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Archive for August, 2010

I’ve quite a few photos to sort through that I took this weekend
during Deb Peterson’s “Historic Baking Symposium.” I’ll share
most of them soon, but I’ve more work to do. Meanwhile, here
are several that are ready to go from this past week’s Fireside
Feasts
program out at Wyckoff. We enjoyed preparing, cooking,
and eating all “this little piggy” had to offer!

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We rendered lard:

Broiled several chops:

Fried up some smoked salt pork (aka slab bacon):

And made two batches of sausages. First one:

Then another:

TA-DA! Two lovely ladies show off their work:

Those cute little stuffed links were then cooked:

Night slowly fell on another successful season of Fireside Feasts:

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Well, summer is over, and so are my historic cooking workshops. It
sounds trite, I know, but time sure DOES fly when you’re having fun!
It’s been a blast delving into the food and dishes of past centuries. And
a big HUZZAH to all who participated! See you next summer!

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I mentioned at one point during yesterday’s Fireside Feasts
program that there was a book illustration of a family doing
various tasks associated with butchering, including the making
of sausage. However, I’ve since discovered it’s in a different
book than the one I said. It’s actually in America’s Kitchens,
by Nancy Carlisle and Melinda Talbot Nasardinov (2008).

According to the caption, it’s a woodcut by Henry Barrat,
done in 1879. Note the sausage stuffer that Ma and Pa
(presumably, although they both look more like grand-Ma
and Pa!) are using. I love the fact that the whole group is
doing this work with light from a betty lamp (L), a candle (C),
and a fire on the hearth (R). Ahh, the warm and fuzzy joys (?)
of the good ol’ days?!

In any event, here’s the picture:

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As usual, I’ve been prepping for this week’s Fireside Feasts workshop
out at Wyckoff. It’ll be the fourth and final session, so if you’ve been
meaning to partake, but haven’t yet, it’s now or never. Well, now or
next year! (8/26, 5-7 p.m.)

In any event, this Thursday we’ll be dealing with a typical activity
on many a farm in past centuries: hog butchering. Come join us
as we make sausage, render lard, and maybe even fry up some
salt pork. As we do, we’ll ponder the role the mighty hog played
in the life of a farm family such as the Wyckoffs.

In the meantime, take a gander at the artwork I found while doing
a bit of research. It’s a Dutch genre painting by Michiel van Musscher
of Amsterdam (1645-1705), in which a butchered hog is hanging
right alongside a city street. Note the person nearby (left) who
appears to be blowing up the hog’s bladder, much to the delight
of some children. There’s also a lovely lady with her vegetable
cart (I used a detail of just her in a previous post–see 8/19).
It’s a nice scene of a common activity of the time, one that
fits in perfectly with this Thursday’s topic:

Now, I wanted to know when van Musscher lived, as well as in what
year this was painted. So I googled his name and repeatedly found:

Same painting, but…hey! Wait a minute. Where’d the slaughtered pig go?!

So, is one of these a forgery? And if so, which one? I investigated further,
but came up empty-handed. Now, I’ve heard that oftentimes artists would
do a study of certain objects or people, and then use it again and again,
in several different works, but this is more a case of a deletion. In some
ways, the second one doesn’t make any sense; why would a person be
blowing up a hog’s bladder when there’s no hog? Is strange to find two
versions of the same (almost) scene. Maybe one was a study, a first draft
so-to-speak? If so, then which is the final painting? And shouldn’t one or
the other be identified as a study? Particularly the one that’s for sale as
a print on websites? Or maybe the artist did a second version for some
squeamish city dweller who didn’t want a slaughtered animal in his
painting? It’s got me puzzled. If anyone out there has any ideas or
information, please let me know!

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Additional statements added 8/25 @ noon.

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Actually, it may be the work of the seller of the online print.
That person or persons has “cleaned it up” for prospective
(and squeamish) buyers. A form of censorship, perhaps?
Thing is, now it’s no longer van Musscher’s artwork; it’s
the seller’s.
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NOTE: I found the version that’s in color at an online art site,
where anyone may order a reproduction, in various sizes, even
framed. The black and white version is in Peter Rose’s translation
of
De Verstandige Kock , or The Sensible Cook (1989). She
gives the name of the artist and the museum where his work
is located, but not his time period, or the specific year in which
this painting was done. Hence, my online search.

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Apparently, the theory that people in past centuries refused to eat
raw vegetables for fear of becoming sick (or worse, becoming dead)
began in the mid-nineteenth century. Or, rather, it was true during
that time, at least for some people.

There were possibly two reasons for this. One was the discovery
of germ theory in the 1860s-70s. The second were all those
“celebrities” of the day, such as Isabella Beeton (1836-1865),
author of Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861),
who strongly supported the “don’t eat raw veggies” idea.

Writer Colin Spencer explains it all in his work British Food,
An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History
(2002):

There was a belief [in the late 1800s] that raw
or undercooked food was bad for you, since it
harboured germs, and so everything had to be
thoroughly cooked and boiled. Medical opinion
was divided on this, but whatever the experts
said on the subject the public were suspicious
of raw vegetables.

He continues by placing some of the, uh, “blame” on Mrs. Beeton:

Mrs. Beeton fostered this opinion: ‘As vegetables
eaten in a raw state are apt to ferment on the
stomach, and as they have very little stimulative
power upon that organ, they are usually dressed
with some condiments, such as pepper, vinegar,
salt, mustard, and oil. Respecting the use of these,
medical men disagree, especially in reference to oil,
which is condemned by some and recommended
by others.’

So, yes, some people didn’t eat raw vegetables because they deemed
them highly toxic, but it was pretty much confined to those living
in the late 19th century. At the same time, I imagine there were
many people who bucked the anti-raw-veggie trend and ate them
without a care in the world (and lived to tell about it). In earlier
centuries, of course, vegetables were eaten cooked AND uncooked.

For more about Isabella Beeton, see this great article on fellow food
blogger Cynthia Bertelsen’s site, Gherkins & Tomatoes.

In the meantime, enjoy your raw (or cooked) veggies!

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I thought I’d share a few tidbits of the research I did as I planned
the menu of dishes to be prepared during the recent “Garden Goodies”
segment (Aug. 12) of my Fireside Feasts program at Wyckoff. Of course,
I consulted various books, including C. Anne Wilson’s Food & Drink in
Britain, from the Stone Age to the 19th Century
(1973; Amer. Ed. 1991).

Wilson begins with pre-historic times in her 41-page chapter devoted
to “Fruit and salad vegetables.” She states that the earliest peoples,
being nomadic, most certainly ate wild fruits and nuts, both in season
and preserved,” in addition to cultivated grains. Green-leaved plants
were consumed raw, “especially when they were young and tender.”

The years of Roman dominance (77 – 400 AD) were a major boon
to the British table. Roman civilization was highly developed, and
Britain partook of the accompanying cuisine it had to offer. Fruits
of every kind were introduced (and grown), from new apple varieties
to sweet cherries to peaches to figs to wine grapes. The vegetables
included cucumbers, radishes, asparagus, lettuce, garlic, onions,
assorted mushrooms, and more. And the “true dressed salad,”
according to Wilson, “was a Roman concept.”

Kitchen gardens, with their range of vegetables and fruits, greatly
“contributed to domestic economy” during Medieval times, Wilson
writes. In one early 15th century manuscript, there are nearly 20
“herbs for salad” listed. Expanding relations with the European
continent afforded an increase in available produce, as well.
Trade brought all kinds of exotic plants and fruits. Market
gardening boomed, particularly around large cities such as
London. There was even a guild of gardeners formed in 1605.
And, of course, there were various vegetables discovered and
shipped from the New World. Improved gardening techniques
also played a huge part in the range of available greens.

Of particular interest to me were these passages:

During the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries the range of salad vegetables
was still wide. The greenstuff included
lettuce, purslane, cornsalad, sorrel,
dandelion, buds of alexanders [celery],
mustards, cresses, and the young leaves
of radishes, turnips, spinach and lop
lettuce (lettuces grown from seed which
had never hearted). The many small-leaved
plants were often known jointly as salading
or small salad.

and this:

Raw salads had never come under the same
sort of disapproval as fresh fruit, partly
because so many salad plants were thought
to have helpful medicinal properties.

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illustration: detail from painting by Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705)

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next: Mrs. Beeton starts a rumor

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It was cloudy all day this past Thursday,
and rain seemed imminent. Indeed, it was,
for it sprinkled off and on, now and then,
and steady was the word by about 4:45.
It eventually tapered off, however, and
so, despite a smaller group than normal,
the Fireside Feasts program at Wyckoff
went on as planned.
HUZZAH!

We started off with an annual favorite, Mary Randolph’s “To Scollop
Tomatos.,” from her book The Virginia Housewife (1824).

Take several juicy specimens:

peel, slice, and layer in a pan, with grated bread, salt, and pepper:

and bake; better get a plateful early, as it disappears quickly:

Next, another frequently-requested dish, Raffald’s* “To Boil Parsnips.”:

cooked and cut up into pieces:

“beat them in a bowl” (one-handed mashing, no less!):

cream and butter are added, then back on the fire:

and lastly, salamongundy, the 18th century (and earlier; I found
a similar receipt from 1596) forerunner of today’s Caesar Salad,
courtesy of Hannah Glasse:**

some of the ingredients to be heaped on top, including (clockwise)
minced egg yolks, cut anchovies, and slices of chicken:

and boiled onions:

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the finished salad. dagnabit.
When you’re busy instructing folks, fielding questions, cooking,
and tending the fire, it can be difficult to remember to grab
the camera and shoot. Oh well, at least I have these to share!

OH! And we made toast, again. We’d made sippets (toasted bread,
cut into pieces, oftentimes triangles) at the “soups” session a few
weeks back, and it was a HUGE hit. Everyone was just fascinated
with the process and the toasting equipment. So we did the same
this week:

There is simply nothing like bread toasted at an open fire. The two
loaves I brought were gone in no time!

Yes, we saw a drop or two (or more) of rain on Thursday,
but it certainly didn’t hamper our collective desire for a little
open-fire cooking. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed some tasty
“Garden Goodies.” HUZZAH!

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*Elizabeth Raffald: The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769)
**Hannah Glasse: The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747)

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For the receipts (recipes) we used, be sure to check under “Fireside Feasts”
on the
“Receipts” page. Update: They’re posted! (8/15)

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I’m busy with preparations for this coming Thursday’s
Fireside Feasts historic cooking program out at Wyckoff.
This time we’ll be raiding the garden for our ingredients.
And yes, as in past years, tomatoes will be scolloped!
HUZZAH!

This week’s workshop is one of the remaining two
for the year. So if you haven’t yet been able to join
us this summer, now’s the time! It’ll be a great
opportunity to partake of several tasty dishes
from centuries ago.

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The Final Two:

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