Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In Scotland, once upon a time, there was Ankerstock. I am officially considering it ‘forgotten’ because the Oxford English Dictionary does not know it. Ankerstock (or Anchor-Stock, Ankerstock, Ankerstoke) was a spiced rye bread with currants, sometimes called Ankerstock Gingerbread (which means it also fits in the Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive.) Its name apparently refers to “some fancied resemblance to the stock of an anchor” – although whether this means its shape or its weight and solidity is a bit unclear.
Most mentions of Ankerstock in the literature refer to a single source – an article in Blackwood Magazine of December 1821.
“One of the first demonstrations of the approach of Christmas in Edinburgh was the annual appearance of large tables of anchor-stocks at the head of the Old Fish-market Close. These anchor-stocks, the only species of bread made from rye that I have ever observed offered for sale in the city, were exhibited in every variety of size and price, from a halfpenny to a halfcrown.”
Luckily for us, Maria Rundell included a recipe for Ankerstock in her wonderful book Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for rich and poor, in1827.
Ankerstock or Rye Bread
Requires very little yest [yeast]; mix with the water from two to six ounces of treacle for each pound of flour; let it be strained through a very fine gauze or lawn sieve, as treacle is often adulterated with sand; add salt, caraway, or anise of Verdun; the rye being sweet, the additional sweet gives it a determination, and corrects a disease to which that grain is liable, and makes the bread pleasant, healthy, and nourishing. It is an excellent sea store.
Quotation for the Day …
Gastronomers of the year 1825, who find satiety in the lap of abundance, and dream of some newly-made dishes, you will not enjoy the discoveries which science has in store for the year 1900, such as foods drawn from the mineral kingdom, liqueurs produced by the pressure of a hundred atmospheres; you will never see the importations which travelers yet unborn will bring to you from that half of the globe which has still to be discovered or explored. How I pity you!
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I don’t know why or how we lost the name, but it seems very remiss of us. I think I will start a campaign to bring back lovely lost old food words. All the campaign needs is a catchy name …
Some quidonnies are thick, syruppy, ‘wet’ preserves, but this one, from Hugh Plat’s Delights for Ladies (1602) appears to be more of a fruit paste. I love the idea of rose-water with the quinces.
To make Quidinia of Quinces.
Take the kernelles out of eight Quinces, and boyle them in a quart of Spring-water, till it come to a pint: then put into it a quarter of a pint of Rose-water, and one pound of fine sugar, and so let it boile til you see it come to be of a deep colour: then take a drop, and drop it on the bottom of a sawcer; and if it stand, take it off; then let it run thorow a gelly-bag into a bason; then set on your bason upon a chafing-dish of coales, to keepe it warm: then take a spoone, and fill your boxes as full as you please: and when they be cold, cover them: and if you please to print it in moulds, you must hove moulds made to the bigness of your boxe, and wet your moulds with Rose-water, and so let it run into your mould: and when it is cold, turn it off into your boxes. If you wet your moulds with water, your gelly will fall out of them.
Quotation for the Day …
I would stand transfixed before the windows of the confectioners' shops, fascinated by the luminous sparkle of candied fruits, the cloudy lustre of jellies, the kaleidoscope inflorescence of acidulated fruitdrops -- red, green, orange, violet: I coveted the colours themselves as much as the pleasure they promised me.
Simone de Beauvoir.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Several cookbooks from the first half of the nineteenth century have recipes for “A Dunelm of … ” The venerable Oxford English Dictionary does not know “dunelm”, which is a poor start to researching the topic. Wikipedia comes partly to the rescue with the definition of “A Scottish hash of chicken or veal with mushrooms and cream” , but then confuses the issue by saying that “Dunelm” is also an abbreviation for “Dunelmensis” - the old Latin name for Durham, which is in the North of England, not Scotland. The very comprehensive Dictionary of the Scots Language does not own it as a Scottish word, so I remain baffled, but intrigued.
The recipes must therefore speak for themselves. A “Dunelm” seems to be a good way to use up leftover cooked meat, whilst avoiding the use of the word “hash”.
A Dunelm Of Chicken.
TAKE a few fresh mushrooms, peeled and dressed as for stewing; mince them very small, and put to them some butter, salt, and cream. When put into a sauce-pan, stir over a gentle fire till the mushrooms are nearly done. Then add the white part of a roasted fowl, after being minced very small. When sufficiently heated, it may be served up.
Culina Famulatrix Medicinæ, Alexander Hunter, 1804
Dunelm of Veal, Fowl, Rabbit, Venison, or Butcher's Meat.
Stew some mushrooms very gently for an hour and a half in butter, with mace, salt, and pepper; let them cool, and mince them; dust in flour till the butter becomes a roux, and work in by degrees a little cream, till it obtains the consistency of a sauce; simmer and cook it smooth; mince the meat the same size and quantity of the mushrooms. Butcher's meat requires onions, and venison civet and port wine.
Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for rich and poor, by A Lady (Maria Rundell), 1827
Quotation for the Day …
The army from Asia introduced a foreign luxury to Rome; it was then the meals began to require more dishes and more expenditure . . . the cook, who had up to that time been employed as a slave of low price, become dear: what had been nothing but a métier was elevated to an art.
Livy (Titus Livius), Roman historian (59-17 B.C.)
Friday, December 26, 2008
Really, the leftovers are the best part of Christmas eating. I favour the minimal change system – cold turkey and ham in salads or sandwiches, and quickly re-roasted vegetables. A lot of stock from the bones of course, to be frozen for later use. What I do not favour are dishes such as this:
Curried Turkey Wings and Bones.
Prepare a curry sauce as follows: saute 2 large onions in butter or margarine, add 1 apple with peel, finely chopped, cook until tender.
Add 2 cups of turkey broth, vegetable broth, or water with bouillon cubes. Add 2 tablespoons of curry powder. Cook for 30 minutes. Then add turkey wings, disjointed, and leg and thigh bones. Continue cooking until they are heated through.
Add any leftover turkey gravy, or 1 tin of cream of mushroom soup and a little evaporated milk.
Season to taste, adding more curry if desired. Add a handful of white grapes.
Serve with rice, cranberry sauce, thinly sliced cucumbers with oil and vinegar, salted peanuts and baked bananas. “Beer is good with this”, says James Beard.
[Jefferson City newspaper, 1957]
Curry powder? Mushroom soup? Apples and Grapes? Served with cranberry sauce?
And a James Beard recipe? Is it really?
Quotation for the Day …
Cooking Rule: If at first you don't succeed, order pizza. Anonymous.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Rice soup, removed with a
Quotation for the Day …
Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that nothing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive."
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The same fascinating source as yesterday - Things Not Generally Known, Familiarly Explained, by John Timbs et al (1867), explaines it all.
Pewter pots are made with hoops to this day; but formerly, the hoop outside seems to have served the same purpose as the pegs inside in the older Peg-Tankards.
Thankgoodness for a plenitude of drinking-ware!
MORE SEASONAL STUFF:
Please also consider buying a raffle ticket in the Menu for Hope (see the side-bar). The School Lunch Program in Lesotho is a wonderful project of the United Nations World Food Program. One of the prizes is my book The Pie: A Global History (due in March.)
Also: I am tickled pink that The Old Foodie is featured in the Naxos (music label) Christmas podcast. Old recipes to match the era of the music. What fun. You can download it from the Naxos site HERE, or the direct link is HERE.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The music is pretty good too.
You can download it from the site HERE or directly from HERE
The Vintage Christmas Recipes archive is HERE
The toothpick: a small article for personal post-prandial use. Plus of course the occasional kitchen function of skewering small pieces of cheese and multicoloured cocktail onions to an orange or keeping bacon wrapped around prunes at retro buffet parties. An item that may cause etiquette angst perhaps (in public or not? at the table or not? during the meal or not? discreetly behind the hand or not?), but on the whole is an inconsequential, trivial, disposeable item of personal oral hygiene.
Or is there more to the toothpick than there appears at first glance?
Once upon a time the simple toothpick was a veritable symbol of one’s wordliness and wealth. Of course, I am not talking of a cheap splintery wooden or nasty non-biodegradeable plastic toothpick here, I am talking of the fine elegant variety that used to be.
The first recorded mention of a toothpick, according to the OED, is from 1488, and refers to ‘twa tuthpikis of gold’. Gold toothpicks. Naturally then, a toothpick was a symbol of wealth. This little extract from the Encyclopædia of Antiquities, by Thomas Dudley Fosbroke (1825) tells us more:
“The tooth-pick is the Anglo-Saxon toth-gare. To pick the teeth was, in the time of Elizabeth, the mark of a man affecting foreign fashions. In a ludicrous order in Nichols's Progresses we find it said, " Item, no knight of this order shall be armed for the safeguard of his countenance with a pike in his mouth, in the nature of a tooth-pick." Nares says, that it was a fashion imported by travellers from Italy and France, and that using it in publick was deemed a mark of gentility. The tooth-picks were not only carried in cases, but sometimes worn in the hat. Magnetick tooth-picks were made at the end of the seventeenth century.”
So, the toothpick was a symbol of gentility as well as wealth.
I am intrigued by the idea of magnetic toothpicks. Why? To more easily remove metallic fragments from between the teeth? To conveniently stick to your metal cigar case? They are mentioned again in a lovely informative book called Things Not Generally Known, Familiarly Explained, by John Timbs et al (1867), in the chapter Olden Meals and Housewifery:
“The employment of Tooth-picks is very ancient. In the 12th volume of Mr. Grote's able History of Greece, p. 608, we find that Agathocles, " among the worst of Greeks," was poisoned by means of a medicated quill, handed to him for cleaning his teeth after dinner. Mr. Grote's authority is Diodorus, xxi. Fragm. 12, pp. 276-278.
Tooth-picks were in common use in the time of the Caesars. Martial tells us those made of a chip of mastic wood (lentiscus) are the best; but that if you run short of such timber, a quill will serve your purpose; and he ridicules an old fop, who was in the habit of digging away at his gums with his polished lentiscus, though he he’d not a tooth left in his head.
Tooth-picks occur early of silver; but pieces of wood, or of feathers with a red end (as quills in our day), were most usual. The tooth-pick is the Anglo-Saxon toth-gare.
The old name was Pick-tooth: it was imported by travellers from Italy and France, and the using of it was long deemed an affected mark of gentility. It was worn as a trophy in the hat; and Sir Thomas Overbury describes a courtier, the pink of fashion, " with a pick-tooth in his hat." Bishop Earle says of an idle gallant, "his pick-tooth bears a great part in his discourse." Magnetic tooth-picks were made at the end of the seventeenth century.”
A toothpick was considered ‘the distinguished mark of a traveller’ as early as 1600. Ben Jonson in his satirical play Cynthia’s Revels defines a traveller as ‘ … one so made out of the mixture and shreds of forms, that himself is truly deformed. He walks most commonly with a clove or a toothpick in his mouth.’
One might carry around one’s toothpick, and use it publicly, but one had to be elegant too. Here is some advice, from Practical Morality; Or, A Guide to Men and Manners (1831)
‘When the table is cleared, to carry ahout your toothpick in your mouth, like a bird going to build his nest, or to stick it hehind your ear, as a barber does his comb, is no very genteel custom.’
Finally, the Dark Side of the story. The simple little toothpick has also been used as a murder instrument, if we are to believe the story of Agathocles, King of Sicily. He died in 289 BCE, aged 72 years, some say at the instigation of his ambitious grandson who persuaded a once-faithful servant to give his maser a poisoned toothpick. The gruesome variation of the tale says that the poison made the King’s mouth gangrenous, making him unable to speak - for which reason he was burned alive on a funeral pyre.
Poisoned versions aside, there is something about the idea of individual enduring toothpicks that intrigues. Do we have a last minute gift-idea here for the idle gallant / distinguished traveller / person who has everything in your life? A toothpick case with gold or silver toothpicks? A metallic hatband with toothpick? Shall we see designer toothpicks on the market soon? Toothpicks with corporate logos? Modern folk like us would probably insist on some self-sterilising system incorporated in the design of the case, but this should not be a challenge for engineers of all things tiny, should it?
Today’s recipe will not precipitate toothpick- anxiety. No shreds or seeds to stick between the teeth. A nice variation on egg-nog for you, from the Dictionary of obsolete and provincial English by Thomas Wright (1857)
A drink made with the yolks of twelve eggs, a quart of strong home-brewed beer, a bottle of white wine, half a pint of gin, a grated nutmeg, the juice from the peel of a lemon, a small quantity of cinnamon, and sugar sufficient to sweeten it.
Quotation for the Day …
Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'."
Monday, December 22, 2008
A Cheap Christmas Pudding.
Sir, - There are tens of thousands of respectable families whose life is one continueal struggle with poverty, who at the present season of the year plunge into the most unnecessary expense in order to provide themselves with an orthodox Christmas pudding.
Friday, December 19, 2008
For the dish of the day I have chosen the Galantine of Veal because frankly, the other dishes did not sound birthday-special enough. Also, this seems like an elegant way to use up some of the Christmas ham – maybe for the New Year buffet table?
Galantine of Veal.
[From The Woman’s Book: Contains Everything a Woman Ought to Know (1915)]
Quotation for the Day …
Thursday, December 18, 2008
So, what’s a household cook to do? Return to what household cooks always used to do as a matter of course, that’s what. Back in the days (not so far away) when it was a household sin to waste food, a good cook found a way to re-cycle it. It used to be considered not just a virtue, but a positive act of creativity to use up leftovers in such a way that the family did not recognise their reappearance.
I like this idea from the 1920’s. It uses up stale gingerbread (and could no doubt be adapted to any cake) in a sort of hot trifle. And it makes a nice contribution to the Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive too.
Quotation for the Day …
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
With the help of those invaluable research and translation aids from Google, I find that Wickelkuchen translates as Wrap Cake – which makes sense, when you read the recipe. I would love some feedback on this cake from German readers or those with a German heritage. Is it specifically a Christmas bread?
As for Ilsa Marvenga, the same research tools let me down somewhat, but it appears that she was a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920’s, as well as other shows around the country.
Quotation for the Day …
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
There are many in these antipodean ex-colonies who still insist on the enormous Christmas roasts with all the trimmings and stuffings – even if they cant remember how long it is since they left “Home” – even if they were not actually born at “Home, ” but someone in the family was, way back when.
It is hot and sultry here. We will have the air-con on full blast on Christmas Day, and hope we will be allowed a dispensation for the profligate use of energy on this culinarily challenging occasion. Full-blast air-con is, after all, the only way of conserving the energy of She Who Must Cook A Big Roast Dinner When The Temperature Is In The High Thirty’s (Celsius, that is. It is HOT. ) You have heard of Extreme Sport. Doing the traditional honours, in this part of the world, to the standard that they are done in the colonial Homeland, is, my friends, Extreme Cooking.
I have my own way of dealing with the situation. In addition to the Christmas Pud (a concession I am prepared to accept, and besides, it is made by my MIL, who makes the best Christmas pud in the world), I serve my own Christmas Ice-Creams, two of them. I may even post the recipes for them if you wish.
But I digress. This is supposed to be a food history story. I was delighted – surprised, but delighted – to find this recipe for a frozen Christmas pudding, in the New York Times of December 21, 1879! Was it a warmer winter than usual, I wonder? Was it to be served in the over-heated dining rooms of posh homes and hotels? It is certainly a rare find, and it sounds delicious.
Plum Pudding Glace.
Stem and seed three fourths of a pound of raisins; simmer them, together with a few sticks of cinnamon, in a quart of new milk; beat up the yolks of four or five eggs and half a pound of white sugar; pound in a mortar one-fourth of a pound of sweet almonds; strain the milk, put it on again to boil. And add the yolks of the eggs; remove from the fire, and when cool, add the eggs; remove from the fire, and when cool add the almonds and the raisins which were boiled in the milk, but not the spice; cut some citron very fine or thin; also preserved ginger, if you have it; when well mixed add a quart of cream, and freeze; beat to a stiff froth a quart of cream; flavor with wine, whisky, or rum as preferred; sweeten, and place in spoonfuls round the pudding.
Quotation for the Day …
He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.
Monday, December 15, 2008
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Enough of this struggle with English as she is interpreted through the ex-colonies! On to today’s story, which begins, as all good stories do, with “Once Upon a Time. …”
Once upon a time a certain “Polly Parrot” ran the children’s pages in The Argus (a Melbourne newspaper). The “Fun Children” who sent in good ideas for publication were awarded Parrot Cards – a reward which I am quite sure delighted them to a degree that would be incomprehensible to the modern child. As Christmas approached in 1931, cards were awarded for recipes for “Christmas Lollies.” Here are the parrot-card winning entries for the edition of Saturday 12 December 1931.
It would be very jolly to make some for Christmas. If they are placed in attractive little boxes they make charming Christmas presents. Polly Parrot is sure that you will like the following recipes, which she recommends:-
For this recipe you will need some dates, dried figs,raisins, and Maraschino cherriesand two cups of melted sugar. Chop the dates, figs, raisins, and cherries into smallpieces, and arrange in alternate layers in a shallow buttered pan. Melt two cups ofsugar over a quick fire, watching closely that it does not turn yellow. Pour it overthe fruits evenly and slowly, using only enough to blend. Before the mixture isquite cold, cut it into small bars.
(A Parrot Card for Frances Hope Bertuch, Bonnie View, Harcourt North.
Soak one ounce of powdered gelatine in three-quarters of a cup of cold water for two hours. Put 2 lb. of sugar into a saucepan with three-quarters of a cup of water, bring to the boil, and add the soaked gelatine, a little citric acid, and a few drops of vanilla essence. Simmer for 20 minutes, skim well, and then pour on a damp dish.
Leave for 24 hours, then cut into squares and roll in castor sugar. For colouring use cochineal.
(A Parrot Card for Edna Hoskin, Primrose street. Violet Town)
Here is some cooking which a small child could do. The ingredients needed are:-
Four table-spoonfuls of sugar, 8 tablespoonfuls of desiccated cocoanut, and thewhites of two eggs. Beat the whites of the eggs to a froth, add the sugar, and beatwell again. Then stir in in the cocoanut.
Drop teaspoonfuls of this mixture on to a greased slide, and bake about 10 or 15minutes in a moderate oven.
(A Parrot Card is awarded to Jean Douglas, Coast Road, Mirboo [?] North, Gippsland.)
These recipes have been added to the Vintage Christmas Recipes archive.
Quotation for the Day …
There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
Erma Bombeck (I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression)
Friday, December 12, 2008
2 cups of molasses.
1 cup of equal parts of butter and lard, mixed.
1 level tablespoonful of ginger.
1 teaspoonful of soda.
Flour to mix very stiff.
Melt the butter, add the molasses and ginger, then the soda, dissolved in a teaspoonful of boiling water; stir in flour till the dough is so stiff you cannot stir it with a spoon; take it out on the floured board, and roll a little at a time, and with a knife cut out a man; press currants in for eyes and for buttons on his coat. Bake in a floured pan.
The Fun of Cooking: A Story for Boys and Girls. 1915
The Bride’s Cookbook. Edgar William Briggs,
Food Facts leaflet from the Ministry of Food in December 1944
P.S. The Vintage Christmas Recipes Archive has been updated, and more will be added this weekend.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
1 ¼ lb apples
½ lb currants and raisins
¼ lb moist sugar or corn syrup
¼ lb dates or prunes (stoned)
¼ lb candied peel (optional)
1 oz ground ginger
1 oz mixed spice
1 lemon or orange
½ gill cider (optional)
Peel and chop the apples, chop the dates, figs or prunes and candied peel – clean currants and raisins, mix all together. Sufficient for 36 mince pies.
These recipes are now in the Vintage Christmas Recipes archive.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
New York Times
Monday, December 08, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The tricky issue of what to serve in the way of party drinks during Prohibition in the USA was solved by either breaking the law, getting around a legal loophole, - or by being as imaginative as possible with fruit juice.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I remembered being intrigued by the following recipe, from The Italian Cook Book, compiled By Maria Gentile (
Is this authentic? The OED says that a frittata is “A thick, well-cooked Italian omelette, typically containing a selection of meat, cheese, potatoes, etc., usually mixed in with the eggs during cooking, and served open rather than folded.”
What does Marisa say? Here are her words:
Every national cuisine has certain rules and customs. I always like to respect the original ingredients and methods of a recipe, which originates from another country, before creating my own variations.
One of the many Italian dishes that Australians have adopted is frittata, and because it contains eggs, it usually appears on restaurant menus in the breakfast section or as a light meal. In Italy a frittata is a common way to use up leftovers – usually it is made from the pasta (dressed or undressed) or the vegetable contorno (side dish of vegetables) from the night before, much like the English dish bubble and squeak made with shallow-fried left-over vegetables.
This is where we get to the issue of variations.
How often have you seen recipes for frittata, either baked or browned under a grill?
This is the matter of respect. Frittata is always fried and never baked. It is called a frittata because it is fritta (fried) – derived from the verb friggere, to fry.
I have been researching and writing about Sicilian cuisine for a long time and I was intrigued to read that in her book, The Food of Italy, Claudia Roden states that ‘frittate are common throughout
If I may speak from my experience, Roden is wrong about frittata in
The food of
How could Claudia have missed them? Sadly, some sources do not include them – perhaps because frittata were considered so basic, that they didn’t rate a mention? Or perhaps because in Sicilian, frittata is sometimes called other names – milassata and frocia are the most common.
Given the number of different cultures which have influenced Sicilian cuisine, who was responsible for the frittata? Was it the Arabs who made the eggah, the Spanish with their tortilla or the French with the omelette? Most of my references seem convinced it was the Spaniards.
Having told you most frittate are simple affairs, here is a rich tasting and unusual Sicilian recipe with an interesting combination of ingredients – a milassata that combines pumpkin, artichokes and asparagus and the flavours of cinnamon, mint and parsley.
Heat some olive oil into a large heavy-based fry pan. Pour the mixture into hot oil. Fry the frittata on the one side. Turn the heat down to low and, occasionally, with the spatula press the frittata gently on the top. Lift the edges, tilting the pan. This will allow some of the runny egg to escape to the sides and cook. Repeat this process until there is no more egg escaping.
Invert the frittata onto a plate, carefully slide the frittata into the pan and cook the other side.
Sicilian Children’s song and Italian translation:
a‘rrivatu u’rre di Spagna
a puttatu cosi novi
cosi ca vannu fritti cull’ovi
e’ arrivato il re di Spagna
ha portato cose nuove
cose da friggere con le uova
the king of
he has bought new things
things that are fried with eggs.
The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven, I can scarcely expect bread.