Monday, March 31, 2014

Betty Lou’s Dinner Plan for April Fools' Day in 1929.

I don’t believe I have used the script for a radio program as a menu or recipe source in the past – and after well over two thousand posts, it is nice to have a ‘first.’

In the 1920’s and 1930’s the United States Department of Agriculture  Radio Service ran a regular program called ‘Housekeepers’ Chat,’ which included menus and recipes provided by the U.S.D.A.’s Bureau of Home Economics.

On April Fool’s Day, 1929, the theme was a dinner appropriate for the day - perhaps it will be an inspiration for you in planning for tomorrow. I give you the script in its entirety.

"Betty Lou Plans a Dinner for April Fool's Day."
"I'll bet a cooky," said Betty Lou's dad, "I'll bet a cocky that nobody can put anything over on me this April Fool's day. You needn't put salt in the sugar bowl - I'm on to that; don't offer me any chocolate-coated laundry soap - I won't bite, please understand that I'm impervious to all April Fool jokes this year - so don't waste your talent on me."

After making this hard-boiled statement, Betty Lou's dad stuck his paper in his pocket and went to work.

Betty Lou turned to her mother. "Do you suppose he really is impervious - whatever that means?”

"Of course not," said Betty Lou's mother, "he just thinks he is. What shall we do - to prove he's wrong?"

Betty Lou put her wits to work. She thought and she thought. "Let's do something different," she said. "Do you remember the dinner we had at Cousin Mary's? Cousin Mary served a fried rabbit and almost everybody thought it was chicken. Let's get a rabbit dinner for dad - and see what we shall see."

"Good," said Betty Lou's mother. "Let's try out a new recipe on him. I have one for Braised Lettuce. Know how your dad fairly bristles, whenever he's reminded to eat his lettuce? Let's see what he says about this method of cooking lettuce. Any more suggestions?"

"Grapefruit with honey," said Betty Lou. "One time I ate grapefruit with honey - My! it was good. And let's have some of the rhubarb jelly I made. Dad doesn't know there is such a thing as rhubarb jelly, made with pectin."

Betty Lou and her mother talked over their plans, and before long they had evolved this menu for April Fool's Day: Fried Rabbit; Braised Lettuce; Scalloped Potatoes; Rhubarb Jelly; and Grapefruit with Honey. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Betty Lou went to market and bought a rabbit. Perhaps I'd better tell you before we watch Betty Lou get dinner, that domestic rabbit meat is delicious, tender, and fine flavored, so if you are not especially fond of the "gamey" flavor of wild rabbit, or if you object to getting buckshot between your teeth, you will find domestic rabbit meat much more to your liking. You need not wait

till the hunting season opens to eat rabbit, for there is a continuous open season on domestic rabbits. The meat is good every month of the year. Few housewives are familiar with the food value and delicious flavor of domestic rabbit meat. Domestic rabbits are cleanly in habits, and the nature of their food makes the meat sweet, tender, and excellently flavored. It can better be compared with chicken, than with wild rabbit. Just as with poultry or various cuts of meat, young tender rabbits may be fried or roasted, while the older ones, with tougher muscles, need longer, moist cooking.

But that's enough, about rabbits in general. We must follow the fortunes
of Betty Lou and see whether she is was able to fool her dad.

She bought a rabbit - a young, domestic rabbit, and she fried it a tempting golden brown. Let me give you her recipe for Fried Rabbit.

Five ingredients for Fried Rabbit:

1 young domestic rabbit
½ cup flour, and
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk

Five ingredients for Fried Rabbit: (Repeat)

I'll tell you how Betty fried the rabbit. First, she wiped it off well, with a damp cloth. Then she cut it into serving portions - two fore legs, two hind legs, and then she cut the back crosswise, into two or three pieces; three pieces, I think, because this was a rather large rabbit. Then, when the rabbit was all cut up, she made a smooth batter to dip the rabbit in. She made the batter by beating the egg, adding the ¼ cup milk and the salt, and stirring this into the ½ cup flour. Sometimes it's necessary to add one or two extra tablespoons of milk, but the coating must be thick enough to cover the pieces of rabbit. Next, Betty Lou heated well-flavored fat in a heavy iron skillet, and put in the pieces of rabbit, after they had been dipped in the batter. She cooked the rabbit until it was tender, from 25 to 30 minutes, and lightly browned on both sides. It was served on a hot platter, and garnished with parsley.

Betty Lou made gravy, by using two tablespoons of the fat in which the rabbit was cooked, and blending it with 1 ½ tablespoons of flour and 1 cup of milk. Two tablespoons of fat, one and one-half tablespoons of flour and one cup of milk - that's correct. Cook until thickened, add one tablespoon of finely chopped parsley, one-fourth teaspoon salt, and a dash of pepper. Serve with the rabbit.

Now let me see - what was next on the menu? Scalloped Potatoes - Betty Lou used the radio cookbook recipe for the Scalloped Potatoes; she says it's the only recipe she ever used, which tells how to make Scalloped Potatoes so they won't curdle.

She had a new recipe for Braised Lettuce. It proved so popular that - but I'm getting ahead -of my story. You must have the recipe first, for Braised Lettuce.

Four ingredients for Braised Lettuce:

2 large hard heads of iceberg lettuce
4 tablespoons bacon fat
Salt, and a
Dash of pepper.

Four ingredients, for Braised Lettuce: (Repeat)

Cut each heat of lettuce into four pieces, taking care that a portion of the center stem is left on each section, to hold the leaves together. Heat the fat in a large skillet, put in the lettuce, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the lettuce is tender. Turn carefully, if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve on a hot platter. Pour a little melted butter over the top of the lettuce, if more richness is desired. If you've never tried it you'll
be surprised, how very good this delicate-flavored vegetable is, cooked this way.

What's next? Grapefruit with honey. As it is served, the grapefruit looks just like ordinary, grapefruit , but it has a delicious honey flavor. Simply pour a tablespoon of honey into the center of each half a grapefruit, after the seeds and pithy center have been, removed, and the sections cut for serving.

Now, let's collect this menu again: Fried Rabbit; Braised Lettuce; Scalloped Potatoes; Rhubarb Jelly; and Grapefruit with Honey.

When Betty Lou's dad sat down to the table, he looked suspiciously about him. Memories of past April Fool jokes rose up before him. He tested the chair, before he sat down. Gingerly he took a sip of water. Carefully he unfolded his napkin - no, there was nothing in it to make him jump. Well, well - perhaps his family was growing up - done with the childish pranks which make a dignified middle-aged man feel foolish.

"Fried chicken!" said dad. "Well, if this isn't a pleasant surprise!"

Betty Lou looked at her mother - and her mother looked at Betty Lou.

"Say, this is a good meal. You may think it's treason, mother, but I'm glad you aren't having lettuce. I like lettuce, and I know it's 'good for me' - but - what's this new vegetable anyway? Let's have some of that."

Betty Lou passed the Braised Lettuce, and dad took a second helping. Betty Lou's brother, who was in on the secret, was so overcome that he almost choked on a drink of water.

"A very, very good dinner," said Dad, when the grapefruit was brought on, "Now what kind of grapefruit is this? It tastes like - like honey. Mighty fine flavor."

It was some time after dinner that dad went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. When he came back to the living room, he stood for a moment, with his hand, behind him.

"I have a strong suspicion," said dad, "that I have been fooled."

"Fooled?" said Betty Lou "Why, dad, you said, you couldn't be fooled, you're impervious!"

"Nevertheless," said dad, “1 have every reason to believe that what I thought was chicken, was something else. Here is the evidence."

He held up before his family, the furry foot of a rabbit.

"It just goes to prove," said dad resignedly, "what an absent-minded, gullible creature I am. It goes to prove that you can fool some of the people all of the time - or at least as often as April Fool's day rolls around." 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Twenty Gallons of Squirrel Stew.

I have always thought of squirrel stew (when I have thought of it at all) as a stew of necessity and hard times - a stew for the lonely soul scratching out a self-sufficient existence in the wilds, or the passionate hunter intent on justifying the death of his victim, or the wartime housewife trying to find an alternative for rationed butchers-meat. I have certainly never, ever, considered squirrel stew to the volume of twenty gallons. Twenty gallons is a lot of any sort of stew, but squirrel?  How many folk would that amount serve? What sort of occasion would mandate such a dish? I don’t know the answer to that last question, but I can tell you how many squirrels it would take. Twenty, that is how many. Plus a sizeable chunk of pork, which begs the question of the default name of ‘squirrel soup’ perhaps.  The information came my way courtesy of Mrs. Reavis, a contributor to yesterday’s source - How we cook in Tennessee ... Compiled by The Silver Thimble Society of the First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tennesee (1906.)

This interesting booklet also includes a recipe for a rather more manageably-sized squirrel stew (“Make the same as chicken stew, using four squirrels to a pot of stew”) as well as instructions for broiled and stewed squirrel, plus a rather elegant dish of opossum which I also give you for good measure. Those Tennessee Baptist ladies could sure cook up a storm, it seems.

Squirrel Stew for Twenty Gallons.
Twenty squirrels, five pounds pork, half bushel tomatoes, half bushel potatoes, three quarts okra, six large onions, eight red peppers, three packages corn starch, ten dozen ears corn, three pounds butter, salt and pepper to taste. Boil four or five hours, stirring often.
Mrs. Reavis.


Clean thoroughly and scrape it. Mix together bread crumbs, chopped onions, parsley, salt and pepper, and the liver chopped fine and a beaten egg. Stuff the body with this mixture. Sew it up and roast it. Baste often with salt and water to have it crisp. Dip a cloth in its own grease and rub it well. When done take up on platter and garnish with sprigs of parsley and sliced lemon, and put a baked apple in its mouth. [no contributor credited here]

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cold Storage Banquet; Chicago, 1913.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the world was getting excited about the potential of cold storage of food, and delegates at the third International Congress of Refrigeration held in Chicago in 1913 convincingly ‘walked the talk’ at the closing banquet.

The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of September 23 reported on the novel occasion:

Cold Storage Banquet.
The Delegates to the Refrigeration Congress Will Partake of Antique Edibles.
Chicago. Sept. 23. Delegates from all parts of the world who for a week have attended the daily sessions of the six sections of the third international congress of refrigeration concluded their consideration of technical subjects today and prepared to formally adjourn tomorrow after one of the most successful meeting of its kind ever held.
Tonight a novel “cold storage” banquet will be served to the 500 foreign visitors, every article on the menu having been on ice for at least six months and in some instances longer. As each dish is served its certified history as indicated by the United Stated department of agriculture will be handed to the diners.
Among the articles of food on the bill of fare are: Albicore steak, caught in the Atlantic ocean seven months ago; Columbia river salmon, a year old: Tennessee turkey, nine months old; Kansas chicken, eleven months old; beef, two years old; eggs, eighteen months old.

I hope some of you with local knowledge will enlighten me on the chosen origin of the major ingredients.  I understand the choice of Columbia River salmon, but is (was?) Tennessee famous for its turkey?  Kansas for its chickens?

I was delighted to find several recipes for cooking turkey (in an alarming ‘from scratch style’) in How we cook in Tennessee ... Compiled by The Silver Thimble Society of the First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tennesee (1906,) and share them with you here.

Baked Turkey.
Chose a plump turkey of nine or ten pounds. Pick it without scalding, removing each feather carefully; then pour over it boiling water to plump it, after which singe with a piece of lighted writing paper, so that no particle of down remains. Wash thoroughly inside and out, wipe dry, rub with salt, and let remain overnight or longer. When ready to cook, rinse thoroughly and rub inside and out with salt and pepper. Place on the rack in a covered baking pain, and add some hot water. Rub the outsides of the turkey with lard to prevent blistering.
Turkey Dressing.

Equal parts of biscuit crumbs and egg bread mixed, using a little lard, pepper, salt and onion to taste, with just enough water to moisten.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Military Dinner on the Mosquito Coast; late 18th C.

I have a most interesting menu for you today.  It is given in Central America: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Salvador (London, 1917) by the author, W.H. Koebel, in his discussion of the Mosquito coast at the end of the eighteenth century.

Prior to 1786 there are said to have been as many as twelve hundred British settlers in the Mosquito Coast, while the number of the aborigines themselves was estimated at about ten thousand.

Before leaving this period I may refer to a very instructive document which is reproduced by Captain Bedford Pim, R.N., in his Dottings on the Roadside in Panama, Nicaragua, and Mosquito. This is the bill of fare of an entertainment given by the officers of a detachment of the 3rd Regiment (Buffs) at their station on the Mosquito Coast towards the end of the eighteenth century :—


Manati, Soused.                      Guana, Fricasseed.      Waree, Steaks.

Turtle Soup.
Armadillo Curry.         Monkey, Barbacued.               Parrot Pie.

Antelope Roasted.

Peccary, Smoked.       Indian Rabbit, Boiled.                        Hiccatee, Stewed.


It would have been of no little interest to have learned the Buffs' ideas concerning the wines to accompany this curious and rare repast in the eighteenth-century Mosquito Coast. But of these there is no record, although it is unreasonable to suppose that, at that period and place, they did not play their part in the function.

I am delighted that I am able to supply you with a recipe for one of the dishes on this menu, although I doubt and hope that you will not cook it, as parrots are protected in many places in the world - and where they are not, their flamboyant beauty usually buys them a dispensation from the sentence of death for the pot. In earlier times in tropical Queensland however, necessity spoke louder than nicety, and recipes for parrot pie are frequent in cookery books and newspaper columns.

Parrot Pie (By Request.)

The idea of our brilliant-plumaged noisy bush friends being shot to replenish the pot cannot receive unqualified approval, but parrot pie is, nevertheless, not at all an unsavoury dish when properly prepared, so, in reply to “Bush Cook”, a recipe is given. After plucking, thoroughly cleaning, and washing the birds, divide the breast and thighs from the body, and use only those portions for the pie; soak them in milk for some hours if you can; meanwhile stew all the other parts for stock with a small onion, some pepper, and salt.  Strain the stock and simmer the breasts and thighs until perfectly tender. This will take some time. Some of the pieces will take less time than others; test them while cooking with a three-prong fork. All the time the birds are stewing the pot lid must be kept well shut. Meanwhile you can be making the short-crust pastry by well rubbing some clean dripping into  one pound of flour, into which you have mixed one and a-half teaspoonfuls of baking powder end half a teaspoonful of salt. Rub the dripping well in, until the whole of the flour is worked into small, smooth crumbs. Mix with very little water, and roll out once only. Place the well-stewed birds, and gravy enough to nearly cover them, in a deep pie-dish; place round the edge a rim of pastry, cover the top with the rest, make two holes to permit the escape of steam, and bake until the pastry is done crisp, which will be in about twenty minutes. If you have a little bacon, you may add it when making the pie, and hard-boiled eggs, cut in dice also. If these instructions are carried out you will find parrot pie very good, but the pieces must be thoroughly stewed before putting into the piedish. When the meat parts readily from the bones it is stewed enough.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. ) Saturday 9 July 1898.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Elizabethan Bread.

William Harrison, in his Description of England, (1577) described the bread of the land:

“The bread throughout the land is made of such graine as the soil yieldeth: nevertheless the gentilie commonlie provide themselves sufficientlie of wheat for their owne tables, whilest their household and poore neighbours, in some shires, are inforced to content themselves with rie or barleie; yea, and in time of dearth, manie with bread made either or bran, peason, or otes, or of altogether, and some acorns among;  of which scourge the poorest doe soonest tast, sith they are least able to provide themselves better. I will not saie that this extremitie is oft so well to be seene in time of plenty as of dearth; but if I should, I could easily bring my triall.”

The finest white wheaten bread was commonly called manchet, and we have considered it in previous posts (here, and here) and we have also had a recipe for acorn bread in the past. I am sure barley bread and rye bread are hidden in the depths of the blog too, but I am not inclined right now to do a Search and Link, for which you will have to excuse me. I am confident that we have not really looked at the idea of bread containing ‘peason’ however, so I am keen to do that today. I cannot give you an Elizabethan version, but it would surely not be too dissimilar to that made from the following recipes – which are taken from, of all things, The engineer's and mechanic's encyclop√¶dia, by Luke Hebert (1836.)  I wonder how many engineers’ and mechanics’ journals and texts today contain recipes?

Bean Bread.
Bean flour does not essentially differ from other farina, but it has an unpleasant taste; this is, however, scarcely perceptible if the flour be steeped in water before it is used for making into bread. This flour, so treated, made up into cakes or bread with yeast and salt, is tolerable; but a good bread with a mixture of wheat and bean flour is thus made: Soak the flour for three days in water before it is required, changing the water every day, to carry off the peculiar flavour of the bean; then put the flour to drain over a sieve; during this operation put a peck of wheat flour into the kneading trough, and mix it up with yeast and salt. After it has been properly fermented, knead the bean flour with it into dough, and after it has stood a sufficient time to prove, divide it into loaves, and bake.

Pea Bread may be made in the same manner as directed in the foregoing article for beans; it is sometimes mixed up with oatmeal and made into cakes; but equal quantities of pea flour (that has been steeped), potatoe flour, and seconds wheat flour, afford a good bread. The sponge should be set with the wheat flour, and after fermentation the other flours kneaded in, allowed time to prove, then divided and baked.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Things to do with Canned Pineapple.

In June 1892, the Queensland Pineapple Company dispatched fifty cases of canned pineapples to London and Berlin, via the ship Jelunga.  The newspaper reported that it was hoped that this new industry would soon “assume large proportions,” and that:

The company expect to reach an annual export trade of 20,000 or 30,000 cases, which should considerably relieve the local market, and prevent that glutting of the Southern markets which has been so frequent of late. The method employed is to preserve the finest pines in juice crushed from smaller fruit. By this means the flavour is enriched, while only sufficient sugar is added to insure preservation.  The practice in Singapore is to preserve with sugar only, but this system extracts the richness of the pine and renders the fruit insipid. What will probably prove the favourite style of packing is that of slicing the pines –nearly two being put up in one tin- and when the fruit finds its way on to the coast markets, on the diggings, and in the dry west of the colony it should become very popular.

Fresh pineapple was so easily available to most Queenslanders living in the tropical coastal regions that recipes for the canned product were not common in newspaper columns of those early years.  Over time however, convenience inevitably won out, and canned pineapple became a popular standby.

Here are some of my recipe gleanings, especially for those of you a long way from a cheap fresh pineapple:

Pineapple Sandwiches.
To one quarter cupful of canned pineapple juice add half a cupful of the canned pineapple pulp put through a food chopper, one cupful of granulated sugar and one tablespoonful of lemon juice. Let the mixture come to the boiling point over brisk heat, then simmer for five minutes and cool before using. Whole-wheat or any bread of coarse texture is particularly nice to use with this filling.
Cairns Post, 25 October 1926.

Sweet Potato and Pineapple.
Wash potatoes and boil until tender. Skin, press through potato ricer, and beat until smooth and creamy, adding sugar to taste. In a buttered baking dish arrange a layer of the potato and a layer of drained canned pineapple, using pineapple for top layer. Heat In oven and serve immediately.
Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld.)  21 November 1931

Pineapple-Raisin Whirls.
One tin pineapple cubes; 6 oz. self-raising flour, pinch salt, 1 tablespoon butter, ½ cup milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg.
Raisin Filling: Four ounces chopped raisins, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon mixed together.
Pour contents of 1 tin of pineapple cubes into an oven-proof dish and heat thoroughly. Sift flour, salt, and sugar together and rub in butter. Beat egg and add to milk, then add to dry ingredients to make a fairly stiff dough. Roll out into an oblong shape, cover with raisin filling, then roll up as for Swiss roll. Glaze with a little milk. Cut into slices 1 inch thick and place on top of hot pineapple, cut side up. Bake in hot oven 20 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice-cream
Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 July 1958

The Australian Women’s Weekly ran a competition in 1962 for recipes using canned Queensland pineapple. The final first prize was to be ₤100 (decimal currency was introduced in 1966), but “progress prizewinners” received ₤5 for recipes published before the closing date. The contributor of the following recipe was one of the progress prizewinners.

Steak Casserole with Pineapple and Ham Dumplings.
One and a half pounds topside or blade steak, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 2 tablespoons butter or substitute, 2 onions, 1 carrot (sliced into rings), 1 diced green pepper (optional), ½ cup chopped celery, 1 tablespoon tomato sauce, 1 10oz. can cream of celery soup, 2 cups water or stock.
Pineapple and Ham Dumplings: One and a half cups self-raising flour, pinch cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 oz. butter or substitute, ¾ cup crushed and drained canned pineapple, 1 dessertspoon finely chopped celery, ½ cup finely chopped ham, 6 tablespoons milk.
Crumb Topping: One cup soft white breadcrumbs, 2 dessertspons butter or substitute, 1 oz. grated cheese.
Cut steak into 1 in cubes, coat with flour, salt, and pepper. Fry in heated butter or substitute until browned on all sides. Place in deep casserole. Add onions to pan, saut√© lightly. Add to casserole with the tomato sauce, carrots, celery, and green pepper. Cover, cook in moderate oven 1½ to 2 hours.
Dumplings: Sift flour with salt and cayenne. Rub in butter, add pineapple, ham, and celery. Mix to soft dough with milk. Drop mixture in dessertspoonfuls into boiling casserole, sprinkle with crumb topping made with melted butter, grated cheese, and breadcrumbs mixed together. Bake uncovered in hot oven 20 minutes.

Australian Women’s Weekly, July 4, 1962

Friday, March 21, 2014

Prison Cooks and Prison Bakers.

Those of you at the pointy end of the food industry may be interested in what your jobs would have entailed in the first half of the nineteenth century, should you have been working in the British prison system.  Just to give an idea of your work-life balance, be aware that you might also have been an inmate of the institution too.

The job descriptions are courtesy of the Fourth Report of the Inspectors [of the] Prisons of Great Britain, 1839.

Cook's Statement.
The duties of the kitchen are performed by five hired cooks; and are these:—To rise at half past five o'clock; to light furnace and kitchen fires; to mix up oatmeal and flour for breakfast; to lay out the bread for prisoners; to cut bread for the infirmary; to fetch gruel cans from Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4; to measure out gruel and milk and take to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3.
After breakfast they have to lay out bread for prisoners; to clean boilers, copper-lids, and cocks; to clean up the kitchen; to fetch gruel-cans, dinner-trays, mess-tins, and soldiers' cups from Pentagons No. 1, 2, and 3; to wash gruel cans, tubs, pails, &c.; to scour and clean taskmasters' towers Nos. 1, 2, and 4; to get ready and cook officers' and prisoners' dinners.
They have likewise to mix oatmeal for soldiers' dinners; to attend to furnace and kitchen fires; to carry hot water to Pentagon No. 3 for toast and water for the female prisoners; to cut up and weigh the meat; to weigh potatoes; to measure out gruel, and to carry to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3; to carry officers' dinners to the towers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
After dinner they have to clean the boilers, cutting boards, dish covers, and scales: to clean up the kitchen; to fetch the dishes from Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; to wash tubs, pails, dishes, &c.; to fetch and wash potatoes; to clean yards; to mix oatmeal for supper; to carry hot water to the females; to measure out gruel and carry it to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, and 3; to cut up bread for the soup; and to clean bread room.
After supper they have to serve out hot water to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 5, and to clean boilers; they have to be on duty alternate nights at the outer and middle gates, till ten o'clock; they have likewise to cut the infirmary bread in the morning, and to lay out the prisoners' bread three times a day at No. 1 kitchen.

Bakers Statement.
The duties in the bakehouse are performed by two officers and one prisoner, and are these:— To rise at five o'clock in the morning; to make two batches of dough, and when finished, to heat the ovens. At eight o'clock they have to take one batch out of the trough, and weigh it off in small loaves, mould them, and set them in the oven; and while baking, do the same to the other batch; which occupies them till half past one o'clock. At two o'clock they count out the loaves, and send them to the kitchens. Afterwards the flour is put by them into the trough, and sifted; the bakehouse is cleaned up; the potatoes are washed; and coals are brought up from the cellar. This occupies them till five o'clock. At ten o'clock at night they set two sponges, which occupies one hour. They have to provide yeast for brewing, once a week. They have likewise to clean the windows and water-cistern, and to saw billet-wood when required.

Bread was the prison staple, as it was for the mass of the population on the outside, but prison bread was often of the poorest quality, prison authorities then, as now, being firmly focussed on the bottom line. Cheap bread often meant bread made from a mix of ingredients – to save on wheat, which was expensive.

To Make Mixed Bread.
Take a peck of the meal of maize, and boil it into a paste, a peck of potatoes boiled, skinned, and mashed, and a like quantity of wheat flour. Let these be kneaded into a dough, with salt and yeast; and, after standing before the fire a sufficient time to prove, divided into loaves and baked. N.B. A good bread may be made by substituting barley or oatmeal for the wheat flour.

A treatise on the art of bread-making, by Abraham Edlin (1805)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Austerity Wedding, 1942.

The phenomenon of World War II “British Restaurants” was a feature of a blog post some years ago, and today I want to add a little more to the story.  

The following article was run in a number of newspapers around Britain and in Australia in 1942, including the Cairns Post (Queensland) on July 8, 1942.

London, July 6.
A young airman and his bride, who is a N.A.F.F.I worker, held an austerity wedding reception on July 6. The cost of all the food for the 20 guests totaled 7/- [7 shillings] at Swindon’s newest “British restaurant” – one of the many of these restaurants where meals are secured very cheaply, now open in industrial areas. The menu was tea at a penny a cup, tomato and lettuce sandwiches a penny each, a variety of fancy cakes 1 ½ d. each. The maximum price of the Board of Trade’s new austerity wedding rings is ₤1/1/-.
[N.A.F.F. = Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes.]

Instead of giving you a recipe for tomato and lettuce sandwiches, I decided to go to the opposite pole of the sandwich world, to a decidedly non-austere sandwich ingredient entirely suitable for an informal wedding breakfast. The recipe was recommended in The Times a mere three years before today’s story, and a mere few weeks before Britain declared war on Germany.

Rangemore Butter.
This is quite delicious and has a most unusual flavour.
Pound together four filleted anchovies (which have been soaked a minute in boiling water) with a remnant of chicken, white game, or rabbit, three ounces of butter and a seasoning of mustard and cayenne. Sieve carefully and add a little finely chopped tarragon and chervil. These two herbs are essential. There must be no parsley. Sprinkle with Parmesan. This can be eaten like butter and spread on toast. It also makes a delicious sandwich filling.
The Times, July 17, 1939

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Importance of Cooking “Ticklers.”

A rather interesting article in the Worker (Brisbane) of 1 April 1890 managed, in a few short paragraphs, to advise the young housewife on the health benefits of sweating over the stove, on how to feed her family in a healthy but economical way without giving them indigestion (and especially to tempt those who are fatigued), to adapt her cooking to the ingredients at hand - AND to get her husband to buy her a new dress. It even included a few recipe ideas too. It is all about “ticklers.”

Over the Stove.

There isn’t anything more interesting than cooking nice things to tempt tired people with – that is supposing you have nice things to cook, and really it’s wonderful how handsomely common-looking materials will repay you for taking a little trouble with them; I believe a plain rice pudding is as grateful as a pretty girl to you for trying to make it look pretty. Cooking is hot work, I’ll admit, but then it’s healthy, in moderation; in fact it’s as good as a Turkish bath and costs nothing but time and trouble, and you are well repaid for those in the coin that women best love – kind looks and sweet words. For, preach as you will, you cant prevent a family with bad digestions from having bad tempers, and bad digestion will be so long as the mother has no ideas beyond steak and tea. Is that your plight? Well, drop the tea and try “ticklers” instead of everlasting steak; you’ll find out the difference the first time you tell your husband you want a new dress. I’ve been through it myself so I can talk.
But how to get the ticklers? I can tell you of plenty, but the trouble is I don’t know what materials you have at hand. Some of you get as much milk and fruit as you can use “dirt cheap;” others don’t see such luxuries once a month; one is in the bush eating salt meat all the year round while her sister buys fresh fish for a song; or again, one is comfortably off and can afford a cupboardful of groceries while the other has to be sparing in using sugar and tea. The best thing is to remind you that cooking is not a book or recipes but a knack of mixing whatever you have to hand; when you have to suit yourself to your materials treat cooks’ directions as you treat advice – listen to everybody and take your own way.
Still, one likes hints and here are a few out of which you can make a backbone for all sorts of dishes:-
Never be without onions or garlic in the house. I prefer the garlic and so will you when you have got over the English prejudice against it. Always cook your onions or garlic for a long time; it is your half-cooked onion that taints the breath and make the stew seem coarse; well cooked it is one of the most wholesome vegetables we have and may save you many shillings worth of medicines.
If you can afford it always have a bottle of salad oil in the house and use it for your stews; you will find that it makes them both more tasty and more delicate; besides, the oil is easily digested and fattening and it is exactly what the children need as a set-off against the meat and bread diet little Australians get so plentifully.
Mix plenty of vegetables, or where these run short, plenty of fruit, with your meat stews; dried prunes and raisins, fresh cooking plums, apples, quinces, even lemons. Anything with a little acidity draws out the flavour of the meat and helps to make it tender. Always fry your stewing materials before setting them to simmer; oil is by far the best frying material, but if economy forces you to use dripping, clarify it well first; two teaspoonsful of sugar fried with the rest is an improvement; also lemon juice with a little of the rind is always an improvement on vinegar when oil is used. Oil is your best friend when meat is tough; steaks and chops, soaked in oil with pepper and salt for some hours before cooking, will not have the face to be tough. If you cannot afford this time, boil them in oil (if possible with fruit or tomatoes) for half an hour, then let them simmer for another half-hour or three quarters.
When you are making milk puddings and eggs run short, use a lump of butter or a spoonful of oil instead. Ground rice, cornflour, [word not readable] &c. made with milk and a little butter added (say butter the size of a walnut to a pint of milk) are more delicate than if made with eggs. Sweeten your puddings with sugar rather than honey, [this seems to be the wrong way around] it gives a peculiar delicate flavouring of its own besides having medicinal and fattening proportions. Whenever there is a tendency to sore throats honey should be used as much as possible.
To wind up with here there are two practical suggestions which anybody can carry in their heads and vary according to circumstances. Have you facilities for procuring ripe fruit? Then take a fruit mixture, [word unreadable] put plums, bananas, oranges, pine-apple, anything and everything you can secure (the greater the variety the better) piled together in a deep dish, breaking the fruits into small pieces so that the juice may run out. Scatter over it a large quantity of sugar, the quantity must of course vary according to the sweetness or acidity of the fruit you are using, but it is best to err on the liberal side; leave the sugar to melt and soak in till the fruit is floating in syrup. It ought to stand quite six hours before serving. Pour over and mix in with it rich cream, if you can get it; if not, boiled custard is a delicious substitute. You will find everybody asking you for the recipe of your wonderful “fruit salad.”
If you can only get stewing fruit you will find them much improved y mixing; bananas, insipid when cooked by themselves, are delicious when stewed with one or more kinds of slightly acid fruits. If you can afford to stew  fruit in cheap claret or claret and water you will find the flavour immensely improved.
N.B. – If you cannot spare time to make boiled custard to eat with fruit and yet have the materials you will find a raw egg beaten up in milk and sweetened a capital substitute, only remember, it will not keep.
For a good, cheap dinner trim two pounds of steak, cutting away all fat or skin. Cut half a small pumpkin into mouthful pieces. Pepper, salt and flour your steak and let it stew fast. In about half an hour change places, i.e., put all the pumpkin at the bottom of the pan and lay the steak over it and let it all stew thus for about three-quarters of an hour more, during which time the steak is practically steamed. Results: tender, tasty, and cheap. Any oil over to be kept for another stew – with which practical remark I cast anchor.

Not too many recipes for “ticklers’ there after all, were there? I don’t know if the following idea from the same era is ticklish, but it is certainly strange, in a scary kind of way. What do you make of it?

Egg Curry.
One egg, two tablespoonsfuls sugar, half a cup strong vinegar, one teaspoonful butter, half a teaspoonful salt, one teaspoonful ground mustard, one teaspoonful curry mixed in cream. Mix mustard, salt, sugar, vinegar and curry, and pour on the well-beaten egg[s]. Simmer all for ten minutes. This will keep for a month in a cool place.

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.) 3 November 1897.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Epicure’s Guide to Camping.

On Friday we had an interesting segment from Instructions to Young Sportsmen: In All that Relates to Guns and Shooting, by Lt. Col. Peter Hawker (London, 1830.) The intrepid author had more to say on catering for hunting, shooting, and fishing expeditions, which I thought would inspire the camping epicures amongst you – although you already probably take tarragon vinegar and stone jars of anchovies along on your trips, dont you?

Having now mentioned the few things that happen to occur to me, as deserving the small space they would occupy in the baggage of a sportsman, who we all know is sometimes in an exile, where he might die before he could get medical assistance; I shall just note down a few articles as desirable for his comfort, as the foregoing ones might prove for the preservation of his life; viz.

Canastre tobacco, or cigars.
Cayenne pepper.
A pot of anchovies.
A phial of lemon acid.
A bottle of the best olive oil.

With these ingredients, and half as much knowledge as usually belongs to all our old campaigners, he may perfectly enjoy his dinner on fish, flesh, and fowl, in those wild places where they are most abundant, but where we are the least able to have them dressed in perfection. For example:—

There is no better sauce for a wildfowl, plover, or snipe, than equal quantities of olive oil and lemon juice. Cayenne pepper, when mixed with a little vinegar, gives a fine relish to a pheasant, or any other game. With good oil you can, in most places, during the fishing season, have a French salad made with the young leaves of the wild dandelion; or, in the shooting season, a German salad, called in some parts of Germany, I believe, "kartofel salat," with slices of cold boiled waxy potatoes. Either of these, with a few onions, an anchovy, and two spoonsful of oil to every one of vinegar (or equal quantities of each to the German one), make a very good salad; or, at all events, a good substitute for one, where perhaps the lettuce, cress, or endive, are scarcely known to the inhabitants. Tarragon vinegar, for salads, is generally preferred to the other vinegar. (Let me observe, by the way, that the chief art of dressing a salad consists in wiping perfectly dry whatever it is made with, and cutting off the flabby parts from the leaves of the herbs.) If you have no good butter, for your fish, you will find, that with a little cayenne, a spoonful of the liquor from your anchovies, and some lemon, or vinegar, olive oil, and mustard, it will be perfectly good. Nothing is better than a dish of small birds fried, and eat with oil and lemon juice; and if you have no good butter to fry them with, here again some oil must be your substitute.
If you have no biscuits to eat with your wine, or, what you may drink for want of it, cut some slices of raw potatoe very thin; have them broiled, or fried, brown and crisp with your oil, and sprinkled with a little Cayenne pepper; but, in dressing them, let the slices lie independent of each other, or they will become soft by fermentation. If you wish for a hash, or any thing dressed by way of variety from plain cooking, you can always give it a flavour, if you have cayenne, lemon, and anchovy.

In short, the ingredients here named, as general acquisitions to your eating in comfort, will be found, I trust, some of the most useful; and I therefore need add no more, as I neither profess, nor wish, to gratify the palate of an epicure; but have merely attempted to show, how one man could make himself comfortable, where another would starve, by the foregoing hints to young caterers and young sportsmen.