italians cook risotto, and waving the wooden spoon around to demonstrate that it must be all onde – like waves (did I spell that right, Marisa?). For years, in my head, that word was alonda. I just googled ‘all waves’ to find out the real word.

In a pre-Google life there was a lovely woman called Lady Clark of Tillypronie. She was a prolific collector of recipes, and after her death they were published, finally in 1909. Many of the recipes date much further back than that, and many of them have the name of the ‘donor’ and the date.

“Risotto,” a Milanese Soup (Cataldi)
Blanch the rice in a stewpan in water till it all but boils, then take it off to cool, and strain off all the water. Put it on the fire again with a little stock until it is quite cooked but not become a mere purée.
Stir in some grated Parmesan cheese, also a little fresh butter. Season delicately, and serve in a tureen, very hot.
This is eaten almost solid at Milan, but foreigners have plain clear soup offered to them to eat with their Risotto; the latter is thick as porridge.

Oh! Dear! What can one say? The English do great rice pudding?

Quotation for the Day …

Cuisine is when things taste like themselves...In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection. Maurice Curnonsky (‘The Prince of Gastronomes’)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tea, Cold.

Tea, in England (and Australia), is hot. Generally speaking. Cold tea means a careless hostess or an absent-minded consumer. Iced tea is available of course, although it generally comes very sweet, commercially made, in bottles, in the drinks cabinet of the store. I remember the first time I asked for tea in the United States. The waitress (noting my accent perhaps) looked at me and asked ‘Hot?’ Remembering my visitor manners I forbore giving her a puzzled-withering look and said ‘Yes, Please.’ I was vastly amused. I knew about the ‘two countries divided by a common language’, but experiencing it in practice was so much more fun than reading about it.

I thought that those of you from all three sides of the two big waters would like this, from the very English Cassell’s New Dictionary of Cookery (1910).

Tea, Cold.
The value of cold tea as a beverage is not sufficiently known. Literary men and others accustomed to a sedentary occupation would find one or two cups of cold tea taken without either milk or sugar to be as stimulating as the same quantity of sherry, whilst there would be no fear of the drowsiness or diminution of the working power which might arise from imbibing either wine or spirit. The taste for cold tea is an easily acquired one, and worth cultivating by those who require an occasional and harmless stimulant.

Two cups of tea as stimulating as two cups of sherry?

To have with your tea, hot or cold, these, from the same source, would be nice.

Tea-Cakes, Royal.
Take the weight of a large egg in fresh butter. Beat it to a cream, and mix with it four ounces of pounded and sifted loaf sugar, four ounces of best flour, a small pinch of salt, and the grated peel of half a lemon. Beat the egg with a little orange-flower or rose-water, and with this knead the mixture to a smooth paste. Roll it out, cut it into small rounds, an bake these upon floured tins in a well-heated oven.Time to bake, fifteen to thirty minutes, according to the size of the cakes. Sufficient for one or two persons.

Sufficient for one or two persons? Not a big batch I know, but still …..

Quotation for the Day …

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me," said C.S. Lewis. whilst at that moment I was pouring his tea into a very large cornish Ware cup and he was reading Bleak House.” Walter Hooper

[He could have been writing about The Old Foodie …. ]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A New Rival to Tea.

In August 1854 the New York Daily Times followed up on an article a few weeks earlier on a ‘new rival to tea.’ A Dr. Stenhouse was the expert opinion called in to examine the specimen – dried leaves from the coffee bush, imported from Sumatra.

Dr. Stenhouse noted that “ the leaves had been strongly roasted in rather a rough manner, .. closely resemble Paraguay tea. … The coffee leaves, when digested with boiling water, yielded a deep brown infusion, which, in taste and odour, closely resembled a mixture of coffee and tea. On the addition of milk and sugar, it formed a very tolerable beverage; and, as the coffee-leaf can be imported into Europe for rather less than twopence a pound, the poorer classes are likely to find it a very useful substitute for tea and coffee.”

Coffee-Leaf Tea had a brief moment in the spotlight in the 1850’s. Samples were demonstrated at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and other other journals discussed its history and possibilities:

“Coffee leaf tea is sipped in Sumatra, while the Ethiopians of Central Africa quaff the Absyssinian chaat. Thus we see that warm drinks are popular with Christian and Savage, and if we accept the wisdom of intuition and instinct, we must consider them, as a general rule, healthful.”

And “The natives universally prefer the leaf to the berry, giving, as a reason, that it contains more bitter than the berry, and is more nutritious.”

Surprising, that a tea made from the coffee bush that tasted like a mix of tea and coffee did not become an instant success or an enduring favourite, no?

German Coffee Cakes.
To make good coffee cakes in the German style, take two pounds of flour, a pint and a half of milk, three eggs, a quarter of a pound of butter. Set a sponge with one pint of the milk warmed, flour to make a stiff batter, and one cake of compressed yeast. When it has risen sufficiently, add the other ingredients, the butter being worked into the flour; then knead well. The cake should be rolled, or better, pressed out with the fingers very thin for baking. When in the pan, brush over with melted butter, and on top place chopped almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. Bake in a moderate oven. The cake may be sweetened to taste. The greater part of the sweetness should be on the top.
Apple cake and Kranzkuchen are made in the same way.For the apple cake, apples are cut according to size into halves or eights, and laid over the dough, pulled out very thin, and brished over with melted butter. There should be sugar and cinnamon on the apples, and also a few currants. When the apple cake is taken from the oven it is sprinkled with water with a brush to make it moist. This sprinkling must not be omitted or the quality of the cake will suffer. It is done “according to judgement.”
The ring, Kranzkuchen, and pretzel also, if made in a double ring, like the pretzel so familiar as an accompaniment to beer, are all made of coffee-cake dough. The dough is, as before, brushed over with melted butter, and upon the thin cake, sugar, cinnamon, chopped almonds, currants, and raisins are laid. The whole is rolled as a jelly cake, and then formed into a ring, Kranz, or double ring, pretzel, as desired, and is also baked in a moderate oven. When this is done, a thin frosting of the white of an egg and sugar is spread on it, and the result is a very delicious cake, which is eaten with an excellent cup of coffee.
New York Times, July 1897

Coffee Recipes.

To remind you: there is an archive of recipes using coffee as an ingredient on the now-defunct Companion Site. It is waiting HERE for me to import it all to this one, but it will have to wait a while.

Quotation for the Day …

It is true, says Liebeg, that thousands have lived without a knowledge of tea and coffee; and daily experience teaches us that, under certain circumstances, they may be dispensed with without disadvantage to the merely animal functions, but it is an error, certainly, to conclude from this that they may be altogether dispensed with in reference to their effects; and It is a question whether, if we had no tea and no coffee, the popular instinct would not seek for and discover the means of replacing them.... Isabella Beeton, 1861.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tea, Bread, Cheese.

I haven’t started a story with ‘On This Day’ for a while, which is a bit remiss of me as that was the daily theme when this blog started out. There is an interesting story that does have its anniversary today however, and it has given me a theme for the next few days.

On this day in 1831, Richard Abbey (Gentleman) of Walthamstow in the County of Essex, England, was granted a patent for ‘a new mode of preparing the leaf of a British plant for producing a healthy beverage for infusion.’ In a nutshell, Abbey had developed a substitute tea from the leaves of the Hawthorn bush (Crataegus mongyna).

Now, the Hawthorn bush is very ordinary, very common, very everyday. Its only real claim to fame is that it was the emblem of the House of Tudor, supposedly because after Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth his crown was found in a Hawthorn bush and used to crown Henry Tudor (Henry VII). Even if Abbey’s method resulted in a delicious and acceptable substitute, it would hardly have been a commercially viable proposition as every English villager would have access to quantities of the leaves. Perhaps the patentable idea was something to do with his processing of the humble leaves?

His ‘new idea’ was to carefully pick the leaves, rinse them well in cold water, and while they are damp to put them in an ‘ordinary culinary steamer, where they are ‘to be subjected to the action of the vapour until they change from a green to an olive colour.’ The leaves are then to be dried upon ‘a hot plate well heated’, and be ‘continually stirred up and turned over until they are thoroughly dry, in which state they may be preserved for use.’

I am baffled as to what was patentable in this idea. It is not as if the Hawthorn was not known to be edible. In fact, the Hawthorn is a veritable pantry. It seems that ‘tea’ (more properly ‘tisane’) has been made from the dried buds for aeons or thereabouts. Any berry, including that of the Hawthorn can be used to make jelly. The berries can also, I understand, be made into quite an acceptable liqueur. Every pantry needs its staples, and jelly and booze may or may not count as staples where you come from. Bread and cheese probably would count as staples in most of the places I have lived. The Hawthorn bush used to be called ‘the bread and cheese tree’ because the buds and leaves can be eaten straight from the tree, as they have often been in times of famine, or used in salads or sandwiches, to add variety in better times. The bush is also called ‘Quickset’, supposedly because mere slips of it stuck in the earth quickly become hedges. I have a vague memory that it is also a source of vegetable rennet, which would be an alternative source of the name – but don’t quote me on that until I have time to investigate. If you know, please let us all know via the comments!

Hawthorn Liqueur.
THE full blossoms of the white thorn [alternative name for Hawthorn] are to be picked dry and clean from the leaves and stalks, and as much put into a large bottle as it will hold lightly without pressing it down ; it is then to be filled up with French brandy, and allowed to stand two or three months, when it must be decanted off, and sweetened with clarified sugar, or with capillaire. Without the sweetening, it is an excellent seasoning for puddings and custards.
The Practice of Cookery. Mrs. Dalgairns. 1830


I am delighted that this post has inspired a poem! The poet is my friend Jim Sharp, who grew up in England but is now many years from his 'roots and shoots'. He says he loved to pick and eat from the bread and cheese tree. Here is his poem:

roman banks 1940’s

in ancient times the imperial army

camped on top of the roman embankment

nowadays the babbling brook meanders

singing softly to those soldiers of yesteryear

on one’s tod sloan a sharp eyed bairn walks

amongst grazing & cud chewing contented cows

whilst around him rabbits & weasels scurry free

a slow moving hedgehog is too spiny to touch

and from the birds nests in the hedge rows

he takes only one egg for his collection

white elder flowers he gathers for granny’s medicinal tea

& from blue-black elderberries she makes jelly & wine

come the days end a sharp bairn lays in the long grass

watching skylarks fall out of a fading sun.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A plea for Cheesecake.

Before quiche and the likes of marbled-mocha-vanilla-strawberry-topped-hazelnut-crusted cheesecake, there was simply cheesecake. Cheesecake has a very long history indeed. Not all cheesecakes have cheese in them (we will perhaps have a nice Chester Cheesecake soon.) They have never been ‘cakes’ either, in the modern sense of the word, but they have mostly been thinnish and flattish like a ‘cakes’ of soap, or mud. Neither have they always been ‘tarts’ – there was a crustless variety called a pudding-pie (although the Kentish Pudding-Pie of relatively recent history does have a crust.) It was confusing enough before the French imposed quiche on us and snobby English-speaking folk adopted it.

Cheesecakes were raised to an art form due to the inventiveness of European cooks trying to get around the many meatless days decreed by the Church. They became sweeter as sugar became cheaper, as the sixteenth century progressed. The ‘savoury’ version appears to have become quiche early in the twentieth century (the 1920’s, if the OED is correct.)

I accept and rejoice in the fact that the English language is a constantly adapting and evolving, but I do not understand why we take up a word when we have a perfectly good one already. English does not have words that will transmit exactly the same sense as the Spanish macho or the French ennui, and the French now have le weekend, whereas once upon a time they had only Saturday and Sunday – so these seem like reasonable trades. At one time, the British at table had a bill of fare, then the Victorians changed it to menu, which is silly, because menu means little, and most Victorian bills of fare were not. The famous historic restaurant of Simpson’s on the Strand has always refused to convert its Bill of Fare into a Menu. May I make a plea for the return of the Savoury Cheesecake? Just because I feel a little ornery today – and I don’t believe we have an English-English equivalent of the (I think) American-English ornery, which is not at all the same as feeling ordinary, which is the old name for a pub, anyway.

Tart de Bry.
Take a Crust ynche depe in a trape. take zolkes of Ayren rawe & chese ruayn. & medle it & þe zolkes togyder. and do þerto powdour gyngur. sugur. safroun. and salt. do it in a trape, bake it and serue it forth.
From: The Master-Cooks of King Richard II, The Forme of Cury, c.1390

Note: ‘Bry’ appears to refer to the region where this cheese tart originated: ‘ruayn’ was apparently a soft autumn cheese. The amount of sugar is not specified in this recipe, but sugar was very expensive at the time and was used more like a spice. This was probably close what we would call a ‘savoury’ type of cheesecake today (although no such distinction between sweet and savoury dishes was made back then.)

Cheesecakes, Savoury.
Mix thoroughly a pint of well-drained curd, three ounces of butter, and the yolks of six and the whites of two eggs well-beaten. Rub them through a coarse sieve, and add a quarter of a pound of grated Parmesan, and a little salt and pepper. If preferred, the curd may be omitted, and a little cream substituted. Of course, in this case, there would be no necessity to rub the mixture through a sieve. Line some tartlet tins with good crust, fill them three-parts with the mixture, and bake in a good oven for about twenty minutes.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, c1870’s.

Quotation for the Day …

Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but afer all, the Scotchman would shake his head, and say, "Where's your haggis?" and the Fijan would sigh and say, "Where's your missionary?"
Mark Twain in A Tramp Abroad

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Clerical Bread.

A deadline is approaching at the speed of something very fast, my friends, so there may be some very short posts coming up in the next few weeks. But there will be posts, I promise. I am then off to England for three weeks – to the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery for a few days, then a holiday. As last year, I will post while I am away, so – as last year, if you have any requests for topics I will do my best to oblige.

I am still briefly pursuing this Naming of Dishes (sub-division: Clerical) idea. This pair does not take much fathoming. The Bishop gets bread that is actually a cake, the Reverend gets the bread that is unequivocally the wholesome daily variety. Or is it the Reverend’s own recipe? Did he make it for the parish poor?

Bishop’s Bread.
10 oz. flour
½ tsp salt
4 oz. butter
½ tsp cinnamon
12 oz. Demarara sugar.

Rub the fat into the flour, add the rest of dry ingredients, having put aside four tablespoonfuls (level) of these ingredients for sprinkling on top of the cake.
To the remainder add:

½ tsp baking powder
1 beaten egg
½ tsp bicarb soda
¼ pint sour milk

Beat thoroughly until the batter is smooth. Pour into a flat , greased tin. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the top and a sprinkling of cinnamon, and bake in a moderate oven 35 to 45 min.
[from an old Yorkshire newspaper]

The Reverend Mr. Haggett’s Economical Bread.
Only the coarse flake-bran is to be removed from the flour; of this take five pounds, and boil it in rather more than four gallons of water; so that when perfectly smooth, you may have three gallons and three quarts of bran-water clear. With this knead fifty-six pounds of the flour, adding salt and yeast in the same way and proportions as for other bread. When ready to bake, divide it into loaves, and bake them two hours and a half.
Thus made, flour will imbibe three quarts more of bran-water than of plain; so that it not only produces a more nutritious substantial food, but makes an increase of one-fifth of the usual quantity of bread, which is a saving of one day's consumption out of six; and if this was adopted throughout the kingdom, it would make a saving of ten millions sterling a year, when wheat was at the price it stood in the scarcity, reckoning the consumption to be two hundred thousand bushels a day. The same quantity of flour which, kneaded with water, produces sixty-nine pounds eight ounces of bread, will, in the above way, make eighty-three pounds eight ounces, and gain fourteen pounds. At the ordinary price of flour four millions would be saved. When ten days old, if put into the oven for twenty minutes, this bread will appear quite new again.
A New System of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles of Economy, and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, by a Lady (Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell)
Boston: W. Andrews, 1807.

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Food for the Baby.

A reader who has a little son asked about baby food “back in the day”. This is for you and your boy, Michael B.

Where to start with the massive topic of how babies have been fed over the centuries? A long way back there was a constant debate about the best ‘alternative’ milk – and asses’ milk was a favourite - but I think I will jump to relatively recent times, because it is a bit more accessible, being within memory of some of our personal ancestors.

I have chosen as my source a book called Food for the sick and how to prepare it: with a chapter on food for the baby, by Edwin Charles French, published in Louisvile in 1900, for no other reason than that it was at hand. Wherever they are published, there is one great similarity amongst child-feeding books – their absolute rigidity. Where did they get such a sense of certainty from?

Edwin considers food for the baby under three headings: ‘Mother’s Milk, Cow’s milk modified, and the “Infant Foods” of Commerce.’

Naturally, and thankfully, Edwin was adamant that mother’s milk was best, so we are all pretty much in agreement there. He does insist however that it should be offered ‘at absolutely regular intervals, and the child should never be allowed at the breast for more than 20 minutes.’ Looks like I failed badly as a mother from day 1.

Of commercial Infant “foods” – which are milk alternatives, not “solids” - he is not particularly impressed with their digestibility or overall value, and sums up his position by saying ‘it is best not to use them until after the sixth month, then not in large quantities, and never as a permanent food, although they may be employed temporarily with advantage, when for any reason the child is unable to digest milk, as in various acute diarrheal diseases.

As time progresses he advises:

‘A child should be fed on a strictly milk diet until about the ninth or tenth month, when a little soft-boiled egg, soups (vegetable and mutton), beef juice (made by broiling rare-done a piece of beef and pressing the juice from same) , “infant foods”, and a small amount of starch food, as a bit of cracker, arrowroot, or farina may be given once a day in a bottle of milk. Potatoes may be given after the twelfth to fifteenth month if they are baked and well done.’

Of course it is just as essential to know what foods are forbidden. This is the list of foods that should be prohibited for ‘children under seven years, and all are improper for children under four years.’

Meats: Pork in all forms, dried, canned or salted meats, goose, duck, game, kidney, liver, bacon, meat stews, and dressings from roasted meats.
Vegetables: Potatoes (except roasted), cabbage, raw or fried onions, raw celery, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes (raw or cooked), beets, eggplant, and green corn.
Bread and Cake: All hot bread, biscuits, or rolls; buckwheat and other griddle cakes; all sweet cakes, particularly those containing dried fruits and those heavily frosted.
Desserts: all nuts, candies and dried fruits; all canned or preserved fruits, pies, tarts, and pastry of every description.
Drinks: Tea, coffee, cocoa, wine, beer, and cider.
Fruits: Bananas, all fruits out of season, all stale fruits, particularly in cities during the summer. Grapes are objectionable only on account of the seeds. With most of the other fruits it is the excess quantity which makes them injurious.

Edwin has a real set against bananas, which he does not justify in any great detail, and they are also on his ‘must avoid’ list for ‘anemia or debility and diseases of the liver and bile passages.’ Looks like I failed badly there too. Bananas were a staple baby food in our household. The kids turned out OK though. Maybe I was lucky?

Out of spite or guilt, I give you this recipe which I would not have hesitated to feed to my toddlers. Why cook two meals, when one will serve all? It is from the Good housekeeping's book of menus, recipes, and household discoveries [c1922]

Banana Bread Pudding.
½ small loaf bread, 2 ½ cupfuls milk
1 ½ tablespoonfuls butter, ½ cupful sugar
4 bananas, juice 1 lemon
2 eggs.

In a buttered baking dish place alternate layers of buttered bread and sliced ripe bananas sprinkled with lemon juice. Beat the eggs well, add the sugar and milk. Pour over the bread and banans. Bake in a 350 deg. oven one hour or till set. One half-cupful of tart jelly may be used in place of the lemon-juice and sugar.

Quotation for the Day …

My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies. W.C. Fields

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)

Monday, August 11, 2008

On the Naming of Dishes, Part 4.

It never ceases to amaze me – the sheer number of dishes named after clerical and other religious folk and the general religious life. Rather more than named after the local plumber or apothecary or doctor. The tradition is quite a few hundred years old, at least. Off the top of my head, there is La Varenne’s ‘Pie after the Cardinal’s Way’ in the mid-seventeenth century, and M. Menon a century later with Tenche au Pontiffe and Eggs à la Huguenotte (sometimes called Presbyterian Eggs), for starters. We have enjoyed some of them already on this blog – Pig White Monks Fashion, Nuns’ Cakes, Nuns’ Sighs, Macaroni à la Pontiffe, and Monastery Soup, for example. There are many more, and I have a couple up my sleeve for the near future.

The more recent ones, from Britain in the nineteenth century – seem to be predominantly sweet puddings. There are many variations of the Curate’s pudding, My lady abesses’ pudding, and The novice’s pudding just to give you the idea. Why is this? There are a lot of questions going begging here. Is the English vicar particularly sweet-toothed? Or poor and underfed? Is it a way of sweetening him up so he will pass on a good word about you?

Just to prove that it is not only the English that curry favour with their local heavenly advocates and advisors, here is an American version from Good housekeeping's book of menus, recipes, and household discoveries, published about 1922.

Caramel Bavarian Cream, Parsonage Style.
2 cupfuls milk , 4 egg yolks, 2 tablespoonfuls sugar 1 teaspoonful vanilla, ¾ cupful sugar 2 tablespooonfuls granulated gelatin, 2 cupfuls cream ½ cupful cold water.
Scald the milk and pour over the egg-yolks beaten slightly with the two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Caramelize the three-fourths cupful sugar and dissolve in the boiling water. Add to the soft custard. Add the gelatin which has been softened in the cold water. Strain into a bowl and set in ice water; when it begins to thicken add the vanilla and the two cupfuls of cream beaten stiff. Mold and chill. If cream is not at hand, the whites of eggs beaten stiff can be used in its place, the result being different, but still delicious.

Now, can anyone tell me (random guesses allowed) what makes this variation on the well-known theme of Bavarian Cream - ‘Parsonage Style’?

I eagerly await your examples from other religious persuasions. I can only think of the eggplant dish called something like ‘The Imam Fainted’ - supposedly on account of the profligate use of olive oil in its preparation. Do we have The Rabbi’s Rhubarb Tart? The Shaman’s Sherbet? The Pagan’s Popovers?

Quotation for the Day …

We plan, we toil, we suffer-in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol's eyes? The title deeds of Radio City? The empire of Asia? A trip to the moon? No, no, no, no. Simply to wake just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs. J.B.Priestley.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sherbet, various.

Fermented mare’s milk must have been too shocking an idea for you all yesterday – narry a comment or email. Teeth and brain stuck still stuck together with Tomato Marshmallows, are they?

In that case, I will give you a nice frothy un-frightening topic today. I don’t believe I have discoursed upon the topic of sherbets in this blog before, although I have elsewhere. To save myself some effort on this soon-to-be-too-busy-morning, I give you a brief extract from my contribution to ‘elsewhere’.

‘Sherbert’ derives from the Turkish/Arabic word for ‘drink’. In other words, a sherbet used to be a beverage – a costly beverage to be sure, in its home culture. Early European visitors to those fantastically distant and exotic places described it raptly as a sweetened fruit drink made fragrant with expensive ingredients such as roses, violets, musk and ambergris. Those intrepid adventurers made the best fist they could of the strange language, and the Arabic word gave rise to a multitude of phonetic interpretations from charbe to zerbet. ‘Sorbet’ came about as a result of the phonetic and linguistic coincidence of the Italian verb ‘to drink’ sorbire - and the name stuck because the Italians became masters of frozen confections during the Renaissance.

The sherbet of my English childhood was not like any of these variations. It was neither drink nor ice. It came in a little yellow packet with a hollow liquorice ‘straw’ with which to suck up the palate-and-nose-tingling sour-sweet effervescent lemony powder therein. I guess the following recipe would substitute nicely. Now, if only I can get hold of some hollow liquorice sticks, I’ll be right, as we say.

Sherbet Powder.
Rub half a pound of loaf sugar upon the rind of a lemon till the yellow part is taken off. Crush the sugar to powder, and mix intimately with it four ounces of tartaric acid and four ounces of bicarbonate of soda. Rub the mixture through a fine sieve; put it into a dry bottle, and keep it well corked until wanted. If liked, forty or fifty drops of essence of lemon may be used instead of lemon rind. The powder must be taken up with a dry tea-spoon. Sufficient for one pound of sherbet. A tea-spoonful of this powder stirred into a tumbler of water will make a refreshing summer drink.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, circa 1870’s.

Quotation for the Day …

Peanut butter [is] the pâté of childhood. Florence Fabricant.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tartar Tucker.

Before I give you today’s story - a random note on yesterday’s post. There is a character called Barkis in Dickens’ David Copperfield. He declares “Barkis is willin!” to marry the faithful servant Peggotty. The phrase has apparently “entered the language” - not mine, obviously, although it had clearly had entered the language of the editors of Yankee Notions by 1854. Is there a clue here?

As for today, I thought after Tomato Marshmallows and Barkis’ menu of Pig and Injun, you might need something easy on the digestion. This is how make genuine kumiss, or fermented mare’s milk - a true ‘restorative to the stomach’, unless of course you proceed to stage 2 and distill it into the hard stuff.

‘Take of mare’s milk of one day any quantity, add to it a sixth part of water, an eighth part of the sourest cow’s milk that can be got, but at a future period a smaller portion of the old kumis will better answer the purpose of souring; cover the vessel with a thick cloth, and set it in a place of moderate warmth; leave it to rest for twenty-four hours, at the end of which the milk will have become sour, and a thick substance gathered at top; then with a stick, made at the lower end in the manner of a churn staff, beat it till the thick substance above-mentioned be blended intimately with the subjacent fluid; let it rest twenty-four hours in a high narrow vessel like a churn. The agitation must be repeated as before, till the liquor appears to be perfectly homogeneous, and in this state it is called kumis (or koumis) of which the taste outhg to be a pleasant mixture of sweet and sour. Agitation must be employed every time before it is used. When well prepared in close vessels, and kept in a cold place, it will keep three months or more without any injury to its quality.
It serves both as a drink and food; it is a restorative to the stomach, and a cure for nervous disorders, phthisis, &c.
The Tartars distil this fermented milk, and obtain from it a spirituous liquor, which they drink instead of brandy.

From: A Survey of the Turkish Empire, by William Eton, 1801.

Quotation for the Day …

Yoghurt is very good for the stomack, the lumbar regions, appendicitis and apotheosis. Eugene Ionesco.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dinner “Out West”

I have something for you just for fun today, while your system recovers from yesterday’s idea of Tomato Marshmallow. It is from a fascinating publication called Yankee Notions in 1854 – a worthy read which appears have modelled itself on the well-known English Punch magazine.

It is for those of you who love pig, or love to hate pig. It is, I am sure, entirely tongue-in-cheek, and there is, I am sure, some intended regional slur, but it is, I am certain, very amusing. And in any case, there are historic precedents for one-meat meals: Horsemeat dinners in London and Paris in the 1860’s, and a famous (if difficult to track down and authenticate) ‘all beef’ dinner said to have been given by Cardinal Richelieu.

The Bill of Fare.

A party of our friends stopped one day, a year or two ago, at ‘Barkis’ Hotel’, somewhere “out west” and asked him to get them some dinner. “Barkis was willing” and spread before them the following bill of fare; various, “that the tastes of desultory man, studious of change, and pleased with novelty, might be indulged.”

Tuesday, May 15, 1851

Pig, Pork, Ham, Hog
Ham, Eggs, Ham and Eggs, Hams,
Beans, Pork and Beans, Bread, Biscuit.
Boiled - Ham, Roast - Swine.
Boiled - Pork, Roast -Pig
Boiled - Pig, Roast - Pork
Boiled - Swine, Roast - Ham
Cooked - Animals, Baked – Pig
Cooked - Injun, Baked - Ham
Cooked - Pies, Baked - Pork
Cooked - Cake, Baked - Swine
Cooked - Biscuit, Baked - Hog
Cooked - Beans, Baked - Beans
Pie - Mince, Cake - Fruit
Pie - Berry,
Cake - Sponge
Pie - Apple, Cake - Cymbals
Apples and Cheese.
Rum, Pale Brandy
, Dark do.
McGuckin, Gin
Whiskey Bill.

One of our friends tells us that he ate so heartily of some of the earlier dishes, that he had little appetite for the cold “courses!”


I had to take some liberties with the formatting of the 'original' menu, for those of you who are sticklers for such things - I blame Blogger. Or me.

Now, for our recipe for the day, I give you pork and dessert in one, from The Great Western Cook Book, or Table Receipts, Adapted to Western Housewifery. circa 1851.

Pork Apple Pie.
Make your crust in the usual way; spread it over a large, deep plate; cut some slices of fat pork, very thin, also some slices of apples; place a layer of apples, and then of pork, with a very little allspice, and pepper, and sugar between--three or four layers of each--with crust over the top. Bake one hour.

Quotation for the Day …

Any Part of the Piggy

Any part of the piggy
Is quite all right with me
Ham from Westphalia, ham from Parma
Ham as lean as the Dalai Lama
Ham from Virginia, ham from York,
Trotters Sausages, hot roast pork.
Crackling crisp for my teeth to grind on
Bacon with or without the rind on
Though humanitarian
I'm not a vegetarian.
I'm neither crank nor prude nor prig
And though it may sound infra dig
Any part of the darling pig
Is perfectly fine with me.
Noel Coward.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Revolutionary Candy.

I remember once trying to sneak some vegetables into my little daughter by making a zucchini cake. It never got past her 4 year-old eagle eyes: she somehow knew the green bits weren’t choc chips. Thankfully, she grew up and converted and now eats all her greens with relish, so perhaps there was something subliminal in the attempt. There was a little book that might have inspired me, written in 1912, had I known about it and been able to find a copy all the way over here in Australia. It is Candy-making revolutionized; confectionery from vegetables, written in 1912 by Mary Elizabeth Hall.

Ms. Hall waxes so enthusiastically lyrical about her idea one could almost be convinced that it should be a force-fed health food.

“Vegetable candy, to my mind, is ideal confectionery. Of its purity, there can be no doubt. Moreover, it furnishes the valuable element of sugar so combined with nutritious vegetable bases that, because of the bulk, there is no temptation to overeat. This quality of the new confection would seem insurance against the evil effects of gluttony! Before an undue amount of sugar is consumed, the very mass of the vegetable base has satisfied the appetite.
…. for the more vegetable candy is made, the less unhealthful confectionery there will be consumed. For the same reason, I hope, too, that women and girls seeking to make profitable their idle hours at home, may embark in a small way in the manufacture and sale of vegetable candy.”

An ideal food for children, and a pin-money bonus to boot! The colour plate of samples at the front of the book looks tempting – they look like ‘real’ candy. The expected suspects are here – lots made with potatoes (plain starch, really) and beets (sweet starch with bonus colouring), and a few with dates, which at about 60% sugar are a candy in their own right, and anyway don’t count as vegetables. The idea of Tomato Marshmallow however is a bit of a shock to the culinary-idea part of the brain. Or maybe not. Maybe it would fit on some trendy restaurant tables after all?

Tomato Marshmallow.
Very often marshmallows even the sort sold in candy stores of the better class contain gums and glucose which the amateur would find difficult to handle even if she felt no scruple in their use. Tomato marshmallows, however, are pleasing in consistency and more attractive in flavor than the old-fashioned kind. Moreover, they are easy to make, although it is necessary to give more detailed directions than would be required in the description of the process with which the home candy-maker is more familiar.
Dissolve three tablespoonsful of granulated gelatine in one cupful of hot water.
Cook and strain ripe tomatoes; to one-half cupful of the strained tomato add one cup-ful of sugar and cook the mixture to two hundred and thirty degrees. Have ready in a deep saucepan, three cupsful of sugar, moistened with one-quarter of a cupful of water. Upon it strain the tomato syrup, stir well, thin with a cupful of water, and cook to two hundred and forty degrees. Set the mass off the fire, add the gelatine water previously prepared, mix thoroughly and strain into a fresh bowl. Have ready the whites of two eggs beaten to a stiff froth. With a French egg whip or a common wooden paddle, beat the cooked mass hard until it is white and does not separate. When it becomes foamy and spongy, gradually add the beaten egg whites and keep beating until the whole mass is very stringy and will almost set on the paddle. Sift upon the mass one tablespoonful of corn starch; stir well.
Pour the candy between candy bars on a marble well dusted with XXXX sugar. Leave ten or twelve hours, cut into squares, roll well in XXXX sugar, spread the other side up and dry off. Instead of pouring the marshmallows between candy bars, they may be molded in corn starch. Store in a tight box.
The receipt sounds more laborious than is the process. The repeated boilings are necessary to perfect the product. The acid of the tomato destroys the granularity of the sugar. Straining the mixture eliminates the particles of tomato which, not having blended thoroughly into the syrup, would cause trouble by sticking to the bottom of the saucepan in the later higher cooking.

The XXXX is a bit alarming to a Queenslander. The local beer is called XXXX. I assume that ‘Over There’ it is a brand of sugar.

Quotation for the Day …

Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table. The Anarchist Cookbook.

Monday, August 04, 2008

‘Unusual Prune Dishes’

August 4 ...

I came across a reference in a newspaper (American) from July 1925 of an ‘unusual cake’ which turned out to be an upside-down cake. The recipe suggested that any fruit could be used, but suggested pineapple because it produced a ‘novel effect’, and was also very wholesome.

So, as I am always interested in ‘First Recipes For ….’ I am setting up the challenge to find the first upside-down cake. You are expected to participate. The best I have been able to do is one from March 1923, in the Syracuse Herald. There must be earlier versions, as newspaper recipe columns usually respond to readers queries and current fashions.

This particular version from 1923 could arguably also have ‘a novel effect’ as it uses prunes (which are also at least as wholesome as pineapple, surely?). It appeared in a recipe column headed ‘Unusual Prune Dishes.'

Upside-Down Cake.
Wash and soak the prunes in warm water for several hours: drain and remove pits; beat one egg till light, gradually add one-half cup of sugar; beat until creamy. Measue one cup sifted flour, sift again with one teaspoon baking powder; add to the egg mixture alternately with one quarter cup milk or water, beat well; add two tablespoons melted shortening, one teaspoon vanilla. Melt two tablespoons butter in a small iron frying pan: spread one half cup brown sugar evenly over pan, then one quarter cup chopped walnuts; cover with prunes, then pour on cake batter.
Bake in a moderate oven about 25 minutes. Will serve five persons.

The other thing that this recipe indicates to me is how much better, generally speaking, we are about recipe-writing these days. The instructions in this are a bit unclear – surely the cake is not cooked in the ‘small frying pan’, but the caramel-walnut mix is poured into the cake pan, then topped with prunes and cake batter? Also – can someone better at geometry or trigonometry or cake-cutting please tell me why this will serve five persons, not six, or eight? Or four greedies?

The challenge is made. Any earlier versions?

Quotation for the Day …

When my mother had to get dinner for eight she’d just make enough for sixteen and only serve half. Gracie Allen.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Old is New, Again.

I have in my possession a most useful book called The Woman’s Book, written in 1911. It is as useful as it is possible to be, for a book, because it ‘contains everything a woman ought to know’ – on topics such as household management, cookery, rearing of children, home doctoring, business, dress, etiquette, and even legal and career issues. Methinks this ignorant world of ours is in need of a definitive (but this time, gender-neutral) update.

The book recently taught me something I definitely needed to know. How to cook crosnes. Actually, to be perfectly honest, the book taught me of the very existence of crosnes.

‘Crosnes’ is pronounced ‘crones’ – the ‘s’ being silent, the clue for which is in the ‘correct’ (i.e alternative French) spelling of its name crônes, the little accent mark above the ‘o’ indicating a missing ‘s’. I tell you this so that if you ever come across it in the market, you will impress the grower greatly with your correct pronunciation, as I now will.

Once upon a time, probably since who knows when, the ugly little root known to botanists as Stachys affinis was grown in Japan and had an inscrutable Japanese name which I don’t know and would not dare to try to pronounce even if I did.

In the 1880’s a horticultural enthusiast (or entrepreneur?) in the French town of Crosnes took an interest in it, and for a few decades around the turn of the century, it was popular and fashionable in England and Europe. Then, for some inscrutable reason it fell so far out of favour or production, that for my lifetime at any rate, it seemed to disappear. I believe it is back in up-market markets and trendy restaurants in lucky places.

Apart from the tricky pronunciation of its ‘official name’, the little tuber also goes disguised as Japanese (or Chinese) artichokes, chorogi, knotroot, and no doubt other things too. In case you do happen to find and decipher a supply, here is the recipe from the Woman’s Book.

Japanese Crones.
(Fr. Crônes Japonaises)

½ lb Crones.
1 oz. butter
1 tablespoonful Cream
salt and pepper.

Method: this is a vegetable which has not yet become very popular, but it is very light and well worth eating. Crônes have a slight resemblance to Jerusalem artichokes, only they are much smaller. Trim the ends of the crones, and wash and brush them well in cold water. Warm the butter in an earthenware saucepan, put in the crones, and cook them in the oven from twenty to thirty minutes, shaking them from time to time. Add the cream and seasoning a few minutes before serving.
Note: they must not be overcooked or the flavour will be spoilt.
A good white sauce with cream may be added at the last, or the crones may be seved in small scallop shells with the sauce over and a little grated Parmesan on the top.

Quotation for the Day …

While it is undeniably true that people love a surprise, it is equally true that they are seldom pleased to suddenly and without warning happen upon a series of prunes in what they took to be a normal loin of pork. Fran Lebowitz.