I made Apees many times while working at Conner Prairie
years ago. A batch would be baked for afternoon tea every
now and then at the Campbell House. And as I said, what
I remember most about my past dealings with these small
cakes was that, when baked, they were to be light in color,
and that they were made with sour cream. Then recently,
as you know, I whipped up a few batches of Apees for use
at the Crane House during the Big Tour. I shared the receipt
(recipe) here, as well, and it does indeed state that the end
result is to be “slightly coloured,” but, good golly, there’s no
sour cream! What? Why not? How can that be?!
Well, let me first give you a little background to this story.
You see, back during my glorious days at CP, I didn’t select
the receipts I used. Rather, they were chosen for all cooks
by someone else, most likely many years earlier. Of course,
at the time, I had no idea what the sources were for many
of them. However, seeing as it was a living history museum
(at the time, that is), I always believed that each and every
one came from genuine, authentic, real-live historic cookbooks
that were appropriate (and highly so) for the site’s specific
time period (1836). Turns out, however, I was wrong. In fact,
I’ve since learned that some were far from being “appropriate,”
even far from being historic. And knowing what I know now,
I’m amazed, and disappointed, at what passed as “historic”
back then, especially considering all the emphasis that was
placed on the need for historical accuracy.
So, if the oddball Apees-with-sour-cream receipt wasn’t pulled
from a bona-fide historic cookbook, what was the source? Well,
it came from what I like to call a “pseudo-historic” cookbook,
the kind that shouldn’t even exist, let alone be used at any
type of historical site. Namely, The Conner Prairie Cookbook,
edited by Margaret A. Hoffman (1985 and 1990):
1 C. butter
1 1/3 C. sugar
2 1/3 C. flour
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 C. sour cream
Work the vanilla into the butter
and then add the sugar, a little
at a time, until it is very smooth.
Beat in the eggs. Mix the flour,
cream of tartar and salt and add
alternately with the sour cream.
Drop by spoonsful into baking pans.
Bake about 10 minutes in a moderate
(350 degree) oven. Cookies should
be very pale.
Forget the fact that the first thing the directions say to do is
to “work the vanilla into the butter” when there’s NO vanilla
on the ingredients list. Did you notice all the, um, “unusual”
ingredients? (including the missing vanilla) Golly, the only ones
this has in common with Eliza Leslie’s historic Apee receipt
are the flour, sugar, and butter. I mean, seriously. Two eggs?
Cream of tartar? And then there’s that real oddball that’s
been stuck in my memory all these years: the Big Dollop
of SOUR CREAM?!? What the heck?!? WHY? And where are
the caraway seeds? All of the other truly historic Apee receipts
I found have caraway seeds. Why are there none in this one?
Or, is the sour cream supposed to be a substitute for them?
But why do you need, or would you even want, to exchange
them for something else? And if you do, why trade them
for SOUR CREAM?!?
Now, I’ve tried diligently during the past three (nearly) years
to remain non-bitchy here, but there comes a time… And I’ll
write more in depth later about this topic, but for now, well,
see…dagnabit…this is what I just don’t understand:
When a person, or a group of people, decides to put together
a cookbook containing historic recipes from another time period,
why is it that, instead of selecting actual recipes from cookbooks
that were published during the chosen era, they choose to make
them up out of thin air? Why do that? How is that OK with anyone?
Such a newly-created recipe is certainly NOT historical. It’s basically
a fake! And often, as in this case, there’s little that even vaguely
approximates a genuine historical receipt. Why would anyone put
SOUR CREAM into what’s essentially a cookie? What’s the point?
I JUST DON’T GET IT.
Of course, the biggest problem is that these “pseudo-historic”
books like this, which contain recipes that are “modernized,”
“adapted for modern tastes,” and/or made up entirely, are
assumed to be, and passed off to everyone as being, historically
authentic, when most definitely THEY ARE NOT!! Not to mention
people automatically assume these books are legit because they
were written, published, and distributed by an historic museum
or other such institution. And unfortunately, there are many,
MANY others just like this one floating around. The whole thing
just drives me nuts!
Stayed tuned, dear readers, there’s alot more to come on this.
NEXT: Back to the food shared with visitors at the Crane House