Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Coffee? Gravy?

For the next week or so (hopefully not longer), posts will consist of short-ish snippets and recipe curiosities, while my new notebook computer is resuscitated after its premature hard drive demise. The ‘spare’ computer suffered exactly the same fate on exactly the same day, and although it has been resurrected and is working very well, I am not inclined to restore every file to it, only to have to repeat the process when the baby returns – so, I do not have access to all of my stuff.

The incident made me think about how we get on and make do when the best is not available – which is not unusually determined by cost. Cost was undoubtedly the rationale for the excruciatingly awful versions of ‘coffee’ and ‘gravy’ supplied by the Correctional Association of New York to its guests in Clinton Prison in 1864, which were explained in their nineteenth annual report.

Bill of Fare.
Breakfast is uniform throughout the week, and consists of coffee, corned beef, bread, potatoes and gravy.
The coffee is made by browning crusts of bread in the oven until the outside is black. Then 8 lbs of these burned crusts and 2 gallons of molasses are boiled with 30 gallons of water; this makes a pleasant and healthy drink, which is much liked by the men. We believe it to be far the best substitute for coffee in prisons and alms houses that can be made.
The beef is corned beef boiled in the ordinary way.
The gravy is made by melting 13 lbs of lard and warming 20 lbs of flour; the warm flour is then rubbed evenly into the melted lard,; and cooked fifteen minutes; 24 gallons of warm water are then poured in to the flour and lard, and the whole boiled together half an hour; it is seasoned with salt and pepper well stirred together, and it is then fit for use. Each man receives one gill of the gravy. The men like it very much.

P.S. There are other stories on ersatz coffee HERE and HERE.

Quotation for the Day.

Forever: Time it takes to brew the first pot of coffee in the morning.
Author Unknown


Ferdzy said...

Much liked by the men? Better than a kick in the head with a frozen boot, I suppose.

I used to do volunteer work in a local jail. One evening I remember having a spirited discussion as to whether the hot beverage we were served was coffee, tea or hot chocolate. No really convincing argument could be found for any of those positions.

KT said...

Whooo. Cruel and unusual punishment, I wonder? :)

The Old Foodie said...

Yes, a whole lot could be read into that "much liked by the men"! Liked better than bread and water? or no hot beverage at all? "much liked" meaning "no complaints received"?