Monthly Archive for January, 2012

Events: Tomorrow! Free Beaver!

Masters of Social Gastronomy: Strange Meats!
Where: 
Public Assembly, 70 North 6th Street in Williamsburg
When: Tuesday, January 31st.  Doors at 7
FREE

We’re kicking off a new bar room lecture series all about food!  Each month, Sarah Lohman of Four Pounds Flour and Jonathan Soma of the Brooklyn Brainery will take on a curious food topic and break down the history, science, and stories behind it.

This month’s topic is STRANGE MEAT! Sarah will recount her adventures eating beaver, bear and moose “mouffle,” along with the historic precedent for each. Soma will be taking on unusual meat preparations, from how to turn jerky into cotton candy to what to do with a pig’s head.

Word on the street is we might even have samples.

RSVP on Facebook, if that’s your jam!


Audio: Food and The Written Word

On a recent chilly evening, while the sun set over the 7x train somewhere in Queens, I descended from the rattling train track platform to meet with  Autumn of Autumn Makes and Does.  The result: two episodes of the Alphabet Soup Podcast, a weekly show on “food & words.”  Both parts of my interview are below for your listening pleasure.

 

Part 1: We define Historic Gastronomy, analyze drinking like a Colonial American, realize recipes are precious artifacts, and are amazed by how old veganism is.

Click here to listen to Episode 7: Sarah Lohman, Part 1

Part 2: Wherein we speak upon the original Christmas cookies, the most beautiful apple pie recipe, the perils of cooking moose mouffles (or, how the Meat Hook failed my in my time of need), making hamburger helper with ground antelope, and how to make you own cocktail bitters.

Click here to listen to Episode 8: Sarah Lohman, Part 2

Menus: Historic Remedies for Your Expanding Waistline

Weight amongst the high and low classes; from Never Satisfied: A Culutural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat

Here’s my menu for tonight’s lecture,  Reducing Recipes: Historic Remedies for Your Expanding Waistline.  If you’re in the NYC area, you can get tickets here to taste all these good things.  And I have to say, everything turned out delicous–not just delicious “for diet food!”

Click the links to learn more about each course.

Menu

Graham Bread with Cold Water

Calisthenics Demo-

Dr. Kellogg’s Protose Meatless Balls

Fletcherizing Demo-

J.W. Wiggelsworth’s “Concentrated Nutrition”

The Fat Boy’s Lament

Richard Simmons’ Farewell to Fat Raspberry Brownie Points

Events: Historic Diets and Pre-Industrial Dinner

UPDATE:  the Nat Hist Museum has a post up on their blog about the Diet Talk (see below).  It’s full of all kinds of fun information that I’ll be talking about.  Check it out here.

Reducing Recipes: American Weight-Loss Trends
Where: The American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West, New York, NY
When: Tuesday, January 24th 6:30 pm
Cost: $30 Buy Tickets Here.

 

 

What New Year’s resolution did you make this year?  Millions of Americans will promise to shed a couple pounds in 2012; but when Americans start worrying about their waistlines to begin with?  How did we count calories before we knew a calorie existed?  How did faddish diets in the past change the way Americans ate forever?

Join Historic Gastronomist Sarah Lohman, author of the blog Four Pounds Flour, for a look at how Americans traditionally cleansed themselves of a few extra pounds.  From William Banting’s “Letter on Corpulance,” to “Fletcherizing” with John Harvey Kellogg, we’ll explore “reducing” in all its forms, as well as taste some of the best (and worst) foods historic diet trends have to offer.   This program will be a 90 minute talk including a tasting of four different diet dishes. Buy tickets here.


***

 Pre-Industrial Dinner
Where: The Farm on Adderly,
When: 
Wednesday, January 25th, 2012  7:30 PM
Cost: $69 / person (beverages, tax & gratuity not included)
To sign-up, send an e-mail tothefarmonadderleyevents@gmail.com

 

Step back in time with us and imagine Brooklyn in the mid-1800s.   Farms flourished and Flatbush bustled as workers harvested crops in the neighborhoods we now call home.  Join us at The Farm on Adderley for a meal inspired by the food eaten by the people who lived and worked on farms in the area.  Refrigeration wasn’t yet available, so preservation techniques were the key to ensure food could be enjoyed all-year long.  Chef Tom Kearney is creating a four-course meal showcasing these practices and techniques. Our guest for the evening is ‘historic gastronomist’ Sarah Lohman, who will provide a historical context for the food we’re eating and how Brooklyn – and specifically Flatbush – fit into the larger network of farms and food distribution in New York in the 1800s.

The Gallery: The Most Amazing Image

This image was created by Sarah Conrad and Will Heath, and presented to me as an incredible birthday present.  I’m speechless.

Drink Like a Colonial American Day: What Have We Learned?

This is me at 8am yesterday morning.  It’s admittedly not the best photo ever taken of me.

“SHAME!”

That’s the one word Roommate Jeff had for me at the end of the day, after I bailed out on Drinking Like A Colonial American.  “SHAME!”  He was disappointed in me, to say the least.

I still can’t figure out why the day was so hard; my guess is the combination of drinks, plus the pacing.  One of the last things I want to do when I’m drinking is sober up, and that seems to be the name of the game when you’re ingesting a drink an hour.

I’d be interested to hear other people’s experiences with it, if they’re brave (foolish) enough to try a colonial drinking day at home.

The one thing I learned that truly amazed me is the effect the temperance movement had on America’s drinking habits.  I feel like the temperance movement has always gotten a bad wrap, particularly recently with the boom in books and documentaries about prohibition.  But considering in 1830 we were drinking five gallons of distilled spirits per person per year, and a decade later that number was down to two–that’s pretty incredible.  Perhaps our country was ready for a change.

But honestly, the most fascinating part of yesterday’s experiment was the discussion that sprung up in the comments.  If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to do so.

Thank you for participating, everyone!  I’m going to take a break from torturing myself for the next week while I celebrate my birthday.  I’m going to post a few lighter posts.  And then…well, we’ll see what the new year brings.

Drink Like a Colonial American Day

Dr. Benjamin Rush’s “Moral and Physical Thermometer,” published 1789

What am I up to? Read this introduction to understand the plan.

 

8:30am:

I have to start my day by “taking my bitters.” Bitters, infusions of herbs in spices in high proof alcohol, started out as health tonics. Starting the day with an “eye-opener” of spirits, water, sugar and a healthy dose of bitters was not only considered socially acceptable, but good for you. In fact, the first drink to ever be called a “cock-tail” was exactly this concoction, using whiskey for the spirit. And that’s how I’m started my day today, using an 1833 recipe for the original cocktail, as it appears in David Wondrich’s book Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash

1 tsp sugar
2 oz whiskey
3 oz water
4 dashes bitters
Nutmeg

Muddle sugar with water until dissolved. Add whiskey and bitters. Stir. Top with grated nutmeg.

I grabbed the first whiskey I saw in the liquor cabinet, which was Old Crow.  Only after I made my drink did i realize we had a Buffalo Trace corn whiskey, that would have been more period appropriate because it was un-aged.

My boyfriend demanded to join me from under the comforter on the bed.  I fixed him a drink, and he sat sleepy-eyed on the edge of the bed holding it.

“Well, what are you going to do now that you’re awake and drinking bourbon?”

“I don’t know…vomit?”

Running Total: 2 oz of hard spirits consumed @ 80 proof

8:51 am:

I realized I made our drinks with one oz of water instead of three.  Whoops.  So we are just drinking bourbon on an empty stomach.

9:38 am:

Had a tankard of hard cider with breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast).  John Adams, an ardent temperenace supporter, had a tankard of cider with breakfast every morning.  It wasn’t cider, beer, or wine that was considered “alcoholic,” it was distilled spirits considered ruinous to the working man (see above chart).

Cider was the American drink–scholars believe that Americans consumed more alcohol through hard cider than the much more potent spirit, Rum.  The desire for hard cider didn’t subside until the temperance movement convinced many farmers to cut down their apples trees.  Thankfully, events like Cider Week are bringing attention back to New York State growers and distillers.

11 oz of hard cider @ 10 proof.  Running Total: 3 units of alcohol.

Yes. I’m a little drunk. Time to take a shower and get some work done.

11 am:

It is now the “elevens”!!!   The Colonial American version of a coffee break! A hot toddy is appropriate at the elevens when the weather is cold, so I’ve decided to make apple toddys, one of the first cocktails to be recorded in print.  I baked apples with “apple pie spice”, sugar and butter; then added them to hot water and apple brandy.  I used apple brandy from Warwick Valley Winery, and from Laird’s who received the very first distiller’s license after the Revolutionary War.

I have not managed to take a shower yet.  Let’s be honest here: if colonial Americans drank like this every day, their tolerance would be quite high. I will be drunk, but the Common Man in 1780 would have just been getting started.

I am trying to drink a glass of water between every drink.

2 oz of apple brandy @ 80 proof.  Total: 5 units of alcohol in 2.5 hours.

11:40: am:

Where has the time gone? I have still not showered.  I know I am drunk because everything is a celebration: “yaaaaay! It’s time to water the plant!!!”

12:22 pm:

Trying to sober up a little before lunch.  IN the meantime, there was an interesting thread on Facebook yesterday regarding Colonial drinking, and I wanted to share some of the highlights.

R: All I can say is that I’d hate to be Sarah the morning after tomorrow! They also drank fortified wines (in 18th and 19th centuries) which get you crazy-drunk. I’ve heard a lot of people say that everyone drank ale, even children, because the water wasn’t potable. That may be true if you got your water from Collect Pond, but rich people would have had their own wells. I think they just liked tying one on.

Me: I don’t buy the “safer than water” excuse. In NYc — possibly. But the rest of the country was not so densely populated, and America was known for good quality water. That’s why everything we brewed/distilled was so delicious! I think the bottom line is grain and apples are worth more as liquor; and this is also a time when we had little else to drink but water. Alcohol provided variety, that today we replace with soda and fruit juice. Also true about the beer–but it was brewed at home, and only slightly alcoholic. More like today’s fermented sodas.

D: That’s a good point about water availability in America. But I wonder if the prevalence of cider was partly a continuation of European standards, though. In Europe, there was very little clean drinking water, so people might have just thought that alcohol was healthier than water. And even in New World, a lot of clean streams wouldn’t have stayed clean for long once settlers arrived.

Me: I think it’s a myth. I think it has more to do with financial reasons. Grain and apples go bad. Spirits and cider not, and you can sell the latter for more than the former.

D: Is there anything we know about what the colonists *did* think about nutrition, including the nutritional aspect of booze? I mean, there must have been some as-far-as-they-knew medical knowledge and folk wisdom about what foods you had to eat in order to be healthy. Did they think of spirits as having some kind of common nutritive properties with grain, such that one was a decent substitute for the other?

Me:  I don’t know a ton about the topic, but I do know that “small” beer (home brewed, weak), cider, and wine were considered healthy, nutritive drinks that brought wealth and happiness, while distilled spirits would be the ruin of the working man. Dr Benjamin Rush was an early temperance advocate, and he made this great chart of what will happen to you if you drink various alcohols in various quantities (see above).

Thoughts?

1:19 PM:

I’m hungover and its painful.

2:11 PM:

Managed to get to the grocery store for more cider and a DiGiorno pizza.  The lady at the store wished me a happy birthday (it’s the 15th) and I responded “You too!”

Having another cider with lunch.  Here’s my line up for the rest of the day:

Throughout America, early afternoon dinner was accopanied by hard cider or distilled spirits mized with water; in later afternoon came another break; then supper with more refreshment.  Finally, in the evening it was time to pause and reflect upon the day’s events while sitting by the home or the tavern fireside sipping spirits. (The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition, W.J. Rorabaugh)

Ugh. My head hurts.

12 oz of cider @ 10 proof.  Total: 6 units of alcohol in 6 hours.

4:13 pm

After my last hard cider, my boyfriend and I sat down to watch The Brave Little Toaster.  We promptly fell asleep.  Now that I’m awake, I’m clearly sober, clearly hungover, and I have a sickening migraine.

To be honest, I’ve walked this weird tightrope between sobriety and drunkeness all day.  Consuming so much alcohol so early in the day, on an empty stomach, is a surprsingly unpleasant feeling.  It’s honestly not what I expected.  I thought since the alcohol was spread out through an entire day that I would feel pleasantly buzzed, and not much more, as I Colonial drank away the hours.

I’ve taken my migraine meds and I’m trying to decide if the experiment should go on or if I should call it.  I still have afternoon drinks, dinner drinks, and after dinner drinks to go.

5:29 PM

My brother just texted to point out that I’m halfway through, and I’m already on step six in the Drunkard’s Progress: Poverty and Disease.  It’s only a short step down until I’m forsaken by friends.

I am trying to drink what a man’s portion of booze for a day would be.  Here’s what Rorabaugh has to say about the ladies:

While men were the heartiest topers, women were not faint-hearted abstainers.  Little, however, can be learned about either the reputed 100,000 female drunkards or the more numerous women who consumed for one-eighth to one-quarter of the nation’s spirituous liquor.  The subject received scant attention because it was ‘too delicate’ to be discussed.  The ideal of femininity did discourage tippling, for a woman was supposed to show restraint consistent with virtue, prudence consonant with delicacy, and a preference for beverages agreeable to a fragile constitution.  The public was not tolerant of women drinking at taverns or groceries unless they were travellers recovering from a day’s arduous journey.  Then the ladies might be permitted watered and highly sugared spirituous cordials.The concept of feminine delicacy led women to drink alcohol-based medicines for their health; many who regarded spirits as ‘vulgar’ happily downed a highly alcoholic ‘cordial or stomach elixir.’
See, I’m doing this for my health!

5:48

That’s it.  I’m calling it.  I can’t continue.  I know I’m going to get a lot of shit from my friends for now being able to go the distance, but I feel HORRIBLE.  I suspect it’s the hard cider, which I’m not used to drinking.  Something didn’t agree with me, perhaps.
Even if I hadn’t gotten a headache, I don’t think I could have done the whole day.
I haven’t drawn any conclusions about my experiences yet.  Let me dwell on it for a bit.

Tomorrow: Drinking like a Colonial American

The Drunkard’s Progress, 1846 temperance propaganda.  “Step 1. A glass with a friend.  Step 2. A glass to keep the cold out.  Step 3. A glass too much.  Step 4. Drunk and riotous.  Step 5. The summit attained. Jolly companions. A confirmed drunkard.  Step 6. Poverty and disease.  Step 7. Forsaken by Friends.  Step 8. Desperation and crime.  Step 9. Death by suicide.”

Colonial Americans drank.  A lot.

How much?

These charts come from The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition by W.J. Rorabaugh, an analysis of how totally trashed we were in Colonial times.  In 1770, the average per capita intake of distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, gin and brandy) was 3.4 gallons; by 1830, the per capita intake exceeded 5 gallons..  The average adult male was imbibing half a pint of spirits per day.  When you see the chart take a dip in the 1840s, that’s the temperance movement.  Today, we clock in at under two gallons per capita.
I also think it’s interesting that the total amount of alcoholic beverage we consumed dropped during prohibition; but the consumption of spirits rose. Bathtub gin was the drink of choice.
I’ve found Rorabaugh’s account of drinking in early America  inspiring.   Tomorrow, I plan to drink  the quantity of alcohol commonly consumed during the course of an average day in Colonial America.  I plan to imbibe  beverages appropriate to the time period: bitters, hard cider, brandy, whiskey and rum; served up in period appropriate drinks.  And I’m going to follow the schedule of a Colonial drinker, from an “eye-opener” before breakfast, to a tankard of hard cider beside the fire at night.
And I’ll be live blogging every step of the way.  Check back through the day to see how I’m progressing.

Community Eating via Buca di Beppo

From the Buca di Beppo facebook page.

One of my colleagues at the LES Tenement Museum is collecting oral histories from Chinatown.  This excerpt about eating caught my attention:

Interviewer: I remembered when I came to this country, one day I was dining out in a restaurant in Manhattan Chinatown. I saw lots of people ate with a fork on a plate. I wasn’t very used to it. In Taiwan, we only used plates to collect bones we didn’t want.
Interviewee A: Ah…..that’s right.
I: In Taiwan, we ate from small bowls with chopsticks, not from plates with forks. (A & I laughed)
A: Yes, that’s a big difference.
Interviewee B:  In Chinese culture, we share dishes with everyone sitting at the table. The Westerners prefer to have their own dishes.
A: They prefer that everyone orders their own dishes and eats it separately.
B: It is individualistic. Sharing a dish with someone else is not something that would come to their mind first…… this is a cultural..uh..uh..
I: Cultural difference.
A & B: That’s right.
This conversation immediately reminded me of my experience with the opposite circumstance: seeing communal eating for the first time.  Sometime in the mid to late ’90s, a Midwestern chain restaurant called Buca di Beppo opened in the mall near my home town.   Offering “Italian Immigrant Cuisine,” the restaurant served  family-style meals: large dishes were brought to the table for everyone to share.  I remember my friends patiently explaining to me that I could not order my own, personal dish of cavatelli, that the table had to work as a whole to decide on several dishes everyone might enjoy.  As silly as it feels to me now, I know that night was the first time I had eaten out at a restaurant where the table ordered together and shared the food, as opposed to every individual ordering their own plate.  The concept was completely new to me.
Being young, I picked up on the method after the first time, and thereafter could laugh along with my friends when we told exasperated stories of how our parents and grandparents just didn’t get it.   I remember family members getting truly irritated: “But I want stuffed shells!” “Grandma, you’re going to get stuffed shells, but it’s too much for one person.  You share it with everyone.”  Many of my relations vowed never to return to that terrible restaurant, where they couldn’t order their own food.
Culinary historian Hasia Diner remarks on American eating habits in her book Hungering for America, a look at immigrant foodways in the United States.  Diner attributes the habit of eating individually to the bounty on food available in the US as compared to the relatively poor fare of the Italians.   She quotes the oral history of an Italian immigrant from the 1920s who said ” (back home) The meal was one dish, from which the entire family ate; here there is a variety of food and each person has his own plate and eating utensils.”
I believe that Buca di Beppo was the first chain restaurant to introduce communal eating to a main-stream audience.  It’s a way of dining that I still see as relatively uncommon in midwestern restaurants.  Since my teenage experience there, I’ve eaten Chinese, Indian, Greek and Ethiopian food;  styles that culturally require you to share dishes with the whole table.  Buca is not the perfect restaurant, but I do believe it gave me my training wheels to understand how other cultures eat communally.
Has anyone had a similar (or different) experience eating out?