Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stag Cooking.

This is NOT a story about venison, and the cooking thereof. It is a celebration of The Stag Cook Book: Written by Men, for Men, (New York, 1922), by Sheridan, C. Mack. This marvellously informative and much-needed book has a rather poignant dedication:
 Dedicated to:
who have at one time or another tried to “cook something”; and who, in the attempt, have weakened under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm, only to spoil, what, under more favorable circumstances, would have proved a chef-d’Ĺ“uvre.

Then, on the next page is the vindication:

“They may live without houses and live without books”
So the saying has gone through the ages,
“But a civilized man cannot live without cooks – “
It's a libel, as proved by these pages,
For when left by himself in a small kitchenette,
With a saucepan, a spoon and a kettle,
A man can make things that you'll never forget —
That will put any cook on her mettle.

Where camp fires glow through the still of the night,
Where grills are electric and shiny,
Where kitchens are huge, done in tiling of white.
Where stoves are exceedingly tiny.
Where people are hungry — no matter the place —
A man can produce in a minute
A dish to bring smiles to each skeptical face,
With art — and real food value — in it I

At range and at oven, at (whisper it!) still,
A man is undoubtedly master;
His cooking is done with an air and a skill.
He's sure as a woman — and faster!
He may break the dishes and clutter the floor,
And if he is praised — he deserves it —
He may flaunt his prowess until he’s a bore. . . .
But, Boy, what he serves — when he serves it!

I have, in fact, given you a story from the book in a previous post (Justifiable Homicide, Chef Style), but there is yet more to share. How could any Stag not be tempted by this book, when the introduction simultaneously appeals to the universal love of celebrities, hints at the irresistible delights within, and reassures the Stag that it is all doable, if only he hold his awe in check?

The immortals who have contributed recipes to this volume were born with a silver spoon not in their mouths, but in their hands. The cap and apron, not the cap and bells, is the garb in which they perform. Secrets handed down through generations are thrown with a wanton hand on the pages that comprise this volume. Sauces from the south, chowders from New England, barbecued masterpieces from the west, grilled classics from field and stream, ragouts, stews, desserts, dressings are hung within reach of all, like garlic clusters from the rafters of opportunity. Reach up and help yourself.
Be not disturbed by occasional jocund phrases in this symposium. Behind them is probably concealed a savory or a flavor. A long paragraph may conclude with full particulars concerning the architecture of a gastronomic dream. Turn the pages slowly lest you be overwhelmed by the richness of the menu.

As for the recipe for the day, I was initially equally tempted by the very manly-sounding Hog Jowls and Turnip Greens, and the rather girly-sounding  Fried Elderberry Blossoms.  I finally decided on Tomato Wiggle, because the name sounds like fun, and  the dish can be described as a form of Welsh Rarebit – which as you know, is one of my pet topics. The recipe was provided by one James R. Quirk, editor and publisher of the first movie fan magazine Photoplay, which was founded in 1911.  

Tomato Wiggle.
To one pound of diced American cheese, add one can of Campbell's Tomato Soup.
Heat over a slow fire until a thick, smooth mass has been obtained. And then add one beaten egg,
and follow it quickly with a cup of cream or very rich milk. Stir in a dessertspoonful of
Worcestershire Sauce, and enough salt to give the proper kick.
Serve on soda crackers that have been heated - large soda crackers.
The name? That's just to make it difficult.

Quotation for the Day:

Cooking is a gift, not an art. Eating is an art, not a gift. In combination a grace is developed. No great culinary triumph was ever perfected by accident.
The Stag Cook Book (New York, 1922);          Introduction by Robert H. Davis.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fusion Too Far?

I find discussion about ‘fusion’ cuisine, and ‘authenticity’ equally interesting and amusing. I may have told this story before (but over one thousand eight hundred posts is too many to pick through) – but I once saw on a menu (and ordered) a single dish that paid a serious nod to five different cuisines. I remember ‘fettucine’ and ‘tandoori’ in the description, but have forgotten the other three. I hope my memory fails me out of necessity to forget such culinary mongrelism rather than due to dementia.

The other example, that I have perhaps given once too often, is this: how essential is the tomato to the cuisine of some areas of Italy? Before the Americas were opened up to the world on the cusp of the sixteenth century, there were no tomatoes in Italy – or anywhere else in the ‘Old World.’ So, are tomatoes an ‘authentic’ ingredient in Italian food? Likewise, the potato in India. There are other examples, but you get my drift.

Sometimes, a prolonged (even if non-deliberate) fusion results in a totally new cuisine – such a
is my personal favourite, Anglo-Indian. But what about Anglo-Indian-Italian? I give you two recipes which qualify for this description, for you to decide its merits.

Curried Macaroni.
Break into three pieces, each tube of half a pound of Geoffrey Taganrok Macaroni, which is the best in the market. Put it into a porcelain lined dish or saucepan, cover with boiling water, and add a scant teaspoonful of table salt and boil fifteen minutes; drain, place the Macaroni on a hot platter, cover wit a Curry Sauce made of J.P. Smith’s Curry Powder, over this strew a liberal quantity of (J.P.S) Italien Parmesan Cheese and serve.
Tempting Curries, by J.P. Smith & Company (New York, 1891)

Curried Spaghetti.
Ingredients: ¾ lb. spaghetti, boiling salted water, 1 teaspoon butter, 1 heaped teaspoon curry powder, 1 cup milk or strained stock, salt and cayenne, 6 small round tomatoes, 2 hard-boiled eggs (optional), lemon and parsley for garnish.
Method: Place spaghetti in boiling salted water in saucepan and boil without lid till tender. Drain through colander, return spaghetti to saucepan, add butter and curry powder, mix thoroughly, add milk or stock, stir till boiling, then simmer for 20 minutes. Place tomatoes in buttered baking dish and bake till tender. Arrange spaghetti mixture in centre of hot serving dish, with tomatoes round it. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs or with egg yolk pressed through a sieve, and sliced lemon sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Sunday Times (Perth, WA) Sunday 3 July 1938

Quotation for the Day.

Indigenous foods die when no one learns to cook them.
Jean Zimmerman, Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cottonseed Biscuits.

There was much interest in the USA at the cusp of the twentieth century in the use of cottonseed as a food for humans. The concept seems to have been driven by a number of things including relative shortages of wheat and meat – especially as war moved from a possibility to a reality - and an entrepreneurial desire to convert waste to wealth.

The Mansfield Shield (Ohio) of April 16, 1915 had this to say:

“Not so many years back the cotton seed was considered of little or no value. It was left in great stacks in the fields and used as fertilizer …. It is now made into meal and hulls for livestock, oil for cooking, and flour for baking, as well as leaving something for fertilizer. The oil has numerous uses, even appearing in adulterations of ice cream.”

The idea of using cotton seed as food for humans seems to have started in Texas. A fifteen-page pamphlet originating in that state in 1910 noted that ‘cottonseed meal as a human food was proposed several years back.’ A apparently the idea gained early acceptance at the most important level. The Jeffersonian Gazette of March 9, 1910 told the story:

Cookies from Cotton Seed.
President Taft and Cabinet Sampled the Latest Offering in Line of Food Supply.
Washington, Mar. 12 – President Taft’s cabinet ate cookies made out of cottonseed flour. Secretary Dickinson provided the feast. It came to him from his nephew in Ennis, Texas. The nephew, Henry Lindsley, declared that J.W. Allen [sic], of Ennis, had been feeding his family on bread and cakes made from cottons eed flour for twenty years.
Mr. Lindsley saw in this new kind of food a chance to reduce the cost of living as well as provide another source of revenue for the South. He urged Mr Allison to make his secret public. Together they made a packing case full of bread, fruit cake, ginger bread, ginger snaps, cookies, pound cake and other pastries from the cotton seed flour and sent it to Washington.
The bread and cake tasted as good as the same articles made from wheat flour, and the cotton seed taste could not be detected. Mr Allison declares that the flour has more nutriment than wheat flour.

The value of cotton seed was in its high protein and fat content compared to wheat – so it was seen as more appropriate as a meat than a cereal substitute. It is mentioned in several publications as being used as food for German prisoners, and a commonly touted recipe was to include ¼ meal to ¾ meat in the making of sausages.

The limiting factor in the use of cotton seed as a food is that the seed contains tiny ‘glands’ filled with a yellow pigment called gossypol, which is poisonous to ‘monogastric’ animals such as pigs, rabbits, poultry – and humans. On the whole, however, the nutritional benefits of the high protein and high oil content of the seed was emphasised, and this small inconvenience of toxicity to consumers was avoided. One publication suggested that adults should have no more than three ounces of the flour in a day, which would hardly have assisted sales had it been on every packet of cotton seed flour.

The toxic pigment granules are no longer, apparently, a concern, as scientists have developed a ‘glandless’ seed. ‘Glandless’ cotton seed kernels can be boiled as a vegetable, roasted as a snack, and ‘texturized’ for use as a meat substitute. The oil is used in butter substitutes and salad oils, and the meal (flour) into bakery products, and no doubt with the ubiquity of corn syrup, in many, many other manufactured food products.

Recipe for the Day.

From a community cookery book published in Los Angeles in 1910, I give you a recipe for cottonseed flour biscuits.

Cottonseed Flour Biscuit.
One cup cottonseed flour, 1 cup wheat flour, 1 level teaspoon soda, 2 level teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons lard, ¾ cup buttermilk. Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in lard with a knife. Add milk slowly. Turn out on a floured board. Knead slightly. Roll out ½ inch thikc. Cut with a floured cutter.
Note. – If it is not convenient to use sour milk, sweet milk may be used by using 4 teaspoons baking powder instead of both soda and baking powder. Cottonseed flour is six times as nutritious as wheat flour and is good for all gastric troubles.
Magnolia Cook Book, 1910

Quotation for the Day.
The longer I work in nutrition, the more convinced I become that for the healthy person all foods should be delicious.
Adele Davis.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Not Lemon Salad?

The word ‘salad’, if you go back far enough, references the Latin sal, for salt. It seems reasonable to assume that salt was an integral part of the earliest salads – or at least, of Ancient Roman salads.  I think most of us would agree with the modern definitions included under the heading of ‘salad’ in The Oxford English Dictionary:

a)a cold dish of herbs or vegetables (e.g. lettuce, endive), usually uncooked and chopped up or sliced, to which is often added sliced hard-boiled egg, cold meat, fish, etc., the whole being seasoned with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar.
b)any vegetable or herb used in a raw state as an article of food, esp. in the kind of dish described in sense a.

Meanings of words change over time, of course, and sometimes they move a very long way indeed from their origins.

In a post several years ago, I gave a recipe for ‘Lemon Salad’ which I repeat it here, for the sake of convenience.

Lemon Salad.
Take the lemons and cut them into halves, and when you have taken out the meat, lay the rinds in water twelve hours; then take them out and cut the rinds thus [drawing of spiral cut]; boil them in water till they are tender; take them out and dry them; then take a pound of loaf sugar, putting to it as much white-wine vinegar, and boil it a little; then take it off, and when it is cold put it in the pot to your peels; they will be ready to eat in five or six days; it is a pretty salad.
The London Cook, (1762) by William Gelleroy.

I find this interesting. It is about as far from my own (and I suspect your) concept of salad as it is possible to get. I would more happily call it a sweetmeat or a sweet garnish than a salad – but I can hardly argue with the ‘late Cook to her Grace the Duchess of Argyle, and now to the Right Hon, Sir Samuel Fludyer Bart., Lord Mayor of the City of London.’

The following, from a century earlier, is clearly a very beautiful dish – and I would happily call it fruit salad, as it includes sugar, but is entirely without salt.

From The French Cook (1653), by la Varenne:

Sallat of Lemon.
Take Lemons, what quantity you will, peele them, and cut them into very thinne slices, and put them with sugar, orange, and pomegranate flowers [seeds, presumably*], then serve neatly.
*Instructions from elsewhere along in the book:
The garnish of Pomegranat.
Take the reddest, take out the peels and the seeds, for to garnish upon and about your dishes.

The following recipe fits the modern concept, and is unequivocally for those with a savoury tooth.
Lemon Salad.
Lemon Salad is composed of sliced lemons the seeds being removed, and lettuce carefully washed and dried; the dressing is salt, cayenne and oil.
Methods of Canning Fruits and Vegetables (1890), by H. Blits

Here, however, is a lemon salad which is the dessert you have when you need to be able to say “Oh, but I only had a salad”

Lemon Salad.
Grate the peel of two or three lemons into a dish; squeeze the juice of three upon it; sweeten it well. Dissolve a quarter of an ounce of isinglass in a very little water, and strain it into a quart of cream, which you will boil. Put it into a jug, and pour it, as slowly as possible, into the dish containing the lemon-juice and peel. Whilst pouring, hold the jug at as great a height as possible, that the mixture may froth. Do not move the dish until the contents are quite cold. The cream should be poured in as hot as the safety of the dish will permit.
Godey’s Lady Magazine, Vol. 49, 1854

As my final recipe, in this exploration of the concept of lemon salad, I give you an example of a concept I have never quite ‘got.’ I have tried, but failed, to appreciate the idea of jellified salads. For those of you who love and understand them, this is for you:

Lemon Gelatin Salad.
Dissolve one package of lemon gelatin in one pint of boiling water, substituting one tablespoon of vinegar for one tablespoon of water. When the gelatin is cooked add quite a large quantity of chopped walnuts, celery, apple, pimento – or any other combination that may be preferred. When set, serve with mayonnaise dressing.
Berkeley Daily Gazette - Aug 20, 1928

Quotation for the Day.

Huge lemons, cut in slices, would sink like setting suns into the dusky sea, softly illuminating it with their radiating membranes, and its clear, smooth surface aquiver from the rising bitter essence.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Black Sauce, Anyone?

Sabina Welserin’s coloured roast chickens intrigue me immensely, and I have been pondering upon the impact of the colour of sauces ever since I posted the story. I am equivocal about the idea of black sauce. Black is a difficult colour to create in the kitchen. Would a black sauce look appealing?

Admittedly, soy sauce is black enough, but it is more of a condiment, is it not? And anyway, it is a commercial preparation on the whole, not a product of the average kitchen. Black butter sauce is common, but is actually brown, so does not really qualify.

Sabina Welserin’s recipe for black sauce for fowl required ‘sufficient powdered cloves’ to make the sauce ‘truly black’. Is this possible? It would add up to an awful lot of cloves.  Methinks it would be dark, but impossible to make truly black – and overpowering in smell and taste.

How about other recipes for black sauce? Welserin does have another version (with a bonus yellow sauce), in her recipe for boar’s head. Would it be truly black? I leave it to you to decide.

How to cook a wild boar's head, also how to prepare a sauce for it.
A wild boar's head should be boiled well in water and, when it is done, laid on a grate and basted with wine, then it will be thought to have been cooked in wine. Afterwards make a black or yellow sauce with it. First, when you would make a black sauce, you should heat up a little fat and brown a small spoonful of wheat flour in the fat and after that put good wine into it and good cherry syrup, so that it becomes black, and sugar, ginger, pepper, cloves and cinnamon, grapes, raisins and finely chopped almonds. And taste it, however it seems good to you, make it so.
If you would make a yellow sauce: Then make it in the same way as the black sauce, only take saffron instead of the syrup and put no cloves therein, so you will also have a good sauce.

From a much earlier cookery manuscript, the Forme of Cury, compiled about A.D. 1390, by the Master-Cooks of King Richard II, we have a similar liver-based ‘sauce noir [black]’ for capons.

Sawse Noyre For Capouns Yrosted.
Take the lyuer of Capons and roost it wel. take anyse and greynes de Parys*. gyngur. Canel [cinnamon]. & a lytill crust of brede and grinde it smale. and grynde it up with verions. and wit grece of Capouns. boyle it and serue it forth.

* greynes de Parys = grains of paradise, melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, Guinea grains or Guinea pepper [ Aframomum melegueta is a species in the ginger family, from West Africa]

Does the modern cook make Black Sauce? I don’t know of any recipes, but am on the watch out. I see another black sauce post in the future, folks, so please keep checking back.

Quotation for the Day.

“Tether even a roasted chicken.”
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Roast Chicken, Different.

Roast chicken. Almost no-one actually dislikes it. Universally liked, however, commonly equates with rather uninspiring. For your next roast chicken party, you could do worse than take inspiration from a cookery book written in Germany in 1553, by a woman called Sabina Welserin. Your dinner will be colourful as well as being sixteenth-century in concept – and a pretty good conversation topic too!

A dish in various colors.
A dish, in which each part has a different color, is made like so: Roast chickens on a spit, but do not put them too close together. And when they are roasted, make six colors, the white is made like so: Take an egg white, put a little flour into it, make a thin batter. Brown is made like so: Take sour cherry jam, make a brown batter with eggs and flour. The yellow make like so: Take egg yolks, some wheat flour, saffron and three or four eggs, out of which make a batter. Green is made as follows: Take parsley, and strain it together with eggs through a cloth, put flour with it and make a batter. Black, take flour and eggs, make a paste out of it, put powdered cloves therein which have steeped overnight in beaten eggs, put enough into it, so that it becomes truly black. When you have made the five colors after this fashion, then baste each chicken with its color and take care that it is no longer too hot. And when the color is dry and adheres, then draw the chickens off the spit and lay them next to the other roasted meats on a dish.

Welserin initially suggests she is going to give recipes for six colours, but only gives five. Perhaps the sixth colour is the plain roast brown?  Other than the white colour, the food ‘paints’ sound pretty tasty too, I think.

There are other good-old ideas in this medieval cookery book, so we will visit it again tomorrow.

Quotation for the Day.

I love chicken. I would eat chicken fingers on Thanksgiving if it were socially acceptable
Todd Barry.