Monday, November 30, 2009

Justifiable Homicide, Chef Style.

Those of you who have ever felt themselves to be insufficiently appreciated cooks will enjoy today’s story – an often repeated and somewhat apocryphal tale, quoted on this occasion in The Stag Cook Book: Written For Men By Men (New York, 1922)

In the early seventies a French nobleman, living in the neighborhood of Barbizon, was found seated at the table with his face in a plate of soup. Because of the fact that a butcher knife had been inserted via the back between his fourth and fifth rib on the left side, he was quite dead. Clues led nowhere. It became one of the mysteries.
Long afterward an old man tottered into the office of the Prefect and announced that he wished to make a confession.
"Proceed," said the official.
" 'Twas I," responded the ancient, "who delivered the death stroke to the Duke de la … thirty-five years ago."
"What inspired you to make this confession?"
"I do not comprehend. The details, if you please."
"By profession I was a chef," said the self-accused. "The Duke, at a fabulous price, enticed me into his service. His first request was that I make for him a perfect consomme. Voila! For three days I prepared this perfection. With my own hand I placed before him the soup tureen. With my own hand I ladled it out.
He inhaled its divine essence; and then, Your Honor, he reached for the salt, Mon Dieu I destroy him!"
The Prefect embraced the artist and took him out to lunch. Thus art was vindicated and the incident closed.
In the chemistry of cooking, "enough is too much."

Today’s recipe, taken from the same book, requires the prior preparation of some consommé, and according to the contributor, should only be attempted by an artist.

Tripe à la Mode de Caen à la Roy Carruthers.
Contributed by Samuel G. Blythe (1868- 1947) American author and newspaperman
Only an artist should attempt to make Tripe à la Mode de Caen because only an artist can make it. It requires the soul of a poet, the spirit of a painter, and the exaltation of a violin virtuoso in the maker as a prerequisite for its concoction. Of course, it may be eaten by the commonalty, but it is too good for them. It really is a dish for the intelligentsia.
There are not more than a dozen people in the United States who have the temperament and the touch required. One of these is Roy Carruthers. And herewith, as my favorite recipe, I set down the complicated but necessary, procedure for producing this work of art:
Take four pounds of fresh honeycomb tripe and one pound of fresh manyplies tripe (the thickest part) and wash thoroughly in many changes of fresh water. Drain
well, and scrape to have all absolutely clean. Take two calf's feet and carefully bone each foot and cut into pieces two inches square. Have a large earthen pot, scrupulously clean, and line sides and bottom of this pot with very thin slices of larding pork. Place tripe and cut up feet in pot. Add two small red carrots, two white onions with two cloves stuck in each, and half of a sound, seeded pepper.
Make a bouquet of two leeks, two branches of celery three branches of parsley, and a sprig of thyme, marjoram, a blade of mace and a bay leaf - only one. Put this bouquet
in the pot and pour in a half pint of white wine, a pint of cider and a quart of consomme or white broth. Season with a full teaspoon of salt and half a spoon of black pepper.
Now make a stiff dough with a pound of white flour and two gills of water, roll out on a table until you have enough to cover the pot, and cover closely, making sure there can be no evaporation.
Place pot in a very slow oven and cook for fifteen hours.
Then lift up the cover, skim of£ the fat, and remove the bouquet of herbs and the vegetables.
Chop together six shallots, or scallions if shallots are not procurable, the red part of a carrot, a bean of sound garlic, two ounces of raw ham and an ounce of raw lean
pork. Place this hash in a saucepan with a tablespoon of melted butter, cook gently on the fire for five minutes, stirring lightly, and then pour in half a gill of cognac and
let it reduce briskly imtil it is nearly dry.
Put the contents of the pot on the saucepan, add a gill of pure tomato juice, mix lightly with a wooden spoon, and cook slowly for forty-five minutes.
Then dress the tripe on a deep hot dish, sprinkle a little freshly chopped parsley over and send to table very hot with twelve slices of toasted French bread.
That is real Tripe à la mode de Caen. All others are imitations.

Quotation for the Day.

… “At the first shrill notes of the pipe
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider- press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks;

Robert Browning; from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Kind Word for Hash.

Turkey hash is likely to be on the menu in many post-Thanksgiving households in America over the next few days – which realisation caused me to ponder on the word ‘hash.’

To make a hash of something is to make a mess, isnt it? Yet the word originally derived from the French verb hacher, which simply means ‘to chop’ – not to chop messily. ‘Hash’ when applied in a culinary sense certainly refers to chopped or minced food (generally meat), but over and above this the idea is loaded with implications of lukewarm frugality and is totally devoid of any suggestion of deliciousness, is it not?

Who would have thought that hash could preserve domestic harmony? The prolific nineteenth century American cookery book author Thomas Jefferson Murrey had some interesting things to say on the subject of hash, in his book Luncheon, published in New York in 1888. But first, let us reflect upon his remarks on luncheon.

Remarks on Luncheon.
The midday meal of the household is too often an indifferent affair, or consists of ingedients which upset the system instead of benefiting it. … The utilization of the culinary odds and ends, which accumulate in the ice-box and pantry, deserves the highest consideration; for without this it would be impossible to please the palates of the “men-folks”, who, if fed on a continual diet of fresh meats which were but once cooked, would become unbearable. Their nerves would be shattered; and happiness, under such a condition of things, would be impossible.”

There is a lesson here, ladies. Should your men-folk become nervy on account of not being served enough leftovers – give them hash! Our author speaks highly of it, and of course gives several recipes.

HASH: A Kind Word for it.
The paragraph writer who has not penned a slur at the homely fare known as hash is a rara avis, and the poet whose first attempt at doggerel was not a denunciation of boarding-house hash is yet to be found. Slangy men of the world call a hotel or restaurant a “hashery,” signifying that the resort is a place to avoid, it being cheap and not nice. Yet, with all the censure heaped upon it by an unappreciative public, hash is, from a hygienic standpoint, the very best mode of serving food. This statement may seem incredible, but when we consider it a moment we realize the truthfulness of it. Statistics are not wanting to prove that minced food digests almost as soon without being chewed at all as if it had been thoroughly masticated. People who habitually“bolt” their food suffer no inconvenience from the practice when their food is cut very fine.
Most of us eat too rapidly, either from forgetfulness, bad teeth, or in case of hurry ; and the result is derangement of the stomach which in time ends in an almost incurable case of dyspepsia. Hash, then, is the proper food to order in such cases. It need not necessarily be the well-known compound so famihar to all; but served in the form of croquettes, forcemeats, patties, cromisquis, souffles, etc., it is always ac-
ceptable, and may be offered to the most fastidious; for while those various names sound more poetical, they all mean the same thing, simply — hash.

Corned-Beef Hash. — This homely American dish, when- properly prepared, is very acceptable. The brisket part of the beef is the best for this purpose. The rump or very lean meat does not make good hash. Chop up the meat very fine the night before it is wanted; add to it an equal quantity of warm boiled potatoes, moisten them a little with clear soup strongly impregnated with onion flavor. Mix meat and potatoes together, and place in ice box until wanted. The next morning it should be warmed
in a frying pan. A little onion may be added if not objected to. Moisten the hash with hot water or clear soup, and, when quite hot, serve. Some like the hash browned; this is accomplished by using a small quantity of butter, and frying the hash a delicate brown. The pan should be raised to an angle of thirty degrees, and the hash shaped like an omelet, then turned deftly out on a hot dish.

Minced Lamb on Toast. — The cold lamb left from the preceding day is quite accept
able when served in this manner. All fat should be removed, and the meat chopped quite fine, warmed in the pan, moistened with a little stock or hot water, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then arrange on slices of buttered toast. Poached eggs are appreciated by many with this dish. Arrange each egg neatly on top of the meat without breaking it.


We have not ignored hash in the past; one way or another it has featured in a number of stories:
Morton Stanley and Mutton Hash.

Elizabeth (Barrett) and Robert Browning and Saturday Hash.

Hash’d Capons, Pullets, Turkeys, Pheasants, Partridges, or Rabbits.

Corned-Beef Hash, New-England Style. [1885]

To Hash Beef
To Make a Dunelm.

Brisbane Pish-pash

Seven Days with a Leg of Mutton.

Quotation for the Day.

HASH: There is no definition for this word -- nobody knows what hash is.
Ambrose Bierce; Devil’s Dictionary.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I wish you Turkey ....

I wish you, for your Thanksgiving turkey, one such as that eulogised by the American writer and humorist Irvin S Cobb (1876-1944) in Cobb’s Bill of Fare (1913).

First, he describes a turkey served at a large restaurant for a Thanksgiving feast – an ‘ancient and shabby ruin’ of a turkey, ‘full of mysterious laboratory products and … varnished over with a waterproof glaze or shellac, which rendered it durable without making it edible.

Then he tells it how a Thanksgiving turkey should be (and this is the one I wish for those of you celebrating the day):

“But there was a kind of turkey that they used to serve in those parts [‘up North’] on high state occasions. It was a turkey that in his younger days ranged wild in the woods and ate the mast. At the frosted coming of the fall they penned him up and fed him grain to put an edge of fat on his lean; and then fate descended upon him and he died the ordained death of his kind. But oh! the glorious resurrection when he reached the table! You sat with weapons poised and ready – a knife in the right hands, a fork in the left and a spoon handy – and looked upon him and watered at the mouth until you had riparian rights.
His breast had the vast brown fullness that you see in pictures of old Flemish friars. His legs were like rounded columns and undadorned, moreover, with those superfluous paper frills; and his tail was half as big as your hand and it protruded grandly, like the rudder of a treasure-ship, and had flanges of sizzled richness on it. Here was no pindling fowl that had taken the veil and lived a cloistered life; here was no wiredrawn and trained-down cross-country turkey, but a lusty giant of a bird that would have been a cassowary, probably, or an emu, if he had lived, his bosom a white mountain of lusciousness, his interior a Golconda and not a Golgotha. At the touch of steel his skin crinkled delicately and fell away; his tissues flaked off in tender strips; and from him arose a bouquet of smells more varied and more delectable than anything ever turned out by the justly celebrated Islands of Spice. It was a sin to cut him up and a crime to leave him be.
He had not been stuffed by a taxidermist or a curio collector, but by the master hand off one of those natural-born home cooks – stuffed with corn bread dressing that had oysters or chestnuts or pecans stirred into it until it was a veritable mine of goodness, and this stuffing had caught up and retained all the delectable drippings and essences of his being, and his flesh had the savor of the things upon which he had lived – the sweet acorns and beechnuts of the woods, the buttery goobers of the plowed furrows, the shattered corn of the horse yard.
Nor was he a turkey to be eaten by the mere slice. At least, nobody ever did eat him that way – you ate him by rods, poles, and perches, by townships and by sections – ate him from his neck to his hocks and back again, from his throat latch to his crupper, from centre to circumference, and from pit to dome, finding something better all the time; and when his frame was mainly denuded and loomed upon the platter like a scaffolding, you dug into his cadaver and found there small hidden joys and titbits.
You ate until the pressure of your waistband stopped your watch and your vest flew open like an engine-house door and your stomach was pushing you over on your back and sitting on you, and then you half closed your eyes and dreamed of cold-sliced turkey for supper, turkey hash for breakfast the next morning, and turkey soup made of his carcass later on. For each state of that turkey would be greater than the last.
There must still be such turkeys as this one somewhere. Somewhere in this broad and favoured land, untainted by notions of foreign cookery and unvisited by New York and Philadelphia people who insist on calling the waiter garçon, when his name is Gabe or Roscoe, there must be spots where a turkey is a turkey and not a cold-storage corpse. And this being the case, why don’t those places advertise, so that by the hundreds and thousands men who live in hotels might come from all over in the fall of the year and just naturally eat themselves to death?

And for the recipe for the day, a fine dressing.

Cornbread Dressing
(For one 10 to 12 lb turkey and one 1-qt casserole)
½ cup chopped onion, 1 ½ cups chopped celery, ¾ cups butter or margarine, melted, 1
pan corn bread, coarsely crumbled, 5 cups dry bread cubes, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, 1 cup milk and 1 egg, beaten.
Lightly brown onion and celery in ¼ cup of the butter.
Combine corn bread, bread cubes and seasonings in large bowl. Add onion and celery to bread mixtures. Add milk, egg and remaining ½ cup butter, tossing lightly to combine. (Use an additional ¼ cup milk for a moister dressing.)
Lightly stuff about ¾ of dressing into body cavity and neck region of turkey.
Roast according to standard roasting directions.
Bake remaining dressing in uncovered 1-quart casserole during last 45 minutes
of roasting time.
From the News-Palladium (Michigan, nov 11, 1965)

Quotation for the Day.
May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Breakfast to Prepare.

In a certain large continent in the northern hemisphere today, all thoughts are undoubtedly turned to the preparation of tomorrow night’s big turkey dinner. The danger is that the focus on dinner will be so great, that breakfast will be poorly planned – and you know how important a good breakfast is, don’t you?

A nice book called What to get for breakfast: with more than one hundred different breakfasts, and full directions for each (1882), helps with fine suggestions for several Thanksgiving breakfasts.

Modern Thanksgiving Breakfast.
Chicken Pie
Baked Potatoes Warm Biscuit
Apple Sauce Coffee.

Chicken Pie.

Cook the chicken as for the ancestral chicken pie [below]. When done, remove all the meat from the bones and flake it. Do not have it like mince, but in long, thin and manifest pieces. Line a large, deep soup plate with a thick paste, made per ancestral chicken pie rule. Fill the plate with chicken, sprinkle a little flour through it, adding butter, salt and some of the liquor in which it was boiled. Cover with a thick paste and bake a nice brown. Be sure you brown the under crust. Serve with a gravy made from the liquor in which the chickens were boiled.

Chicken Pie [Ancestral].

For a pie boil the chickens in water enough to barely cover them. Skim them. When tender or done take them out into a platter and carve them the same as if to be served on the table. Remove the skin if very thick. Have ready a deep baking dish, lined with a thick paste. Have the dish proportioned to the quantity of chicken you wish to
use. Arrange the chicken so tiiat the same kind of pieces may not come out together, when served. Sprinkle each layer with a little flour and salt. Fill the dish nearly full with the liquor in which the chickens were boiled, but not so full as to be in danger of boiling over. Cover with an upper paste and close the edges very carefully. Bake nearly an hour, or till the crust is handsomely done. The crust for chicken pie should be twice as thick as for fruit pies. Use butter in the liquor if you prefer it.

Paste for Chicken Pie.
One quart of flour.
One teaspoonful of salt.
Two teaspoonfuls of cream-tartar.
One teaspoonful of soda.
One pint of sweet milk. *
One cupful of butter.
Mix these ingredients the same as for short cake, avoiding too much flour. This makes a nice and tender paste.

Quotation for the Day …

Do we need to have 280 brands of breakfast cereal? No, probably not. But we have them for a reason - because some people like them. It's the same with baseball statistics.
Bill James

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leftover Gingersnaps.

I have no idea where I got the following recipe from, but it has intrigued me for a long time.

Sweet sour sauce for boiled tongue.
5 gingersnaps
½ cup brown sugar
4 tab vinegar
1 cup hot water
1 lemon, sliced
¼ cup raisins
Crush the gingersnaps, and mix with the sugar, vinegar, and hot water. Cook until well blended and smooth.
Add the lemon and raisins.
Serve over sliced tongue.

Gingersnaps? In sauce? Interesting. If anyone has any ideas of its history, I would be most grateful. In the meantime, it is probably eligible for the Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive, is it not?

At least it sounds more interesting than this sauce, from the famous Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1896)

Sauce for Tongue.
Brown one-fourth cup butter, add one-fourth cup flour and stir together till well browned. Add gradually four cups of water in which tongue was cooked. Season with salt and pepper and add one teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. One and one-half cups stewed and strained tomatoes may be used in place of some of the water.

Of course, it is likely that these recipes are of no practical significance for you, as tongue, like most other offal, is sadly out of fashion today. Once upon a time, no self-respecting luncheon sideboard would be without a platter of cold tongue. For old time’s sake, here is a recipe from one of the nineteenth century masters.

Beef’s Tongue with Sauce haché.
Take a tongue that is quite fresh; let it disgorge, blanch it to take away any tripy taste it may have retained; then stew it in a good braize. When done, flay it, cut it in two, spread it open and mask or cover thickly over with the sauce haché. This is but a very common entrée.

The Sauce Haché, or Minced Sauce.
This sauce, although seldom or ever used in good cookery, is frequently to be met with at taverns and inns on the road. Such as it is , it is made in the following way. Chop gherkins, mushrooms, capers, and anchovies, and throw them in some brown Italian sauce, which is called a sauce haché, or minced sauce. The reason that I have called this a tavern or common inn sauce is because, to make it, it is not requisite to have an Italian sauce well prepared. A common browning made with butter and flour, moistened with a little broth, or gravy, and some fine herbs in it, will answer the purpose.

The French Cook, by Louis Eustache Ude, 1829

Quotation for the Day.

Make not the sauce till you have caught the fish.
English Proverb.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stirring up the Pudding.

Yesterday was ‘Stir Up Sunday’, the traditional day to make your Christmas pudding. Did you mix yours? For some of you, in the other half of the world, it may still be Sunday when you read this, so you still have time.

The ‘tradition’ is a nice example of the association of ideas. According to the Anglican Church calendar, yesterday was the last Sunday before the season of Advent. The day became popularly known as ‘Stir-Up Sunday’ because of the opening words of the opening prayer of the day (which date from the sixteenth century):

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

These words also happened to be a timely reminder to the housewives and families that the preparations for the Christmas feasting should be gotten underway, if they weren’t already. Children would skip happily home from church singing their own, very secular, interpretation of the concept:

Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot;
And when we get home we'll eat the lot.

It became the tradition to ‘stir up’ the pudding later in the day – all family members taking their turn, and making a wish as they stirred.

The keeping qualities of plum puddings were a great advantage in early times when there were few food-preserving alternatives. Plum puddings were not just served at Christmas, but were a stand-by for all important dinners and gatherings. An efficient Mistress of a reasonably well-to-do household would always have the makings in the pantry, and perhaps several actual prepared puddings.

I don’t think Pudding Emergencies are high on our list of potential household dramas or embarrassments today, but at least one nineteenth century cookbook writer considered a ready supply of plum puddings to be a good contingency plan.

One pound of bread crumbs, rubbed through the colander; half a pound of flour; one pound and a quarter of suet very finely chopped; quarter pound of sugar; one pound of currants; half pound of rasins, stoned and chopped. Mix well together, and then add - two ounces candied citron; one ounce ditto orange-peel; one ditto lemon peel; one nutmeg, grated; a little mace, cinnamon, and three cloves pounded; quarter of a tea-spoonful of powdered ginger; the peel of one lemon finely chopped. Mix well again, and then add - one wine-glassful of brandy; one ditto white wine; the juice of one lemon. Mix well together, and then stir in gradually six well-beaten eggs. Boil five hours, and sift sugar over the top when served.

It is exceedingly convenient when making Christmas pudding, to boil several at once in various sized moulds or basins, as they will keep well for a month or six weeks, and can be served on an emergency by merely re-boiling them - say one hour for a pint basin. After the first boiling remove the cloth, and when the pudding is cold cover it with a dry clean cloth.

[The housekeeper's book: comprising advice on the conduct of household Frances Harriet Green, 1837]

I think we have a new addition to the Vintage Christmas Recipes archive!

Quotation for the Day.

There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.”
P.J. O'Rourke

Friday, November 20, 2009

Posh Toast.

Toast has many guises in the English-speaking culinary world, as we have seen this week. It is a staple at breakfast, very desirable at afternoon tea, and is happy to appear at lunch or supper alongside a bowl of soup. It can be cold and austere, or hot and buttery, it can be embellished with any number of delicious spreads, and is very supportive of eggs, or melted cheese (have we remembered Welsh Rabbit this week?) or leftover stew, or pretty well anything else - including, as we saw earlier in the week, a saucy pile of stewed fruit. As if to prove its versatility, slightly burnt toast also became an ingredient in some of the ersatz coffee recipes of the nineteenth century.

You will be pleased to know that toast rounds out its range with a number of posh roles too. The first that comes to mind is Melba Toast - the ultra-thin crisp toast invented by Escoffier for the opera singer, Nellie Melba. Melba-foods deserve their own story, one day soon, methinks. So, what else is there?

In the last decade or so of the nineteenth century in the English-speaking world, a new kind of whet became fashionable – the canapé. We use the word fairly loosely today to describe any small pre-dinner or cocktail party ‘nibble’, but originally a canapé referred specifically to a small savoury with a base of bread or toast. Actually, this is not quite true. A couple of hundred years before it was a food item, in France a canapé was a sofa. I can see what appears to be the connection here - an edible canapé is a little something resting comfortably on a toast ‘pillow’ - but I have no idea who was the perpetrator of the change in usage of the word. Please do enlighten me if you know the answer.

There is a nice explanation of the canapé in the 1905 edition of the famous The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

Canapés are made by cutting bread in slices one-fourth inch thick, and cutting slices in strips four inches long by one and one-half inches wide, or in circular pieces. Then
bread is toasted, fried in deep fat, or buttered and browned in the oven, and covered with a seasoned mixture of eggs, cheese, fish, or meat, separately or in combination. Canapés are served hot or cold, and used in place of oysters at a dinner or luncheon. At a gentleman's dinner they are served with a glass of Sherry before entering the dining- room.

And here are a couple of very posh versions of the canapé, from the same book – they will nicely use up that lobster coral and crab meat you have lurking in the back of the fridge.

Canapés Martha
Beat yolk one egg, add one and one-half tablespoons cream, one-fourth teaspoon salt, one-eighth teaspoon paprika, one-fourth teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce, and a few
grains cayenne; then add one-fourth pound cheese cut in small pieces, and cook until smooth, stirring constantly.
Spread on sauted slices of bread, cut in fancy shapes, and cover with finely chopped lobster meat held together with a thick sauce made of Chicken Stock or cream, garnish with rings of whites of “hard-boiled” eggs, yolks of “hard-boiled” eggs, and lobster coral forced through a strainer, and rings of olives.

Canapés Lorenzo
Toast slices of bread cut in shape of horseshoes. Cream two tablespoons butter, and add one teaspoon white of egg. Spread slices of bread, rounding with Crab Mixture, cover with creamed butter, sprinkle with cheese, and brown in the oven. Serve on a napkin, ends towards centre of dish, and garnish with parsley.
Crab Mixture. Finely chop crab meat, season with salt, cayenne, and a few drops of lemon juice, then moisten with Thick White Sauce. Lobster meat may be used in place of crab meat.

Quotation for the Day.

Ultimately, the toaster is an apology for the quality of our bread ... the toaster represents a heroic attempt to redeem our packaged bread …every piece of toast is a tragedy.
Arthur Berger.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leftover Toast.

If one of the raisons d’être for the toasting of bread is domestic economy - by virtue of its making stale, leftover bread more palatable - then what does one do, if one is a very virtuous housewife, if some of that toast is itself, leftover?

Rest assured, dear readers, that generations of frugal housewives and cooks have come up with quite a large number of ideas over the last couple of hundred years.

One could, for example, make toast pudding. Toast can also be used in the following variation on the theme of bread pudding (not bread and butter pudding) is from the inspirationally titled The Family Save-All, a System of Secondary Cookery (1861).

An Excellent Pudding of Stale Bread, &c.
Soak two pounds of pieces of Stale Bread, or pieces of Stale Toast, all night in plenty of water, with a plate laid on top of them, just to keep the bread under the water; next morning, pour off and squeeze out all the superfluous water; then well mash the pieces of bread, and mix with it half a pound of flour, a quarter of a pound of currants which have been cleaned, four ounces of suet chopped fine, a quarter of a pound of moist sugar, and two teaspoonfuls of fresh-ground allspice; then grease the inside of a baking dish with a bit of suet, put the pudding into it, and bake it for two hours.
Or it may be tied in a clean floured cloth, set in boiling water, with a plate at the bottom, and Boiled for the same length of time.

Here is a more recent example, from a 1945 advertisement for French’s Worcester Sauce (“You get top-notch quality at half the price”.)

Creamed Fish.
Cube ½ cup of leftover toast, stir into 1 ½ cups hot creamed fish. Add 2 teasp. French’s Worcestershire, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

And finally, a recipe that could just has easily have featured in yesterday’s brief exploration of medicinal toast - a defiantly temptation-free idea for the invalid, from Isabella Beeton’s The Book of Household Management.

Toast Sandwiches
Ingredients: Thin cold toast, thin slices of bread and butter, pepper and salt to taste. Mode: Place a very thin piece of cold toast between 2 slices of thin bread-and-butter in the form of a sandwich, adding a seasoning of pepper and salt. This sandwich may be varied by adding a little pulled meat, or very fine slices of cold meat to the toast, and in any of these forms will be found very tempting to the appetite of an invalid.

Quotation for the Day.
The privileges of the side-table included the small prerogatives of sitting next to the toast, and taking two cups of tea to other people's one.
Charles Dickens.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toast as Medicine.

There are those who love toast for the simple pleasure of it – for its inherent toastiness and its butter-absorbing, marmalade (or honey, or Vegemite)-carrying, and soup-accompanying capacity. Then there are those who eat it or inflict it because it is (when correctly prepared of course) - good for you.

In the latter group were many medical and nursing and dietetic persons of the nineteenth century, amongst whom we must include the miserable human who invented the abomination that we met on Monday – that ‘best and healthiest’ beverage called ‘toast and water’.

There was a great prejudice against fresh, hot bread at that time. Here is a snippet, complete with clinical case vignettes, from one of the Lectures on Digestion and Diet, by CharlesTurner Thackrath (Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London, and of the Societe de Medecin-Pratique de Paris), 1824.

"Substances, which from their texture or consistence are but imperfectly pervaded by the gastric juice, must be difficult of digestion. Hence new Bread is particularly objectionable. Two soldiers (mentioned by Schmucker) who had eaten immoderately of fresh-baked bread, complained of great uneasiness at the stomach. To this, vomiting succeeded; the abdomen became hard and tumid, the pulse sank; and death was the speedy result. On examination, “the intestines,” says Schmucker, “were found extremely distended with air, and singularly contorted."

The writer goes on to give a story from close to home, which seems to suggest that butter is also a breakfast culprit:

"Two members of my family, were annoyed with disorder of the stomach after breakfast. One in particular was uneasy, depressed, and irritable during most of the forenoon. Plain bread, or Toast, was substituted for buttered Toast, and the disorder was removed in the one case, and materially removed in the other."

Often, in American books of this era on dietetics and health, the preferred bread for medicinal toast was zwieback .The name means twice-cooked, and the bread was intended for long-keeping. Was this an extra precaution against the ‘indigestibility’ of fresh bread? Or is there something that I cannot fathom (not having tried it) about zwieback?

Of course, one could, if one wished, throw caution to the wind, and modify the health properties of this twice-baked, once-toasted bread by the heavy application of cream, as in the following ‘recipe’ from Good Food How to Prepare It - The Principles of Cooking, by George E. Cornforth (1920).

Cream Toast.
Put a slice of zwieback into a cereal bowl. Pour over it one-half cup of hot cream, and serve at once.

And from the same book, the following idea – from the section on Fruit Toasts.

Pear Toast.
Pear sauce for toast may be made from either canned pears of stewed fresh pears. Cut the pears in thin slices. Measure the juice, heat it to boiling, and thicken it with cornstarch stirred smooth with a little cold water, using one tablespoon cornstarch for each cup of juice. Use a batter whip to stir the starch and cold water together, then whip the boiling juice with the batter whip while the cornstarch is poured in a small stream into it. Put the sliced pears into the thickened juice and allow the whole to remain over the stove long enough to heat the pears.

Quotation for the Day.

Toast was a big item in my mother's culinary pharmacopeia. At first it was served plain and dry, but that was soon followed by crisp, sweet cinnamon toast, the baby-bland toast that tasted soothingly of fresh air. Thick slices of French toast, crisp and golden outside but moist and eggy within, would probably come next, always topped with a melting knob of sweet butter and a dusting of confectioner's sugar. I knew I was close to recovery when i got the toast I liked best - almost-burned rye bread toast covered with salt butter.
Mimi Sheraton.

Image is of a toast rack, circa 1851

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Origin of Toast.

I want to continue to consider toast today. At risk of appearing to repeating information and opinion from a post last year, the credit for discovering ‘toast’ appears to go to the English. Overseas visitors to England in the eighteenth century started to notice and comment upon two particular things: the delightful habit of ‘taking tea’ in the afternoon, and the idea of toasting bread before the fire. It seems that the thinness of English bread slices was particularly noteworthy.

M.Grosley wrote of his visit in A Tour to London, published in 1772:

“The Butter and Tea which the Londoners live upon from morning until three or four in the afternoon, occasions the chief consumption of bread, which is cut in slices, and so thin, that it does as much honour to the address of the person that cuts it, as to the sharpness of the knife.”

And the previously quoted C.P. Moritz, a Prussian clergyman who visited England in 1782, said:

“The slices of bread and butter, which they give you with your tea, are as thin as poppy-leaves – But there is another kind of bread and butter usually eaten with tea, which is toasted by the fire, and is incomparably good. This is called toast.”

An even earlier visitor from Scandinavia, a man called Pehr Kalm in 1748, had a theory about how toasting came about:

“The cold rooms here in England in the winter, and because the butter is then hard from the cold, and does not admit of being spread on bread, have perhaps given them the idea thus to toast the bread, then spread butter on it while it is still hot.”

His theory however begs the question of why was the butter not softened before the selfsame fire?. The real reason of course is that toast is much nicer and tastier than plain stale bread!

From The Dictionary of Dainty Breakfasts (1899), here is a very robust way to have your toast (and your eggs too.)

Toast, Bombay.
Ingredients: Two eggs, toast, essence of anchovy, capers. Time required: Ten minutes.
Prepare slices of buttered toast cut into rounds or fingers. Melt a little butter in an omelette pan. As it dissolves stir in two beaten eggs, half a teaspoonful of essence of anchovy and half a teaspoonful of chopped capers and pepper. Spread the mixture on the toast and serve hot.

Quotation for the Day.

When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries."
The Wind in TheWillows

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Many Styles of Toast.

A little over a year ago on this blog I wrote about toast. The trigger was the quotation attributed to Julia Child:

“I have trouble with toast. Toast is very difficult. You have to watch it all the time or it burns up.”

In my previous story, I agreed with Julia (if indeed they are Julia’s words), and I went on to say “She is right. You have to get it right first time. Overdone toast with the black dust scraped off is bad, and underdone toast re-submitted to the toaster becomes dried out and hard and is also bad.” I then moved quickly away from plain old toast onto its glamorous cousin “French” toast. At the time I clearly felt there was not much else to be said on the very prosaic subject of toast (apart from scattered minor references to such things as, among other things, prune toast, toast pudding, and savoury toasts), so dismissed the topic from my mind almost completely.

Recently it was suddenly revealed to me that perhaps there is more to learn about toast than I first thought. What I had thought was that there were only three basic sorts of toast – burnt, underdone, and perfect. It appears that there may be more. My renewed interest came about via the following passage, from Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, by a lady (1827)

"There are four kinds of toast .. . Since Sir John Sinclair gave a receipt for toast and water, it has generally and deservedly occupied a place in cookery-books as it is our best and healthiest beverage, the making of which is still ill attended to; I must, therefore, following this good example, say something of toast, which is so material to comfort, appearance, and health, being generally served with coffee and with butter. There are four kinds of toast, three of which come in their place here.
Toast for coffee, hard, and soft toast. Bread should baked expressly for the first two with eggs and milk, to which sugar may be added and well worked, that it may have the consistency of cake, very white and fine in the grain: this bread should be baked in square tin cases, and no more dough put in than will rather under than over-fill them: this shape is a great saving: the bread not be cut for two days. To serve with coffee let it be sliced from an half to one inch thick, according to the square that is wanted, then square it properly, and the pieces be from three to three and a half inches long; these be dried in the screen or oven perfectly white, and when wanted tinge them before the fire on all sides, the edges will get darker which looks well; serve them stalked. This bread makes also excellent hard toast, and should be toasted at a great distance from the fire, which prevents it from losing its shape, and should thoroughly dried through. These toasts if not used are to be put up as rusks and will keep as well.
Soft toast, to eat cold with butter, ought to be thinner and rather more hardened than to be eaten hot: and this should be the business of the cook, as in the pantry it is often left to careless boys, who, after toasting it, throw it down upon a table where glass and other things have been cleaned, and laying on their hand very weightily to crust it, press the hot bread together, which soddens and destroys the fine flavor imparted by the fire.
The difference is that the cook slices it in her bread tray, crusts it carefully, knowing that any pressure on it would hurt it even before toasting. There is also no loss, as, if the cook knows her business with economy, she has plenty of uses for the crusts. Toast and butter is variously made with soft toast to taste when much butter is not used: an excellent way to give it mellowness is to put the bread as it is toasted a little over the steam of boiling wate,r and then butter it from a fine perforated buttering pan, taking care the butter is not oiled. This way of buttering has another advantage, all the sediment and milky particles fall to the bottom."

And here is a recipe for ‘the best and healthiest beverage’ – from the same book.

Toast and Water.
Toast the bread quite hard through and through; brown it well, and pour filtered boiling water upon it; let it stand till quite cold, and pour it gently off; for if it stands till the bread dissolves, it gets thick and mawkish. A little lemon zest or nutmet and sugar is very grateful in it, or whatever else an invalid may desire; but toast and water ought to be a constant table and family drink, laying economy aside, upon account of health, and the best for bilious constitutions.

In the light of my new respect for the topic, there will be more on toast as the week progresses.

Quotation for the Day.
Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Risky Dinner?

Were they still in existence, the members of the Thirteen Club of old New York would have been especially excited about their November meeting in 2009. The club was formed in 1881 by a group determined (in a good-humoured way) to debunk the superstitions associated with the number 13. In particular they enjoyed challenging the widespread belief that if thirteen sat around the table together, one of them would be dead within twelve months. This belief was so entrenched in some places – specifically nineteenth century Paris - that it was possible for a gentleman to make a career as a quatorzième or fourteenth guest, available at short notice to make up a less terrifying number at the table.

As you may have noticed, today, the thirteenth falls on a Friday – and Friday the thirteenth, or Black Friday is a particularly inauspicious and terrifying date for those suffering from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13). It was, therefore a particularly fun-filled evening for members of the Thirteen Club, which invoked the number 13 in every possible way. As well as always taking place on the thirteenth of the month, with 13 at table, the dinners started and finished at 13 minutes past the hour, and there were always 13 dishes and 13 toasts. Club members also thumbed their noses at Fate, or The Gods, or whatever, in as many other ways as they could devise. They might deliberately spill salt, or wear the colour green, or have the dining room decorated with funeral accoutrements, or images of death (note the skull and crossbones on this particular menu).

One of the dinner menus from the club is featured in my book Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day in the Year. Today I give you another menu, from the meeting of December 13, 1896. On this evening for some reason, the club chose to have an Austrian theme for their dinner.

Austrian Dinner
of the
Thirteen Club
At Café Boulevard, 156, Second Avenue,
December 13, 1896, at 7.13pm

Caviar Salat.
Gefüllter Hecht.
Steirisches Schöpsernes. Heurige Erdäpfel
Wiener Backhendl.
Häupt-Salat. Gerösste Kartoffel.
Topfen-Taschkerl. Semmelbrösl.
Caffee Melange.

Grinzinger Heurigen $0.75
Bisamberger 1.00
Gumpoldskirchner 1.50.

How about you? How many at your dinner table tonight? Any plans to tempt the Fates?

Leberknadel (Calf’s Liver Dumplings)
Chop and pass through a collander one-half pound of calf's liver; rub to a cream four ounces of marrow, add the liver and stir hard. Then add a little thyme, one clove of garlic grated, pepper, salt and a little grated lemon peel, the yelks of two eggs and one whole egg. Then add enough grated bread crumbs or rolled crackers to this mixture to permit its being formed into little marbles.
Aunt Babette's Cook Book (Cincinnati, c1889)

Quotation for the Day.

Mark Twain told a friend of an invitation to be the 13th guest at a dinner party. Horrified, the friend advised him, “Don’t go! It’s bad luck!” To which Twain replied, “Nonsense.” The next day, Twain met the friend again and said, “I admit that you were right about the dinner. It WAS bad luck. There was only enough food for twelve.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Whistlebelly Vengeance.

'Whistlebelly Vengeance' - isn’t that a great name for a drink? A great name for a not-so great drink. A drink designed specifically as a way to recycle sour household beer, and particularly associated with Salem, according to the journalist from the Waterloo Daily Reporter (Waterloo, Iowa) in 1897. Here is what was said, under the header ‘The Puritan Folk. Men And Women Who Gave Us Thanksgiving Day’:

“A popular drink in Salem was “whistlebelly vengeance”- charming name! It was made of sour household beer simmered in a kettle, sweetened with molasses, filled with brown breadcrumbs and drunk hot.”

An alternative name was ‘Whip-belly-vengeance’ and a number of sources say that the names derive from an old English term. The eighteenth century Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue has this to say:

“Whip-belly vengeance, or pinch-gut vengeance, of which he that gets the most has the worst share. Weak or sour beer [or, in dialect, simple whip-belly, cf the Lancashire whistle-belly vengeance]”

I was reminded, when I came across Whistle-belly vengeance, of another charmingly named drink that featured in a blog post in the past – Mahogany, a mixture of brandy or gin and treacle, and supposedly a Cornish fisherman’s drink – an alternative name for which was ‘whistle-jacket’.

At the time of the Mahogany post, I had no idea of the origin of the name ‘whistle-jacket’ – now, with another drink with ‘whistle’ in the name, the plot thickens. When a word-plot thickens there is only one place to start: the dictionary.

The OED gives whistle-belly vengeance as slang for ‘bad liquor, such as causes rumbling in the bowels’ and gives the first use as 1861. Under whip-belly-vengeance however, the first use is 1731, in one of Jonathan Swift’s Conversations. Presumably it is the sound of the disturbed bowels that is being referenced.

The Routledge dictionary of historical slang (1973) throws a different light on the story. After defining whistle-belly vengeance as ‘inferior liquor, esp. bad beer’, it goes on to give the following:

- whistle-drunk: exceedingly drunk
- whistle-cup: a drinking cup fitted with a whistle, the last toper capable of drinking it receiving it as a prize [the whistle apparently serving as notice that the cup is empty.]

The OED has no mention of whistle-drunk or whistle-cup, which is surprising, to say the least.

Sour beer in the household is not an issue these days, but it was in previous times, when larger households brewed all their own supplies. Old cookbooks have many rescue remedies for recovering sour beer; here is one of them.

To Recover Sour Beer.
When beer is become sour, add thereto some oyster shells, calcined to whiteness, or, in place thereof, a little fine chalk or whiting. Any of these will correct the acidity, and make it brisk and sparkling, but it should not be kept long after such additions, otherwise it will spoil.
The New Family Receipt Book, containing eight hundred truly valuable receipts in various branches of Domestic Economy selected from the works of British and Foreign writer of unquestionable experience and economy, and from the attested communications of scientific friends… (New Haven, 1819)

Quotation for the Day.

Filled with mingled cream and amber
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chambers of my brain –
Quaintest thoughts - queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
Who cares how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.”
Edgar Allan Poe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dinner-giving Snobs.

Thackeray clearly felt himself to be a Dining-out snob, as we found yesterday. What did he think of his hosts? The article quoted from yesterday continues:

“What is a Dinner-giving Snob? some innocent youth who is not répandu in the world may ask or some simple reader who has not the benefits of London experience.
My dear sir, I will show you - not all for that is impossible- but several kinds of Dinner giving Snobs. For instance suppose you, in the middle rank of life, accustomed to Mutton roast on Tuesday, cold on Wednesday, hashed on Thursday &c with small means and a small establishment, choose to waste the former and set the latter topsy-turvy by giving entertainments unnaturally costly - you come into the Dinner giving Snob class at once. Suppose you get in cheap made dishes from the pastrycook's, and hire a couple of greengrocers, or carpet-beaters, to figure as footmen dismissing honest Molly, who wait on common days, and bedizening your table (ordinarily ornamented with willow pattern crockery) with twopenny halfpenny Birmingham plate. Suppose you pretend to be richer and grander than you ought to be - you are a Dinner giving Snob. And O! I tremble to think how many and many a one will read this on Thursday!
A man who entertains in this way - and alas how few do not! - is like a fellow who would borrow his neighbour's coat to make a show in, or a lady who flaunts in the diamonds from next door, - a humbug in a word, and amongst the Snobs he must be set down.
A man who goes out of his natural sphere of society to ask Lords, Generals, Aldermen, and other persons of fashion but is niggardly of his hospitality towards his own equals, is a Dinner . My dear friend, Jack Tufthunt, for example knows one Lord whom he met at a watering place; old Lord Mumble who is as toothless as a three months old baby and as mum as an undertaker, and as dull as - well we will not particularise.
Tufthunt never has a dinner now, but you see this solemn old toothless patrician at the right-hand of Mrs Tufthunt - Tufthunt is a Dinner giving Snob.
Old Livermore, old Soy, old Chuttney, the East India Director, old Cutler, the Surgeon &c., that society of old fogies, in fine, who give each other dinners round and round and dine for the mere purpose of guttling - these again are Dinner giving Snobs. Again my friend Lady MacScrew who has three grenadier flunkies in lace round the table, and serves up a scrag of mutton on silver, and dribbles you out bad sherry and port by thimblefuls, is a Dinner giving Snob of the other sort; and I confess for my part I would rather dine with old Livermore or old Soy than with her Ladyship. Stinginess is snobbish. Ostentation is snobbish. Too great profusion is snobbish. Tuft hunting is snobbish: but I own there are people more snobbish than all those whose defects are above mentioned viz those individuals who can and don’t give dinners at all. The man without hospitality shall never sit sub iisdem trabibus [‘the sacred enclosure of private walls’] with me. Let the sordid wretch go mumble his bone alone.”

There is more, considerably more, from Thackeray on the topics of dining snobbery and the meaning of hospitality, but they can wait for another day. In the meanwhile, here is a recipe for the despised scrag of mutton (the neck) – a far more tasty and hospitable way of using it than serving it roasted.

Mutton Broth.
Take two pounds of scrag of mutton; to take the blood out, put it into a stew-pan, and cover it with cold water; when the water becomes milk-warm, pour it off, skim it well, then put it in again, with four or five pints of water, a tea-spoonful of salt, a tablespoon of best grits, and an onion; set it on a slow fire, and when you have taken all the scum off, put in two or three turnips, let it simmer very slowly for two hours and strain it through a clean sieve.
You may thicken it, by boiling it with a little oatmeal, rice, Scotch, or pearl barley.
A Modern System of Domestic Cookery, by M.Radcliffe, 1839.

Quotation for the Day.
Dinner was made for eating, not for talking.
William Makepeace Thackeray.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dining-Out Snobs.

The English writer William Makepeace Thackeray did not confine his penetrating and satirical views of English social life to his novels. He wrote travelogues of Paris and Ireland, and contributed frequently to other publications. One of his most successful series was The Snob Papers, published in Punch magazine, and later as The Book of Snobs (1855).

Thackeray was without doubt a lover of good food (his ode to Bouillabaisse demonstrates this clearly, as do the other blog food stories about him which are here, and here.) What did he think of his fellow diners and hosts? Here is an extract from the book, from the chapter ‘Dining-Out Snobs’.

In England Dinner-giving Snobs occupy a very important place in society, and the task off describing them is tremendous. There was a time when the consciousness of having eaten a man’s salt and rendered me dumb regarding his demerits, and I thought it a wicked act and a breach of hospitality to speak ill of him.
But why should a saddle of mutton blind you, or a turbot and lobster sauce shut your mouth forever? With advancing age, men see their duties more clearly. I am not to be hoodwinked any longer by a slice of venison, be it ever so fat; and as for being dumb on account of turbot and lobster sauce – of course I am; good manners ordain that I should be so, until I have swallowed the compound – but not afterwards; directly the victuals are discussed, and JOHN takes away the plate, my tongue begins to wag. Does not yours, if you have a pleasant neighbour? – a lovely creature, say, of some five-and-thirty, whose daughters have not yet quite come out – they are the best talkers. As for your young misses, they are not only put about the table to look at – like the flowers in the centre-piece. Their blushing youth and natural modesty prevents them from that easy confidential conversational abandon which forms the delight of the intercourse with their dear mothers. It is to these if he would prosper in his profession that the Dining-out Snob should address himself. Suppose you sit next to one of these how pleasant it is in the intervals of the banquet actually to abuse the victuals and the giver of the entertainment! It's twice as piquant to make fun of a man under his very nose.

Thackeray’s insights are too good to leave at this point, so we will discover his thoughts on Dinner-Giving Snobs tomorrow.

Recipe for the Day.

Thackeray included a recipe for lobster, cooked at the table, in his Irish Sketchbook (1848).

Hot Lobster.
You take a lobster, about three feet long if possible, remove the shell, cut or break the flesh of the fish in pieces not too small. Some one else meanwhile makes a mixture of mustard, vinegar, catsup and lots of cayenne pepper. You then produce a machine called a despatcher which has a spirit lamp underneath it that is usually illuminated with whiskey. The lobster, the sauce, and near half-a-pound of butter are placed in the despatcher, which is immediately closed. When boiling, the mixture is stirred up, the lobster being sure to heave about the pan in a convulsive manner, while it emits a remarkably rich and agreeable odour through the apartment. A glass and a half of sherry is now thrown into the pan, and the contents served out hot, and eaten by the company. Porter [a type of stout] is commonly drunk, and whisky-punch afterwards, and the dish is fit for an emperor.
N.B You are recommended not to hurry yourself in the getting up next morning, and may take soda-water with advantage. – Probatum est [It is proved].

For another perspective on how the nineteenth century Englishman dined out, see here.

Quotation for the Day.

Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you.
William Makepeace Thackeray.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Gingerbread Confession.

When packaged cake mixes first came into existence they were promoted as the busy housewife’s boon. Time-saving in the kitchen however came with a price of its own, – a modicum of guilt - and the dilemma of deceit, or truth?

This was a challenge, naturally, for the folk responsible for marketing this new product – for too much guilt can be a barrier to purchase. One strategy, learned relatively early on, was to change the composition so that the busy housewife had to add an egg, not just water, to the mix – this, apparently, making the process seem more like “real” cooking, so less guilt-inducing. Presumably also this had the extra bonus to the manufacturers of a cheaper product, the dried egg being left out of the mix (same price, of course.)

The main strategy, as usual, was advertising smooth-speak - reassure the little woman that the best strategy is simple truth avoidance. At least, that is what the manufacturers of Dromedary Gingerbread Mix did in the 1940’s with their advertisements. Under the banner question “Should a wife confess?” they said:

“Unless you tell him, he’ll never know you didn’t make these luscious gingerbread desserts yourself from start to finish. Your skill is in the package.”

The box gave the skilful package-wrangler many ideas for using the mix to make all sorts of desserts: layer cake, upside down cake, cupcakes, cookies etc. with a variety of embellishments such as applesauce, orange cream frosting, whipped jelly topping, and orange custard sauce. Again, creating the possibility of numerous end-products from one mix was presumably intended to increase the illusion that this was real cooking (thereby reducing the guilt).

Reassurance also came with the information that this gingerbread was in fact, not a modern invention at all, but the same recipe as that of George Washington’s mother, granted to the company “by special permission of the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

Presumably this means that the Daughters of the American Revolution have a copy of the original recipe? I have been unable to find out if this is the case, but some superficial searching keeps turning up the statement that Washington’s mother’s gingerbread was a treat she served to the Lafayette himself. Perhaps it was similar to the following recipe, from from Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, (1832) by Eliza Leslie. This recipe would certainly make a dark and spicy gingerbread ‘the way menfolks love it’, the sort that would ‘make make husband’s exclaim “Swell!”’ - just like the Dromedary mix.

Lafayette Gingerbread.
Five eggs.
Half a pound of brown sugar.
Half a pound of fresh butter.
A pint of sugar-house molasses.
A pound and a half of flour.
Four table-spoonfuls of ginger.
Two large sticks of cinnamon, powdered and sifted.
Three dozen grains of allspice, powdered and sifted.
Three dozen of cloves, powdered and sifted.
The juice and grated peel of two large lemons.
A little pearl-ash or saleratus.

Stir the butter and sugar to a cream. Beat the eggs very well. Pour the molasses at once into the butter and sugar. Add the ginger and other spice and stir all well together.
Put in the egg and flour alternately stirring all the time. Stir the whole very hard and put in the lemon at the last. When the whole is mixed stir it till very light.
Butter an earthen pan, or a thick tin or iron one, and put the gingerbread in it. Bake it in a moderate oven an hour or more according to its thickness. Take care that it do not burn.
Or you may bake it in small cakes or little tins.
Its lightness will be much improved by a small tea-spoonful of pearl-ash dissolved in a tea-spoonful of vinegar and stirred lightly in at the last. Too much pearl-ash will give it an unpleasant taste. If you use pearl ash you must omit the lemon as its taste will be entirely destroyed by the pearl ash. You may substitute for the lemon some raisins and currants well floured to prevent their sinking.
This is the finest of all gingerbread but should not be kept long as in a few days it becomes very hard and stale.
[If the pearl ash is strong half a tea spoonful will be sufficient or less even will do It is better to stir the pearl ash in a little at a time and you can tell by the taste of the mixture when there is enough]

I don’t know if Dromedary Gingerbread Mix is still available, but if it is, here is a 1940’s recipe from the pack.

Peanut Butter Gingies.
A delectable new jiffy-cookie they’ll ask and ask over!
Just add 1/3 cup water to Dromedary Gingerbread Mix. Stir. Add ½ cup peanut butter. Mix well. Drop by teaspoons on greased baking sheet. Press in criss-cross designs with fork. Bake 10 minues 350 deg, Yum! (Highly nutritious too!)

I think we have another couple of worthy entries to the Through the Ages with Gingerbread Archive.

Quotation for the Day.

Had I but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for gingerbread.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Coffee Recipes.

This archive of recipes that use coffee as an ingredient began life in mid-2006 on the defunct Companion to the Old Foodie site. Rather belatedly I am bringing it into its new home, and intend to add to it again from time to time.

To read the original dedication and the comments, please go HERE.

Eighteenth Century.

Menon. “The professed cook: or the modern art of cookery, pastry, and confectionary, made plain and easy. Consisting of the most approved methods … ” (1769)

Gaufres au Caffé. With Coffee.
To a common Table Spoonful of grounded Coffee, put a Quarter of a Pound of Sugar-powder, a Quarter of a Pound of fine Flour; mix it well with good thick Cream as the preceding*; you may also put a little Salt to either. Des Cornets: they are done with the same preparation as the first or second, only a little more Liquid; as soon as you take them out of the Iron, twist them to what Shape you please; they will remain so in cooling.

*as the preceding … the Paste being prepared after this Manner … warm the Gaufer-iron on both Sides, and rub it over with some Butter tied in a Linen-bag, or a Bit of Virgin-wax; put a Spoonful of the Batter, and bake over a smart Fire, turning the Iron once or twice, until the Gaufer is done on both Sides of a fine brown Colour; if you would have them teisted, put them upon a Mould ready at hand for that Purpose; put it up directly as you take it out, and press it to the Shape of whatever Form you please, and so continue always; keep them in a warm Place.

Menon explains in the chapter heading that “What is here meant by Cornets, Horn, is the thin Dutch Wafers twisted like a Horn.”

From "The practice of modern cookery; adapted to families of distinction, as well as to those of the middling ranks of life. …; " George Dalrymple; published in Edinburgh in 1781.

Tourte de Chocolate. Chocolate-pies.
Mix a little flour with a pint of cream, and chocolate in proportion, a little sugar, and four eggs; boil it about a quarter of an hour, stirring it continually for fear it should catch at bottom; then put it in the paste, and the whites of four eggs beat to a snow upon it; glaze it with sugar, and bake it.
N.B. Coffee-pie is made after the same manner, boiling two or three dishes of clear coffee with the cream instead of the chocolate, as the preceding; they are both to be done without top-crusts.

Crème de Caffé. Coffee-cream.
Mix four cups of good coffee, with three half-pints of cream, and sugar according to teaste; boil it together, and reduce it about one third; then add the yolks of eight eggs beat up, mix it very well, and bake as the preceding*.
N.B. Observe, that the coffee must be done as if it was for drinking alone, and settled very clear.

[*“bake as the preceding” refers to the recipe for Chocolate-cream, and says “bake it between two slow fires, without any border”]

Oeufs au Caffé. Coffee Eggs.
Make some good coffee, let it stand so clear as usual, and sweeten it according to taste; beat up the yolks of eight eggs with four or five cups of coffee, and strain it; pour this in little moulds in form of eggs; do not fill them quite full, and bake in a slow oven. You may also make them after this manner, in shape of any fruits, or birds, if you have proper moulds, then they take the name accordingly.
From: The London art of cookery, and housekeeper's complete assistant. … With the addition of many new and elegant receipts; John Farley; London; 1792

Solomon’s Temple in Flummery.
Divide a quart of stiff flummery into three parts, and make one part a pretty thick colour with a little cochineal bruised fine, and steeped in French brandy. Scrape an ounce of chocolate very fine, dissolve it in a little strong coffee, and mix it with another part of your flummery to make it a light stone colour. The last part must be white. Then wet your temple mould, and fit it in a pot to stand even. Fill the top of the temple with red flummery for the steps, and the four points with white. Then fill up with chocolate flummery and let it stand till the next day. Then loosen it round with a pin, and shake it loose very gently; but do not dip your mould in warm water, as that would take off the gloss and spoil the colour. When you turn it out, stick a small sprig of flowers, down from the top of every point, which will not only strengthen it but also give it a pretty appearance. Lay round it rock candy sweetmeats.

A basic recipe for flummery from his book is:

French Flummery.
Beat half an ounce of isinglass fine, put to it a quart of cream, and mix them well together. Let it boil softly over a slow fire for a quarter of an hour, and keep stirring it all the time. Then take it off, sweeten it to your taste, and put in a spoonful of rose water, and another of orange flower water. Strain it, and pour it into a glass or bason, or whatever else you please, and when it be cold, turn it out.

Nineteenth Century.

Francatelli, Charles Elmé: “The Cook’s Guide” (1867).
Francatelli was English, in spite of his name (he was of Italian parentage) and he was chef to Queen Victoria for some time.

Coffee Souffle.
To six ounces of flour add ten ounces of sugar, a little salt, two ounces of butter, half a pint of strong coffee, and half a pint of cream; stir together briskly over the fire till it boils; then work in six yolks of eggs, and mix in lightly the whisked whites of nine eggs. Bake the soufflé as directed in No. 816.

… i.e: in a soufflé dish, round which has been secured a high band of buttered paper, to prevent the batter from falling over the sides as it rises in the oven; place the soufflé on a baking-sheet in an oven of moderate heat, taking care to move it round occasionally so that it may receive the heat equally on all sides. Three quarters of an hour will suffice to bake a soufflé of this size; and if these directions are attended to, it should make its appearance on the dinner-table as high again as the soufflé-dish.

Coffee Bon-Bons.
To half a pound of sugar add a small cup of very strong coffee; boil to the snap, and then stir in a very little more coffee, and continue working the composition at the side of the pan with a wooden spoon for about five minutes, and as soon as it begins to thicken, pour it out upon an oiled baking-sheet, and allow it to be about the sixth of an inch thick; and when it becomes set – and before it cools, with the back of the blade of a knife, mark it out in oblong squares, measuring one inch by half an inch; when the bon-bons are quite cold, they will easily be snapped apart.
From "Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery" (1870’s)

Coffee Cream
Make a breakfast-cupful of strong, clear coffee; add half a pint of boiling cream to it; beat them well together; sweeten with two tablespoonfuls of sugar, and, when cool, add a small pinch of salt, the well beaten yolks of six eggs, and the whites of two. Stir the mixture over the fire for a few minutes, to thicken it, pour it into glasses, and serve with a little sifted sugar on the top of each glass. Probable cost, 1s. 6d for this quantity. Sufficient for six or eight persons.

Coffee Ice Cream.
Mix a breakfastcupful of strong clear coffee with another one of boiling milk, six table-spoonfuls of finely-sifted sugar, and the yolks of six eggs. Stir the custard over a moderate fire until it thickens, then add a pint of thick cream. Stir it again over the fire till the cream coats the spoon, but do not let it boil. Pour it out, when cold, put it in a mould, and freeze in the usual way.

Coffee Jelly.
Pour a pint of boiling milk through a muslin bag containing three ounces of freshly-ground coffee. Put one ounce and a half of soaked gelatine into a saucepan with a pint of cold milk, and inch of stick cinnamon, and two table-spoonfuls of sugar. Let it boil, and stir it until the gelatine is dissolved. Mix the yolks of two eggs with the coffee, strain the milk and gelatine upon it, pour it into a mould which has been immersed in cold water, and let it remain in a cool place until stiff. It will stiffen in about twenty-four hours. Probable cost, 1s. 3d. Sufficient for rather more than a quart of jelly.
Presbyterian Cook Book: by The Ladies Of The First Presbyterian Church, Dayton, Ohio, (c1873). From the Feeding America Historic Cookbook Project.

Coffee Cake.
Mrs, J. D. Dubois.
One cup of butter; one of sugr; one of molasses; one of raisins; one of cold coffee; three of flour; two eggs; a piece of citron, cut small; nutmet and cinnamon.

“Erie” Coffee Cake.
Three cups brown sugar; one of butter; one of cold coffee; three eggs; three teaspoonfuls of soda; two of cinnamon; one of cloves; one of nutmeg; and three and one half cups of flour.
Buckeye Cookery, And Practical Housekeeping: Compiled From Original Recipes. (1877); From the Feeding America Historic Cookbook Project.

Coffee Cake.
Two cups brown sugar, one of butter, one of molasses, one of strong coffee as prepared for the table, four eggs, one tea-spoon saleratus, two of cinnamon, two of cloves, one of grated nutmeg, pound raisins, one of currants, four cups flour. Mrs. Wm. Skinner, Battle Creek, Michigan.

Coffee Cake.
One cup brown sugar, cup molasses, half cup butter, cup strong coffee, one egg or yolks of two, four even cups flour, heaping teaspoon soda in the flour, table-spoon cinnamon, tea-spoon cloves, two pounds raisins, fourth pound citron. Soften the butter, beat with the sugar, add the egg, spices, molasses and coffee, then the flour, and lastly the fruit dredged with a little flour. Bake one hour in moderate oven or make two small loaves which will bake in a short time. Mrs. D Buxton.

The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook; Fannie Merritt Farmer; (1896). From the Feeding America Historic Cookbook Project.

Coffee Cake.
¼ cup butter; ½ cup sugar; ½ cup raisins seeded and cut in pieces; ½ cup molasses; ¼ cup boiled coffee; 2 eggs; 2 ½ cups flour; 3 teaspoons baking powder; ½ teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon cinnamon; ½ teaspoon allspice; ½ nutmeg grated.
Follow directions for mixing butter cake mixtures.

Rich Coffee Cake.
1 cup butter; 2 cups sugar; 4 eggs; 2 tablespoons molasses; 1 cup boiled coffee; 3 ¾ cups flour; 5 teaspoons baking powder; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; ½ teaspoon cloves; ½ teaspoon mace; ½ teaspoon allspice; ¾ cup raisins seeded and cut in pieces; ¾ cup currants; ¼ cup citron thinly sliced and cut in strips; 2 tablespoons brandy.
Follow directions for mixing butter cake mixtures. Bake in deep cake pans.

Twentieth Century.

The Neighborhood Cook Book Compiled Under The Auspices Of The Portland Section In 1912, Council Of Jewish Women. (1914). From the Feeding America Historic Cookbook Project.

Black Coffee Cake.
Cream a slice of butter one-half inch thick with one cup of sugar. Drop in two eggs, one at a time. Add one-half cup black coffee, one and one-half cups of flour, two teaspoons Crescent baking powder. Put in square pan, cover with chopped nuts, sugar, and cinnamon.
Miss Tuxford’s Cookery for the Middle Classes; Manchester, England (c1920’s)

Coffee Cream Cake.
Make some Genoese Pastry [see below], and bake in a greased sandwich tin for about three-quarters of an hour. When cold, split open and spread with the Coffee Cream. Ice the top with 4 oz. icing sugar, 1 teaspoon coffee essence, and 1 ½ tablespoons water, mixed together, and decorate any way liked.

Coffee Filling.

Make as for Pineapple Cream Filling [see below], using 1 oz. sugar and 1 teaspoonful coffee essence instead of the pineapple chunks and syrup.

Pineapple Filling.
1 oz. cornflour, ½ oz. sugar, 1 yolk egg, ½ pint milk, 1 tablespoonful cream, 1 teaspoonful pineapple syrup, 2 oz pineapple chunks cut fine.
Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk, boil the remainder, pour this over the cornflour, return to the pan, and stir till boiling. Cook a little, add sugar, pineapple syrup, yolk of egg, and finely-cut pineapple, and cream. Use when cold.

Genoese Pastry.
¼ lb butter, ¼ lb flour, ¼ lb sugar, 2 eggs, ½ teaspoonful baking powder.
Cream the butter and sugar together, add eggs and flour alternately, and lastly, add the baking powder. Bake the mixture slowly in a papered Swiss Roll tine for half an hour. When cold, cut in small pieces and decorate with any kind of icing. The cakes take their name from the icing used.
From “The Gentle Art of Cookery” by Mrs. C.F.Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley, first published in 1925, two very similar recipes with different names:

Coffee Souffle.
Three quarters of a pint of strong coffee, a quarter of a pint of milk, three eggs, a quarter of a packet of gelatine, four or five ounces of sugar, salt, and vanilla.
Put the made coffee with the milk, half the sugar, and the gelatine, into a double saucepan. Beat up the yolks of the eggs with the rest of the sugar and a pinch of salt, and stir this into the coffee. Whisk the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth. When the coffee mixture thickens, take it off the fire (it must not boil) and add the whites of the eggs and vanilla to taste. Pour into a wet mould and set aside to cool. Serve cold with whipped cream.

Mousse au Café.
Eggs, coffee, castor sugar, gelatine, and cream.
Put into a basin the yolks of four eggs, and add to it a quarter of a pint of very strong coffee freshly made, then mix in from two or four ounces of sugar according to the taste. Heat this without letting it boil; let it get cold, and add to it the beaten whites of the four eggs, and a quarter of a pint of whipped cream.
Serve it in glasses with petits fours.
From “The Edinburgh Book of Advanced Cookery Receipts”, from the Edinburgh College of Domestic Science. (1933)

Coffee Cakes.
Two ounces cornflour.
Three ounces flour.
Three ounces butter.
Three ounces castor sugar.
Half-teaspoonful baking powder.
One tablespoon coffee essence.
Two eggs.
For decoration: Coffee glace icing [below]; chopped pistachios.

Cream the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs with a little flour, and add the coffee essence with the rest of the flour and baking-powder. Pour into greased tins, and bake from fifteen to twenty minutes in a moderately hot oven. Ice when cold with coffee glacé icing, and decorate with chopped pistachios.

Glacé icing.
Half-pound icing sugar; tepid water; flavouring.
Sift the icing sugar, place it in a basin with the flavouring and enough water to make a coating consistency. Beat well and use at once.

Note. – The water used for glace icing must not be hot, or the icing will lose its gloss.

Other variations. – (a) The addition of coffee essence or other flavouring, the icing being named accordingly. (b) Rum Glacé icing. – Add rum in the proportion of one teaspoonful of rum to three-quarters of a pound icing sugar. (c) Orange Glacé. – Add grated orange rind and mix with orange juice. Add a very little carmine or orange colouring if necessary.
From “The Lily Wallace New American Cookbook” (1946)

Coffee Bread Pudding.
Follow recipe for bread pudding [TOF: see below], substituting 1 ½ cups strong coffee for an equal quantity of milk, and omitting vanilla.

Bread Pudding.
1 ½ cups bread crumbs; 3 cups hot milk; 2 beaten eggs; 2/3 cup sugar; ¼ teaspoon salt; 1 tablespoon fat; ½ teaspoon vanilla; ½ cup chopped nuts.
Combine crumbs, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and fat. Mix well. Add vanilla and nuts. Turn into a greased baking tin. Bake in a moderate oven (350oF) or until firm. Serve with whipped cream. Serves 6.

Coffee Caramels.
Substitute 1 ½ cups coffee for milk in recipe for vanilla caramels [TOF: see below] and omit vanilla.

Vanilla Caramels.

2 cups sugar; 1 cup brown sugar; 1 cup light corn sirup; 1 cup condensed milk; 1 ½ cups milk; 1/3 cup butter or fat; ¼ teaspoon salt; 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla.
Cook sugar, corn sirup, condensed milk, and milk together in a saucepan, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the temperature is 248o f., or until mixture forms a firm ball when tested in cold water. Remove from the fire, add butter, salt, and vanilla, and mix well. Pour into a greased pan. When cold remove from pan, cut in cubes and wrap each caramel in waxed paper.

Coffee Tapioca.
1 egg yolk; 1 cup evaporated milk; 1/3 cup minute tapioca; 2/3 cup sugar; ¼ teaspoon salt; 1 cup water; 2 cups strong coffee’ 1 egg white; 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Mix egg yolk with small amount of milk in a saucepan. Add remaining milk, tapioca, sugar, salt, water, and coffee. Bring mixture to boil over direct heat, stirring constantly. Remove from fire. Beat egg white until just stiff enough to hold shape. Fold hot tapioca mixture gradually into egg-white. Cool. When slightly cool, stir in flavouring. Chill. Serve in parfait glasses with caramel sauce. Serves 8.

Caramel Sauce.
Butter the inside of a granite saucepan. Add 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate and melt over hot water. Add 2 cups light brown sugar and mix well. Add 1 ounce butter and ½ cup rich milk. Cook until the mixture forms a soft ball in cold water, then take from fire, and flavor with vanilla.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thanksgiving Food: Mock Turkey.

As the vegetarian reformist movement gathered force in the nineteenth century, cookbook writers turned their attention to the production of meatless meals that still paid familiar homage to tradition. A great deal of effort and evangelical zeal went into producing and promoting dishes that still looked vaguely like the “real thing” - begging the question of why a committed vegetarian would ever want something with a superficial resemblance to a dead animal on their place, regardless of its actual ingredients. Perhaps it helped the transition for those newly converted to vegetarianism, but it still seems a strange idea.

Before the usefulness of soy protein was recognised and promoted in the West (thanks in no small part to, of all people, the automobile entrepreneur Henry Ford in the 1930’s), the major substitute for animal meat was nut meat. The other thing that had to be factored into recipe adaptation by the vegetarian cook at this time was that most adherents and promoters also eschewed the use of condiments and spices of all sorts, including vinegar.

The author of a small cookery book Guide for Nut Cookery (published by the staunchly vegetarian Battle Creek organisation) in 1899, had this to say on the troublesome topic of a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

"The Thanksgiving dinner has been a great puzzler to the vegetarian housewife. “How can we ever celebrate Thanksgiving without a turkey?” has been a question which it has been hard to solve. I propose that we do have a turkey for Thanksgiving,- not the corpse of a bird whose life was sacrificed to satisfy our perverted appetites, but something which, although it looks like a real turkey, with neck, wings, legs, and even the drum-stick bones protruding, is only one made of nuts and grains. Then let us have the pumpkin pie, chicken croquettes, and fish all stuffed and baked, the salads, and lettuce,-in fact, all that Thanksgiving calls for; but we will use only wholesome material. We will substitute nut foods for the different meats, lemon-juice will take the place of vinegar, and nuts the place of animal fats. With painstaking, we shall have a better dinner than our sisters who have their platters ladened [sic] with the remains of a barn-yard fowl, and with cakes and pies filled with animal fats and spices. Besides this, we shall have a clearer mind, as well as a clear conscience; while those who eat meat are taking poisons into the system which benumb the brain, cloud the conscience, and render man unfit to meet the vesper hour and hold communion with his God."

And here is the author’s alternative Thanksgiving centerpiece – a gloriously time-consuming sculpture resembling a turkey, and named as a turkey – but without the turkey.

Roast Turkey.
To make a good-sized turkey, take 20 heaping tablespoonfuls of zwieola, 20 tablespoonfuls of No. 3 gluten, 8 tablespoonfuls of pecan meal, 8 tablespoonfuls of roasted almond meal, 8 tablespoonfuls of black walnut meal, 2 tablespoonfuls of peanut butter, 3 heaping teaspoonfuls of ground sage, 2 tablespoonfuls of grated onion, 2 teaspoonfuls of salt, 6 hard-boiled eggs, and 3 raw eggs. Put the zwieola in a large
pan and pour over it 5 cups of hot water, and let it soak for fifteen minutes ; then put the hard-boiled eggs through a sieve and add them to the zwieola ; add also the nut butter dissolved in water, beat the eggs and add them to the mixture with the other ingredients. Mix all very thoroughly ; if it is so dry_that it is crumbly, add more water, being careful not to get it too soft or it will not hold in shape well. A piece of sheet iron is nice to bake it on, as it can be more easily slipped off. Oil it with nut oil, and place on top of it a thick piece of muslin saturated with oil; upon this cloth form a turkey, making the breast full and high, and leaving a little piece for the neck. Press it together with the hands, oiling them with nut oil to keep them from sticking. Then
take a large tablespoonful of the mixture into one hand, and press into the center of it a large-sized stick of macaroni, which is long enough to protrude about two inches, after running the length of the leg ; with the hands oiled, shape it into the form of a turkey leg, using the white of an egg to make it stick to the body, and secure it by sticking pieces of macaroni through the leg, just below the bone, into the body,
carefully covering the end of the macaroni with a little of the mixture. Form the wings and attach them to the body in the same way in which the legs were secured. When the fowl is all formed and smooth, brush it over with a cloth dipped in nut oil, then bring up the cloth around the turkey and pin it together tight enough to hold the wings and legs in position. Then place in the oven and bake for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven, unpin the cloth, and with the shears cut off as much of it as possible without moving the turkey; spread the turkey with a mixture of beaten egg and roasted almond butter with a little salt added. Return to the oven and bake to a nice brown. Again remove from the oven and slide it into the platter on which it is to be served. The garnishing, in the cut, is cubes of cranberry jelly and parsley.

To see an example of a historic vegetarian Thanksgiving menu, featured in this blog in 2006, go here.

Quotation for the Day.
What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
Erma Bombeck.

Quotation for the Day.
What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
Erma Bombeck.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thanksgiving Food: Turkey Dressing.

Today we focus on the dressing (or “stuffing”, if you prefer, which I do) of the turkey. Browsing historic recipes gives me the impression that the Big Three turkey dressings are cornbread, oyster, and chestnut. What other alternatives are there?

The Burlington Daily Hawk-Eye (quoting the Detroit Free Press), of November 26 1876 opined that “Roast turkey stuffed with nice rich mashed potatoes is admired by many”, but went on to give some recipes, including this one, for a basic bread dressing.

“Take three pints of bread crumbs for a medium-sized turkey: chop finely, with one-quarter pound of salt pork, a good lump of butter, salt, pepper, sauce and savory, and break in two or three eggs to make it of the right consistency. Fill both the breast and body and sew up.”

From the simple we go to the extravagant with the following idea from The Wellsboro Agitator, of December 24, 1878

“There is one ingredient here I would like to have – but you must leave it out if the object is to be economical. A dozen or so of truffles, finely chopped, half inside the stuffing and half outside in the gravy will add a crowning and superb relish to your roast turkey – but I warn you that the dozen of truffles will cost you an extra five dollars.”

How about one of the “new style stuffings” discussed in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal of January 1938?

Mushroom Stuffing.
8 cups breadcrumbs, 1 egg, beaten, 4 slices bacon, salt and pepper to taste, ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning; milk to moisten, 1 small can mushrooms.
Dice the bacon and pan broil, then brown the mushrooms in the drippings. Mix all together lightly.

As for the Big Three, we have had recipes for all things cornmeal in many previous posts, oysters are now too expensive to stuff inside a roasting bird, but chestnuts still seem like a good idea, if you can get them where you live. Here is a recipe is from the Fort Wayne Daily Gazette of November 24, 1881.

Chestnut Sauce.
One pint of shelled chestnuts, one quart of stock, one teaspoonful of lemon juice, one tablespoonful of flour, two of butter; add salt and pepper. Boil the chestnuts in water for about three minutes, then plunge them in cold water and rub off the dark skins. Put them on to cook with the stock and boil gently until they will mash readily (it will take about an hour) mash as fine as possible. Put the butter and flour in a saucepan and cook until a dark brown. Stir into the sauce, and cook two minutes. Add the seasoning and rub all through a sieve. Use large chestnuts.

Quotation for the Day.

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching. Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up.
Ted Allen