In preparation for the “Garden Goodies” session of Fireside Feasts
out at Wyckoff (Aug. 13), I began searching for receipts (recipes)
using vegetables. Mary Randolph’s “To Scollop Tomatos” [sic] was
a big hit last year, so we’ll probably do it again. And I found a few
in other assorted historic cookbooks that sound good ‘n tasty. Then,
I opened Susannah Carter’s The Frugal Housewife, and read her receipt
“To Boil Carrots.” “Aha!,” I thought, “this’ll be good to do.” After all,
we should boil something, particularly since the common perception
is that, in past centuries, everybody only ate veggies that were boiled,
if they ate them at all. (On the former…Yeah, sure, despite the fact
that they also boiled beef, mutton, turkeys, fish, egg puddings, rice
puddings, etc.; and the latter is supposedly true because there are
no receipts for raw vegetables…but really, do you NEED instructions
on how to eat a carrot, a stalk of celery, a radish, etc.?!)
In any event, what intrigued me most about Carter’s receipt
is the final sentence. It states,
If they are young spring carrots,
half an hour will boil them;
if large, an hour;
but old Sandwich carrots
will take two hours.
Huh?! What’s a “Sandwich carrot”? How is it different from any
other carrot? Do “old Sandwich carrots” take two hours only
because they’re “old”? What about ” ‘young’ Sandwich carrots”?
And if large regular (presumably) carrots take one hour to boil,
are “Sandwich carrots” even larger? Or…what? Yikes. So many
questions. I need answers!
First, I checked the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). Nothing.
(Odd. It seems to be a British term!) Next, I looked in Food and Drink
in Britain by C. Anne Wilson. Again, nothing. Then I tried a couple
of other sources. Nope. Nothing.
So then I turned to good ol’ Google. I went through page after page
after page of possibilities. And even though I put quotes around
“Sandwich carrots,” what was repeatedly offered were sentence
fragments such as “sandwich, carrots, lettuce, and….”
Then, finally, on about the 15th or 20th or whatever it was page
(I stopped noticing), I hit pay dirt. There they were, my two words,
in the proper order and no punctuation marks: “Sandwich carrots.”
So I clicked on the entry, and it took me to a late 18th Century cartoon.
Yep, it was “Sandwich carrots” alright,
and those words are in the caption:
But, unfortunately, that was it. Still no
explanation of why they’re so labeled.
Unless it has something to do with
the fact that, supposedly, the old man
depicted is either John Montagu, 4th Earl
of Sandwich, or his son. (He’s shown
indulging in an allegedly favorite
past-time of offering a guinea coin
to any young lady who has caught
his eye.) Even so, how does “Sandwich
carrots” end up in Carter’s receipt?
So, the search continued. More Google pages.
I found another reference. It’s from the entry
for “market gardening” in The Oxford Companion to British History.
It’s the words that I’m looking for, but again, that’s all:
…and Sandwich carrots were already sought after.
Aaaauuugggghhhh! But what IS a “Sandwich carrot”?
Back to more Googling.
Then, I came upon an article, “The Agricultural Literature of England,”
from an 1885 issue of The New York Times:
Carrots were called Sandwich carrots,
after the chief place of their cultivation.
Soon after, I came upon this, from Social England, by Henry Duff Traill:
Near Sandwich, carrots were extensively
cultivated, and were called
from the place of their cultivation
[Sandwich is a town in Kent, a county in southeastern England.]
Then, I took a look in a few other historic cookbooks. Ta-Da!
In Martha Bradley’s The British Housewife, is her receipt
“To Boil Carrots,” which states in part:
…All Carrots are to be boiled in the same Manner;
but as there are three Kinds of them they require
each its several Time…The three Kinds are,
1. Spring Carrots; 2. Grown Carrots; and
3. Sandwich Carrots. These last are
the largest and hardest…
Finally, I had my answer. I think.
However, I then came across
a different idea. Trudy Eden,
author of Cooking in America,
1590-1840, believes that,
since “sandwich” was an
ancient word for cord or rope,
it might’ve also been used
to describe tough and rope-like
carrots. And they would need to be cooked a longer time.
Now, this sounds plausible. Maybe. Sandwich is an obsolete
term that was used in the 15th and 16th centuries for cord
or rope. But how can it be reconciled with the other information
I found? Of course, the BEST piece of evidence, so-to-speak,
is the above cartoon, as it was drawn in 1796. Those carrots
don’t necessarily look tough like rope. Plus, they’re even referred
to as “dainty.” Then again, it could be an exaggerated depiction.
Bradley did state that they were the “largest and hardest.”
Not exactly the meaning of “dainty,’ ay?!
dagnabit. See what happens just by reading one historic receipt?!
A question arises, and an answer is found, but then that very
answer poses many new questions. It’s a never-ending cycle!
My quest shall continue. If anyone out there has any information,
please let me know! And if I find anything else, I’ll post it here.