Monthly Archive for April, 2012

The History Dish: Rice with Maple Syrup (Hong Sooy Un Doy)

Let’s say it’s 1880 and your in-laws are in town.  They want to “see the real New York.”  So what do you do with them?  How about a tour of Chinatown!

Long before the endless stalls of knock-off handbags, Chinatown of the late 19th century was a tourist destination.  Gangs of middle-class city visitors would swarm to the Lower East Side to take guided tours, in which they might peek into an opium den, shop in import stores, or meet one of the “Irish Brides” of the mostly male Chinese population.

The tours were meant to titillate, even to shock.  You were descending into a “foreign” country,  just a few blocks below Houston Street.  I often wonder how these visitations were received by the immigrant Chinese population: some, I’m sure, took advantage of the situation for financial gain.  Others, perhaps, were even able to chuckle at the awe-struck outsiders.  But how does it really feel when your neighborhood is filled with tourists, ogling and judging your way of life?

The tour would always end in one of Chinatown’s many eateries to grab a bowl of Chop Suey, a mix of pork, chicken organs, and vegetables which was considered the height of exoticism at the turn of the century.  You can watch me (poorly) cook a turn-of-the-century recipe for chop suey here.

My colleague Bill Wander recently had an article published  in Asian Fusion magazine, all about these “slumming tours” as they were known at them time.  He did a little investigating into what a Chinese restaurant was serving at the turn of the century:

“The Oriental Restaurant at 3 Pell St in 1903 featured the inevitable “Chop SOOY” for 15 cents and a small chicken chow mein for forty cents. Birds Nest soup and shark fin soup were $1.50 and $2. respectively. The menu was ala carte, with rice or bread and butter at 5 cents. But the most unusual item on the menu might have been “Hong Sooy Un Doy” – Rice with maple syrup – 10 cents.”

You can see the full menu here.

Rice with Maple Syrup–I was intrigued! I like rice! I like maple syrup!  And who has ever heard of that flavor combination before?  It reminded me of a dish my mother used to eat when she was a kid: cooked rice in cold milk with sugar and cinnamon.  Sweet rice, in my mind, is associated with rice pudding.  To see it so simply dressed with sweet condiments, rather than savory, seemed unique.

So I cooked a pot of rice according to this recipe and drizzled real maple syrup on top.  I dug in with a pair of chopsticks.

My first thought was “hot ice cream!”  It had the creaminess and sweetness of ice cream, but with a comforting warmth.  But after a few bites, the flavor became monotonous.  It’s an interesting idea, but perhaps it needs some improvement.  Perhaps a maple-pecan-bourbon rice pudding instead?  Or maybe, a maple-ginger rice pudding; or maple-sezchuan-peanut rice pudding, to pull out the dish’s Chinatown roots.  Now that’s worth thinking about.


Events: Learn Urban Hearth Cooking!


Campfire Cuisine Beyond Hot Dogs: An Introduction to Hearth Cooking
Two dates: Sunday, May 6th or Sunday, May 13th
11:00 am – 3:00 pm
The Old Stone House & Washington Park, Park Slope, Brooklyn
$45 Buy tickets here.

In this hands-on class, you’ll learn the primal cooking skills that will make you a better cook in your daily life.

While preparing a meal on an outdoor hearth, we’re going to cover the four basic cooking techniques: baking, roasting, frying and boiling.  You’ll learn how to tell temperature without a thermometer, how to tell the doneness of food by using all of your senses, and how to build a bad-ass fire.

The skills you will learn in this four-hour session will allow you to amaze your friends on your next camping trip; put on an old-timey costume and cook at a historic house; or simply become a better, more intuitive home chef.

The cost of the class includes a light meal you will help to make. Purchase tickets here.

Events: Fake Meats!

Masters of Social Gastronomy: Fake Meat!
Tuesday, April 24, 7pm
Public Assembly, 70 North 6th Street, Williamsburg

Each month, MSG takes on a curious food topic and breaks down the history, science, and stories behind it. Accept no imitations, because on April 24th we’ll be talking FAKE MEAT.

Sarah Lohman of Four Pounds Flour will give you a run-down of vegetarianism in the west. From Benjamin Franklin’s ”Tow-fu” to Dr. Kellogg’s commercial “Protose,” we’ll explore just how long we’ve been eating things that masquerade as meat.

Soma will be taking charge of all your favorite modern imitation meats, exploring the many faces of soy and revealing the not-so-secret fungi factories that power your favorite frauds. We’ll take a look at crafting mock duck and tempeh at home, as well as where to shop if your culinary prowess fails.

There’ll samples of historic fake meats so good you might be inspired to replace your veggie burger with some history food, along with drink specials from the always awesome Buffalo Trace Bourbon. RSVP HERE so we know how many free samples to bring!

Menus: The First Raw Banquet

The following menu was served at the first elementary or uncooked banquet ever spread in this country, given by the authors, June 18, 1903… The object was more to show the numerous and attractive dishes that could be prepared from uncooked foods, than to observe or follow any particular dietetic rule or law.

Uncooked Foods and How to Use Themby Eugene and Molly Griswold Christian.


Going Raw: Saturday and Wrap Up


Grapes; Apples or Pears; Nuts; Dates; Milk +Hazelnuts

Breakfast was rather uninspired: Milk, a pear, and some hazelnuts.  It made me jones for the end of this experiment.


Red Banana (very ripe) with Thick Cream; Pecans; Brazil Nuts; Seeded Raisins; Dates; Whipped Egg; Rich Milk +Hazelnuts, Apples, Almonds
Whole Foods has red bananas last week, but were out this week.  Boo.  I’ve never had one, and I hear they have a delicate, berry-like flavor.
I also had an apple with cream cheese for a snack.


I went out for a beer after work, a small infraction against my diet, but managed to resist joining my coworkers for a hamburger.  I made my way home to Queens and fixed a salad from my remaining vegetables: lettuce, cabbage, celery, olives and almonds with a little dressing.  I have a new-found love for cabbage, I must admit.

For dessert, I made a bowl of apples, hazelnuts and cream, which has been one of my favorite meals this week.  Then I watched tv, went to bed, and woke up to a different life.

It always feels strange to shed one of these immersive experiments.  I made tea and a toasted bagel with cream cheese, then sighed with happiness at the sensation of warm food touching my lips and making its way down to my tummy.  But I didn’t miss cooked food as much as I thought would.

What I’ve Learned:

  1. One of the major complaints of a modern raw diet is you feel hungry all the time.  Although I did have some bouts of the munchies on a historic raw diet, in general I did quite well.  I attribute it to the additional of dairy in the historic diet: milk, cream, and cream cheese.  Although it’s pasteurized, I made an exception because I thought the inclusion of dairy was more historically appropriate.
  2. I didn’t notice a huge change in the way I “felt” this week, which is the number one question people asked me.  I eat a pretty healthy diet regularly, so I think I was in ok shape to begin with.  My friend Kat, who was also raw this week, said she felt more energetic in general.  I did enjoy having extremely regular bowel movements that were of a healthy consistency.
  3. Having my first cup a tea in a week this morning was extremely satisfactory.  I’ve somewhat unstained my teeth by abstaining from tea drinking, but I’ve still glad to have my cuppa back.
  4. I didn’t drink alcohol–until the beer I had last night.  Alcohol is really bad for me; it tends to trigger my migraines, which makes me feel awful.  So I have felt a lot healthier for not  drinking…but I do love drinking.
  5. I need to include more raw foods in my diet.  I want to go back to cooking, and I want to go back to eating meat.  But what this diet has taught me more than anything else is not to fuss over “preparing” raw foods.  A luscious apple or a pile of salad greens are good the wat they are; I don’t need to stress about finding a recipe.  I should just eat them, and enjoy them in their natural state.  And from now on, I will.

Other thoughts? What do you think?


Going Raw: Friday


Sliced pineapple; Pecans; Protoid nuts; Evaporated Apples; Dates

I feel like the menu writers of Uncooked Foods began to run out of steam by the end of the week.  I ate dried apples from Russ & Daughters, most of my remaining pecans, and sliced pineapple.

Uncooked Foods is a big supporter of Fletcherizing: chewing you food at least 30 times per bite.  Try it sometime; you’ll find that every mouthful  disintegrates into a disgusting puddy, the taste and texture of which will make you spit it back out.


Apples; Pecans; English Walnuts; Lettuce; Sweet Butter; Unfired wafers; Dates; Fruit and Nut medley; Milk
All packed up for lunch at work.  My coworkers have been incredibly supportive and interested.


Oranges; Protoid Nuts; Black walnuts; ripe olives; sliced tomatoes; unfired wafers; cream cheese; prune whip with whipped cream; figs; milk +Hazelnuts
On this plate, you see my rather meager dinner; I felt so hungry and unsatisfied that I followed up by devouring a container of cream cheese and banana chips.  I was just so hungry.  And that’s what I got to eat while my boyfriend made a hamburger.
Now that I’m in the home stretch, it is getting harder.  I miss bread!  I’ve already decided what my first meal will be on Sunday: a bagel with cream cheese and a hot cup of tea with milk and sugar.

Going Raw: Thursday


Sliced Banana with Thick Cream; Pecans; Protoid Nuts; Dates; Egg-nog

Woo-hoo, we’re in the home stretch.  Only three more days!


Oranges; Pecans; Cold Slaw; Persian Prunes with Thick Cream; Unfired Crackers; Combination cereal; Dates; fig butter; protoid nuts; milk
I couldn’t figure out what “combination cereal” was–I assume a mix of different grains–but I decided I didn’t need it.  “Fig butter” is mooshed fresh figs, which sounds good to me, but figs are out of season.
I had a meeting at the Moore St. Market in Brooklyn, one of a series of markets built by Mayor Lagaurdia in the 1930s.  80 years ago, it served a largely Jewish population; today, the same neighborhood is Dominican and Puerto Rican.  I joined my friend at Ramonita’s lunch counter, a popular Dominican restaurant, just as she was served a plate towering with mofongo, a dish made of mashed plantains and crispy pork skins.  I took one look at it and said “That is the first thing I’ve seen this week that I’m sad I’m not eating,” and took out my bag of prunes to munch on.


I again threw the normal dinner menu to the wind and went out to eat, this time with greater success than last night.  I joined a group of friends at Caravan of Dreams, a vegetarian/vegan/raw restaurant in the East Village.  Amongst those who joined me was Jeffery, who is always a vegan, and Kat, who also went raw this week in a show of solidarity.

I certainly had more choices at this restaurant than at any other time this week.  The table ordered two “live” appetizers, and I learned that “live” is just a more appealing word for “raw.”  We got guacamole and salsa, which had big slices of cherry tomatoes and leaves of fresh herbs; and almond hummus with “chia chips,” some sort of seed that has been pressed into chip form and dried again.  The appetizers were incredibly flavorful and my favorite part of the meal.

For my entree, I got a open-faced chili “burger,” a mash-up of some things…grains, or something, I don’t know, put back into burger shape and served on a chia cracker.  The sauces and sides that accompanied it were all very good, and the burger was especially flavorful.  It bursted with hot and spicy peppers, as well as more subtly, warm spice notes.  But there were textural issues: the burger was squishy and the cracker was crispy and it was impossible to eat without both exploding everywhere.

Dessert was thick slab of  “cocoa fudge.” I don’t know what it actually was made of, but it had the taste and texture of a powerbar.  I blame myself–I have a general prohibition on foods that masquerade as other foods.  Everything I’ve eaten this week has been in its natural form and I have enjoyed it for that reason.  But as soon as food is processed into something it shouldn’t be–whether that be a chia chip, raw burger, or an unfortunate slab of cocoa fudge–the expectations of what it pretends to be outweigh what is actually is.  It’s never as good as you want it to be, but a mere substitution instead.



Going Raw: Wednesday


Sliced sweet apples with cream; pecans; protoid nuts; sliced oranges; dates; egg-nog

Tasty, filling breakfast!


Pears; pecans; english walnuts; tomato salad with hygeia dressing; fruit wafers; cream cheese; turkish figs with cream; dates; milk
I ate a pear for a mid-morning snack, then put together this little lunch.  I couldn’t figure out what they meant by fruit wafers, so I got banana chips, which now that I think about it, might be fried.  I’ll have to try to pick up some dehydrated fruit crisps from somewhere.
Hygeia dressing is a mayonnaisey-type dressing with raw eggs; since I’ve have a raw egg prohibition, I found a light ranch dressing that didn’t use vinegar, and I’ve substituted that instead.  Salad dressing and olive oil are the only two condiments I’m allowed to use.  Why, you ask?
The use of condiments, the pouring of some mixed-up mess of something over foods just before we eat them, in the vain hope of making them better, seems to be a sort of weird superstition….People will sit in a fashionable cafe, and dine upon an undrawn cold storage turkey, that has been a year dead, and pour over its ancient flesh a tar colored fluid that has been upon the shelf of a grocer several years, until it has reached that limit of delicious decay suggested by the green slimy mildew in Roquefort cheese.


I abandoned my suggested dinner menu tonight because I was meeting a friend (Jess of Domestology!) after work.  Eating raw at home is one thing; trying to find appropriate foods in the world at large is another.  We agreed to meet at a vegetarian cafe in the Flatiron district–one that I’ve enjoyed even when I’m not on a restricted history diet–only to find that it was closed for good.  We wandered down 6th avenue, balefully searching for a place where I could eat.  Eventually, we ended up in a corner deli, where I ordered a veggie wrap.  I scraped a few cupfuls of shredded carrots out of the middle of a soggy pita.  It sucked, and really made me miss the flavorful food I’ve been eating.  Although the dinner was terrible, we had a great chat about the amazing embroidered book covers Jess been making (see them here).

After dinner, as I left to get on the train, I spied a Mr. Softee truck.  I remembered one of the foods that was on the suggested menu for today was ice cream.  So, a bit guiltily, I stepped up to the window and ordered vanilla soft serve in a cup.  It was cooked in the same way all the dairy products I’ve consumed this week are cooked, I reasoned.  I spooned it into my mouth on the train ride home, clasping the cup as though someone might snatch it away from me and deprive me of my treat.  Each mouthful was sweet, creamy and buttery.  I disposed of the empty cup before I got home.

When I walked in the door, I found my boyfriend doing dishes.  “Are you hungry?” I asked. “Do you need me to fix you something?”

“Hey,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be raw anymore.”

“Oh yeah?”

“I don’t feel like I’ve eaten anything this week.  I feel like I’ve just been snacking.  I miss cooked food.  But I want to support you!”

“Don’t worry about it–it’s ok, I understand if you want to quit.  But,” I said, throwing my hands in the air, “I am powerless to fix you dinner.”

So I’m on my own now, with three days left.

Going Raw: Tuesday


Apples; Pecans; Bananas and Cream; Unfired wafers; seeded raisins; milk

For breakfast, I had a big heaping bowl of sliced apples, bananas, and chopped pecans.


Apples; Pecans; Celery Salad; Unfired Crackers; Chestnuts; Date and nut Butter; Dates; Persimmons with Cream
Celery salad is made up of chopped celery, apples, and pecans dressed with olive oil.  The chestnuts were actually roasted, which I realized after I purchased them.  I ate them anyway.  Other than dairy products, they’re the only cooked food I’ve eaten this week.


Sliced Pineapple; Pecans; Blanched Almonds; Ripe Olives; Celery; Unfired wafers; Combination Nut Butter; Sliced Bananas, Dates and Cream; Egg-nog

I had Raw Sea Crackers for a snack in the afternoon, and then had dinner of pineapple and banana slices slathered in almond butter–a favorite snack of mine, historic diet or no.  Later in the evening, I had almonds and dates as a snack.

Compared to other historic diets I’ve been on, this one is a breeze.  I’m not really craving anything–I would “like” bread and I would “like” a cup of tea, but it’s not a desperate situation.

I got to sit down to lunch with my boyfriend today, who is also sticking to a raw diet this week.  We’ve been working opposite schedules, so it’s been a couple of days since we’ve talked.

“How is this experience for you?” I asked.

“Fine. I’ve been eating enough.”

“How’s your poop?”


“Me too!!  And it floats!”  And it’s frequent. I’ve got bowels John Harvey Kellogg would be proud of.

Going Raw: Monday


Apples; Protoid Nuts; Filberts; Turkish pulled figs with cream +Raw Honey

I sliced my apple and smeared it with raw honey, then sprinkled the pine nuts over top.  The filberts–hazelnuts–I added to the figs and cream.

I would normally have a cup of tea with my breakfast, and two to three more throughout the day.  But Uncooked Foods advises against it:

It is impossible to keep alive the appetite for such stimulants as tobacco, fermented and distilled liquors, tea and coffee when the body is correctly fed.  A being who subsists upon clean elementary foods would have no more desire for stimulants and narcotics than a horse or a dog would have for a Manhattan cocktail.

In the end, it will be nice to break my caffeine habit.  But currently, I’m experiencing bouts of extreme drowsiness and headaches.


Pecans; Olives; Vegetable Salad with Hygeia dressing; Unfired Crackers; Sweet Butter; Evaporated Peaches and raisins; Milk

I made most of my ingredients into a big salad, and packed the whole thing up for lunch.  The biscuits I’m eating are miserable little things:

Bread forms a very important part of the uncooked menu, but its production is not practical in the home, where this book is intended to be of greatest use, as it requires special machinery for flaking and grinding the different grains and nuts of which it is made. It also requires a special electric light oven for drying during the winter when the rays of the sun cannot be utilized.

To meet conditions that exist, we make an exception here and give two recipes for bread that requires cooking, but is unfermented.

I haven’t quite figured out why the book dislikes fermentation.  The recipe that they give for “unleavened gems” is 3 cups whole wheat flour to 2 cups cold water and 2 tablespoons of fat.  Then “Take up on a spoon and work all the air possible into the batter by vigorous beating two or three minutes in the open air.”  I had the benefit of my electric mixer.  I baked them for ten minutes at 400 degrees, and the result was something less edible than silly puddy.  I will suffer through them for another day or two, then I think I’m going to switch back to the raw crackers from Whole  Foods.


Oranges; Apples; Pecans; Protoid nuts; Ripe Olives; Lettuce; Flaked Oats, Dates and Cream; Unfired Crackers; Sweet Butter; Fruit Salad; Egg Nog.

I had a very long day at work, so I ate dinner there, too–and forgot to snap a photo.  It was more of the same: a large salad with some fruit and unleavened breads.

Despite my kvetching, I’ve been generally very satisfied with my meals.  The food is good and fresh, and extremely healthy while remaining delicious.  I feel full at the end of a meal.  But I’m extremely flatulent.