Archive for the '18th century' Category

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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.

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.


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.



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

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).


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!


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.

Travelogue: My Philly Dream Vacation

I had the most amazing day trip to Philadelphia.  Eleven hours of non-stop history nerd fun.  Let me tell you about it:

 Philadelphians love orange cheese.

First, my beau and I went to the Muetter Museum.   It’s an incredible medical history museum that includes everything from a cast of Chang and Eng‘s body to the world’s largest colon.  The colon is huge, and upon its acquisition (when the owner of said colon died on the toilet), “2 and a half pailfuls of feces” were removed from it’s interior.  How much feces is 2 and a half pailfuls?  Well, one giant colon full, of course.

For the rest of this trip, I let Charles Dickens be my tour guide.  I have an ongoing obsession with his book American Notes, the tale of his 1842 visit to America.  He paints a  fascinating image of us as a young, rowdy country, and I’m continually seeking out places that Dickens visited that still exist: like Eastern State Penitentiary.

Opened in1829, Eastern State is the oldest Penitentiary in the world.  Dickens admired the Quaker founders’ new approach to decriminalization: prisoners were put into solitary confinement and taught a trade, like wood working, to while away their hours and to give them a skill once they were released.  A prisoner had plenty of quiet time to think about what they had done and to make their peace with god.  It also occasionally drove people CRAZY.

Later on, the prison went communal, using solitary confinement as punishment for bad behavior.

The prison was in use for a remarkable 141 years; it was abandoned in 1971, and reopened in 1994 for public tours.  Originally “Visitors are required to wear hard hats and sign liability waivers.”  Today, the prison is stabilized but is in a state of beautiful decay.  Restored areas show how it would have looked originally: very pristine and Baptist church-like.  We took  a guided, hour-long tour of the building and stopped in at a special short tour of the kitchens and dining facilities.

A cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary.

The dining hall at Eastern State Penitentiary

Down in The Hole, and underground facility for solitary confinement. It was flooded from the rain; dark, and miserable.

Next we headed to the Water Works, built in the 18teens , it’s (one of?) the oldest water treatment plant in the States. It’s a restaurant now, but Dickens stopped here when it was functioning to marvel at the modern technology.  It’s a lovely piece of architecture.  On account of the pouring rain on the day we went, the surrounding river was crazy flooded, making for a very interesting visit.

The Waterworks, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Philly sklyine in the background.

The rest of the day was spent in consumption: first, we stopped by Reading Terminal Market, a unique collection of food purveyors including Bassett’s Ice Cream.  Bassett’s is America’s oldest ice cream company, founded in 1861.  I had the Cookies N’ Cream, a  favorite of mine from childhood, and my boyfriend had dark chocolate chip and a scoop of pumpkin.  Really excellent, extremely satisfying ice cream.

I had already devoured most of it before i remembered to take a photo…

Then we walked over to McGillin’s, the oldest bar in Philly, for a beer.  I had the McGillin 1860 IPA; it tasted similar to the house brew at Pete’s Tavern.  We sat at the bar and sipped our beers; the crowd was a little sports bar/ college-ee, but I’ve noticed that’s how these ancient bars seem to be able to stay in business.  Take, for example, McSorely’s: a NYC institution since 1858, it’s still going strong as a NYU hot spot.  Bully for them, I say.

Oldest bar in Philly.

From there, dinner reservations at a restaurant that no history nerd should miss:  The City Tavern.  The original City Tavern (est. 1773) was an immensely popular and fashionable restaurant in the 18th and 19th centuries, attended not only Dickens, but by most of our founding fathers.  The current building is a recreation, with food researched and prepared by chef Walter Staib, who has his own hearth cooking show on PBS.

I was immediately horrified by the attire of the waiters: black 18th-century olde timey outfits.  They appeared to be made from polyester and I think they were wearing sport socks.  From the neck up, they were entirely modern.  I don’t want to be a snob, but I would have rather had my waiters in normal server blacks; I felt the corniness of their dress took away from all the things that were cool about the dining experience.

The menu was fairly typical of restaurants that  serve “historical” fair: unchallenging dishes that could have been served in the colonial era, but are prepared in a modern way.  Having said that, my boyfriend got a pork chop with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut that was THE SINGLE BEST PORKCHOP I’VE EVER HAD.  It was the size of half a pig; had a rich, ham-like flavor from being applewood smoked; and was soo tender it was like meat butter.

Oldhe thymeness

I picked my way through the menu and compiled a historical plate of food.  First, I ordered up a sampling of four historic beers–so cool!

Four historic beers.

On the far left was “George Washington’s Tavern Porter: Brewed from a genuine recipe on file in the Rare Manuscripts Room of the New York Public Library.”  I found it to be reminiscent of the molasses-based beers Brouwerij Lane brewed for last fall’s Bread & Beer event.  I was stoked to try it since I had missed Coney Island Brewing Company’s recreation for the Library’s 100th anniversary.  Next was “Thomas Jefferson’s 1774 Tavern Ale: Thomas Jefferson made beer twice a year.  Our version of this ale is made following Jefferson’s original recipe…” I found it to be floral and pleasant, my second favorite of the four.  The next was “Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce: Based on Benjamin Franklin’s recipe, written while he was an ambassador to France.”  This beer was better than any attempts I’ve made with spruce based beers, but it was still too dark a beer for my taste.  The last beer was my favorite, “Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale: In the style of the common man’s ale…” It was excellent and tasted almost exactly like the Common Ale Pete made over the summer.

I ordered a bowl of Pepperpot Soup, a Revolutionary War-era favorite imported from the Caribbean.  The menu said it was made with “beef;” but actually it’s beef tripe.  I’ve had some bad experiences with tripe in the past, but the soup was delicious, although very, very peppery.

And for my main course, I chose the only entree that included a historical note:  “Fried Tofu - In a 1770 letter to Philadelphia’s John Bartram, Benjamin Franklin included instructions on how to make tofu. Sally Lunn breaded fried tofu, spinach, seasonal vegetables, sauteed tomatoes & herbs, linguine.”  No shit!  Here’s Franklin:

“…Chinese Garavances, with Father Navarretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them, in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused inquiry to be made of Mr. Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made; and I send you his answer. I have since learnt, that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet) is put into water, when the meal is in it, to turn to curds.”

And the recipes he procured:

1st Process

The method the Chinese convert Callivances into Towfu. They first steep the Grain in warm water ten or twelve Hours to soften a little, that it may grind easily. It is a stone Mill with a hole in the top to receive a small drain of warm water which passes between the two Stones the time of grinding to carry off the flower from between & keeps draining into a Tub which has a Sieve or Cloth at the top to stop the gross parts from mixing with the flower.

2d Process

Then they stir up the flower & put the Water over the Fire just for it to simmer, keeping stirring till it thickens & then taken out & put into a frame that has a Cloth which will hold the Substance, & press the Water from it, & when the Water is gone off the Frame with the Contents with a Weight on it must be put over the Steam of boiling Water for half an hour to harden or something longer. The pressing & boiling over the Steam brings it into the Form you see it carried about at Canton. This is the process as I always understood.

(Thanks to Lord Whimsy for printing this text, originally found in the 1849 printing of Bartram’s letters.)

Colonial "Towfu"!

Afterwards, we stopped by the Franklin Fountain, another of the the new-breed of old-school soda fountains.  I eat a lot of ice cream, but this place has the best sundaes I’ve ever had.  If I lived in Philly, I would go here all. the. time.

My favorite sundae ever! Rocky road ice cream, peanut butter sauce, and pretzels! AAAAAAH SO GOOOOOD!


Interior of Franklin Fountain.

House-made syrups for handmade sodas.

Such a wonderful day.  More photos on flickr.

The Gallery: Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream

After the revolution, Jefferson spent a number of years in France before becoming President.  In this time, he amassed an amazing culinary collection that would influence his dinner table for the rest of his life.  One of the dishes he enthused about was ice cream; not only did he buy an ice cream maker while abroad, but the Library of Congress also holds the vanilla ice cream recipes that Jefferson jotted down in his own hand.

1780s – Thomas Jefferson’s Handwritten Recipe
2. bottles of good cream.
6. yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar
mix the yolks & sugar. put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla. when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar. stir it well. put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole. when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel. put it in the Sabottiere then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt. put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice. leave it still half a quarter of an hour. then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere. shut it & replace it in the ice open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula. put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee. then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. leave it there to the moment of serving it. to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.


Below, an adaption of this recipe for the modern kitchen.  And if you’ve always wanted to know how to make ice cream from scratch, sign up for my class at the Brooklyn Brainery a week from today, on Sunday, September 4th.  I’ll go through the process step by step and talk about the origins and science of ice cream making.  See you there!

Basic Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s recipe, with some modern instructions pulled from “Martha Stewart’s Easy Ice Cream”

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 quart heavy cream (for a lighter ice cream, use 2 cups cream and 2 cups milk)
1 vanilla bean (or, other flavoring of your choice)
Additional mix-ins

1. In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended.
2. Add split and scraped vanilla bean to 1 quart of cream; bring to a boil, then pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Cook egg and cream mixture over a double boiler, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens slightly and evenly coats back of spoon (it should hold a line drawn by your finger).  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over ice, or place in refrigerator, until chilled.
4. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding mix-ins like nuts or fruits in the last few minutes. Transfer ice cream to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.


The History Dish: George Washington’s Breakfast

George Washington’s breakfast: Three corn meal pancakes and three cups of tea.

“He rose before sunrise, always wrote or read until seven in summer or half past seven in the winter.  His breakfast was then ready–he ate three small mush cakes swimming in butter and honey, and drank three cups of tea without cream.”

–Nelly Custis Leiws, Washington’s step-granddaughter
(as republished in The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt)

I have a very specific obsession with menus; it’s not just the historic recipes I’m fascinated with, but the order in which people ate them, the occassion,  and the time of day.  I hope that by consuming foods in the same way, I can understand something about another way of life.  After I read the above qoute about George Washington’s morning routine, it prompted me to step into his shoes and consume his breakfast.

Last night, I texted my boyfriend:  “This will seem like a strange reqeust, but I need to get up at 6am.  Im trying to emulate george washington.”

To which my boyfriend promptly responded: “K sweets.  Sounds like a good idea. He was pretty.  Bad ass.”

The qoute from Washingotn’s step-grandaughter came from The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt, a new publication on early Americans who affected what we eat today.  Washington was a really badass farmer:  he turned a huge profit each year, likely due to the fact that he was always ready to try a new technique or a new trade, adding a grist mill and a distillery to his property late in life.  Having  visited his home two years ago, I enjoyed enivsioning him awake in the early hours of the morning, quietly reading, thinking, or penning letters, then sitting down to breakfast.

I set my alarm for 5:45 and slept through it.  Luckily, boyfriend Brian had set his and physcially rolled me out of bed at 6.  I have trouble getting up in the morning, which is unfortunate because I actually love the mornings.  Quiet and restful, being up before everyone else settles my mind, and gives me a headstart on the day.  I installed myself at the kitchen table, wrote a few emails, and read: World’s Largest Stove Destroyed–By Fire; A Feast for the Eyes; and The Ladies of the 17th Century Were Way More Hardcore than You.  Then, it was time to attack my breakfast.

Unlike Washington, I do not have slaves.  I cleaned my own kitchen, brewed my own tea, and mixed up my own batter for mush cakes:

Indian Mush Cakes, from Directions For Cookery, In Its Various Branches By Miss Leslie.  Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & Hart, 1840.

I scaled this recipe down, mixing 2 cups cold water with 1 1/3 cups cornmeal.  I used a sifter to add the cornmeal to the water, while whisking constantly.  This ended up being a great technique, as it did a good job preventing lumps.   Last, I added 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and a pinch of salt.

When bubbles start to appear, it’s time to flip!

The batter was quite thin, so I decided to use a small, non-stick skillet.  Butter went in the skillet, followed by enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.  When bubbles began to appear on the surface, I flipped it (with confidence) and cooked the other side until brown.  Then, with a plate stacked high, I tucked slivers of butter in between the layers and covered the whole thing over with warm honey.

I had been concerned about the lack of leavning in the pancakes, but although they weren’t light and fluffy, they weren’t dense either.  They had a great, rugged texture, and pretty much anything “swimming” in butter is gonna taste pretty good.

We don’t really know if Nelly Custis’ account of Washington’s breakfast is factual, or if she just said it to make him sound more austere and awesome, unlike Ben Franklin, who “…ate an inordinate breakfast, four dishes of tea with cream, and one or two buttered toasts, with slices of hung beef…” (his own words).  But I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty bad ass right now (alot like this). I sat and munched my mush cakes, thinking about George, and how different his mornings may have been.  I have to admit, he may be displacing Thomas Jefferson as my favorite founding father.

Cocktail Hour: A Gaggle of Gins

Ilana Kohn snapped this photo at my Gin in June event last month, showing our steady progession through the history of gin.

We started with Genever, the Dutch alcohol that gave birth to modern gin, in one of the most primitive cocktails: the gin sling.  Next we moved through time to a gin popular in the late 19th century, Old Tom.  It’s slightly sweet and less herbal than a Genever, but more so that a London Dry–the evolutionary link between the two.  We sampled it in a Martinez cocktail (the predecessor of the modern Martini), which is also where the Boker’s bitters went. Then, we moved to a locally produced dry gin, Breucklen, in a cocktail from another burough, the Bronx.

Last, we sampled an old style gin that’s only recently come on the market in America, thanks to the crafty distillers of DH Krahn:  Averell Damson Gin, a herbaceous gin infused with tart plum juice.  The cocktail was served was of my own creation, inspired by an 1832 recipe for a Sloe Gin Fizz.  To get the recipe for the Damson Fizz Punch, go here.  I did a guest post on it for Cocktail Virgin Slut because the drink is so perfect for summer.

Cocktail Hour: Beef Beer

The short story: I was doing research amongst the stacks at the New York Public library.  In the appendix of a large volume called Virginia Taverns, I found a recipe for a “American Strong Beer,” dated 1815.  I read on to discover this beer was made with mustard, rice and beef.  Interesting.

While planning for Bread & Beer, I sent this recipe to the brewers at Brouwerij Lane as a novelty; the next thing I know, they’re making it.  And it was my favorite beer of the evening.  Joshua Berstein of the New York Press just wrote about it:

But I could definitely get pie-eyed from the second beer. It was a circa-1815 American strong ale fashioned with wheat, barley, rice, dry mustard and lean beef. Yes, beef. “You use it to make a sort of broth,” Olsen explained of the cow flesh, whose proteins aid the Belgian yeast. Instead of being overwhelmingly meaty, the beer drinks dry and slightly fruity, with gentle notes of hamburger.

You can read Berstein’s full article on the Bread & Beer event here.

Brewers: give this recipe a shot.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

They brewed this beer in two incarnations, one of which was infused with caraway.  Below, the full menu and tasting notes for the event.

The Gallery: The Idea Was to Live in the Past.

Brooklyn Sanitary Fair 1864: The New England Kitchen.

My mom was in town over the weekend, and being the history nerd duo that we are, we decided to go see “Healing the Wounds of War: The Brooklyn Sanitary Fair of 1864” at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  I know a “Sanitary Fair” doesn’t sound like much fun, but apparently it was in the 19th Century.  From the BMA website:

“During the Civil War, sanitary fairs were held to raise money for the war effort in major cities in the Northeast. These large-scale fairs were social events that combined entertainment, education, and philanthropy…The money was used for clothing, food, medical supplies, and other provisions for the Union Army.”

There were arts and crafts for sale, “curiosities” on display, and opportunities to flirt.  But my favorite? “The New England Kitchen.”

“The idea is to present a faithful picture of New England farm house life of the last century. The grand, old fire place shall glow again; the spinning wheel shall whirl as of old; the walls shall be garnished with the products of the forest; and the dinner table, always set, shall be loaded with substantial New England cheer.  We shall try to reproduce the manners, customs, dress, and if possible, the idiom of the time…The period fixed upon is just prior to the throwing overboard of the tea in Boston Harbor.

The idea was to live in the Past, and the Present was ignominiously banished.”  From History of the Brooklyn and Long Island Fair

The Kitchen was a Civil War reenactment of Revolutionary War era foodways.  It was 1864 reenacting 1776.

Awesome. I love this. Love. It.

I really want to reenact the 186o’s  reenacting 1770’s.  I just have to figure out how.