Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Mongolian Epicure’s Bill of Fare in 1892.

There are two excuses to party today. Firstly, it is Hallowe’en – although I am pretty sure you are aware of that. Secondly, it is the eighth anniversary of this blog – which means it is also the eighth birthday of The Old Foodie. Who would have thought it – not a single Monday to Friday missed in eight years, and two thousand one hundred and seventy nine posts to show for it.

I have given you some Hallowe’en recipes this week, so I will indulge my birthday-persona with the meal of my choice today. Thanks to a story in the Grey River Argus (New Zealand) 8 January 1892, I am going to enjoy A Mongolian Epicure’s Bill of Fare.

In Lipincott recently, Mr Edward Bedloe gives an account of a tiffin (or midday meal) which he had with a Chinese Taotai, or City Governor.
Many of the dishes (says the writer) were so simple as to show their composition at a glance. A few of those I recall with very pleasant memories were as follows:- (1) Chicken-breast cut into dice and stewed with chicken liver, mushrooms, tree-mushrooms, bamboo-tips, and wine. The sauce was a revelation of delight, and the dish itself was so carefully prepared that each ingredient had preserved its identity. (2) Devilled crabs. The meat, carefully picked, was laid in layers in the shell, all alternating with ma-tail a very delicate vegetable resembling a potato, and mixed with finely chopped bacon, salt, and red pepper. It was better than our own mode of making the dish” (3) Goldfish stuffed. The fish is scalded and the scales removed. It is opened, cleaned, and stuffed with a paste that is chiefly vegetable in composition, and steamed until thoroughly cooked. It is served with a pale-greyish sauce, resembling Hollandaise, and decorated with sprigs of cress and other herbs. The contrast of colour is very striking and beautiful. (4) Stuffed radishes. They are prepared the same as our stuffed cucumbers, and baked or steamed. The heat destroys the biting quality of the esculescent without injuring its flavour, or when steamed, its colour. (5) Dragon-balls. These are miniature dragons made of fine pastry filled with forcemeat. They are decorated with primary colours, and stand proudly erect upon their forelegs or hindlegs and tail like dogs. I was puzzled how they kept their legs from coalescing with the body, and was informed that the body was supported in bamboo skewers during the baking operation. (6) Custard eggs. Eggs are emptied through small holes in each end, refilled with liquid custard, plugged, and steamed. When broken, one is full of rose-coloured, rose-flavoured custard, another with chocolate, and so on, not more than two being of the same tint and taste. Time and space forbid a longer enumeration.

I admit to being puzzled by the concept of chocolate custard on a Mongolian menu – it hardly sounds ‘traditional,’ does it? The rose-custard may not be traditional either, but it does sound rather delicious. Please, someone, enlighten me on Mongolian custard!

As the recipe for the day, I give you a rosy almond custard from a definitely non-Mongolian cookery book.

Almond Custard.
Beat up the yolks of four eggs with two ounces of pounded sweet, and four bitter almonds; moisten with orange or rose-water. Boil a pint of cream with lemon-zest; sweeten; let it cool, and rub the almonds through a hair-sieve with a little of it. Add syrup of roses; beat all together with the eggs; put it into cups or a dish, if it is to be baked; if for a boiled custard, cook it in a bain-marie, and dish it.

Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, by a lady (1827)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Keeping it Simple for Hallowe'en

I am keeping it simple today, folks - I have just a few Hallowe’en recipes to tempt you. They are a fine example of the grand culinary tradition of giving the same old dish a new name or a new decoration for a special occasion. From the Kalgoorlie Miner (West Australia) of 20 October, 1944:-

Three cups flour, 1 cup sultanas, 3 teaspoons baking powder, ½ lb. dates, 2 oz. mixed nuts, 1 cup sugar, milk. Stone dates, cut into small pieces and mix with flour. Add other ingredients and add milk to mix to a soft bread mixture (about 1 cupful). Put in a few charms – such as a ring, button, and thimble – turn mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake one hour in a moderate oven.
One pound of cooking apples, 2 oz. breadcrumbs, 1 ½ oz. ground almonds, ¼ lb. sugar, 3 dessertspoons butter, 1 egg, a few almonds. Peel and core apples, cut into quarters and cook in a little water till tender. Mix crumbs with the apples and put into a greased pudding dish. Mix sugar, butter, ground almonds, and beaten eggs, put on top of apple mixture, decorate top with almonds and bake 40 minutes. Serve cold.
Select bottled fruit in sound condition of any small variety, such as plums, cherries, grapes, and dip one by one in beaten egg-white, then steep in a cup of pulverised sugar. Place fruit in a pan with bottom lined with white paper and set in a cooling oven. When frosting on fruit becomes firm, heap on a dish and set in a cool place.
And in case none of the above appeal because chocolate is your thing, here is another Hallowe’en Pudding. It is from the Meriden Record (Meriden, Connecticut) of October 28, 1941.

Hallowe’en Pudding.
Have ready a nice dessert, some cookies, ginger bread or pie and serve with piping hot coffee.

Hallowe’en Pudding will be a popular dish. Beat 2 egg yolks with ¾ cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Add one cup milk and cook in double boiler until custard consistency, beating constantly. Remove from fire. Add 2 squares or 6 tablespoons cocoa, and stir chocolate, broken into little pieces until melted. Soften one envelope plain, unflavoured gelatin in ¼ cup cold water and dissolve in hot custard. Cool and when mixture begins to thicken fold in one cup of cream or evaporated milk, whipped, also ½ teaspoon vanilla. Turn into dessert dishes and chill. Just before serving, decorate tops with faces made with cherries, raisins and nuts. Serve with whipped cream.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hallowe’en at Lake Placid, 1917.

I have a very interesting Hallowe’en menu for you today. It is from the Lake Placid Club in the Adirondacks, in the year 1917. The club was founded by Melvil Dewey (1851-1831) – the man who developed the library classification system that bears his name. Dewey also founded the Lake Placid Club and the American Spelling Reform Movement – and not surprisingly the former became headquarters for the latter.

The menu for the ‘Annual Hallowe’en Frolic’ in 1917 was printed in the "Simpler Speling" style used at the resort.

This is the nicht o’ Hallowe’en
When a’ the witchy micht be seen
Lake Placid Club        Simpler speling

Forest Hall
Wensday 31 October 1917
Cream of tomato
Homini                        Post tosties
Broild bluefish
Boild finan hadie        cream saus

Broild sirloin steak
or Turki cutlets with peas
or Devild ham on tost
Creamd pocht egs
Egs to order
Baked potatos             Au gratin potatos
Baked Hubbard squaĊż au gratin
Ham                or Lam             or Veal
Letis                Stri[ng] bean salad
Dry      Butterd                        Milk
Whole wheat rols        Tea biskits with huni
Pumpkin py     Ginjerbred whipt cream
Maple sugar cake
Cotaj cheez with wafers
Tea      Cofi     Coco    Butermilk        Milk
Extra charj for all orders not on menu

I was unable, in the short time I tried, to find the ‘simple speling’ symbol representing the “ng” in the Stri[ng] bean salad. I was, however, able to find a simple recipe for string bean salad from the era – which is exactly the same as a simple string bean salad recipe today.

String Bean Salad.
Mix together four tablespoonfuls of olive oil, one half teaspoonful salt and one-quarter teaspoonful white pepper. Add slowly, stirring all the time, one tablespoonful of vinegar and stir until perfectly mixed. Pour this over one pint of boiled and drained string beans, add one teaspoonful finely cut chives and turn into the salad bowl. Garnish with a row of overlapping slices of red radishes or beets.

Newport Daily News August 7, 1913

Monday, October 28, 2013

Looking back to plan ahead for Hallowe’en

There are two events of great importance happening later this week. On Thursday it will be Hallowe’en. On Thursday it will also be the eighth anniversary of this blog and all 2175+ posts. I am open to suggestions as to how to celebrate the blogoversary, but until then, I want to plan in advance for the night of spooks and witches.

One of the best ways to plan ahead for a special day is to see how it was celebrated in the past. Our inspiration today is the article on Hallowe’en party hints which appeared in the Des Moines Daily News October 27, 1910.

Refreshments should be of indigestible things to cause weird and unusual dreams. The salted almonds should be served in tiny glazed china, pumpkin-faced receptacles, each shell of baked lobster with cheese may have a little pin, representing a witch, stuck onto the edge of the shell, the salad may be served in bright red scalloped apples (as bobbing for apples is one of the most important game) with a tiny black cat perched on the edge of the apple. With a little practice, funny faces may be cut into the hard-boiled, shelled eggs, and deviled eggs have long been a favorite refreshment.

Sandwiches may be cut out with fancy cutters in the shape of cats, and so completely covered with caviar as to look like an exact reproduction of the living black cat.
It is not so much what is served as the infectious gaiety which is always present on Hallowe’en, and cakes and ices may be bought to carry out any of the symbols of the evening.

From these suggestions and a few recipes given, a sufficient spread may be prepared.

Lemon Baskets.
Select a long, oval lemon. Cut eyes, nose, and mouth into it with a sharp knife. Cut off a slice to make it stand. Cut off a slice from top and scoop out the inside of lemon, leaving the outer shell. Fill shell with boiled ham, ground very fine, mixed with salad dressing, a little chopped pickle, a little minced celery, salt, pepper and paprika.

Deviled Lobster in Shells.
Pick the meat of 4 small cooked, cold lobsters, cut into ½ inch cubes. Put into saucepan with half the quantity cooked mushrooms, cut into ½ inch dice. Put 2 tablespoonsfuls of minced onion and 2 ounces of flour in butter without browning, dilute with 1 pint milk, cook again for several minutes. Then add the lobster and mushrooms, mix well, season with salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika; let come to a boil, remove from fire, cool off, fill shells, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, then with breadcrumbs, put bits of butter on each shell, brown in hot oven. Shells must be well-cleaned and dried.

Previous Hallowe’en posts:
A Mysterious Stew for Halloween [menus for three meals of the day] 1906

Friday, October 25, 2013

New (in 1909) Fashions in Wedding Cake.

Food fashions come and go, and the “traditional” white iced wedding cake is no exception. The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Australia) of 23 June 1909 explained the current wedding fads:

(“Daily Mail”)
The wedding cake, luscious and delicate of taste, with its thick layer of almond paste, and its wonderful exterior covering of ornamental sugar-icing wrought in various devices, is an institution in our midst, honoured by long patronage, and full appreciation.
But even it is subject to the changes of fashion, and the way in which it is dealt with under modern auspices make it play a less conspicuous part in the wedding ceremonies of today than it did five and twenty years ago.
Its place on the buffet, though it is conspicuous, is not the proud monument of the occasion it presented when the assembled guests sat down together at the hospitable board, and the happy bride and her groom were faced by the most important item of the feast.
The cutting of the cake in those days preceded the speeches that were made. Now there are no speeches, save in some cases, if the briefly uttered good wishes of the best man or one of the officiating clergy (by no means the rule) can be dignified by the title, and the bride’s task of cutting the cake is made the most perfunctory of ceremonies.
The strong hand of the newly made husband used to be required to guide the timid bride’s usage of the specially provided knife, saw one side, sharp steel the other, a knife that would cut through the outer crust of sugar and cleave the cake beneath in the neatest manner. There were many tender sighs and smiles through tears when the touching little ceremony was performed in olden times.
But that which happens now is different. A clever cake-maker invented the labour-saving device of sawing wedges out of the cake before the wedding, and leaving the bride the easy task of pretending only to cut the slices. Now he goes a step further on her behalf, and behold the cake is often bound round with ribbons, which the bride slits across with the knife, thus releasing the already cloven pieces in an instant and without anybody’s help.
When wedding cakes were round and low and dumpy, with a modest-sized Temple of hymen placed on the top, instead of the tall and imposing affairs they are now, the girls who fluttered round the blushing bride coaxed her to pass the tiniest morsel of cake through the gleaming gold circlet, her wedding ring, for thus treated the cake was considered and absolute guide “when dreamed over” to the identity of the future husband.
One superstition however, kills another, and when the bride refused to take her ring off because it was considered unlucky to do so her maids were obliged to be contented without the mystic rite. And now they eat the cake when it is handed round with the rest of the refreshments or refuse it, if they are “on a diet,” or “putting on weight,” but never think of soiling their pillow-slips by sleeping on it, with the avowed object of dreaming of “him.” But all the same, the wedding cake remains a vital item of the bridal feast, and each maker of the delightful comestible has his particular recipe, the secret of which is known only to himself. The perfect wedding cake cannot be built in a day, or even a week, as its maturity is half the charm, and time only will impart this important feature of success. A very large cake will take two years to mature, and a smaller one should not be cut into before some months have elapsed. This may, perhaps, explain the fact why even the most expensive private chef is not always successful in concocting a wedding cake. The outside may have the specious appearance of a rich and inviting looking cake, but instances have been known where the cake has turned out a disastrous failure owing to the fact that it has been baked in an oven unsuitable for the exigent requirements of the wedding cake, and that too little time is given to its maturity. “Even the state of the weather may affect the baking of a wedding cake,” remarked an expert, “and women would be surprised if they knew the number of cakes that are not ‘passed’ by the wedding-cake maker because there may be some minute flaw in the baking.
Brides to take a keen interest in the ornamentation of the wedding cake often insist upon giving some individual tough in its decoration.
At some weddings the cake, in addition to its own decorations of festoons of silver leaves and trails of sugar orange blossoms, is adorned with a touch of colour in the form of pink roses or any flower that is preferred by the bride. This, however, says the expert maker, is strictly against the correct etiquette of the wedding cake decoration. Cut flowers, to the superstitious, symbolize death, and should never be used as ornaments for the bridal cake.
The filling of the boxes for sending away is generally entrusted to the hands of the expert, who gives the following advice to the amateur packer: “Cut a solid wedge of cake that will absolutely fill the box right to the very top: wrap it first in a piece of tinfoil, and then in another covering of white paper; tie it round with white satin ribbon, and insert it securely in the box.”
The mistake so often made by the non-professional packer is to cut a thin piece of cake which speedily crumbles into pieces when it comes in contact with the official stamp.
“Those who wish to keep wedding cake must not enclose it in a tin box as is so often the custom,” is another piece of advice given by an expert, for then the cake invariably turns musty and unpleasant.
“The best way to preserve it is simply to wrap the cake in a white cloth, and then to place it in a wooden box. In this way the cake will keep well for almost any length of time.”

The recipe for the day must be for a wedding cake of course, and I have chosen one for you from the Bruce Herald (New Zealand) of 16 November, 1895.

English Wedding Cake.

The season of weddings being with us, a recipe for genuine English wedding cake is not amiss: One pound each of fresh butter, powdered sugar, ground almonds and flour, 1 ½ pounds of mixed candied peel, 2 pounds of currants, three-quarters of an ounce of mixed ground spice, 6 or 7 eggs and a glass of rum or brandy. Work the butter to a cream. Then mix with it the sugar and the spice, stirring it well together. Break the eggs and mix them one or two at a time into the ingredients, beating them well together as you add each. Then mix in the currants – well washed and dried – and the peel cut into fine shreds, next the almonds, beating the whole well together, and lastly work in the flour and pour in the spirit. Have ready a cake hoop well lined with buttered paper and bake in a hot oven. The great secret is to work each ingredient in thoroughly and separately. When the cake is quite cold, cover it an inch or more thick with the following: Mix 1 pound 4 ounces of ground almonds with not quite 2 pounds of the finest icing sugar, the raw whites of 7 or 8 eggs and a teaspoonful of essence of vanilla. Work it into a stiff dry paste and use. The next day cover this again with a thick layer of royal icing made by working together for 12 to 15 minutes the whites of three large or four small eggs, with a teaspoonful of lemon juice and 1 pound 4 ounces of icing sugar. When this is a smooth thick past, put it onto the cake with a broad knife, dipping this into cold water as you work. Let this icing stand for a day and then ornament with piping, fruit, flowers, etc.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

‘Bake the Barley into Bread and bar it from the Bar.’

The appeal for conservation of wheat in America during World War I turned out to provide a propaganda opportunity not to be missed for the temperance movement. Recipes for dishes featuring wheat substitutes appeared in great numbers in newspapers and government publications, and one of the popular and easily available alternatives suggested was barley. Of course, we all know what else is made from barley, don’t we?
In the regular W.C.T.U (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) column of the Iola Register (Iola, Kansas) of July 15, 1918 the additional economic argument for prohibition as contributory to the war effort was given under the header Effect of the Liquor Trade on Cost of Household Necessities. It read, in part:

…. On down through the year, our so called free people have been tyrannized over by a monster of selfishness and greed, the liquor traffic, a master which needed not the destruction of mind, body and soul in its made desire to gain power and accumulate wealth … But how, you may say, does the liquor traffic affect the high cost of household necessities, and I answer, the money that goes to buy liquor should be used in the purchase of food and fuel, and the material that is used to produce whiskey and beer should be used for food and fuel. … As a business measure, prohibition has been a creator and saving agency of the money of Virginia. … We will concede that bread is the “staff of life” and if the three billion pounds of food stuff used in making beer or other malt liquors in the United States during the year ending June 1917, don’t you think the price of flour would have been considerably less?

The author (F.W.) went on to quote many facts and figures on the usage of sugar and other goods now needing to be conserved, and the huge amounts of coal required by the brewing industry. She concluded with:
… and may we in the words of one of our W.C.T.U slogans “Bake the Barley into Bread and Bar it from the Bar.”

The Fitchburg Daily Sentinel (Fitchburg, MA) of July 27, 1918 included several recipes which, to judge by the header, were undoubtedly provided by the W.C.T.U.

Bake the Barley into Bread and Bar it from the Bar.

Barley Cookies.
(Sent by Mrs. E. D. Boyle, wife of Governor Boyle of Nevada to The Union Signal.)
¾ cup shortening
½ cup strained honey
½ cup corn syrup
3 eggs
½ teaspoon of soda in ¼ cup of hot water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups barley flour sifted before measuring. To the sifted flour add a pinch of baking powder.
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts or dry rolled oats.
[Detailed method instructions were not included – it was assumed that housewives would make the cookies according to the usual method.}

Barley as a Breakfast Dish.
Wash well one cup of pearl barley and put it in four cups of cold, salted water and boil slowly until cooked, then turn into a dish. For breakfast take as much of the  barely as required and heat in boiling milk. This makes an excellent substitute for mush. The barley will keep for several days before the milk is added and is good for thickening soup, or, with milk and egg added, fine barley fritters may be made.

Barley Spoon Bread.

One-fourth cup salt pork cut in ¼ inch cubes, 4 cups boiling water, 1 cup barley meal, 2 or 3 eggs. Cook salt pork in saucepan until slightly  brown, add water, and when boiling, sprinkle in barley meal, stirring constantly. Cook in a double boiled one hour. Cool, and add well-beaten eggs. Turn into a greased dish and bake in a moderate oven 45 minutes. Makes two loaves.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Several Ways of Preserving Artichokes (1744).

One of my favourite eighteenth century cookery books has the lovely title of Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery: Or, The Kitchen Garden Display’d. It was published in 1744, and contains “a large Collection of RECEIPTS for dressing all sorts of Kitchen-Stuff so as to afford a great Variety of cheap, healthful, and palatable Dishes.” Kitchen-stuff, in this context, refers primarily to vegetables, and these are the focus of the book – which was unusual for the time. Gardening advice forms the first part of the book, the cookery section follows. I have given a number of interesting recipes from this source before (links are at the end of this post) but it still has many treasures for us.

The preservation of food was a much greater challenge in the mid-eighteenth century, well before canning and refrigeration. It was also in many ways much more important at that time however - as the long period of winter would have been very dreary without a nice selection of preserves in the still-room.  The following recipes show how you could have enjoyed artichokes with some of those dark winter meals in 1744.

Several Ways of keeping Artichokes.
Boil as much Water with Salt as you judge necessary for your Quantity of Artichokes, When boil’d let it stand till the Salt is settled, then put it in the Vessel you intend to keep your Artichokes. Blanch your Artichokes in boiling water, till you can take out the Chokes; then wash them till you are sure they are clean, and put them in the Pickle, pouring Oil or Butter on the Top to keep out the Air, and cover it very close for the same Purpose. When you use them steep them in fresh Water to take away the Salt.

To keep Artichokes dry.
Blanch them and take out the Chokes as before, drain them, and bake them till they are dry. Before you use them, steep them two Days in luke-warm Water. In blanching them off, put in the Water a little Verjuice, Salt, and Butter.

To keep Artichokes dry another Way.
Cut off the Leaves and the Chokes and put the Bottoms in Water. When you take them out of the Water, throw them into Flower [flour] and cover them all over with it. Then range them one by one on a Hurdle, and dry them in an Oven. Before you use them, let them soak a Day and a Night in Water, then boil them as you do other Artichokes.

Previously posted recipes from Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Gentlewoman at Dinner, Episode 2.

Today I want to follow-on from yesterday’s post as it feels a little incomplete to leave you with advice on serving meats only. In The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1675) Hannah Woolley continued with instructions on the remainder of the meal:

Some who esteem themselves the Virtuosi for rarity of diet and choice provision, esteem (in Fish) the head, and what is near about it, to be the best: I must acknowledg it in a Cods-head, with the various appurtenances, drest Secundum artem, sparing no cost; such a dish in Old and New Fish, street, hath made many a Gallant's pocket bleed freely. As also, I approve it in a Salmon or Sturgeon, the Jowles of both being the best of the Fish; likewise in Pike or Carp, where note, the tongue of this last -named is an excellent morsel; but in other Fish you must excuse the weakness of my knowledg. In Fish that have but one long bone running down the back (as the Sole), the middle is to be carved without dispute; there is none so unacquainted with fare, to contradict it.
If Fish be in paste, it is proper enough to touch it with your knife; if otherwise, with your fork and spoon, laying it handsomly on a plate with sauce, and so present it. But should there be Olives on board, use your spoon, and not your fork, lest you become the laughter of the whole Table.
All sorts of Tarts, wet-Sweat-meats; and Cake, being cut first in the dish wherein they were served to the Table, are to be taken up at the point of your knives, laid dextrously on a plate, and so presented: and whatever you carve and present, let it be on a clean palte [plate]; but by no means on the point of your knife, or fork, not with your spoon. If any one careves to you, refuse it not, though you dislike it.

Hannah then picks up her discussion  of dining etiquette:

Where you see variety at a Table, ask not to be helpt to any dainty; and if you are offered the choice of several-dishes, chuse not the best; you may answer, Madam, I am indifferent, your Ladiships choice shall be mine.
Be not nice nor curious at the Table, for that is undercent; and do not mump it mince it, nor bridle the head, as if you either disliked the meat, or the company. If you have a stomach, eat not voraciously; nor too sparingly, like an old-fashion'd Gentlewoman I have heard of, who because she would seem (being invited to a Feast) to be a slender eater, fed heartily at home (before she went) on a piece of poder'd-beef and cabbage; by chance a steak thereof fell on her Russ, and not perceiving it, went so where she was invited; being observed to eat little or nothing, a Gentlewoman askt her why she did not eat; Indeed, Madam, said she, I did eat (before I came forth) a whole pestle of a Lark to my Breakfast, and that I think hath deprived me of my appetite. The witty Gentlewoman presently replaied, I am easily induced to believe you fed on that Bird, for on your Ruff I see you have brought a feather of him with you. Thus your nicety may be discovered by means you dream not of, and thereby make your self the subject of publick laughter.
On the other side, do not bawl out aloud for any thing you want; as, I would have some of that; I like not this; I hate Onions; Give me no Pepper: But whisper softly to one, that he or she may without noise supply your wants.
If you be carved with any thing (as I said before) which you do not like, conceal (as much as in your lieth) your repugnancies, and receive it however: And though your disgust many times is invincible, and it would be insufferable tyranny to require you should eat what your Stomach nauseats; yet it will shew your civility to accept it, though you let it lye on your plate, pretending to eat, till you meet with a fit opportunity of changing your plate, without any palpable discovery of your disgust.
If you are left to your own liberty, with the rest, to carve to your self, let not your hand be in the dish first, but give way to others; and besure to carve on that side of the dish only which is next you, not overcharging your plate, but laying thereon a little at a time. What you take, as near as you can let it be at once; it is not civil to be twice in one dish, and much worse to eat out of it piece by piece; and do not (for it favours of rudeness) reach your arms over other dishes to come at that you like better. Wipe your spoon every time you put it into the dish, otherwise you may offend some squeamish stomacks. Eat not so fast, though very hungry, as by gormandizing you are ready to choak your selves. Close your lips when you eat; talk not when you have meat in your mouth; and do not smack like a Pig, nor make any other noise which shall prove ungrateful to the company. If your pottage be so hot your mouth cannot endure it, have patience till it be of a fit coolness; for it is very unseemly to blow it in your spoon, or otherwise.
Do not venture to eat Spoon-meat so hot, that the tears stand in your eyes, or that thereby you betray your intolerable greediness, by betraying the room, besides your great discomposure for a while afterwards. Do not bit your bread, but cut or break what you are about to eat; and keep not your knife always in your hand, for that is as unseemly as a Gentlewoman who pretended to have as little a stomach as she had a mouth, and therefore would not swallow her Pease by spoonfuls, but took them one by one, and cut them in two before she would eat them.
Fill not your mouth so full, that your checks shall swell like a pair of Scotch-bag-pipes; neither cut your meat into too big pieces.
Gnaw no bones with your Teeth, nor suck them to come at the marrow: Be cautious, and not over-forward in dipping or sopping in the dish; and have a care of letting fall any thing you are about to eat, between the plate and your mouth.
It is very uncivil to criticize or find fault with any dish of meat or sauce during the repast, or more especially at another's Table; or to ask what such a Joint or such a Fowl cost; or to trouble your self and others with perpetual discourses of Bills of Fare, that being a sure sign of a foolish Epicure.
It is very uncomely to drink so large a draught, that your breath is almost gone, and are forced to blow strongly to recover your self: nor let it go down too hastily, lest it force you to an extream cough, or bring it up again, which would be a great rudeness to nauseate the whole Table; and this throwing down your liquor as into a Funnel, would be an action fitter for a Juggler than a Gentlewoman. If you sit next a Person of Honour, it will behove you, not to receive your drink on that side; for those who are accurately bred, receive it generally on the other.
It is uncivil to rub your teeth in company, or to pick them at or after meals, with your knife; or otherwise; for it is a thing both indecent and distastful.
Thus much I have laid down for your observation in general; wherein I am defective as to particulars, let your own prudence, discretion, and curious observation supply.

The recipe for the day is taken from Hannah’s book:

Puff-paste, the best way how to make it.
Take a pottle* of Flower, mix it with cold water, half a pound of Butter, and the whites of five Eggs, work these together very well and stiff, then roul it out very thin, and put Flower under it and over it, then take near a pound of butter, and lay it in bits all over it, then double it in five or six doubles; this being done, roul it out the second time, and serve it as at the first, then roul it out and cut it into what form you please, and for what use, you need not fear the curle, for it will divide as often as you have doubled, ten or twelve times is enough for any use.

            [*equal to half a gallon (approx. 2.3 litres)]

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Gentlewoman at Dinner.

Good manners, they say, are never out of style. In 1675, Hannah Woolley gave some advice about behavior at the dinner table in The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex. See what you think about the relevance of the advice today:

Gentlewomen, the first thing you are to observe, is to keep your body strait in the Chair, and do not lean your Elbows on the Table. Discover not by any ravenous gesture your angry appetite; nor fix your eyes too greedily on the meat before you, as if you would devour more that way than your throat can swallow, or your stomach digest.
If you are invited abroad, presume not on the principal place at the Table, and seem to be perswaded with some difficulty to be seated, where your Inviter hath chosen in his opinion the most convenient place for you. Being a Guest, let not your hand be first in the Dish; and though the Mistess of the Feast may out of a Complement desire you to carve, yet beg her excuse, though you are better able to do it than her self.
In carving at your own Table, distribute the best pieces first, and it will appear very comely and decent to use a Fork; if so, touch no piece of meat without it.
I have been invited to Dinner, where I have seen the good Gentlewoman of the House sweat more in cutting up of a Fowl, than the Cookmaid in roasting it; and when she had soundly beliquor'd her joints, hath suckt her knuckles, and to work with them again in the Dish; at the sight whereof my belly hath been three quarters full, before I had swallowed one bit. Wherefore avoid clapping your fingers in your mouth and lick them, although you have burnt them with carving. Take these more especial Rules, according to the newest and best mode for Carving.
If Chicken-broth be the first dish, and you would help your principal Guest with a part of the Chicken, the best piece is the breast; the wings and legs are the next;; and of them, the general opinion of most is, That in all boil'd Fowl the legs are look'd on as chief.
As to all roasted Fowl, those which are curious in the indulging their pallats, do generally agree, that flying Wild-fowl are much tendered than Tam-fowl, and quicker of concoction; such as scratch the Earth, and seldom use the Wing, the Legs are to be preferr'd before any other part, the wings and breasts of wild-fowl are best.
The ordinary way of cutting-up a roast-fowl, is by dividing the four principal members, beginning first with the legs; and be not tedious in hitting the joynts, which you may avoid by well considering with your eye where they lye, before you exercise your knife.
The best piece to carve to the best in the company, oft the larger sort of Fowl, as Capons, Turkies, Geese, Duck, and Mallard, Pheasant, Dottril, Cock of the wood, etc. Is the piece on the breast, observing always to cut it long-ways towards the rump. But do not cut your Oranges long-ways, but cross.
Since in Butchers-meat there are few ignorant of the best pieces, it will be to little purpose to give you an account of them in this place;
for my design is to treat of that which is not commonly known: However, without deviating from my intention, take these remarks which follow.
In boiled or roasted Beef, that which is interlin'd or interlarded with fat, is most to be esteemed; and the short ribs being most sweet and tender, is to be preferred before any other.
Cut a Loin of Veal in the middle, and the present the Nut or Kidney as the best part in the whole Joint. Thrust your knife into a Leg of Mutton a considerable depth, above the handle, to let out the gravy; and begin to cut on the inside, as if you intended to split it; in the joint on the other side, is a little bone fit to be presented, and in great estimation among the Curious.
I heard of a Gentleman coming from hunting, and falling into a friend's house, complained he was extreamly hungry; the Mistris thereof replied, That she was very sorry she had nothing to accomodate him with but a cold Leg of Mutton. His appetite being very sharp, made him commend that Joint beyond any other; whereupon it was brough: But finding that choice bone remaining still untoucht, refused to eat a bit: Being demanded the reason, Madam, said he, the sharpness of my Stomach shall never make me feed uncleanly; for I am confident they must be Bores and Clown that first handled this leg of Mutton, or else their breeding would have taught them not to have left untoucht the choicst bit in the whole joint. I cannot but applaud the jest, but I must condemn the rudeness of the Gentleman.
A Shoulder of Mutton is to be cut semi circularly, between the handle and the slap; the Pope's eye (as it is commonly called) is a choice bit both in Leg and Shoulder.
In a roasted Pig, the dainty most approve the ears and divided jaws, the neck and middlepiece, by reason of the crackling. In Hares, Leverets, and Rabbets, the most esteemed (called the Huntsmans piece) is by the sides of the tail; and next to that, is the back, legs, and wings, improperly so termed.

Hannah’s book was not primarily a cook book, but it did contain a small number of recipes. Gentlewomen of the time were not expected to actually cook – they had hired servants to do that. They were however expected to have knowledge of home remedies, and to take an active part in their preparation.  The Gentlewoman’s Companion includes the following medicinal recipe, which also introduces us to a new (to this blog) ingredient-

China-broth for a Consumption.
Take two ounces of China-root sliced thin, and let it be steept twenty-four hours in fair water, let it stand warm all the time close covered in an Ear-then Pipkin; add thereunto a couple of Chickens or a Cockerel, cleanly dressed, to these put half an handful of Maiden- hair, the like quanity of five-leav'd grass and Harts-tongue; twenty sliced Dates, three or four blades of Mace, and the bottom of a Manchet; let all these stew together till there be but a quart of liquor left, then strain it and take all the flesh and bones, and beat them in a Stone-Morter, then strain out the juice into the aforesaid broth, then sweeten it with two ounces of powder'd Sugar-Candy. Take hereof half a pint in the morning warm, and sleep after it if you can; you will not do amiss to add two drams of white and red Sanders to steep with your Chicaroot.

China root is the root of Smilax china, a perennial deciduous climber originating in eastern Asia, and related to the original sarsaparilla plant (Smilax regelii ) The root, fruit and leaves are all edible, and it is popular in traditional Chinese medicine for a wide range of conditions. The fruit is said to be refreshingly thirst-quenching when eaten raw, the leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked, and the starchy root can be dried, as in the recipe above.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Extreme Travel Food: Siberia in 1821.

In early 1821, the German Baron Ferdinand Friedrich Georg Ludwig von Wrangel was appointed to lead the Kolymskaya Expedition to explore and survey the North-East coast of Siberia. He later, of course, published an account of his experiences, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into local life as well as the expedition experience.

What does an early nineteenth century explorer take along by way of provisions for a foray into such cold, harsh territory? The Baron outlined the basics in his narrative:

A month's provisions for five men consisted of 21 poods (90 lbs. English) of rye biscuit, 1 ½ pood of meat, 10 lbs. of dry soup tablets, 2 lbs. of tea, 4 lbs. of sugar-candy, 8 lbs. of groats, 3 lbs. of salt, 39 portions of strong spirits, 12 lbs. of tobacco, and 200 choice pieces of smoked yukhala. Each of us carried a musket and fifty cartridges, a pike, and a large knife stuck into his girdle, to which was attached the requisite apparatus for striking fire.  As food for our dogs, we had 790 large muksun yukhala, 1,200 yukola of the same, and 2,400 fresh frozen herrings. Our six provision sledges were entirely laden with the eatables, and a part of our own stores we were obliged to make room for on our travelling narti.

… for the yearly consumption of the hundred families that compose the little community of Nishney-Kolymsk, at least three millions of herrings are required. Many oilier kinds of fish are caught at this time, among which is the Nelma, a large description of salmon trout, but the first fish are generally thin, and are mostly converted into yukhala for the dogs; that is to say, cut open, cleaned, and dried in the air. From the entrails an abundance of train oil is obtained, which is used for food as well as for fuel. The yukola is distinguished from the yukhala merely by the selection of a better kind of fish, and by greater care in the preparation.

“Russian” food was fashionable for a period of time during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The following recipe sounds pretty tasty, but being an absolute non-expert in “Russian” cuisine, I cannot speak to its authenticity – whatever that means.

Siberian Lunch Dish.
This is a mince of beef or mutton, with either bacon or veal, mixed with a little suet, a dash of onion juice, and grated nutmeg. These are put into little “turnovers” of pie paste that is bound together with raw egg. The “turnover” is a small circle of pastry folded over, and with the edges crimped or pinched fast to hold the contents. Fruit turnovers are baked, but these meat turnovers are boiled, being dropped as soon as sufficient are filled and pinched tight, into boiling water. When cooked they float to the top, and are taken out with a skimmer.

London Mercury November 23, 1889