Cookbooks as time capsules and why we collect them. Current title holder for Guinness World Records for largest collection of cookbooks (2,970 as of July 14, 2013) Current (unofficial) total (Sept. 28, 2017) is 6,202.
Music – “What’s Cooking” from What’s Cooking by The Wolfe Gang. Released: 2010
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
“The Vintage Cookbookery” website is up and a work in progress! Please visit it at http://www.vintagecookbookery.com. I will be posting a series of articles about cookbooks as time capsules, why we collect them, and how they reflect cultures, trends, technology and food history. Please join in and add your comments! On October 23rd, 2015, I surpassed the 5,000 mark. What’s left? Just keep collecting! (As of September, 2017, the collection has grown to 6,202)
From Cindy Renfrow’s “Take a Thousand Eggs”, to Gil Partington’s “The Punk Vegan Cookbook”, cookbooks run the gamut and are packed with social history. Forget ‘Social Studies”….just read cookbooks if you really want some history!
2013 Guinness World Record title for Largest Collection of Cookbooks
Music : “Food Glorious Food” from On Top Of Spaghetti by Juice Music. Released: 2008.
Attorney jokes aside, there is probably a law on the books against eating Dublin Lawyers. However, apparently there is no such law in France, as you can easily eat “avocat”, which translates into both “lawyer” and “avocado”. “Je suis avocat” means “I am a lawyer”, versus “Je suis un avocat“, which means “I am an avocado”. Take your pick.
So, what then, is a “Dublin Lawyer“? According to Georgina Campbell, author of “Good Food from Ireland“, a Dublin Lawyer is a rich dish of lobster, butter, double cream and Irish whiskey. Whew!
How about digging into “Skirts and Bodices“? Monica Sheridan, in “My Irish Cook Book” indicates that “Bodices” is the local name for pickled spareribs, akin to the boned bodices grandmothers used to wear. The “Skirts” are the trimmings cut away from pork steak. So there you have it: Skirts and Bodices.
Fancy some “Punchnep“? No, there is no alcohol in it. “Nep” was an old name for root vegetables such as parsnips or turnips, according to Theodora Fitzgibbon, in “A Taste of Wales in Food and in Pictures“. I assume the “punch” comes from the fact that the vegetables are beaten with butter and cream. Ever dined on a “Bookmaker’s Sandwich“? According to Theodora Fitzgibbon, in “A Taste of Ireland“, it is essentially a steak sandwich on a long crusty loaf, akin to a submarine sandwich (or Po Boy, or Hoagie, or whatever you want to call it).
Kiddleywinks, however, stems from “kiddley”, or kettle broth, a sort of whatever-you-have-in-your-kitchen soup, with the addition of winkles or periwinkles, a shellfish. Vida Heard in “Cornish Cookery” says that Kiddleywink soup“…had to provide something to fill alcohol-enfeebled stomachs and at a minimum cost“. According to Wikipedia, Kiddleywinks is also known as Kiddlywink and is an old name for a Cornish beer shop or beer house, which became popular after the 1830 beer act. They were licensed to sell beer or cider by the Customs & Excise rather than by a Magistrate’s Licence which was required by traditional Taverns and Inns.
Ever eaten “Kidneys in their Overcoats“? How sensible.
In Ireland, is there a “Champ” of “Boxty“? Is that the winner of a boxing match? No, “Champ” is similar to mashed potatoes, with milk, salt, pepper, butter, and chives. “Boxty” is a tad more difficult to explain. According to Georgina Campbell, “Boxty” falls into three categories: bread or cakes (“boxty on the griddle”), pancakes “boxty on the pan”), or boxtydumplings. All contain potatoes and milk.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no rocks in “Glengarvie Rock Cakes“, according to author of “Highland Fling Cookbook“, Sara Walker. Rather, these small cakes, when out of the oven, will have little lumps sticking out all over them. Care to take a wild guess what “Achiltibuie Skirlie” is? (hint: it has onions and oatmeal in it and Achiltibuie is a small village on the west coast of Coigach in the Highland region of Scotland). What about “Katt Pie“? (note: no cats were harmed in the making of this dish).
One just has to ask about “Thunder and Lightning“. According to Vida Heard, “Thunder and Lightning” is the “…name given to splits eaten with a spreading of treacle...” Well, that certainly clarifies things, doesn’t it?
“Poor Knights” contains bread, jam, cream, egg and milk. The origin of this name is unknown, at least to this writer.
Now, being Canadian, I took objection to the recipe for “Canadian Salad” in “Cooking in a Bedsitter” by Katharine Whitehorn. The recipe: “Two tomatoes and an orange sliced up and covered with a dessertspoon of tomato ketchup mixed with a little of the orange juice“. No self-respecting Canadian would ever make such a concoction, I’m certain, and it certainly doesn’t appear in any of the many Canadian cookbooks I have in my collection.
But, no matter where you go, no matter what culture’s food you are sampling, there is probably one universal recipe that everyone can relate to. Katherine Whitehorn refers to it as “Spam Fritters“. Need I say more?
Music – “Don’t Sit On a Cactus” from Don’t Sit on a Cactus by Joel Frankel. Released: 1997
It’s that time of year around New Mexico, when the Prickly Pear cactus fruits begin to ripen to their luscious deep red colour and you only have one chance a year to make Prickly Pear Jelly. So, don your elbow high leather garden gloves, long-handled barbecue tongs and a couple of paper bags and trip carefully through the cactus in your yard!
When I first moved to New Mexico in 1994, I didn’t realize that those beautiful fruits that ripened on our cactus in the fall were edible. The second year, I caught on and made my first batch of jelly. Over the past few years, even though all cacti species are drought tolerant / drought resistant, even our 20-year-old Prickly Pear patches suffered and produced very little fruit. This season, however, there were enough fruits to whip up a batch of jelly, and so I did just that.
The recipe I used, “Prickly Pear Jelly” is from “Fruits of the Desert” by Sandal English, published by The Arizona Star in 1981. The book contains recipes for a multitude of desert fruits, berries and seeds, including numerous pages for using cactus fruits. The recipes are gathered from readers of the newspaper and the recipe I used was contributed by Gloria Thomasson of Tucson, AZ. The instructions follow below the photos:
“Fruits of the Desert” by Sandal English
Ripe Prickly Pear Cactus from my garden
Several patches have more shade and the fruits are not yet ripe
About 5 or 6 quarts of Prickly Pear Cactus fruits from my yard
Washing the cactus fruits
Carefully measure out 3 quarts of fruit
Put the cactus fruit and water into a large pot
Bring the fruit and water to a boil
Briefly remove from the heat and mash the fruits with a potato masher
Bring the fruits and the water to a rolling boil
Strain the pulp through several layers of cheesecloth
The juice after straining the mixture through cheesecloth
Boil the strained mixture down after adding the pectin until reaching the “gel” stage
Pouring the jelly into the jars
Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and let cool before refrigerating
Some of the finished products
NOTE: for this season (2017), I used a different approach. I blanched the fruits in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then speared each with a fork, and peeled. This way, the skin comes off easily, without any of the million tiny prickly spines. Then, I just followed the rest of the steps, above, however, I didn’t need to strain through cheesecloth this time. Just a strainer to capture the seeds. Much easier in the long run, but more labour intensive!)
Gather and wash 3 quarts of fruit, using gloves and tongs. Place the washed fruit into a large 6 quart kettle with 3 quarts of water. Cook for 20 minutes (I cooked mine for about 40 minutes, due to the altitude adjustments needed). Briefly remove from the heat and mash the fruits with a potato masher. Strain the juice through several layers of cheesecloth.
Although the recipe indicates that you should be able to obtain about 8 cups of juice, it wasn’t enough, so I proceeded with another batch in order to get enough juice.
Measure 4 cups of juice into a large kettle and add juice of ½ lemon and 3 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil. Add another 3 cups of sugar and bring to a boil again, stirring until it reaches a full boil. Add 2 packets of liquid pectin (or 1 bottle) and continue cooking over high heat for 15 minutes (I cooked mine for 30 minutes)(In addition, I located an article in an old edition of The Albuquerque Journal, about making Prickly Pear Jelly. The author indicates that Prickly Pear fruits, like pineapple and kiwi, contain enzymes, which can cause the proteins in gelatin to break down. Sure enough, my jelly was not truly at the point of being able to gel, so I added 2 additional teaspoons of granulated pectin and this seemed to do the trick) Although the recipe indicates that the 4 cups of juice makes 6 glasses of jelly, my fruits were not as juicy, I think, and my two batches of 4 cups each made a total of 7 jars of jelly.
After all is said and done, the jelly with all of that sugar, is not surprisingly, extraordinarily sweet, although you can still taste the prickly pear fruit through the sugar. Next time, I’m going to cut back on the sugar or use a substitute, such as blue agave nectar and adjust the recipe accordingly.
Whoever said that nothing worthwhile grows in the desert was just plain wrong!
Music – “Eating People” from In My Dreams by Michael Ross. Released: 2016.
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Anyone who has done any writing, especially a book, knows that the title of the book will either make or break the contents. Let’s face it: “How to Cook Chicken” or “Vegetarian Cooking” are pretty hackneyed and are bound to draw yawns. A catchy title is essential and cookbooks are no exception.
A brief internet surf turned up some intriguing cookbook titles, which I must add to my collection. Weird is wonderful, right?
There is “You’ve Had Worse Things in Your Mouth“, by Billi Gordon (born Wilbert Anthony Gordon Jr.), who, according to Wikipedia, is “an author, television writer, neuroscientist and formerly an actor and model”. Wow, talk about being diversified! Gordon is the author of three works of non-fiction: including “You’ve Had Worse Things in Your Mouth Cookbook“, “Eat This Book: The Last Diet Book“, and “Your Moon Is in Aquarius but Your Head Is in Uranus” Hmmm.
Then, there is “The Gay Kitchen” by James Woodward Sherman, published in 1926 and details the adventures of a set of kitchen utensils. There was also a sequel, “Out in the Kitchen“, published in 1927. What were YOU thinking?
Jack Douglas was an American comedy writer who wrote for radio and television while additionally writing a series of humor books. Among them are “The Jewish-Japanese Sex & Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves“, published in 1972. Apparently, it is a humourous account of the authors’ venture with his Japanese wife, 2 sons and 2 pet wolves in suburban Connecticut, and then later, after moving to Canada. I don’t really understand the full meaning of his cookbook title, but I guess I won’t find out, either. Currently, the book is a collector’s item and ranges in the several hundreds of dollars for a copy. Jack will never grace my cookbook shelves, I guess. Some of his other books include “Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver “(1960), “Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes” (1970) and “Going Nuts in Brazil” (1979).
Now, I have to admit, that if I had not investigated the title of the cookbook “Cooking with Poo“, I would have thought it too perverse (but there’s no accounting for taste). The author, Saiyuud Diwong, is nicknamed “Poo”, which is the Thai word for “crab”. She runs a cookery school in Bangkok’s Klong Toey slum and won the “Diagram” prize for the oddest book title of the year (year unknown).
Now, what cook wouldn’t want a copy of “Let’s Play Hide the Sausage” on his or her bookshelf? These sausages must be so revolting and disgusting that they must be disguised in a dish.
I’ve heard of “Cooking for Cats“, “Cooking for Dogs“, “Cooking for Husbands“, and more, but this is the first time I came across “Cooking for Raccoons“. Well, raccoons are known to be very fastidious about their food, cleaning and washing it thoroughly before consuming it, so I hope the author indicates detailed preparation techniques to satisfy even the most jaded raccoon palate.
Well, duh, unless you were a member of the Donner Party, most people would subscribe to this tenet that “Eating People is Wrong“, don’t you think? But, I guess it depends on how desperate one is. Garlic can masquerade the taste of just about anything. Alternately, anything is edible if its chopped finely enough.
No better way than to claw your way into acceptance into MENSA than to buy this book and put it to good use…!
Music – “Who Stole The Hot Sauce?” from Who Stole The Hot Sauce? by Chubby Carrier. Released: 1996
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I’m not the only one with a predilection for hot sauces. There are millions of us out there. On 12/05/2013, I posted “From Acid Rain to Zulu Fire….we LOVE Hot Sauces!” and since then, my own collection of hotter-than-hell sauces has been accumulating (well, I had to keep up with the cookbooks, which now number 6,013!) I have 90 at the moment, with a probable combined lethal dose of about 10 gazillion Scoville units! Capsaicin is the substance, which makes peppers hot. In the early 1900’s, Wilbur Scoville invented a system to rate the “Heat” of the different types of peppers. In the test, peppers were rated with what was called “Scoville Units.” The rating system became known as the “Scoville Heat Scale.”
The number of hot sauce manufacturers has also grown. A surf around the web will turn up multiple hot sauce vendors, with literally thousands of hellish sauces to choose from. Who could resist? The sauces are not only tasty, but usually have lavishly designed, colourful labels advertising the contents. Could you possibly turn down a bottle of “Area 51 – The Hot Sauce that Doesn’t Exist“? Or “Professor Phardtpounders Colon Cleaner“? What about “Toxic Toad“, “Spontaneous Combustion“, “Da Bomb” or “Death Nectar“?
Just two of many books published on hot sauces.
A few months ago, I found a bottle called “Obama’s Last Day – Jan. 20, 2017“, which I have not yet sampled. The other day, I located http://www.hotsauce.com, which has a HUGE selection of hot saucesand related items. I found “Dump Trump Habanero Hot Sauce” there and he is now sharing the shelf with “Obama’s Last Day“. A kind of quirky co-existence. I have not yet sampled “Hazmat“, or “Road to Hell“. Also from http://www.hotsauce.com I ordered a bottle of “357 Mad Dog Hot Sauce – This Sauce Will Blow You Away” and is listed as 357,000 Scoville units. It comes with a warning tag, which also includes the following admonishment: “If I give this product as a gift, I will make the recipient fully aware of the potential danger if used or handled improperly” Geez! I can think of one or two “recipients” I’d just LOVE to give this to as a gift without advance warning! (none of them are friends)
My collection of hot sauces
As long as we love to torture our mouths and digestive systems with these tasty, but HOT, HOT, HOT sauces, they will keep on comin’. Go ahead…spice up your life, but remember, a little goes a very-long-way!
So, what does all of this have to do with my blog on cookbooks? Well, only a bit of trivia. The database I use (www.collectorz.com) has a tool to indicate the number of pages in my current cookbook collection and it is currently 1,391,361 pages. Heck, that’s a lot of pages and a lot of recipes!
The number of books in the collection now stands at 6,013. That’s about the same number of books damaged by monsoon floods in Phoenix a week or so ago, at the Burton Barr Central Library! Fortunately, they have a lot of other books left for borrowers.
It is estimated that if $1,000,000 in US one dollar bills were stacked one on top of the other, the stack would be approximately 358 feet high, or the equivalent of a 30 to 35 story building. Heck, my 1,391,361 pages could outdo that!
…..Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau SAR China, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Saint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam.
Give up? Amazingly enough, WordPress statistics indicate that in the nearly 4 years since I started my blog, viewers have visited my blog from all 126 of these countries. I have cookbooks from many of these locations in my collection, and I wonder what the readers were searching for when they read my posts….a mention of their homeland, their cuisine, perhaps some familiar photos I have taken over the years from a few of these places, which I have visited?
Now, if only someone from the Pitcairn Islands would have a look. I have a copy of the only cookbook ever published there, by Irma Doreen (Warren) Christian, a descendant of Fletcher Christian of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame. Irma died on Pitcairn Island, in 2016 at the age of 89.
Music – “Calypso Time (Steel Drums Soca)” from Island Cruise Steel Band Presents Steel Drums & Songs of Jamaica and Trinidad for Your Tropical Caribbean Cruise Party by Island Cruise Steel Band. Released: 2011
If you have ever had the good fortune to take a cruise, you will know just how spoiled you become. The entire world outside of your mega-cruise ship disappears. You are pampered, fed, fed again, feted, entertained, and fed yet again. On most of the larger ships, you can find something to eat 24 hours a day. If you are up for a midnight chocolate buffet, you can probably find it. Pizza stations, ice cream stations, numerous bars, multiple restaurants specializing in a variety of cuisines, snack bars, room service at any hour, the list is endless. My husband and I have been fortunate to have taken two cruises: the first on Holland Americain the Western Caribbean (1 week) and the second with Princess Cruises, all around the Caribbean (2 weeks).
From the time you saunter down to the breakfast buffet, you eat, eat, eat. I don’t normally “do” breakfast and haven’t for years, yet on the Grand Princess cruise, I was mortified to find myself unable to turn down scads of smoked salmon with capers, rich scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, breakfast sausage, cheese Danish, roasted potatoes and a myriad of other delights. I morphed into someone else on that cruise (I found her a few months later after she had lost the 8 pounds she gained on the 2 week cruise!)
Picture of the famous cruise liner QE2 Queen Elizabeth 2 on its last visit to Tyneside (Photo Credit: http://www.freefoto.com)
Although we were usually out on a tour many days, if we were shipboard, I would not usually eat at midday, although my spouse did not want to waste the money spent for the trip, so indulged. In the evening, we experienced truly fine dining in a different restaurant every night. The staff was awesome, the food was awesome, the amenities were awesome. Needless to say, I was impressed to the extent that upon our departure, leaving our two-week home away from home, I cried to think it was over. Alas, back to reality. Suffice it to say, if you don’t gain any weight on a cruise, you are seriously ill and need to check in with your PCP immediately upon your return!
I was fascinated at how, upon returning to port at the end of a cruise, the cruise ships, even the largest of them, have about 6 to 8 hours(yes, hours!), to completely refurbish the ship for the next wave of guests, due to arrive late afternoon on the same day. Thousands of pieces of luggage must be removed in an organized fashion, garbage must be removed, staterooms cleaned, laundry done, and kitchens sanitized and stocked for the next voyage, not to mention a hundred other myriad tasks, which the numerous crew are very adept at carrying out. The entire process is an intricate, extremely well-organized orchestration that is amazing to watch.
For example, the Royal Caribbean “Harmony of the Seas” can accommodate 5,479guests! The “Allure of the Seas” can house 5,400 passengers and has 25 dining options including a Starbucks. “Oasis of the Seas” accommodates up to 6,296 passengers. It should be noted that none of these figures includes the number of crew (2,160 on Oasis of the Seas), which amounts to an average of 1 crew member for every 3 passenger! No wonder one gets so spoiled on a cruise!
When the “Oasis of the Seas” departs for a 7 dayCaribbean voyage, the supplies needed are mind-boggling. Not including items such as toilet paper, tissues, light bulbs, replacement TVs (really!), hand sanitizers, and the more mundane every-day items, in just a few hours, they must load an enormous quantity of food, which varies according to the season, special events, etc. but here is an average bill of lading :
7,397pounds of cheese
330 cases of pineapples,
1,899 pounds of coffee
5,400 lobster tails
21,000 ice cream cones
8,800 pounds of tomatoes
9,000 pounds of lettuce
14,800pounds of potatoes
2,600 pounds of apples
5,400 pounds of bananas
2,622 gallons of milk
19,723 pounds of chicken
18,314 pounds of beef
7,070 pounds of fish
10,680 hot dogs
31,900 bottles of beer (and 900 cans)
16,900 cans of soda
820 bottles of vodka
179 bottles of whiskey
293 bottles of scotch
765 bottles of rum (well, it IS the Caribbean!)
3,360 bottles of white wine
2,776 bottles of red wine
Do cruisers on the Oasis of the Seas really consume 9,000 pounds of lettuce in 7 days? (Photo Credit: http://www.linkedin.com)
A mega-cruise ship needs a lot of fish, but, heck…if the chef runs out, he can always drag a net off the stern. (Photo Credit: http://www.alamy.com)
In addition to the food storage, which comprises multiple areas, multiple freezers and rooms of varying temperature, there must be huge storage areas for dinnerware, cutlery, cooking utensils (lots of BIG ones), and the like. On the last day of our two-week cruise on the Grand Princess, we were given the Galley Tour, which is truly incredible. The bowels of the kitchen are like a vast, never-ending vista of stainless steel, all polished and gleaming, a maze of rooms and corridors and all looking like you could literally eat off the floor. If this isn’t organization to the nth degree, I don’t know what is!
In a cookbook I have in my collection, “Queen Elizabeth 2 Cookbook”, the author partially describes the comestibles necessary for their 90 day world cruise, including 180,000 pounds of prime beef from the USA, 36,000pounds of lamb from Britain, 12,000 pounds of French veal, 11,000 pounds of salt, 80,000eggs, 3 tons(yes, tons!)of smoked salmon (yum!), 10 tonsof butter, 90,000 jars of preserves, 2,500 gallons of milk, 500,000 tea bags and 10,000 bottles of champagne.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 holds 1,850 passengers and 995 crew. Now, half a million tea bags may sound like a lot, but between 1,850 passengers and 995 crew, for 90 days, that only amounts to 1.95 tea bags per person per day. Hardly enough to satisfy the British love of tea, I’d say! The ship also has stainless steel tanks, which can hold 313,500 gallons of draught beer and multiple bottles of the 120 varieties of winethey carry. In addition, they also have large stores of Kosher food (including Kosher service dishes, utensils, etc.) and even have a supply of 50pounds of dog biscuits (lucky dogs!) But, alas, it’s too late to book a cruise on the QE2. She was taken out of service in 2008.
Now, get ready for this: Royal Caribbean’snewest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, currently under constructions in France, and due to be launched out of Miami in 2018 will be the largest cruise ship in the world. We’re talking capacity for 6,800 passengers, plus 2,800 crew for a total of 9,600 souls! If they could take on another 400 passengers, the entire city of Sedona, Arizona could just move in!
So, if you should, perchance be lucky enough to take a cruise, consider that it is a floating city for a time, and often, a pretty good-sized one at that. Imagine trying to take care of all of these people in this city, feed them, house them, entertain them, humour them, and take their minds off of their problems for a brief period. A tall order, yet the cruise ships do a pretty decent job!
Now, just for fun, take a look at this Youtube video! (Note: you must click on the “watch this video in youtube” to view it)
Note: if you are interested, most cruise ships publish their own cookbooks and I have several in my collection:
The Buffets of Carnival
The Carnival Experience
Carnival Creations – Cruise Cuisine from Carnival Chefs
The Crystal Cruises Cookbook
Queen Elizabeth 2 Cookbook
Courses – A Culinary Journey (Princess Cruises)
Princess Cruises Cuisine
A Taste of Excellence Cookbook (Holland America)
Royal Caribbean Holiday & Entertainment Cookbook
Royal Caribbean International Cookbook
Carte du Jour – The Restaurants of Royal Caribbean International
Music – “Wedding March” from A Jazz-Inspired Wedding by Craig Curry. Released: 2013
June has long been associated with weddings. With weddings comes food (usually). Offerings at wedding receptions are about as diverse as are the couple, who just exchanged vows. From traditional (the whole multi-tiered cake slathered in butter frosting, fondant and adorned with colourful flowers, lace, etc.), to the country-style, jazzy, exotic, down-home, the food planning for a wedding reception is wide-open, depending on the tastes of the bride and groom (or bride & bride, groom & groom…you get the picture), and the tastes of their guests.
However, there is one caveat to serving food at a nuptial celebration: practicality and the degree of difficulty in consuming the food without ruining the rented tux, the heirloom bridal gown, the expensive bridesmaid dress that will never be worn again (thankfully), and the reputation of the hosts. In that light, I offer a few suggestions for those wedding planners about what NOT to serve at their upcoming festivities.
Music: Playtime Songs by The Countdown Kids. Released: 2002
One of the great things about having so many cookbooks is tracing the history of cooking techniques and cookery advice. Marketing, food trends and such were popular topics in 18th and 19th century cookbooks. Hannah Glasse, in her classic “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”, first published in 1747, provided very detailed descriptions of how to market, select and purchase comestibles such as meat, fish, vegetables, etc.
“See dear….this one is green and slimy and smells…if only we had “use by” labels” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
Presumably, her advice was based on her own experiences and the use of her senses: smell, sight, touch, and on occasion, taste. To select mutton, she advises that “If there be rot, the flesh will be palish, and the fat a faint whitish, inclining to yellow…”.
Pork selection requires intense scrutiny: “As for old and new killed, try the legs, hands and springs, by putting your finger under the bone that comes out: for if it be tainted, you will there find it by smelling your finger; beside the skin will be sweaty and clammy when stale, but cool and smooth when new”.
“Excuse me, but would you unwrap this so I could stick my finger inside to see if it’s fresh?” (Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk)
When was the last time you asked a butcher (if you even saw one at your local supermarket), if you could poke your finger into a pork roast?
Or, opened a carton of eggs in the grocery store and licked one? (“Eggs hold the great end to your tongue; if it feels warm, be sure it is new…”) Certainly makes a case for washing your eggs first before cracking them open!
When it comes to actually cooking your finely selected purchases, Hannah advises that to roast a pig, “…take a little sage shred small, a piece of butter as big as a walnut, and a little pepper and salt; put them into the pig and sew it up with coarse thread: then flour it all over very well, and keep flouring it till the eyes drop out…” No mention of what to do with the little orbs once they have fallen into the firepit.
“No, this is beef. I got grossed out when I roasted the pig and his eyes dropped out!” (Photo Credit: http://www.janeaustens world.wordpress.com)
Clearly, cheese selection in Hannah’s time was an art: “…if old cheese be rough-coated, rugged, or dry at top, beware of little worms of mites: if it be over full of holes, moist or spongy, it is subject to maggots”. Not a pretty picture.
Small birds were a mainstay dish in the late 18th century, including Woodcock and Snipe. Hannah advises that “The Woodcock, if fat, is thick and hard; if new, limber-footed: when stale, dry-footed: or if their noses are snotty and their throats muddy and Moorish, they are not good”. Makes sense to me. Few things are worse than a Woodcock with a snotty nose.
Now, as to the variety of comestibles, which people will partake of, although some of us (myself included) might find it a tad squeamish to even consider downing a goblet of fresh pig’s blood (or cow‘s blood), in 1893, Helen Campbell in her book “The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking”, discusses the popularity of blood-puddings among the Germans. She suggests that “…we are not likely to adopt their use. Fresh blood has, however, been found of wonderful effect for consumptive patients and there are certain slaughter-houses in our large cities where every day pale invalids are to be found waiting for the goblet of almost living food from the veins of the still warm animal. Horrible as it seems, the taste for it is soon acquired ; and certainly the good results warrant at least the effort to acquire it.” (Dracula: your supply may be diminishing!)
There is an answer for just about anything in some early cookbooks. For example, I had never given a lot of thought to the effects of moonlight on fish (have you?) According to Virginia Reed, in her 1896 book, “The Way we Did at Cooking School”, moonlight causes fish to spoil “…on account, of the attraction it has for the phosphorus in the fish”.
After all is said and done, Hannah Glasse might breathe a sigh of relief if she were marketing today. In addition to stringent Federal standards for the sale of fresh and processed foods and “use by” labels, she might even invest in a Stable Micro System instrument to measure the ripeness in fruits, or a Stable Micro System device, which measures the extensibility of pizza cheese. No more sniffing, poking or pulling. Ah, behold the wonders of modern technology (but not nearly as much fun as poking your finger into the pork!)
“If only Hannah Glasse had an instrument to determine how ripe fruit is…. (Photo Credit: 111.2015dlg.org)