Archive for the 'experiments' Category

Living History: Tea and Two Slices


In the late 1920s, George Orwell compiled his first full-length book. Although Down And Out In Paris And London wasn’t an epic novel about a dystopian future, the origins of his later works could be found in this semi-documentarian, semi-autobiographical look at the criminalization of the poor.

In the first half of Down and Out…, Orwell gives a grueling account of the French food industry; he worked in Paris as one of the lowliest kitchen staff buried in the basement scullery of a hotel. But even more fascinating was when Orwell’s main character returns to his hometown of London, and through a series of misfortunes ends up living life as a penniless “tramp” for a period of several months. Orwell, too, lived amongst the homeless while he was a young journalist: he wandered in and out of shelters with the permanently poor, and became critical of the housing and diet of these men, the latter being “tea-and-two-slices.”

Ironically, just off the boat from France, Orwell”s main character orders tea-and-two-slices with a sort of welcome nostalgia.  Standard 1920s British diner fair, it’s a mug of tea with milk and sugar, and two slices of toast spread with margarine. But as he gets caught up in the system of cheap lodging houses, work houses, and prison-like shelters called “spikes,” it is the only food offered to the homeless.  “Food..had come to mean simply bread and margarine, which will cheat hunger for an hour or two,” Orwell writes.

“It follows that the ‘Serves them damned well right’ attitude that is normally taken towards tramps is no fairer that it would be towards cripples or invalids. When one has realized that, one begins to put oneself in a tramp’s place and understand what his life is like. It is an extraordinarily futile, acutely unpleasant life…hunger, which is almost the general fate of tramps.  The casual ward [a sort of shelter] gives them a ration which is probably not even meant to be sufficient, and anything beyond that must be got by begging–that is, by breaking the law. The result is that nearly every tramp is rotted by malnutrition; for proof of which we need only look at the men lining up outside any casual ward.”

Orwell’s book goes so deeply, and personally, into societal views of poverty that I can’t even scratch the surface in this post. Go on and read it, it will fascinate you.  But in an odd sort of tribute, I’m going to reenact the part that fascinated me the most: the ongoing march of tea-and-two-slices, this very British meal that was the insufficient fuel for an army of homeless men. Four meals today: 8am, 12pm, 4pm, and 8pm–tea, bread and margarine only.  I’ll update this post with thoughts throughout the day.

Update 12pm: A few words on margarine: I hate it.  I hate the mouth-feel and greasy taste. My future husband & my temporary roommate LOVE it. That’s part of the reason I’m doing this experiment now, because there’s an economy sized tub of it in the fridge.  I haven’t been able to figure out why margarine was so incredibly popular in England – maybe someone out there can clue me in – but this line from Down and Out is particularly telling:

“An ordinary London coffee shop, like a thousand others…’Can I have some tea and bread and butter?’ I said to the girl.

She stared. ‘No butter, only marg,” she said, surprised. And she repeated the order in the phrase that is to London what the eternal coup de rouge is to Paris: ‘Large tea and two slices!’

Daily Mail UK online has some things to say about margarine.

Black tea with milk and sugar is one of my favorite things in the world, however. And sipped slowly over many hours, it does stave off hunger, as many an Irish domestic knew.

Update 4pm: I get really hungry about two hours after eating.  The tea always helps–I’m very happy when I’m filled with sugar and caffeine.  Tea is a drug, that in the 19th and early 20th centuries, helped the poor get through their day and functioned as a substitute for food when there was none.  The “lower classes” were also constantly criticized for spending what little money they had on frivolities like tea and sugar; or so it was perceived, in England and on this side of the ocean. Perhaps today’s replacement is coffee or Mountain Dew.

Update 8pm: I had my last tea-and-two-slices an hour early.  What I ate at 4pm didn’t satisfy me at all.  I was having trouble thinking and remembering by 5pm, and by 6 I had to go have a lay down. I feel weak, sick and confused.  When I ate my final meal at 7, I felt full, but gross. I really thought today would be a cakewalk–who doesn’t love tea and toast? But I cannot imagine eating this, and only this, day after day.  It would destroy you.

I think I might have a banana and some peanut butter before I go to bed.  Don’t judge.

The Battle Creek Diet: Wrap Up

While researching this project, I came across an article on listing the “20th century’s most original and essential vegetarian cookbooks.” Here’s what that had to say about The New Cookery, the Kellogg directed cookbook that was the backbone for this experiment:

“In 1913, Lenna Frances Cooper—head dietitian at Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium—let the world know what was wrong with vegetarian food: it didn’t taste good. The New Cookery, her corrective text, aims for palatability as well as wholesomeness. The temperance advocated by 19th-century health reformers comes through in many of the recipes here—the alcohol-free “Mint Julep”, the coffee-free “Cereal Coffee”—but Cooper’s book will surprise anyone who thinks that Kellogg’s was all cornflakes. The New Cookery is shot through with sugar and drenched with eggs and cream (sometimes all at once, as with “Baked Eggs in Cream”).

History buffs will enjoy the antecedents to today’s mock meats: Protose—a canned Kellogg product of mashed beans, peanut butter, and onion water—is central to the “Meat Substitutes” chapter, with nut meat loaf calling for a full pound of it (to say nothing of Broiled Protose, Protose Cutlets, or Chipped Protose in Cream). Austere black-and-white photographs depict a lablike, sterile kitchen of precise measurements and methods, and scientific explanations of common kitchen activities—”Stirring is accomplished by a rotary motion of the arm”—ensure that even the greenest cook can proceed.”

This is a good summation of my experiences with this book, and this diet. The food was good, rich, and every meal was well-balanced. Cooper took popular French cuisine, and melded it with Kellogg’s teachings. True to Kellogg’s dictum, my bowels celebrated by leading me to the bathroom with incredibly regularity–two to three times a day.

My only complaint: I found many of the recipes to be terribly under-seasoned, depending only on a few tablespoons of grated onion, a pinch of salt, or a drizzle of cream to add essential flavours. Regardless, I am PUMPED for my upcoming dinner party, and after this week, I am confident that even though the there won’t be a speck of meat to be found, the food will still go over well.

And now every time I sit down to a bowl of corn flakes or a slice of tofurkey, I’ll think of Kellogg, and the foundation he laid for not just the modern vegetarian diet, but the modern American diet as well.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 5

Breakfast: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Baked Apples, Whole Wheat Gem.

I figured there was no more appropriate way to end my week of Kellogg’s food than with a bowl brimming full of Corn Flakes. Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, are the ones who the invented the technique for crisping rice and corn into Breakfast cereal, and thereby creating a whole new industry.

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I pared and cored two apples and then, because I wasn’t paying careful attention to the directions, sliced them up as well. They should be baked whole. I put the slices in a baking dish and squeezed a little lemon over top. I used brown sugar in my syrup.

I baked the apples at 450 for about 30 minutes, let them cool, then scooped them out into a bowl. I drizzled them with cream and ate them up, although I think this dish could have been greatly improved with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Dinner: Corn Roast and Baked Sweet Potato.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have lunch today. I out and about in the middle of the day and well, it just didn’t happen. So I had an early dinner instead.

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The corn roast was quite good, I would say the best dinner entree I’ve had all week. I halved this recipe and used frozen corn; it was moist and tender when it came out of the oven, so I decided not to serve it with a sauce. It was similar to corn pudding, and I easily devoured the whole dish. However, I don’t think I’ll be serving it at my final dinner party: although i liked this dish the best, Rice a la Carolina was the most interesting, and the most appropriate to the time period.

The baked sweet potato was also an A+.

Corn Roast. It looked exactly the same several hours later.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 4

Rice a la Carolina

Breakfast: Potato Cakes, Banana, Whole Wheat Gem.

For this recipe, you are just supposed to form mashed potatoes into patties and fry them in butter. I used left over mashed sweet potatoes from the night before. They didn’t turn out very well, I think my potatoes were not firm enough to make a satisfactory cake. They came out like regular mashed potatoes, with some burned parts.

Lunch: Egg Sandwich

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This recipe is pretty straight forward; I added some fresh cracked pepper. I also used the whole egg–why let it go to waste? It was an enjoyable lunch, the lemon juice lended a nice, fresh flavor to the eggs. It’s been awhile since I’ve had and egg salad sandwich.

Dinner: Rice a la Carolina and Asparagus

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I wanted to attempt Rice a la Caroline because it is mentioned frequently in the book, The Road to Wellville, so I can only assume it was a San favorite. It’s a layered dish, and one of the layers is supposed to be a layer of Protose. But, considering my experiences with homemade Protose, I decided to do what a housewife a 100 years ago would do: I went to the store and picked up a manufactured meat substitute.

I don’t spend much time in the faux-meat department, so I shopped around a bit, looking for something that had ingredients and a flavour profile similar to Protose. Many modern vegetarian meats are made with similar ingredients: soy, wheat gluten, nuts. On a package of “chicken” tenders contained “ancient grains.” oooo. In the end, I settled on a baggie called Smart BBQ, with shredded vegetable protein in a BBQ sauce. The chile sauce I made the other day was similar to a BBQ, and I thought the shredded veggie protein would be easy to spread.

I cut the potatoes into thin slices, like scalloped potatoes, and pre-cooked them for 2 minutes on high in the microwave. I added the onions, butter, and I was out of sage so I used l’herbs du provence. I then spread the layer of Smart BBQ. The rice I cooked in the microwave, and mixed with about a tablespoon of tomato paste. I didn’t have hard boiled eggs, I ate the last of them for lunch, so instead I sprinkled the surface with breadcrumbs. I topped to whole thing off with a drizzle of heavy cream, and baked it at 475 for 15 minutes.

This really didn’t taste bad–I ate the whole thing. The top got very creamy, almost cheese like, and the potato-onion bottom layer was especially good. I also liked that it was an individual portion as opposed to a casserole. It seemed daintier, more refined, and it didn’t look like someone puked on my plate. This is a serious contender for the main course of my dinner party, but I also have high hopes for the Corn Roast I’m cooking Friday.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 3

(Image: vintage Rice Krispie boxes from the Michigan Historical Museum.)

Breakfast: Toasted Rice Flakes, Grapefruit.
In the modern parlance, Toasted Rice Flakes are in fact Rice Krispies. Oddly enough, sitting down to my Snap, Crackle, and Pop, it was the first time during this experiment that I felt like connected to history. With every crunchy bite of this continually popular modern cereal made me think of the fashionable patients of The San, and the subsequent breakfast cereal craze that swept the nation. Thanks, Kellogg. Your cereals are delicious.

Lunch: Green Lima Bean Toast, Banana.

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I wasn’t crazy about my Lima Bean Toast. It was like complicated adult baby food. I used frozen beans that I cooked in the microwave, then made a paste by whirling it in my food processor. I made the “white sauce,” which is just a bechamel, and mixed the whole mess together. I spread it on some dry toast and ate it. I was unimpressed–maybe this is some Victorian mode of eating that is better left in the past.
Dinner: Macaroni Au Gratin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Fresh Spinach and The Queen of Puddings.

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Well, it’s Wednesday, and Wednesday means Lost and Top Chef. So tonight turned into an impromptu debut dinner party with the arrival of my boyfriend and two friends. And it went well–very well.

Everything in the meal was devoured. DEVOURED. The Macaroni I made essentially to the recipe; I threw some red pepper flakes into the water that macaroni boiled in (a trick from half a century earlier). I also added a cup of cottage cheese to the sauce, because I worried it wouldn’t be cheesy enough for my guests. I sprinkled a bit of additional melted cheese on top, and sprinkled with some lightly seasoned bread crumbs. It turned out very, very well; and the entire casserole was stuffed into tummys.. But you really can’t go wrong with mac and cheese.

The mashed sweet potatoes I prepared as one does a regular potatoes, with about a quarter stick of butter and a healthy helping of cream. They were amazing. I’ve been thinking for awhile now that sweet potatoes need to be a bigger part of my life. The spinach was simple, fresh spinach from bag, with a dressing made of vinegar, oil, and brown mustard.
But then, my crowing achievement: The Queen of Puddings.

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This is a recipe I was testing to go on the Dinner menu next month, and it turned out wonderfully. I made it more like a bread pudding–instead of using bread crumbs, I cubed some slightly stale bread and soaked it in the milk (and a little cream for good measure). Next I mixed in the eggs, sugar, and vanilla (a little cinnamon would not hurt, either). I put it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.
In the meantime, I decided to make a fruit sauce from scratch. I sliced up some left over pineapple, and put it in a skillet with sugar, water, and a dab of water. I let it simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the pineapple was soft and the liquid had reduced.
The bread pudding came out of the over, and I poured the pineapple over top. Now for the crown!! I whipped three egg whites in my mixer until stiff peaks formed, then stirred in three tablespoons of super fine sugar. I used a spatula to spread the meringue on top of the bread pudding, and put it back into the oven at 325 degrees for 20-30. It came out IMPRESSIVE. I served it warm, contrary to the recipe’s suggestion.


This entire dish of the Queens of Puddings was eaten, and I was showered with compliments about my culinary abilities. My non-history-nerd friends sincerely enjoyed this meal. It gave me great hope for the upcoming dinner party in March. I was worried about Kellogg’s “health food” being unappealing to a larger audience; but I also imagined there must have been a reason it so sought after a century ago.

P.S.–due to a busy schedule this week, I’ve had to write these posts fairly late at night. It has occurred to me that they may be sheer nonsense; the ramblings of a woman in a heavy cream drenched delirium. Just bare with me for two more days.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 2

Eggs Baked in Cream, I love thee.

Breakfast: Egg Baked in Cream, Whole Wheat Gem, and an Orange.

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As I was preparing my baked eggs in cream, I suddenly remembered another reference to this recipe in the book Julie & Julia, the story of a woman who cooks every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was a favorite dish of the book’s author, and she had referred to it as the perfect hangover cure. I looked up Mrs. Child’s recipe for Oeufs en Cocotte, which was slightly more refined than the one I made. She recommends heating the cream first, then dropping the eggs in, and covering it with more cream and a little butter before putting them in the oven. It’s important to set the egg dish in water, “otherwise the intense heat of the over toughens the outside layers of egg before the inside has cooked…The eggs are done when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins.”

Child recommends cooking them 7-10 minutes at 375 degrees. I left my eggs in a little long and they got over cooked (the yolk was not as runny as I would have liked) but still tasted AWESOME. When it came out of the oven, I garnished it with more salt and some fresh cracked pepper. The cream and the egg white melded together, and become something that transcended a mere egg to taste like the most creamy egg-like thing in existence. I sopped up the creamy-egg-goo with my whole wheat gem, and slurped the rest off a spoon. After finishing the meal with a perfectly ripe orange, I decided that this might have been the best breakfast EVER.

Lunch: Scalloped Potatoes, String Beans, and Cottage Cheese.

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The scalloped potatoes were another huge success: the combination of the onions and the milk gave the potatoes an addictive, sweet flavor, and the butter tied everything together. I was literally licking the bottom of my bowl. I would definitely make this again. Hell, I’d take it to a potluck!

The beans I simply blanched and salted, and the cottage cheese came from a regular old Breakstone’s container.

Dinner: Walnut Roast with Chile Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Radishes.

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My second night of making meatless meat was slightly better than the first. I halved this recipe and I used a seasoned bread crumb. It is important to let it sit in the cream and milk for at least 10 minutes. It coagulates into a surprisingly thick goop. When it came out of the oven (40 minutes at 375 degrees) it poofs up on top and looks all brown and yummy. For the chili sauce, I used tomato paste and thinned with a little water in place of “condensed tomatoes.” It was actually good, just a bit strong. I could have thinned it out a little more. Combined with the Walnut Roast…well, it was okay. I ate about half, but it was kind of intense and weird. I don’t think we have a winner yet.

The were no cooking suggested in Ms. Cooper’s book for mashed potatoes, so I made them the classic way, with some butter and a shot of cream. Ditto with the radishes. I ate them in the French fashion, smeared with butter and sprinkled with salt. The fat cuts the tart bite of the radish, and it’s very tastey.

Walnut Roast. It would be nice to eat a dinner that doesn’t look like kitty catfood barf.

On day two, I have to say that these meals are consistently well rounded. Produce plus a starch plus a protein keep me full and give me energy. And my bowels are immaculate!

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 1: Lunch and Dinner

Asparagus Tips on Toast

Lunch: Asparagus Tips on Toast, Baked Potato, Yogurt

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The asparagus was a perfect little snack. I prepared it a little differently than the original recipe: I threw some butter in a skillet, put a slice of bread in there to toast it grilled-cheese style, and nestled the asparagus along side, with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper. Bread toasted, asparagus bright green and ready, I stacked them up and poured the butter left in the skillet over top. It was tasty: the buttery, crunchy sweetness of the bread with the slight bitter bite of the asparagus: yum. I’ll be serving this at the dinner party, but with a hollandaise to kick it up a notch.

I rounded out the meal with a baked potato and a vanilla yogurt for desert–nothing special, store bought. I did not make my yogurt from scratch. It was a well-portioned, delicious meal.

Dinner: Protose Steak and Baked Eggplant.

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My first mistake: for some reason, I decided I did not need to follow the given instructions for baked eggplant. Victorians are notorious for over-boiling their veggies, so I assumed I didn’t need to pre-cook the eggplant. I didn’t, and it was still pretty raw when I took it out the oven. I’m going to try this recipe again, and follow directions.

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Next, I took the Protose out of the fridge (for more on how I made it, check here). It was surprising firm after mellowing a day in the cold. I threw a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and began to brown some onions. After a minute or so, I sliced the protose and set that in the skillet to brown. After it was brown on both sides, I added a little flour and cream to make a sauce with the onions.

The result? It tasted like peanut butter. I didn’t spit it out, I ate it, but it was not…”good.” It will not be appearing on my Banquet menu in March.

My protose sizzles in a skillet with onions.

Kellogg originally developed meat-like products to lure plump turn-of-the-century millionaires to his diet and his Sanitarium. This is where I feel his cuisine, and all vegetarian cuisine begins to go wrong. I love vegetarian cuisine. Flavourful beans, grains and vegetables–delicious! However, I think it should stand alone and not try to reproduce the taste and mouth feel of meat. It’s always either disgusting or disappointing; and if you’re a vegetarian, why would you want to feel like you’re eating meat anyway?Overall, it was a pretty good day. The food was better than tolerable, and in a few cases lovely. However, I think I ate about a half a stick of butter, which is more butter than I’ve consumed in about the last 6 months. I feel greasy.

UPDATE 01/22/2012:  I made protose tonight for the second time in my life, and I have to say its pretty damn delicious. I used fresh ground peanut butter from whole foods, got a different brand of seitan, and was heavy handed with the seasoning.  I recommend this recipe if you’re a veg or vegan.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 1: Breakfast

Whole wheat gems.

For the next five days, I’m going to be immersing myself in the food of John Harvey Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium. All of the meals I’ve planned and the recipes I will be using come from The New Cookery be Lenna Francis Cooper (1914), who was at one time the head dietitian at Battle Creek.

Whole Wheat Gems, Hashed Brown Potatoes, Pineapple, and Tea.

Although I work from home, I don’t ordinarily bounce out of bed and fix myself a hearty breakfast. It ended up not taking that much time, and it felt like it could be a pleasant ritual. It also felt good to sit down to my first biologic meal. I can feel my intestines being cleansed already!

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To make whole wheat gems, replace the grahams flour in the recipe with 1 cup whole wheat flour. A gem tin is essentially a cast-iron mini muffin pan, which, when greasy and hot, makes the gems extra crispy. I didn’t have a gem pan, so I made these into drop biscuits by adding a 1/4 cup less milk. I baked them for 9 minutes in a 450 degree oven. They didn’t take much time to mix up, and came out cute as buttons. They tasted alright–the sweetness was pleasing, but you could really taste the whole-granieness. I think they will be better tomorrow toasted and smeared with jelly.

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The hashed browned potatoes were the most difficult thing I made this morning. I only used one potatoes, and cut it into cubes. I originally baked them in a pan lined in tin foil, but when I took them out after 10 minutes they were sticking, and the brown crispy parts were tearing off. So I plucked them off the pan, burning my finger badly in the process, and dropped them into a non-stick skillet. I added the milk and popped them back into the oven, stirring after an additional five minutes. All in all, they cooked about 18 minutes. The potatoes mostly absorbed the milk, and there was also this crispy milk skin. They were pretty tasty, but I don’t think you can go very wrong with potatoes, salt and butter.

I also cut up a fresh, sweet, heavenly pineapple and had a mug of herbal tea. Kellogg forbade caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco at the San; a few rules which we will ignore at the dinner party next month.

Eating Like a Tenement Family: So What Have We Learned?

Illustration: “Homes of the Poor,” Harper’s Weekly.

I ended up spending close to $20, and consumed about 800 calories a day. Rethinking it, the cost does fit with Corson’s projected budget: $60 would not be spread equally in a family with children of varying ages. $20 is intended for each adult, and the remaining $20 would be divided amongst the children.

However, I spent $20 to slowly starve to death. I lost a total of 3.6 pounds over the course of the week. I’m certain my weight loss would eventually plateau: women’s bodies are notorious for locking in fat during starvation crises.
My caloric intake was remarkably consistent at about 800 calories a day. As I told my mother: “I tried not to be a baby about it–I mean, I’m just doing this for a week. This is how people lived their lives. Or worse!” Her response:
“People can’t live on 800 calories a day; they can only get sick and die.”
She is really good at cutting to the quick. And the question has been posed often recently: How much does it cost to eat well in America?
Here are a few things I learned about food this week:
  • Buy potatoes, onions, and rice in bulk. It’s cheaper, and you really can’t go wrong.
  • From now on I’m going to buy bakery bread as opposed to it’s commercial counter part. The loaf I bought this week was twice as big and half as expensive.
  • Even my roomates agree: Macaroni and Cheese is delicious in any century. I’m glad I revisited this 19th century recipe. Also, Polenta is great. Baked or fried, with veggies or cheese, I’m going to incorporate it into my diet. And it’s so cheap, it’s practically free.
  • I’m also going to start saving my soup stock. After make soup or stew, the juice at the bottom on the pot is good stuff. It’s flavourful from hanging out with all those meats and vegetables. I’m keeping it, and throwing some rice or barley in there, and eating it again.
  • I loathe cabbage.
  • The apple I had wasn’t necessary to keep my bowels moving; the beans etc. had plenty of fiber, and I was very regular. After a few days, even my desire for fresh produce wained. All I wanted was a quick source of calories: I craved bread, butter and milk, exactly what Corson recommends buying.
I bet you’re also curious what I ate on my first day of freedom:
  • For breakfast, I had 1 1/2 cups of hot cocoa, because I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. (.38 cents)
  • This morning, I had a video shoot at a master sushi class with Chef Toshio Suzuki, who some say is the best sushi chef in New York. I watched Chef Suzuki prepared sushi fresh before my eyes, and popped two of his creations into my mouth. (free!)
  • Afterwards, I headed over to Pomme Frites for some Belgian fries smothered in mango chutney mayonnaise ($6.00)
  • For dinner, my boyfriend promised to make me any meal I wanted. I’ll be having Manwiches. The sloppy joes, not the other kind. (free!)

    UPDATE: I also had some fresh pineapple. I returned to my pre-tenement weight in one day.

Now I pose the same question to you: What have you learned? Additionally, some of you have been asking me if I am going to do a part two, either by doubling my budget or eating some sort of “modern” tenement meal. What would you do as a sequel to this project?

Eating Like A Tenement Family: Day 7

Roly-Poly Pudding.

Breakfast: Cocoa and Fried Polenta
Last night, I went to bed with a pounding headache, that no amount of Tylenol seemed to help. I lied awake for hours–during this project, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. I’m so hungry by the time I turn in, that the sensation of it keeps me awake. I’m too famished to get up and do anything else, but too uncomfortable to drift off the sleep. I wake up the next morning exhausted.
This morning, I could barely open my eyes when my alarm rang. “It’s okay,” I told myself. “You get to have hot chocolate this morning.” I had been looking forward to it all week.
I slipped into my robe and shuffled into the kitchen…only to see 2 empty milk jugs on the kitchen table. One of my roommates had polished off not only the skim milk, but also my whole milk which they had earlier this week declared “disgusting.” I opened the fridge to find a carton of half and half. “I’ll use this,” I thought. “The cream will give me strength!”

I poured it into my mug…and it came out in chunks. It was beyond spoiled. “Is there no god damn milk?” I screeched. I shoved my feet in my boots and put on my coat–angrily–and went to the corner bodega to buy milk. The snowstorm the night before had turned the world into a sheet of ice. As I scooted down the sidewalk, hanging onto the sides of buildings, I cursed everything.

Finally, I got back and mixed up my hot chocolate. The cocoa was a gift from my brother. It was delicious. Corson recommends accompanying it with fried lentils; I didn’t have any lentils left over, so I fried up the rest of my polenta. Delicious, and very satisfying.
I collapsed on the couch, feeling too awful to move.
“You look like shit!” My roommate declared.
“I feel like shit.”
“That’s because you don’t eat anything.” Thanks, Jeff.
Cost: .40 cents.
Lunch: Haslet Stew and Roly-Poly Pudding
I started on the Roly-Poly Pudding first, since it needed to boil for two hours:

“Suet Roly-poly.-Sift together one pound of flour. two teaspoonfuls of salt, and one teaspoonful of baking powder, (cost about five cents,) rub into them two ounces of sweet drippings, (cost one cent;) mix with two gills of milk, or one egg, and two gills of water…roll out half an inch thick, spread with quarter of a pound of chopped suet, (cost two cents,) one teaspoonful of salt, a little spice of nutmeg, and two tablespoons of sugar (cost two cents); roll it up, tie it tightly in a well floured cloth, and boil steadily for two hours in a large covered pot.”

I consulted with my mother to see what she thought “sweet drippings” were. We decided it was probably like grease, and perhaps “sweet” was synonymous with “fresh.” Regardless, I decided to substitute lard (.19 cents), and rubbed it in with the flour and other ingredients. After adding the milk (.13 cents) and water, the dough was a little thin, like muffin batter. I added a little more flour until it was the consistency of cookie dough and rolled it out. For some reason, I drew a line at asking my butcher for suet, and also substituted lard. I rolled it up with the other seasonings.

I took a pillow case that I had rinsed and dried to get rid of any laundry detergent residue, and shook flour inside. I placed my dough-log in it, tied it up, and placed it in a pot of boiling water. See you later, roly-poly pudding.

Meanwhile, I prepared the haslet stew:

“Haslet Stew.-For this dish use a fresh pig or sheep’s haslet…cut them in two inch pieces, put them into a sauce-pan with one ounce of salt pork diced, an onion chopped, one dessert spoonful of salt, and half a tablespoonful of black pepper ; two bay leaves, two sprigs of parsley and one of thyme, tied in a bouquet, (cost of seasoning one cent.) one ounce of flour. one gill of vinegar, half a pint of cold gravy or cold water, and six potatoes peeled and cut in dice, (cost of all these about five cents) stew these ingredients gently together for two hours, and serve as you would a stew, with a tablespoonful of chopped parsley sprinkled over the top, and bread to eat with it. It will give you a good dinner for about fifteen cents.”
Haslet is a bag of pig offal, livers and hearts and things. While there was all variety of offal available at my local butcher, I had to buy the beef chuck steak from yesterday’s dinner in a pack of two. I decided to save a few cents, and replace the haslet with beef.
I tenderized the beef chuck steak ($1.40) and dredged it in flour, pepper and salt, then browned it in a saucepan with a slice of bacon (.15 cents) and half an onion (.05 cents). I poured in a cup of water to deglaze, then added two diced potatoes (.34 cents), a bay leaf, a handful of parsley (.15 cents), and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. I added more water, then simmered the pot for about an hour.

I don’t understand why this photo came out looking like a postcard from the ’70s.

I ate it with a hunk of bread (.07 cents) and it tasted like real food. The beef was tender from it’s long simmer, and the few herbs made for a flavourful broth. It was fine.
I took the roly-poly pillowcase out of the boiling water. It was hot as hell. I slowly unrolled it and scooped out the pudding, which was stuck to the sides of the bag (which still smelled a little like laundry). It tasted better that it looked, especially with a little sugar sprinkled on top. But it was salty–so salty! I wouldn’t make it again.
Cost: 2.33
And to be honest, I’m so full from lunch, that I don’t think I’m going to make Cheese Pudding (a cheesy polenta) tonight for supper. I’m just going to finish up the night with an extra cup of milk (.25 cents).
Total cost: 2.98
Approximate Calories Consumed: 1,390
7-Day Total: about $19.16
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss what we’ve learned.