Friday, March 06, 2015

Unfashionable Food.

I think it is reassuring to note that food, and dining styles have been going in and out of fashion for some time, although perhaps not at such a rapid rate as they seem to be doing nowadays (kale, anyone?)

I came across the following piece in Cookery, rational, practical and economical, treated in connexion with the chemistry of food, by Hartelaw Reid (Edinburgh, 1853.)  It seemed a good idea to give you something from a Scottish source for a change. I was intrigued by the mention of the one-time Scots ‘fashion’ for serving cheese and ale or porter before the dessert.

Dinners:- The provision for each day's dinner, so as to combine economy with variety, is not the least important part of a housewife's duties. In a small family where no very extensive cooking is required, it is often a matter of some little difficulty to practise this combination. For roasting and boiling it is most economical to purchase the best pieces of meat: though perhaps a little dearer when bought, they will go further, and otherwise give more satisfaction. Such pieces are of course much too large to be consumed in one day by three or four persons, and therefore variety upon succeeding days must be sought in a different mode of cooking the remainder. Thus part of the remains of one day's roast may be prepared as English stew for the second day; more of it as a hash or ragout for the third; and for the fourth a French salad may be made if sufficient be left; or if not, the bones may be grilled as a devil for supper; after which these bones will still be useful for soup. In the same way a piece of boiled meat may also be all used up without waste, the liquor being on the second day made into a clear soup, which may afterwards be rewarmed with additional vegetables as a puree soup. Pease soup will keep for a week, and be improved by it. In summer, cold meat occasionally, either plain with pickles, or dressed as a salad, will be found more agreeable than hot meat every day. The cheaper parts of meat, though inferior for roasting or boiling, furnish excellent stews. A maigre dinner once or twice a-week, consisting either of fish, or soup and some kind of pudding, is both economical and healthful. The frequency of such, however, must be regulated by the habits of the consumers,—those engaged in sedentary in-door occupations being generally understood to require a larger proportion of animal food than others.
The arrangement of dishes upon the table is a matter of taste and convenience. The principal ones should be placed at the head and foot, to be dispensed by the master and mistress of the house; and the others, consisting of vegetables &c, arranged on the table symmetrically. The heavy work of carving ought certainly to be allotted to the master, although this is not always the custom. Before serving the dinner, the housewife should see that the table is properly furnished with its proper complement of knives and forks, napkins, glasses, bread, water, condiments, &c, as calling for these things afterwards, unpleasantly interrupts the order of dinner.
The number of courses will depend in some measure upon the number dining, and the "style" maintained in the house. The usual order of serving is—1st, Fish and Soup, which are "removed" by the larger roasts and boiled meats (hence called "Removes") and their appropriate vegetables; filling up the table if the company be large, with side dishes of smaller roasts of poultry etc, and a few made dishes ;—2d, Puddings and sweet fancy dishes of various kinds, jellies, tarts, and pies. At this stage also small game birds are introduced. Lastly comes the dessert, consisting of ripe, preserved, and dried fruits, cake, &c. Before removing the cloth for dessert, cheese, with bread and biscuit, may be served along with port or strong ale. This is an old Scotch custom now generally going out of fashion. All this is of course adapted for a large party. For three or four persons a selection from the above will be all that is requisite. The order of service above described is not altogether a mere regulation of fashion. There is a reason for it. The fish and soup being slightly stimulating, prepare the stomach for the more substantial and cloying roasts &c., after which the fruits and sweets come as a grateful relief to the palate.—
N.B. Hot plates should be provided for all hot meats.
Suppers.—As this meal should be light as compared with dinner, large hot roasts, &c., are of course inappropriate. The best hot dishes, where such are required, are tripe, or poultry, with potatoes,—broiled fish, devils, well-seasoned ragouts, hashes, fricassees, &c. Cold meats are however most generally preferred;—roasts left at dinner (if not too much cut up) meat pies, salads, cold fowls with ham or tongue, potted head, oysters, &c. These may be followed as at dinner by sweets, such as jellies, tarts, custards, fruit pies, &c., after which may come a dessert similar to that served at dinner.
Of course with regard to both dinners and suppers, good taste will dictate that the extent of the service should be so proportioned to the number of the company that there maybe enough, without unnecessary profusion Decorations consisting of either real or imitation fruits, or other eatables, not to be eaten, are symptoms of vulgarity not to be tolerated. Where elegance is aimed at, a vase of flowers in the centre of the table is an admissible and pleasing ornament.
Here, having concluded all we have to say on the choice and preparation of food, we are much disposed to pause, and say to our readers with at least as much sincerity as the Thane of old did to his guests, "May good digestion wait on appetite, and health on both;" but the custom of cookery-books compels us to say a few words on the art of carving, and on the periods of the year in which the various viands will be found in greatest perfection.

I had to find a thoroughly unfashionable recipe for the day for you, so here it is:

It has become unfashionable among first-rate cooks to put those egg-balls, formerly so common, into mock-turtle; but as they are still used by those of the old school, we here add their mode of preparation:-
Take out the yolks of some hard-boiled eggs, and beat them in a mortar with a very little salt and cayenne, and make them into a paste with the white of a raw egg. Roll the paste into balls not larger than marbles, put them into the soup, and boil for 10 minutes.

Murray's Modern Cookery Book: modern domestic cookery, by a lady (London, 1851)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that "those engaged in sedentary in-door occupations ... [are] generally understood to require a larger proportion of animal food than others." I would have thought it would be the other way around.