Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Maize Meal.

Sometimes a cook or producer or marketing guru will stage a dinner in which most or all dishes feature a specific ingredient. We have had several examples in this blog. Some ingredients are obviously more adaptable than others, and maize is quite clearly one of the stars in that regard. The organisers of the menu I give you today however were intent on promoting only one product of maize – the flour. The following story was written some time ago specifically for a bakery industry magazine for which I write regularly. I have tweaked the article slightly for this post, as I thought regular readers might enjoy the menu.

By the mid-ninteenth century America was well and truly aware of the value of maize as a crop, and marketing of products derived from it had already begun. The usefulness of cornstarch (cornflour) for thickening gravy and sauces, and for making light cookies and cakes had been promoted for some time, and in 1864 with the American Civil War dragging on, the manufacturers of one brand of cornflour managed to promote the use of their product as a patriotic duty.

A great exhibition was held in Philadelphia in the first week of June in 1864 in aid of the Sanitary Commission. The Commission had been formed at the beginning of the war in 1861 to improve conditions in Union Army camps and provide medical and hospital care – for which of course it constantly needed funds. The fair’s ‘great, indeed sole aim … is to do good to the sick and wounded of our gallant army; and though the feeling which will prompt all who contribute is that of gratitude to our soldiers, the occasion may be used, incidentally, to bring before the public eye, the varied manufactures of our country … ’

The manufacturer of one brand of cornstarch called Maizena, had a restaurant concession at the fair, and all the items on their bill of fare were made with this product. The menu does not specify whether or not other starches were used in addition to the cornflour, but if they did not, then this would make a fine gluten-free dessert menu for today.



Maizena … Vanilla 15c Maizena … Pineapple 15c
Maizena … Chocolate 15c Maizena … Strawberry 15c
Maizena … Orange 15c Maizena … Lemon 15c


Maizena … Cup Lemon Pudding 20c Maizena … Prince Albert Pudding 25c
Maizena … “ Orange Pudding 20c Maizena … Plum 15c


Maizena … Strawberry Sponge 20c Maizena … Baked Custard 20c
Maizena … Lemon 20c Maizena … Boiled  20c
Maizena … Orange 20c Maizena … Floating Island 25c
Maizena … Charlotte Russe 25c Maizena … Charlotte Fruit 20c


Maizena …Blanc-Mange and Syrup 20c Maizena … Wine Jelly 20c
Maizena … “ Plain 15c Maizena … Orange Jelly 20c


Maizena … Chocolate 10c Maizena … Strawberry 10c
Maizena … Lemon 10c Maizena … Orange 10c


Maizena … Sponge Cake 5c Maizena … Meringues 25c
Maizena … Sultana “ 5c Maizena … Cream Tarts 25c
Maizena … Pound “ 5c Maizena … Wine Cake 15c
Maizena … Croquettes 5c Maizena … Chocolate Meringues 25
Maizena … Cream Puffs 10c Maizena … Tipsey Cake 15c
Maizena … Spanish Puffs 10c Maizena … Meringue Tarts 25c
Maizena … Omelette Comfits 15c Maizena … Pies 15c

By the end of the century the potential value of the crop as an export item was being exploited at every opportunity. During the lead-up to the great Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, there was a huge public relations campaign to encourage the participation of overseas exhibitors. The aim of the exhibition was to celebrate the discovery of the New World by Columbus, and what better way than by promoting one of his most useful finds – maize? American representatives in Europe gave a ‘Maize Banquet’ in Copenhagen in which almost every dish, sweet or savoury contained maize in one form or another. The banquet raised a great deal of interest and was widely reported in the American newspapers. The aim of course was not simply to raise awareness of the exposition but also to specifically seek foreign markets for maize products (keeping the industry firmly on American soil)

Maizena Ice-Cream.
Take 2 oz of Maizena, mix it smoothly with a little cold milk; place 2 quarts of milk on the fire, when boiling, add the above; beat briskly, remove it from the fire, add 1 lb fine sugar, 4 eggs, stir well together, flavor to taste; when cold it may be frozen the same as other ices.
Recipes for the use of Duryeas’ Maizena, 1864

There is a recipe for Maizena cake in a previous blog post here.

Quotation for the Day.

Gardens, scholars say, are the first sign of commitment to a community. When people plant corn they are saying, let's stay here. And by their connection to the land, they are connected to one another.
Anne Raver.


Le Loup said...

A very interesting post, thank you.
Regards, Le Loup.

Sharlene T. said...

Great quote and so true. Once you commit to planting an orchard, you've pretty much decided this is where you're going to be for the next five years, at least... thanks for your research and sharing...

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Le Loup and Sharlene T. I love sharing this stuff.