I apologise in advance to my friends from the Indian subcontinent, for the information in this post. Please do not shoot the historical messenger!
Until the mid nineteenth century, cookery books covered the full range of dishes, but at this time, a trickle of books on specific food topics began to appear. I was most pleased recently, to find a curry cookery book from 1891. It is Tempting Curry Dishes, and was published in New York in 1891.
The introduction notes that, in ‘an ancient cookery book in the Sanskrit language’ are preserved many of the formulae and recipes of the ‘mighty Hindoo kingdoms’. These, it said, totalled many hundreds of formulae – each dish having its own separate powder, which ‘are known to modern civilisation as Curry Powders.’
The introduction goes on to report:
‘ … a short time ago, the members of the famous New York Chafing Dish Club decided to hold a series of practical sessions in curry cookery, with a view to determining which Curry Powder on the New York market was the most appropriate for the United States [and] at the same time was made of the purest and most wholesome ingredients.’
Over forty different curry powders were tasted, and ‘a number of distinguished English epicures were present and took part in the contest.’ The labels of the competing brands were of course covered. The winner – universally chosen by the experts - was the Curry Powder of James P. Smith & Company’, from Park Place, New York.
This then, is the promotional cookery book for the product. There are recipes for curried apples, curried frogs, and curried tripe amongst the expected curried beef, chicken, and prawns. There is even a recipe for curried sandwiches. A great range of options for a spicy dinner for the discerning gourmet – and, most conveniently, every single dish receives its delicious curry flavour from ‘J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder.’
I do quite like the following ideas from the book, but perhaps we should experiment with our own blends of ‘curry powder’ to use instead of the (no doubt unobtainable today), J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder.
One of the agreeable and at the same time useful oils which should find a place on the shelf of every kitchen or butler’s pantry, is known as Curry Oil. It is made by putting into a six-ounce, large-mouthed bottle two tablespoonfuls of J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder, then filling up the bottle with Antonini Olive Oil. In a week it will be ready for use. A few drops of it should be added to sauces and salads.
Put in a pint of good cider or wine vinegar a tablespoonful of J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder, shake it well from time to time, and in ten days it will be fit for use. It is excellent for flavouring soups etc.
Quotation for the Day.
Lettuce, greens and celery, though much eaten, are worse than cabbage, being equally indigestible without the addition of condiments.
William Andrus Alcott, The Young House-keeper, (1846)