Back in April of this year, I attended an annual “foodie” conference
here in NYC at the Roger Smith Hotel. In the past it was dubbed
“The Cookbook Conference,” but it was re-named the Food-Tech
for its fourth go-round in 2014. Every year, there are
sessions on multifarious topics, the speakers and panelists (well,
most of them!) present informative talks, and the opportunities
to network with “fellow foodies” are abundant.

Now, one of the sessions I attended was entitled “Mechanizing
Cacao.” It featured a panel of three speakers, plus a moderator.
Each panelist spoke on some aspect of cacao, whether its history
or the modern chocolate-making process. However, one of these
supposed “experts” was sadly mis-informed! And oddly enough,
he just happened to be a representative of Mars, Inc., who’re
the makers of American Heritage Historic Chocolate,** and was
also one of the sponsors of this year’s Conference. Oh, dear…!

Anyway, according to Mr. Mars/American Heritage, chocolate
was consumed ONLY as a beverage during the 18th century
and NOT as a food. HA! That statement is NOT true! I know
this, definitively, because I’ve made “eat-able” dishes that
contained chocolate (remember my “Nut Bomboons”?). But
coincidentally, I’d also just participated in an historic hearth
cooking workshop the previous weekend, wherein we made
several 18th century chocolate dishes that were meant to be
eaten. Thus, I am sorry Sir, but you are incorrect! And yes,
I had intended to raise my little hand during the session-ending
Q & A, in order to share the above information about replicating
18th century chocolate as something to be eaten, but, alas, it
wasn’t meant to be. You see, after all the panelists had done
their spiels, the session rather abruptly ended, as time had run
out! Everyone then quickly disappeared, both the speakers and
the audience! I must say, it was rather bizarre. I found myself
wondering, “What just happened? Where’d everyone go? It’s
over?!?” And so, there was no Q & A, no sharing of anything.
It was officially The End.

Ahh, well…so it goes.

In any case, below are the dishes we prepared during the hearth
cooking workshop. The receipts utilized for each one were taken
from assorted 18th century cookbooks. As you’ll see, chocolate
was consumed not only as a beverage, but also as a food. Indeed,
it was enjoyed in various forms, whether in a cup or on a plate.


First up was a Chocolate Tart. We began by working on the paste
(or crust), which was beaten:




The paste was cooked first. Beans were placed on it to keep it flat:


Time to work on the cream filling:


The chocolate was grated:


Then it was added to the cream mixture and cooked:


Ready to go:


Into the bake oven it went, where any and all baking was done:


Soon the Tart was done and it was then time to caramelize the top
with a heated salamander:



TA-DA! Our mighty fine tart was completed:


Next, we worked on Chocolate Drops:


Then we made Chocolate Almonds, which, incidentally, do not
contain almonds, but are shaped like them:


All the chocolate mixtures were cooked on a brazier:


And finally, we made Chocolate Biscuits:



Our intrepid workshop leader, Deb:


It was a fantastic workshop. Lots of wonderful chocolate dishes
were made AND eaten. I’m looking forward to making them
in my own hearth cooking classes. HUZZAH!



* Names withheld to protect the innocent…and the guilty! LOL
** American Heritage Chocolate is (allegedly) a reproduction of 18th century chocolate, which has been manufactured using an “Authentic 18th Century Product Recipe and Ingredients” (to quote the copy on the box). However, well…maybe not! *sigh* More on that later.
*** The chocolate hearth cooking workshop was conducted by the talented Deborah Peterson (formerly of Deborah’s Pantry) as part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museum’s (ALHFAM) annual conference. The workshop took place in the historic kitchen
of the Peter Wentz Farmstead, of Montgomery County, PA.

It’s been eight years, now, but still
I frequently think of a beloved pet
that passed away on this very day
in 2006. He was a dear furry friend
and “cat-companion.” Yes, I have
another, and she’s a sweetie who
keeps me company, but it’s just
not the same. You could say it
was a type of “first love” with
that previous buddy: he’s the one I’ll never forget.

In any event, as today is the anniversary of his passing, once
again I offer the following remembrance. It’s the same each
year, albeit with minor updates.



Twenty-some years ago, when I was living in Indianapolis, Indiana,
I discovered a stray cat sleeping now and then in an unused dog
house in my back yard. As time went on, I saw him more frequently,
and I began to set out some food. Occasionally, I’d come home
from work, and there he’d be out on the patio. At first, I’d let him
in, he’d casually walk around the room, and then head back out.


Slowly but surely, he became
a regular visitor. Eventually,
he’d come inside, eat, take
a nap on my couch, and then
go back out. Soon we became
a team. He seemed to always
know when I had just gotten
home, for he’d show up
within minutes. Other times,
if I didn’t see him right away,
I would soon hear him. There’d
be meowing coming from one
direction or another, and all
I had to do was meow back,
and he’d come running. There
were many times when I came
home, and he’d be at the patio
door, waiting patiently to come in. And if I’d just had a long hard day,
I’d lie on the floor, he’d sit sphinx-like on my chest, and we’d have
ourselves a little cat nap. Before long, I’d come home, let him in,
and he’d stay until the next morning, when I’d be awakened by his
meowing to be let out. As cats go, it was a match made in heaven.

When I moved to New York, he came with me. On the plane, in the cabin.
In fact, during the next several years, whenever I’d go back and forth
to Indianapolis, he went with me. He didn’t mind flying. I’m sure being
in that cramped carrier, “placed under the seat in front” of me per airline
regulations wasn’t the greatest, but he knew that I was right there.

Several times I took him out (unbeknownst to the flight attendants,
of course), and he’d quietly and calmly sat in my lap. He’d even look
out the window. Like I said, we were a team.

In any event, to make this long story short…the point of all this is that,
eight years ago today (July 28) my beloved pal, this dearly-loved cat,
who had essentially adopted me, passed away. He’d never been sick
a day in his life, yet suddenly he became ill and was gone in
no time. It was devastating. Heartbreaking.

Kitty-Pooh, 1992-2006

Kitty-Pooh, 1992-2006

Since those early days in Indianapolis,
he had been my constant companion. He
went from being a mostly outdoor cat to
being a completely indoor one. He went
with me from one state to another, and
from one apartment to another and then
another. There was even that short time
spent in Jersey (what I refer to as my
homeless period). He was there as I
navigated the trials and tribulations of
life in the Big Bad City. Not to mention
all the ups and downs of pursuing an
acting career. He was there, too, when
my parents passed, first one, then the
other. And the loss of my beloved dog,
Casey. In short, for nearly 14 years he
was the one constant in my life.

And so, this is in honor of my beloved pal.
You were the bestest cat I could ever hope for. My handsome fella.
My gift from God. You are dearly loved and dearly missed.



nap time!

nap time!

Okay. Time to stop dawdling. Which isn’t easy, seeing
as we’re in the midst of the lazy-hazy-days of summer!
In any event, here’s a follow-up to my recent “phantom”
Pepper Pot post
. Let’s get to it!


As several friends, colleagues, and blog commenters stated,
indeed, not only were there two subsequent editions of Sarah
Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife* (one in 1851 and another


in 1855), but a Pepper Pot receipt was in each one, as well.
And yes, Karen Hess, author of The Carolina Rice Kitchen,
The African Connection
(1992) was aware of this. In fact,
she acknowledges that Mrs. Samuel G. Stoney, the compiler
of The Carolina Rice Cook Book (1901), “seems to have used
the third edition of 1855.” I was able to verify all this by first
re-reading the bulk of Hess’ ten-chapter narrative preceding
the facsimile of Carolina Rice, and then searching for, and
finding, those two other Housewife editions online. Although
I wasn’t able to read the Pepper Pot receipt in both, it IS
there (the 1855 could be read in its entirety for FREE, but
in order to go beyond the Table of Contents, where Pepper
Pot is listed, of the 1851 edition, I would’ve had to pay a fee!).
Nevertheless, save for a few minor changes in punctuation
and the like, Stoney’s version is nigh identical to Rutledge’s.
Of course, as with other second or tenth or 20th editions
of these historic cookbooks, I always wonder how much
input, if any, the original author actually had. In this case,
did Rutledge make these additions herself? Or did someone
else, perhaps the publisher, do it? After all, Rutledge died
in 1855, and that year’s edition had a different publisher
than the first two. I suppose we’ll never know. But such
uncertainty about provenance is why I prefer to use, if
possible, the first editions of any cookbook.

At the same time, I must say that I was puzzled as to why
Pepper Pot is in a rice cookbook, seeing as there’s NO rice
in it! At least not in any of the various receipts I’ve found,
whether in Rutledge’s work or another’s. Even Hess mentions


at one point that there’s no apparent rhyme or reason as to why
some of the receipts are included. In any event, while pondering
this, I looked carefully again at the Carolina Rice Cook Book’s
Pepper Pot. And then it hit me. It’s been altered! Stoney (or
someone) modified the receipt so it’d fit in perfectly with the
whole rice theme by adding one little sentence at the very end:

“Serve with rice.”

tsk tsk, Mrs. Stoney! Revised history, did we?! **sigh**

I suppose, since the book was created as a tool for the Carolina
Rice Company and other Southern rice growers to promote their
products,** it makes perfect sense. Throw together a bunch
of receipts, add side dishes of rice, and call it a day. I guess
that’s one way to pad a book AND sell rice!

Ahh, well, so it goes…


* The first edition of the Carolina Housewife was published in 1847.
**BTW Mrs. Stoney was the wife of the Chairman of the Carolina
Rice Kitchen Association. The cookbook was offered in pamphlet
form to visitors for 25 cents during the apparently-not-successful
South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, which was
held in Charleston, SC from December 1, 1901 to June 20, 1902.

I have a follow-up to my recent “phantom receipt” entry, but before I post it,
and seeing as it’s now July 4, I thought I’d once again share this fun video.
Rock on, Mr. Jefferson!

Happy Independence Day, everyone! HUZZAH!


Recently, I presented my “Cook Like a Soldier” program
at The Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (METC) over
in Madison, NJ. Now, usually when I do this, I’m outside,
with a pot of soldier’s rations cooking over a fire, and it’s


all rather informal. I’m able to chat with folks in a leisurely,
give-and-take fashion, while sharing food and bits ‘n pieces
of information as I go. This time, however, seeing as it was
to be given inside the Museum, the situation called for more
of a straight-forward, linear talk, as in one with a beginning,
a middle, and an end.

Now, back when I was preparing the “straight talk” version,
I struggled a bit with melding everything into a cohesive
whole. After taking a few stabs at it, trying this, and then
that, it suddenly hit me! I’d utilize one of my favorite
activities, namely that of debunking historic food myths.
So I decided to demonstrate throughout the course of my
talk (both directly and not), why a certain story regarding
a dish purportedly served to soldiers at a particular point
during the Revolutionary War is nothing but pure fakelore.
And what is that dish? Why, Pepper Pot, of course! (more
details on the story’s content later; either that, or you’ll
just have to attend my program sometime!).

Everything was ready, and I eagerly awaited my “Big Day”
at METC. In the meantime, I found a few spare hours in
the days beforehand and did a little additional research.
As a result, I made a startling discovery about an original
historic receipt for Pepper Pot (yes, the dish, itself, DID
and DOES exist).

You see, there’s a facsimile of the Carolina Rice Cook Book,
compiled by Mrs. Samuel G. Stoney (1901), that’s included
in The Carolina Rice Kitchen, The African Connection (1992),


which was written by the noted food historian Karen Hess.
And in her work, Hess discusses in detail the contents and
possible origins of a receipt for Pepper Pot found in the first
book (Carolina Rice), where it’s attributed to The Carolina
(1847), by Sarah Rutledge. (Did you get all that?
I know, it’s a little confusing!) In any case, long story short,
here’s the problem: IT’S NOT THERE! It doesn’t exist! Yep,
there’s NO receipt for Pepper Pot in Rutledge’s book!

I made this shocking discovery when I searched the Index
of my copy of Housewife and didn’t find Pepper Pot. Well,
I thought, I know sometimes receipts, for whatever reason,
aren’t in the section where you’d think they’d be (in this case,
soups), and instead, they’re in another. So I combed through
ALL the possible alternatives. Again, nothing. Then I looked
through the ENTIRE Index, line by line. Still no Pepper Pot.
Finally, I thought, maybe the receipt IS in the book, and,
although it was (inadvertently?!?) left out of the Index, it’s
nevertheless located somewhere, and I just have to hunt


carefully for it. So, I searched the ENTIRE BOOK, looking
up and down every single page. And I did so TWICE. Alas,
a receipt for Pepper Pot was nowhere to be found.

I couldn’t believe it! Good golly, how can this be? Didn’t
Mrs. Stoney verify where the receipts she was given came
from? Didn’t she check and re-check her sources? Did she
simply not catch this? Or, if the receipt was submitted by
another person (to Stoney), what of her? Did she goof up?
Or (heaven forbid!), was it done on purpose? You know,
perhaps the receipt was created out of whole cloth, but
then attributed to The Carolina Housewife in a desperate
attempt to legitimize it?

And, holy moly, how is it that the famous Karen Hess didn’t
notice any of this?!? Had she never looked all that closely
at Rutledge’s book? Wasn’t she even curious to look at
the receipt she was going to write so much about? In its
original location? Just to see what else was in the same
section or on the same page? Or, heck, just to verify that
it was copied correctly by whoever submitted it to Stoney?
And yet, Hess dissects it as if it was written by Rutledge
(or at least included it in her book). She offers details
about the Southern author’s background and speculates
where she may’ve gotten the Pepper Pot receipt.

Golly. What a mess! So many questions, but no answers.
This whole affair is incredible!

Of course, now the treasure hunt is on to find the true and
original source for the Carolina Rice Cook Book’s Pepper Pot
receipt. There’s one that’s somewhat, but not entirely, similar
in The Cook’s Own Book, which was compiled by “a Boston
Housekeeper” (aka Mrs. N.K.M. Lee). The thing is, it was
published in 1832, 15 years before Rutledge’s book. And
in Boston, of all places! Also, as those who’re familiar with
Cook’s Own know, it’s an encyclopedia of receipts that’ve
been gleaned from other works, but not one is attributed
to any specific work.

There ARE a few other 19th century, even some earlier (18th
century), Pepper Pot receipts. However, none of them match
the one in Carolina Rice. I’m still looking, though. If I ever
find it, I’ll let you know. And of course, if anyone out there
hears of, or finds, the illusive matching Pepper Pot receipt,
please DO let me know. Until then, the mysterious case
of the phantom receipt remains unsolved.



Oh, and here’s the receipt for Pepper Pot that’s NOT found
in Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife (1847), but IS
found in The Carolina Rice Cook Book (1901), compiled
by Louisa Cheves Smythe (Mrs. Samuel G.) Stoney:

Take one-half peck of spinach, pick and
boil it as for dinner; drain off the water,
and chop it up fine. Put into a soup-kettle
6 quarts of water, 3 pounds of beef or
veal, about 1 pound of pork, which must
be scalded to draw out the salt, a piece
of ham with the ham bone is preferable,
and boil about an hour. Then add the
spinach, a dozen potatoes, or 4 pounds
of yam, 3 plantains peeled and cut up
into pieces about 3 inches long, and small
dumplings. Let all these ingredients boil
together slowly for four or five hours. Just
before serving add some pickled peppers
(cut up) and 1 or 2 long red peppers. If you
have crabs or lobsters previously boiled, add
a small quantity, pickled fine, about half hour
before serving. Serve with rice.


And, hopefully, everyone is aware that good ol’ Mrs. Stoney
was the wife of the chairman of the Carolina Rice Kitchen
Association, of Charleston, SC. In fact, her cookbook was
published by that very entity. Also, that the current name
Carolina Rice has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rice
that was grown in the American South during the 17th,
18th, and early 19th centuries. It was selected merely
because it was available and, according to a spokesperson
for the maker, Rivianna Foods, Inc., ” ‘they had simply
liked the name.’ ”


And finally, the receipt for Pepper Pot from The Cook’s Own
(1832). Note the similarities and differences between
this and the one above:

Pepper Pot.
Take as much spinach as will fill a good
sized dish, put it in a saucepan without
any water, set it on the fire, and let it
boil; then drain off all the liquor, chop
the spinach very fine, and return it
to the saucepan, with the water just
drained from it, more water, onions,
three or four potatoes, a lettuce or
head of endive cut small, the bones
of any cold roast meat, if you have
them, and half a pound of bacon; put
the whole on the fire, and when it has
boiled for about an hour, put in a few
suet dumplings; leave it twenty or
thirty minutes longer; season it well
with cayenne, and serve.

Interestingly, there are two Pepper Pot receipts in Cook’s
. The second, however, is a nigh exact copy of one
in Maria Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery
(London, 1816). And it, according to Hess, demonstrates
perfectly that she (Rundell) “understood it very well.”

About two weeks ago, I headed up north to participate in the Wilton
[CT] Historical Society’s
annual “Colonial Days” program for the area’s
fourth graders. It was an amazing four-day event, and the different
groups of young’uns were daily kept mighty busy with lots to see
and do. Everyone partook of a wide variety of activities at numerous
stations that were situated throughout the Society’s complex, ranging
from flax and wool processing to hauling buckets of water with a yoke
to creating a pincushion to watching a blacksmith at work to assisting
with a small-scale barn raising and more.

And then there was me, happily ensconced in the kitchen of the Society’s
Sloan-Raymond-Fitch House. Together, the students and I talked about
cooking over an open fire in the 18th century. We covered everything,


including the process, the equipment and utensils, and the food. And
since they all just happened to arrive when the main meal of the day
(aka dinner) would’ve been prepared and cooked, we also chatted
about how they might’ve assisted and the chores they likely would
have done. Each child then had the opportunity to try three: grinding
peppercorns; cutting up sweet potatoes; and churning butter. When
their chores were completed, each student was then able to enjoy
some freshly-churned butter on a piece bread and to sample a cup
of the resulting buttermilk. The whole room was a beehive of activity,
what with our lively discussions and the sounds of ambitious little
helpers doing their chores. Alas, our time together was far too short,
and soon they were all on their way to the next station. Another group
of eager young folks arrived, and we began once again.

Overall, I think everyone had a marvelous time. I know I certainly did.











I’m stunned. Shocked. Simply dumbfounded. No! It can’t be true!
But alas, sadly, it is.

You see, late Wednesday night, I discovered that Steven A. Shaw,
the one who taught me how to start this very blog, passed away
six (!) weeks ago. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to make
of it. I’m just blown away.

Oddly enough, I was thinking of Steven recently, as it was five
years ago this Spring that I took his class at the former French
Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) on how
to start a blog. The very first night, he made sure we understood
the basics, and soon we all had the bare bones of our own blogs
up and running. How exciting it was! From there, Steven eagerly
helped each student navigate the world of blogging, from developing
a theme to creating a style to building a following and everything
in between. He was available 24/7 to answer questions or to simply
offer advice. Even after the class ended, Steven kindly offered his
assistance. In short, Steven A. Shaw was the best blogging teacher,
and friend, that anyone could ever want or need. I am SO glad that
I got to know him and to work with him. It was a privilege to be
his student. In fact, I owe the very existence of this blog to him.
I’m very thankful for his guidance and his friendship. I’m also deeply,
incredibly, sad that he is now gone.

Godspeed, Steven. You’ve left us far, FAR too soon.

photo from newyork.seriouseats.com


Here’s a fun video from Anthony Bourdain’s site, where he and
Steven discuss the latter’s blog class at FCI. I posted it initially
back in August of 2009, during my first year of blogging. And yes,
Steven gave ME a shout-out! I’m the woman he described as
“an expert on historical hearth cookery.” HUZZAH!


There are several published notices of Steven’s passing. Here is one.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 112 other followers