I have a couple of “firsts” for you today – and I do love “firsts.” If memory serves me correctly, I have never featured a dinner menu from Norway in any previous posts. I have certainly also never before included a menu based around Iceland moss– and I do love a good themed menu.
The event I want to tell you about today took place in Christiana (now Oslo), in 1906. The following article is taken from the Los Angeles Herald, of 8 July 1906, but it appeared essentially verbatim in newspapers around the world – and still kept popping up occasionally for years afterward, whenever the subject of unusual menus was being discussed.
The chief protagonist and designer of the meal was one Professor Hansteen (I have been unable to discover his first name) of the Agricultural Agricultural School of Aas, Norway. Hansteen became firmly convinced that moss was destined to become a great (and cheap) popular food for the masses, and the dinner mentioned in the article was clearly intended as a promotional event for the plant.
CHRISTIANA, July 7. Dr. Hansteen, professor at the agricultural school here, has entertained his professional colleagues at a banquet of common Iceland moss.
The doctor ascribes to the moss rare virtues as a food when properly prepared, and beats all previous vegetation claims by announcing that he can provide a satisfying, nutritious meal for six people at the cost of a penny.
His menu for the professors consisted of
Moss with boiled ham.
Moss a la haricot.
Moss au natural.
Pure moss bread.
The banquet was a great success, the guests declaring themselves delighted with the appetizing quality of the fare. The doctor declares that, by cleaning the moss and chemically treating it, he has produced a substance possessing all the nutritious qualities of various vegetables, and that from yellow moss he has extracted a wholesome, fine white flour. This, when mixed with common wheat flour, makes delicious bread and pastry.
Dr. Paulson of Christiania, who is also an ardent advocate of a moss diet, is experimenting with it with a view to producing food for Invalids.
Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica) must be the most unlikely plant in the world to support a complete menu. In spite of its name, it is not a moss at all, but a lichen, and as its name suggests, it grows especially prolifically in Iceland, although is also found in other cold northern regions. The most common use in Europe for this lichen for centuries has been as an ingredient in cough remedies, and as a jelling agent. It has appeared in a supporting role in previous stories on this blog, in recipes for Milk Jelly, and as a source of “brandy.”
Today I give you a far more intriguing idea for Iceland moss:
Powdered sugar, 7 lbs. 10 oz.; tapioca, 1 lb. 12 oz.; oatmeal, 1 lb. 8 oz.; powdered Iceland moss, 8 oz.; concentrated tincture of Caraccas cacao, 8 oz.; tincture of vanilla, 2 drachms; distilled water from cacao-shells, 12 oz.
Mix the tapioca, oatmeal, and Iceland moss carefully, and add the tinctures of cacao and vanilla by degrees: when the mixture is complete, add the distilled water to form a smooth paste. This composition is suited to delicate persons, and those weakened by a long illness.
Another Formula Of White Chocolate.
Powdered sugar, 7 lbs.; tapioca, 1 lb. 12 oz.; oatmeal, 1 lb. 11 oz.; powdered Iceland moss, 1 lb. 4oz.; concentrated tincture of Caraccas cacao, 8 oz.; tincture of vanilla, 2 drachms; distilled water from cacao-shells, 1 lb. 12 oz.
The Dessert Book: A Complete Manual from the Best American and Foreign Authorities. With Original Economical Recipes, by J.E. Tilton, 1872