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Archive for July, 2009

If you’ll allow me to indulge just a little longer. I’ll return to historic foodways
with the next post. I promise. In fact, here’s a preview: Sandwich carrots.
With a capital “S.”

Now for a little trip down memory lane. Here are some of my favorite photos
of my now-gone beloved kitty:

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I’m reminded of John Denver’s song “The Gift You Are.” What’re the words?
Think they’re…
“The gift you are,
All the joy that love can bring,
The gift you are,
All of my dreams come true,
The gift you are,
The gift of you.”

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Seventeen 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.

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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 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,
three years ago yesterday (July 28) my beloved pal, this magnificent 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.

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.

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Well, whadaya know?! The receipt for preserving whole mulberries
that’s in The Frugal Housewife and American Cookery is also
in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife (London, 1758). Eliza’s
version is exactly the same as Frugal’s, “pretty thick” segment
and all. Which makes me wonder even more about Simmons’
little, yet somewhat major, switch to “thin.”

In addition, I’ve found that there are several receipts for using
mulberries in Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery. Though
the book was in Martha’s keeping from about 1749 to 1799,
it’s believed that it was started at some point during Medieval
times. There are four separate receipts. Three are for making
a “sirrup” (syrup) of mulberries, similar to the one in the other
three books. The fourth is for a mulberry marmalet (marmalade):

To Make Marmalet of Mulberies or Rasberies

Take to a pound of mulberies or rasberries,
halfe a pound of sugar, which must be well
wet with rose water & boyled to a great height.
then let your berries be strayned & put the
liquor into the sugar. stir it well, & then take
it of [off] the fire before it seeths,* & stir it
till it be allmoste cold, & then box it.

*seeths: boils

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I mentioned previously that there’s a receipt (recipe) for preserving
mulberries in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery. Then later, while
looking for something else, I noticed yet another one in The Frugal
Housewife
, by Susannah Carter. It’s also for preserving mulberries.

the illustrious mulberry!

the illustrious mulberry!

Thing is, it looked familiar.
I’d seen it somewhere.
Well, turns out that
the one in Carter’s
book is almost exactly
the same as the one
in Amelia’s! And since
Frugal was published
in 1772 (in England),
and Cookery in 1796
(in America), that means
Amelia “borrowed” this
receipt from Susannah.
But then, “borrowing”
receipts from other
published works was
typical. Some authors copied previous versions word for word, while
others merely paraphrased them. One of the worst offenders (I think,
so far) is John Farley. In his book The London Art of Cookery (1783),
he stole, er, I mean, “borrowed,” receipts from Susannah Carter AND
Hannah Glasse (The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747). Now,
I’ve not done any detailed accounting, but I was taken aback by his,
um, multiple lacks of originality, despite my knowing that authors
frequently plagiarized.

In any case, here is Amelia Simmons’ version in the second edition
of American Cookery, which was published in Albany, NY, in 1796.
She was the first American to write a cookbook which was then also
the first published in America.

To preserve Mulberries whole.

Set some mulberries over the fire in a skillet
or preserving pan; draw from them a pint
of juice when it is strained; then take three
pounds of sugar beaten very fine, wet the
sugar with the pint of juice, boil up your
sugar and skim it, put in two pounds
of ripe mulberries, and let them stand
in the sirrup till they are thoroughly warm,
then set them on the fire, and let them boil
very gently; do them but half enough, so
put them by in the sirrup till the next day,
then boil them gently again, when the sirrup
is pretty thin and will tard in round drops,
when it is cold they are done enough,
so put all into a gallipot* for use.

*A gallipot is a small glazed earthen pot or jar (stoneware is best,
as redware will leak).

Now, Amelia made only slight alterations to Susannah’s version
of this receipt. A non-essential word was added here, a comma
moved there. However, she did make one rather major change.
Towards the end of the receipt where Amelia wrote, “when the
sirrup is pretty thin,” Susannah penned the complete opposite,
“pretty thick.” This puzzles me. Did Amelia do so because it
makes the end result better? Or was it an error on her part?
Perhaps she copied it incorrectly? Or did she change it just
to be changing it? Or is it the fault of the publisher? Maybe
it’s just a typo? Or…something else? Unfortunately, we’ll
never know. But it is an interesting mystery. All part
of what, again, I like to call “food forensics.”

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At this season’s first Fireside Feasts historic cooking workshop
a couple of weeks ago out at Wyckoff, I was asked if mulberries
were ever used in dishes of centuries past. The person who posed
the question was Dave Cook of EatingInTranslation.com. Seems
he’d found mulberries growing on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
I told him that I hadn’t necessarily noticed any receipts for using
mulberries, but that I hadn’t really looked. I assured him, however,
that I would definitely investigate the matter. Of course, soon after
I began noting numerous references to the illustrious mulberry.

According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America,
there are three types of mulberries: white; red; and black. Now these
names refer not to the color of the berries, but to the bud-scale colors
of each species in winter. The white, a native of Asia, was introduced
to this continent in colonial times. It is usually eaten dried. The red
is native to this country, in fact to our area, but it was mostly only
utilized by the Native Americans. The black mulberry, also a native
of Asia, came here via Europe. It only grows in the Pacific Northwest.
Mulberries are rather fragile and highly perishable, and so they’re
not really suitable as market goods on a grand scale. They’re best
purchased (and eaten) locally.

I came across receipts for using mulberries in two different historic
cookbooks. There’s one for preserving mulberries in Amelia Simmons’
American Cookery (1796). Another can be found in The Kentucky
Housewife
(1839), by Mrs. Lettice Bryan. I gather it’s for mulberry
shrub (a beverage).

In the recent issue of Past Master News there’s a reprint of an ad
published in The Pennsylvania Gazette on November 17, 1768.
It gave details on 27 acres for sale near Philadelphia “with a good
dwelling house, two stories high…a good barn and stables…” and
“a fine orchard just in its prime, and abundance of other fruit trees,
such as cherries of many kinds, peaches, mulberries….” It must’ve
been a lovely piece of property.

Finnish botanist Peter Kalm toured parts of North America studying
flora and fauna on behalf of the Swedish Academy in 1750. In his
writings of his travels, he mentions mulberry trees several times.
He noted where he saw them and when they bloomed, but he also
inquired as to why they weren’t used to support a silk industry.
The answer, of course, was that cultivating other fiber-producing
plants, such as flax, hemp, and cotton, was much more feasible
(and profitable!).

And then there’s the childhood nursery rhyme and game:

“Here we go ’round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush,
So early in the morning.”

(despite the fact that mulberries grow on trees, not bushes)

Well, that’s my report on all things mulberry.
For now. The quest shall continue!

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dagnabit

Well, it finally happened. Yesterday’s Fireside Feasts workshop
out at Wyckoff was rained out. dagnabit. It’s the first time this
has happened. My historic cooking program has always been
blessed with excellent weather. And since it has to be done
outside at the firepit, that’s a major issue. I was disappointed,
for sure. I was so looking forward to sharing the results of all
those hours of research on this week’s topic, “Let them eat cake,”
and then preparing a few examples using historic receipts. And
you know how I just loooove to cook over an open fire! But,
alas, it wasn’t meant to be. dagnabit.

"Rain, Rain, Go Away" -- My sentiments exactly!

I began the afternoon with high hopes, though, that
we’d be able to proceed. I went out to the Museum,
we set up everything, the interim gardener and his
trusty helpers got a great fire going, and I was hoping,
just maybe, that the initial light rain would stop. In fact,
there was a moment when it started to fade, and I thought
it was ending. But, that’s all it was…just an all too brief,
soon-to-end-only-to-be-replaced-by-a-steady-shower,
moment. It was clear that the rain was NOT going
to stop. dagnabit.

Now what? Well, the plan is to reschedule tonight’s session.
In two weeks, on August 6, there’s to be a movie night.
Since show time isn’t until dark, there’ll be plenty of time
beforehand for a little cooking over the open fire.

Mark the date on your calendar. “Let them eat cake”
has been re-set for August 6. Hope to see you there.
And please, PLEASE bring the sun!

Oh, and the caption on the above painting (a 50-some-plus
year old family heirloom) is: “Rain, Rain, Go Away”
My sentiments exactly!

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raspberries

wow. Guess I hit pay dirt last week when I purchased raspberries sc00039ab5
with which to make raspberry shrub for this Thursday’s session of Fireside
Feasts
out at Wyckoff. As I mentioned
previously, I was able to get two six-ounce
packages for only $4. Well, yesterday
while I was out obtaining a few last-
minute items for tomorrow, I discovered
that this week, the price is now two
for $5. Then I noticed that they
were $5 each at a corner bodega.

Like I said, the price fluctuates wildly
week to week. But I certainly got a good
deal. It’s gonna make that shrub taste even sweeter!
HUZZAH!

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Raspberry Shrub

While at the grocery store early last week, I noticed that raspberries
were abundant AND on sale. They were only $4 for two six-ounce
packages. HUZZAH! I’d been in another store earlier where they
were that amount just for one container. And having bought them
numerous times before, particularly in summers past, I am well
aware that the price can fluctuate wildly from store to store and
even from week to week.

Now, as of last week, I hadn’t really made a decision yet as to what
to provide as a beverage at this week’s Fireside Feasts workshop (or
even whether to offer one at all) at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum.
But since I just couldn’t pass up such a bargain, the choice was
suddenly crystal clear: we’ll have Raspberry Shrub!

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There are receipts (recipes) for Raspberry Shrub in numerous historic
cookbooks. All of them are basically the same, but I prefer the one
in Lydia Child’s The American Frugal Housewife (1833). It’s probably
because it’s the one we often used when I worked at Conner Prairie.
In fact, I began reminiscing about that very thing as I stood at my
modern stove the other night, patiently stirring the raspberry and
vinegar mixture…

I was in the Campbell House portraying the hired girl, Abigail Bucher,
and we were making shrub with raspberries fresh off the vine on that
hazy Indiana summer day when the late John Denver bounded in and
cheerily inquired “What’s cooking?” Being a huge, HUGE fan, I of course
went absolutely nuts! I recall stating that I’d probably get in a heap
of trouble for saying anything, but that I just HAD to. Then I wiped
my flour-covered hand (I’d just made biscuits or a pie or something)
on my apron, shook his hand, and just started gushing and babbling
non-stop. It was about the only time I ever went “out of character”
in front of the public. You see, we did what’s known as “first person,”
and that was something you were never, ever supposed to do! (and
I rarely did, I’m proud to say). But…that day, I couldn’t not.
Wow. What a thrill that was. **Sigh**…such fond memories!

Um…ahem…sorry…I digress.

So anyway, I made up the shrub syrup at home that we’ll then
use this coming Thursday. It could be done during the program,
which I would prefer. We could even use the berries that are
growing at the Museum; but, unfortunately, there really isn’t
enough time (or possibly enough fruit) to do it all that night,
especially with the other items we’ll be preparing and cooking.

Here’s Mrs. Child’s receipt for Raspberry Shrub:

Raspberry shrub mixed with water is a pure,
delicious drink for summer; and in a country
where raspberries are abundant, it is good
economy to make it answer instead of Port
and Catalonia wine. Put raspberries in a pan,
and scarcely cover them with strong vinegar.
Add a pint of sugar to a pint of juice; (of this
you can judge by first trying your pan to see
how much it holds;) scald it, skim it, and
bottle it when cold.

The resulting mixture will become quite syrupy, or even jelly-like,
as it cools (particularly if it’s put in the refrigerator). Later, add
a spoonful or two (or three, or more, depending on your own taste
preferences) into a glass of cold water, stir, and enjoy. You can add
more sugar at this point, if so desired.

Thanks to the use of vinegar in the preparation, and to our modern
refrigerators, jars or bottles of raspberry shrub will last a long time.
However, it IS such a wonderful summer-time drink, that I doubt
you’ll be able to resist drinking it all!

HUZZAH for Raspberry Shrub!

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Here’s another intriguing tidbit that I found while researching breakfasts
and suppers of centuries past for the first Fireside Feasts historic
cooking workshop:

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Material in quotes from The America of 1750, Travels in North America,
by Peter Kalm, in two volumes; originally written/published
in Swedish, translated into English in 1770; reprint, Dover Publications,
New York, 1966.

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I’ve been nose-deep in historic cookbooks the past couple of days,
conducting research for my second Fireside Feasts workshop next
week out at Wyckoff. The topic of discussion and food preparation
will be “Let them eat cake.” Mmmmm, sweets! So, I’ve been busy
studying historic reference materials, hunting for receipts, selecting
those we’ll use, and so on. It’s an exciting adventure, to be sure,
but it’s also one that always takes quite a bit of time.

In any event, I’ve not much time to write. I will share, however,
one of my favorite receipts, particularly one of its suggestions
for telling when the dish is done. “Common Pound Cake,” found
in The Kentucky Housewife, by Mrs. Lettice Bryan (1839),
has the following instructions:

Another way to tell when it is done,
is to take it from the oven, touch it
to your face, and if it is thoroughly
done, it will not burn in the least….

Yikes!

Think I’ll stick with Mrs. Bryan’s first, and more common,
suggestion to insert a knife, and if the blade comes out clean,
the cake is done. HUZZAH!

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