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Archive for October, 2009

homeschool cooking

I’ve been busy today and yesterday preparing for another
Homeschooler Day tomorrow (Friday) out at Wyckoff. Tasks
such as purchasing supplies, rounding up equipment, doing
partial cooking, taking items out to the Museum, and so on
have occupied my time. It’s to be warm and sunny weather,
so that’ll be nice. I’ll give a full report later. Meanwhile,
I have more to do!

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When writing about tomatoes not long ago, I mentioned
that they weren’t accepted in this country until the first
part of the 19th century. There was the one lone receipt
for “keeping” tomatoes in order to make winter soups
in Harriet Pinckney Horry’s 1770 manuscript, but that
was pretty much it. Then, lo and behold, by the time
Sarah Rutledge published her cookbook (1847),
the popularity of tomatoes had (apparently) soared.

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Of course, Horry and Rutledge were Southerners. What about
those dang Northerners? Did they accept or reject the tomato?
Well, based on a couple of published cookbooks from New England,
the answer is: why yes, they most certainly accepted it!

In Mrs. Lydia Child’s The American Frugal Housewife (first published
in 1832 in Boston), she writes:

This [the tomato] is a delicious vegetable.
It is easily cultivated, and yields a most
abundant crop.

She then states:

The best sort of catsup is made from tomatoes.

Incidentally, during previous centuries, the “best” catsups/ketchups
were made from walnuts, mushrooms, or anchovies.

Tomato receipts are also found in The Cook’s Own Book,
“By a Boston Housekeeper,” aka Mrs. N.K.M. Lee (1832).
Written in encyclopedic form, there are no less than ten
receipts for tomatoes, including three for Tomata/Tomato
Ketchup. There’s also a marmalade, a soup, and both French
and Italian sauces. Clearly, the tomato had finally secured
its place on the American table.

Here’s one receipt for ketchup from The Cook’s Own Book:

TOMATA KETCHUP. (1)

Take tomatas when fully ripe, bake
them in a jar till tender, strain them,
and rub them through a sieve. To every
pound of juice, add a pint of Chili vinegar,
an ounce of shallots, half an ounce of garlic,
both sliced, a quarter of an ounce of salt,
and a quarter of an ounce of white pepper,
finely powdered; boil the whole till every
ingredient is soft, rub it again through
the sieve. To every pound add the juice
of three lemons; boil it again to the
consistence of cream; when cold,
bottle it, put a small quantity of sweet
oil on each, tie bladders over, and keep
it in a dry place.

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beggin’ your pardon

I know, I know. I’ve been extremely lax in posting entries
lately. I do apologize. Guess I kinda got bogged down
with other activities, everything from hot dog tastings
to baking cornbreads to chile ‘n chocolate fiestas. Then
before, after, and during all that, I had assorted workmen
at my place, finishing a couple of long-standing projects.
Among other things, I did a little sprucing up of my kitchen,
via a new floor and new light fixtures. I’m quite pleased
with the end results. Here, take a look:

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Here’s a closer view of the new floor:

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And the new light fixtures:

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Pretty cool, ay?! HUZZAH!

Okay. Enough of that. Back to historic cooking topics.
Next post: more on tomatoes (historically speaking, of course).

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There’ve been a few requests for the cornbread recipe that
I used this past week for the Culinary Historians of New York
(CHNY) program, so here it is:

______________________________

Carolina’s Indiana Cornbread

2 cups cornmeal*
1 cup flour
a little salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda**
2 eggs
1 cup of milk, soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar***
1/4 (4 tablespoons) cup butter****

Mix dry ingredients; add eggs, milk, and butter; mix well;
pour into greased pan.
Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.

Quick ‘n easy!

______________________________

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______________________________

*I used stone-ground meal that I’d purchased at Philipsburg Manor
in Tarrytown, NY, but any will do.
**I don’t always measure exactly; I tried to do it here, but alas, often
it was kinda did and kinda didn’t; so the baking soda was roughly
1 1/2 or so teaspoons.
***I used cider vinegar, but any is fine. Put it into the milk and
set it aside while mixing the other ingredients. This will allow it
to clabber.
****I melted the butter in the baking pan on the stovetop, thus greasing
the pan, then I poured the rest into the batter and mixed well.

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Another culinary event that I attended this past week was
the monthly program of the Culinary Historians of New York
(CHNY), of which I’m a member. The speaker was Bruce Kraig
(yes, I heard him TWICE in one week!), and his topic was
foodways of the Midwest.

I’ll deal with his talk in a moment, but first up, I’ll share pics
of my contribution to the evening’s repast. Being, as you may
know, from Indiana, which is most definitely the Midwest,
I baked my own version of a good ol’ Indiana cornbread.

Fresh from the oven:

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Sliced and ready to eat at the CHNY meeting:

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Also on the menu, a sugar pie, which, according to Kraig, everyone eats
in the Midwest. Personally, I’d never even heard of it, let alone eaten any.
Go figure.

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A noodles and cabbage dish, of Eastern European origin. Again, never
had, let alone heard of, this at my house when I was growing up
in Indiana (and my paternal great-grandmother was German!).
I was definitely beginning to wonder about the speaker’s
culinary claims.

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Incidentally, both of the above dishes were delicious.

As to Kraig’s talk…it was fairly decent, albeit a bit rambling.
I must say, though, that I disagree with many of his statements
and claims regarding the Midwest and its culinary heritage.

To start with, when discussing the general settlement of the state
of Indiana, you divide it into thirds: the southern portion; the central;
and the northern. The southern was settled by people coming up
from the South, be it Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas, or any other
Southern state or territory. The central section was settled by people
who came from the East, whether Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and
so on. The northern third was settled much later than the other two,
with a mixture of people from the southern and central sections who
had moved north and of immigrants who’d arrived from other nations.

As to the National Road being the settlers’ route into Indiana. Yes,
some folks did arrive via that federally-built road (which began
in 1811 at Cumberland, Maryland; aka modern-day Route 40,
which happens to go through the middle of Indianapolis, Indiana),
but certainly NOT all. The Road didn’t even REACH Indiana until
1827! It was then another seven years before it completely crossed
the State, ending at Terre Haute in 1834. People were living throughout
southern and central Indiana long before any of those dates. The French
(who came down from the north) established a fur trading post in 1732
at Vincennes. White settlers (though, admittedly, not many) were living
in Central Indiana, trading with Native Inhabitants, by 1800, if not before.
Treaties for the “removal” of Native Peoples as far north as Ft. Wayne
were signed in 1804. By 1816, Indiana was a state, and the site of its
(second) capital city, Indianapolis, was selected in 1820. Etc.

As for all the German and Polish influences, which were reflected
in most, if not all, of Kraig’s suggested foods for the evening….
Again, I disagree. I can see that it may represent some of Chicago
(where Kraig lives), but not all. What about the large Irish and
Italian populations? Or the Swedes of northwestern Indiana?
Besides, Chicago is a major metropolis; its cuisine doesn’t
define the entire Midwest.

Then there was Kraig’s claim that my cornbread was a southern
dish. Well, yes it is, but it’s also northern. The first settlers
of the eastern seaboard made and ate cornbread. Early efforts
to grow the much-preferred wheat were unsuccessful, so they
“made do” with corn. Whether the early settlers of Jamestown
or Plymouth or anywhere in between, corn was often all they
had. It proved to be a stable, easily-cultivated crop, as well,
whether in the East, on the frontier, or “way out West.” In fact,
IMO, cornbread could be the first truly national dish!

One last comment, and then I’ll sign off. My paternal grandmother’s
parents came to this country from Germany, and they settled near
Green Bay, Wisconsin (aka the Midwest). I have her birth certificate;
it’s in German. However, as far as I know, the emphasis on all things
German stopped there. The goal was to blend in, to be as American
as possible. Now, how this affected the food served, or not served,
during my grandmother’s early years, I have no idea. But I do know
that, years later, at family gatherings when I was growing up, my
grandmother never ever served, let alone made, any German dishes.
Nor did my father ever wax nostalgic about foods of German origin
that he’d seen, eaten, or even heard of, when he was a boy. Nothing,
nada, zilch. So, to say that some German dish epitomizes Midwestern
foodways is, well, IMO, a load of good ol’ Indiana road apples.

I could continue, but I won’t bore you any further. I hit the main
issues. I think. Remember, too, this is my opinion. And experiences.
Feel free to disagree!

OH! Then there was Kraig’s explanation of the meaning and origin
of the word “Hoosier” (Indiana is known as the “Hoosier State,” and
residents are called “Hoosiers”). Now I’ve heard several different
versions throughout my life, but NOT the one he gave. Eeeegad.
Where does he get his information?! The thing is, it’s generally
believed that the word’s origin is unknown. There are many,
many different theories, but no one really knows. I think it’s
best to acknowledge that fact, even if you wholeheartedly
believe one and only one theory is correct. Again, IMO.

Sorry. Once I get going…! I’ll stop now.

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hot dog!

I’ve been busy attending foodie events the past couple of days.
First up was a presentation and tasting at lily’s restaurant
in the Roger Smith Hotel over on Lexington:

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The subject was hot dogs, their history, the different regional preferences,
and their place in our culture. The speaker was Bruce Kraig of Chicago.
Here he’s (left) being introduced by his buddy and walking-food-
history-encyclopedia-extraordinaire Andy Smith (right):

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Much of the program revolved around taste-testing the various different
dogs: the “New York”; the “Coney Island” (aka Detroit); the “Chicago”;
the “Italian”; and last, but not least, the “Hudson Valley.” Program
participants ate their way through the offerings and rated each. The
“Winning Wiener” will be listed on lily’s menu for all to enjoy.

Naturally, when the first hot dog (the “New York,” a Nathan’s all-beef,
with sauerkraut and mustard) arrived at our table, I devoured the whole
thing before taking a picture. Silly me. Had a middle-age moment. Sorry.
Must’ve been hungry. So shoot me!

Here are the other four:

The “Coney Island,” which is really a Detroit specialty (not sure what’s up
with that), consisting of a Sabaret all-beef hot dog, with meat chili, yellow
onion, and mustard:

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Next up, the “Chicago,” which is a Vienna brand (the largest manufacturer
in the Windy City area) all-beef dog with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish,
dill pickle spear, tomato, sport peppers, and celery salt:

IMG_7702

Yes, notice fries accompanied the dogs. Well, actually, the first three.

Next came two that, in my opinion, were not really hot dogs. They were
sausages. Seems it’s like comparing apples to potatoes. Not right, doesn’t
make sense, shouldn’t be done,…. But, hey, whaddayagonnado?

First, the “Italian,” featuring a sweet and spicy sausage made in Newark, NJ,
with red ‘n green peppers, caramelized onions, and served on Italian bread:

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And finally, another sausage-dog, the “Hudson Valley.” This was comprised
of an apple-sage sausage from Flying Pigs Farm, with apple and whole grain
mustard relish, served on a potato bun:

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Overall, it was a worthwhile program, with tasty goodies and informative
commentary throughout. Mr. Kraig is a highly animated speaker, and
he did a good job of dealing with all the typical, rather dang annoying
commotion of a restaurant’s back room (right outside the kitchen and
in wait staff’s serving path…not the best place to be).

As for the tasting of the individual hot dogs, it’s my opinion that the regional
differences, so-called, merely have to do with what sauces and/or condiments
are heaped on top. Most of them masked any taste of the dog itself, and so
all you got was a mouthful of kraut or onions or mustard or whatever. The
hot dog itself seemed to be secondary. Most were the same (all-beef), just
made by different companies. And then the final two were sausages, not
hot dogs. Although, yes, hot dogs are basically the same, it’s their ‘heritage,’
the meat is just more finely ground, etc. In addition, Kraig seemed to imply
that sausages were first brought to this country by the Germans. I say, “No
way!” Early (English) settlers made sausages back in the early 17th century,
as did their fellow Britishers, and the French, and the Spanish, and others,
and in any past century, whether the 16th, the 15th, the 14th etc., etc.

So anyway, that’s my assessment, my opinion. And I’m stickin’ to it!

Incidentally, Bruce Kraig has written a book all about the beloved hot dog.
The title? Why “Hot Dog,” of course! Hot Dog, A Global History, to be
exact, and it’s part of The Edible Series, which is published by Britain’s
Reaktion Books Ltd.

One last photo of speaker Bruce Kraig with tasting participant Kate Ryan:

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Let’s imagine that it’s 1758, and we’ve been traveling for a few
days here in the colonies. Nightfall is fast approaching, so we’ve
decided to break our journey at the next dwelling house and resume
tomorrow. We reach what looks to be, based on the exterior at least,
a suitable public house. In short order, we find the accommodations
satisfactory, our horse is settled in the adjoining stables, and thus
sc01831e50we set ourselves down for a bit of supper. Tonight’s fare consists
of cold beef, bread, and, of course, the inn-keeper’s own brew.

Now, let’s also go wild and silly, and imagine that as we receive
the evening’s repast, we’re asked the now ubiquitous question,
“Want catsup with that?”

And if you or I, or anyone else in our traveling party (or at our
table, for that matter), should happen to reply, “Yes,” what
lovely tasty concoction do you think would soon be brought
to our table?

If you said, “Why, tomato catsup, of course,” well, sorry, but
you couldn’t be more wrong!

You see, during the 17th and 18th centuries, catsup or ketchup
(as it was also spelled) was commonly made of mushrooms or
walnuts or the liquid of pickled oysters or anchovies with spices.
Receipts for all of these can be found in many historic cookbooks.

Tomato catsup/ketchup, on the other hand, did not exist
until the 19th century. The first American published receipt
that I’ve found (thus far) is in Mary Randolph’s The Virginia
Housewife
, which was first printed in Washington, D. C.
in 1824. It’s one of only six receipts total for tomatoes in her
work. There’s stewed and scolloped, two for marmalades, a soy,
and then the catsup. Incidentally, she also offers a walnut catsup.

Below is Mrs. Randolph’s receipt. First, though, which ketchup
have you selected for your tavern victuals? Walnut or mushroom?

Tomato Catsup.

Gather a peck of tomatos, pick out
the stems, and wash them; put them
on the fire without water, sprinkle on
a few spoonsful of salt, let them boil
steadily an hour, stirring them frequently;
strain them through a colander, and then
through a sieve; put the liquid on the fire
with half a pint of chopped onions, half
a quarter of an ounce of mace broke
into small pieces; and if not sufficiently
salt, add a little more–one table-spoonful
of whole black pepper; boil all together
until just enough to fill two bottles; cork
it tight. Make it in August, in dry weather.

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