Thursday, April 30, 2009

Uncle’s Pudding.

In the spirit of the theme for the week, I have searched hard for a historic contribution from male family members. In previous posts we have had, from Mother (Eve’s Pudding yesterday, and Mum’s Delight pudding some time ago), then in a single post we had the triple delights of Auntie’s Pudding, The Good Daughter’s Pudding, and Grandma’s Pickle. Aunties win, no doubt of that. Puddings definitely win in the content stakes too. Why is that? There is a dearth of grandmother’s stews, or daughter’s roast chook, or sisters muffins – and the dearth of male contributors is almost absolute. Why is that? With more men in the home kitchen in the last few decades, hopefully future cookbooks will correct the deficit.

I did find one exception to half the rules – from Uncle, for Pudding.

Uncle Tom’s Pudding.
Heat half a pound of treacle in a basin, mix in with it half a pound of flour, six ounces of minced beef suet, two ounces of brown sugar, one tea-spoonful of ground ginger, one of ground cinnamon, one of allspice, and the same of carbonate of soda. Beat up two eggs, mix them with a tea-cupful of butter-milk, and add to the other ingredients ; mix them all together, pour into a buttered mould, and boil for two hours, serve with egg sauce.
Practice of Cookery and Pastry, Williamson, 1862.

P.S - The ONE THOUSANDTH post tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mother Eve’s Pudding.

I don’t want to bore you with my sudden grandmother enthusiasm, but I may as well continue with the short posts on “family” themed recipes for another day or so.

Today, from one of my favourite cookbooks – Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (c1870s), I give you Mother Eve’s Pudding. Naturally it contains apple – the eventual European consensus on the forbidden fruit, even though there are many more likely contenders given the historical era and geographical location of the Biblical stories. We have touched on a few of the possible suspects in previous posts – quince, date, banana, and even the sour/bitter grapefruit – but in popular mythology, the apple wins.

Mother Eve’s Pudding.
Take of sliced apple, well washed currants, grated bread, and finely shred suet, each twelve ounces, mix them in a bowl, with half the rind of a lemon, minced, and moisten with four well-beaten eggs. Boil in a buttered mould, and serve with a sweet sauce, as follows:- Sweeten a quarter of a pint of melted butter, add nutmeg, a large glassful of sherry, and part of the juice of a lemon.
Time: 3 hours to boil. Probable cost, 1s. 8d., exclusive of wine. Sufficient for five or six persons.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grandmother Status.

This week (five weeks ahead of schedule), I became a grandmother! I am sure you will forgive me for short posts for the rest of the week. Today, in honour of myself, I give you a recipe from Slade’s Cooking School Recipes, (Boston, 1920) – a nice example of a product advertising cookbook. The name of the pudding seems a bit confused, which maybe fits with how this grandmother is feeling herself, given the unexpected timing of the grandmotherhood.

Small Plum Brown Bread (Grandmother's Pudding Sauce)
2/3 cup Graham flour
2/3 cup corn meal
2/3 cup rye meal
1 ½ teaspoons Slade’s soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup molasses
1 ¼ cup thick sour milk.
1 cup raisins seeded.
Thoroughly mix and sift the first five ingredients. Mix molasses and sour milk and add to the first mixture. Add raisins and stir well. Butter the inside of ½ lb. baking
powder tins, fill them half full of the mixture, cover tightly, place in a covered kettle of boiling water and steam one hour. Be sure to keep the kettle tightly covered, and the water boiling the entire time. If a crust is desired, put the brown bread in a hot oven after removing from the tins and bake ½ hour or until a firm crust forms.

Grandmother's Pudding Sauce.
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup boiling water.
Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly; add orange juice and cream again, add boiling water gradually, mix well, and serve at once. If butter and sugar are thoroughly
creamed, this sauce is very foamy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Paris, 1904

The English novelist Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) lived in Paris between 1903-1913. He invariably ate out in the first few years, before he married his French wife, Marguerite. Bennett could easily have been a restaurant reviewer, had he not been a novelist – if restaurant reviewing have been a regular profession back then. Many of his comments could apply equally well today, to dining in any big city.

On this day in 1904 he recorded his diary his impressions of the meal he had eaten at Paillard’s – supposedly one of the best restaurants in the city – the previous day.

“Yesterday when I was in Paillard’s it occurred to me that the difference between the most excessively chic restaurant and an ordinary good one is very slight. Paillard’s has the reputation of being the best, or one of the three best in Paris, and therefore in the world. Yet it is small, and not in the least luxurious, and the waiting is no better than it is elsewhere. The monde has no special appearance of smartness. The food was very good, and so was the wine. But scarcely appreciably better than at Sylvains, Maire’s or Noel and Peters. And the prices were about 25 per cent dearer that at those other places – not more. In the evening, at Boulant, I had for 6d. a bifteck and soufflé potatoes beter than which could not be obtained anywhere, at no matter what price. When you have thoroughly good, well-flavoured, tender meat, perfectly cooked – you cannot surpass that.”

Souffle Potatoes
Peel the potatoes to oval shape. Do not wash but wipe with a napkin. Cut lengthwise in strips about an eighth of an inch in thickness. Place in swimming fat or hot lared that is merely warm and put on fire to get hot. When the potatoes are nearly done they will swim on top of the fat and swell up like little cushions. When all are on top take out and throw into very hot fat to color them. Remove, salt, and serve on napkin.
The Hotel St Francis Cook Book. Victor Hirtzler, 1919.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dumb Cake.

The Old Foodie is in a saintly mood again, it seems. Tonight is the eve of the feast of St. Mark - and, if it is relevant to your particular circumstances – a night when some special ritual might help to divine the identity of your future husband. It is, in other words, another opportunity for a little magic and hope, if you missed St.Faith’s Eve last time around.

On certain ‘days’ of the year in the past, the spirit world was considered particularly accessible - which might be a good or a bad thing, depending on the spirit world’s opinion of you at the time. In these times, the new ‘day’ began at sunset – an earthly interpretation of the biblical idea of the Dark preceding the Light. I don’t know who was responsible for taking the arbitrary time of midnight to be the official start of a new day, nor when it happened – it is one of those factoids I have been intending to look up for years. Midnight has no connection with events in the natural world such as sunset or moonrise, and was meaningless in a time when no-one had a clock or any other sort of timepiece in the house. Anyway, I digress.

As on St. Faith’s Eve, young unmarried women could make ‘dumb cakes’ in a divination ritual that would reveal their future husbands to them. The cakes would be made from a simple mix of flour water and salt. One formula was

An egg-shell-full of salt,
An egg-shell-full of wheat meal.
An egg-shell-full of barley-meal.

Not a tasty dish, but the edibility was irrelevant to the magic. An essential part of the ritual was that the entire process be continued in silence (which is why they are called ‘dumb’ cakes – Duh!) There were all sorts of permutations and combinations and variations of aspects of the spell – most required a piece of the cake to be put under the pillow, the future spouse then appearing in a dream (which is why they were also called dreaming cakes.)

A larger interpretation of the same idea was the ‘Dumb Supper’ in which a whole meal was prepared and eaten in silence – either to propitiate the spirits, to allow one to consider ones spiritual fate without the distraction of chatter, or again – in the hope and expectation that the future husband would turn up as surprise guest. Well, it was well before Internet dating, so what was a girl to do? (instructions were quite gender-specific at the time, but I doubt the spirits will mind that we must broaden the idea today.)

It seems that the dumb cake ritual was used quite widely – St Agnes’ Eve, St Anne’s Eve, at Halloween, and even Christmas Eve. I am glad I found this out, for I have been puzzled by a recipe in an American book called Handy Household Hints and Recipes (1916) for some time. The Dumb Cake recipe appears midway between a paragraph on Halloween and one on Thanksgiving, and is also clearly autumnal (or should that be fallumnal, fallmal, fallen?), in its decoration, whereas St Mark’s eve is clearly springnal. It is equally clearly intended to be delicious. A far more likely cake to attract a husband of any gender, methinks.

For those of you who want to try its powers, here it is:

“Dumb cake.”
One and one-half pounds flour, one and one-half pounds sugar, one-half pound butter, two cups milk, four teaspoonfuls baking powder, ten eggs and two gills brandy and a little pulverized mace. Mix as any cake and bake in a flat pan. Now cut off two cornes to make it a triangle; ice top and sides with icing; outline nuts and garnish the lower edge with English walnuts and autumn leaves.

Quotation for the Day.

Hemp-seed I sow;
Hemp-seed I grow;
He that is my true love
Come after me, and mow.

A husband-hunting charm to be used on St. Mark’s Eve. It was believed that if this be done with complete confidence in the efficiency of the charm, the figure of the husband would appear, with scythe, mowing the crop. A husband lured by the prospect of mowing? Try the cake, ladies, try the cake.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St.George's Day.

Today is St.George’s Day, so we must celebrate England. I have been looking for an excuse to give you a wonderful metaphorical recipe for The Celestial and Terrestrial Cream of Great Britain, so today is an excellent excuse. It comes from The Gastronomic Regenerator, by Alexis Soyer – who, even if he was French by birth, became the British Victorian celebrity chef. He has featured many times in stories on this blog (you will just have to do a “Soyer” search via the box in the sidebar, if you are interested). The “recipe” is preceded by a lengthy story, which I will omit, lest you become tired before you get to the good bit, which is:

Procure, if possible, the antique Vase of the Roman Capitol; the Cup of Hebe; the Strength of Hercules; and the Power of Jupiter;

Then proceed as follows :
Have ready the chaste Vase (on the glittering rim of which three doves are resting in peace), and in it deposit a smile from the Duchess of Sutherland, from which Terrestrial Déesse it will be most graceful; then add a Lesson from the Duchess of Northumberland; the Happy Remembrance of Lady Byron ; an Invitation from the Marchioness of Exeter; a Walk in the Fairy Palace of the Duchess of Buckingham; an Honour of the Marchioness of Douro; a Sketch fron Lady Westmorland; Lady Chesterfield's Conversation; the Deportment of the Marchioness of Aylesbury; the Affability of Lady Marcus Hill; some Romances of Mrs. Norton; A Mite of Gold from Miss Coutts; A Royal Dress from the Duchess of Buccleugh; a Reception from the Duchess of Leinster; a Fragment of the Works of Lady Blessington; a Ministerial Secret from Lady Peel; a Gift from the Duchess of Bedford; an Interview with Madame de Bunsen; a Diplomatic Reminiscence from the Marchioness of Clanricarde; an Autocratic Thought from the Baroness Brunow; a Reflection from Lady John Russell; an Amiable Word from Lady Wilton; the Protection of the Countess de St. Aulaire; a Seraphic Strain from Lady Essex; a Poetical Gift of the Baroness de la Calabrala; a Welcome from Lady Alice Peel; the Sylph-like Form of the Marchioness of Abercorn; a Soiree of the Duchess of Beaufort; a Reverence of the Viscountess Jocelyn ; and the Goodwill of Lady Palmerston.
Season with the Piquante Observation of the Marchioness of Londonderry; the Stately Mien of the Countess of Jersey; the Tresor of the Baroness Kothchild; the Noble Devotion of Lady Sale; the Knowledge of the Fine Arts of the Marchioness of Lansdowne; the Charity of the Lady De Grey; a Criticism from the Viscountess of Melville:—with a Musical Accompaniment from the whole; and Portraits of all these Ladies taken from the Book of Celebrated Beauties.
Amalgamate scientifically; and should you find this Appareil, (which is without a parallel,) does not mix well, do not regard the expense for the completion of a dish worthy of the Gods !
Endeavour to procure, no matter at what price, a Virtuous Maxim from the Book of Education of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent; a Kiss from the Infant Princess Alice; an Innocent Trick of the Princess Royal; a Benevolent Visit from the Duchess of Gloucester; a Maternal Sentiment of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge; a Compliment from the Princess Augusta de Mecklenbourg; the future Hopes of the Young Princess Mary;-
And the Munificence of Her Majesty Queen Adelaide.
Cover the Vase with the Reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty, and let it simmer for half a century, or more, if possible, over a Fire of Immortal Roses.
Then uncover, with the greatest care and precision, this Mysterious Vase; garnish the top with the Aurora of a Spring Morning; several Rays of the Sun of France; the Serenity of an Italian Sky; and the Universal Appreciation of the Peace of Europe.
Add a few Beams of the Aurora Borealis; sprinkle over with the Virgin Snow of Mont Blanc; glaze with an Eruption of Mount Vesuvius; cause the Star of the Shepherd to dart over it; and remove, as quickly as possible, this chef-d'oeuvre of the nineteenth century from the Volcanic District.
Then fill Hebe's Enchanted Cup with a religious Balm, and with it surround this mighty Cream of Immortality.
Terminate with the Silvery Light of the Pale Queen of Night, without disturbing a Ray of the Brilliancy of the brightest Queen of the Day.
NOTE. " We are authorised by the Author to inform his readers, that even up to this moment of finishing the printing, no answer has been received from the Gourmet before mentioned, stating his opinions with regard to the Cream of Great Britain, on account, as we have been informed, of his cook not having as yet been able to complete the Dish.—J. E. Adlard."

There is undoubtedly a whole thesis in unravelling the various “ingredients” in this recipe. Wouldn’t you love to know what autocratic thought was in the mind of Baroness Brunow, or what piquante observation would be made by the Marchioness of Londonderry? Wouldn’t you love a welcome from Lady Alice Peel, or a glimpse of the Sylph-like Form of the Marchioness of Abercorn?

I must give a “real” recipe too, I suppose. From the same source, a universally popular treat:

Vanilla Cream Ice.
Put the yolks of twelve eggs in a stewpan, with half a pound of sugar, beat well together with a wooden spoon, in another stewpan have a quart of milk and when boiling throw in two sticks of vanilla, draw it from the fire, place on the lid and let remain until partly cold, pour it over the eggs and sugar in the other stewpan, mix well, and place it over the fire (keeping it stirred) until it thickens and adheres to the back of the spoon, when pass it through a tammie into a basin, let remain until cold, then have ready a pewter freezing-pot in an ice-pail well surrounded with ice and salt; put the above preparation into it, place on the lid, which must fit rather tightly, and commence twisting the pot round sharply, keeping it turned for about ten minutes, when take off the lid and with your spatula clear the sides of the interior of the pot, place the lid on again, turn the pot ten minutes longer, when again clear the sides and beat the whole well together until smooth, it being then about half frozen, then add four glasses of noyeau or maresquino and a pint and a half of cream well whipped, beat the whole well together, place the lid upon the top, keep twisting it round a quarter of an hour, clear well from the sides, beat again well together, proceeding thus until the whole is frozen into a stiff but smooth and mellow substance, should you require to keep it sometime before serving, pour the water which has run from the ice out of the pail and add fresh ice and salt; when ready to serve work it up smoothly with your spatula.

Previous St. George’s Day posts are HERE and HERE.

Quotation for the Day.

England is merely and island of beef swimming in a warm gulf stream of gravy.
Katherine Mansfield, The Modern Soul.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Choosing by Numbers.

This is the 993rd post to The Old Foodie. Hard to believe, isnt it? I am no mathematical genius, but I am pretty sure this means that the 1000th post is less than two weeks away.

For a little pre-millenial fun, I decided to pick today’s topic in a very random way. I decided to go to page 993 of a favourite cookbook, and see what it offered. This of course confined me to Big Cookbooks, and one of my very favourite of these is Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, published in London in the 1870’s. It contains about nine thousand recipes in its 1178 pages. Naturally, it being dictionary-style, we are getting towards the end of the alphabet by page 993.

On page 993 we have to chose from:

Tripe, Roasted
Tripe, Stewed in its own jelly,
Tripe, Stewed with bacon,
Trotters, Sheep’s,
Trotters, Sheep’s (another way)
Trotters, Sheep’s, Fried,
Trotters, Sheeps, Marinaded,
Trout, (à la Genovese).

I am sure most of you would vote for the Trout à la Genovese (lots of butter, lots of sherry or madeira – the Probable Cost listed as “very uncertain"). The recipe however goes over to page 994, so must be excluded on that score - and anyway, in these tough financial times a dish of uncertain, but certainly extravagant, cost cannot be given with a clear conscience.

Now, the sheep’s trotters interest me. I give you the recipe because I have never eaten them, and I suspect you havent either. I give you the recipe because I have never before given you one which contains the instructions “remove the wool”, “cut the hoof from the end of the foot”, and “bind the feet”. I give you the recipe to give you an opportunity to give thanks that you don’t need to do this in your own kitchen anymore.

Trotters, Sheep’s.
Take six or eight sheep’s feet. Remove the wool, and singe them, then throw them into fast-boiling water, let them boil quickly for five minutes, drain them, and let them cool. Take the foot firmly in the left hand, give the bone a jerk with the right hand and draw it out. Cut the hoof from the end of the foot, and put the feet into cold water. Let them boil, then simmer them as gently as possible until they are quite tender. Fill them with good veal forcemeat, and bind the feet with packthread to keep them in shape. Put them in a stewpan with as much of the liquor in which they were boiled as will cover them, an onion, and a bunch of sweet herbs. Boil them gently for half an hour, lift them out, and lay them on a dish. Strain the sauce, boil it down to glaze, and brush this over the feet. The trotters may be accompanied by tomato sauce, Robert sauce, or piquant sauce, and any stewed vegetables, or they may be eaten cold with oil and vinegar.
Time to boil the trotters, three or four hours.
Sufficient, three or four for a small dish.

Quotation for the Day.

My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready.
George Washington.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Balloon Dining.

In the late nineteenth century, the race to the North Pole gripped the imagination of the world. The Swedes and their king, anxious to get into the race, put their faith and money into an astonishing idea – a journey by hydrogen balloon.

Herr S.A. Andrée and his two companions Knut Fraenkel and Herr Nils Strindberg set off full of enthusiasm and nationalistic fervour from an island in the Salbard archipelago in the far north of Norway in July 1897. Andreé estimated that they would travel at 12 miles an hour, which with a fair wind in the right direction would have meant a 6-8 day journey. It was expected however that the journey would take nearer six weeks, the balloon travelling in slow circles, not a straight line.

What actually happened was that they crashed on the pack ice two days into their journey. The balloon was untested, and turned out to be leaky, it had no efficient steering mechanism, and they did not have accurate maps. The men were not equipped for an overland journey, and perished some time in early October . Their final camp was not found for 33 years, and the exact causes of the death remain controversial.

So – what did they eat on this trip? In spite of the inadequacy of many of the aspects of the preparation, a rather ingenious method of cooking had been invented. The New Zealand newspaper the Wanganui Herald reported:

“For cooking, an apparatus will be dropped down 16ft below the basket by means of a rope. It will be lighted by pulling a string, and when the cooking is done the fire will be put out by pulling another string. Then the food will be brought up to the basket and eaten. Those precautions are taken to obviate the danger of having a fire too near the gas of the balloon. This cooking apparatus is the invention of a Swedish engineer, devised purposely to meet M. Andree's requirements.”

The provisions they carried were not suitable for overland travel. They took huge amounts - including crates of champagne and beer, cans of pemmican and various other meats, cheeses and condensed milk – and much of it was dumped (from both the balloon and the sleds) to reduce weight when they started to get into trouble. It is known that they killed and ate seals, walruses, and polar bears during their final land journey.

So, what do you think – was the attempt heroic, or foolhardy?

Recipe for the Day.

I cannot give you a recipe suitable for balloon travel, but here is a nod to Sweden, in honour of these heroic fools.

Swedish Salad.
Wash and trim a pickled herring; cut it in small dice, and put it in a basin:
Take the same quantity of cold roast beef, boiled potatoes and beetroot, russet apples and 4 anchovies, previously steeped in water: cut the whole in small dice, and add it to the cut herring with:
1 tablespoon of well-drained capers,
1 tablespoon of chopped gherkins
1 hard boiled egg, chopped fine,
2 tablespoons of chopped chervil,
1 tablespoonof chopped tarragon,
20 turned olives:
Season with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar,
Mix and put the whole in a salad bowl, and lay 24 fresh oysters on top.
This salad should be highly seasoned.

The Royal Cookery Book, by Jules Gouffe, 1867.

Quotation for the Day.

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
Martin Buber

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Story about Humps.

There is one in every circle, isn’t there? The hostess-with-the-mostess whose mission in life is to out-manoeuvre and over-impress all her wannabe accolytes, and will go to extraordinary lengths to do so. I love the following story - too good to abbreviate, so I give it in its entirety - about about one such a hostess in the first decade of the nineteenth century. I love it because it shows that some things - human nature for one glaring example – never change. I love it also because it reminds us about another “forgotten” dish.

From the Spirit of the Public Journals of 1807, by George and Robert Cruikshank, a story about humps.
The newest and most extraordinary delicacy of the table at present in vogue is the Hump. This article of luxury consists of the tumour that grows on the back; fear not, my Lord K. it is the back of the buffalo that is meant. The consistency of the fibre somewhat resembles that of tongue, but the taste is much more agreeable; and the method and materials of curing are such as to improve, to the highest point, the natural flavour of the meat. Humps have long been a favourite dish at the splendid entertainments of the great Lords at our principal settlements in India; but it is not till within these very last years that persons in more humble situations presumed to give them; at their grandest fêtes, or that the Captains of the Company's ships have been able to bring home one or two at an odd time, as presents to their most particular friends. This year more extensive orders were sent out, and great exertions were to have been made to procure a larger supply. It is said that the turtle-dressers were concerned in sending out these orders; and if that was the case, the steps that have been taken to disappoint them were the more meritorious. The Lady of a legal Baronet, lately arrived from the East, jealous of the high prerogative of tables of the first rank, and indignant at the degradation her sumptuous board would suffer, if any oriental dame less dignified, or any European lady of whatsoever dignity, could set before her guests a treat which she had been the first to introduce, determined to omit no efforts to engross to herself, for some years at least, the sole power of giving humps. With a view to secure to herself this high pre-eminence, this distinguished Lady dispatched a mandate to Calcutta, enjoining the principal hump-curer, who had been long accustomed to consider her Ladyship's words as law, to buy up all the humps that could be had, at whatsoever price, and to ship them for Europe, to her address, and for her sole use.
Figure to yourself, Sir, if you can, the unparalleled consternation that the publication of this order spread over the whole peninsula. It was a double privation to the great Lords and great Ladies of Calcutta, to have lost the female who held the first rank among them, and to be at the same time debarred from enjoying the dish in which the pride of their entertainments consisted. "Was it not enough," exclaimed the most indignant, "for her Ladyship to withdraw from us that presence, which always took care to make itself felt as the most important amongst us? Will not her Ladyship be satisfied, without making us feel that she thinks nobody she has left after her at Calcutta fit to eat a hump? Does she think she cannot exhibit her superiority sufficiently, without showing us, that, if she chooses it, she will eat humps in England; and if she chooses, will not suffer us to eat them here?" Such is the language of the great Ladies still remaining at Calcutta, if great they can be called, when they can no longer eat humps. The poor-buffaloes every day feel their fate harder. It is said, they are now often killed for the humps alone, as the oxen in South America are for their hides and fat; or, according to a more improved practice lately introduced, have the hump frequently cut down to the root, and then suffered to grow up again, somewhat in the manner of Mr. Bruce's Abyssinian rump-steaks.
However this may be, the precaution of the Lady has effectually succeeded in confining the dish to her own circle. It therefore cannot possibly become vulgar; a misfortune which cannot easily be guarded against with respect to other luxuries, in a country where a common tallow-chandler is often rich enough, and, what is more, extravagant enough, to outbid the greatest Lord, and to purchase, at a higher price, the rarest articles that come to market. Horace, surprised at the unrestrained practice of luxurious entertainments in his time, takes occasion to mention, that it was not very long before that the table of some Auctioneer had been the subject of general outcry for having sturgeon. Our Auctioneers enjoy every luxury of the day without comment or observation. When they are employed to sell the mansions, and furniture, and demesnes, of great Lords, neither turtle nor venison, nor any thing that can be had, is considered too good for them. They themselves act on the principle of the savages, who, when they cut down a tree, light a fire on the root, to make.merry at; and those who employ them seem to consider the occasion as a sort of funeral festivity, in which all expense may be disregarded, as it must be the last. The gentlemen of the hammer must, however, content themselves with turtle and venison. It will be some time before the Lord of Fonthill himself will be able to give them a hump at their annual clearing off of the costly collections, which his caprice assembles and dissipates at so vast an expense, merely to sport with his immense fortune. We mention it to the honour of Lady -- and for the satisfaction of the aristocracy of eating, of which this distinguished service ought to render her an honorary member, that she has raised a barrier against the vulgarization of the hump, which cannot be broken down, either by love or money. To be sure, it must have cost her Ladyship a great deal; but that is nothing in comparison with the accomplishment of so great an object. New fortunes, like young young trees, may grow better for having their exuberances lopped off. When the epicure, who had dissipated his estate in drinking Tokay, was asked, what his children should do? he answered, "Let them smell to the corks." The case is not so bad in the present instance. The children may go and eat humps in the country of the humps; and when they get there the market will probably be open, by the removal of the monopoly that now exists.
The subject of the humps includes a multitude of very important moral and political considerations.— When Lord Lauderdale gave a turtle at Paris, every one recollects the variety of important conclusions that were drawn from so extraordinary an event. When Lord Wellesley shall be found to give a hump, deductions equally grave and momentous will, no doubt, be derived from the fact and the circumstances. Many persons, no doubt, expected that there would have been given, in this article, the mode of cutting oft, of curing, of dressing, serving up, carving, eating, the sauce, &c. of the hump, the more particularly as that grand history of a year's eating at the Marquis of Buckingham's, lately published by his Lordship's cook, contains nothing of the matter; but it was the moral, not the sensual effects of the thing that appeared to call particularly for public notice. And here again there is occasion to applaud and to congratulate Lady on the effect of her aristocratic engrossing. It will be some years at least before the grand and select circle of her Ladyship's friends will be annoyed by seeing placarded on the coffeehouses, or pastry-shops, "A hump dressed here to-day," or before they will have their dignity hurt by seeing advertisements of a similar nature in every newspaper they can take up. Turtle and venison have been sufficiently in this way to warn those who wish to eat genteelly, to keep every new good thing to themselves.
Such has been the effect of the precaution taken to confine the consumption of the humps to Lady 's circle, that a celebrated Baronet and Alderman, who has been some time at Margate qualifying himself by repeated voyages in his fine sailing-boat, to command the gilded flotilla of the city-barges in their grand expedition from Blackfriars to Westminster, on the 9th of November [Lord Mayor’s Day], and who has been also exercising himself in the preparatory practice necessary to enable him to participate largely in the other glories of that great day; even he, it is said, though he took care to meet the last fleet from the East Indies out at sea, and did not hesitate to declare, that no money should prevent him from tasting a delicacy which he wished for beyond all the turtles ever found in the Old South Sea—even he had the mortification to find all his solicitations and all his offers unavailing.
After the failure of so great a personage, I can, with less shame, though not with less vexation, avow myself, as I must,

So, dear readers, what, actually, is “Spiced Hump”? We find that it is no more and no less than hump prepared in the same manner as corned beef. ‘Corning” is simply salting – the word coming from the fact that in Olde England anything in the form of grains was called ‘corn’ – including grains of salt and wheat (the latter was always ‘corn’, until maize came on the scene and confused the issue.)

Now for the daily recipe fix: first, the basic, un-spicy preparation from The American frugal housewife by Lydia Maria Child (1838)

To Corn Meat.
When you merely want to corn meat, you have nothing to do but to rub in salt plentifully, and let it set in the cellar a day or two. If you have provided more meat than you can use while it is good, it is well to corn it in season to save it. In summer, it will not keep well more than a day and a half; if you are compelled to keep it longer, be sure and rub in more salt, and keep it carefully covered from cellar-flies. In winter, there is no difficulty in keeping a piece of corned beef a fortnight or more. Seme people corn meat by throwing it into their beef barrel for a few days; but this method does not make it so sweet. A little salt-petre rubbed in before you apply the common salt, makes the meat tender; but in summer it is not well to use it, because it prevents the other salt from impregnating ; and the meat does not keep as well.

Secondly, how to cook a sweet spicy version: from The Practice of Cookery, by Mrs. Dalgairns, (1830). No doubt the principal hump-curer from East India had his own special selection of spices in his initial cure too.

Short, or Spiced Beef.
To be eaten cold.
Hang up ten or twelve pounds of the middle part of a brisket of beef for three or four days, then rub well into it three ounces of finely-powdered saltpetre, and if spice is approved of, one ounce of allspice, and half an ounce of black pepper; let it stand all night, then salt it with three pounds of well-pounded bay salt, and half a pound of treacle, in which let it remain ten days, rubbing it daily. When it is to be boiled, sew it closely in a cloth, let the water only simmer, upon no account allowing it to boil, for nine hours over a slow fire, or upon a stove. When taken out of the water, place two sticks across the pot, and let the beef stand over the steam for half an hour, turning it from side to side, then press it with a heavy weight. It must not be taken out of the cloth till perfectly cold.

Quotation for the Day.

I believe that if you don't want to do anything, then sit there and don't do it, but don't expect people to hand you a corn beef sandwich and wash your socks for you and unzip your fly for you.
Shel Silverstein.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More on Ladies Who Dine in Public.

I just cannot resist picking up the story from yesterday. The good Lieut-Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis provided a fine service for travellers as he manfully traipsed around Europe in the early twentieth century seeking out fine food, and noting those venues where it was suitable (or not) to take a lady.
From his book, The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe (1911) here are a couple of snippets of advice.

It is not wise to take ladies to the Cafes Cantantes, and certainly not wise for ladies to go there by themselves. I once saw a party of American lady tourists, who had walked into a cafe where some Flamenca girls were dancing, and had not orderedany refreshment, extricated at some risk from a threatening crowd by a Spanish-speaking Englishman.
The Bonvalet, which is painted brown du Temple outside up to the third story, and which has some big saloons for marriage feasts and banquets, is a house with some history attached to it. Under the name of the Cafe Turc, it was a fashionable gathering-place in the days of the First Empire. Ladies used to go there to sup, and as a concession to these fair visitors no smoking was allowed in the cafe.
Worthy of special mention … Bœuf a la Mode, of the Palais Royal. … The dish from which the restaurant takes its name is always on the bill of fare, and is served with due dignity on silver plates. I always find the cuisine at this restaurant excellent, and the prices moderate. It is an establishment at which I often see English ladies lunching without escort, and the proprietor, who is immensely proud of being allowed to supply our Queen Mother with woodcock pâtés, Champeaux, speaks English fluently.
All the world knows Maxim's as a rather noisy supping place, where the ladies are not all of the "upper ten" ; but comparatively few people know that it is a quiet but not unamusing restaurant at lunch and dinner time, and that its cookery is noticeably good.
The Hague, Holland:
Hock's fish shop in the market has a room where excellent oyster suppers are served ; but this is not a Hock's, Market place to which ladies should be taken Place at night, for it is then patronised by damsels who take the courtesy title of actresses, andthe students from Leiden.

Recipe for the Day:

There are an almost infinite number of variations of Bœuf a la Mode; here is just one of them, from The Art of Cookery, by John Mollard, published in

Rump Of Beef (à la Mode).
Bone the rump, lard it with slips of fat bacon seasoned with sweet herbs, beaten spices, pepper and salt. Bind it with packthread, put it into a braising pan, cover it with some veal broth, make it boil, skim it, and add a pint of Port wine, half a gill of brandy, some onions, turnips, celery, a few bay leaves, garlic, champignons, a little whole allspice, and a little mace. Stew till nearly done; take the meat out of the liquor, cut off the strings, wipe it dry, and put it into a clean stewpan; then strain the liquor, skim the fat off clean, season with Cayenne pepper, salt, a gill of vinegar, lemon pickle, and a small quantity of lemon juice; add a little colour, clear it with whites of eggs, and strain it through a tamis cloth to the beef. Stew gently till done, and serve in a deep dish.
To the liquor, when cleared with eggs and strained, may be added a passing of flour and butter, by way of thickening, if approved. The reason for clearing the liquor is, that it will then appear bright, either thickened or plain.

Quotation for the Day.

On Corn: It is not elegant to gnaw Indian corn. The kernels should be scored with a knife, scraped off into the plate, and then eaten with a fork. Ladies should be particularly careful how they manage so ticklish a dainty, lest the exhibition rub off a little desirable romance.
Charles Day, 1844

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ladies Who Dine in Public.

Restaurant reviewing is a relatively new profession. The first to make his name in this way in London was Lieut-Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis. He ate his way round the restaurants of the city during the last few years of the nineteenth century, and gave his opinions in articles written for a London newspaper. We we met him at a Jewish restaurant in a previous story, and today we meet him again, this time on the Continent, thanks to his book The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe (3rd edition 1911).

Very little is known about the life of the Lieut-Colonel, but it appears from his writings that he enjoyed the company of ladies at his dinners. There was a problem however, as it was uncommon if not improper for ladies to dine in public. It appears that this held true at times even if the gentleman was one’s husband, as the following story about a restaurant in The Hague, in Holland shows:

“In former years the proprietor of Van der Pijl's was possessed of a puritanical conscience, and would not allow any two people to dine alone in his private salons. 
So strictly did he adhere to his rule on this subject, that when a well-known man about town insisted on his right to dine in the petit salon alone with his wife, the inexorable proprietor turned him out of the restaurant. There was, however, another well-known member of Hague society who succeeded where the gentleman who thought that matrimony overrode all rules had failed. The hero of the little story had made a bet that, in spite of the puritanical proprietor, he would dine a deux with a lady in the petit salon. He won his bet by subtlety. He ordered a dinner for three, and when he and the lady arrived they waited a quarter of an hour for the other imaginary guest. Then, remarking that he was sure Mr. X. would not mind the dinner being begun without him, the host ordered the soup to be brought up; and so, with constant allusions to the man that never came, the dinner was served, course by course, and the bet won before the proprietor had the least idea that a trick had been played upon him.
The following are some of the dishes of which Van der Pijl’s makes a specialty - Poule au pot Henri IV, Sole Normande, Côte de Bœuf a la Russe, Homards a l‘Américaine, Poularde a la Parisienne, Perdreaux au choux, Omelette Sibérienne, Soufflé Palmyre, Poires Alaska, most of them standard dishes of the usual cuisine Française, although the Omelette Sibérienne was invented to please a British diplomat who preferred a soupçon of absinthe to either rum or Kümmel with his omelette.”

It is difficult to argue with the fine choice of classical dishes at this famous Dutch restaurant, although we could argue with the Lieut-Colonel’s theory of the invention of the Omelette Sibérienne. Essentially it is a Baked Alaska, and we have touched upon it in previous posts (HERE, HERE, and, with a recipe for Charles Ranhofer’s Alaska, Florida, HERE), so instead – ladies liking desserts as they do – today I give you another sweet thing from the list. It is from Dainty sweets; ices, creams, jellies, preserves, by the world famous chefs, United States, Canada, Europe (1913)

Soufflé Palmyre.
Make a vanilla souffle with lady fingers dipped in Curacao and bake in oven for ten minutes. Souffle is made of a half pint of milk, a quarter pound of sugar, two ounces fresh butter, three yolks and four whites of eggs, one ounce farina: Cook milk and sugar, add the farina mixed with a spoonful of cold milk for two minutes and complete mixture off the stove with butter and eggs very firmly beaten.

Quotation for the Day.

A golden rule, which may be held to apply all over Germany, is that it is safe to take ladies wherever officers go in uniform.
The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe, 1911.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Clean Feet and Full Bellies.

This date in 1731 was a Thursday – “Maundy Thursday”, to be exact, and good King George II was 48 years old. According to the tradition of the day this meant that he was obliged to wash the feet of 48 poor women at a special ceremony before the distribution of the royal gifts or doles known as “maunds”. “Maundy Thursday” is also called Holy Thursday in the Christian calendar. It commemorates the Last Supper - the day that Christ washed the feet of his disciples in a demonstration of his humility, thereby obliging many centuries worth of clerics and royals to imitate the act with varying degrees of attention to the true meaning.

As with most such acts on the part of elevated individuals, the royal foot-washing practice was purely symbolic on this occasion in 1731. The actual washing was done by the King’s Almoner (and I suspect a quick pre-wash was done already by office bearers further down the chain), so it is to be hoped that the old ladies were not too disappointed with the service.

The origin of the word “maunds” is obscure. It may be from the ancient Latin mandatum, meaning ‘command’ (refering to Christ’s command to the disciples to love one another), or from an ancient Saxon word maund for basket (and hence refers to anything offered in a basket), or from an ancient French word mendier meaning ‘to beg.’ It is unlikely that the token cohort of poor women of 1731 were disappointed with the maunds (including "maundy money") dispensed that year, even if the foot-washer was not whom they expected. They received:

“… boiled beef and shoulders of mutton, and small bowls of ale, which is called dinner; after that large wooden platters of fish and loaves, viz. undressed, one large old ling, and one large dried cod; twelve red herrings and twelve white herrings, and four half quarter loaves. Each person had one platter of this provision; after which were distributed to them shoes, stockings, linen and woolen cloth, and leather bags, with one penny, twopenny, threepenny and fourpenny pieces of silver and shilings; to each about four pounds in value”

Ling is an elongated fish from the cod family, and can be cooked in a huge variety of ways. Here are some early eighteenth century ideas.

For Ling
As for Ling you may send it up dry, garnish with raw Parsly; another way is boil'd with poach'd Eggs on it; another way is fry'd after it is boil'd, warning it over with the Yolk of an Egg, or with Eggs; or you may make a Ling Pafty, putting Cream, Eggs, and melted Butter over it.
The Compleat City and Country Cook, Charles Carter, 1732.

Quotation for the Day.

A converted cannibal is one who, on Friday, eats only fishermen.
Emily Lotney

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Pic-Nic Supper.

A picnic is an outdoor, sit-on-the-ground and ignore-the-ants-and-snakes kind of meal, isnt it? Well, it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time (surely one of the happiest phrases of all time), it was a social entertainment of the theatrical kind. A group called the Pic-Nic Society was formed in London in 1801 whose raison d’être was to provide and enjoy private theatricals and other social entertainments. I must find out more about this society – its aim was laudable, and we should perhaps revive it in our modern society which often seems deficient in the laudable aims department.

At some time or other it also came to mean a social event arranged around eating. I am not myself familiar with any other sort of social event, but perhaps there may have been some in the history of the world. Anyway, originally, the main feature of a pic-nic was that ‘each person present contributed a share of the provisions.’ An article in The Times of 1802 explained it.

As the expression of a Pic-Nic Supper is become so fashionable, though much oftener used than understood, it may be necessary to explain it for the information of many of our Readers:-
A Pic-Nic Supper consist of a variety of dishes. The Subscribers to the entertainment have a bill of fare presented to them, with a number against each dish. The lot which he draws obliges him to furnish the dish marked against it, which he either takes with him in his carriage, or sends by a servant. The proper variety is preserved by the talents of the Maitre d’Hotel, who forms the bill of fare. As the cookery is furnished by so many people of fashion, each strives to excel: and thus a Pic-Nic supper not only gives rise to much pleasant mirth, but generally can boast of the refinement of the art.

We have considered picnics before in this blog. We have had a story with a cast that starred Mole and Rat (from Wind in the Willows) and Mrs. Beeton, a story about an Australian picnic in 1867 for the Duke of Edinburgh that went dreadfully awry, and we have considered the sort of picnic one has on a motoring excursion. We are yet to seriously ponder the serious nationalistic-linguistic issues around the word picnic, but I am sure we will get around to it one day - a day when I am at home and not struggling with erratic internet access.

In the meanwhile, I think we should participate in a virtual picnic, but with more of the pot-luck variety of catering. Here is my virtual contribution – Is it a curry? Is it a savoury jelly? Is it a jellied meat salad? It is all of the above, it is Tipperary Curry from Modern domestic cookery, by a lady (1851)

Tipperary Curry.
Boil 4 chickens, and stuff 2 of them when cold with a forcemeat made of crumbs of bread, a few slices of ham or tongue, sweet herbs, and a shalot well pounded and mixed with the yolk of an egg. Stuff the other 2 with boiled rice, lay them in a mould or dish, with 8 hard-boiled eggs cut in half, a few mushrooms, a little pickled lemon cut in thick rings. Pour over the chickens a gravy made as follows:- Fry an onion in a little butter, add a tablespoonful of curry-powder, 1 of vinegar, 1 of mushroom-ketchup, a little salt, and little more than a pint of good veal broth; if the broth does not jelly, isinglass must be put into it to make it do so. When cold turn it out on a dish. it is a great improvement to bone the chickens, the bones helping to make the gravy.

Quotation for the Day.

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it.
Alfred Jarry.

Monday, April 13, 2009

White Easter Cake.

There is time for one more Easter recipe before we get back into the work routine. You will forgive a short post, I am sure, as I am at the beach for a few days and it is too lovely (and I am too lazy) to spend too much time at the computer.

I give you an Easter cake from an Australian WW II book that was the source of a blog recipe a few weeks ago. It is The Truth and Daily Mirror Cookery Book (1943) edited by medical doctor, Phyllis Cilento. The Cilentos were a well-known medical family in Brisbane, and Dr (Lady) Phyllis Cilento was the mother of screen actor Diane Cilento. You can see an old photo of the house that the family lived in, at Your Brisbane: Past and Present, the blog of my friend the foto fanatic.

White Easter Cake
Two cups sugar, 1 cup dessicated coconut, 2 tablespoons arrowroot (blended with just enough milk to form a paste), whites 2 eggs, 5 drops essence (ratafia or almond), and 5 drops lemon essence.
Beat whites until light and frothy; add sugar (castor sugar is best, but plain sugar will do); then smoothed arrowroot, coconut, essence, and a pinch of salt. Beat well; pour into a well-greased shallow tin, and bake 25 minutes. (N.B no baking powder is required if it is well beaten)
FROSTING: Boil 1 small cup sugar with one tablespoon water, juice ½ orange, and pinch citric acid. When clear beat up white of 1 egg and essence desired, and add to sugar syrup. Whip again until frothy. Pour over cake when cold, and adorn top with a circle of coarse shredded coconut, and in centre Easter chicken, etc.

Quotation for the Day.

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
Dave Barry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Splendid Table.

I am honoured and delighted that this blog was mentioned by Lynne Rosesetto Kaspar on The Splendid Table today, April 11.

One blog story contributed the trivial question of the day - "What is an ananaetta?"

The answer is HERE.

You could even download the podcast:  - the Big Moment comes somewhere near the middle.

Here, in honour of the anaetta that I dont have, is a nice recipe:

Scrap Pudding.
Weigh three-quarters of a pound of any odd scraps of bread, crust, or crumb; cut them small and pour on them a pint of boiling water. Let it stand till the water is cool ; then press it out and mash the bread smooth with a spoon; add a teaspoonful of powdered ginger, half a tea-cupful of moist sugar, a quarter of a pound of currants, and a
tea-cupful of milk. Mix well and put into a pie-dish well buttered ; flatten it down with the back of a spoon ; lay some very small bits of butter on the top and bake a nice brown in a moderate oven.

[Puddings and Sweets, 365 receipts, by Lucy Jones, 1877]

Friday, April 10, 2009

Luncheon at Sea.

We are another day closer to New York, this Sunday April 10, 1927, aboard SS ‘Arabic’ of the Red Star Line. We had such a fine breakfast yesterday, didn’t we? Another day of difficult decisions is upon us. What to have for lunch?

S.S.Arabic Sunday, April 10th, 1927
Luncheon Menu
Canapés Niçoise Norwegian Brisling Croutes Ivanhoe
Rollmops Cod’s Roe
Consommé Floriale Potage Paysanne
Fried Whiting, Remoulade
Spaghetti à la Crème
Sauté of Beef Bourgignon
Roast Leg of Mutton, Onion Sauce
Mashed Turnips Dressed Cabbage
Braised Jacket, Boiled, & Saratoga Potatoes
GRILL TO ORDER: (10 to 20 minutes)
Grilled Lamb Kidneys on Toast
Codfish Mayonnaise
Ribs of Beef Braised Chicken Wiltshire Ham
Ox Tongue Roast Lamb & Pork
Windsor Lettuce
Rusk Pudding Eccles Cakes
Ice Cream & Wafers
Canadian Gruyère Camembert Edam Cheshire Gorgonzola
Biscuits          Coffee

What did you choose?

I was disappointed with the singularly uninspiring selection of ‘sweets’, although the Eccles Cakes took me back to my childhood in the north of England. Eccles Cakes are sort of currant pasties/biscuits – the local variation from the town in Lancashire of the common theme of pastry wrapped around dried fruit (as in Chorley Cakes and Banbury Cakes)

From Miss Tuxford’s Cookery for the Middle Classes (9th ed. C1920’s), I give you this recipe for these lovely pastry treats.

Eccles Cakes.
½ lb Rough Puff or Puff Pastry; 2 oz candide peel, 2 oz. raw sugar, ¼ lb currants, 1 oz butter, 1 whole egg, little nutmeg or mixed spice, if liked.
Roll out the pastry to a quarter of an inch in thickness, and cut into rounds with a plain cutter. Put the cleaned currants, chopped candied peel, sugar, and butter into a pan, and stir over the fire or stove until the butter melts. Allow the mixture to cool, and put a little upon each round of pastry. Fold over and roll into a flat cake. Brush with egg and bake quickly for 20 minutes.

Quotation for the Day.

Pastry satisfies where art is unavailable.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Breakfast at Sea.

Today, let us imagine we are back in those glorious (if you were rich) between-war years. It is the morning of April 9, 1927, and we are returning from our European holiday aboard the Red Star Line’s passenger steamship SS ‘Arabic’. We left Antwerp on April 1, are scheduled to arrive in New York on April 11 (but will not get in into the following day.)

It was a lovely evening, last evening, was it not? A fine dinner and some dancing with some fine fellow-guests. It is cool, this early morning somewhere in the Atlantic. We have had our early morning stroll around the deck. Now, the first big decision for the day. What to have for breakfast?

S.S Arabic          Saturday, April 9th 1927
Breakfast Menu.
Grape Fruit Compote of Figs Apples
Scotch Oatmeal Triscuits Grape-Nuts Shredded Wheat
Puffed Rice Force Corn Flakes
Fried River Sole Codfish Cakes
Minced Chicken Lamb Kidneys Maitre d’Hotel
Broiled Wiltshire Bacon Grilled Cumberland Ham
Fried. Boiled. Turned and Poached
Omelettes: Plain & Crevettes.
Potatoes Lord Byron
Roast Beef Ox tongue Bologna Sausage
Cheese: Gorgonzola, Edam & Canadian
White & Graham Rolls Toast Cottage Loaves
Sally Lunns Soda Scones
Buckwheat Griddle Cakes, Maple Syrup
Preserves      Marmalade
Coffee     Tea         Cocoa      Chocolate.

That meal was so good that I think we will lunch aboard SS ‘Arabic’ tomorrow.

What did you choose?

Two things intrigue me on this menu. A breakfast cereal called Force? As in ‘May the Force be with you’? A great name for a breakfast cereal. Anyone know what happened to it?

The second thing is the Potatoes Lord Byron. I think potatoes are an under-rated and under-used breakfast opportunity, and I am particularly intrigued by the name of this dish. Byron on one occasion (during one of his eating disorder episodes) disgusted his host by eschewing all the fine dishes put in front of him in favour of mashed up potatoes doused in vinegar.

There are several variations of the dish called Pommes Byron. Most start with a baked potato, and include butter, cream, and cheese – a far cry from the abomination created by Byron himself, and no doubt invented by a disgusted chef who felt that potatoes were destined for higher things.

Here is Escoffier’s recipe. It is a variation of Pommes Macaire, so I give this first.

Pommes Macaire
Bakes some Dutch potatoes in the oven. As soon as they are done, empty them and collect their pulp on a dish; season it with salt and pepper, and work it with a fork; adding to it, the while, 1 ½ oz butter per lb.
Spread this preparation in the form of a galette on the bottom of an omelette pan containing some very hot clarified butter, and brown it well on both sides.

Pommes de Terre Byron.
Prepare the amount of Pommes Macaire, and cook in butter in a small frying pan. Dish; sprinkle copiously with cream and grated cheese, and set to glaze quickly.

Quotation for the Day.

What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Breakfast at the top.

On this day in 1750, the very wealthy French writer Mme. Anne-Marie Fiquet du Bocage breakfasted with the very wealthy English socialite and writer Mrs. Elizabeth Montague (whom she incorrectly refers to as ‘Lady Montagu.’) Mme. de Bocage kept up a regular correspondence with her sister while she travelled in England and Europe, and her report of the visit gives a fascinating insight into life at the top of the social pyramid at the time.

"In the morning, breakfasts, which enchant as much by the exquisite viands as by the richness of the plate on which they are served up, agreeably bring together the people of the country and strangers. We breakfasted in this manner to-day, April 8, 1750, at Lady Montagu's in a closet lined with painted paper of Pekin, and furnished with the choicest movables of China. A long table, covered with the finest linen, presented to the view a thousand glittering cups, which contained coffee, chocolate, biscuits, cream, butter, toasts, and exquisite tea. You must understand that there is no good tea to be had anywhere but in London. The mistress of the house, who deserves to be served at the table of the gods, poured it out herself. This is the custom, and, in order to conform to it, the dress of the English ladies, which suits exactly to their stature, the white apron and the pretty straw-hat become them with the greatest propriety, not only in their own apartments, but at noon, in St. James's Park, where they walk with the stately and majestic gait of nymphs."

Here is a nice eighteenth century recipe, perfectly do-able today, for a fine biscuit suitable for breakfast or after-dinner coffee, or any occasion really. It is from Bradshaw’s valuable family jewel. ... Containing all that relates to cookery, pastry, ... bread making, oat cakes, &c. With a great number of other necessary articles, ... By Mrs. Penelope Bradshaw, and the late ingenious Mr. Lambart (1748)

To make Bisket Drops.
Beat six eggs in a Pan with a Whisk, very well, put in a Pound of sifted Sugar, by Degrees, beat it a little longer, then drain your Whisk, and sift in something more than a Pound of Flour, and put in Carraway-Seeds as you like it; then with a Spoon and Knife lay them round (what Size you please) on Wafer-paper, laid on a Wire, and dust them very well with sifted Sugar, and bake them in a moderate Oven; when they are cool, chip off the Wafer around the Edges, and put them in a Box for Use.

Quotation for the Day.

Powdermilk biscuits: Heavens, they're tasty and expeditious! They're made from whole wheat, to give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. … Powder Milk biscuits: Buy them ready-made in the big blue box with the picture of the biscuit on the front, or in the brown bag with the dark stains that indicate freshness.
Garrison Keillor.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Rare Fricasse.

Samuel Pepys has not graced us with his presence for some time, but today he is back with inspiration for dinner. On this day in 1664 he wrote:

“Thence to dinner where my wife got me a pleasant French Fricasse of veale for dinner.”

A fricasse, according to the OED is ‘meat sliced and fried or stewed and served with sauce. Now usually a ragout of small animals or birds cut in pieces.’ In other words, it is a posh name for stew. The first supporting quotation is from 1568, so fricasses were not a new dish when Pepys sat down to dinner on this night. It was already a “French” dish (or the name was), as it comes from the French verb fricasser, meaning to mince and cook in sauce – which is another example of the circular definitions that occur in dictionaries. The dictionary admits that this verb is ‘of unknown origin.’ How can that be, that dictionary does not even make a guess as to the origin of the word? What do linguists do all day, for heaven’s sake?

French food became fashionable in England after the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660. The King had spent his exile in the courts of Europe, and inevitably brought back a taste for European dishes – and what the King liked naturally soon became all the rage (some things don’t change). Pepys was always keen to be up-to-date and in the fashion, so he would have been inclined to like a “French” dish for dinner, even if it was only veal stew.

Here is a ‘rare fricasse’ from the popular seventeenth century cookbook The Accomplish’t Cook, by Robert May (1660)

A rare Fricase.
Take six pigeon and six chicken-peepers, scald and truss them being drawn clean, head and all on, then set them, and have some lamb-stones and sweet-breads blanch'd, parboild and slic't, fry most of the sweet-breads flowred; have also some asparagus ready, cut off the tops an inch long, the yolk of two hard eggs, pistaches, the marrow of six marrow-bones, half the marrow fried green, & white butter, let it be kept warm till it be almost dinner time; then have a clean frying-pan, and fry the fowl with good sweet butter, being finely fryed put out the butter, & put to them some roast mutton gravy, some large fried oysters and some salt; then put in the hard yolks of eggs, and the rest of the sweet-breads that are not fried, the pistaches, asparagus, and half the marrow: then stew them well in the frying-pan with some grated nutmeg, pepper, a clove or two of garlick if you please, a little white-wine, and let them be well stew'd. Then have ten yolks of eggs dissolved in a dish with grape-verjuice or wine-vinegar, and a little beaten mace, and put it to the frycase, then have a French six penny loaf slic't into a fair larg dish set on coals, with some good mutton gravy, then give the frycase two or three warms on the fire, and pour it on the sops in the dish; garnish it with fried sweet-breads, fried oysters, fried marrow, pistaches, slic't almonds and the juyce of two or three oranges.

Quotation for the Day.
Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat.
Fran Lebowitz

Monday, April 06, 2009

Preserving eggs, otherwayes.

There are numerous ways of preserving eggs, each with its own limitations. Last week we looked at pickled eggs - popular since the sixteenth century, but only useful to be eaten out of the jar as a snack, and also dried egg powder - a twentieth century WW II star which proved useful in baking and barely acceptable if you were desperate for an omelette or scrambled eggs. Nowadays we have cold storage which enables us to have “fresh” eggs until the use-by date on the carton. If we are so inclined we can even freeze surplus egg ‘pulp’ (what is the word for egg innards?) for use in cooking - yolks and whites separately, if we wish, in case of urgent custard or meringue situations.

Our ancestors didn’t waste anything. So, how did the careful farmers’s wife or housewife cope with an egg glut before technological advances enabled spray-drying and refrigeration? There were a number of methods, now thoroughly outdated but interesting because they were used on whole, unshelled eggs, enabling them to be kept 6-9 months. The methods were all based on the simple principles of keeping bacteria and air out of the egg.

The commonest methods were by immersion in lime water – a more popular method for large scale preserving but having the disadvantage of giving a ‘limey’ flavour, or alternatively by immersion in ‘water glass’ (sodium silicate) – a common household method that kept the yolk ‘central’ in the egg. Other methods were burying them in salt, dipping them in sulphuric acid (which converted the lime in the shell to lime sulphate), boiling them briefy in boric acid, ‘putting them up’ in oil, or coating the shell with glycerine, petroleum jelly (Vaseline), wax, varnish, or one of a number of proprietary products.

An article in The Times of June 8, 1914 discussed the various methods of egg preservation, noted that preserved eggs should never be passed off as fresh, and advised its readers how to pick the subterfuge. Preserved eggs could be known by the ‘roughness of the shell, if limed, by the yolk losing its firm roundness, by the thin and watery albumen, or white, and by the odour, which is unmistakeable.’

Here’s how to apply the two most common methods, from Henley’s Twentieth Century Book of Recipes, Formulas, and Processes (1916)

Preserving with Lime.
Dissolve in each gallon of water 12 ounces of quicklime, 6 ounces of common salt, 1 drachm of soda, 0.5 drachm saltpeter, 0.5 drachm tartar, and 1.5 drachms of borax. The fluid is brought into a barrel and sufficient quicklime to cover the bottom is then poured in. Upon this is placed a layer of eggs, quicklime is again thrown in and so on until the barrel is filled so that the liquor stands about 10 inches deep over the last layer of eggs. The barrel is then covered with a cloth, upon which is scattered some lime.

Preserving in Sodium Silicate.
Dissolve sodium silicate in boiling water, to about the consistency of a syrup (or about 1 part of the silicate to 3 parts water). The eggs should be as fresh as possible, and must be thoroughly clean. They should be immersed in the solution in such manner that every part of each egg is covered with the liquid, then removed and let dry. If the solution is kept at or near the boiling temperature, the preservative effect is said to be much more certain and to last longer.

Quotation for the Day.

By the immediate preservation of eggs for home consumption through the use of water glass or lime water, larger supplies of fresh eggs may be made available for marketing later in the season, when production is less and prices higher.
David F. Houston

Friday, April 03, 2009

Delicious, with Dried Eggs.

With fresh eggs in short supply for much of the war, the Ministry of Food in Britain in WW II worked hard to “sell” the idea and the reality of dried eggs to the general public. The Ministry’s weekly Food Facts and Dried Egg leaflets assured housewives that the product was ‘made from top- quality new laid eggs, with only the shell and water taken away’, was ‘easy to get, easy to cook, and easy on the purse’, and that ‘the main secret in using dried eggs is to be very careful about the reconstituting …’

The Ministry was still telling the dried egg tale for years after the war ended. Rationing of many goods remained in force in Britain until July 1954, and food shortages were at times worse afterwards than they had been during the war itself. In 1948, as Easter approached, the Ministry’s regular Food Facts leaflet contained a recipe for “An Easter Treat for the Family” - a chocolate cake made with dried egg (no need to reconstitute when used in baking).

Delicious, Easy to Make Chocolate Cake.

If you are planning to use some of your sugar and fats for Easter Baking, whey not a chocolate cake? This one is delicious. You’ll find the recipe, which is kitchen-tested, is not too hard on the rations. The cake is excellent even withoug the icing.

Chocolate Cake.
2 oz. margarine; 3 oz. sugar; 2 level dessersps. Syrup, 3 level tablesps. dried egg, dry; 6 tablesps. water; vanilla essence; 6 oz. plain flour; 1 level teasp baking powder; 2 level tablesps. cocoa; ¼ level teasp. salt; 1 level teasp. bicarbonate of soda; about ¼ pint milk and water.
Cream margarine, sugar, and syrup. Beat in egg, then water and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients (except soda), add to mixture alternately with milk in which soda is dissolved, to make a soft consistency. Spread evenly in well-greased 8 inch sandwich tin, and bake in a moderate oven for 25-30 minutes.

Chocolate Cream Icing.
1 ½ oz. sugar, 1 ½ oz. margarine, 1 teasp vanilla essence; 2 level tablesp soya flour; 1 level tablesp cocoa; 1 tablesp hot water.
Cream sugar and margarine well, add essence, and cream again. Add soya four, cocoa, and hot water gradually. Beat again until smooth and light in colour. Spread over cake and finish by marking in circles with prongs of a fork.

Quotation for the Day.

Do you see this egg? With this you can topple every theological theory, every church or temple in the world.
Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Almost Easter.

On this day in 1879, President Rutherford Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes hosted the first Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House itself. For many years there had been a tradition of an Easter Monday festival in the grounds of the Capitol, but in 1878 Congress determined that the damage and destruction wreaked upon the gardens by hordes of little egg-toting, lawn-trampling darlings was too great, and the fun-seekers were prevented from entering by the police. Luckily, the Rutherfords came to the rescue and a new tradition was born.

I remember this Easter ritual as a child in the north of England. A less-than-grand venue was a hilly field not far from home. The trick in that particular location was to try to race down the hill ahead of your pre-painted egg and catch it before it rolled into the stream at the bottom. I never managed it.

Easter is a moveable feast. Easter Day (that is, Easter Sunday) falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21. In the Northern Hemisphere it is (obviously) in Spring, which accounts for the heavy egg symbolism. In the Southern Hemisphere (obviously) it is in Autumn (or Fall, if you must) - not so good a time for eggs in theory, but seasons being irrelevant in modern chook batteries, we Down Under don’t have to forsake our breakfast eggs or (mercifully) have to resort to preserved eggs in one or other of their abominable forms.

The least abominable form of preserved eggs is the pickled form. Actually they are rather good, and a great standby (or used to be) on the bar of British pubs. No use for cakes or omelettes though. Here is a recipe for them from one of my favourite sources, Domestic Economy, for rich and poor, by a lady (1827).

To pickle Eggs, an excellent Sea Store.*
Boil the eggs hard, and put them into cold water, to preserve their colour; when they are cold, take off the shells without injuring the egg: a jar should be chosen that will pack the eggs, that there may be no waste of room, which also makes a waste of vinegar; they may likewise be pickled in the shell.
Season and boil good vinegar with pepper or mace, and salt and strain it over the eggs; let it cool, and then have a fitted bung, which must be pressed tightly in with a cloth. Look at them in a week, and if they require the vinegar to be boiled, do it for sea store or keeping, but for immediate use it is not necessarv. The same vinegar will answer again and again. A cook will find a store of pickled eggs very useful, both in first and second-course dishes, as well as ornamental.
*For a sea store they may be boiled hard in strong vinegar, salt, and spices, in the shell, and so packed: they will keep any length of time.

Quotation for the Day.

I am not strict vegan, because I'm a hedonist pig. If I see a big chocolate cake that is made with eggs, I'll have it.
Grace Slick

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pie: A Global History, first review!

I am puffed with pride right now, having just read the first review of my book at Gherkins and Tomatoes, the website of writer and culinary historian Cindy Bertelsen.
It is HERE, if you are interested.

Food for Fool’s Day.

Naturally today’s story must have an April Fool Feel. Last year someone thought that the Old Foodie Joke was that I published the story a day early. I didn’t. It was already April Fool’s Day in this part of the world. I won’t tell you which country the person came from, but when I related the story to The Old Foodie Spouse, he rolled his eyes and said “Only in A….., Only in A….. ” . Sometimes (sigh) the rest of you need reminding that those of us down here Down Under have done a full day’s work before you have your first caffeine fix for the day. Think of me as an early-reminding system for special days, if you like.

I cannot send you back to 2006, because Fool’s Day fell on a Saturday, so no post. In 2007 there was a concession to the joking spirit of the day with a story on ‘Surprising Food’. In 2008 we had the Great Spaghetti Harvest - complete with 1950’s BBC footage (thankyou, You Tube) – still the best ever April Fool’s Day joke. Ever. Ever. Ever. No matter how Ba! Humbug! you feel about Fool’s Day, do yourself a favour and click on that link and laugh out loud. Only in Britain, folks, Only in 1950’s Britain could that joke have been played out so well.

The spaghetti harvest story is impossible to top. Today, at risk of appearing drearily obvious, I am going to talk about Fools. No, I don’t mean those of you who can’t think outside your own time-zone. I mean the very old-fashioned dessert dish. A food ‘fool’, according to the OED is “a dish composed of fruit stewed, crushed, and mixed with milk, cream, or custard”. The first supporting quotation given is from Florio’s Italian/English Dictionary of 1598 (so contemprary with Shakespeare), which is a curiously roundabout way of explaining an English dish. The definition is “Mantiglia, a kinde of clouted creame called a foole or a trifle in English.”

So, did a ‘fool’ always contain fruit? And what is the difference between a fool and a trifle? We would probably say today that a trifle has cake in it (the Old Foodie Spouse refers to trifle as ‘wet cake and custard’), but does that mean that a fool cannot have cake? And if not cake, what about ‘sippets’ (bread), as in this definition-that-is-almost-a-recipe, from Holme’s Armoury of 1688:

“Foole is a kind of Custard, but more crudelly; being made of Cream, Yolks of Eggs, Cinamon, Mace boiled: and served on Sippets with sliced Dates, Sugar, and white andred Comfits, strawed thereon.”

Mantiglia - the dish - remains a mystery to me. Google Translate tells me that mantiglia means mantilla. Someone with a good knowledge of sixteenth century Italian food please explain the food connection. Is it somewhat like the English ‘Cabbidge Cream’ in which the very thick cream is rippled and spooned and arranged like crinkly cabbage leaves? Is the cream made to suggest a lace mantilla?

P.S. There was a Rhubarb Fool from the 1870’s and Hannah Glasse’s Gooseberry Fool from 1747 in previous posts, should you want more substance to your recipes.

Quotation for the Day.

Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet.