Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Coffee Protest.

For the next three days I have some little coffee anecdotes for you, and will of course include some recipes which use coffee as an ingredient.

Our first story concerns Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, first Vice-president and second President of the United States. Abigail kept up a regular correspondence with her husband during his frequent travels, updating him about the goings-on in Boston. On July 31, 1777 she wrote about a protest by some of the women of the town at the opportunism shown by local coffee merchants looking to capitalize on the shortage of coffee.

"I have nothing new to entertain you with, unless it is an account of a New Set of Mobility which have lately taken the Lead in B[osto]n. You must know that there is a great Scarcity of Sugar and Coffe, articles which the Female part of the State are very loth to give up, especially whilst they consider the Scarcity occasiond by the merchants having secreted a large Quantity. There has been much rout and Noise in the Town for several weeks. Some Stores had been opend by a number of people and the Coffe and Sugar carried into the Market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumourd that an eminent, wealthy, stingy Merchant (who is a Batchelor) had a Hogshead of Coffe in his Store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A Number of Females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marchd down to the Ware House and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seazd him by his Neck and tossd him into the cart. Upon his finding no Quarter he deliverd the keys, when they tipd up the cart and dischargd him, then opend the Warehouse, Hoisted out the Coffe themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a Spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of Men stood amazd silent Spectators of the whole transaction."

Women throughout history have regularly protested vigorously, and sometimes violently, over the cost of staples such as bread and potatoes needed to feed their families, but this is the only example I have come across of action taken over luxuries such as coffee. No doubt there are other examples, and if you know of any I would be grateful if you would tell us all via the comments.

Coffee was not commonly used in cooking in the eighteenth century, but that is not to say there are no recipes at all. I have previously given you a recipe for Coffee Cream from the era, so today needs something different.  In The practice of modern cookery; adapted to families of distinction, as well as to those of the middling ranks of life. …, published in Edinburgh in 1781, the author, George Dalrymple gives a recipe for a Coffee Pie, as a variation of one for Chocolate Pie.

Tourte de Chocolate. Chocolate-pies.
Mix a little flour with a pint of cream, and chocolate in proportion, a little sugar, and four eggs; boil it about a quarter of an hour, stirring it continually for fear it should catch at bottom; then put it in the paste, and the whites of four eggs beat to a snow upon it; glaze it with sugar, and bake it.
N.B. Coffee-pie is make after the same manner, boiling two or three dishes of clear coffee with the cream instead of the chocolate, as the preceding; they are both to be done without top-crusts.


lamidave said...

I, and I am sure many others, protest at your use of the term "luxury" to characterize coffee, one of the essentials of life.

The Old Foodie said...

You will surely like tomorrow's story, lamidave!