Thursday, November 15, 2012

Zebu on the Menu.



If yesterday’s menu was too pink and flowery for you, you might prefer the bill of fare for the annual dinner of  the French Zoological Society on January 8, 1912. This is how it was reported in the New York Times.

Hors d’Oeuvres, Chinese eggs, guaranteed really ancient.
Fish, black perch of Patagonia
Entrée, Salmi of Zebu from Madagascar.
Cutlet of Russian Brown Bear.
Exotic vegetables.
Unpronounceable names of rare fruit end the peculiar menu.

Alas, I am not able to provide you with recipes for zebu, or bear, or Patagonian perch. I can, however, give you some old instructions for making old eggs, Chinese style. And here they are, from China: A History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People (1878)

Of preserved eggs the Chinese are very fond, and they are prepared in large quantities. An account of the process of preserving eggs may prove interesting to my readers.
Some vegetable is well boiled in a few pints of water, together with the leaves of the bamboo, fir, or cedar tree. This is done to render the water aromatic. In this water, as soon as it is lukewarm, the eggs are first washed, and then steeped for a few hours. Where a hundred eggs are being preserved, ten taels of salt, five taels of the ashes of firewood, and one catty of lime are formed into a kind of paste by being well mixed in the vessel which contains the aromatic water from which the eggs have been removed. This paste is then placed in a tub or coarse earthenware jar, the eggs being carefully embedded in it, and allowed to remain for three days. They are then taken out, so that the mixture may be stirred up, after which they are replaced. After three days more, this process is repeated again; and repeated again after three days more. The jar, or tub, is now hermetically sealed, and allowed to continue so for thirty days, when the eggs are fit for use. Another mode is as follows: Four taels weight of Bohea tea-leaves having been well boiled, the water is drawn off, and poured upon as much lime as will go in three basins of ordinary size, as much ash of firewood as would fill seven of these basins, and salt weighing twelve taels. These ingredients are then well mixed into a paste, and the eggs to be preserved are smeared with it. They are then carefully deposited in tubs or jars which contain wood-ashes, so as to prevent the eggs from adhering to one another. As wood-ashes are in great request for this purpose, they are carefully stored by cooks, who sellthem to egg preservers at the rate of eight cash per catty.After forty days the eggs are found to be well preserved. In smearing them both men and women are employed: they wear gloves to protect their hands from the effects of the lime.Occasionally eggs are preserved in tubs or jars containing either a mixture of red clay and salt water, or a mixture of soot and salt water. These are called salted eggs, and are regarded as wholesome food for the sick.

In case the idea is not to your liking, I also give you a simple, quick, and very nice idea for fresh eggs, freshly hard-boiled.

Pressed Eggs.
Use any number of eggs desired. Boil hard; shell and chop finely; add salt, pepper, and mustard. The add 1 teaspoon melted butter to each egg. Mix well and press into a mould. Allow to stand an hour; then slice. This is a good meal substitute and excellent for sandwiches.
‘Truth’ and ‘Daily Mirror’ Cookery Book, (c 1943) by Ruth Cilento.

4 comments:

Piet B said...

"Patagonian perch" is probably a reference to the Patagonian toothfish (or, as we call it in North America, the Chilean sea bass), which is a member of the perch family with a nearly black skin. "Toothfish" isn't nearly as good a name for marketing as "sea bass". And the fish is quite tasty.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Piet
I wasnt sure what it was, and didnt have time to look it up. I will look out for it and see if it is available here in Australia.

Cooking with Larousse said...

I've just been reading Harold McGee's 'On Food and Cooking', which tells me that Zebu is the ancestor to the domesticated cow, and still bred in India for meat and ploughing. If I manage to get my hands on any I'll be sure to let you know how it tastes :)

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Cooking with Larousse! Be sure that you do let us know: I suspect it would be like tough beef, but who knows?