Part of the fun of exploring this week’s cookery book choice (Adam's Luxury and Eve's Cookery, or, the Kitchen-Garden display’d, published in 1744) has been considering old recipes as a source of new inspiration. I am sure I have gone on about this before, but I am constantly surprised, and more than a little disappointed, that modern cooks rarely seem to use history for inspiration. We are very comfortable with cultural inspiration however, and think nothing of incorporating ingredients and ideas from other countries in our recipes, even if we revert to familiar dishes for their comfort value.
It seems that ‘foreign’ food ideas were also appealing to cooks and diners in 1744. Here are a couple of recipes for peas with an international flavour, from Adam's Luxury and Eve's Cookery.
Peas the Portuguese Way.
Wash your Peas, cut in some Lettuce with a Lump of Sugar, some fine Oil, a few Mint Leaves, cut small, with Parsley, Onions, Shallots, Garlick, Winter Savory, Nutmeg, Salt, Pepper, and a little Broth; put some over the Fire, and when ‘tis almost ready, poach some new Eggs in it, making a Place for each Egg to lie in; then cover your Stew pan again, and boil your eggs with a little Fire upon the Cover; then slide them into your dish, and serve them.
Fine beans may be dress’d in the same manner, but you must blanch them, and put them in as they are, without putting them in Butter.
Peas the French Way.
Shell your Peas, and pass a quarter of a Pound of Butter, gold colour, with a Spoonful of Flower; then put in a Quart of Peas, four Onions cut small, and two Cabbages cut as small as the Onions; then put in half a Pint of Gravy, seasoned with Pepper, Salt, and Cloves. Stove this well an Hour, then put in half a Spoonful of fine Sugar, and fry some Artichokes to lay round the Side of the Dish; serve it with a forced Lettuce in the Middle.
Quotation for the Day.
LAUREL, n. The laurus a vegetable dedicated to Apollo, and formerly defoliated to wreathe the brows of victors and such poets as had influence at court.
Ambrose Bierce, Devil’s Dictionary.
I agree with you about not looking to our past, but to other cultures. My mother gave me a facsimile of a Five Roses cookbook from 1915. It was the only cookbook my grandmother owned. When my bookclub (and dinner group) was looking at a biography of two sisters in Ontario in the early 19th century, I went to this cookbook for inspiration for my constribution. It had a Shepherd's Pie that was more than the usual beef and gravy topped with mashed potatoes. It was a layer of potato, then onion, then beef and gravy, then potato and then topped with a "paste" crust. Oh, and a whole in the centre to pour drippings while it baked. As you noted in your Pie book, we Canadians are noted for our pies.
I think part of the problem I have with using older recipes is the lack of measurements. The measurements are given if I want to try Chinese or Mexican but generally aren't when I'm looking in an old cookbook. I would never have tried to make sauerkraut if I were to follow my grandmother's recipe since she gave it as: sprinkle salt on cut cabbage and leave the barrel on the north side of the house in the summer, remember to pack it down every now and then. The modern recipe I found emboldened me since it gave pounds cabbage per tablespoon of salt and I have a gallon fermenting and smelling up)in my pantry right now. Most people, including me, have a hard time judging how much of certain ingredients, like spices, need to be included.
Les, you are absolutely right. The cookbook I was referring to says bake in a fast oven or slow oven because, of course, they didn't have reliable gauges for heat. This little book is less than 150 pages and has 600 recipes because there are essentially no instrutions. I believe they thought that you either knew what to do, or you could ask your mother or your neighbour for help.
The Portuguese recipe sounds tasty!
Les, in the 'olden days' cooks just learned to judge by experience, and, as Kelly says, there were always people around to ask. Apart from baked goods, exact measurements dont matter. Not much can go wrong - things may not taste quite as you expect, so you can adjust next time; jump in and try!
And I agree about the Portuguese peas, Marcheline!
I've made cold slaw dressing using a recipe I found in a 19th century cook book posted at Gutenburg.org. It was easy to adapt and turned out great. I think one reason the recipes are so sketchy compared to modern recipes is that the authors may have expected cooks to experiment or to not have every ingredient on hand. The sauerkraut made me nervous though since it involved a long fermentation process.
It's hard for me to adapt things to a gluten free format too.
I can understand our trepidation in respect of the sauerkraut recipe, Les. That fermentation makes me nervous. That being said, I dont think you can poison yourself with it.
Early cookbooks contained a lot of 'assumed knowledge'. Very early cookbooks were often just abbreviated memory aids for master chefs (back in the day when most folk, including most kitchen staff) were not literate.
I know the gluten-free story - my daughter in law is very sensitive to it, as are a couple of friends.
I would have used wa-ay too much salt had a attempted my grandmother's recipe. I was thinking on the order of packing down fresh meats. I was really surprised to see how little was needed. It's been two weeks since I started mine and I noticed it was getting nice and 'squeaky' when I went to pack it down last night. I can't wait for it to be done! I added caraway seeds to one quart to see how it turns out.
Les, let us know how the sauerkraut turns out, Please!
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