Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Epitaph for a Foodie.

I fear I am leaning towards posts on food trivia, rather than food history of late, but this semi-retired life is incredibly hectic, and to keep up five days a week posting means that sometimes I have to err on the side of the quick and frivolous. The same excuse serves for my shameful failure in responding to those who have taken the time to comment on various recent posts. My apologies to one and all.

I do hope you are not disappointed in today’s gleanings from Morton’s Sixpenny Almanack and Diary for the year 1876. I do love almanacs. This one has the usual listings of anniversaries, astronomical events, tides, gardening and nature lore, postal rates and so on, but intermingled with these are a random lot of odd stories and anecdotes with no obvious relevance to anything almanacal (almanackial?).

My favourite is this:

In a village near Newmarket there is an iron dish fixed into a gravestone at the request of William Symons, who, at the age of eighty, a great gourmand, dying, left a request that the following lines should tell the story of his besetting sin:-

“Here lies my corpse, I was the man,
That loved a sop in the dripping pan;
But now, believe me, I am dead:
See here the pan stands at my head.
Still for sops till the last I cried
But could not eat, and so I died.
My neighbours, they perhaps will laugh,
When they do read my epitaph.”

In case you didn’t know it, the almanac (from 1876, I remind you), informs us that the quatern loaf sold for 1s. 10 ½ d. in the year 1801.

Breadth of stories may perhaps compensate for lack of depth, so I give you the following snippets:

A Monster Vine.
A vine, situated about three miles and a half from Santa Barbara, California, has a trunk 4ft. 4in. in circumference. It begins to branch out at about six or eight feet from the ground, and is then supported on framework, which it covers as a roof. The whole vine thus supported now covers over an acre of ground. Several of the limbs are as much as 10 inches in circumference at a distance of 25 or 30 feet from the trunk. The annual yield of grapes from this mammoth vine is from 10,000 to 12,000 pounds. The clusters average, when ripe, from 2 to 24 pounds each.

A Curious Table.
A novel dining-table is now in use in one of the palaces of the Emperor of Russia. The table is circular, and is placed on a weighted platform. At the touch of a signal, like a rub of Aladdin's lamp, down goes the table through the floor, and a new table, loaded with fresh dishes and supplies, rises in its place. But this is not all; each plate stands on a weighted disk, the table cloth being cat with circular openings, one for each plate. If a guest desires a change of plate he touches a signal at his side, when his plate disappears and another rises. These mechanical dining tables render the presence of servants quite superfluous.

To my absolute delight, the almanac also contains a scattered few recipes, thus filling up that bit of reserved space too. Please someone offer some suggestions as to the particular instruction in this recipe to ‘stir with the right hand’?

How to make a Good Old-Fashioned Soup.
Procure a soup bone, boil until tender, remove the meat, add to the soup a few onions, season to suit the taste; slice the onions very thin: set it to boil. Then take some flour in a bowl, drop sweet milk in by the drop, and keep stirring with the right hand, until you think you have enough to thicken the soup sufficiently, and you will have what we call flour rubbings. Add to the soup; let it boil up, stirring it all the time, and it is done. It is excellent warmed over for next day.

Quotation for the Day.

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.
Elizabeth Berry.


Les said...

There is a tomb stone in Bartlesville, OK for the former owner of Murphy's Original Steakhouse marked "And gravy all over". His restaurant is famous locally for serving the hot hamburger, a hamburger covered in cream gravy.

For right hand stirring: I'm wondering if they are referring to the way most wooden spoons are cut for right handed users, slanting from the bottom left up to the upper right.

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins said...

Dear Old Foodie, why not write one post per week?
You may be able to manage this better.
As a consequence, I will need to get used to not switching on my computer and having you greet me each morning.

Anonymous said...

The right arm is usually the strongest, so we might say "stir well" or "stir briskly."

It does call up memories of the brisket recipe that called for cutting off the tip of the roast--the recipe was traced back through four or five cooks to the woman whose pan was too small . . .

Jenny Islander

Unknown said...

Can you tell me if this is Newmarket in England or in the USA?

The Old Foodie said...

Definitely England, Nic. The book was published in England