Friday, January 30, 2015

Food Fads and Fussy Eaters in 1762.

There is no doubt that articles about food fads and food fears make up a huge part of the massive volume of food writing which fills up our magazines and tries desperately to fill up cyberspace. They are not new issues however, nor is the nuisance of the fussy eater in our lives (every family has one.) An article written in 1762 in the English periodical the St. James' Chronicle shows that the host and his guests had to cope with these problems too. The article is quoted in The Market Assistant, (New York, 1867) by Thomas F. de Voe.

An amusing article on diet, written above one hundred years ago, is found in a London paper called "St. James' Chronicle," dated November 6, 1762, and thus reads:

“There is no affectation more ridiculous than the antipathies which many whimsical people entertain with respect to diet. One will swoon at a Breast of Veal; another can't bear the sight of a Sucking-pig; and another owes as great a grudge to a Shoulder of Mutton as Petruchio, in the farce.
How often does it happen in company that we are debarred of a necessary ingredient in a salad because somebody, forsooth, cannot touch oil! And what a rout is made, whisking away the cheese off the table, without our being suffered to have a morsel of this grand digester, if any one should happen to declare his dislike to it!
''There are others of an equally fantastic disposition, who, as we may say, choose to quarrel with their bread and butter. These are eternally suspicious that their food is not sweet. They bring their plates up to their noses, or their noses down to their plates, at every thing that is put upon them. Their stomachs are so delicately nice that they descry a fault in all they eat. The fish is stale, the mutton is rank, or the suet in the pudding is musty. I have an aunt who almost starves herself on account of her squeamishness in this particular. At one time she is sure the sheep died of the rot; at another the pork is measly; and she would not touch a bit of beef all the time of the distemper among the homed cattle. Veal she detests, because, she says, it is well known the Butchers blow it up with their nasty breath; besides, the Calves have brine given them to make their flesh white. She used to declare House-Lamb to be the only wholesome food, because the innocent creatures were fed with nothing but their mother's milk; but she has lately
taken disgust to this likewise, since she has been told that some rascally butchers keep large mastiff-bitches on purpose for their Lambs to suck.”

If you have a fussy, but lamb-loving relative, and you can be convinced that no dogs have been involved in its rearing, you may find the following recipes from  Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1784 ed.) useful.

House-Lamb [to roast]
If a large fore-quarter, an hour and a half; if a small one, an hour. The outside must be papered, basted with good butter, and you must have a very quick fire. If a leg, about three quarters of an hour; a neck, a breast, or shoulder, three quarters of an hour; if very small, half an hour will do.

To boil Fowls and House-lamb.

Fowls and house-lamb boil in a pot by themselves, in a good deal of water, and if any scum arises, take it off. They will be both sweeter and whiter than if boiled in a cloth. A little chicken will be done in fifteen minutes, a large chicken in twenty minutes, a good fowl in half an hour, a little turkey or goose in an hour, and a large turkey in an hour and a half.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rissables, Cheesikins, and Peripatetic Pudding: recipes from 1870.

I admit it. I am a bit of a sucker for dishes with amusing names. I am pretty convinced that a dish by a fun name does not taste the same, but better. I am, therefore, a bit prone to skimming the indexes of old cookery books that I find online, and hoping that something interesting will jump out at me.

Recently I had reason to skim the index to the very comprehensive work The Godey's Lady's Book Receipts and Household Hints by Sarah Annie Frost, published in Philadelphia in 1870. I have chosen three treats from it for you today.

Below several recipes for ordinary, everyday, uninspiring rissoles was this:

Rissables are made with veal and ham, chopped very fine, or pounded lightly; add a few bread crumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and a little parsley and lemon-peel; mix all together with the yelks of eggs, well beaten; either roll them into shape like a flat sausage, or into the shape of pears, sticking a bit of horseradish in the ends to resemble the stalks. Egg each over, and grate bread crumbs. Fry them brown, and serve on crisp-fried parsley.

And further along was this variation on theme of cheese biscuits:

Quarter pound of stale bread, quarter pound of cheese, two ounces of butter, two eggs, a teaspoonful of mustard flour, half a teaspoonful of pepper, a few grains of Cayenne. Rub the bread into fine crumbs, grate the cheese, melt the butter, and mix with the rest of the ingredients, and the eggs, which should be previously beaten. Let the mixture stand for about an hour, and then knead it into a paste, roll it out very thin, cut into small pieces, and bake in a quick oven. Time, about fifteen or sixteen minutes.

And a marmalade pudding – a sort of hot trifle - with a most intriguing name. I suppose it is meant to be eaten while walking around and thinking philosophical thoughts..

Peripatetic Pudding.

Six sponge cakes, six eggs, a quarter of a pound of sifted sugar, half a pound of fresh butte, half a pound of marmalade, two glasses of sweet wine. Well mix these ingredients, paper the tin, and bake it about half an hour.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Things to do with Sorghum.

I came across an interesting set of recipes for sorghum flour recently, and as it was (is) a bit of a mystery to me, I decided to share the details with you in the hope that you will share your knowledge of it in return.

First, let us remember that there are many varieties of sorghum, and in the past it has gone by many different names, some less politically-correct than others:

Chinese sugarcane
Egyptian corn
Indian millet
Kaffir corn
Negro corn
Rice corn
Tennessee rice.

These local names notwithstanding, sorghum is neither millet nor corn (maize). It consists of a genus of grasses with about 30 species with a variety of uses as grain, fodder, a source of syrup (molasses), alcohol (including bio-fuel). It has also been used as a coffee and drinking-chocolate substitute. All of these varieties collectively represent the fifth most important cereal crop in the world.

There was a great interest in growing sorghum in the colony of Australia in the nineteenth century, and agricultural journals gave its cultivation a great deal of space. The recipes I mentioned at the beginning of this post appeared in the Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW) of 30 September, 1871. There were over a dozen recipes in all, and they are quite minimalist by today’s standard, with a high level of assumed  knowledge in basic cooking methods. Here is my selection for today:

Sorghum Cookery.
As the cultivation of Sorgum is likely to be somewhat extensively engaged in shortly in more than one district of this colony, our lady friends will probably be glad to peruse the following receips for Sorghum Cookery.

Coffee Cake. – One pound of sorghum flour, two large cups of sorghum syrup, one-half pound of butter, four eggs, one cup of strong liquid coffee, one pound of chopped raisins, one teaspoonful soda, one tablespoonful of ground cloves – put the soda and cloves into the coffee.

Gingerbread. – One quart of sorghum flour, quarter pound of lard, one ounce of saleratus, one cup of buttermilk, tablespoonful of ginger, a little salt; soak the saleratus over night in the milk – mix soft.

Drop Cakes.- One cup sorghum, one cup lukewarm water, one half-cup shortening, one teaspoonful soda, one of cream of tartar, flour to make a stiff batter; spice to your taste; drop on buttered tins.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kangaroo Tail Soup on the Menu.

Much of the early exploration of Australia was driven by the search for a great “inland sea” which was believed (fervently hoped) to exist, and, once found, could be used to mitigate against the terrible cycles of drought and allow opening up and irrigation of new grazing and farm land. Sadly, there was no inland sea, the centre of the continent demonstrated only its vast dead heart.

Explorer Charles Napier Sturt (1795 – 1869) was one of those who sought the inland sea. In the course of his expeditions into the often harsh interior he traced the course of several waterways  which ultimately proved to drain into the mighty Murray river. In 1951, a group of enthusiasts re-enacted part of his river voyage – which brings us to our food story for the day. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW) of 17 January 1951 reported on the progress of the group:

Kangaroo Soup for Sturt Party.
The crew of the whaleboat re-enacting Sturt’s voyage down the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers had an all-Australian meal today.
The meal consisted of kangaroo tail soup, kangaroo tails rolled in emu eggs, Murray cod and wild duck.
After 10 days of tough rowing, the expedition today reached the small townships of Euston and Robinvale,  on the Murray River, 700 miles from the Murray mouth.
The whaleboat, manned by six army officers and two actors, left Meilman Station early this morning and battled all day against a sluggish river and a strong wind. The small sail which the crew set up yesterday was useless against the strong wind today.

The point of this story of course is to give me an excuse, in this Australia Day week, to give you the recipe for an iconic, but rare, Australian dish:

Kangaroo Tail Soup.
Ingredients.- 1 tail, 2 lbs. gravy beef, 2 carrots, 2 turnips, 1 head of celery, bunch herbs, 1 piece ginger, 6 cloves, 1 lump of sugar, a small lemon, 2 oz. bacon, 2 quarts of water, 1 glass of port wine, and flour.
Method.- Wash and dry the tail, cut it into small pieces and put into the saucepan with the beef cut small. Add pepper and salt, ½ the vegetables cut up roughly, herbs, sugar, bacon, and seasoning; cook for two hours, then strain. Add the remainder of vegetables, cut up finely, juice of half a lemon. Simmer gently until vegetables are soft, thicken with flour and cook for two minutes; add wine and serve with small pieces of tail cut into dice in it.
Great Southern Herald (Katanning, WA) 4 September 1909

As for the famous Murray cod – it is deserving of its own post sometime in the future.

Monday, January 26, 2015

An Australian Meat Dinner (1875)

Today, for those of you outside the continent who may not know, is our official national day here in Australia. The day commemorates the date in 1788 that the first fleet of ships carrying convicts from Britain sailed into Sydney Cove, and the country was formally claimed for Britain by Captain Phillip – without (as per the usual method of imperial nations of the time) the indigenous inhabitants of the continent being included in the new ownership decision.  The debate about the appropriateness of celebrating the day of invasion and colonization will hopefully be settled by consensus before too many more decades are past, even if this requires re-naming of the day (‘First Fleet Day’?) or perhaps the choice of another day altogether.

My mission on this blog is not to wax political but is simply to give you some insights into how the day has been celebrated in the past and how the Australian colonial experience was perceived in the Mother Country, and also from time to time to give you some ‘Australian’ recipes and food stories. 

In the middle of the nineteenth century there was a shortage of meat in Britain and Europe for a variety of reasons (see the first link, below).  Luckily there was no shortage in the colony of Australia, to which free settlers had been lured with the promise of “meat three times a day” – an unheard of luxury to the working class in Victorian Britain. The obvious opportunity was seized by some of the movers and shakers in the far south land, and in 1865 the Australian Meat Company was established, with a head office in London, eager graziers and farmers throughout the land Down Under, and a large-scale canning operation in the state of South Australia. Canned Australian meat was, however, not met with overwhelming delight amongst the working classes of the mother country (to whom it was targeted), despite the enthusiastic efforts of the promoters.

Many ‘Australian Meat Dinners’ were held in London over the second half of the nineteenth century to promote the product, and these were often reported with interest in local colonial newspapers. One such dinner was described in the Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld.) of 13 February 1875 :

The Australian Meat Agency, Cannon-street, London, who has recently given a series of Australian meat dinners to representative men, gave one at the Guildhall Assembly Room, under the auspices of the Walsall Trades' Council, by whom a gathering of 200, chiefly working men and their wives, had been got together.

... The bill of fare comprised boiled beef, spring lamb, seasoned beef, minced collops, vegetables, pickles, tea, and water.
The meats were served cold, in order that they might be subject to the severest test possible. In commencing the proceedings the chairman said that Mr. Tallerman would show them first how properly to open these tins of preserved meat, and this that gentleman at once proceeded to do. Holding the tin bottom upwards, over a plate, the splendid provision slipped on to the plate as easily and as perfect as if simply turned out of a mould, while loud applause proved at once the looseness with which he had been watched and the spectators' admiration. He cut it down the centre and it stood on the plate, and laying the two halves flat sides downwards proceeded to cut off thin and appetizing slices which looked as well as those which might have been cut off a cold joint.

… The gusto with which the particularly fine meat then handed round was discussed fully testified its merit, and indeed it is not too much to say that the samples set on the table evening were equal to any English meat out from the same part of the beast. Had all that has been imported from Australia been of equal quality there would not now have been any necessity for Mr. Tallerman to be perambulating the country prosecuting a vigorous war against prejudice. If, as is stated to be the fact, the meats served on Wednesday are simply the ordinary meats imported by Mr.Tallerman’s company (and indeed, as the tins were opened there and then it is almost impossible but that they were),there is little doubt that prejudice will rapidly be dissipated, and Mr. Tallerman and his supporters will deserve the ample return which their enterprise and public spirit will have won for them. All the meat was of high class but the minced collops were the perfection of a savoury and tasty dish, and will form a wonderful addition to the many delicious little tit-bits provided for breakfasts or for meat teas.

Mr. Tallerman spoke at some length on the Australian meats. He mentioned the enormous quantity now brought into this country, about 16,000 tons 'annually, and observed that it came in no less than ninety-two different forms. He asked the working people who tried it, to compare it with other cold meats of the same description, and urged that it would be found, not a substitute for, but an admirable addition to, the present meat supply. He dwelt upon its cheapness when compared with fresh meat, maintaining that in a leg of mutton, of ten pounds, at 10d. or 11d. a pound, the loss in cooking would be about 2 lbs.,which, after deducting the bones would only leave about 4 lbs. of cooked meat. This cooked meat would have cost by the time it was eaten about Is. 6d. a pound, while that from Australia was only some 6d. or 7d. a pound when it had been cooked. He also commented upon the advantage it had in many parts of the country from not requiring anything more than a few sticks to heat it and make it ready for table as a hot dish, by that means saving the very costly article of fuel, and concluded by thanking all for their attendance, and the patience with which they had heard him.

… The Chairman called on Mr. Hodgson, who, he said, had been one of the first in Australia to boil down sheep for their tallow, to second the motion.
Mr. Hodgson did so in a long and humorous speech, in the course of which he mentioned that he had twenty-five years previously given a lecture on Australia to a Walsall audience, at the request of his friend, Lord Hatherton, then Colonel Littleton. He explained the large surplus of cattle and sheep that existed in Australia, and pointed out that they were descended from picked English cattle. He was not the first, but the second, to boil down sheep in Australia for their fat, but now he thought they found a better use for them. He gave several anecdotes in relation to the use of the meat, and the admiration with which it was spoken of by prejudiced persons when they did not know what they were eating, and concluded in the words of Shakespeare by wishing ‘may good digestion wait on appetite, and health on both,’ to the company generally.

The enormously popular Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery (London, c. 1870) had an entire section devoted to “Tinned Meats, Australian.” At one time I promised to eventually transcribe all of these for your edification and delight, but I seem to have lapsed in that regard.  I offer you a couple today, but first, let me repeat the opening remarks in the chapter:

Tinned Meat, Australian.
The following original recipes (one hundred in number) are the result of several years’ experience in the use of Australian tinned meats. Against these considerable prejudice exists, owing to a great extent, to the fact that few know how to cook them properly. If the recipes, here given, however, are followed, it will be found easy, even for a cook of moderate abilities, to prepare from Australian meats a succession of tasty as well as digestible and nourishing dishes.

I have chosen recipes number 11 and 12 for you today, for no better reason that they call simply for ‘minced Australian,’ which amuses me.

Make a crust of one pound of flour, a quarter of a pound of bread-crumbs, half a pound of rolled and rubbed suet, one tea-spoonful of baking powder, and water sufficient to make it into not too stiff a paste. Roll it out half an inch thick, and spread over it a layer of minced Australian seasoned with pepper and salt, one shallot finely minced, and a quarter of a pound of minced ham or bacon, all mixed thoroughly together. Let this be spread upon the paste, half an inch thick, then roll up as for a jam roll, tie in a wetted and floured cloth, then boil one hour and a half; turn out, garnish with parsley, and serve thick brown gravy over the pudding.

Mix well together one pound of flour, half a pound of bread-crumbs, one tea-spoonful of baking powder, one pound of minced Australian, a quarter of a pound of chopped ham or good bacon, pepper, salt and nutmeg to season, a quarter of a pound of rolled and rubbed suet, two eggs well beaten, and half a pint of milk. Have ready a buttered pudding-basin, pour in the mixture, cover with a wetted and floured cloth, tie down tightly, and boil one hour and a quarter. Serve with rich brown gravy round it.

Previous Australia Day and related posts:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Of the Diet and Liquors of Kamtchatka: 1794.

As you know, I love a good traveller’s food tale, and I have a very interesting one for you today. The information comes from an article in The Universal Magazine, Vol. 34 (London, 1794) which gives the following introduction:

A History of Kamtchatkca, the North-east boundary of Asia, having been published at Peterburg, in the Russian  language, by order of her Imperial Majesty ….. and we take this opportunity to lay before our Readers some Extracts from it, which will appear more curious and entertaining, as furnishing a true Idea of a Country and People Europeans never yet had a proper Knowledge of.

I had to look it up: the Kamchatka Peninsula is in the Russian Far East between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk - a wild and far-away place for European visitors, who must have been very scarce in the late eighteenth century.
I have made a further extract from the Universal Magazine extract, focusing of course on the food-relevant information:-

Of their Diet and Liquors, together with their Method of Cooking.
Having already mentioned that the food of the Kamtschadales consists in roots, fish, and sea animals, we shall now relate their method of dressing them. And, first, we will begin with the fish, which they use instead of bread. The principal food, called Yokola, is prepared from every sort of fish, and serves them them for houshold bread. They divide their fish into six parts; the sides and tall are hung up to dry, the back and thinner part of the belly are prepared apart, and generally dried over the site; the head is laid to sour in pits, and then they eat it like saltfish, and esteem it much, though the stink is such that a stranger cannot bear it; the ribs and the flesh which remain upon them they hang up and dry, and afterwards pound them for use; the larger bones they likewise dry for food for their dogs : In this manner all these different people prepare the yokola, and they eat it for the most part dry.
Their second favourite food is caviar, or the roes of fish, which they prepare in three different ways; they dry the roe whole in the air, or take it out of the skin which invelopes it, and, spreading it upon a bed of grass, dry it before the fire; or, lastly, make rolls of it with the leaves of grass, which they also dry. They never take a journey or go a hunting without dry caviar; and, if a Kamtschadale has a pound of this, he can subsist without any other provision a great while; for every birch and alder tree furnishes him with bark, which, with his dried caviar, makes him an agreeable meal; but they cannot eat either separately, for the caviar sticks like glue to the teeth, and the bark, although it should be chewed ever so long by itself, they are hardly ever able to swallow down alone. There is still a fourth method, which both the Kamtschadales and Koreki use in preparing their caviar; having covered the bottom of a pit with grass, they throw the fresh caviar into it, and leave it there to grow sour. The Koreki tie theirs in bags, and leave it to sour; this is esteemed their most delicate dish.
There is a third sort of diet, called by the Kamtschadales tchupriki, which is prepared in this manner: In their huts, over the fire- place they make a bridge of stakes, upon which they lay a heap of fish, which remains there till the hut becomes as warm as a bagnio; if there was no great thickness of fish, one fire would serve to dress it; but sometimes they are obliged to make two, three, or more fires. Fish dressed in this manner is half roasted, half smoked, and has a very agreeable taste, and may be reckoned the best of all the Karmsthatka cookery ; for the whole juice and fat is prepared with a gradual heat, and kept in by the skin, in which it lies as in a bag, and, when ready, may be easily separated from the fish; as soon as it is thus dressed, they take out the guts, and spread the body upon a mat to dry ; this they afterwards break small, and put into bags, carrying it along with them for provision; and, when dried, eat it like the yokola.
The Kamtschadales have a dish, which they esteem very much, called huigul: It is fish laid to grow sour in pits; and, though the smell of it is intolerable, yet the Kamtschadales esteem it a perfume. This fish sometimes rots so much in the pits, that they cannot take it out without ladles; however, in that cafe they use it for feeding their dogs.
Mr. Steller fays, that in summer the Samojeds likewise sour their fish, but that the earth, being frozen, preserves it much better; the Jakutski also dig deep pits, in which they lay their fish, sprinkling it with wood-ashes, and cover it with leaves at top, and over all put a layer of earth: This method is better than any of the former. The Tungofi and Cossacs of Ochotska preserve their fish in the same manner, with this difference only, that, instead of wood-ashes, they use the ashes of burnt sea-weed. They boil their fresh fish in troughs, take it out with boards, and, letting it cool, eat it with a soup made of the sweet grass.
As for the flesh of land and sea animals, they boil it in their troughs, with several different herbs and roots; the broth they drink out of ladles and bowls, and the meat they take out upon boards, and eat in their hands. The whale and sea horse fat they also boil with roots.
There is a principal dish at all their feasts and entertainments, called selaga, which they make by pounding all sorts of different roots and berries, with the addition of caviar, and whale and seals fat.
Before the conquest, they seldom used any thing for drink but water; but, when they made merry, they drank water which had stood some time upon mushrooms. At present they drink spirits as fast as the Russians: After dinner they drink water; and every one, when he goes to bed at night, sets a vessel of water by him, to which he puts snow or ice to keep it cold, and always drinks it up before morning. In the winter-time, they amuse themselves frequently by throwing handfuls of snow into their mouths; and the bridegrooms, who work with the fathers of their future brides, find it their hardest task to provide snow for their family in the summer-time, for they must bring it from the highest hills, be the weather what it will, otherwise they would so disoblige as never to be forgiven.

I am most intrigued by the merry drink made from ‘water which had stood some time upon mushrooms.’ Is this some sort of psycho-active mushroom juice? I would love some local knowledge here, so if you have some, please let us all know via the comments.
As the recipe for the day, I give you an English version of sour (although unfermented) fish from a cookery book of the time.

To Pickle Salmon.
Take two quarts of good vinegar, half an ounce of black pepper, and as much Jamaica pepper; cloves and mace, of each a quarter of an ounce, near a pound of salt; bruise the spice grossly, and put all these to a small quantity of water, put just enough to cover your fish; cut the fish round, three or four pieces, according to the size of the salmon, and when the liquor boils, put in your fish, boil it well, then take the fish out of the pickle and let it cool; and when it is cold, put your fish into the barrel or stein you keep it in, strewing some spice and bay-leaves between every piece of fish; let the pickle cool, and skim off the fat, and when the pickle is quite cold pour it on your fish, and cover it very close.
The London Cook, Or the Whole Art of Cookery Made Easy and Familiar

(London, 1762) by William Gelleroy

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Planning for Burns' Night

It is only a few nights until the annual celebration of the birth of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, on January 25, 1759. I thought that I would give you an “on this day” menu several days in advance this time, to allow you time to prepare, should you wish to re-enact a spectacular nineteenth century dinner. You will need plenty of time to plan the meal I have for you today, believe  me!

Those of you with Scottish heritage, or wish you had, or are Scotophiles (is that even a word?) will need no reminding of the significance of this great event. For the rest of you, I explained the traditional rituals  and food of Burns’ Night in a story several years ago called And so the Lord be thankit.

Today I want to show you how the night was celebrated in New York in 1869. The event took place at the Metropolitan Hotel, and the lucky guests sat down to a fine feast indeed. Or did they?

At the Metropolitan Hotel, Monday, January 25th, 1869.

Oysters On Half Shell.
Scotch Broth, with barley

Boiled Salmon, a la Macgregor.

Leg of Mutton, a la Wallace.                Tenderloin, larded, a la Manhattan.
Capon, a l'Ecossaise.               Turkey, giblet sauce.
Calf's Head, tomato sauce.                  Ham, glace, au champagne.
Buffalo Tongue.          Goose, apple sauce.

Robert Burns, sur le Globe, en Galantine.
Terrine de Foies Gras, historie
Chaudfroix, metamorphose.
Gros Pate de Gibier, aux truffes.
Brochette sur pout, au beurre de Montpellier.
Les Jambonneaux de de Volaille, a la Queen Mary.
Les Ballotine de Lievre.

Turban of Fillet of Grouse, a la perigueux.
Sweetbreads, en pannier, aux petits pois.
Epigramme d’Agneaux, a la Soubise.
Terrapin, en caisse, a la Metropolitane.
Small Croustade, a la Montglas.
Timbale of Macaroni.
Boudin of Chicken.
Aspic d'Homard.
Punch, a la Romaine.
Canvass Back Duck.                Broiled Quail, on toast.
Saddle of Venison.                  Partridge, barde.

Boiled and Mashed Potatoes.               Cream Spinach.
Baked Sweet Potatoes.                         Fried Parsnips.
Mashed Turnips.                      Stewed Tomatoes.
Boiled Rice.

Pyramid of Honor to Robert Burns.                 Representation of the Union.
Group of Poetical Designs.                  Grand Nougat Lyre, mounted.
National Sea Side Salute.                     Transparent Pyramid, a la cactus.
Rose Bush, a la natural.                                   Bon-Bon Basket, on scrolls.
Floral Cornucopia, mounted.                           Variety Pyramid, Indian style.

Caledonia Pudding, champagne sauce.                        Ornamented Charlotte Russe, a la vanille.
Apple, Orange, Mince, Cocoanut Pies.                                    Gateaux, au creme, a l'Edinburgh.
Fancy Hock Wine Jelly.                                   Cheese, a la Napolitaine.
Champagne Jelly.                                Sherry Wine Jelly.
Fancy Confectionery.                          Vanilla Ice Cream.
Fruits and Coffee.
[Poor Burns! how he would have enjoyed such a dinner.]

The wine list supplied by the Metropolitan Hotel was in every way as impressive as the bill of fare, and it was surely a great night.

But no haggis?!  The absence of the dish itself would surely have had Mr. Burns turning in his grave on this night. And by definition therefore, the ceremony of piping in the haggis – surely the high point and rationale for the whole evening – would also have been missing. Keep turning, Mr. Burns, keep turning.

As my protest against the lack of tradition on this traditional night in 1869, I eschew the concept of American-Scottish food, and give you a contemporary recipe for a sweet-savoury  Italo-French-Anglo dish of Timbale of Macaroni:

Decorate a plain mould with some nouilles-paste mixed with a little sugar; then line the mould with some thin strips of fine short-paste, which must be placed exactly in the same manner as when lining a charlotte-mould with bread; fill the timbale with flour; cover it in with some of the paste, and bake it for about one hour; it must then be again emptied; and all the flour brushed out with a paste-brush, put back into the mould, and kept in the screen until wanted. While the timbale is being made, parboil half a pound of Naples macaroni in water for about a quarter of an hour, then drain it on a sieve, and afterwards put it into a stewpan with a pat of butter, a pint of milk, and the same quantity of cream, four ounces of sugar, a stick of vanilla, and very little salt; then set the macaroni to boil very gently over a slow fire until it is thoroughly done, by which time the macaroni will have entirely absorbed the milk, &c.; then add about one ounce of grated Parmesan cheese; toss the whole well together over the fire; remove the stick of vanilla, and fill the timbale with the macaroni; then turn it out of the mould on to its dish; shake over it some finely-pounded sugar; glaze it with the hot salamander, and send to table.

The Cook’s Guide, by Charles Elmé Francatelli (London, 1864)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Soldiers' Rations in 1888

I know that many of you are interested in military history, and I assume, as you are reading this blog, that you are interested in food history. From time to time I try to combine the two interests and give you something with a military food flavour. Today I am going to give you a short extract from an extremely comprehensive chapter on soldiers’ rations which I found in The Nineteenth Century: a monthly review (New York, 1888.)

The introductory sentiments are just as relevant, I think, as they were over a hundred years ago:

Pending the millennium, no public servant can have a more valid claim on the consideration of a self-respecting nation than the soldier who offers his life in the defence of its honour and its position. As he justly merits, so for many reasons he stands in especial need of a full measure of the national regard. He has surrendered to us his volition; he has consented to lie down and to rise up, to eat and be clothed, according to the rules we have made for him; at our behest he accepts the ‘route’ for the rice swamps of the Irrawady, or the arid sands of the Soudan; he is ours without a murmur to march at the word straight into the face of death. The civilian public servant may resign at short notice if his servant irks him, or if the chance offers to better himself: the soldier must ‘put in’ his term to the hour and minute, and is punished as a deserter if he violates this obligation. We may be unable to bring it about that the soldier shall be wholly contented with his lot; indeed, that would be a cruelty, since he would thus lose that most prized of his simple joys, the occasion for a harmless grumble; but we owe it as well to ourselves as to him that the conditions of his life should be as satisfactory as circumstances will permit. He certainly deserves it at our hands that he should be adequately fed; and our own interest is concerned in caring that this is done, for the double reason that proper feeding contributes to his efficiency as a fighting man, and that a general impression that a soldier has to put up with semi-starvation must have its effect in checking enlistment. Of late there has been a good deal of writing in the press calculated to spread that impression; and although there has been no supporting voice from the ranks, the flow of recruits has been somewhat damaged.

There follows, as I said, an extremely detailed analysis of military rations. I thought the following comparison of the rations of soldiers in various countries was quite interesting:

…. under good administration, the weight of the soldiers’ rations in dry solids need never be less than 3 ½ lbs. per day, of which 6 oz. is butcher meat cooked. How his nourishment compares, or rather it should be said, contrasts, with that of the soldier in other countries, a few figures will make manifest. In every instance the ration of meat is taken as uncooked with bone.

lbs.  ozs.  drs.
BRITISH soldier: Government Ration – meat, 12 oz.; bread, 1 lb.; ‘messing’ – tea-bread, 8 oz; vegetables and miscellaneous, 1 lb. 10 oz; sugar, 2 oz; salt, 1 oz.; tea, 2 ⅔ drams; coffee, 5 ⅓ drachms; milk, 2 oz. 8 drams.
4      4     0
FRENCH soldier: Bread, 1 lb. 5 oz. 14 drams; biscuit, 3 oz. 3 drams; meat, 10 oz. 9 drams; coffee, 1 ⅜ dram; sugar, 1 ⅜ dram; and 20 centimes of pay spent in additional coffee and sugar, bread, &c (= 1 lb.)
3       3     12 ¾
GERMAN soldier: Peace ration involved and variable, so war field ration given, materially exceeding peace ration. Bread, 1 lb. 9 oz. 8 drams; meat, 12 ½ oz.; rice or groats, 4 ½ oz.; salt, ⅞ oz.; coffee, ⅞ oz.
2       12      4
AMERICAN (U.S) soldier: Meat, 1 ¼ lg.; bread, 1 lb. 3 oz; sugar, 1 oz.4 ½ drams; coffee 10 ¼ drams; beans, 2 oz. 14 drams; salt, 14 drams.
2      12      10 ¾

RUSSIAN soldier: Meat, 3 oz.; flour, 2 lb. ¾ oz; tea, 2 drams; sugar, 5 ½ drams; groats, 5 oz.; salt, 1 oz.
2        10        3 ½

There are no recipes as such in the article, and I suspect that most of the time the style and standard of cooking was as far from haute cuisine as one can get. By the first decades of the twentieth century however we have the Manual for Army Cooks, (Military Publishing Company, New York, 1916.)  I thought the following recipe sounds quite delicious, although one clove of garlic to 65 pounds of meat sounds rather ineffectual!

Sausage pork, 65-pound mixture.
Ingredients used:
40 pounds pork.
25 pounds beef.
1 ½ pounds salt.
6 oz. black pepper.
1 ounce coriander.
1 ½ ounce sage
1 pint vinegar.
1 clove garlic.

Dice the pork in 1 ½ inch squares. Grind the beef and mix with the pork, add seasoning and mix well; then grind again. The more thoroughly the sausage is mixed, the better it will be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cauliflower on the 18th Century Menu.

Yesterday I gave you the bill of fare for a dinner held by members of the Royal Society of London. The dish which I featured was for Stoved (Stewed) Eels, but there was one other item on this bill of fare which is deserving of a little extra attention. It was most unusual at the time for a vegetable dish to be given specific mention on a menu, but at the dinner in 1774 there was a dish of ‘Greens and Collyflower.”

Cauliflower is simply one of the cultivated varieties of the cabbage (Brassica oleracea) as are Brussels sprouts and broccoli. In the case of the cauliflower of course it is the flowering head (which is usually white) which is eaten, rather than the leaves.

The cauliflower was cultivated in Italy in the sixteenth century from where it made its way to France, and then the rest of Europe and Britain. The first reference given in the Oxford English Dictionary is from John Gerard’s Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, first published in 1597. Gerard says, in his chapter on Coleworts:

ColeFlorie, or after some Coliflorie, hath many large leaves sleightly endented about the edges, of a whitish greene colour, narrower and sharper pointed then Cabbage: in the middest of which leaves riseth up a great white head of hard flowers closely thrust together, with a roote full of strings: in other partes like unto the Colewoorts.

The picture of a cauliflower which accompanies Gerard’s text shows a plant with a much smaller flower head relative to the volume of leaves than occurs in a modern cauliflower – which is testament to the efforts of generations of horticulturalists since the sixteenth century.
The first reference to cauliflower on a menu that I have found to date is in the correspondence of
Mary Granville (Mrs. Delaney,) the aristocratic English artist. On 7th June, 1734 she wrote:

To-day I am to have to dine with me Sir John Stanley, Lord Percival, Mr. and Mrs. Percival: they are to have for dinner, imprimis, boiled leg of lamb and loin fried, collyflowers and carrots; beef-steaks; secondly, roast chicken, artichokes and lampreys, cherry pie; thirdly, jelly, strawberries, cream, and cherries.

Yesterday’s recipe source was Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy published in 1747. Glasse mentions cauliflower as an ingredient in a few of her made dishes, but not as a stand-alone dish. Elizabeth Raffald however, a couple of decades later in another eighteenth century classed, The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769) gives a very basic recipe:

To Boil a Cauliflower.
Wash and clean your cauliflower, boil it in plenty of milk and water (but no salt) till it be tender. When you dish it up lay greens under it, pour over a good melted butter and send it up hot.

She also has a fine recipe for pickling – perhaps suggesting that the vegetable was much more common and available than it had been only a few decades before.

To pickle Cauliflowers.

Take the closest and whitest cauliflowers you can get, pull them hi bunches, spread them on an earthen dish, and lay salt all over them. Let them stand for three days, to bring out all the water; then put them in earthen jars, and pour boiling salt and water upon them: let them stand all night, and then drain them on a hair-sieve. Put them into glass jars , fill up the jars with distilled vinegar, and tie them close down with leather.