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Archive for October, 2014

Earlier this month, I presented another ‘straight-talk’ version
of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program to a group of lovely
ladies who make up the Fortnightly Club in Summit, NJ.

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The Club is a women’s social and philanthropic organization
dedicated to community service and outreach, which also
sponsors social activities for members and their families.
It meets regularly at the historic Twin Maples Mansion,
a spacious landmarked early 20th century former home.
Which, incidentally, was designed by an architect who
resided at the time in Israel Crane territory, otherwise
known as Montclair, NJ.

Now, as you may know, particularly if you’ve ever perused my
Portable Historic Programs page, this talk deals with soldier’s
fare during the American War for Independence. I discuss what
foods the troops ate, how they were prepared and cooked, who
did the cooking, how the rations were delivered, and so on. And
in an effort to not only tell the audience what specific food items
a soldier received on a daily and weekly (hopefully!) basis, but
to also show people what what they were, I have bags of each
on display. So, for instance, I set out a whole pound of flour,

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a pound of hard bisket, and three pints of peas. But what I’ve
struggled with is, how do I exhibit the flesh-y side of things?
As in the meat? The beef and the pork? Or the fish? Sure, I can
bring samples of each, and I have done that (taken a slab of salt
pork and made my own salt cod), but it’s a bit tricky, especially
if it’s a hot or warm day. It can get rather messy…and smelly!
And then, what do I do with them afterwards? Eat ’em? Well,
after it’s been dragged many miles and then man-handled by
various people, even I don’t care to do that!

Finally, I decided I would set out pictures of each ration meat.
Or rather, the source of it. Of course, I had to find some images,
and they had to be ones that’re period-appropriate for the Rev
War years. Then it hit me: use copies of 18th century woodcuts!
One for each animal! So I got out my copy of “Catchpenny Prints,”
and I found fantastic ones for the beef (a cow), the pork (a pig),

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and the fish (a, er, a fish!). I enlarged each one, then cut it out
and glued it to card stock. So now, each meat ration is represented
nicely on my table of soldier’s fare. I have it all, from the beef and
fish to the bread and peas to all the others. I think it looks pretty
good, yes?! HUZZAH!

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During a Revolutionary War encampment a few months ago,
I began assisting a fellow hearth cook with demonstrations
of the use of spices in the 18th century. Now at this point,
I’m not exactly sure how, when, or why I became involved,
other than the fact that, like my friend, I’d been searching
for an alternative to doing, or even just helping with, any
cooking at these events. Well, one thing led to another,
and soon I was not only plying my skills with my trusty
mortar & pestle, but I had also suggested we make good
use of all that grating, grinding, and pounding by producing
a centuries-old spice combination known as Kitchen Pepper.

Each time we demonstrate the creation of this spice mixture,
we follow the instructions that are found in The Receipt Book
of Harriott Pinckney Horry
,* of Charleston, S.C., which dates
from 1770:

Kitchen Pepper.
One ounce of Ginger—pepper cinnamon cloves
and Nutmeg half an ounce of each—6 ounces
of salt Mix it well keep it dry. its excellent in all
brown Sauces.

In addition to “all brown Sauces,” Kitchen Pepper would’ve also
added flavoring to meats, soups, pottages, and other dishes. It’s
been around since at least Medieval times, and it was eventually
often sold, pre-mixed, at mercantiles. Of course, the spicy combo
could also be concocted in any era by a cook at home.

Interestingly, Horry’s receipt has been the only one from the 18th
century that I’ve found, thusfar (I’ll keep looking!). There are two
others, but both, however, are from the 19th century. One is in
A New System of Domestic Cookery, by A Lady (aka Maria Eliza
Ketelby Rundell), which was first published in London, England,
in 1806. And the other is in Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky
Housewife
, published in 1839, in Cincinatti, Ohio. As is often
the case, all three are somewhat alike and yet, they’re a bit
different. All of them contain ginger, black pepper, cinnamon,
cloves, and nutmeg. Two contain salt, one does not. And finally,
one alone calls for Jamaica pepper, while the one that has no
salt, instead includes white pepper, red pepper, and mace.

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Making our Kitchen Pepper during the encampment out on Long Island
at Old Bethpage Village:

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And here’s our Kitchen Pepper operation at Raynham Hall, in Oyster Bay:

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*The Receipt Book of Harriott Pinckney Horry was a personal cookbook
that was written in Charleston, S.C., in 1770. It was eventually published
in 1984 as
A Colonial Plantation Cookbook, edited by Richard J. Hooker,
in Columbia, S.C.

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