Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ruffs, Reeves, and Indisposed Epicures.

Today I continue where I left off yesterday, with a post inspired by an article in All the Year Round, Vol. 20 (1868,) edited by Charles Dickens. There is more to the article, but lest I you are prone to Dickens fatigue (is such a thing possible?) I give you only a second small sample of Dickens’ story about gourmets, gluttons, friands, and epicures:

But Captain A., of Chantilly, to judge from the epicurean records of Paris in the year 1805, was not much behind the Gascon in his appreciation of at least the quantity of food. Captain A. had been in the cavalry, but he quitted that service, on account of having grown so extremely corpulent that no horse could be found strong enough to bear his ponderous weight. Yet, fat as he grew, he preserved his splendid appetite in its first bloom.
The regiment in which Captain A. had long served, happening to pass Chantilly, the officers resolved to give a dinner to their old comrade. His oldest friend, who knew the captain's appetite best, asserted that though only twelve men were to sit down, dinner must be ordered for four-and-twenty. A pert young lieutenant replied that surely with a good dinner for twelve they could entertain one person more; but the old captain assured them that if Captain A. chose, Captain A. could eat the whole dinner himself. A bet was made of fifty louis by all the mess against the old captain, who instantly started in search of Captain A., to bring him at once to the spot.
He found his man at table. When he heard the cause of the visit, the captain seemed sorry.
"You've chosen a bad time, old friend," he said, with a half sigh, partly of regret, partly of repletion. "I have already taken three basins of puree, and have eaten this boiled leg of mutton, of which you see only the white handle. But, as I have long held you in esteem, I'll try and do something for you. Here, boy, my hat. Dear sir, I am at your service. At what inn are you?"
Arrived at the inn, Captain A. soon hid away the first and second course. The hostess then entered to say that a very fine pike had just arrived.
"Cook it madam," said Captain A., with the utmost gravity. "Cook it. And since, gentlemen, in your bet it was stipulated there should be no dessert, this pike can take its place."
The officers shrugged their shoulders, and seeing they had hopelessly lost, dispensed with this final proof of the captain's complaisance, secretly vowing, if they passed through Chantilly, never again to make experiments on this intrepid eater.
This reminds us of a story of those rude days of Figg and Broughton, cock-fighting, and bull-baiting, when spendthrift noblemen used to bet on eating matches. The trainer of one of these champion eaters, on one occasion having to write to Lord Sandwich, or whoever the backer was, and report progress, wrote thus:
The Norfolk Chicken is a leg of pork and a goose-pie ahead; but we shall pick up when we take to our pickles.

An epicure on the sick list is a pitiable sight. Numberless are the stories told of the expedients to which invalid epicures have resorted. The old Scotchman, limited to his glass of claret, took his dose in one of those glass wells that hold a quart. M. Delaboche, a Parisian epicure of eminence of the last century, was less fortunate. A rich financier, with all the mail couriers on his side, he had only to wish for a delicacy, to have it. He ate pâtés de foie gras as if they were cheesecakes, and truffles like cherries. But his wife, dreading widowhood, crossed him in all his tastes, so that he was obliged to shut himself up before he could eat what he liked and when he liked. At last he fell ill, and the first remedy that doctors prescribe to a gourmand is diet. The doctor's rules would have been ill observed, indeed, but for the cruel vigilance of madame, who locked up her husband and kept the keys: a nurse being her under jailer. The remedies were unpleasant but efficacious, and monsieur the financier began to amend. At last he was permitted to eat, and the doctor, knowing his patient's weakness, gave strict directions as to each day, prescribing first of all the white of a fresh egg, and a single slice of bread. The financier only wished that the egg he had to eat had been laid by an ostrich instead of a vulgar barn-door fowl, but he resolved to have his revenge on the bread. He ordered the longest baton of bread he could find in Paris; it was a yard and a half long, and weighed more than a pound. Madame would have fought over this, but there could be no doubt that the strict letter of the law had been maintained. The egg was served up with pomp, and the cook placed it on the bed of the sick man, whose eyes brightened with returning health as he sat up in bed eager for the fray. But too eagerly sucking the white of the egg, he unfortunately swallowed the yolk also. Miserable accident! unhappy precipitation! the bread was now useless. Madame instantly claimed it as forfeit, and bore it off on her shoulder with triumph, the egg-shell she clutched in her other hand. The financier fell back on his pillow, ill with sheer despair. He was not consoled until his first fit of indigestion. A year or two afterwards he died of an excess of pâtés de foie gras. It was this same artful invalid who, when the doctor had described his next dinner in writing as "une cuisse de poulet," added in a forged hand, "d'Inde,"[i.e a turkey] which gave far more solidity to the meal.
One of the most heartless things ever done was a trick once played on Pope, the epicurean actor. A wicked friend asked him to dine off a small turbot and a boiled aitchbone of beef, apologising for the humble fare with the usual feigned humility of friends. Why, it's the very thing I like," said Pope, in his reply, referring to the aitchbone. "I will come, my son, with all the pleasure in life."
He came, he saw, he ate; ate till he grew nearer the table, and could eat no more. He had just laid down his knife and fork, like a soldier tired of war's alarms, when a bell was rung, and in came a smoking haunch of venison. Pope saw the trick at once; he cast a look of bitter reproach upon his friend, trifled with a large slice, then again dropped his now utterly useless weapons, and burst into hysterical and unrestrainable tears.  "A friend of twenty years' standing," he sobbed, "and to be deceived in this manner!"
One of the greatest vexations to a true epicure is to see the obtuse blunderings of an ignoramus who does not know what he is eating.
There is a good Yorkshire story admirably told by Mr. Hayward relating to this form of epicurean annoyance. At a grand dinner at Bishopsthorpe (in Archbishop Markbam's time) a dish of ruffs and reeves, that had been carefully fattened on boiled wheat, was accidentally placed in front of a silent shy young divine who had come up from some obscure nook of one of the Ridings to be examined for priests' orders, and had been asked to dine by his grace. Blushing, terribly self-conscious, and glad to occupy himself by eating any humble thing that could be got at without asking or drawing attention to his awkward and confused ways, he quietly cleared off three parts of the dish, being quite as hungry as he was nervous, till suddenly a fat rural dean, seeing the extent of the disaster, "called the attention of the company by a loud exclamation of alarm." It was too late—the last ruff had just joined the last reeve, and the young divine's hopes of speedy preferment had vanished with both. There is a rather similar story also told of a Scotch officer dining with the late Lord George Lennox, then commandant at Portsmouth. Lady Louisa Lennox, with charming artfulness, tried to lure off the gallant Scotchman to a more showy but inferior dish.
"Na, na, my leddy," was the stolid reply; "the wee birdies will do vara weel for me."
In the northern version of the story, the scene is laid at Rose Castle (where we believe it really did happen), and the unobservant divine is said to have replied, in the broadest Cumberland:
"No, thank you, my lordship, I'll stick to the lill (little) birds."

So, what was the appeal of the tiny birds called ruffs and reeves? They were tiny, and delicate, and difficult to catch, so the opposite of the large, solid, beasts of burden such as ox, nor as common and easy to rear as pigs and chickens, and therefore infinitely more desirable.

Ruffs and Reeves.
Ruffs and reeves are skewered in the same manner as quails; put bars of bacon over them; they will take about ten minutes roasting: put good gravy in the dish.

A Complete System of Cookery (1806) by John Simpson

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Friands, Friandises, Gluttons, and Gourmets.

Most of us have done a little (or a lot) too much eating and drinking over the last week or so, as we tend to do at this time of the year. Over the Christmas season, words used in descriptions of the annual eating frenzy – words such as gourmet, gourmand, glutton, epicure and so on - are tossed around with careless abandon in newspapers and magazines, leading me to ask ‘What do each of these words mean, specifically?’

I give you one man’s opinion on the meaning of these words – and a few more - the brilliant and entertaining wordsmith and food-lover, Mr. Charles Dickens, editor of All the Year Round, Vol. 20 (1868.)

Gourmands And Gormandising.
The word the French use as a term, if not of honour, certainly of approval, is with us changed into a term of reproach: so much, even in small matters, do the two nations differ. The dictionary of the Academy defines a Gourmand, as Dr. Johnson also does, as synonymous with a glutton. In the Encyclopaedia, gormandising is translated as "a demoralised love of good cheer;" but the Abbé Robaud, in his synonymes, is more favourable to gourmands, describing them as "persons who love to eat and make good cheer." They must eat, but not eat without selection. Below the judicious and self-restraining epicure, the sensible and tolerant abbé places four classes of people. First, the Friand, the person who likes all sorts of dainties, especially sweetmeats and dessert. The Goinfre is a monster who has an appetite so brutal that he swallows with ravening mouth everything he comes near; he eats and eats for the sake of eating. Next appears the Goulu (the shark), the wretch who snatches with avidity, swallows rather than eats, and gobbles rather than chews. Last of all comes that very discreditable creature the Glutton, who eats with an audible and disagreeable noise, and with such voracity that one morsel scarcely waits for another, and. all disappears before him, absorbed as it were in a bottomless abyss. Such are the subtleties of the highly refined language of our neighbours. For all these expressions we have but the feeble epithets of epicure, alderman, greyhound, wolf. We are obliged, indeed, to borrow from the French, the two words Gourmand and Gourmet. By the first, meaning those who eat largely, without much regard to quality; by the second, those who study and appreciate the higher branches of cooking.
A friend of Dreikopf’s has ascertained, after twenty years' experiments, that it takes thirty-two movements of the upper and lower jaws to cut and grind a morsel of meat sufficiently to allow it to be safely swallowed. The age and strength of the person, and the quality of the molars and incisors, are also, of course, to be taken into account, which drives one to algebra and vulgar fractions; but the rule is a good general one, and may be trusted to. This is philosophy indeed; and yet a man may use his teeth very well without knowing a word of it. It would not have helped that notorious eater, the Abbé de Liongeac, who, as the legend in Paris restaurants goes, would often for a wager eat thirty-six dozens of small pâtés. The abbé was, moreover, a little fragile-looking man, who looked as if a jelly would not melt in his mouth.
To be an epicure, a man should be rich; a poor epicure (unless he steal) must lead the life of twenty Tantaluses rolled into one. Elwes, the miser, was that unhappy creature: an epicure restrained from indulging in one vice, by the preponderance of another. People who laid traps for his rusty guineas used to bring him luxurious dishes, which he spoiled by his meanness. On one occasion a prudent lady sent the old miser a plate of richly stewed carp, of which he was known to be fond. It arrived cold. The difficulty was how to warm it. Elwes had no coal; he was not going to waste a fire; nothing would induce him to do that. What should he do? A happy thought struck him. He took the dish, covered it with another, and sat down on it patiently like a hatching hen until it got tolerably warm, and the generous port wine flavour was elicited from the gravy.
There was a story current some years ago in Paris, of a Gascon equally fond of good living, but from much more tangible reasons unable to indulge his taste. On a search for a dinner at some one's expense, our wily Gascon one day entered a restaurant where a pompous gourmand of the parvenu kind was just finishing a solitary but elaborate dinner, and sat surrounded by trophies of the strength of his jaws. The gourmand was just then annoyed at some doubts of the power of his appetite.
"Eh bien, gentlemen," he said, carefully selecting a toothpick. "My waistcoat strings are ready to fly, and yet I could recommence now, if any one would offer me a wager."
The Gascon leaped at him. "I accept the wager, monsieur," he cried, throwing down the carte he had been hungrily scanning. "I'll meet you, though I had formed a project of fasting for a week, for only three days ago I began at a tremendous wedding feast, which has lasted from then till now."
The gourmand, either through politeness or pride, inquired no more, feeling sure of victory in whatever condition his adversary might be. The bet was made. Whoever gave up first was to pay for both dinners. The Gascon ate like a Lou. He was a goinfre at the soup, a goulu at the fish, a gourmand at the entremets, a gourmet at the wine, a friand at the dessert. Unfortunately, his stomach, like a dry balloon, could not expand quite quick enough. The Gascon felt there was something going wrong internally, but on he plunged, a hero to the last, and knowing that, victorious or defeated, he could not pay, he ate until he fell in a swoon of repletion.
The waiters felt that here was the beaten man, to whom they had to look for the bill. They surrounded the prostrate champion, partly to find his address, partly to sound his purse, and make sure of their money, but, alas! the Gascon had not enough even to pay Charon for the ferry over the gloomy river. The restaurateur, in his despair, appealed to the witnesses whether the living ought not to pay for the dead. Gourmands are generally good-natured easy people. This epicure, delighted at his victory, though it had ended in the death of his terrible opponent, drew out his purse, and smiling blandly at the prostrate Gascon, quietly paid.
The generous creature had hardly left, before the Gascon, who had remained forgotten in a corner, came to himself, and comprehending from a few words dropped by the nearest waiters that the bill was settled, was so overjoyed that he began to move, which instantly brought every one round him. The universal cry was, "Give him an emetic!" "Bring a stomach pump!"
The poor wretch turned pale, pulled himself together, and, with one bolt, dashed like a harlequin through the glass doors into the street.
"I am all right," he said, when he was safe; "Cadedis, I'll take good care of myself, for I am cured now for a good week more."
That Gascon was evidently a great undeveloped epicure, who only wanted a good income to have sipped his ortolan soup with the best. We can scarcely doubt that in the old Greek times he would have worn his tongue in a little case, like the Sybarite mentioned by Athenseus, who was anxious to preserve the purity and sensitiveness of that useful and favoured organ.

There is more in this article, so perhaps I will continue it tomorrow, but in the meanwhile, I want to focus on the word ‘friand.’ Today, in the English language, it is more likely to indicate a small cake of French (or presumed French) heritage than a “person who likes all sorts of dainties, especially sweetmeats and dessert.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word is derived from the French friend meaning dainty, and is “an alteration of friant, past participle of frire, the primary sense being ‘qui grille (d'impatience)’ The OED gives two usages

1.       Dainty; delicious to the palate; fond of delicate food. First known usage in written English is given as occurring in 1599.
2.      A person of dainty taste in food, an epicure. First known usage in 1598.

So, the OED has not caught up with the cake-noun yet. Time (and insufficient language skills) prevents me from performing an exhaustive search for the development of the friend-as-cake, but I did find an interesting associated word.

In The Menu Book of Practical gastronomy, a menu compiler and register of dishes (Chicago, 1908) by Charles Herman Senn is a couple of mentions of something called a friandine.  Senn gives the derivation of this word as “French, from Old French friant, from present participle of frire to fry, roast.” His description of the items will serve as our recipe for the day:

These are made of puff-paste, rolled out thinly with a 2-inch fluted round cutter ; a portion of prepared mince or salpicon of meat or game, etc., is placed in the centre of each round ; this is covered with a round of paste, egged, dipped in crushed vermicelli, and fried in clarified butter, lard or dripping.

Friandines de volaille. -  Chicken friandines.
-           de fole-gras. -  Goose liver friandines.
-           de glbler. - Game friandines.
-           de homard  - Lobster friandines.            
-          aux huitres. -  Oyster friandines.
-          de poisson. - Fish friandines.

-          de ris de veau. - Sweetbread friandines.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Warming-up the Leftovers.

No doubt many of you are suffering from the usual post-Christmas simultaneous over-loaded stomach and over-loaded fridge syndromes. Are you tired of turkey yet? Is the pudding all gone? Is there chocolate still, for breakfast?

I ask you to consider briefly the plight of the nineteenth century housewife. She had no refrigerator to prolong the safe life of her leftovers, nor a microwave to heat them up with convenience and economy. For those in the northern hemisphere the colder weather meant that the first problem was not so great, and the fire was likely on in the stove and hearth, so the second also not such an issue. Think, however, of the British colonial wife sweltering in the furthest equatorial and southern reaches of the Empire – how much more of a worry the Christmas leftovers must have been to her, and her cook!

I will explore the plight of the hot-weather housewife in respect of leftovers, in another post, but first, I want to show you some of the ways suggested in nineteenth century cookery books for warming up leftovers. Some of these methods would not fit modern food-safety guidelines today of course (especially as the food would not have been refrigerated for the day or so before the warming up process.

[To serve plum pudding the second day]
When served the second day, or cold for supper, it is cut in slices; some Jamaica rum is poured over it, then set on fire, basting as long as it burns, and serve. It is generally burnt on the table, but the rum may be poured over in the kitchen.
Handbook of Practical Cookery, for Ladies and Professional Cooks (1868),
by Pierre Blot

How to Warm Up a Fillet of Beef, and Other Roast Meats.
The best way to warm up roast meat is to envelop it in a sheet of paper and put it on the spit, when it will soon become as fine as the first; if the piece be too small, wrap it in paper, and put it on the gridiron.

French Domestic Cookery (1846), by Louis-Eustache Audot.

To Warm Up Cold Poutry Whole.
Poultry or game if not over-roasted may be warmed whole by being wrapped in a well-buttered paper, and put down before the fire till warmed through.

The English Cookery Book: Uniting a Good Style with Economy

John Henry Walsh, 1859.

To Warm Up Fish The Second Day.
Salmon may be put into boiling water, and just heated through, taking care to add vinegar as at first. Turbot, brill, and codfish are best picked from the bones, and warmed up with cream or white sauce; then mash some potatoes, and form a wall round a dish (which may or may not be egged and browned), in which the fish is to be placed and served.

The English Cookery Book: Uniting a Good Style with Economy

John Henry Walsh, 1859.

To Warm up Shelled Beans.
Pour off all the milk, sift through a colander, and mix with an equal quantity of cold mashed potatoes; add 1 well-beaten egg. Make into small cakes with the hands; place on well-oiled tins and bake in the oven. A little thick nut cream may be added if desired.

Guide to Nut Cookery (1899) Mrs. Almeida Lambert.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dinner aboard ship, Boxing Day 1931.

I have a holiday treat for you today – the menu for passengers lucky enough to b eaboard R.M.S Scythia of the Cunard Line on this day in 1931.

R.M.S Scythia             Saturday  December 26, 1931


Oysters on the Half Shell
Queen Olives              Salted Peanuts                        Iced Celery
Hors d’Œuvres
Consomme Henry IV              Crème [Liseise?]
Flounder – Meuniere
Halibut  - Bonne Femme
Weiner Schnitzel
Cotelettes d’Agneau – Clamart
Prime Sirloin and Ribs of Beef – Horseradish
Cauliflower Polonaise             Spinach en Branche
Potatoes – Boiled, Roast, and Dauphine
Sorbet au Ceron
Roast Surrey Capon – Anglaise
Salade Royale and Chiffonade
Palmire Souffle Pudding
Vanilla Blanc Mange              Coupe Mexicaine                    French Pastry
Ice Cream and Wafers
Dessert                        Coffee

I do hope you did not find it too difficult to make your dinner choice.

As the recipe for the day I have chosen the classic dish:

Cauliflower Polonaise
Trim off the outer leaves and stalk of a good-sized, white cauliflower. Place in a saucepan with two quarts of boiling water and a gill of hot milk; season with a tablespoonful of salt. Cover the pan and boil for forty minutes. Remove, drain on a sieve, and dress on a hot dish. Heat one tablespoonful and a half of melted butter in a frying-pan, add three tablespoonfuls of fresh breadcrumbs, then gently toss until a good golden colour. Pour over the cauliflower, and serve.
May Byron's Vegetable Book: Containing Over 750 Recipes for the Cooking

and Preparation of Vegetables (1916)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Queensland Christmas Menu, 1900.

A Very Merry Christmas to you all, my friends!
My own Christmas wish (well, one of them anyway) is that I hope to continue to meet with you here every weekday in 2015. The tenth anniversary of this blog will be on October 31st, and I certainly hope you are still with me then, and beyond.
On this Christmas Day I have for you a short piece from The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld) of 15 Dec 1900.
By “Delphia.”

You must not imagine, dear girls, that the following menu is one that recommends itself to sojourners in a tropical climate, or to such melting moments as dwellers in Queensland experience on the Nativity festival day of the year, the 25th December. For weeks and weeks before that date our colonial thermometers rise higher and higher, and it is just possible may reach a record rise on the day of days. Common-sense gastronomers would initiate a menu adapted to the climate – cold turkeys, game, fowls in aspic, moulded calf’s head, cold chicken pie and salad, apple snow, jellies, and a dozen other lovely cold dishes, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. All very well, wise gourmond; but how are these viands to be made to congeal with the thermometer in the nineties and no ice chests, and where, in far-way bush homes, can slabs of ice be manufactured? But even if a Christmas menu upon a frozen plan were feasible, it is doubtful if it would usurp in place of the traditional fare upon which our ancestors feasted, and which, while you are reading these lines, our sisters and brothers in Great Britain are busily preparing, and anticipate eating as of yore. Let us make the most of what we have, and be thankful that we have the good old roast of beef, the plump turkey, and delicious fruits of our own colony, and many also from other climes. These are within our reach, and only need the culinary art which most of our housewives possess to develop a grand festival banquet such as will do honour to old Father Christmas, transplanted to a sultry clime. So we must make our Christmas menu of ingredients which come well within the scope of every colonial home, and sufficiently substantial to meet the approval of our hearty bushmen and bushwomen.

Giblet Soup.
Roast Turkey and bread sauce.
Roast Ducks, or boiled fowls.
Piece de resistance – Roast Beef of Old England (Sirloin)
Boiled Ham.
Sucking-pig and Apple Sauce.
Christmas Plum Pudding.       Boiled Custards.
Apricot Tart.   Whipped Cream.
Mince Pies.
Fruit Salad.
Cheese Straws.
Vegetables. – As many as can be procured. Cobs of young sweet corn
are delicious. They must be green, and should be boiled in salted water for twenty minutes, and served like asparagus.

Several recipes appropriate for the season were published in the same edition of the paper: here is my choice for you today:-

Christmas Cake (Kingswood Cookery Book.)
1 ¼ lb. flour, 1 lb. brown sugar, 2 lb. currants, one gill brandy, 1 lb. sultanas, 1 lb. butter, ten eggs, ½ lb. mixed peel.
Sift the flour, clean the fruit, and mix together; beat the butter and sugar together to a cream; add the eggs, two at a time, not previously beaten, then the brandy slowly; add the fruit and flour, and last of all the peel; line a cake-tin with paper, but do not grease it; pour in the mixture, and bake three or four hours.

May I also remind you, in case you missed it, of the list of Christmas menus previously featured here?:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Last Minute Christmas Recipes.

Time is running out for Christmas food preparation, but if you are behind schedule the following ideas might help:

The American woman's cook book (1939) from the Delineator Home Institute suggests this rather good-sounding relish:

Quick Christmas Relish
2 cups chopped, pickled beets
Salt and pepper
5 tablespoons horseradish Mustard
1 cup chopped red cabbage
Vinegar from pickled beets

Mix beets, horseradish and cabbage. Moisten with the vinegar left from the pickled beets and season with salt and pepper, and a little dry mustard. Toss together and serve lightly piled in a mound.

Specially for Children.
Some mothers consider the usual mincemeat slightly unsuitable for young children, nor do they always enjoy it as much as the grown-ups do. Here is a very good alternative which the little people are sure to like. All you have to do is mix together six ounces of apricot jam, two ounces of currants, two ounces of sultanas, a pinch of spice, and a few blanched and chopped almonds.
Use this to make individual mince pies or a large mince tart just as you would use ordinary mincemeat.
Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.)  21 December 1937. 

Cold Christmas Pudding.
One cup water, 1 cup red wine, ½ cup glace cherries, ½ cup chopped nuts, ½ cup sliced green fig preserve, 1 dessertspoonful cocoa, 1 tablespoonful gelatine, sugar to taste, pinch salt, ½ cup chopped raisins, 1 teaspoonful ground cinnamon, ½ cup cut up glace ginger.
Soak gelatine in the water, stirring over a low heat all the time until the gelatine is dissolved. Stir in sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and add wine. Chill until on the point of setting, then stir in cut up fruit. Mould. Serve with cream or custard.
Maryborough Chronicle (Qld., Australia)  24 December 1952

A most efficient idea is a wassail-bowl, as per the recipe below. It is a variation on the endless themes of egg nog and trifle, and a fine way to eat your seasonal beverage of choice.

Wassail-Bowl, a centre Supper Dish for Christmastide.
Crumble down as for Trifle a nice fresh cake (or use macaroons or other small biscuit) into a china punchbowl or deep glass dish. Over this pour some sweet rich wine, as Malmsey Madeira, if wanted very rich, but raisin-wine will do. Sweeten this, and pour a well-seasoned rich custard over it. Strew nutmeg and grated sugar over it, and stick it over with sliced blanched almonds.—Obs. This is, in fact, just a rich eating posset, or the more modern Tipsy Cake. A very good wassail bowl may be made, with mild ale, well spiced and sweetened, and a plain custard made with few eggs. The wassail-bowl was anciently crowned with garlands and ribbons, and ushered in with carols and songs.
The Cook and Houswife’s Manual (8th edn. Edinburgh, 1847) by
Christian Isobel Johnstone (aka Mistress Margaret Dods)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Frugal but Festive: WW II food ideas.

I do love the British Ministry of Food’s wartime Food Facts leaflets, and have featured many of them here over the years. Today I have for you leaflet No. 125, published in The Times, of December 23, 1942 (Ha! Without my intending it, this is an “On this Day” post!). I have not included the Christmas Day Pudding and Christmas Fruit Pies, as I have previously blogged many recipes from the era for these dishes.

It will take more than Hitler to stop the British housewife from setting a festive table at Christmas time. Yes, the food will be the same – rations, vegetables, grain foods – no Christmas specials; because ship-saving matters more than ever now we have done over to the offensive. But by dressing up the old favourites, by using little tricks of flavouring, garnishing and serving we can still put up a festive show. Stuffed flank of beef may take the place of turkey, and a little cold tea may be used to darken the complexion of Christmas cake or pudding, but we can still contrive a spread which will delight the children and warm the hearts of the grown-ups.

Scrub and slice 1 ½ lb of potatoes thinly, slice 2 apples, grate 4 oz. cheese. Place a layer of potatoes in a greased pie-dish, cover with apple and a little sage, season, sprinkle on grated cheese, repeat layers leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in ½ pint of stock, cook in a moderate oven for ¾ hour. Blend 1 tablespoon flour with ¼ pint stock, pour into dish and cook for another ¼ hour.

1.      Grated bar chocolate on freshly made biscuits gives the party touch.
2.      Baked apples stuffed with war-time mincemeat are a splendid surprise.
3.      Hot Cinnamon Toast for tea makes up for the shortage of cakes. Here is the way to make it.

Cinnamon Toast.
Take 1 tablespoonful margarine, 1 dessertspoonful of sugar, 1 teaspoonful of cinnamon. Cream all the ingredients together, spread on hot toast and grill for two minutes.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Fine Feast for Pilgrim Descendants in 1881

I have another “On This Day” story for you today folks. It is also a Mark Twain story, so it is double the fun. So, without further ado, let me begin ….

On this day in 1881 was held the First Annual Festival of the New England Society of Pennsylvania. One hundred and fifty gentlemen (no ladies of course) sat down to a fine feast inspired with enthusiasm if not historical accuracy by the events of 1620. The banquet was reported in detail in the Philadelphia Press the following day:-

A Notable Dinner at the Continental Hotel --
Addresses by President Rollins, Senator Frye,
Gov. Hoyt, President Hopkins, and Mark Twain.

The main dining-room of the Continental Hotel presented a beautiful and picturesque scene last night on the occasion of the First Annual Festival of the New England Society of Pennsylvania. The society was formed a few weeks since by residents of this city who are natives of or descendants from good old Puritan stock. The object of the association is good-fellowship and the honoring of a worthy ancestry, of which all the sons of New England are justly proud. The day fixed for the annual festival, the 22nd of December, is "Forefathers' Day," the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers. The society determined to make their first festival a notable one, and to that end invited many notable descendants of the Eastern States, who showed their appreciation by attending in person. The dinner hour was fixed last evening at six o'clock, and notwithstanding the stormy weather, the members and guests began to arrive promptly on time. They were ushered into Parlor C, where the president of the society, E.A. Rollins, and Gov. Hoyt, a vice-president, held an informal reception. Never was there seen a more solid and respectable gathering of business men, leaders of the bench and bar, newspaper editors and proprietors, clergymen and college professors, all gathered to do honor to their native section of country. The tall form of President Hopkins, of Williams College, was seen in the throng as he conversed with Admiral George H. Preble. Senator Frye, of Maine, stood chatting with Governor Hoyt. Mark Twain stood in one corner uttering drolleries which caused his auditors to guffaw in a manner highly reprehensible in staid and sober citizens. John Welsh conversed with Frederick Fraley, and Rev. H. Clay Trumbull, secretary of the society, darted hither and thither, arranging things generally for the event.

At seven o'clock the line was formed, and headed by President E.A. Rollins and Professor Hopkins, of Williams College, the members and guests proceeded to the dining-room. President Rollins took his seat at the centre of the north table. On his right were Professor Hopkins, Professor Daniel E. Goodwin, D.D., LL. D., one of the society's vice-presidents; John Welsh, Rear-Admiral Geo. H. Preble, Frederick Fraley, Henry Winsor, Clayton McMichael, James L. Claghorn, Calvin Wells, of Pittsburg; Charles Emory Smith, of THE PRESS, and Rev. H. Clay Trumbull, secretary. On his left were Senator W.P. Frye, of Maine; Governor Hoyt, Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), Lieutenant Thackara, U.S.N.; Rev. W.N. McVickar, Judge Allison, Rev. George Dana, Boardman Chaplain, and Clarence H. Clark, treasurer of the society.
Among the other prominent persons seated at the tables were E. Dunbar Lockwood, who talked reform with Amos R. Little. H.W. Pitkin and other members of the Committee of One Hundred; Rev. Charles G. Amos, the noted Unitarian clergyman; Francis D. Lewis, A.G. Heaton. The Reading Railroad was represented by President Frank S. Bond, Secretary Kinsley, Receiver Stephen A. Caldwell, directors George F. Tyler, E.W. Clark, and the company attorneys, Samuel Dickson, Judge Asbhel Green, of New Jersey, the McCalmont brothers' counsel also chatted with the party. Some of the others were: A.C. Hetherington, General McCartney, E.P. Borda, George Russell, H.W. Bartol, B.H. Atwood, N.P. Storey, Joseph P. Mumford, Dr. H.M. Howe, John P. Thayer, Sidney Tyler, Dr. Forrest, E.W. Clark and B.B. Comegys, the bankers, Chas. M. Jackson, C.A. Kingsbury, J.C. Collins, T.B. Merrick, Frank O. Allen, G.A. Bigelow, C.E. Morgan, Jr., Walter McMichael, Nelson F. Evans, C.F. Richardson, G. Cornish, John Welsh Dulles, C.H. Brush, Robert N. Wilson, Walter H. Tilden, Charles P. Turner, Dr. J.F. Stone, and J.E. Graff. Altogether one hundred and fifty gentlemen sat down.

The room was elegantly and most appropriately decorated. The chandeliers were festooned with smilax. Hanging-baskets were suspended along the walls and before the windows. At the eastern end of the room were stately palms, graceful camelias and rare plants perfuming the air with fragrance. A magnificent design composed of immortelles in red, yellow and purple, was prominent at this end of the hall. It bore in large letters the inscription:
December 22,
Along the north end of the hall a long table was ranged, at which the officers and distinguished guests were seated as given above. Extending transversely from this were several other long tables, around which were placed the members.
Beside each plate lay a toast list, printed on hand-made paper of the style of two centuries ago. There was also a menu of the most artistic and original design. It was printed in chocolate-colored ink, and bore on the first page a representation of the Mayflower making her perilous voyage, with the Pilgrim Fathers on board. On the last page was a portrait of John Alden's Priscilla, one of whose descendants was present at the festival. The bill of fare was printed in antique type, and was as follows:

Thursday Eveninge, December 22, 1881.
Oysters from Chasepack Bay in their Shells.
Green Turtle Soupe.
Boyled Salmon with Sauce of Shrimps.
*Pates a la Reine.
Fillet of Beef Garnyshed with Mushrooms.
Roaste Turkey from Cape Cod, with Cranberries.
Potatoes.         Strynge Beans.            Pease.
Pork and Beans.          Stewed Terrapin.
1620        1881
Sherbot.           Cigarettes.
Canvas-back Duck. Partridge.
Lettuce Salading Dressed in Oyle.
Puddings with Plumbs.
Mince Pie.       Pumpkin Pie.
Frozen Sweete Thynges, also Jellies and Cakes.
Several Sorts of Nuts and Fruits.

*Lyttle Pies such as the Queen of France doth love.

Pâtes à la Reine were a staple at nineteenth century banquets, and I have chosen them as the feature dish for the day. I give you the recipe from Cookery for English households, by a French lady (London, 1864):-

Petits pâtes à la reine.
Line twelve small moulds about as large as an apple with a pate brisée (see No. 516), and fill up the inside with the fillets of a fowl, cut in small dice, and warmed up in a bechamelle (see No. 46, page 25); place a very thin piece of puff paste, like No. 515 page 209, over the plates, and set them in a moderate oven. They require about ten minutes' baking.
Observation.—It is easy to see that many different petits plates may be made in following the rules given above. If any meat remains, it may be cut in dice and warmed up in a thick sauce (see any of the sauces given in Chapter IV.), then put inside a mould, like Petits pâte's a la reine, No. 519. Salmon, trout, lobster, cray fish, shrimps, turbot, pike, oysters, calf's brains, sweetbreads, &c. &c. may be cooked a la poulette (see No. 323, page 129), or in a bechamelle (see No. 46, page 25), and put inside petits pates; only be careful to remember that whenever you put sauce inside it should be thick, and be careful to use only pate brisee, like No. 516. If you used puff paste all the sauce would run through.
You may use preserves inside, and in that case use puff paste; it will then be an entremets.

If anything but sweets is put inside petits plates, serve them as entrees.