Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Traveller’s Food Tales: 18th C Russia.

Most of you know by now that I love travelers’ food tales from times gone by  – and to judge by the feedback, many of you do too. Today I want to give you a taste of the street food (and drink) in the eighteenth century Russian Empire, as seen through the eyes of William Tooke, F.R.S., ‘Member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and of the Free Economical Society at St. Petersburg.’

In Volume I (of three volumes) of his book View Of The Russian Empire During The Reign Of Catharine The Second And To The Close Of The Present Century, published in 1799, in the chapter entitled Slavonians,  Mr. Tooke has this to say:

They have usually two meals in the day; in the forenoon about nine o'clock, and in the afternoon at three. The family at these times eat all together; and, when it is numerous, first the males and afterwards those of the other sex. They allow themselves but a short time at table, and are easy and cheerful. Even among the inferior people the table-linen, platters, and Vessels are kept in great cleanliness. If strangers sit down with them there are very copious potations. Intoxication is not disgraceful, and even among people of good condition, if a lady be overtaken in liquor, it is no subject of reproach. They are never quarrelsome or scurrilous in their cups, but friendly, jovial, courteous, speak in praise of the absent, and boast of their friendship; and those that are not able to stand, find ready assistance from those that can. On journies, merchants and others take their food with remarkably few formalities. In towns and great village-stations, women sit in the street, near public houses, with tables having roast and boiled meat, fish, piroggees, cabbage-soup, cucumbers, bread, and quas, consequently a superb and everywhere a cheap repast, which is taken standing, and always accompanied with a glass or two of brandy.

Some of the foods described in this piece have been mentioned in previous blog posts. In a story about the food of Russian factoryworkers in 1828 (again, as seen through European eyes) there is mention of the ubiquitous cabbage soup and kvass (quas), and The Manner of Making the Russian Rye Bread was given in another post.

The ‘piroggees’ which make up the ‘superb and everywhere a cheap repast’ must have captured the interest of the late eighteenth century British visitors to Russia, for fairly soon, interpretations of the idea began to appear in cookery books.  The Family Receipt-book, or, Universal Repository of Useful Knowledge and Experience in all the Various Branches of Domestic Economy, published in London, in about 1810 included the following commentary and instructions:

Russian Fish Pies, or Pasties, &c.

The old Russian cookery consisted, and still consists among the lower and middling ranks in life, principally of pies or pasties; not made in dishes, but merely inclosed by a good standing crust, like those country pies or pasties called in England turnovers. Thus, frequently, even a whole salmon, either salted or fresh, being scraped and well cleaned, for the Russians are very nice in washing all their fish and meats, the inside is filled with onions, boiled carrots cut into round slices the cross way, and hard boiled eggs chopped small, seasoned with pepper and salt, and covered up in a large round sheet of paste doubled over in a sort of half moon form, and neatly closed by pinching round the circular part. In this manner, all sorts of fish are dressed; the stuffings being often varied, and sometimes composed of sour crout. Meat pies are prepared in a similar way. The Russians, however, are also fond of ragouts, and boiled or roasted fish and meats, very much done. They have, likewise, two kinds of favourite soups, one or other of which is every day dressed. The first of these soups called shchee, is made of sour crout, and a very pleasant sort of tartish small beer, named quass, with onions, bacon, and beef or mutton highly seasoned. This is quite excellent; but, on fast days, fish is substituted for the meat. The other soup is called borsh; and the chief difference between them is, that salted beet root is substituted for the sour crout.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Ancestral American Breakfast?

In a post last week on the subject of what is arguably the most important meal of the day I referred to a delightful book called What to Get for Breakfast: with more than one hundred different breakfasts, and full directions for each (Boston, 1882.) I made mention in that post of the chapter entitled Ancestral Breakfasts, and quite a number of you were intrigued by the concept, so today I am going to give you some extracts from the chapter.

The author of the book, a certain M. Tarbox Colbrath, remains rather mysterious. I do not even know his or her gender, and I have been unable to find any other books to attribute to him/her.  The name ‘Tarbox’ is presumably another family surname, so perhaps we would hyphenate both nowadays?  But I digress. Without further ado, here are his or her ideas about ancestral breakfasts.

The menus and recipes in the chapter include such things as fried beefsteak, baked apples, stewed beans, Johnny cakes, rye muffins, minced calf’s head and pluck, and chicken pie. I have chosen for your delectation the first menu in this chapter, and give the recipes which accompany it:-

Many old fashioned dishes, hygienic and palatable, are now contemptuously looked at and neglected. It is to be regretted that the simplicity of food is getting unfashionable. Progress has taught us many new ideas about food, yet the devotion to many ancestral dishes is. recommended as advantageous. These few resurrected ones are sterling, and by the sanction of them to our children, the vigor of our race can measurably be kept.


Pan-dowdy and Cream.
Boiled Eggs.               Fried Scrapple.

This is a homely, yet hearty and palatable breakfast dish. Pare and quarter enough sour and juicy apples to nearly fill a deep earthen baking- dish, add to the apples half a cup of hot water and nearly a cup of molasses. Make a crust as for strawberry short cake in Breakfast No. 45**. Roll it out an inch thick and fit closely over the apples. Bake in a moderate oven as long as the crust will allow. When done, while warm, break the crust in pieces, which mix through the apple. For breakfast this must be baked the day previous. Serve with cream or milk. Delicious.

** the Shortcake crust recipe is as follows:
One quart of flour.
One teaspoonful of soda.
Two teaspoonfuls of cream-tartar.
One teaspoonful of salt.
Half a cup of creamed butter.
One pint of rich sweet milk.
Incorporate soda, cream-tartar, and salt well into the dry flour. Work the creamed butter into the prepared flour, till fine and yellow. Pour the milk to this mixture, and mould to a delicate dough, which divide into three parts. Roll each part quickly half an inch thick. Fit each to a Washington-pie plate and bake at once.

Tis said this sterling dish came to America in the Mayflower, and for aught that is known might have been produced by Mrs. Eve. It is convenient, palatable and nourishing; combining beef, beef tea and hasty pudding.
Select such a piece of beef as you would for soups; when boiled tender, remove the meat, put the liquor into an earthen vessel to let the fat rise and cool. Cut the meat from the bones, mince it fine and put it into the kettle with the liquor and a little of the cooled fat that was on the top of liquor. Add pepper and salt at discretion. When it boils, thicken with Indian meal as for hasty pudding. Simmer till thoroughly done. Be careful not to scorch it. When done, mould in brick loaf pans. When hardened, cut in slices nearly an inch thick and brown on griddle greased with some of the fat from the top of liquor. This can be kept on hand three or four days in cold weather. A nice dish for hearty boys and girls or any one else.

P.S in a previous posts I gave other recipes for scrapple.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tea Rationing in WW II: None for the Pot.

During World War II, the British Ministry of Food produced regular ‘Food Facts’ leaflets relating to various aspects of the wartime rationing system. I have talked about these Food Facts in a number of blog posts over the years, and today I thought I would show you the advice in the very first leaflet.

Rationing began in Britain on 8 January 1940, four months after the outbreak of war, with the first items affected being bacon, butter, and sugar. The specific foods and allowed quantities fluctuated over the years, but rationing did not completely end when the war ended. In actual fact, in many ways rationing was more stringent in the years after the war, as Britain turned resources to the rebuilding of Europe. It was not until July 3, 1954 that the final item – meat – was de-rationed.

Food Facts No. 1 was published in the last week of July, 1940, and it set the tone for the entire series of leaflets. The overall aim was to help the housewife cope with rationing system and the food shortages. The issues of avoiding waste (especially of wheat) and reducing meat consumption - which are clear in this first leaflet - were to become regular themes in the leaflets over the years. At this date, tea had been rationed for one week. It was to be restricted to 2 ounces per person, per week - a small amount indeed for the tea-loving - some might say tea-dependent – nation. The catch-phrase of the Ministry of Food was “one for each person, and none for the pot.”


There will be more advertisements in this series. It will be well worth your while to collect them. As each appears, pin it up in your kitchen.
Grow fit not fat on your war diet! Make full use of the fruit and vegetables in season. Cut out “extras”; cut out waste’ don’t eat more than you need. You’ll save yourself money, you’ll save valuable cargo space which is needed for munitions, and you’ll feel fitter than you ever felt before.

TEA TIPS. You can save that extra “one for the pot” if you get the best out of your tea, so remember that (1) as soon as the water is boiling really fast you should be ready with the well-warmed tea-pot; (2) the tea-pot should come to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot; (3) you should give the tea enough time to brew, and stir it just before pouring. If you do all this your ration will go further.
COOKED LETTUCE. Don’t make the mistake of using lettuce only as a salad. Lettuce cooked in a very little water makes a delicious vegetable, and you will enjoy even the outside leaves.
STALE BREAD. Bake any stale bread in slices and use as toast, or serve as rusks with soups or stews.
RECIPE for Stuffed Marrow.
Cut a medium-sized marrow in two and scoop out the seeds. Fill with stuffing made of two heaped tablespoonfuls of breadcrumbs (use and left-over pieces of bread for this), 2 tablespoonfuls minced bacon or cold meat, 1 tablespoonful chopped suet, 1 small onion grated and a sprinkling of mixed herbs, add pepper and salt to taste, and a little milk or egg to bind.
Put the halves together, tie round with tape, put in a baking tin with about 2 ozs of dripping and bake until tender – basting frequently. (Time about 1 hour.)
If preferred, the bacon or meat may be omitted, but in this case more suet should be included with the stuffing.

You can hear other useful tips on the wireless at 8.15 every morning.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cooking the 15th Century Rabbit.

Yesterday’s fifteenth century menu included a dish of 'Rabettes, soukers', or newborn rabbit. It is not a dish likely to be found on any modern menu, no matter how cutting-edge the restaurant. Whether or not you are repelled or intrigued by the idea of eating newborn rabbit, I think the concept is worthy of a little more commentary, don’t you?

The origin and early history of rabbits is ancient and obscure. They perhaps originated on the Iberian Peninsula or the Balearic Islands, but they were certainly introduced into Britain by the Romans. The Romans appear to have enjoyed the unborn animals, which they referred to as laurices (singular, laurex.)

Rabbits were bred on a large scale in medieval monasteries. This is likely related to their role on the table during periods of fasting. It is alleged that Pope Gregory I, in 600 AD allowed foetal rabbit to be eaten during Lent, by declaring them to be aquatic animals on account of the watery environment of the mother’s womb.

A brief word here about names. As we have seen, laurices are unborn or newborn animals. A rabbit is sometimes also called cuniculus,  from the scientific name Oryctolagus cuniculus.
Until the eighteenth century, juvenile specimens were referred to as ‘rabbits’ but mature adults were ‘coneys.’ Add to this the variations in spellings, and the inevitable confusion with the related animal, the hare (Lepus capensis) and you can appreciate how unravelling the culinary history of the rabbit is quite a confusing process.

The following fifteenth century recipe specifies adult rabbit (cony), and does sound rather delicious. It is made by taking pieces (presumably joints) of rabbit, larding and roasting them, and then chopping the meat into smaller pieces (perhaps very finely, like mince) before cooking it again in a rich meaty broth thickened with ground almonds and rice flour, and spiced with saffron, ginger, galangal, cinnamon, sugar, cloves, and mace.

Conyngys in graueye.
Take Conyngys, & make hem clene, & hakke hem in gobettys, & sethe hem, oþer larde hem & Rost hem; & þanne hakke hem, & take Almaundys, & grynde hem, & temper hem vppe with gode Freysshe brothe of Flesshe, & coloure it wyth Safroun, & do þer-to a porcyon of flowre of Rys, & do þer-to þen pouder Gyngere, Galyngale, Canel, Sugre, Clowys, Maces, & boyle it onys & seþe it; þen take þe Conyngys, & putte þer-on, & dresse it & serue it forth

Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55: Thomas Austin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Menu for a Dinner in 1430.

In the old City of London, in the Middle Ages, the various trades formed guilds (which became corporations)  in order to regulate and protect their respective industries.    Each corporations took up the title of ‘Worshipful Company’ and adopted a particular set of insignias or symbolic items of clothing or livery – giving rise to the alternative collective name of ‘Livery Companies.’

The Livery Companies held regular dinners, the most important of which was the annual election dinner, usually held on or near the feast day of the patron saint of the specific company. I have previously given the bills of fare for the Ironmongers’ Feast in 1687, and a dinner of the Worshipful Company ofCarpenters in 1633.

Today it is the turn of the Merchant Taylors [Tailors] Company. A menu for a dinner held by the Company in 1430 is given in Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of John the Baptist in the city of London, compiled and selected by the Master of the Company for the Year 1873-4 and published in 1875.  Only the first course of what would have been at least two, and possibly three (if the occasion was grand enough) is given in this nineteenth century source. Unfortunately I have been unable to find out any more information about this particular dinner, from the non-primary sources available to me.

Le primer cours.
Brawn oue mustard. [Brawn with mustard]
Blank brewet de rys. [Broth of rice]
Chynes of pork vel hakel beof. [Chines of Pork or ?hashed Beef]
Swan, rosted. [Swan, roasted]
Fesaunt vel capon, rosted. [Pheasant or Capon, roasted]
Checons, bake. [Chickens, baked – i.e. in pies]
Jely vel Penynage. [Jelly or ????]
Venison, rosted. [Venison, roasted]
Partrich vel cok, rosted. [Partridge or Cock, roasted]
Plover, rosted.  [Plover, roasted]
Rabettes, soukers. [Rabbits, ‘new-born’ or ‘suckling’?]
Snytes vel quayles. [Snites or Quails]
Fruture goodwyth. [Fritters of some sort]
Quynces, bake. [Baked Quinces]

As you will see from my ‘translation’ of the above menu, the dish of ‘penynage’ – given as an alternative to the ‘jely’, remains a mystery. I do hope one of you with far more knowledge than myself of fifteenth century food, can enlighten us all.
The most interesting dish on the menu to me, is the foetal or newborn rabbits. These were a delicacy at the time, and Rabbetes souker rost appear in the coronation menu of King Richard III in 1483, which I featured in my book Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year

Sadly, I am unable to provide a recipe for newborn rabbits, but I am able to give you one for another of the dishes on this menu. I cannot believe I have not given a recipe for baked quinces (or wardens - a type of pear) in any previous posts - the dish was a staple at fine dinner in the medieval era. At the time, ‘baking’ meant cooking in a thick pastry shell, there being no shaped baking containers such as we take for granted nowadays.

Quyncis or Wardouns in past.
Take & make fayre Rounde cofyns of fayre past; þan take fayre Raw Quynces, & pare hem with a knyf, & take fayre out þe core þer-of; þan take Sugre y-now, & a lytel pouder Gyngere, & stoppe þe hole fulle; & cowche .ij. or .iij. wardonys or quynceȝ in a cofyn, & keuere hem, & lat hem bake; & for defaut of Sugre, take hony; but þen putte pouder Pepir þer-on, & Gyngere, in þe maner be-for sayd.

Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55: Thomas Austin.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Laws of Eating: Part II.

For a long time after I began this blog in late 2005 I kept to an “On This Day” theme. I ultimately discontinued this for several reasons, and subsequently much of my material ended up in my Food History Almanac.  I still have many unused stories related to specific dates however, and I thought it might be fun to use them from time to time.

On this date in 1336, in the tenth year of the reign of King Edward III, England’s first sumptuary law was promulgated at the Parliament held in Nottingham.  Sumptuary laws have been promulgated by kings and governments for many centuries (I have written on them previously here), but have always proved impossible to enforce – no doubt in part because the law-makers and enforcers belonged to the very classes whose consumption was being targeted. Many sumptuary laws throughout history have addressed clothing and jewellery, but the Statutum Cibariis Utendis of 1336 was an ‘alimentary statute’ – that is, it was concerned entirely with food consumption. The act specified the number of courses that were to be allowed at a meal, and the type of dishes served:-

Whereas, heretofore through the excessive and over-many sorts of costly meats which the people of this Realm have used more than elsewhere, many mischiefs have happened to the people of this Realm - for the great men by these excesses have been sore grieved; and the lesser people, who only endeavour to imitate the great ones in such sort of meats, are much impoverished, whereby they are not able to aid themselves, nor their liege lord, in time of need, as they ought; and many other evils have happened, as well to their souls as their bodies - our Lord the King, desiring the common profit as well of the great men as of the common people of his Realm, and considering the evils, grievances, and mischiefs aforesaid, by the common assent of the prelates, earls, barons, and other nobles of his said Realm, and of the commons of the same Realm, hath ordained and established that no man, of what estate or condition soever he be, shall cause himself to be served, in his house or elsewhere, at dinner, meal, or supper, or at any other time, with more than two courses, and each mess of two sorts of victuals at the utmost, be it of flesh or fish, with the common sorts of pottage, without sauce or any other sorts of victuals. And if any man choose to have sauce for his mess, he may, provided it be not made at great cost; and if fish or flesh be to be mixed therein, it shall be of two sorts only at the utmost, either fish or flesh, and shall stand instead of a mess, except only on the principal feasts of the year, on which days every man may be served with three courses at the utmost, after the manner aforesaid.'

Although as with other sumptuary laws in other times and places, the statute was impossible to enforce, it was not formally repealed until 1856, during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Now, for the recipe for the day I give you a nice, rich dish of goose from Forme of Cury, the cookery manuscript of the Master Chefs of King Richard II, published in about 1390.

Gees in Hoggepot

Take Gees and smyte hem on pecys. cast hem in a Pot do þerto half wyne and half water. and do þerto a gode quantite of Oynouns and erbest. Set it ouere the fyre and couere  it fast. make a layour of brede and blode an lay it þerwith. do þerto powdour fort and serue it fort.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Genuine Breakfast vs The Counterfeit Breakfast.

Are you a breakfast person? If so, what sort of breakfast do you like? I wonder how your breakfast ideals will match up with the suggestions of M. Tarbox Colbrath, the author of What to Get for Breakfast: with more than one hundred different breakfasts, and full directions for each (Boston, 1882)?

Last week I gave you a recipe for CherryShortcake from this book. The chapter from which this recipe came is entitled Fruit Cake Breakfasts, and it is quite an anomaly - as you will see below, the author is clearly of the carnivorous persuasion.  In the Preface, he or she gives a fairly lengthy biblical justification for eating the ‘wholesome’ varieties of animal flesh – while remaining uncertain and a little apologetic about pork:

Although pork is largely used throughout all Christendom, yet I cannot judiciously give it a place in this breakfast directory. There will be no danger of starvation if it is dispensed with. The world is full of good things, so we can easily repudiate it. Just as good, and much more wholesome dishes can be gotten without it. No baked beans, a la New England, no pork sausage. ….. for it is allowed that pork is the most indigestible of all meats, besides being unscriptural.

After the introductory advice, the author embarks on the menu and recipe suggestions of his ‘Breakfast Repertory’ - with meaty enthusiasm, as you will deduce from the section headings:

III. Beefsteak  Breakfasts.
IV. Cold Beef Breakfasts.
V. Venison Breakfasts.
VI. Mutton and Lamb Breakfasts.
VII. Veal Breakfasts.
VIII. Domestic Fowl Breakfasts.
IX. Fish Breakfasts.
X. Egg Breakfasts.
XI. Croquette and Sausage Breakfasts.
XII. Fruit Cake Breakfasts.
XIII. Ancestral Breakfasts.

There are in fact recipes in the book for beverages, vegetables, bread, cereal, fruit (and fruit cake,) but they appear in the menu suggestions in the place of minor courses, or side-dishes alongside the main dish. But before I give you the recipe of the day, I want to let the author speak to you on the importance of the right type of breakfast.

How pleasant those homes where genuine breakfasts are appreciated; where cooking morality is of importance, and the food is aesthetically prepared. Feeling assured of a satisfying bill of fare, with what cheerfulness the family respond to the news of the morning repast. Who can deny the comforts, luxury and moral benefit of this meal in one's own cheerful breakfast-room, where the cutlets are sweet to the senses, the baked potatoes dainty and mealy, the biscuits of an ethereal nature; where the coffee is fragrant and delicate, and possessed of such charms that spirituous beverages have no temptation; where the cream comes safely from the cow to the pitcher; and where each dish brings health and pleasure.

Such a breakfast is absolutely perfect, because attractive, wholesome, nutritious, simple, and easily digested, leaving the stomach comfortable, the head so clear, the spirits so light, and the vital forces so supplied that amiable visages, clear financiering, speculation, and imagination are the speedy compensation. Beside, the stomach, when in this beautiful condition, is a moral force; and if (as is sometimes said) many of the evils of the world are traceable to bad and scanty food, with this kind of breakfast one should not fail to be a better man or woman throughout the day.

A home without a good breakfast - how shall we describe it? Instead of the sunny courtesy with which a man comes to a faultless breakfast, he who has no assurance of a satisfying morning repast, comes like a man who has had bad news broken to him, and most likely with a "breach of peace" pictured on his face. Yet, if this man had the same assurance of an attractive breakfast of which the courteous one was confident, he might have excelled him in politeness.

Pity the sorrows of those who are not especially favored with a genuine breakfast, that stimulates the body, lightens the spirits, clears the thought, gives moral force, and recompenses by generally resisting the foes of life, for he who is badly and scantily fed in the morning has not the moral safeguard through the day of him who has been well fed at breakfast.

When so much depends on this meal, is it not surprising that so many treat it indifferently? A broiled beefsteak, a digestible breakfast-cake, a dainty baked potato, a clear cup of coffee, are especial wonders in many families, who have never dreamed that a square and satisfying breakfast has much to do with the prosperity of humanity. In this enlightened republic, instead of breaking fast with a plenty of simple and nourishing food, how many begin the labors of the day with a scanty, unattractive, and indigestible breakfast, which exhausts instead of supplying the forces!

Bacon or pork served swimming in grease, - steak fried or broiled till the life has gone out of it, and consequently so tough and hard that one could eat and enjoy a side of leather about as easily, - cold potatoes warmed over in fat that suggests the longevity of both fat and the vessel in which it was preserved, - a hastened corn-cake so rank with soda that the stomach is made unhappy through the day, - a choice mutton-chop transformed beyond recognition, - muffins burned to a cinder, by forcing them with too hot an oven, - scrambled eggs, and griddle-cakes made leathery for want of promptness, - the coffee, alas! for that precious cup, that benefactor of mankind, so invaluable to many for its gentle stimulating powers, and especially designed for sustenance instead of dangerous wine, - this indispensable comfort so muddy and bitter that you cannot recognize its first principles ; and to complete its transformation, the milk served in an unsanitary pitcher! These are familiar breakfasts in many families.

Dangerous breakfasts these. They do not fitly feed hunger. The hungry body vainly tries to recuperate in its efforts to digest this wretchedly- cooked food not "convenient” for it, so that what might have been done had the food been rightly cooked, remains undone. Determination, application, and patience will enable one to serve a very different morning meal, with a little earlier rising, if necessary, for a breakfast gotten in "no time" usually drifts its own way.

As the menu and recipe for the day, I give you the following ideas from the book. And may the force be with you.

Oatmeal Mush
Oven-Broiled Beefsteak                     Parker-House Biscuit
Green Corn on the Cob.
Coffee.                                                Ripe Fruit.

Try this labor-saving experiment, and, like others, you may sanction it. Perchance, if not
apprised, you might not suspect that your steak was not gridiron-broiled. To begin, your oven must be very, very hot, else you will lose the juice of your steak. A moderate oven would ruin it, for, to be in perfection, it must be quickly seared with heat. Other principles are the same as for gridiron-broiling.

Lay your steak into a dripping-pan large enough to hold it without condensing. Set it in a hot oven. If thick, it will need to remain ten minutes, according to the doneness you prefer. When done, season to taste, and serve on a hot platter. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bow-Wow Cake Day.

In the English town of Painswick in Gloucestershire, on the first Sunday after the nineteenth of September, a very ancient festival is held. Associated with this day is a special, rather confronting dish. The origins and meaning of this special dish are lost in the mists of antiquity, and its actual form appears to have morphed and mutated over the centuries. Nowadays, ‘Painswick Dog Pie’,(aka ‘Painswick Bun, or ‘Bow-Wow Cake’) does not contain dog meat, but merely a china dog in recognition of a longstanding local traditional tale.

The details of the story are disputed, but appear to relate to enmity between Painswick and the adjacent parish of Stroud. One version of the story has it that a Painswick man, having promised venison for some visitors from Stroud, on being unable to source the game, substituted with dog meat. Naturally, the deceit, when discovered, caused normal parish rivalry to escalate into name-calling and open hostility.

Whatever form it takes, the pie/cake/bun is enjoyed following the ceremony of ‘clypping’ or embracing the church, in celebration of the Nativity of the Virgin. The children of the parish of St. Mary, with flowers in their hair, join hands and form a ring around the church – which sounds like a wonderfully picturesque occasion.

I am unable to give you a recipe for this day’s special dish – as mentioned, there is no consensus as to the form (pie? cake? bun?) or the primary ingredient (dried fruit? almond meal? – certainly not actual dog flesh.) But I must give you a recipe with a Gloucester connection, must I not? Gloucestershire was famous in the past for its lampreys, for a traditional pudding called HegPeg Dump, and also for a wonderful breed of pig called the Gloucester Old Spot. Probably the county’s most famous food product however, it its cheese, and Gloucester cheese has always been a favourite for toasting.

To Toast Cheese.
Cut some double or single Gloucester cheese into small shavings, and put it with a bit of butter into a cheese-toaster; place it before the fire till the cheese dissolves, stirring it now and then. Serve with a slice of toasted bread, divided into four, and the crust pared off. It is generally eaten with mustard, salt, and pepper.
The Practice of Cookery: Adapted to the Business of Every Day Life (Edinburgh, 1830)

by Mrs. Dalgairns.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cheese Puddings.

A short while ago, I gave you a story entitled  Cheshire Cheese Pudding, and it rapidly became clear that some of you felt misled and were ultimately disappointed that there was no recipe for a pudding made with Cheshire Cheese. The story referred to a pudding tradition at a London pub with a venerable history - Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, in Fleet Street.

To make things right, to the disappointed reader or three, I give several cheese puddings today. The first one is most interesting. Look at the amount of sugar it contains!

Cheese Pudding.
Four eggs, one cupful of sugar, half a small cupful of grated Parmesan cheese, one cupful of flour, two teaspoonfuls of yeast-powder, one  pinch of salt, and one quart of milk. Bake half an hour; serve as soon as baked, and eat with hard sauce.
Los Angeles Cookery, by the Los Angeles Ladies' Aid Society, 1881

And few more variations on the cheese pudding theme for you:

To make pretty little Cheese-curd Puddings.
You must take a Gallon of Milk, and turn it with Runnet, then drain all the Curd from the Whey, put the Curd into a Mortar and beat it with half a Pound of fresh butter till the Butter and Curd are well-mixed; then beat six Eggs, half the Whites, and strain them to the Curd, two Naples Biscuits, or half a penny roll grated; mix all these together, and sweeten to your Palate; butter your Patty Pans, and fill them with the Ingredients. Bake them, but don’t let your Oven be too hot; when they are done, turn them out into a Dish, cut Citron and candied Orange-peel cut in long Slips, stick them here and there on the Tops of the Puddings, just as you fancy; pour melted Butter with a little Sack in it into the Dish, and throw fine Sugar all over the Puddings and Dish.  They make a pretty Side-dish.
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; by Hannah Glasse (1758 ed)

Grate Cheshire, or new rich Dunlop, or any mild melting cheese, in the proportion of a half-pound to two beat eggs, with a little oiled butter, cream, and a large tablespoonful of finely-grated bread. Bake in a small dish lined with puff-paste, or omit the paste, as in other puddings, at discretion.
Another, plainer and better. Grate the cheese; use but one egg, and melt the whole in a small saucepan with milk, or, if for a supper-relish, with ale or porter; use two tablespoonfuls of finely-sifted crumbs. Pour the mixture into a small buttered pudding-dish, and brown it in the Dutch oven. Made-mustard may be added.
The cook and housewife's manual, by Margaret Dods [Christian Isobel Johnstone],
1862 edn.

Cheese Pudding.
Take a quarter of a pound of excellent cheese; rich, but not strong or old. Cut it in small bits, and then beat it (a little at a time) in a marble mortar. Add a quarter of a pound of the best fresh butter. Cut it up, and pound it in the mortar with the cheese, till perfectly smooth and 'well mixed. Beat five eggs till very thick and smooth. Mix them, gradually, with the cheese and butter. Put the mixture into a deep dish with a rim. Have ready some puff-paste, and lay a broad border of it all round the edge, ornamenting it handsomely. Set it immediately into a moderate oven, and bake it till the paste is browned, and has risen very high all round the edge of the dish. Sift white sugar over it before it goes to table.
It is intended that the cheese taste shall predominate. But, if preferred, you may make the mixture very sweet by adding powdered sugar; it may be seasoned with nutmeg and mace. Either way is good.
It may be baked in small patty-pans, lined at the bottom and sides with puff-paste. Bemove them from the tins as soon as they come out of the oven, and place them on a large dish.
This pudding is very nice made of rich fresh cream cheese; the rind, of course, being pared off. Cream cheese pudding will require sugar and spice—that is, a heaped tea-spoonful of powdered nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon, all mixed; two ounces of fresh butter, and six eggs.

Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book (1857)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cake for Breakfast.

Once upon a time, before the advent of leavening agents such as baking powder, a ‘cake’ was essentially a sweetened, and often be-fruited, loaf of bread. At another once upon a time, ‘muffins’ were small,yeast-risen, bubbly, griddle-baked ‘cakes’ (in the sense of small lumps of something, as in a cake of soap.)  This latter form of muffin is sometimes still referred to as an ‘English muffin’ to differentiate it from a modern muffin, which is a cupcake without the frosting, and allows us to eat cake (in the modern sense of the word) for breakfast.

The concept of cake for breakfast is not new – only the style has changed over the centuries. I give you a random selection of historical ideas for breakfast cake, and hope you enjoy them:

An ordinary Breakfast Cake.
Rub a pound and a half of butter into half a peck of flower, three pounds of currants, half a pound of sugar, a quarter of an ounce of mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg together, a little salt, a pint and a half of warmed cream, or milk, a quarter of a pint of brandy, five eggs, a pint of good ale-yeast; mix it well together, bake it in a moderate oven. This cake will keep good a quarter of a year.
The Lady's Assistant for Regulating and Supplying her Table: being a complete system of cookery, containing one hundred and fifty select bills of fare, properly disposed for family dinners ... with upwards of fifty bills of fare for suppers ... and several desserts: including likewise, the fullest and choicest receipts of various kinds (1777) by Charlotte Mason.

Cakes, Bath Breakfast.
Rub into two pounds of flour half a pound of butter, and mix with it one pint of milk a little warmed, a quarter of a pint of fresh yeast, four well-beaten eggs, and a tea-spoonful of salt; Cover it, and let it stand before the fire to rise for three-quarters of an hour; make it into thick cakes about the size of the inside of a dinner plate; bake them in a quick oven, then cut them into three, that the middle slice, as also the top and bottom may be well buttered. Serve them very hot.
The Cook's Own Book (Boston, 1840) by Mrs. N.K.M.Lee

I am intrigued, that at a time when bread straight from the oven was considered by many to be an unhealthy choice, that several of these dishes were intended to be served hot.

The following rather similar idea sounds quite delicious too – although I have no idea of the authenticity of the reference to General Washington in this context.

General Washington’s Breakfast Cake.
Sift into a pan 1 lb. of flour, and put into the middle of it 2 oz. of butter warmed in a pint of milk, a small spoonful of salt, 3 well-beaten eggs and 3 tablespoonfuls of fresh yeast. Mix well and put in a square tin pan greased with butter. Cover it, and set in a warm place, and when very light, bake in a moderate oven. Send it to table hot, and eat it with butter.
Dwight’s American Magazine, 1845

And for contrast, a very no-frills version of the concept:-

Hommony Breakfast Cake.
Three spoonfuls of hommony, two of rice flour, a little milk, salt and butter. It must be stiff enough to bake in a pan.
The Carolina Housewife (1847)

And another, even more austere (but somewhat adaptable) version:-

Oatmeal Breakfast Cake.
Oatmeal makes a very tender breakfast cake, the most readily prepared of any thing we put into the oven. Wet oatmeal with water until it can be easily shaken down flat, pour one-half to three-fourths of an inch thick, and bake until the surface is slightly brown. It is not at all exacting in the amount of heat required. It is good with little, better with more, and not spoiled with quite a high degree, provided, of course, that it is not burned. It is, in fact, one of the most accommodating materials on the bread catalogue. In the first place, the amount of water used in wetting it up may be greatly varied. It may be wet up hard, spread out on a bread board and baked before the fire, as they say is often done in the isles of Scotia and Erin. Again, for a hasty bread with very little fire, it may be stirred stiff and baked on a griddle. The oatmeal flavor is not quite so marked as in the "mush," and most people like it on first trial. It can also be made up with wheat meal and with corn-meal, better with the latter, in proportions of one-third corn-meal to two-thirds of the oatmeal.
An experiment just tried demonstrates very prettily the accommodating nature of oatmeal. The meal was wet with cold water till two or three spoonfuls of the latter ran freely on the surface of the mixture. This batter was poured into a frying-pan to the depth of half an inch more or less, covered close, and set upon a stove just hot enough to bake it without burning. In fifteen minutes the cake was turned out, light, sweet, tender, with a deliciously crisp under-crust, and far more wholesome than a whole stack of griddle-cakes. This may seem hardly dignified enough for the ordinary family breakfast-table, though it needs nothing but custom to make it so; yet many a housewife will be glad to produce such a dish for the early breakfast of some friend who must hurry off to the train; and many an obstinate coal fire may be cheated out of its vexatious dilatoriness by thus putting the breakfast cake on the top of the stove instead of in the oven.
The Ladies' Repository (Cincinnati and New York, 1870) a monthly magazine produced
by the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Want some vegetables with that?

Squash Breakfast Cake.
One pint of sifted squash, one egg, a small cup of sugar, a piece of butter the size of an egg, two tablespoonfuls of yeast, and enough flour to mold up. Set to rise overnight. In the morning dissolve a teaspoonful of soda in a little water and put into the mixture; mold, and cut into biscuit. Let them rise, and bake fifteen minutes.
Los Angeles Cookery: Fort Street Methodist Episcopal Church (1881, Los Angeles, Calif.).

And as a final offering, from the unashamedly-entitled chapter ‘Fruit-Cake Breakfast’ in What to Get for Breakfast: with more than one hundred different breakfasts, and full directions for each (1882) I give you:-

Cherry Short Cake.

This delicious cake, when made in perfection, can hardly be surpassed, and meets with an especially warm reception among the juveniles, who always make a triumph over early rising when this cake is served for breakfast. To begin with, you must not use an acid cherry, however ripe. Only very sweet and very ripe ones will answer for this cake. These too, must be of the very best quality. Make a short cake as for strawberry, short cake in Breakfast No. 45. When the cake is baked, split and butter the inside of each half. Have the cherries stoned. Add them thickly and liberally to one half of the cake, sweeten to taste, and lay the other half on the top of the cherries. If you have two or more cakes, do not pile one on the other. Keep them separate, or they will be soggy. They look nicer when baked in Washington-pie plates, and cut pie fashion when served.