Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes on Egg and other Nogs.

For this final day of the year, I remind you of an old custom in some parts of Britain - a traditional cheese-begging rhyme. The practice was already old when John Brand wrote Observations on popular antiquities in 1813. He says:

In Scotland, upon the last day of the Old Year, the children go about from door to door asking for bread and cheese, which they call Nog-Money, in these words:

Get up, gude wife, and binno sweir [be not lazy]
And deal your Cakes and Cheese while you are here;
For the time will come when ye'll be dead,
And neither need your cheese nor bread.

Most of the few references to this use of the word ‘nog’ cite its use in East Anglia (Norfolk), but if the author above is correct, it was also a Scots practice.

So, for the wordsmiths amongst you, here are a few gleanings on the word ‘nog.’

The Oxford English Dictionary gives it as ‘A strong variety of beer, brewed esp. in Norfolk.’  The first reference is in 1693, but I like this one, from 1743 for its evocative description:

‘In Suffolk and Norfolk they run very much upon a light brown, or deep Amber colour'd Butt-Beer, which in the latter Place is called Nogg.’
W. Ellis London & Country Brewer III. (ed. 2) 227  

The OED has no specific reference (that I can find) to ‘nog-money, which is both frustrating and sad, not to say a little negligent of the editors.

The OED does, of course, have an entry for the ‘secondary use' of the word, in the phrase ‘egg-nog’, which it acknowledges is chiefly a U.S term. I admit to being a little surprised that the first reference to it given in 1825, and am sure there must be earlier ones to be found (perhaps a project for Christmas 2103?).

Egg-Nog: A drink in which the white and yolk of eggs are stirred up with hot beer, cider, wine, or spirits.

An American egg-nog is, of course, nothing more than an emigrant English egg-flip, which is nothing more than medieval posset, modernized and updated. All recipes evolve, after all, they are never invented at a specific and recordable moment in time, are they?

The etymology of the word ‘nog’ is said to be obscure, but the most likely suspect is that it is derived from ‘noggin,’ referring to a medieval wooden drinking mug.

I have said much on the subject of egg nogs in the past (here, for example) including its use in ice-cream (here) which may be useful to you if you have some leftover nog sitting alongside your leftover ham in your fridge.

As the recipe for the day, I give you a delightfully appropriately named beverage, which is very eggy and noggy, from the famous nineteenth century Scottish cookery book by Mistress Margaret Dodds.

Auld Man's Milk.
Beat the yolks and whites of six eggs separately. Put to the beat yolks sugar and a quart of new milk, or thin sweet cream. Add to this rum, whisky, or brandy to taste (about half a pint). Slip in the whipt whites and give the whole a gentle stir up in the china punch-bowl, in which it should be mixed. It may be flavoured with nutmeg or lemon-zest. This Highland morning-cup is nearly the egg-nog of America.
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826) by Christian Isobel Johnstone.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Greedy about Bananas.

I really cannot resist giving you one more snippet from The Greedy Book (1906) to end the week.  It is a menu, and is surely one of the most interesting examples of a single-ingredient theme meal that I have ever featured here. The author says:
“A friend has sent me a curiosity from Havana in the shape of a menu, in the composition of every dish of which the banana entered in some shape or form. As a triumph of skill or ingenuity I respect the menu, but am thankful that I was not invited to partake of the repast. Here it is.

Soupe à la Banane avec Croûtons de Banane.
Crêpes de Banane avec Gelée de Banane.
Poulets à l’Etuvée avec Bananes Ciselées.
Poulets Rôtis avec Bananas Dressées.
Rôti de Boeuf avec Gelée de Banane.
Gâteau à la Gelée de Banane.
Galettes de Bananes.
Gâteau de Banane aux Fruits.
Café de Banane.

I have to agree with the author, the menu represents a triumph of skill or ingenuity - or perhaps both – on the part of the chef. But, if I may be permitted one small criticism - Gelée de Banane is a component of no less than three of the dishes, which is hardly ideal, is it?

I am not sure whether this ‘Gelée de Banane’ refers to ‘jelly’ as in confiture (jam), or to ‘jelly’ as in gelatin (Jello-O.) Banana Jell-O sounds not a whit appetizing to me, so I give you Banana Jam, from a regional Australian newspaper.

Banana Jam.
Slice up a dozen large bananas. To every pound of the fruit allow three-quarters of a pound of preserving sugar. Take the juice and pulp of five lemons, and add them to the bananas and sugar. Add a little water. Then chop up half an ounce of preserved ginger and add. Simmer very slowly for fifty minutes.
Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record (Victoria) July17, 1914.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Seven Sages of the Kitchen.

I crave your indulgence as I stay with the same wonderful source of stories that I have used for the last couple of days. There are still many delights in The Greedy Book; a gastronomical anthology (1906) by Frank Schloesser. For example, the author tells us of the Seven Sages of the Kitchen – an inspirational group of beings about whom I was totally ignorant, until I read this book. Now that they and I are acquainted, I will pay them due homage, and am sure I can count on you to do the same.

“According to the old Greek authorities, the original Seven Sages of the kitchen were:Agris of Rhodes, who first taught the bone method of dressing fish ; Nereus of Corinth,who made the conger a dish for the gods; Orion, who invented white sauce; Chariades,who achieved yellow sauce; Lampriadas, who discovered brown sauce; Atlantus, whomade the most perfect restorative; and Euthynus, who cooked vegetables so exquisitely that he was named Lentillus. These several gentlemen, combined into one, would not be all too learned in the niceties of gastronomy to be able to put together a modern dinner menu. Nowadays we want something more than mere quantity. The Gargantuan repasts of our forefathers are not for us. In those days, maybe (or perhaps not), unlimited exercise, hunting, and the like made these gross meals comparatively; but we live in more delicate times, and want our viands fewer innumber and more carefully cooked, with less added flavour and more of their own natural

I realise that serious scholars of ancient Greece may question this information, and indeed, may ask for details of the original source material – but ‘Bah!’ And ‘Humbug!’ are all I have to say to them.

Today’s recipe is in honour of Lentillus. May his believers go forth and multiply.

Lentilles Fricassés.
Fricasee of Lentils.
This dish is meant to be prepared with fresh lentils, which cannot be easily obtained in England (the fresh ones are brought from abroad,) although cultivated in several parts of this island.
I hope I shall not be thought partial, by the notice already taken; but, without prejudice to several shop-keepers, and corn-chandlers, who, for the sake of a little more gain, will impose some of English growth for foreign, which are mostly sold at the Italian shops, much larger, and of better colour and taste, the hint becomes necessary. Prepare sliced onions, as in the last for beans, and put the lentils ready boiled and drained thereto, with broth, butter, pepper, salt, and a sprig of savory, which you take out before you serve; reduce the sauce of a good consistence, and add a little vinegar when just ready.—They are done in Ragout the same as the white beans, with cullis, gravy, and proper seasoning.—It is mostly the colour that distinguishes between the name of ragout and fricasee; the first being made brown with cullis, the last white, with cream, &c. &c.
The Professed Cook (1812) by B. Clermont.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Greedy Tale.

Today, when many of you are swamped with the leftovers from one single turkey, to put your problem into proportion, I give you a fine tale from yesterday’s source, The Greedy Book; a gastronomical anthology (1906.)

“There is a most delectable little part of the turkey which the French euphoniously call le sot l’ y laisse. Grimod de la Reyniere, the celebrated gourmet, was wont to say that it was the most exquisite morsel of flesh in the world. Travelling one day some miles from his country-seat, he pulled up at a roadside inn for dinner. The host regretted that he had nothing to offer the stranger. "But," said the latter, "I see five turkeys hanging up there. Why not give me one of them? " The innkeeper was sorry, but they were all ordered by a gentleman staying in the house. "Surely he cannot want them all himself. Ask him to permit me to share his meal." Again the innkeeper had to refuse. The gentleman in question was very particular. He only ate one tiny little piece from each bird - le sot l’ y laisse, in fact. More anxious than ever to know who this rival gourmet was who had the same tastes as himself, de la Reyniere insisted on making his acquaintance. He found it was his own son.”

 The name le sot l’ y laisse indicates, more or less (I think), that only a fool would not eat this part. It is the tiny nugget of flesh found on each side of the spine, in a hollow near the hip joint. It ‘shells out’ from its little spot quite neatly, and this, and it size, are probably responsible for one of its common names in English, when the fowl is a chicken not a turkey, – the chicken oyster.

Here are a couple of ideas for your turkey remnants on this fine Boxing Day, from The Cook’s Own Book, (1832) by Mrs. N.K. M. Lee:-

TURKEY, HASHED. (1) Cut up the remains of a roasted turkey, put it into a stewpan, with a glass of white wine, chopped parsley, shallots, mushrooms, truffles, salt and pepper, two spoonfuls of cullis,, and a little stock; boil half an hour, and reduce to a thick sauce; when ready, add a pound of anchovy, and a squeeze of lemon; skim off all the fat from the sauce, and serve all together.

TURKEY, HASHED. (2) Stir a piece of butter rolled in flour into some cream, and a little veal gravy, till it boils up; mince some cold roasted or boiled turkey, but not too small; put it into the sauce, add grated lemon-peel, white pepper, pounded mace, a little mushroom ketchup or mushroom powder; simmer it up, and serve. Oysters may be added.

The Greedy Book.

I wish I had written a book with the title ‘The Greedy Book.’ A man called Frank Schloesser did, however, and I must share some of it with you at this pinnacle of the greedy season.
The full title of our source today, and perhaps tomorrow, is The Greedy Book; a gastronomical anthology, and it was published in London in 1906. Here is a short section on his thoughts on the the make-up of a fine Christmas Dinner:-

“Let me recommend a Christmas dinner fashioned on somewhat the following lines:-

Consommé with Italian paste.
Oyster soup.
Turbot, Hollandaise sauce with capers.
Brill and Tartare sauce.
Turkey stuffed with chestnuts or fresh truffles.
Fillet of beef, horseradish sauce.
Soufflé of fowl.
Westphalian goose breast with winter spinach.
Stewed celery.
Plum pudding, brandy sauce.
Mince pies.
Chartreuse of oranges.
Welsh rabbit.
Devilled biscuit.

This is a special Christmas dinner prepared by the late Sir Henry Thompson, whose views on food and feeding are well known. It is most certainly a very happy combination of the necessities and delicacies of the season, and as such needs no further recommendation. It is perhaps especially applicable to country-house parties, where both sexes are wont to have a pretty appetite.
“Science can analyse a pork chop, and say how much of it is phosphorus and how much is protein, but science cannot analyse any man’s wish for a pork chop, and say how much of it is hunger, how much nervous fancy, how much haunting love of the beautiful. The man’s desire for the pork chop remains literally as mystical and ethereal as his desire for heaven.” Now, who wrote that ingenuous passage? Je vous le donne en trois. Charles Lamb? No. G.A Sala? No. Mr. lecky? Certainly not! It is by that inimitable humorist, G.K. Chesterton. And it is quite true.”

Stewed Celery a la Crème.
Ingredients. - 6 heads of celery; to each ½ gallon of water allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt, 1 blade of pounded mace, 1/3 pint of cream.
Mode.- Wash the celery thoroughly; trim and boil it in salt and water until tender. Put the cream and pounded mace into a stewpan; shake it over the fire until the cream thickens, dish the celery, pour over the sauce, and serve.
Time.- Large heads of celery, 25 minutes; small ones, 15 to 20 minutes.
Average cost. 2d per head. Seasonable- from October to April.
Household Manual, Isabella Beeton. 1861