Monthly Archive for September, 2010

Events: The New York 19th Century Pub Crawl

Saturday, October 2nd, 4pm – 10 pm
The New York 19th Century Pub Crawl

Come join us for a night of nineteenth-century debauchery at New York’s oldest bars and most notorious dens of vice!

The New York Nineteenth Century Society and Four Pounds Flour host their third annual New York 19th Century Pub Crawl. This year, the crawl will have a scotch whisky theme. Each of the first three bars will feature a custom drink special: $10 for a tasting of top shelf, single malt scotch and an historically-inspired scotch cocktail.

We will meet promptly at 4 p.m. at the Bridge Cafe (279 Water Street), for an Old Fashioned and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. From there, we’ll head to Swift, Rye House, Old Town Bar and finish the night with an 1864 Original Ale at Pete’s Tavern. For more information on the bars as well as food and drink specials, check out the itinerary page here.

We only have room for 50 participants, so RSVP on Facebook here to gaurantee a spot! The night of the event, positions are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Events: Historic Tasty Treats this Weekend!

Right: I pose in fish fin earrings at the Last Supper Festival; in the background, my photographs are on display.  It was so exciting! Photo by Will Heath.

I took a little break from my Wolf posts, but don’t worry: the food has been cooked, eaten, and will materialize in blog form this week.  I had to postpone my posts because of all the events I was fortunate enough to be a part of this past weekend!

I spent several days constructing jewelry from real sea food for The Last Supper Festival.  There was so much fun edible art at this event: Bloody Marys (Jell-o Molded Bloody Mary flavoured Virgin Marys, served on a vodka soaked cucumber), the Bread Bed (also delicious–with convenient drawers underneath for knives and butter–and so comfortable), and much, much more.  Photos from the event coming soon.

Then, I attended the swanky opening for Momento Mori at the Merchant’s House Museum.

Enough said.

And this weekend–more great events!  Stalk me on Saturday and Sunday and I’ll fill your maw with tasty historic treats!


Saturday, September 25th, 11am-3pm
Vintage Snacks and Historic Baseball
Old Stone House of Brooklyn, 3rd St at 5th Ave

As part of the Historic House Trust’s Movable Feast, the Old Stone House of Brooklyn is hosting two vintage baseball games (1864 rules!) and I’ll be there vending period-appropriate ballpark snacks.  Stop by to munch on three types of Popcorn Balls (Molasses, Maple, and Rose), Hot Ham or Tongue on Buttered Cornbread, Hot Chocolate (1864 style with cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger), Apple Cider and Lemonade.


Saturday, September 25th, 6pm-7:30pm
Imagining Seneca Village
Meet at Summit Rock, Central Park, New York, NY
83rd street and Central Park West, near the Natural History Museum

To build Central Park, the city had to disband Seneca Village, a squatter’s town far north of the city limits comprised of African Americans and Irish immigrants.  The village was in existence until the late 1850s and was a thriving community for those that were considered to be on the fringes of society.  This 90-minutes tour will teach you what it took to survive in rural Manhattan; I’ll be doing a presentation on food-ways, with samples of heirloom vegetables and heritage pork.


Sunday, September 26th, Noon-2pm
New York City Apple Day: Apples on Orchard
Orchard Street between Broome and Grand

Visit me at the Lower East Side  Tenement Museum’s booth at Apples on Orchard.  I’ll be there with free treats: different immigrant food ways that combine old world traditions with new world techniques and ingredients, including Apple Johnny Cake and Apple Kugel.  Apples have been provided by a generous donation from Red Jacket Orchards.

How to Cook a Wolf Week: Day 3, That Butt of Gibes

A meal of ground round patties.
Breakfast today was another hearty helping of toast; lunch, minestrone leftovers. Fisher said any good minestrone is better the next day.
I came home from work at night tired, hungry, and not at all excited to be on  history diet.  My ever-present roommate, Jeff, asked me what I was doing for dinner.  I told him as long as he didn’t mind eating history food, he was welcome to join me for some ground round steaks.
This recipe is wedged into Fisher’s text, nestled between recipes in a chapter on affordable meat: “One way to use cheap meat is to buy that butt of gibes and snobbishness, ground round steak.”

Fisher recommends serving this dish with “hot French bread and a crisp green salad, and a red wine or ale if you can and will.”  I set Jeff to work on a salad of fresh lettuce, carrots, and green peppers, while I heated a cast iron skillet until a splash of water sizzled on its surface.

This mixture will create a flavorful sauce for the patties.

I prepped my ingredients: three large hamburger-style patties of beef and a bowl of chopped chives, parsley, and a healthy glob of butter.  Fisher wanted me to add wine, or vegetable stock, or tomato juice to create a sauce for the meat; but I had none of those things in my pantry.  But I did have half a pint of cherry tomatoes, which I halved and added to the herbs, and topped off with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (as per Fisher’s suggestion).

As Jeff and I assembled our ingredients, it made for a cheerful assortment of colors on the kitchen table.  Just looking at all the fresh vegetables heartened me and I began to fully understand what Fisher means when she talks about cooking to keep the wolf at bay: a good meal can change your entire outlook on the world, and make you feel safe and accomplished.

Gettin ready for DINNER!

When the skillet was good and hot, I “Put in the pats of beef.  There will be a great smoke and smell, so windows should be open if possible.”  I cooked the burgers two minutes on each side, then turned off the heat, added the herb/butter/tomato mixture, and quickly covered the pan.  “There will be another great sizzle and fume.  Put the cover on quickly, to catch all the first fine savor.  In about 50 seconds, stir the mixture thoroughly to catch all the meat-essence in the pan…and put the mixture with a spoon over the cakes of meat.”  And so we did, and served up our dinner with thick slices of fresh baked, whole grain bread.

Making this dinner was so quick, about 20 minutes from start to finish. We both agreed it tasted delicious; Jeff even went back for seconds, and he is usually apprehensive of History Food.  The meat was incredibly flavorful, particularly for such a short cook time.

This meal was cheap, easy, and tasty. Eating it put me in a good mood after a long day.

Events: The Last Supper Festival

This Saturday night I’m part of The Last Supper Festival, a celebration that addresses that act of consumption via art, film, music (including Cleveland’s own Hearts of Darknesses), new media and performance. It’s at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn.

The above image will be on display, as well as real jewelry pieces I constructed from raw seafood.  I also got a sneak peek at some amazing lollipops made in the shape of trees, fish, and chicken drumsticks–they’re shockingly elegant.

Tickets are only $10 and benefit the Food Bank of New York.  It looks like it will be a fun night, so head over to their website here for more info, and purchase your tickets here.

How to Cook a Wolf Week: Day 2, A Broken Egg

“Probablly one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.”
This lovely bit of prose opens Fisher’s chapter “How Not to Boil an Egg.”  Fisher lays out a plan for meatless dinners–with eggs as the center of the show, bread to accompany, and perhaps a glass of port to comfort the soul.  A bit shocking for the 1940s.  Fisher suggests any number of vegetables to make a good frittata (string beans, peas, spinach, artichokes, etc), but she gives us a recipe for a zucchini and tomato frittata.
Use a cast iron skillet for this recipe, so you can go from the stove top to the oven with ease.
Frittata of Zucchini (for example)
From How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942).
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion or three green onion
1 clove garlic
5 small zucchini, cut into thin slices
1 large fresh tomato or 1 cup canned tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon herbs…parsley, sweet marjoram, or thyme
9 eggs
Heat oil in skillet and add minced onion and garlic; cook slowly ten minutes.  Add zucchini, tomato, and seasonings.  Cover, and cook until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
Beat eggs lightly, season with salt and pepper, and mix with cooled vegetables.  Pour back into skillet, cover tightly and cook over low heat until the edges of the frittata pull away from the pan.  Brown over a low broiler.
My copy of How to Cook a Wolf is the revised edition, published in 1954.  Fisher added this note: “As an older and easily wiser frittata cook I almost always, these richer days, add a scant cup of good dry Parmesan cheese to the eggs when I mix them.  Often I add rich cream, too.  How easy it is to stray from austerity!”  Like most of the recipes Fisher presents in her book, she doesn’t see this recipe as a poor man’s meal–a food only to be cooked in desperate times.  She views this as an  any day, everyday meal: filling, healthy and satisfying–that can also be made on the cheap.

How to Cook a Wolf Week: Day 2, “Soup…is good.”

My groceries for a week.

A day of Sludge done with, I was relieved to get into more hearty dishes.  Above, my groceries for the week:, at a cost of $35 in total; including $10 worth of vegetables from my CSA, $5 for some un-homogenized milk from Ronnybrook farms, and the rest spent on bread, cheese, etc.

For breakfast, I had (in Fisher’s words): “…piles of toast, generously buttered, and a bowl of honey or jam, and milk…You can be lavish because the meal is so inexpensive.  You can have fun, because there is no trotting around with fried eggs and mussy dishes and grease in the pan and a lingeringly unpleasant smell in the air.”  Toast it was! Deep, brown, whole wheat bread, fresh from my local bakery.  Buttered, with a schmear of honey, and a glass of milk.  Done.

For lunch, I consulted the chapter “How to Boil Water” for Fisher’s lunch recommendation: “a heartening, ample soup.”  With a drawer full of vegetables, I decided to make “A Basic Minestrone.”  I was interested in Fisher’s interpretation of the classic Italian dish. “Probably the most satisfying soup in the world,” she says, ” for people who are hungry, as well as for those who are tired or worried or cross or in debt or in a moderate amount of pain or in love, or in robust health, or in any kind of business hugmuggery, is minestrone.”  Sounds reassuring, doesn’t it?

A Basic Minestrone
From How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942).

1/4 bacon or salt pork or fat ham.
1 small onion
1 stalk celery
1 handful fresh, chopped parsley
2 cups tomatoes, peeled
1 tsp each oregano and basil

Any other vegetables you have on hand

1 cup of dry pasta

Salt and pepper

I cut the fattiest pieces off a ham steak I bought for dinner later this week.  I put this fat in a large soup pot, and let it render before I added the onion to soften.  Ham fat as a soup base?  Delicious.  Then in went the celery, parsley, and herbs, and left to soften for 10 minutes.  Last, the tomato (I used canned), stirred constantly until heated through.  Then, I added two quarts of water.

At this point, Fisher recommends adding whatever vegetable you have on hand (but never beets!); I added 1/2 a small, green cabbage; 1 potato; 2 cloves garlic; 1/2 an acorn squash; 2 carrots; 2 stalks celery; and a handful of kale.  Fisher recommends chopping these fine; then mashing them with a potato masher…While I can’t explain Fisher’s obsession with smooshed food, I decided to simply leave the veggies finely chopped.

I brought the soup pot to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer, and let it cook until the vegetables were tender, about an hour.

When deprived of seasoning for a time, one forgets the richness it adds to a dish.  As the soup simmered, it smelled like sweet summer days and freshly cut lawns: green and spicy.

20 minutes before serving, I added a cup of dried macaronis.  Then,  just before ladling it into bowls, Fisher says to “Churn the soup ferociously, and serve over thin toasted bread or not, but always with a good ample bowl of grated dry cheese to sprinkle upon each serving, as the pleased human who eats it may desire.”  I adorned my soup with grated Romano.

The soup, it turns out, was o.k.  I’ve had better; I feel my addition of kale instead of spinach wasn’t such a good choice.  It made the soup olive green and a little stinky.

But the soup wasn’t bad, either. It was warm and filling, and I felt ready for the rest of my day.

Tonight, we’ll continue with our Italian theme for the day, with a vegetable Frittata.

How to Cook a Wolf Week: Sludge

That’s it. Sludge.

I’m starting my week with Fisher’s recipe for those truly desperate, hungry, and broke:  Sludge.

“How to Keep Alive” is the chapter title, and it begins “There are times when helpful hints about turning off the gas when not in use are foolish, because the gas has been turned off permanently, or until you can pay the bill.

Let us take for granted that the situation, while uncomfortable, is definitely impermanent and can be coped with. The first thing to do, if you have absolutely no money, is to borrow some…As soon as you have procured fifty cents, find some kind soul who will let you use a stove…buy about fifteen cents’ worth ground beef from a reputable butcher…about ten cents’ worth of whole grain cereal…(and) spend the rest of your money on vegetables.

Get one bunch of carrots, two onions, some celery, and either a small head of cabbage or the coarse outer leaves from some heads that should be trimmed a bit anyway.  It does not matter if they be slightly battered: you will wash them and grind them into an odorous but unrecognizable sludge.

Fisher recommends any remaining money be spent on additional vegetables, like squash and zucchini.  This recipe, she says, will feed you for about four days once cooked into Sludge;  I scaled down the proportions for one day’s worth.

From How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942).

1 floppy carrot
1/2 small onion
2 sticks celery
1/4 small green cabbage
1/2 acorn squash
1 fistful ground beef chuck
1/2 cup steel cut oats

I sweated the onions, carrot, and celery in a little bit of oil, over medium heat for about five minutes.  I seasoned with salt and pepper, then tossed in the meat,  breaking it up with a spoon, until it browned: about seven minutes more.  I added the cabbage and squash, and covered it all with what looked like “too much water.”  I turned up the heat, brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down to low to let it simmer.  I let it cook, covered, for 30 minutes on low.  It looked like a sad soup, but it smelled fairly magnificent.

After thirty minutes had passed, I added 1/2 cup of steel cut oats.  I left the temperature on low, and let it simmer uncovered for an hour.  When it was done it looked, and smelled, like a very thick chicken and rice soup.  At this point, Fisher recommends grinding the entirety of the dish in a food mill; I decided in advance to skip this step, and simpley dice all of the vegetables very fine.  I let the sludge cool and stuck it in the refrigerator to await my breakfast.

I have to admit I wasn’t excited to get up today and try a bowl of sludge.  When I pulled it out of the fridge, I was shocked to discover it had formed into a nearly solid mass.  I scooped out a cupful and microwaved it.

I have to say, it’s not bad.  I added a little extra salt, and it tastes pretty much like a bland chicken soup.  I sincerely enjoyed the texture of the steel cut oats they were a little more firm than rice, which tends to get too squishy when left in a soup overnight.

Sludge is cheap as hell to make, and there’s a lot of healthy stuff in there: protein, whole grains, veggies.  And it is really filling.  I ate it three times today without complaint.

How to Cook a Wolf Week

left: Ms. Fisher herself.

“Now, of all times in history, we should be using our minds as well as our hearts in order to survive…to live gracefully if we live at all.” – MFK Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf.

MFK Fisher composed her book How to Cook a Wolf in 1942, right after the great depression and during WWII rationing.  Government pamphlets demanded “balanced meals;” for example, a breakfast of “fruit juice, hot or cold cereal, scrambled eggs with bacon, buttered toast, coffee or tea or milk.”  At the same time, rationing restraints promoted “Meatless Tuesdays” to a horrified meat-and-potatoes culture.  Housewives nationwide concocted hideous combinations of rice, peas and nutmeats, molded into decorative rings, to mimic the meat their husbands craved.  Add a white sauce and you’ve made a healthy, economic, family dinner.

Fisher’s approach to a balanced diet on a budget?  Jarringly modern. Fisher proposed to “balance the day, not each meal in the day.”  Breakfast was simply hot cereal, with maple syrup and butter. Lunch could be a  hearty soup of garden vegetables.  And dinner? No meat necessary.  Have a frittata with tomatoes and zucchini, topped with cheese.

Most importantly, Fisher’s message is that a full stomach can be achieved on a restricted budget and be accomplished with the gusto and spirit of a true connoisseur.  This week, I’m going to follow Fisher’s gastronomic survival guide, moving from the most austere dishes to Fisher’s most indulgent celebrations of culinary craft.  For the next fives days, we’re going to keep the wolf at bay: and do it on a budget.

In the News: Tenement Cuisine

My grandmother’s peanut butter cookies: crispy, delicious addictive.  And linked to the story of Jewish immigration in America.  Check out the Tenement Museum blog to get the story and the recipe, along with two other posts I wrote for them this week: How to Make Dinner for 15 Cents and Baking with Schmaltz.  Read the blog here!

Cocktail Hour: Bowled Over

The Pineapple Julep.

“This is a tricky time of year for cocktails. We’ve turned the corner into fall, and yet it’s still hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. How can we ease the transition from frosty summer concoctions to warm winter imbibements? Make a bowl of punch!”

This week, I’ve got an article up on The Spirit ( ) on fall punches.  For a brief history of punch and delicious recipes, read the full article here.

Ruby Punch.