Monday, November 30, 2015

St. Andrew’s Day Dinner (1929).

Today is the national day of Scotland – the feast day of the patron saint of the country, St. Andrew the apostle. The day is celebrated around the world by those with Scottish heritage, including the good folk of Dunedin at the south-east tip of the South Island of New Zealand.  In 1929 the good men of the Dunedin Burns Club enjoyed a fine dinner which was reported in great (if somewhat inscrutable) detail in an Australian newspaper, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.):-

St.Andrew’s Day Dinner
Dunedin Burns Club Menu
At the St. Andrew’s Day dinner held on November 30 under the auspices of the Dunedin Burns Club, the following menu card was placed before the members:

“Some hae meat and canna’eas,
An’ some wud eat than want it,
But we hae meat an’ we can eat –
So let the Lord be thankit.”


Soups: Sheep’s heid kail, cockie-leekie, hen bree. An’ a dram.
Fish: [unreadable word] saumon, troots, tawties an’ herrin’. Another dram.
Haggis, wi’ a’ the honours:

“Fair fa’ your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ he puddin’ race!’
Si a gran’ nicht we’re haein’. We’ll hae anither mouthfu’.

Joints: Sautit soo’s leg biled, giggots o’ mutton roastit, peas, ingans, tawties biled an’ champit, bashed neeps, an’ ither orra vegetables. Anither dram.
Entrees and Orra Dishes: Roast bubbly jocks, stuffed, roastit jucks, stooed hens, doo pie, trum in tam. Hech! Anither tastin’.
Dessert and Siclike: Grozzel tairt, aiple tairt, rhubarb tairt, baps, ait caik in farls, bakes, parleys, curran’ laif wi’ raisins intilt, scones, snaps, short-breed wi’ sweeties on’t, curds an’ cream, Glescae jeelie, an’ ither trifles. (My certie we’ll he anither dram) kebbucks green an’ mitey.
Wines: Toddy, Scotch toddy, Hielan’ toddy, Athol brose, strong yill, barley bree frae weel kent Scottish vineyards. We’re no’ that fou. An’ we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet.
P.S.: For teetotal folk an’ sic like, we’ll hae claret (which some folk ca’ sourdook), cuddle my dearie, skelchan, treacle yill, &c., &c.

Naturally, it was difficult to choose one of these dishes for the recipe for the day, in part because I have featured quite a number of them in the past. If I get time in the next couple of days I will put links into the menu. In the meanwhile, please enjoy a glass of the traditional winter medicinal beverage called Athol Brose. This is, at its most elemental, a simple mixture of whisky and honey, which makes it, I guess, a sort of liquid alcoholic confectionery. Other ingredients are occasionally added to this basic mix, as in the following version which appears in the British Bee Journal of 1888:

            Athol Brose: Equal parts of Scotch whiskey, honey, and cream.

I suppose this is the style for you if you prefer your beverages to err on the custard-side – a conceit which would be further enhanced if you add an egg yolk, as I have seen in some recipes. If however you prefer your beverages porridge-style, you can include oatmeal as a thickener, and thus justify it as a breakfast dish.

Being one-quarter Mackenzie, I plan to have a dram this evening myself – although it will be more likely of the white bubbly variety, as I do not have any treacle ale at hand. Please join me in spirit, if you can.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Relishable Breakfast Dishes for Friday.

I was going to write about leftover ham or turkey today, but – obviously being in trivial mode, I decided to see what I could find about Friday breakfasts. I immediately came across a lovely book called Bonnes Bouches and Relishable Dishes for Breakfast and Luncheon, by Louisa E. Smith (London, 1893.) It is written in charming, almost memoir style, as you will see:

When I was quite young my mother had a serious illness, so it was arranged that a distant cousin should come to reside with us. From her I first learned the manner and art of preparing some of the recipes given in this book.
I shall never forget the pleasing appearance of the breakfast-table on the Thursday morning following the arrival of my cousin. …
Making Coffee.
On Friday morning I was down early, as it was my custom to grind the coffee and make it myself, in order to be sure that no chicory was popped in. I found the kettle already boiling, the pot well warmed, and the coffee ground, I had simply to pour the water on it. The table was perfectly arranged as before; at one end stood a mould of some kind of jelly, with a wreath of watercress around it. This jelly, as I afterwards discovered, was made of knuckle of veal in the following manner: —

Knuckle of Veal in Jelly.
Chop well a small knuckle of veal, about three pounds in weight, put it into a clean stewpan, with enough water to cover it, add a blade of mace, one onion, a teaspoonful of Jamaica peppercorns, and a sprig of thyme, all tied in a muslin bag. Simmer for two hours, remove the bag. Then with two forks pull the meat from the bone, season with a mustard-spoonful of made mustard, the juice of a lemon, a dash of cayenne, a tablespoonful of mushroom ketchup, and pepper and salt to taste. Pour the whole into a well-oiled mould, and set it in a cold place for twelve hours. It will turn out perfectly the next morning. Dish on an ornamental paper.

Invalid's Breakfast Dish.
[the author’s sister was suffering from ‘the effects of over-exertion’]
For my sister's breakfast on Friday morning my cousin removed the undercut from a sirloin of beef, weighing about four ounces, beat it well, and dipped it into heated dripping. It was then laid on a hot, greased gridiron, over a clear fire, and cooked for ten minutes, being constantly turned. It was then placed on a hot plate, a pinch of finely minced parsley, and the same of salt, scattered over it, and served quickly with thinly cut slices of bread rolled. The dish was garnished with tufts of green parsley.

For our morning meal we had a dish of bloaters, which had been prepared as follows: 

Fish Cutlets and Boiled Eggs.
Remove the heads and tails from six bloaters, split them down the back, remove the bone, dip them into heated butter, and dust bread crumbs over them. Season the fillets with pepper and salt, screen with minced parsley and mint, then grill them over a clear fire, without turning them. Just before placing on the table in a hot dish, a tablespoonful of ketchup, mixed with the same quantity of Holbrookes Worcestershire sauce, was poured over them. A dish of hot buttered toast was served with the fish, and six new-laid eggs, boiled in their shells, were covered with small tulip-shaped cosies to keep them warm while we did ample justice to the fillets.
My cousin suggested that the juice of a lemon daubed with cayenne would be a great improvement to the fish.

Grilled Mutton with Poached Eggs.
For [another] Friday morning we had grilled mutton and poached eggs. Some slices of underdone mutton had been cut from the leg. Each slice had been dusted with cayenne, dipped into heated dripping, and broiled carefully over a clear fire. Then they had been laid on a hot dish before the stove, while six fresh eggs were poached, neatly trimmed, and one laid on each slice of meat. Around these was poured a delicious sauce. A gill of good gravy had been put in a stewpan with a tablespoonful of mushroom ketchup, and thickened with a lump of butter rolled in flour, and stirred over the fire for a few minutes. Finely chopped parsley was scattered over all. A dish of potato straws was served with this.

It makes a simple bowl of cold cereal and milk or a plate of toast and marmalade look a bit ineffectual, does it not?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in the Military (1943)

The quartermasters of the US military during World War II worked extremely hard to provide all soldiers, wherever they were, with a Thanksgiving dinner every bit as good as they could have hoped for back at home.

The New York Times of October 27, 1943 reported the plans for the day:

Thanksgiving Day Menu for Army.
The Thanksgiving Day menu for the Army consists of fruit cup, roast turkey with dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, buttered peas, corn, tomato and lettuce salad, celery, pickles, pumpkin pie, apples, grapes, candy, nuts, and coffee. The War Department, in announcing the menu today, said every effort would be made to provide these courses even in combat zones.

The Washington Post of November 15 in the same year reported on the plans for troops in Italy and North Africa.

Allied Headquarters, Algiers, Nov. 14. – United States Army quartermasters today promised turkey, cranberry sauce, real butter and pie to American troops in Italy, Sicily and North Africa for their Thanksgiving dinner. Only extraordinary battle conditions can interfere with the delivery” of feasts even to troops in in the front lines, it was added. The menu: chilled grapefruit juice, cream of tomato soup, roast Vermont turkey and nut dressing with giblet gravy, June peas, cranberry sauce, boiled fresh onions, candied fresh sweet potatoes, pineapple and cheese salad, mayonnaise dressing, sweet mixed pickle, hard candy, pumpkin or apple pie, bread, butter and coffee.

The dish that caught my eye in this menu was the Pineapple and Cheese Salad. Now, I love pineapple, and I love cheese, but I am not so sure about them in combination. It seems to be a particularly American combination – or am I mistaken? I determined to scour the newspapers and see if I could be tempted to the idea.

Pineapple and Cheese Salad
Cottage cheese balls rolled in chopped nuts, served on a slice of pineapple, make a delicious salad.
Farmers Bulletin, Issues 1451-1475 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1928)

Pineapple and Cheese Salad
Mix equal parts of mild cheese, chopped celery and chopped walnuts. Moisten with cream and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Roll into small balls and place on pineapple or pears.
Cookbook, by the Eureka American Legion Auxiliary (Eureka CA, 1920)

Pineapple and Cheese Salad.
On a crisp lettuce leaf lay one slice of canned pineapple. Fill center with freshly grated Tillamook or Eastern cheese. Add a spoonful of mayonnaise on top, dust with paprika, and serve.
Choice Recipes, by Order of the Eastern Star, (Sacramento, CA, 1920)

Pineapple and Cheese Salad.
Pineapple                  Lettuce
Cottage cheese          French dressing
Currant jelly.
Divide each ring of pineapple in segments, but keep in circular shape. Rub a cream cheese through a colander and full the hole in the pineapple. Drop a teaspoon of currant jelly on each mound of cheese. Garnish with lettuce, and serve with French dressing made with lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Frozen Pineapple and Cheese Salad.
Soften 1 tsp of granulated gelatine in 2 tbsp of cold water for 5 min, set over hot water, and stir till dissolved. Mash 2 - 3 oz packages of cream cheese and add 3 tbsp cooked salad dressing, ¼ tsp salt, ⅛ tsp paprika and 2 drops of Worcestershire sauce. Combine 1 c. crushed pineapple, drained of its juice, with the gelatine, and add to the cream cheese mixture. When thoroughly mixed fold in ½ c. cream whipped. Turn into a refrigerator tray and chill until set. Cut into squares and arrange 4 or 5 squares on each individual bed of lettuce. Garnish with French dressing and serve. Serves 10
[Note: this is chilled, not frozen!]
Good Housekeeping, Vol 92. Number 2, 1931

I did actually find the following Aussie version of the salad, in a Queensland newspaper – which is not surprising, I guess, given that we have a huge pineapple industry in this state.

Pineapple and Cheese Salad.
Ingredients: 1 small rough-skin pineapple, 2 or 3 oz. cream cheese, 2 tablespoons boiled dressing, savoury cream or mayonnaise, 3 gherkins, red pepper, lettuce leaves. Peel, core, and slice pineapple. Arrange crisp, green lettuce leaves on salad plate and place slices of pine apple in a ring with slices overlapping each other. In the middle of each pineapple slice arrange a spoonful of cream cheese and sprinkle with red pepper. Heap in the centre of the salad the mayonnaise or cream mixed with chopped gherkin. Garnish with sliced gherkin. If you have no cream cheese, grate up two ounces of matured cheese and moisten with cream.

Courier Mail 22 November 1940

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Chinese Embassy (Washington, 1908), Part II.

Yesterday I gave you the background to the vegetarian Thanksgiving menu at the Chinese embassy in Washington in 1908, and included the recipe and assembly instructions for the “mock turkey” which was the star of the dinner-table. The story was from The Washington Post of November 22, 1908. Today I give you the complete menu and the remainder of the recipes featured in the article.

“The menu card for the Thanksgiving dinner at the Chinese embassy is interesting, and it may perhaps be enlightening to give the recipe that the Chinese chef so freely offered for each separate dish.
The menu card is as follows:
Cream of Almond Soup
Salad Delight            Chili Sauce
Scalloped Oysters                Deviled Eggs
Vegetary [sic] Turkey, Cranberries
Mashed Potatoes, Browned            Spinach
Fruit Mince Pie         Lemon Gelee Sherbert
Nuts    Candies          Raisins
Figs                 Dates
Cereal Coffee

To prepare the almond soup: Make a cream of one quart of water and one half pound of almond butter; salt to taste and heat in a double boiler. Cut one dozen almonds into inch strips and place in tureen, afterward pouring in the cream. Serve hot, with toasted wafers. So says my friend, the chef.

The salad delight is simple to prepare, but, as its name indicates, is delicious. Cut into squares one-half cupful of beets and add one cupful of grape fruit; add to this one-half cup of minced celery, one hard boiled egg, and three medium sized radishes cut into fancy shapes. Mayonnaise dressing is added one-half hour before serving on very crisp lettuce leaves.

The mock turkey [see yesterday’s post]

The escalloped oysters are nothing more than “salsify” simmered until tender, and afterward baked in a pudding dish, with alternate rows of bread crumbs, and over which has been poured a cream made of slightly thickened milk, of course properly seasoned.

For the fruit mince pie, mix together 5 cups of chopped tart apples, 1 cup of prune marmalade, 5 cups of minced protose (a substitute for flesh food), 1 cup raisins, 1 cup of chopped nut meats, 1cups sugar, and cook gently for three hours. The quantities are sufficient for five pies. The crust is the usual pie crust, the filling being simply a recipe for mince pie, made without meat or suet, and with the plentiful addition of nuts.

The lemon gelee sherbert is simple to make, is more acceptable after a heavy dinner than the ices where cream is used. For the gelee, take 2 cups of lemon juice, 2 cups sugar, 6 cups water, a box of gelatin, the whites o 3 eggs, and flavoring. Dissolve the gelatin and strain through cheese cloth. Mix together the water, lemon juice, and sugar, Add the beaten whites of the eggs, and lastly the strained gelatin, stirring constantly. Freeze to the consistency of sherbet, and serve in sherbet cups or champagne glasses.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Meatless Turkey for Minister Wu's Thanksgiving (Washington, 1908.)

I have an interesting Thanksgiving Day story for you today, from The Washington Post of November 22, 1908. It concerns the Chinese ambassador, his conversion to vegetarianism, and his “turkey” dinner. The story is long, and my time at the moment is short, so I will give you the remainder of the menu tomorrow!

“When his excellency, Dr. Wu Ting-fang, the Chinese envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, arrived in Washington for the first time, 15 years ago, he was fortunate enough to be just in time for a real Thanksgiving dinner, and for some days afterward he was kept busy explaining to officials, friends, and newspaper folk just how much he thought of the bird that has only one life to give to its country – the real piece de resistance, a Thanksgiving turkey, stuffed and baked a delicate brown. He also has words of praise for the dishes so essential to a well-ordered turkey dinner – the cranberry jelly, quivering with daintiness, the crisp yellow celery, the brown gravy, and all the other “fixin’s.”

Dr. Wu is nothing if not an epicure, and for a number of years afterward each Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year day saw the damask-covered embassy table graced with a bowl of the beloved chrysanthemums, flanked by an enormous turkey, generous roasts of beef, with perhaps a baby pig dutiously sucking a small, rosy apple.
But one dark day a Washington society woman, a great friend of Minister Wu’s, drove up to the legation door an left, with her compliments, for the minister’s acceptance, a book on vegetarianism of which she was the author. With much pleasure, but a great deal of skepticism, Mr. Wu began the strongly written volume, and when he put it aside it was also to put aside forever meat in any form, coffee, and even the afternoon cup o’ tea, to say nothing of wine or any other alcoholic beverages. The Chinese ambassador had in a few days become a confirmed and decided vegetarian.

…. For a number of years Minister Wu has had the same Chinese chef in his entourage, and the good cook’s temper has been tried sorely on occasions, endeavoring to replace, in some degree, the meat that so long added zest, variety, and indeed, essentiality, to dinners given by the Chinese ambassador.

… No small body of thought and practice has the cook expended on what he considers to be the chef d’oeuvre of the culinary art – a meatless, turkeyless Thanksgiving turkey  - the pseudo-turkey legs nicely trussed to the mock-turkey sides, the wings folded comfortably away – all there, apparently, begging to be carved this Thanksgiving day.

… “Will his excellency carve?”

He will, and he does, but he stops abruptly as a telltale “bone” appears. The butler, who shared the chef’s secret, explains to the minister. The “bones” of the “turkey” are nothing more nor less than sticks of macaroni cleverly inserted.
… The mock-turkey is interesting to prepare, as the chef explained to me in his fascinating, queer English. First, the white meat must be prepared, and this is done by mixing the following ingredients: One cup of boiled rice, one cup of mashed potatoes, one cup of toasted white bread crumbs, two cups of mixed nut meats, two eggs, two small onions, chopped very fine. For the dark meat, take two cups of cooked lima beans, two cups of lentil pulp, two cups of whole wheat breadcrumbs, two cups of nut meats (English and black walnuts,) two cups tomatoes, four eggs, three small onions, browned in butter, one-half cup of butter, salt to taste. The dressing or “stuffing” is made as for the real bird.

To build this rara avis is a work of art. Take the dark meat, form into a mold about two inches thick, and shape it into an oval. Take the dressing, pile it up like [the] body of a turkey, and put all around this the white meat, keeping in mind, all the time, the torso of a turkey.

After this is done, shape the breast and the back and put on the neck of dark meat and the wings of light. The legs are also to be formed of dark meat, and together with the wing are fastened to the body with skewers. Don’t by any means forget to insert the macaroni in the legs for bones. This is most important. Put in the oven and baste every ten minutes with a little gravy made of melted butter and a little hot water. Bake until brown (about half an hour) and garnish and serve, as doth my friend, the chef.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Day Banquet of the American Society in London (1896)

There is only one food topic this week, and that is, of course, Thanksgiving. Even if you do not live in America, it is impossible to ignore, or avoid, the day, due to the complete and utter saturation of global food-media with the event.

Before I give you today’s story, may I give you a list of links to previous posts on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Recipes, Menus, and Stories from History.

As for today, I want to share with you the menu of the Thanksgiving Day banquet of the American Society in London, held at the Hotel Cecil, on November 26th, 1896.


Hors d'oeuvres.

Canapes de caviare
Olives Farcies.
Salades d'anchois.
Crevettes a l'Americaine.
Petits Canapes Cecil.
Salades a la Russe.


Consomme Saratoga.
Fausse Bisque.


Turbot.  Sauce Hollandaise.
Queues de Homard a la Delmonico.


Terrines de Poulet Paysanne.
Croustades de Ris de Veau St. Georges.


Filet de Boeuf Favorite
Mousse de Jambon Luculus
Pommes Parmantier [sic]


Turkey with Cranberry Sauce.
Perdreaux Roti.
Salade de Laitue.
Haricots Verts Panaches.


Pumpkin Pie.
Poires Bourdaloue.
Petits Fours.
Bombe Cecil
Fruits de Saison.

Vins Varies

As the recipe for the day, here is a lovely Mousse de Jambon (Ham Mousse) – surely a useful idea with Ham Season about to get into full swing, with its inevitable glut of leftovers, especially for my friends and family sweltering in the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Ham Mousse.
Soak a level tablespoon of gelatin in a fourth of a cup of cold water, and dissolve it in three-quarters of a cup of hot chicken liquor or white stock; strain over a cup of finely chopped boiled ham, and season to taste with salt and cayenne. Stand in a pan of cold water, stir until the mixture begins to set, then fold into it a cup of thick cream, beaten until stiff and dry. Turn into chilled baking powder cans and stand aside for several hours in a cold place to harden. Turn out, cut in slices, serve on lettuce leaves, put a spoonful of mayonnaise on each slice, and garnish in the centre with an olive or a round of sliced pickle. Serve as a salad course with wafers or sandwiches.

Delphos Weekly Herald (Ohio) April 4, 1902

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Pies: A Retrospective.

To my American friends, wherever you are, may your Thanksgiving be the best ever. May I give you the links to my series from some years ago, on Thanksgiving pies?

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Use of Honey in Home Cooking (1934)

As the holiday season approaches, thoughts of big baking sessions bubble to the surface even in households where baking is not a regular activity. As many folk, for all sorts of reasons, prefer honey as their sweetening agent, I though some information from a small booklet produced by the Dominion Experimental Farms (Bee Division) of the Ottowa Depatment of Agriculture in 1934 might be useful. The book is entitled Honey and Some of The Ways it May Be Used, and the section called The Use of Honey in Home Cooking contains advice as to the adaptations needed if it is desired to substitute it for sugar.  

“Honey may be used in home cooking as a substitute for sugar or molasses with delightful results, provided certain general rules are closely adhered to. Perhaps the chief advantage of using honey, especially in cakes, cookies, etc. is that they will remain moist for a much longer time than if sugar alone is used; bread, cakes, cookies, etc., in which honey is used in place of sugar will keep moist for long periods of time without any deterioration of flavour; in fact, the latter usually improves with a reasonable length of storage. A direct substitution of all honey for sugar may he made in cases where the amount of sweetening material is small, such as in muffins, bread, etc. In cakes, cookies, pies, etc.where greater sweetening is necessary, other things must be taken into consideration when using honey. Honey and sugar differ in their chemical composition. Sugar is a straight sweet containing no moisture or acid, while honey consists of different types of sugar in solution with water, and contains a certain degree of acidity. The following rules are based on experimental work that has been done with honey in cooked food-, and by following these general rules any recipe may be adapted to the use of honey: —"

1. Measure honey always in the liquid form. If it is granulated, heat over
warm water until liquid.

2. For every cup of honey used, reduce the liquid called for in the recipe
by one-fifth.

3. One cup of honey is as great in sweetening power as one cup of sugar.

4. Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of soda to each cup of honey.

5. Increase the amount of salt by ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon.

6. When substituting honey for sugar in cake, reduce the liquid of the recipe
by one-fifth and use half honey and half sugar. Fruit cake is an exception to
this rule and all honey may be used.

7. In milk puddings, pie fillings, etc. add the honey with the thickening agent — e.g., flour, cornstarch, etc.

The following recipes have been thoroughly tested and proved by the writer
in the Central Experimental Farm kitchen at Ottawa: — [I have chosen two as the recipes for the day.]

2 cups boiling water                         ½ yeast cake dissolved in
2 tablespoons butter                        ¼ cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons honey                        6 cups sifted flour
2 ½ teaspoons salt

Put honey, butter and salt in a large bowl, pour on boiling water; when lukewarm add dissolved yeast cake and five cups of flour, then stir until thoroughly mixed, using a knife or mixing spoon. Add remaining flour, mix, and turn on a floured board, leaving a clean bowl; knead to mix ingredients until mixture is smooth, elastic to touch and bubbles may be seen under the surface. Some practice is required to knead quickly. Return to bowl, cover with a clean cloth and board or tin cover, let rise overnight in temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In the morning cut down, toss on board slightly floured, knead to distribute air, shape into loaves or biscuits, place in greased pan, having pans nearly full. Cover, let rise again to double its bulk and bake in a hot oven.
This recipe will make a loaf of bread and a pan of biscuits.

Take six medium-sized, sweet navel oranges (skins only) and put through a meat grinder using the fine knife. To this add an equal quantity of carrot prepared in the same way. To each cup of the above combined ingredients add two cups of water and soak overnight Simmer for two hours, remove from stove and add the grated rind and juice of six lemons. Let stand overnight again and simmer until a good jelly test* is obtained. Then to each cup of the pulp mixture add one cup of honey and ½ cup of sugar, boil to 222 degrees Fahrenheit, let cool slightly, then pour into sterilized jars.

All honey may be used in place of part honey and part sugar, but this makes a sweeter marmalade.

*To make a jelly test and add one tablespoon of alcohol, mix and let stand for a few minutes. A thick jelly like substance will form, if the pulp has had sufficient

Take the juice from the oranges used in making orange and carrot marmalade. To each cup of unstrained juice add one cup of sugar and the grated rind of half an orange and half a lemon tied in a muslin bag. Boil all together at 217 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes. Remove from the stove and add ¾ cup liquid honey and the juice of half a lemon to each cup of unstrained juice used. Pour into sterile bottles and cap at once.

This makes a very delightful drink for children and should be used in the proportion of one to two tablespoons to a glass of cold water.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to train a Cook (1899)

I find myself extremely busy at present, and all out of pre-written posts, so for the next few days I must continue to let other writers do most of my work. Today it is the turn of a Mrs. Praga (‘A Careful Cook’,) the author of a most useful work called Dinners of the Day, (London, 1899.) The section I have chosen for you today is:

How to train a Cook.
In a past chapter I promised to give some hints as to the training of a raw cook. Now this task is in reality by no means as formidable as it sounds — provided always that the raw one be possessed of an average intelligence and ability. As to selection, if possible choose a country girl. No doubt just at first she will prove a little more raw than would her own-bred sister. Her accent may be broad, and your preliminary instructions will probably cause her to gape hugely. But what of that? She will not want an accent to cook with, and gaping does no harm, when it proceeds from wonderment and not from laziness. And one great virtue she will probably possess to start with. She will be able to roast a joint and cook a potato decently. Further, she will also be able to send up eggs and bacon which are eatable. Most country girls whom I have met with have possessed the above accomplishment, and hence my advice. Now, with a cook who can roast a joint well — really well, I mean — all things culinary are possible. This sounds a large order; but I write from experience, and have proved the truth of my words over and over again. If the second joint the raw cook sends up be in a semi-baked, half-raw condition, with the outside burnt to the semblance of a cinder, take my counsel, don’t attempt to train her, for your efforts will be fruitless. Pay her the modicum of silver due to her, and have done with her. Let her go her ways in peace, to make some other household dyspeptically unhappy. Anything she likes, only have none of her. You will notice that I said “if the second joint be spoilt.” My reason for doing so is that a first failure is always forgivable, since it may proceed from nervousness, natural enough in a young, untrained girl suddenly transplanted from her cottage home to a London situation, and with that, to her, terrible ordeal of the “first dinner” to get through somehow. Not so the second; therefore waste not good efforts on bad material.
However, we will suppose the newcomer has treated the first joint with the consideration due to it, thereby proving herself capable of better things in the future, when she shall have had the benefit of your teaching. Here let me lay down a few important rules for your guidance. To begin with, don’t overload her with instructions; commence by degrees — the simplest French dishes to start with. These pages are full of the recipes for such. Impress upon her that she must only use the exact quantities laid down therein. Provide her with a pair of scales and see that she uses them, and forbid her strictly to trust to “guess-work,” in any shape or form. Take care that she keeps a piece of clean soap and a separate hand-bowl for washing her hands after each dish is duly finished in its order; also a half of squeezed-out lemon wherewith to rub over her fingers when she has handled or peeled onions, shallots, or leeks. Vanilla pastry or strawberry tartlets are not improved by a soupçon of “oniony” flavouring. If she insists upon that most ungraceful badge of middle-class servantism, a profusely-curled fringe, tell her it must be pinned back when cooking operations are in progress. Go down each morning, look carefully through her pantries and store cupboards, and note that they are kept scrupulously clean. Provide her with a saucepan-stand of red enamelled iron (these are obtainable at any big ironmonger’s and only cost 5s. 6d. each), have it kept in the scullery, if there is one — if not, then in a corner of the kitchen. See that all the saucepans in their graduated sizes are duly ranged upon it. And when you are on your morning tour of inspection, look in each of the saucepans and observe that they have been properly cleaned. The lids must not be kept upon them, but must be ranged neatly upon a shelf, and polished once a week. Such a stand as I have advised is a most useful article and serves a twofold purpose, for it enables the mistress to see at a moment’s glance if all the stew-pans, etc., are kept in a properly clean condition, and it does away with that pet abomination, the potboard, the corners of which were so convenient for the hiding of dirty saucepans, which cook “hadn’t time” (that is, was too lazy) to clean.
One word more respecting saucepans. Never allow the cook under any pretext, no matter how tired she may be after a dinner-party, or how late the hour, to go to bed and leave even a single saucepan dirty. No doubt this seems a hard rule to enforce, and partakes rather of the nature of slave-driving; but, believe me, it is a good and salutary one, and your cook, when trained, will thank you for your discipline of cleanliness. It is a rule I myself enforce strictly; if disobeyed, well, there is a row next morning: for I have known that solitary neglected saucepan lead to, oh! such dirty habits — frying-pans put away with half-cold fat in them and left till next required, and a host of other minor evils, too numerous to mention in detail. Now such a visite d’inspection as I have described takes scarcely half a dozen minutes, and does away with these innumerable small negligences on the part of the cook. Punctuality is another great virtue you should endeavour to inculcate your budding female Valentin with. But in many houses, notably those of professional men, it is often a virtue that the master, by reason of the exigencies of his business, finds it impossible to practise. Should this be the case in your own special household, and you find yourselves really unable to sit down to a meal at its appointed time, why then, teach your cook the all-important art of keeping things hot. Now I do not mean, by hot, shrivelled up, uneatable. I mean hot and palatable. This is by no means difficult if proper care and attention is given to the various dishes when once they are cooked. Further, if unpunctuality is the order of the day in your ménage,
you should yourself aid your cook by selecting for the daily menu those dishes that will “ keep” best. You must eschew roast joints and poultry, and, as far as possible, such things as fritters of various descriptions; choosing instead from among the many recipes for ragouts, curries, braises, vegetables cooked à la creme, and steamed puddings which are given in great variety in this book. All these things rather improve than deteriorate by prolonged cooking. And in them, oh, forcedly unpunctual housewife, lies your culinary salvation.
Finally, and most important rule of all, never do your cook’s work for her, no matter what errors your raw chef may make. Correct her faults, and see that she duly rectifies them; and she will learn by and from every mistake she has made; but never under any consideration, save that of illness, do the actual work yourself. If you do, you will not only never succeed in training her to a satisfactory degree of efficiency, but you will, in all probability, sacrifice the respect all servants should feel for their mistress. When I speak of work, I do not, of course, mean such trifles as the flavouring or making of a specially difficult dish or series of dishes upon the occasion of a dinner-party or little fête of any kind, since these are things that a careful housewife and mistress should undoubtedly see to herself if she wishes to train her handmaiden successfully; indeed, it is a good plan to give the cook a first lesson in a new plat by doing it from the commencement before her, and seeing that she watches with due care and attention. By work I mean the ordinary everyday routine of her duties. Write these out clearly and concisely for her upon a piece of cardboard, and nail it behind the kitchen door ; then, if she follows out your orders, there will be no need for her to complain that she is “rushed,” save upon some all-important occasion, such as a dinner or supper party, when extra help should always be allowed. After all, you pay her a reasonable wage to do your work; therefore, why lower yourself in her estimation by paying her money for labour you afterwards carry out with your own hands? Better by far save your purse and do without such so-called help, or adopt the more sensible plan. Further, when engaging her, make her fully understand that if her work is not performed to your full satisfaction she will be cautioned twice, but not a third time, and that repeated faults of any description will entail dismissal.

It seems that the conversion of a raw country girl into a cook capable of preparing French-style dishes for dinner-parties was a great skill in itself! The chapter does continue with more advice about teaching the raw girl about specific culinary skills, but these will have to wait until another day. There are other fascinating chapters too, on such things as Emergency Meals, Seaside Cookery, and The Gentle Art of Shopping, and I feel sure I will also share some of these with you in the future.

As the recipe for the day, I give you from the book, a nice steamed pudding, which should keep nicely hot for a while, if the man of the house is running late for dinner.

Tartar Pudding.

Take four ounces each of breadcrumbs, chopped apples, brown sugar, and finely chopped suet, mix well together; then add the yolks and whites of two eggs, whisked separately, three large spoonfuls of golden syrup, a gill of milk, and a little grated lemon-peel. Fill a buttered mould with this mixture, and steam for two hours. Serve with wine sauce.