Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Simply Onions.

The humble onion - how much do we take it for granted? The onion is one of our oldest vegetable foods – so old that many elements of its origins and early use are uncertain and mysterious.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the onion as “the edible rounded bulb of Allium cepa, which consists of fleshy concentric leaf-bases with a strong pungent flavour and smell, varying in colour from dark red to white, and is used as a culinary vegetable, eaten raw, cooked, or pickled.” In English, the word is attested in one or other of its many spellings, since the fourteenth century – but the English word derives, not surprisingly, from the French oignon, and entered the language as a side-effect of the Norman invasion of 1066.

The onion originated in central or western Asia, and it has been cultivated by humans since very ancient times. It had distinct advantages over other vegetables in antiquity as it could store and carry well (so was useful on long journeys) and the importance of these attributes in the days before cold storage and Tupperware cannot be underestimated.

It is difficult to think of a national cuisine in which one or other member of the onion family is not essential (although several religious groups do eschew it.) Also not surprisingly for an edible plant of such antiquity, the onion has taken on many roles and accumulated many metaphorical attributions. For the ancient Egyptians, the multi-layered concentric globe of the onion root came to represent eternity and eternal life, and ancient Greek and Roman athletes ate onions and rubbed themselves down with its pungent juice to enhance their performance. As for its medicinal use, the onion has been used for a multitude of complaints from sore throats and headaches to impotence and the bite of a mad dog. Onions have even been considered appropriate as gifts and acceptable for rent payment, and the skins can be used to make dyes. Is the onion possibly the most interesting and fun vegetable?

I have heard it suggested that, should you be uncertain what to cook for dinner, put some onions on to braise anyway, because you will have the first step done when you do come up with a definitive dish. Such is the ubiquity of the onion in our cuisine. But surely the onion deserves more often to be a star, not a mere background note?

Here are a couple of recipes a couple of hundred years apart in which the onion really features:

A Fowl with large Onions.
Get a Fowl, clean and order it like that above*, lard it, spit it, and baste it with good Butter; cut large Onions into Slices, and put them in a Stew-pan with a Lump of Butter, then put it over the Fire; it being of a good Colour, strew it with a Dust of Flour; moisten it with Gravy, season it and skim it well; if it is not thick enough, put in a little of your Cullis: Your Fowl being done, take it off and dish it up; see your Ragoo be relishing, and put your Onions over it, with the Juice of a Lemon, and serve it up hot for an Entry.
[*truss the Legs inside the Belly, and lard it with thick Bacon, the Bignesses the Half of a small Finger; season it with Pepper and Salt, Sweet Herbs and fine Spices.   ]
The Whole Duty of a Woman, Or, An Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex: Containing
Rules, Directions, and Observations, for Their Conduct and Behavior Through
All Ages and Circumstances of Life, as Virgins, Wives, Or Widows : with ...
Rules and Receipts in Every Kind of Cookery ... (1747)

Frilled Onions.
Slice as many onions as required. Simmer until cooked. Drain off water. Have ready two beaten eggs mixed with half a cup of milk. Season the onions. Add the milk and egg mixture. Stir over the fire until the eggs thicken. Do not let the mixture boil. Serve on buttered toast.

The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld) 21 March 1929

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Retro Cakes.

I have a short and simple story for you today. My most popular posts, I believe, are those about baking. So, for those of you who have a thriving inner baker, or wish you had, here are three cake recipes from old Australian newspapers.

Red Devil Cake.
Method: Custard, 1 cup grated chocolate, ½ cup sweet milk, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Stir well together over the fire and cook slowly. Put away to cool.
Cake: 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup butter, 2 cups plain flour, ½ cup milk, 2 eggs. Cream the butter, sugar, and egg yolks. Add milk, sifted flour, and whipped egg whites. Beat all well together, and stir in the custard. Lastly, add 1 teaspoon of soda dissolved in warm water.
In an electric over raise the temperature to 40o degrees, then switch the top off and turn the bottom [elements] to low. Cook for 30 or 40 minutes. Bake for three-quarters of an hour in a fuel stove.
The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) of 16 August, 1949.

Blair Athol Cake.
1 lb. butter, worked to a cream; 1 lb. loaf sugar, pounded and sifted; 1 lb. flour, well dried; 8 eggs, well-beaten; ¼ lb. candied orange; ½ lb. blanched almonds; 2 oz.citron. When well mixed put it in a tin lined with buttered paper, and bake it. to know when it is done, run a wooden skewer into it; if it comes out quite dry it is sufficiently baked.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.) 16 July 1881

Turtle Run Cake.
Line an oblong pan with pastry and then spread thickly with preserved fruit. Sprinkle three-quarters cup of finely chopped nuts over the fruit, then cover in lattice fashion with inch-wide strips of pastry. Brush the top pastry with beaten egg and milk and bake in slow oven for 35 minutes. Cover the top of the baked pastry wit thin water icing and then cut in oblongs.
Recipe by Mrs.M. A. Wilson, former Chief Cuisiniere in the Royal Household
of the late Queen Victoria.
Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW) 11 March 1923

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hickory Smoked Yeast.

We humans are indisputably drawn to foods rich in umami, the taste sensation that earlier gastronomes called osmazome, and the Japanese understand as deliciousness. Our brains may find umami difficult to describe, but our taste-buds recognize it instantly, and seem to crave it regularly.
The desire for the particular savoury flavour we call umami is delivered by many foods (meat, cheese, mushrooms) and we have become adept at adding it to dishes where it is inherently absent. We may do this by adding soy or fish sauces or other condiments, but there is another, which also offers a nutritional bonus. 

Yeast - and its ‘extracts’ or derivatives such as Vegemite – the iconic Australian staple bread and sandwich spread - is a rich source of Vitamin B, and can also add a nice rich taste-note of its own. I was intrigued by the following idea for adding even more flavour to yeast itself, from the New York Times of November, 10, 1942.

Hickory Smoked Yeast.
Not long ago this column discussed the difficulty of obtaining brewer’s yeast in a palatable form, only to be reminded that that superlative source of the vitamin B complex is now hickory-smoked. As a matter of fact, one company has been smoking it in this way for more than six years, marketing among a few stores scattered about the city.
The yeast – processed without heat so that none of the nutrients are destroyed – is a pale yellow powder, smelling like bacon and tasting a little like it too. A couple of teaspoons furnish about 200 international units of B-1, which is a little below the daily requirement recommended by the National Research Council. The idea is not to eat the stuff as it comes from the container, but to blend it with any foods that combine pleasantly with it.
Certain persons, according to one informant, like the yeast with butter, spread on toast or crackers, pancake or waffles, fish or meat. Others advocate its usefulness in cheese and egg dishes, baked beans, gravies. Still other sprinkle it on baked potatoes or employ it instead of sugar – at least, so they say – with dried or cooked cereal. The concern itself reports that its versatile yeast is included in the ingredients of many dehydrated soups, some of which find their way to the Army. A quarter is the price of a container holding one and a quarter ounces.

The same columnist gave a recipe in a later column which, methinks, would adapt quite nicely to the use of hickory-smoked yeast.

Sage Baked Beans.
(Serves six)
1 ½ cups navy beans
5 cups cold water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
1 ½ cups milk
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
2 tablespoons drippings or other fat
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons sage
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons brewers’ yeast.
Soak beans overnight in the water, add salt, and then simmer until tender but not too soft. Soak crumbs in milk. Brown onions lightly in fat and mix all ingredients. Pour into a greased baking dish, cover and bake in a slow oven (325 degrees F.) one hour.

New York Times, December 5, 1943

Friday, April 25, 2014

Anzac Biscuits: a brief history.

Today is an important day for Australians. It is Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in 1915. An obligatory dish on the day is a plate of Anzac biscuits, and today I am going to repeat a post from my very old and defunct companion site to this blog – with an additional recipe for ‘Khaki Cakes’ so as not to seem so lazy on this public holiday!

From Hardtack to Anzacs.
“It is easy to think of biscuits without an army, but of an army without biscuits – never”, began the writer of a tongue-in-cheek article on Army biscuits in ‘The Anzac Book’, published in 1916. The writer went on to describe in a very humourous manner the incredible hardness of the ration biscuits, and to opine on the taste: “Is it the delicious succulency of ground granite or the savoury toothsomeness of powdered marble? Do we perceive a delicate flavouring of ferro-concrete with just a dash of scraped iron railings?"

This soldier was of course talking about “hardtack”, the traditional very dry, very hard soldiers or ship’s biscuit which, at a quantity of a pound or so a day, had formed the basis of the military and naval ration ever since there had been armies and ships on the move. It was a very far cry indeed from the Anzac biscuits so lovingly made and sent by the women at home to their menfolk at Gallipoli.

Hardtack - the word means “hard fare” - was the “bread” provided with campaign rations, as distinct from garrison bread, which was “soft tack”. In its simplest form it was an unleavened flour and water paste rolled out very thinly, and baked until very hard and very durable. In better times the basic mixture had sugar and milk powder added, but its hardness remained legendary.

Military men have honoured it with many names over the centuries: Stone Bread, Teeth Dullers, Sheet Iron, Flour Tile, Concrete macaroons, Ammo reserves, and in a typical example of Anzac sarcastic military humour – the Anzac wafer. Soldiers crumbled them into stew, or coffee, or broke them up and soaked them to make a sort of porridge – anything to make them swallowable and palatable. There were many variations on the theme of “put biscuits and a rifle stock in a pot, boil until the rifle stock is tender, throw away the biscuits and eat the rifle stock”.

The writer of the article quoted above said: “Well glazed, they would make excellent tiles or fine flagstones. After the war they will have great scarcity value as curios, as souvenirs which one can pass on from generation to generation, souvenirs which will endure while the Empire stands”, and he was not far wrong. There is an apocryphal story that hardtack biscuits made during the American Civil War in the 1860’s were re-issued for use during the Spanish-American war 35 years later!

The conditions of war and sea-faring meant that storage was often less than ideal. The biscuits were often damp and mouldy, or rat-nibbled, or weevil-ridden. One naval commander noted “Every biscuit is like a piece of clockwork, moved by its own internal impulse, occasioned by the myriads of insects that dwelt within”. The weevils that could not be shaken or lured out of the biscuits at least added some protein along with an unpleasant bitter taste – and their network of burrows helped them crumble more easily!

So, how and when did Anzac biscuits as we now know them develop? The word “Anzac” first appeared sometime in 1915, initially as a telegraphic code abbreviation for 'Australia and New Zealand Army Corps' . It quickly became a highly symbolic code word for the Corps itself and everything it stood for, and it became associated astonishingly quickly with a particular style of biscuit.

Wives and mothers at home have always tried to send food to their men at the front line. Once upon a time, it was pies made with a very dense inedible crust (the “coffin”) that were made for overseas delivery, and many were sent from England to soldiers fighting the Boers in South Africa. There would have been no refrigeration en route, and the idea makes us shudder today. Food sent from Australia or New Zealand to Anzac troops in WWI faced a sea journey of up to two months, without refrigeration, so it had to pack well and have a long shelf-life.

The exact historic details are yet to be uncovered, but it seems that it may have been the women of Dunedin in New Zealand that were responsible for the Anzac biscuit phenomenon. Oat biscuits are a Scottish tradition, and Dunedin is a city with strong Scottish roots. The style of biscuit had been around for a long time, with names such as “Golden Crunch Biscuits” or “Golden Syrup Biscuits” – many recipes advising that the alternatives of honey, treacle, or golden syrup could be used. Someone, sometime early in the war, made a batch and re-named them “Anzac biscuits”. The biscuits did not require eggs, which were often in short supply during the war, and they kept well. Huge quantities were made and sent to the Anzacs, or sold on stalls to raise money for other “help the troops” projects.

The transition from plain oatcakes can be seen from the Scottish cookbook “The Practice of Cookery adapted to the Business of Every-Day Life” (1840), by Mrs.Dalgairns.

Short Cakes.Sift four pounds of oatmeal, and mix with it four pounds of treacle, half a pound of brown sugar, the same quantity of melted butter, and three quarters of an ounce of powdered ginger. Work it all well together, let it remain for twenty-four hours, and then make it into cakes.
The Australian War Memorial website gives a recipe for a “popular version” provided by a Gallipoli veteran, Mr Bob Lawson.

ANZAC Biscuit Popular Version.1 cup each of plain flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut, 4 oz butter, 1 tablespoon treacle (golden syrup), 2 tablespoons boiling water, 1 teaspoon carbonate soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)
Recipes will always be adapted, and the Marrickville Margarine Company’s “Pilot Recipe Book” (1937) for pastrycooks has a recipe for “Anzac Cakes”, which are actually peanut-containing biscuits.

Anzac Cakes.5 lbs. Plain Flour, 5 lbs Sugar, 4 lbs Cake Margarine, 2 ½ lbs Oatmeal, 1 lb. Golden Syrup, 1 lb. Coconut, 2 lbs. Granulated or half peanuts, 4 oz. Bi-Carb. Soda, 1 ½ pints Hot Water.Before you are tempted to vary the sacred formula too much, remember that the use of the word “Anzac” is protected under Commonwealth Law, in order “to protect the significance of the relationship of the word with the bravery and self-sacrifice of the first Anzacs”. The Department of Veterans Affairs notes that:

“Approvals for the word 'Anzac' to be used on biscuit products have been given on the proviso that the product generally conforms to the traditional recipe and shape, is not advertised in any way that would play on Australia's military heritage, and is not used in association with the word 'cookies', which is considered to have non-Australian overtones.”

Surely no self-respecting Aussie or Kiwi pastrycook would even consider making Anzac cookies?

And here, as promised, a new military-inspired recipe for the day:

Little Khaki Cakes.
Beat ¼ butter and ¾ cup sugar to a cream, adding two eggs, beating in one at a time, add gradually 1 ½ cups of sifted self-raising flower and 1 dessertspoonful of cocoa dissolved in ½ cup of milk. Bake in small patty tins in a fairly hot oven for ten minutes, try with a straw to be sure they are cooked. The little cakes can be iced, with chocolate icing, or covered in a mixture of thick cocoa, and then rolled in dessicated cocoanut.
Sunday Times, 23 November, 1919.

P.S. you will find previous food-themed Anzac Day posts at the following links:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Maize in Australia in 1846.

This post is especially for my American friends, particularly those with an interest in food history, and very especially those fascinated by the spread of maize around the world.

The story for today comes from The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld) of 5 December 1846. To put this date into perspective, a micro-history of the area goes something like this:- In 1824 the first penal colony was established in Moreton Bay, which was at that time part of the colony of New South Wales. In 1838 the area was opened up to free settlers, and the first immigrant ship from England arrived in 1848. It was not until 1859 that Queensland was formally separated from New South Wales, and became a self-governing colony.

MAIZE.-As many of our readers are, doubtless, unacquainted with the various modes of preparing maize as an article of food, we have taken some pains this week in collecting and laying before them the following particulars, which have been compiled from an article that appeared in the South Australian Register of the 10th Oct. last.  It is well known that the attempt made by Mr.Cobbett to cultivate maize in England failed,  owing to the climate being too cold. In this climate it can be produced in the greatest abundance; and in this district in particular, the crops have rarely been known to fail. Dr. Bartlett, of New York, addressed, in the year 1842, to Lord Ashburton, "An Essay on the Advantages of Maize, or Indian Corn, as a cheap and nutritious article of food," and which was re-printed in London for general circulation, and dedicated to B, Escott, Esq., M.P., as "the first public man in England to call for the free admission of a new, cheap, and wholesome article of food for his poor and suffering countrymen." He is of opinion that maize is a cheaper article of food than any of the grains now in use, and says, that it can be imported ground, and retailed in Great Britain at less than one penny sterling per pound. " It is the farinacious food in general use in the rural districts of the United States. Upon it children thrive, and adults labour, without the assistance of wheat. It is prepared in an infinite variety of ways-in cakes, in puddings, in the form of bread, &c, and possesses a superiority to barley in powers of sustenance, in flavour, and in expansibility during the process of cooking. It is found from daily experience in America, that persons, instead of becoming tired of the article became daily more attached to it - thus giving a physical illustration of Shakspere's remark, that ‘increase of appetite grows by what it feeds on.’  The palatable auxiliaries of this preparation are sugar, molasses, and butter; but the best and most healthful by far is milk, a small quantity of which gives it a most agreeable flavour, and renders it highly digestible and nutritious. Wheaten bread, with an addition of one-third corn meal, is decidedly improved by it, and obtains the preference at the tables of American families. It acquires by this addition a sweetness in flavour, and a freshness that we in vain look for in bread made entirely of wheat. The following recipes have been procured from America, and were published in the Sussex Advertiser,-" Indian corn, when ground, makes excellent gruel, prepared in the same way as oatmeal gruel; and what is called mush is the same thing as Lancashire oatmeal porridge ; but it is necessary in making this, that it be well boiled. In summer it is eaten cold, and is very much liked. Treacle may be eaten with this. Indian meal is considered a great improvement either to white or brown bread ; about one-third of Indian meal should be mixed with wheaten flour; this is especially advantageous in case of the flour being damaged by wet. Indian bread is excellent, and is made thus:- to a quart of sour milk or butter milk, as much corn meal should be added as will make it into a thick batter; a little salt, and a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda dissolved in water, acts upon the acid of the buttermilk and the effervescence causes the bread to be light; a spoonful of coarse sugar is an improvement, as is also a little butter or melted lard. This must be baked in well-greased tins, sufficiently large to allow the cakes to be about an inch thick; they must be baked in a quick oven. They are best eaten hot, but are very good cold. Treacle is excellent with these. When sour milk cannot be procured, fresh milk maybe substituted, adding a tablespoonful of vinegar; but the carbonate of soda must not be stirred in until just before putting into the oven. Another way of making this bread is to pour boiling sweet milk over the meal, and, when cool, add three eggs and a little salt. What is called Indian snap jack would be very available in those parts of Great Britain where girdle cakes and bread of that description is used. They are very excellent, and are thus made :-Scald a quart of Indian meal; when lukewarm add a few spoonfuls of wheaten flour, half a teacupful of yeast, and a little salt, and, when sufficiently risen, bake them on a well-greased bakestone. They are best eaten hot. Another way, and the most approved here, is to mix about half the meal into boiling milk and water ; when cool, stir in the remainder of the meal, so as to make a thick batter, mixing in two or three spoonfuls of flour, three eggs, and two teaspoonfuls of salt. To make johnny cakes:-Scald a quart of Indian meal with a sufficient quantity of water to make it into a thick batter; stir in two or three spoonfuls of salt; mould it in  the hand into small cakes, rubbing a good deal of flour in the hand to prevent them sticking. These cakes are fried in lard; when browned on one side turn the other. They take about twenty minutes in baking. Eat them hot with treacle. To make hoe cakes;-Scald a quart of Indian meal with a pint of water, enough to make a thick batter; stir in two teaspoonfuls of salt, and a small quantity of butter, melted ; put it into a well greased tin, and bake it half an hour. Hominy is made from the unground Indian corn. The husk is freed from the grain in a mill, and the grain in this state resembles the finest tapioca. Boil it till soft in water. It is extremely good thus boiled and eaten in milk, and, with the addition of a little sugar and spice, resembles English fermity. What is called sluts' hominy is made by steeping the grains in weak ley, which loosens the husk, so that it is easily removed, without the necessity of the mill. Bannocks or Indian cakes are made thus,- and are fit for the most luxurious table:-Stir to a cream a pound of butter and a pound and a half of brown sugar; beat six eggs and mix together ; and a teaspoonful of cinnamon and the same of ginger; stir in three pounds and a quarter of sifted Indian meal and a quarter of a pound of wheaten flour. Bake in cups [f]or small tin moulds, and eat when cold. It is said that the importation of maize into England has excited much attention, and that it is beginning to be highly appreciated. Bread baked from it is coming rapidly into vogue; and several bakers are driving a brisk business in it already. At a recent meeting of the Philosophical Society, Dr. R. D. Thomson read an able paper on its nutritious qualities, which he ranked very high; and at the same time exhibited various kinds of bread and biscuit which had been baked from it. Some of the specimens were mixtures of maize and wheat, and maize and rice, in which state the loaves can be better fermented than when the maize is used alone. The bread and biscuits were very palateable and pleasant. A Mr. Gibbons, of Liverpool, has succeeded in producing very good bread from a mixture of one pound of maize flour with four pounds of English, and of one pound with three pounds, with satisfactory results, the bread being sweeter than that commonly sold by the bakers. Maize flour has been found a valuable ingredient in many articles of confectionery. As a vegetable maize is in general use in South America. It is procured when young, and eaten in the same manner as peas; sometimes it is fried in pans, it is then called "recado," and forms a very agreeable addition to the vegetable food of the inhabitants of that part of the world. In Peru, beer is made from maize, and the liquor thus produced is one of the most wholesome and refreshing beverages that can be taken in a warm climate. The Spaniards call the beer made from maize, che-che, and great quantities are daily consumed by the Europeans residing in Lima, and other cities in Peru.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Feeding in Flight, 1945. Part II, Menu Planning.

As promised, today I give you a little more from the U.S. Navy Department’s book Feeding in Flight, published in 1945.

The menus in this section are planned to cover as many situations as possible where special problems arise in connection with feeding flight personnel and passengers.

Ease in preparation and service of food from warming units or other equipment is also taken into consideration in the menus. Various types of airborne galley equipment provide different facilities for meal preparation. The result is that some of these facilities have more limiting effects on the menu than others.

Menus suitable for in-flight feeding have been classed in the following manner:

I. Precooked or partially cooked meals for holding in warming units, the AG-1 unit,
Helmco unit, FTG-3 food warmer, and AerVoid food carrier.

II. Frozen, precooked meals to be heated in Maxson" Whirlwind" oven aboard aircraft.

III. Hot meals to be prepared aboard the aircraft using hot plates, or grills and hot

IV. Sandwich meals for preparation in-flight.

Menu card.-When food for 2 or more meals is packed in a single provision box or warming unit, the selection of foods from the box for organizing a meal can be done more quickly if a menu card, for the use of the flight orderly, is packed with the pro-

Recipes. —Recipes for the suggested dishes on the menus can be found in the Navy Cook Book.

The following menus are based on the use of pre-cooked or partially cooked food and the preparation of supplemental food in flight.

The manual then gave sample menus for each day of the week. Here are Wednesday’s choices:
AG-1 Unit – Serves approximately 12 men, 3 meals.
The following menus are based on the use of precooked or partially cooked food and the 
preparation of supplemental food in flight.
(c) Grapefruit secions
(a) Roast beef and gravy
(a) Vegetable soup (c) Crackers
(c) Dry cereal    (c) milk
(a) Escalloped potatoes
(a) Baked veal chop
(b) Fried eggs and bacon
(a) Buttered green beans
(a) Spanish rice
(c) Bread          (c) Butter
(c) Pickle relish
(c)Carrot sticks
(a) Coffee
(c)Bread                (c) Butter
(c)Bread    (c)Butter
(c) Cherry cobbler (a) Coffee
(c) Iced white cake
 The recipe for the day is from the U.S. Navy Cook Book (1920)

Rissoles and Croquettes of Corned Beef.

Cut the cold corned beef in 2-inch cubes, place in black pans and sauté in hot oven, drain off the liquid, then brown some salt pork (cut in small dice) on the range, add some chopped onions, then add sufficient flour to absorb all the fat; reduce this roux with the liquid from some tinned peas and the strained liquid from the corned beef, season with thyme, pepper, and a little salt, then add some parsley and cooked diced potatoes; add the peas to the meat, pour on the sauce, cover with a good biscuit paste and bake in a good oven. The addition of canned tomatoes greatly improves this dish.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Feeding in Flight, 1945.

In 1945 the U.S. Navy Department produced a book on Feeding in Flight, for the use of those involved in providing for flight crews. I think it provides some interesting reading - especially to those with an interest in nutrition. I will continue the story tomorrow.

Navy Department,
Bureau op. Supplies and Accounts, Washington, D. C, / August 1946.

This pamphlet is a supplement to the Navy Cook Book. It is issued as an aid to squadron commanders, air transport officers, squadron transportation officers, supply (commissary) officers, ships' cooks, flight orderlies and any other personnel engaged in the planning, preparation, and service of flight rations.

W. J. Carter,
Chief of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts.

One of the most important factors in maintaining optimum health is the proper kind of food. Food served to airmen in flight must be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to supplement that served to them on the ground, in order that the total ration be adequate to meet the nutritional requirements for optimum health and performance of duty. 
   The same food nutrients, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals essential for personnel on any type of duty are also essential for flight crews. The following groups of foods are recommended in the day's ration: One or more servings of meat, fish or fowl daily; 2 or more servings of vegetables in addition to potatoes, one of which is a green or yellow vegetable; 2 or more servings of fruit, one of these preferably a citrus fruit or tomatoes; 2 or more servings of cereals and bread; 1 egg; 1 pint of milk or its equivalent; butter and other fats; and sweets or desserts to satisfy the appetite. 
Individuals do not always react in the same manner to all foods. Some will find certain foods to be gas forming or laxative in effect to such an extent that they are incapacitating. Since foods do not affect all individuals in the same manner, it is the responsibility of aviation personnel to know their own reaction to foods served to them in the past and reject those which have been found to cause trouble. 
   As an aid to commissary personnel, those foods that may be occasionally rejected by aviation personnel are: Cabbage, cauliflower, raw onions, dried beans and peas, melons, radishes, cucumbers, fatty or rich foods. Frequently, carbonated beverages are found undesirable because of their gas content. 
   Long hours in flight without food or with inadequate amounts of food will cause the men to become fatigued so that they are not able to perform their duties in the most efficient manner. It is desirable that aviation personnel, even when on flights of only 3 to 4 hours' duration, have nourishment available for consumption in flight. Not infrequently the duration of a flight must be prolonged by several hours due to unforseen circumstances. A few otherwise "normal" persons are subject to symptoms caused by the low blood sugar which may supervene 4 hours after the last meal; it is likely that pilot performance is impaired by a low blood sugar which is therefore to be avoided. Low blood sugar symptoms may be avoided by the consumption of about 3 to 4 ounces of candy during a 4 hour period. If the candy available is hard to handle in warm climates, cookies or crackers may be more desirable. 
   Air-sickness that may be caused by the motion of the plane in bad weather is also considerably affected by the nature of the diet. Personnel who have eaten an easily digested meal will be less susceptible to air-sickness than personnel who have consumed a meal high in fat content or highly seasoned foods or those foods which are gas forming. When personnel are airsick, odors from the preparation of food should be kept at a minimum to prevent aggravating their condition. 
   A study made by a large commercial airline concludes that "there is no question but that mental and physical efficiency, as well as general comfort during a flight, can be greatly influenced by eating smaller amounts of the right kinds of food." Therefore if smaller amounts of food are eaten at meal-time, between-meal snacks are recommended in order to prevent the men from becoming hungry. 
   A snack that can be eaten at a man's duty station may prove to relieve monotony and boredom on a long patrol flight as well as to provide energy for him. These snacks may consist of any one or two of the following: Fruit, candy, cookies or crackers, nuts, a sandwich or beverage (not carbonated). 
   Where galley equipment is limited on transport planes, the pilots and crew should be given the preference in the service of hot meals. Passengers may be provided sandwich meals supplemented by hot soups or beverages. This policy is recommended because the primary object of the feeding in-flight program is to provide well balanced meals to those men who are taking a large number of their meals in flight and who must have proper diets to maintain their health and efficiency. 
Special diets have been recommended by some authorities for the purpose of delaying symptoms of anoxia resulting when aviation personnel are flying at altitudes above 10,000 feet without the benefits of oxygen equipment. Experiments indicate that high carbohydrate diets eaten at preflight and in-flight meals will raise the "ceiling of man" approximately 1,000 to 5,000 feet when supplementary oxygen is not available. Since high altitude flights for extended periods are not frequent in the Navy and adequate oxygen equipment is provided for the protection of personnel, changes in the Navy diet for this purpose are not necessary. 
Supplies and Accounts Memoranda, art. 1320-8, Procurement and Components, subpar. (b) states, 
“In Alaska and all other combat zones, personnel actually engaged in flight operations may be furnished flight rations before and after the flight when the regular messing facilities of such personnel are not available because of flight operations.”
   It is considered necessary that aviation personnel be furnished rations before a flight if the flight goes out 2 or more hours after the last meal and is to last 3 to 4 hours or longer. If rations are carried for consumption in flight, a preflight snack or meal is not always necessary. Effort must be made to see that men engaged in flight operations are not without food over a period longer than 5 to 6 hours. 
   Preflight snacks should be available for carrier aviation personnel in a room convenient to the ready room. Appropriate foods for serving are: Sandwiches, soups, fruit, fruit juices, cookies, and beverages. Candies and cookies that may be carried for in-flight consumption should be available here also. 
   Proper methods to employ in making sandwiches are given in the Navy Cook Book. If sandwiches are carried from the snack room by carrier aviation personnel for consumption in flight, commissary personnel should note information given on pages 28 and 31, regarding the kinds of sandwiches not suitable for in-flight feeding because they are potential sources of food poisoning. 
   For the most part, post-flight feeding can be cared for through regular messing facilities. On those occasions when aviators flying in combat zones return from long flights and are not physically ready to accept a full meal, they should (return to the snack room for the small amount of food they may prefer to eat during their rest or recovery period. 
Naturally, the only appropriate recipe for today is one from the U.S Navy Cook Book (1920.)

Coffee Cake.
5 lbs. 10 oz. flour
1 lb. sugar
1 oz. salt
9 oz. lard
2 oz. yeast
1 ⅝ qts. water
For 100 men at the rate of about 14/5 ounces per man, baked with streusel. Scale in pieces 5 ¼ pounds, make up in long shape, let set for about 20 minutes, roll out into squares the size of pan. Place in pan and brush over with melted butter, prick well with a fork to remove all air spaces in the dough, then sprinkle with the following streusel. This will make 2 pans 13 x 26 inches, cut 50 portions from each.

Streusel (For the Above Batch.)
7 oz. flour
6 oz. sugar
½ oz. cinnamon
⅛ oz. salt
3 ½ oz. butter or lard.

Do not use lard if butter can be obtained. If butter is used, do not use salt for making streusel. Mix flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together, last add lard or butter and proceed to rub together the same as pie dough. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Sheriffs’ Breakfast.

In the sixteenth century the Sheriffs of the English city of Chester took part in a competitive event on Easter Monday, after which they enjoyed a special breakfast. The proceedings of the day were noted by Edmund Burke in the Annual Register, (Volume 52, 1825), in the chapter on Antiquities.

The Sheriffes' Breakfaste.
"There is an anchant custome in this cittie of Chester, the memory of man now livinge not knowinge the original,* that upon Mondaye in Easter weeke, yearely, comonly called Black Mondaye** the two sheriffes of the cittie doe shoote for a breakfaste of calves heades and bacon, comonly called the sheriffes' breakfaste***the manner beinge thus: the daye before, the drum sowndeth through the cittie with a proclamation for all gentelmen, yeomen, and good fellowes, that will come with their bowes and arrowes to take parte with one sherriff or the other, and upon Monday-morning, or on the Rode-dee, the mayor, shreeves, aldermen, and any other gentlemen, that wol be there, the one sherife chosingone, and the other sherife chosing another, and soe of the archers; then one sherife shoteth and the other sherif he shoteth to shode him, beinge at length some twelve score: soe all the archers on one side to shode until it be shode, and so till three shutes be wonne, and then all the winers’ side goe up together firste with arrowes in their hands, and all the loosers with bowes in their hands together, to the common-hall of the cittie, where the mayor aldermen and gentelmen, and the reste take part in lovynge manner; this is yearly done, it being a commendable exercise, a good recreation and a loving assemblye.”

*By some MS. Annals, quoted in another part of Archdeacon Rogers’s book it appears to have been begun in 1511.

**So called from remarkably dark and inclement weather, which happened on an Easter Monday, when King Edward the Third lay with his army before Paris, and proved fatal to many of his troops. See How's Chronicle.

** *In the year 1640, the sheriffs gave a piece of plate to be run for, instead of the calves-head breakfast. In 1674, a resolution was entered in the corporation Journals, that the calves-head feast was held by ancient custom and usage, and was not to be at the pleasure of the sheriffs and leave-lookers. In the month of March 1676-7, the sheriffs and leave-lookers were fined 10/- for not keeping the calves-head feast. The sheriffs of late years have given an annual dinner, but not any fixed day.

Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook (1660) contains a number of recipes for Calves Head in the section on The A-la-mode ways of dressing the Heads of any Beasts. I give you my two favourites:

To souce a Calves Head.
First scald it and bone it, then steep it in fair water the space of six hour, dry it with a clean cloth, and season it with some salt and bruised garlick (or none) then roul it up in a collar, bind it close, and boil it in white wine, water, and salt; being boil’d keep it in that souce drink, and serve it in the collar, or slice it, and serve it with oyl, vinegar, and pepper. This dish is very rare, and to a good judgment scarce discernable.

To roast a Calves Head with Oysters.
Split the head as to boil, and take out the brains washing them very well with the head, cut out the tongue, boil it a little, and blanch it, let the brains be parbol’d as well as tongue, then mince the brains and tongue, a little sage, oysters, beef-suet, very small; being finely minced, mix them together with three or four yolks of eggs, beaten ginger, pepper, nutmegs, grated bread, salt, and a little sack, if the brains and eggs make it not moist enough.
This being done parboil the calves head a little in fair water, then take it up and dry it well in a cloth filling the holes where the brains and tongue lay with this farsing or pudding; bind it up close together, and spit it, then stuff it with oysters being first parboil’d in their own liquor, put them into a dish with minced tyme, parsley, mace, nutmeg, and pepper beaten very small; mix all these with a little vinegar, and the white of an egg, roul the oysters in it, and make little holes in the head, stuff it as full as you can, put the oysters but half way in, and scuer in them with sprigs of tyme, roast it and set the dish under it to save the gravy, wherein let there be oysters, sweet herbs minced, a little white-wine and slic’t nutmeg.
When the head is roasted set the dish wherein the sauce is on the coals to stew a little, then put in a piece of butter, the juyce of an orange, and salt, beating it up together: dish the head, and put the sauce to it, and serve it up hot to the table.

[For an eighteenth century recipe for Calves Head Pye, go to a previous post, here.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Radio Food Program, Easter, 1932.

A few weeks ago I gave you the script and recipes from a the United States Department of Agriculture  Radio Service’s regular program called ‘Housekeepers’ Chat.’ I want to return to that source again today.

On Friday 25 March, 1932 the subject was "Easter Dinner," and the information and recipes came from the U.S.D.A. Bureau of Home Economics. Here is the script:

The old rhyme of the housewife, as I remember it, goes something like this:

"What'll I serve for dinner?
What'll I have for tea?
A salad, a chop or two
Or a savory fricassee?
My I how I wish that Nature
When she made her mighty plan
Had given some other job to woman
Than feeding hungry man."

But you and I don't have to worry today, for the Menu Specialist has planned us a beautiful Easter dinner. The color scheme of the meal is yellow, green and white. And if that doesn't suggest spring flowers to you, I don't know what will, pale yellow candles would be nice on the table. So would a centerpiece of daffodils or jonquils and narcissus blossoms.

Lamb and veal are the traditional spring meats, especially suitable for Easter, Not that you have to have these meats on Easter in order to be correct. No rules about it. There are plenty of other meats that would be all right for an Easter dinner. But for this special meal, the Menu Specialist
has planned according to good old tradition.

Take your choice. Either broiled lamb chops or breaded veal cutlets for the dish. Along with the meat, serve new potatoes and new peas creamed together, and buttered new carrots. Then, Spring salad, made of lettuce, watercress, green pepper slices and chopped celery with French dressing.
For dessert, there are again two choices f or you. You can have either orange ice and sponge cake or jellied canned peaches and almonds.

There now. That's the yellow, green and white meal for Easter. Just one more glance at it. Main course; Either broiled lamb chops or breaded veal cutlets; New potatoes and peas creamed together; Buttered carrots; Spring salad of lettuce, cress, green pepper and celery. Dessert, either
orange ice and sponge cake, or jellied peaches and almonds.

Lamb chops, you know, may come from the loin, the rib or the shoulder. The butcher will cut them either single or double thickness, as you prefer. But always remember to have them cut in uniform thickness and to have the fell removed.

If you'd like to serve a plate of chops for Easter that look a little fancy, have the chops boned, rolled and trapped in sliced bacon. A platter of sizzling hot chops prepared this way and served right from the fire on a hot platter and garnished with parsley is one of the best sights anyone could have at Easter or any other dinner during the year.

The experts say that all lamb chops are best broiled either by direct heat or in a heavy uncovered skillet.

To broil by direct heat, lay the chops on a cold greased rack and place them over coals or under the gas-oven flame or an electric grill.

If you are using a gas oven, cook the chops 2 or 3 inches below a moderate flame. Sear then on both sides. Place double rib chops, fat side up at first, so they can also sear along the edge. After searing, you can lower the flame and finish the cooking at a lower temperature. Of course, you should turn the chops occasionally, but try not to prick the brown crust while you turn them. For the thick or double chops, it is sometimes more convenient, after searing them under the flame, to transfer the broiler to a moderately hot oven and finish the cooking there.

So much for plain broiling.

Would you like directions for pan broiling the chops? Get your heavy skillet sizzling hot. Then lay in your chops and sear them quickly on both sides. If your chops are thick, turn them also on the edge to sear the fat. Then reduce the heat, turn the chops frequently, and finish the cooking at low temperature.

Here are two don'ts about the process. Don't ever add water to the skillet. Don’t ever cover the skillet while the chops are cooking. From time to time you'll want to pour off the extra fat in the frying pan so that the chops will broil instead of frying.

How long does it take to cook the chops? It depends on the chop and how thick it is cut. By either method — broiling or pan broiling, double loin chops take from 25 to 30 minutes and single loin chops take 10 to 15 minutes. Double rib chops require from 30 to 35 minutes while single rib chops take from 10 to 15 minutes. Shoulder chops, cut ¾ of an inch thick, take from 10 to 15 minutes.

Place the broiled chops immediately on a hot platter, as we mentioned awhile back, add salt, pepper and melted butter and garnish with parsley or watercress.

That's all I have to tell you about the chops.

If you choose jellied peaches and almonds instead of orange ice for dessert, take down a quart jar of the peaches you canned last summer and get out your bag of almonds for blanching.

The recipe for jellied peaches and almonds isn't in your green cookbook. That's why I'm taking time today to give it to you. It's a very simple dessert which you can make the day before Easter and keep in your refrigerator until it's time to serve. This yellow and white fruit dessert makes a
handsome ending to any spring meal with yellow and white in the color scheme.

Are you ready now for the ingredients?

2 tablespoons of gelatin
⅛ teaspoon of almond extract
¼ cup of cold water
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup of "boiling water
½ cup of blanched and chopped almonds, and
1 cup of sugar
1 quart of sliced peaches.
¼ teaspoon of salt

That's quite a long list. Hadn't I better repeat it? (Repeat.)

Soak the gelatin in the cold water for five minutes. Now add the boiling water, the sugar and the salt and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Then chill. Then the mixture is beginning to set, add the almond extract, the lemon juice, the chopped almonds and the peaches. Stir until well mixed.
Then pour into a dampened mold and chill. When the jelly is set, turn it onto a plate and serve it either with plain or whipped cream.

This decorative, colorful dessert may be prepared in one large mold or may be molded in individual servings. Suit yourself.