Thursday, June 10, 2010

It’s all in the method.

Yesterday I had a mini-rant about the mean-spiritedness of folk who decline to share their recipes when asked nicely. Aside from the meanness of it, there is a very pragmatic reason why this is a silly reaction. A recipe is more than a list of ingredients. The method instructions are the tricky part. It is very difficult to write them in such a clear and unequivocal way that the recipient - working in a different kitchen with a different interpretation of terms such as ‘mix thoroughly’ and ‘chop finely’ – can reproduce the dish exactly. Heck! I can’t even get the same result from my own recipes every time! I want to touch on this topic again today.

One of my other recent themes is the finding of cookery recipes in places other than regular cookery publications. Today’s story touches on this too, as the recipes I want to share with you come from the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society Transactions, published in 1861 (and which is largely a report on the tenth Annual State Fair in the previous year).

Today’s recipes are a selection from those which won prizes in various cookery categories at the Fair, and which were published in the report. Did I say ‘recipes’? There was no danger of loss of intellectual property here, as you will see. Perhaps this was not the rationale anyway – no doubt the good women (and girls) of Wisconsin did not need to be told how to assemble the ingredients ‘according to the usual manner.’

Genuine Sponge Cake.
3 cups of flour, 3 cups of sugar, and ten eggs.
Mrs. H.W.Hayes, Palmyra.

Premium Corn Cake.
Two qts. Indian meal, 1 qt. Graham flour, 1 cup yeast, 1 cup molasses or sugar, ½ tea-spoonful soda, ½ tea-spoonful salt.
Mrs. H.W.Hayes, Palmyra.

Premium Cookies – Juvenile List.
Six spoonfuls of sugar, four of butter, and three eggs.
Miss F.V.Niles, (10 years)

Premium Gingerbread.
One cup molasses, one-half cup butter, one-half cup buttermilk, two eggs, one table-spoonful brown sugar, one tea-spoonful ginger, one tea-spoonful saleratus, flour enough to make a stiff batter.
Miss Josephine Peffer (under 12 years)

Quotation for the Day.

A recipe is not meant to be followed exactly – it is a canvas on which you can embroider.
Roger Verge.


Amanda said...

I just wanted you to know that I just recently came across your blog and think it's wonderful. I am the editor for Old Fashioned Living ( and have posted a link to you on our website's FB fan page :)

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Amanda! ( a bit belated thanks, I know - many apologies, I have been pre-occupied ... )