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. 


tess said...

thanks for calling my attention to this interesting book! my own copy is safely downloaded, and i look forward to having leisure to peruse it properly! :-)

Anonymous said...

I find myself quite curious what he means by "ancestral breakfasts." I wonder if it would be similar to today's "paleo" diet?

Imagica said...

Oh please, please- what is an 'Ancestral Breakfast'?

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Sandra and Imagica. The author meant the sort of breakfasts that the Forefathers and early settlers would have eaten (or so he supposed) - including hominy, Johnny cakes, scrapple, rye muffins, pandowdy ....
Fun, but hardly hard-core food history!
Maybe I will post some of his ideas next week?