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 (September, 2018) is 6,500.
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 August, 2018, the collection has grown to 6,477)
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!
Music – “Livin’ In the Fridge” from Alapalooza by “Weird Al” Yankovic. Released: 1999
I recently heard that November 15th is “National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day“. Some references suggest that Whirlpool Home Appliances started the promotion, however, this has not been confirmed. An alternate explanation is that someone (turkey breeders? pumpkin growers? cranberry harvesters?) suggested the date in anticipation of all of the room need to accommodate the coming Thanksgiving leftovers. Who knows?
I used to watch the show “Hoarders“and I was both fascinated and repelled by the stuff that people hoard and how MUCH of it. Suffice it to say, while I have never been accused of hoarding cookbooks, some people seem to think that no matter how organized or how much care goes into the selection and curation of a large collection of books, ownership of more than 1,000 books is “hoarding”, or, at least the Compulsive Book Hoarders Group seems to think. Wikipedia describes “bibliomania”, as the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a genuine book collector. Well, that certainly lets me off the hook, as my cookbooks have tremendous value and are frequently used. Whatever.
In appreciation of the upcoming “National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day“, I pulled out several of my older “cookbooklets”, which were issued from refrigerator manufacturers back in the day: Frigidaire, General Electric, Servel Electrolux, and International Harvester (I never knew they made refrigerators). This is an example of what a well-maintained refrigerator should look like, according to Servel Electrolux:
The “Servel Electrolux” refrigerator from their brochure, dated 1936. Such slick lines! Such cleanliness!
Or, from the booklet that accompanied the General Electric Refrigerator, for the modern woman of 1927….
1927 – General Electric Refrigerator, all neat and organized inside. No rotting meat here!
The Frigidaire Model AP-7-2, which featured “…enduring Tu-Tone porcelain enamels of gray and white, in lustrous white Duco or in any of five harmonious color combinations of Duco”. Very impressive! From their 1928 “Frigidaire Recipes”.
One of the things that absolutely floored and disgusted me no end about many hoarders was the frequent obsession with retaining everything, including garbage, and even worse, rotting food. For example…(a picture is worth a thousand words)…
Perhaps the safest kind of “hoard” in your refrigerator (never rots, doesn’t smell) (Photo Credit: http://www.vanpoolusa.com)
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve located some relics at the rear of many a refrigerator of mine over the years….I recall one particular ghastly and stomach-wrenching episode some years back, which, without going into details, I named “the ugly egg salad incident” (you can read between the lines)
So, please don’t forget that November 15th is NATIONAL CLEAN OUT YOUR REFRIGERATOR DAY! You just never know what you might find….
Music – “Fun Words from Foreign Languages” from Little Turtles by Davy Andrews. Released: 2012
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
Some time ago, I wrote about the fascinating experience of attempting to translate several foreign-language cookbooks I have in my collection, using several online website translators. The results, needless to say, were somewhat puzzling and others downright funny. (“Antipooches of heart of beast and of chicken” Huh?) (March 29, 2014)
I was recently given a copy of “Gran Libro de la Cocina Chilena“, by a very good friend, whose wife was Chilean and passed away a few years ago. In attempting to translate some of the recipes and instructions, I ventured, once again, into the nebulous world of translating from one language to another, in this case, Spanish to English.
Now, one might think that Spanish to English would be a pretty straight forward kind of exercise, not fraught with too many issues as it might be if you were trying to translate Kazakh to Afrikaans.
For example, “Liebre al Champana” is variously translated as “Hare to the Champagne“, “Hare to the Champana“, and “Hare Al Champagne” (wasn’t Al Champagne a jazz musician in the 1940’s?) The initial instructions indicate that the cook should ” limpie y lave muy bien la liebre. Trocela y envuelva cada presa con una tira de tocino“. Thus, the cook should “Clean and wash very well the hare. Trocela and wrap every prey with a bacon strip“, or “Clean and wash very well the hare. Trocela and wrap every dam(prey) with a strip of bacon“. Alternately, one could “Clean and wash the hare very well. Trocela and wrap each prey with a strip of bacon“. Take your pick.
If you are fond of oysters, you might need to know that the recipe “Ostiones al Estragon” could be either “Large Oysters to the Tarragon“, or “Oysters at Havoc“, which sounds much more fascinating. “Fritos de Arroz” seems pretty mundane, when translated into English: “Rice Fried Food“, “Fried Food of Rice“, or “Fried Rice“.
I found that the translation for “Acelgas a la Diabla” was rather mysterious. Depending on your preference, it could be translated as “Spinach Beets to the Whore“, “Spinach Beets to the Devil“, or “Chard with the Devil“. I really have no idea what “Peritas Borrachas” is, but according to the translations, it could be “Drunk Experts“, “Expert Leather Wine-Bottles“, or “Adept Drunk“. I prefer the latter translation as it is much more colourful.
This could be an adept drunk or a “Peritas Borrachas”. Is drinking, while riding a bull legal? (Photo Credit: http://www.app.com)
Fancy Goose with Orange? “Ganso al Horno Con Naranja” gives you a few options. You can take your “goose to the stove with orange“, or take your “goose to the oven with orange“, or have your goose baked with orange. If you prefer duck, you might cook “Pato a la Gallega“, which translates as “Duck to the Galician” or “Galician Duck“. I did learn that the Galicians are a “national, cultural and ethnic group whose historic homeland is Galicia, in the north-west of the Iberian Pensula” (www.wikipedia.org)
Now, one of the more fascinating and difficult to understand translations was “Zorzales con Repollitos de Bruselas“, which turns out to be “Thrushes with Bruselas Rechicks“, “Thrushes with Rechicks of Bruselas“, or, more mundane: “Thrushes with Brussels Sprouts“. Likewise, I was unable to determine exactly what “Chupe de Guatitas” is (animal? vegetable? other?). According to the translators, it is “Suck of Guatitas“, or “Guatitas Suck“. Either one sounds slightly obscene. From what I finally determined, “Guatitas” is tripe. Like I said, still sounds obscene.
Lastly, I revisited a recipe I had previously found in a Spanish cookbook, “Anticuchos de Ternera“. Pick your favourite: “Veal Anticuchos“, “Veal Ant Pusses“, or “Antipooches of Veal“. They are all so descriptive that my mouth is just watering to try it (whatever it is)
Music – “Happy Cooking” from Happy Cooking by Eiji Kitamura. Released: 1986
For those not in the know, Octoberfeatures many “national” events, according to popular lore:
National I’m Just Me Because Month
Adopt A Shelter Dog Month
AIDS Awareness Month (President Reagan)
American Cheese Month
Antidepressant Death Awareness Month
Bat Appreciation Month
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
(World) Blindness Awareness Month
Caffeine Addiction Recovery Month
Celebrating The Bilingual Child Month
Children’s Magazine Month
Christmas Seal Campaign
Church Library Month
Church Safety and Security Month
Class Reunion Month
Co-op Awareness Month
Cut Out Dissection Month
Down Syndrome Awareness Month
Dyslexia Awareness Month
Eat Better, Eat Together Month
Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month
Emotional Wellness Month
Employee Ownership Month
Energy Management is a Family Affair-Improve Your Home Month
Financial Planning Month
Feral Hog Month or Hog Out Month
German-American Heritage Month
Global Diversity Awareness Month
Go Hog Wild – Eat Country Ham
Halloween Safety Month
Head Start Awareness Month
Health Literacy Month
Home Eye Safety Month
Italian-American Heritage Month
International Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) Awareness Month
International Starman Month
International Strategic Planning Month
International Walk To School Month
LGBT History Month
Long Term Care Planning Month
Month of Free Thought
National Animal Safety and Protection Month
National Apple Month
National Applejack Month
National Arts & Humanities Month
National Audiology Awareness Month
National Bake and Decorate Month
National Book Month
National Bullying Prevention Month
National Caramel Month
National Chili Month
National Chiropractic Month
National Cookbook Month
National Cookie Month
National Crime Prevention Month
National Critical Illness Awareness Month
National Cyber Security Awareness Month
National Dental Hygiene Month
National Dessert Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National Depression Education & Awareness Month
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
National Dropout Prevention Month
National Ergonomics Month
National Fair Trade Month
National Family Sexuality Education Month
National “Gain The Inside Advantage” Month
National Go On A Field Trip Month
National Kitchen & Bath Month
National Learning and Development Month
National Liver Awareness Month
National Medical Librarian Month
National Orthodontic Health Month
National Pasta Month
National Physical Therapy Month
National Pickled Peppers Month
National Pizza Month
National Popcorn Poppin’ Month
National Pork Month
National Pretzel Month
National Principals Month
National Protect Your Hearing Month
National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
National Reading Group Month
National Roller Skating Month
National RSV Awareness Month
National Sarcastic Awareness Month
National Sausage Month
National Seafood Month
National Sensory Awareness Month
National Spina Bifida Awareness Month
National Stamp Collecting Month
National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month – October
National Toilet Tank Repair Month
National Window Covering Safety Month
National Work and Family Month
National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month
Organize Your Medical Information Month
Pear and Pineapple Month
Photographer Appreciation Month
Polish American Heritage Month
Positive Attitude Month
Rett Syndrome Awareness Month
Rhizomes and Persimmons Month
Right Brainers Rule! Month
Spinach Lovers Month
Squirrel Awareness Month Link
Tackling Hunger Month
Talk About Prescriptions Month
Wishbones for Pets Month
Workplace Politics Awareness Month
World Menopause Month
So, readers might assume that even though I’m a bit biased, my favourite October event is:
National Cookbook Month !
Pick one up and read it today! To borrow from the ad for the Capital One credit card, (“What’s in YOUR wallet?“)
What’s on YOUR cookbook shelf?
Cookbook collecting has even rubbed off on my cats! (Photo of Tux by Sue Jimenez)
Tux and Shadow picking a recipe for dinner (Photo by Sue Jimenez)
Music – “English Birds Sounds” from Healing Water Magic Sounds: Soothing Rain, Beach, Waterfall, River, Calm Down Emotions, Relaxation Meditation Yoga Music by Water Sounds Music Zone. (release date not stated)
I have several “game” cookbooks in my collection, which I inherited as part of a large lot of cookbooks I purchased some time ago, however, I must admit that I don’t really gravitate to them, with their often brutal and lurid descriptions of butchering techniques. One of these is “The Master Book of Poultry & Game” by Henry Smith, published by Spring Books in London. The book is not dated, but research suggests it was published around 1950.
“The Master Book of Poultry & Game” by Henry Smith, ca. 1950
Now, on the frontispiece, Mr. Smith has a number of impressive credentials after his name: F.H.C.I., F.I.B.B., F.A.H.C.I., F.A.C.I and G.C.F.A. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any explanations for these designations that might coincide with Mr. Smith’s publications. For example, F.A.C.I. could be either Fellow of the American Concrete Institute, or Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance, but I suspect that Mr. Smith was not affiliated with either of these organizations. That is, however, pure speculation on my part.
Mr. Smith, unfortunately, goes on at some length about starving, killing, hanging and how to determine if a bird is “home killed“. Suffice it to say, this book is not high on my list of admirable cookbooks. What startled (not “starling“) me was the incredible list of birds and other game the English were eating at the time the book was published (and, perhaps, still are).
Some of the names were completely unfamiliar to me: I had never heard of a Capercailzie or a Corncrake, nor have I ever discussed the merits of Fig-Birds or Landrails with my colleagues.
Now, if none of these tickles your fancy (that might be a bird, as well!), there is always Roast Thrush, Haunch of Veal, Devilled Woodcock or Ortolan Perigourdine.
Even at the time this book was written, the author has described the Ortolan as “…almost extinct in these islands“. He further points out that they were netted in large numbers in some European countries, “….then kept alive in darkened rooms and fattened on oats and millet”.
Current information suggests that although being declared an endangered species for some time now, many individuals continue to capture them and subject them to horrible cruelties before devouring them. Typically, they are drowned in a vat of Armagnac and eaten whole, bones, beak and all. The diner puts a large napkin over his head, allegedly to “…keep in all the aromas of the dish”, but it is more likely to avoid being caught eating the endangered ortolan. This does not sit well with me at all. A pox be on these tormentors!
Music – “Helping in the Kitchen (Family Album / Kitchen and Curate)” from The Pilgrim (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (The Chaplin Revue) by Charlie Chaplin. Released: 2018
One of the more delightful characteristics of older cookbooks is that they open a window to the mood of the people, the prevailing winds of politics at the time, and expectations of and within the family unit. A bonus is that they come filled with recipes!
I recently purchased a reproduction (1983) copy of “The Romanian Cook Book“, originally published by Anisoara Stan, in 1951, touted as “…the first book published in English which tells how to make the dishes for which the Romanians are so famous“.
“The Romanian Cookbook” by Anisoara Stan, first published in 1951.
Stan not only provides 450 Romanian recipes, but also some insights into her life growing up in Romania during World War I, her family, and life in Transylvania (no mention of Dracula anywhere in her book!)
What strikes me about the “narrative” portions of the cookbook, where Stan discusses her life, experiences and expectations of women in Romanian families during the war years, is the gay, almost carefree, nose-to-the-grindstone (with good cheer, mind you) attitude of children concerning their participation in daily rituals and chores. The author extolls their virtues and paints a picture of them as happy, bubbly, do-gooders. For example, she writes about the role of the children after dinner:
“…the Romanian mother gathers her children around her and discusses with them the next day’s meal. If they decide on ciorba (sour soup), every one (sic) gets busy.”
Discussing the next day’s meal, perhaps, so the children can be assigned their chores? (Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com)
“I wish you could watch the little hands of the youngsters, peeling and cutting the vegetables, preparing the meat, bringing in water, getting wood, and do believe me, with singing.”
This doesn’t look like the smiling child working in the fields, as described by the author of “The Romanian Cook Book” (Photo Credit: http://www.libraryofcongress.com)
“Once they start to work they concentrate on what they are doing, having pride in their work, and so all their chores which mother or grandmother has delegated to them are done well and speedily, too. As mothers sometimes work in the fields, the grandmother runs the kitchen. She is treated with great respect and love, as befits her years and experience.”
A small child helping grandma in the kitchen in bygone days (when grandmas were respected) (Photo Credit: http://www.alamy.com)
“After the children have completed their tasks, they can go out to play, to visit or work on whatever they love to do. They feel a responsibility to their parents and help them always cheerfully, not with grumbling. The parents, in turn, know how important it is to teach the girls the art of cooking, so that they in time will be fitted to run their own households.
Wow. In this day and age, it is hard to read these passages without thinking, “Really?” It almost sounds akin to a fairy tale, the well-behaved rosy-cheeked children, exuberant in their tasks, which sound more like fun and games. I am in no way disparaging the author or her interpretation of these events, but it just seems too sugar-coated to be believable and I cite this book, only because it was so detailed in the descriptions of a bygone era.
Perhaps I am jaded in my observations of (many, but certainly not all) of today’s youth, self-absorbed, attached as if by some invisible umbilical cord to cellphones, IPods, smart phones, large-screen TV’s (in every room) etc. and have frequently been referred to as “Millennials” or the “entitled generation“. Elders in this country today often lack the respect the author of “The Romanian Cookbook” alludes to during her growing up years in Romania. Today, they are more likely to be ignored, taken advantage of, or even abused. What happened?
Music – “Get Baking / Bakewell Counting / Early Bake / Countryside Air / Final Destination (Get Baking Medley)” from Music Featured in the T.V. Program: The Great American Baking Competition by The London Film Score Orchestra. Released: 2014.
Readers may have seen my post of July 31st, “New Olympic Event? The Pieathalon!” Well, the pie-baking day has arrived, after much putting-off and grumbling. (I am NOT a baker and entered this worthy competition with some trepidation) I was assigned “Walnut Pie” from “The Yul Brynner Cookbook“, published in 1983. The recipe was courtesy of Jenny at Silver Screen Suppers.
I made my pie on August 15th, which, coincidentally happens to be “National Lemon Meringue Pie Day“, according to my book “Eat the Year“. And, shame on me, I was making Walnut Pie! Perhaps I’ve already violated some Pieathalon statute, like doping in the Olympics ? Actually, I don’t even think there are medals awarded (but it doesn’t matter, because my fireplace mantel is too cluttered with my other numerous awards. Right.)
Nevertheless, I proceeded with caution, taking photographs at every opportunity, after continually dusting off flour from the lens of my camera. First, the book and the recipe:
“The Yul Brynner Cookbook” 1983
The recipe for “Walnut Pie” from “The Yul Brynner Cookbook”
I assembled the ingredients for the pastry: flour, butter, a pinch of salt and one egg:
Ingredients for the pastry
Here is the sequence:
Start with the flour
Add the softened butter
Using a pastry cutter
The pastry after mixing
Add one egg
Adding a pinch of salt
Now, according to my consulting book “The New High Altitude Cookbook“, I added a tablespoon of water to allow for the drying that often occurs during high altitude baking (don’t I sound like I do this all of the time? Not!)
Adding a bit of water for high-altitude adjustment
After the dough was sufficiently mixed:
Prepped pastry cloth
The pastry ball
Rolling the pastry
Folding the crust
Putting the crust into the pie plate
I neglected to take a photograph of the fluted edges I gave the pastry, even though no instructions deemed it to have one. In high school, I played the flute in music class and I have made fluted crusts on pies. Unfortunately, I would have to admit that I was never good at either one (which might explain why I forgot to take a photograph!)
Once the pie crust was prepared, it seemed very buttery and soft to me, so I decided to pop it into the refrigerator until the filling was prepared. The filling consists of light corn syrup, dark brown sugar (I had only light, so I hope this is not another infraction!), sour cream, a dash of salt, melted butter, vanilla extract, eggs and walnuts. Together, it seemed extremely rich and rather a lot of filling considering the size of the pie plate. I used Mexican vanilla, which has a richer flavour. I initially forgot to add the melted butter before stirring first, so I added it afterward and stirred again:
“A pinch of salt”
Stir, stir, stir
Adding the melted butter
Next, it was time to beat the eggs and add to the rest of the mixture. I should point out that my beater was a Sunbeam Mixmaster, which I received as a gift in 1972 and is still going strong!
Guess what? 3 eggs!
Beating 3 eggs for the filling
Adding the beaten eggs to the mixture
Finally, it was ready to pour (I ladled – yet another infraction?) into the prepared pastry and scatter the walnuts over the top. Although the recipe specified “whole shelled walnuts”, my local grocery seemed to be out of whole walnuts and I had to be satisfied with “halves and pieces” (perhaps another Pieathalon incumbent was in my neighbourhood and snatched up the whole pieces!)
After carefully assembling everything, I proceeded cautiously to my awaiting 350 degree oven:
“Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust”
“Scatter the walnuts on top”
Ready to go into the oven
Into the oven at 350 degrees…
Because there seemed to be so much filling and I was afraid it would overflow into a burned, sticky mess in my fairly new oven, I excluded about a half a cup of the filling, which I poured into a small Pyrex dish and sprinkled with walnuts (an extra bonus after the pie is finished!) I also put an aluminum piecrust protector ring on top of the pie, or whatever that gadget is called.
The recipe specified that the pie should bake for “45 minutes, or until filling is completely cooked“. After 45 minutes at 350 degrees, I pulled out the oven rack and the contents of the pie quivered like quicksand, so back in it went.
I reset the timer for another 20 minutes. After checking again, the quicksand had congealed a bit, but was definitely not ready to eat. Another 15 minutes seem to do the trick, so after a total of 80 minutes, the pie was finally done and seemed to have set properly.
Not being a frequent baker (which I have already admitted to), and being at an altitude of about 5,700 feet, I know that weird things happen in the oven and on the stove top, and I think that at least part of the extra time required for the pie to set was a function of this anomaly. When I first moved to Albuquerque, from just outside of Toronto (about 450 feet above sea level), I couldn’t understand why it took me FOREVER to boil potatoes! I would put them in a pot and boil, and boil, and boil. I learned after some trial and error that water boils at 212 degrees at or near sea level, but that due to atmospheric pressure, it boils at about 200 degrees at the elevation of my residence in southeast Albuquerque. The water is boiling away, but the temperature is lower, so it takes much longer. Lesson learned (but not in baking!)
Now, for the ultimate decision about whether or not I am eligible for a Pieathalon medal (if there is one!): the taste test! I admit that I am not a lover of “sweet” things, however, my spouse is. Here is his verdict on the Walnut Pie:
Pieathlon 5 (photo provided by Emily Brungo)
(all photos, unless otherwise specified, by Sue Jimenez)
Music – “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” from 24 Polka’s Greatest Hits by Myron Floren. Released: 1995.
A possible new Olympic event is about to take place: the Pieathalon! It follows in a long line of “athlons“: the pentathlon (pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horseback riding and running), the triathlon (running, cycling and swimming), the biathlon (cross country skiing and shooting), and the decathlon (ten events including sprinting, hurdling, jumping and throwing), not to mention the duathlon (running and cycling), the heptathlon (seven events), and the tetrathlon (showjumping, swimming, running and pistol shooting).
However, in the Piathalon, “pieathletes” engage in the strenuous art of pie-making.
According to food blogger Emily Brungo, this is the 5th Annual Pieathalon. Essentially, the Pieathalon involves “…a bunch of food bloggers”, who are tasked with providing a pie recipe from a pre-1990 cookbook. Each participant submits a pie recipe, and the recipes are then re-assigned to another participant.
Suffice it to say, I have studied my assigned recipe in-depth, even pulling out my high altitude cookbooks to consult so as not to mess it up (my house is at approximately 5,600 feet). I am not really a baker, so I worry about my pie-making skill subset. However, it sounds like good fun and a lot of recipes to share with other food bloggers. When the pie crumbs have settled, I will post about the outcome. In the interim, I must start flexing my pieathletic muscles! Let the games begin!
“Wow. I sure hope I get invited back to next year’s Pieathalon!” (Photo Credit: http://www.alamy.com)
Music – “I Won’t Eat That” from I Won’t Eat That by Willy Welch. Released: 2002.
Well, the 4th of July is nigh (that rhymes!) and American families across the country will be celebrating. What better than a 4th of July dinner? Here are a few suggestions for a humdinger of a July 4th dinner from a cookbook in my collection, “Cooking for American Homemakers“, published in 1950. These recipes are recommended specifically for “4th of July Dinner”, however please feel free to make adjustments or substitutions (or omissions!)
Broiled Sweetbreads with Bacon. This is always at the top of the list for kids! You’ll want to make extra so that everyone gets a bellyful!
Molded Cucumber Salad has been a winner since the 1950’s (hasn’t it?) I’m still trying to figure out who decided that Jell-O and vegetables are a marriage made in heaven.
The ever-present molded cucumber salad. Whoever decided that Jell-O and vegetables went together? (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
There are plenty of other recipes to try at your 4th of July outing: Iced Orange Bouillon, Liver Birds (I think they’re on the endangered list), Kidney Veal Chops (?) or, perhaps, boring old Corn on the Cob (so pedestrian!). Whatever meal you enjoy, have a happy and safe July 4th!
Music – “What’s An Oxymoron?” from Westmount Rhodesians by Bowser and Blue. Released: 1990
In browsing through several recently acquired used cookbooks, I was amused by some of the recipes and food terms, which I deem “oxymoronic“: “Desert Seafood Broth“, “Crab Meat Salad – Which can be served as a delightful vegetarian dish“, “Boneless Ribs“, and “Naturally Artificial“.
Know what “Safety Marinade” looks like? (neither do I!) However, it allegedly uses a lot of rum and garlic and, in addition to a few other ingredients, “…makes an excellent protective blend”, according to author Patricia Telesco of “The Kitchen Witch Companion“. The author also points out that loading knives in your dishwasher point up “…make for a hazard…” (well, duh!), which, perhaps “Safety Marinade” could have prevented.
Some of these recipes seem to resemble the outcome of a random word generator. “Lopsided Fluffy Ripe Cherries“, “Spicy, Delicious, Chicken Juice Output“, or “Bite-Sized Meat Flavor Milk Jelly“, for example are totally nonsensical and probably non-existent (hopefully!) All are hard to visualize, let alone cook. So, go ahead and find those oxymoronic and just plain weird recipes in your cookbooks. They’re out there!
The Kitchen Sink Cookbook (Carolyn Wyman) The Kitchen Witch Companion (Patricia Telesco) The Snacking Dead – A Parody in a Cookbook (D.B. Walker) Eater’s Digest (Lorraine Bodger) Southwestern Soups, Stews, & Skillet Suppers (Judy Walker & Kim MacEachern) Quick & Easy Japanese Snacks & Light Meals (Yukiko Moriyama)
Music – “Get Baking / Bakewell Counting / Early Bake / Countryside Air / Final Destination (Get Baking Medley)” from Music Featured in the T.V. Program: The Great American Baking Competition by The London Film Score Orchestra. Released: 2014.
In our fully equipped modern 21st Century kitchens, and with people on frenzied schedules, there is a tendency to eschew the old tried-and-true cooking and baking “from scratch”. So many quick-prep, little-prep, fast and speedy recipes and already prepared “convenience” foods are out there, many people just can’t grasp the concept of starting with an assortment of ingredients, combining them in certain ways and sequences, and lo and behold, producing a loaf of fresh bread, or a cake or similar delight. In addition to following a “receipt” or recipe, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries in the UK, if you didn’t know a hogshead from a pottle, you were in deep trouble. Nowhere are accurate measurements so important as they are in baking.
Many of these older recipes call for “one large coffee-cup of sugar” and “one very large teaspoon of cinnamon” But what, exactly is a “large coffee cup” and a “very large teaspoon“?
Or “butter the size of an egg” as opposed to “butter the size of a hickory nut“. If you’d never seen a hickory nut, you might add way too much. “Roll the paste the thickness of an Oliver biscuit” is pretty clear, unless you’ve never laid eyes on an Oliver biscuit.
If you had to add “…a suspicion of cinnamon“, just how much is that? According to Wikipedia, it is “a trace or slight indication“. If your recipe calls for two scruples, a scruple is the equivalent of 20 grains, or approximately 1/2 teaspoon.
Or, what about the direction to “add analine the size of two grains of wheat“. First of all, what is “analine“? I could only find one vague reference to it, pertaining to a compound used in making perfumes, but “aniline” (if that is what was meant) is used in rubber processing, herbicides, and dyes and pigments. According to Wikipedia, the main use of aniline was a precursor to indigo, the blue in blue jeans! Why it would show up in a 19th century baking recipe is curious (and perhaps not very healthy!)
Even more curious is a recipe, which directs the baker to “Boil one and one-half cups sugar with water enough to cover, until it hairs“.
..perhaps measuring the sugar….(Photo Credit: http://www. healthyfoodteam.com)
For those in the 18th century trying to lose a few pounds, there are recipes for “diet bread” containing “…one pound sugar, nine eggs, beat for an hour (!), add to fourteen ounces flour, spoonful rose-water, one do. Cinnamon or coriander, bake quick“. Just the kind of food to help shed a few pounds!
Many 18th and 19th century recipes indicate that an ingredient should equal the number of eggs. For example, in a recipe for Providence Sponge Cake, the directions indicate “…the weight of ten eggs in sugar, of six in flour and a little salt.” Some recipes specify rather disproportionate amounts of ingredients, such as “…five pounds of sifted loaf sugar to five whites of eggs“. This recipe is even more tiring for the baker than one mentioned previously….the mixture was to be “….beaten two hours in a cool place“!
As to measurements, many of them are older and seldom referred to in most cookbooks today. Would you know what it meant to “…cut up three-quarters of a pound of butter into a jill and a half or three wine glasses of rich, unskimmed milk“?
Something that appears in many baking recipes in older cookbooks is “carbonate of ammonia“. In some recipes, the baker is instructed to grind it down and rub it with the sugar in the recipe.
According to Wikipedia, carbonate of ammonia is it is used as a leavening agent and also as smelling salt. Whew….powerful stuff! Also, directions to “…dissolve the pearl-ash in vinegar” feature in many older baking recipes. Pearlash (pearl ash) or salts of tartar was a common leavening agent at the time.
Other recipes allow a certain “whatever” attitude in baking. For example, in one 19th century recipe for a sponge cake, the baker is instructed to “…take 4, 6, 8 or 10 eggs, weight of eggs in powdered sugar half that weight in flour…beat the yolks ten minutes, mix them well with sugar and one teaspoonful of essence of lemon. Beat whites separate and stir in last.” As long as you have the correction proportion of powdered sugar and flour for the number of eggs you are using, I would suppose all is well, but the recipe requires rereading a few times to clarify this.
A recipe for “Independence Cake” appears to be most unwieldy for the home baker: “Twenty pounds of flour, fifteen pounds of sugar, ten pounds of butter, four dozen of eggs, one quart of wine, one quart of brandy, one ounce of nutmegs, three ounces of cinnamon, cloves and mace, two pounds of citron, five pounds each of currants and raisins, and one quart of yeast. Frost it and dress it with (?) leaf.”
Another feature of many of these older recipes is the lack of specifics as to the sequence of mixing and the approximate baking and cooling times. In addition, some recipes have the baker adding, subtracting, and substituting to the degree that is bound to confuse the mathematically challenged baker (like myself). For a 19th century “Rice Sponge Cake“, “…put twelve eggs into a scale, and balance them in the other scale with their weight in broken loaf-sugar. Take out four of the eggs, remove the sugar, and balance the remaining eight eggs with an equal quantity of rice-flour…” No telling how this cake would turn out if you lost track of the ingredients.
One of my favourite recipes is from a 19th century cookbook, pertaining to cakes that are a tad past their prime: “If you have loaf cake slightly injured by time, or by being kept in the cellar, cut off all appearance of mould from the outside, wipe it with a clean cloth, and wet it well with strong brandy and water sweetened with sugar ; then put it in your oven, and let the heat strike through it, for fifteen or twenty minutes. Unless very bad, this will restore the sweetness.”
A recipe for “young people and delicate stomachs” includes “...six ounces of rice, six ounces of flour, the yolks and whites of nine eggs, half a pound of lump sugar, and half an ounce of caraway seeds“. Of course, the ingredients must be beaten for one hour, which, apparently, “…makes a very light cake”.
Many of these older recipes only specify “makes a large cake“. The number of servings are rarely indicated, but the following recipe would have been sufficient to feed the corpulent King Henry VIII “...nine pounds of flour, nine of sugar, seven and a half of butter, ten of raisins, eight of currants, three of citron, forty-two eggs, two ounces of mace, 9 nutmegs, cloves as you please, one and half pints of brandy, one and a half pints of wine“.
“I think this bowl will be big enough for 9 pounds of flour, ten pounds of raisins, 42 eggs, etc.” (Photo Credit: http://www.the berkeleykitchens.com)
A 1864recipe for “Mrs. Briggs Election Cake” indicates that the baker is to “...lay a sponge overnight with milk, next morning add to the sponge a pint of flour, one coffee cup of sugar, one of butter, one nutmeg, teaspoon of soda and fruit if you choose”
“Well, the recipe said to lay a sponge overnight, but something doesn’t look quite right…” (Photo Credit: http://www.alamy.com)
Other common measurements in 18th and 19th century cookbooks, especially in the UK included the gill (also known as “Jill“), the pottle(2 quarts), and your coombs (4 bushels) and wey (40 bushels).
This is not a “jill” as in cooking terms. (Photo Credit: www. gettyimages.com)