Tag Archive for '19th century'

A Peek into my Next Book–and a Chance to Help Fund it!

I’ve been hard at work on my next project! The working title is OHIO 1910, and the concept combines food history and true crime. I wanted to share with you how it’s going so far, and if you’re interested, you can help support my work by donating (and get yourself some perks in the process.) If you’re interested, there’s more info about what your donation funds here. (Donations will be open until April 19, 2017.)

I’ll be telling the story of a handwritten recipe journal created by a husband and wife from 1880-1910. The journal starts with recipes for the perfect lemon pie, homemade yeast, and chocolate cake. Then, there are chapters on medicine (like cholera cures and PMS aids), beer and wine (root beer, rhubarb wine, blackberry brandy), and finally mushroom foraging.  The recipes in the book abruptly stop being recorded in 1910, because the man writing it was brutally murdered by his son-in-law in a crime so scandalous, it made national news headlines.

As the author, I’ll take you along with me as I experiment with these recipes and use them to reveal how a loving, food-focused Midwestern family unraveled–and ended up the focus of a tragic crime.

Here are a few images from the original recipe book:


You can find the original New York Times article about the murder here.  In it, the murderer claims the victims “exercised a mysterious influence over him.”

I’ve already begun recipe testing the dozen of baking recipes recorded in the book, dating to the 1880s. Here’s a little video of my mom and I working together. We tested 18 recipes together over four days, and went through more than three dozen eggs, nearly 2 gallons of milk, and three jars of molasses!

So far we’ve made yeasted rolls and cakes: Sally Lunn rolls, eggy-sweet coffee puffets, hearty-health food Graham bread, a few fruit cakes. We also test three puddings (custards and a bread pudding) and three lemon meringue pies, as well as biscuits and quick breads. Every day, there was a “winner”–a recipe that clearly stood out as interesting, delicious, and easy enough for anyone to make.


This coffee puffet is very light and slightly sweet. Meringue is folded in at the end to give the fluffy texture.
These are Sally Lunn rolls, rising, a white flour dinner rolls. Mom and I were both pretty pleased at how well these turned out.
The many layers of “Delmonico Pudding,” coconut custard on the bottom, meringue on top.
Two lemon meringue pies! They both had their problems, tbh.
Baking through these recipes was a fun challenge, but more importantly, they told me a little something about the woman who wrote them down, and the family who consumed them. But more on that..soon! If you’re interested in the project, stay tuned here for more updates, and get involved by donating here.

 

The History Dish: Pumpernickel Ice Cream and Cinnamon Lemon Bay Leaf Ice Cream

icecream1Left: pumpernickel. Right: Cinnamon/bay leaf/lemon.

Here in New York City it has been HOT. But here’s my solution: I made two fascinating flavors of historic ice cream. Brown Bread ice cream, infused with actual pumpernickel bread, and a cinnamon-bay leaf-lemon ice cream made with fresh bay leaves.

The History

The spark of inspiration to make both these recipes came from my favorite book on ice cream history, Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making.  The author, Jeri Quinzio, explained the rye bread ice cream appeared in the first book completely dedicated to ice cream making, written by a “Monsieur Emy” in France in 1768.  Rye bread crumbs are infused in the cream, but are strained out before freezing. A popular 19th century flavor, later recipes added toasted rye bread crumbs just before freezing for a bit of crunch, but Emy’s was a smooth ice cream.

IMG_1396

My bay leaf plant on my fire escape.

The second recipe I tried was called “Cinnamon Ice Cream (Creme de Cannelle),” from Agnes Marshall’s Book of Ices, published in 1885. Marshal was an ice cream genius, and I’ve written about her before. She was the first person to suggest using liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream. Her recipes are genius, to the point of madness–like her savory Neapolitan made with tomatoes, artichokes, and peas.

Her cinnamon ice cream featured a stick of ceylon cinnamon, the zest of half a lemon, and a bay leaf. I had purchased a fresh bay leaf plant for just this recipe. A fresh bay leaf is dramatically different from dried: vegetal and aromatic, I wanted its special flavor for my crazy ice cream.

The Recipe

icecream2It’s pumpernickely!

For both of these recipes, I started with a basic custard ice cream:

Custard Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean (or, other flavoring of your choice)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Additional mix-ins

Add split and scraped vanilla bean to cream and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.  In the meantime, in a glass bowl whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. After cream mixture comes to a boil, pour slowly on the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan and cook over low heat, 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–overnight is preferable. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding mix-ins like nuts or fruits in the last few minutes of freezing. Transfer ice cream to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

For Pumpernickel Ice Cream: Toast 2 cups of pumpernickel bread until deep brown on the edges. Add to milk and cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and allow to infuse for two minutes. Proceed as recipe directs.

For Cinnamon Ice Cream: To milk and cream, add “a finger-length” of Ceylon cinnamn (about 4 inches), 1 bay leaf, and the peel of half a lemon. Cut the peel off the lemon with a pairing knife, taking care to avoid the white pith. Bring milk, cream, and spice to a boil; remove from heat and allow to infuse 2 minutes. Proceed with recipes as directed.

I also made this fun little video of all the steps to make these ice creams; enjoy and I hope it’s helpful!

The Results

icecream3Cinnamon ice cream perfection.

The pumpernickel ice cream was genuinely repulsive. It has a mucus-like texture I noticed even before I froze it, some strange gooey quality infused from the bread. The flavor of the pumpernickel  gave the ice cream an assertive savory-sweet taste, as though I had made ice cream from an entire McDonald’s hamburger, ketchup, pickles and all.

But the cinnamon ice cream–oh! Interestingly, cinnamon is not the flavor I would have assigned to it. The flavor, delicate and complex, would be unidentifiable if you weren’t informed. There’s a greeness from the bay leaf, a gentle citus from the lemon zest, and a soft floral quality from the ceylon cinnamon. The combination goes perfectly with the texture of the custard. It’s a real winner, and the ice cream you should make to cool you down in the dog days of summer.

Podcast: Cocktails! The Blue Blazer, Shaken not Stirred, and More!

It’s our off month for our live Masters of Social Gastronomy event, so I bring you our latest podcast! It’s all about the history and science of cocktails, and listening to it will make you a better cocktailer: whether you like making ’em, or simply enjoy drinking ’em.

The Surprisingly Modern Advice to Women (And Opinions on Men) of Two 19th Century Writers

Smoochies.

I lived a past life in the year 1848. My love of history began as a “costumed interpreter” in a large, outdoor living history museum in Ohio. We were in character five days a week, eight hours a day, hosting paying visitors in a large house. I had a group of people cast as my family–who are still some of my closest friends–and my experiences working there in my teens changed my life and set me on my career path.

The most surreal part of the experience was that the role of my mother was played by my actual mother.

My mother is an incredible woman. A force of nature. But working with one’s mother at the age of 16 is rough, to say the least. We managed.

One of her “bits” for the visitors was to pull out her copy of The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child; published in 1833, it was one of the most popular recipe and advice books of the early 19th century.

“Open it!” my mother would dramatically command of our guests, “And you will see that my copy falls open to the page on the ‘Education of Daughters.”

Mrs. Child. Also an abolitionist. Awesome lady.

Mom’s copy is now in my possession, and it has in fact been opened so many times that the spine is broken at this section. Whenever Mother would say her line I would roll my eyes, both in character and out. But the other day, I pulled Mrs. Child off the shelf because I had actually never read what she had to say on the education of daughters. One of her first pieces of advice really surprised me:

“The greatest and most universal error is, teaching girls to exaggerate the importance of getting married; and of course to place an undue importance upon the polite attentions of gentlemen…That a mother should wish to see her daughters happily married, is natural and proper; that a lady should be pleased with polite attentions is likewise natural and innocent; but this undue anxiety, this foolish excitement about showing off the attentions of somebody, no matter whom, is attended with consequences seriously injurious. It promotes envy and rivalship; it leads out young girls to spend their time between the public streets, the ball rooms, and the toilet; and worst of all, it leads them to contract engagements, without any knowledge of their own hearts, merely for the sake of being married as soon as their companions.”

I was astounded at how modern this idea was, put down on paper over 180 years ago. It reminded me of the 2013 TEDtalk by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, famously sampled on Beyonce’s album. Adichie says “Because I am a female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Marriage can be… a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”

Another women writer and contemporary of Mrs. Child tackles courtship and marriage more subversively. Lola Montez is one of my favorite women ever. Born in Ireland with a different name, she became a dancer and toured Europe. I suspect she wasn’t a great technical dancer, but a captivating one. She slept with a lot of hot guys, was involved in a revolution in Bavaria, came to America then toured, lectured, and wrote to support herself. She was smart, sexy and independent in a time when that was very much out of the mainstream.  She’s buried in Green-Wood cemetery, in Brooklyn, and I stop by to say hi sometimes.

Lola Montez, photographed in New York. Also, the first known image of a woman smoking a cigarette. I thought that was so bad-ass when I was 16.

While living in New York in 1858, Montez published The Arts and Secrets of Beauty, a book that’s a bit like a wittier Cosmo magazine. In one passage, she quotes a “classical synopsis” of the ideal female beauty: a well rounded head, white skin, fine fingers, wide hips and many more rigid guidelines. She then adds, with mirth, “It is very fortunate, however, for the human race that all men do not have exactly a correct taste in the matter of female beauty.”

The back of the book is the best part, however: “Hints to Gentleman on the Art of Fascinating.” She introduces this section as a guide to men on how to win the hearts of women. But it’s done with a wink, because what follows is a description of men on their worst behavior. Anyone who has ever been on a date can relate and commiserate, even 160 years later. A few of her “rules,” below:

RULE THE SECOND You will make an immense hit with the ladies by pretending to be no admirer of any particular woman, but a professed adorer and slave of the whole sex; a thing which you can easily show by staring insultingly at every pretty woman you meet.

RULE THE SIXTH Women like men of courage, therefore you should entertain the lady you would win with a narration of the number of men you have knocked down, at balls and bar-rooms, who had the temerity to cross your path. Be sure that you always make yourself the hero of some scrape.

RULE THE SEVENTH Let your compliments be so marked a character that there can be no mistaking them. For instance, you may ask her if she is always particular to shut her eyes on retiring to bed? She will ask why? And you will answer, Because if you do not, I fear the the brightness of your eyes will burn holes in the blankets, or set the house afire!

Pick up lines. In 1858. That’s fucking hilarious. They only get funnier, and I wish I could reproduce everything single one here. But the whole book is online here. Get on over and read all 50 rules, you won’t regret it.

Ok, one more here:

RULE THE FIFTEENTH  One of the most direct and sure ways to fascinate a lady, is to excite in her heart a spirit of rivalry, through jealousy. A common way of doing this is to get the daguerreotypes of your father’s cook and chambermaid and take them to your lady-love, and tell her that they are the likeness of two very rich and highly respectable ladies who have for a long time persecuted you with their affections, and at last have the indelicacy to send you their pictures, without any solicitations on your part whatsoever…It will  certainly convince any lady that you are a prize worth having, especially if she foresees that she would have the pleasure of having her home filled with a cabinet of strange women’s faces, which she could exhibit as the proud savage does the scalps her husband has taken from the heads of his enemies.

The History Dish: Ice Cream with Tomato, Artichoke, and Peas

veg_creamValentine Cream of Vegetables, a recipe by Agnes Marshall.

Jell-O Molds. As beautiful as they are horrifying, we often associated these epic jiggly affairs with the kitsch mid-20th century. But today’s recipe is from the 19th century: The Valentine Cream of Vegetables, a  Neapolitan-style frozen ice cream gelatin mold, uses savory vegetable purees to flavor each one of its colorful layers. It’s a “…a nice dish for a second course or luncheon, or as a vegetable entree, or for a ball supper,” according to Fancy Ices, where the original recipe can be found.

The History

fancyices1

Fancy Ices was penned in 1894 by the brilliant Agnes Marshall. I’ve written about her before; she arguable wrote about the first use of ice cream cones, and suggested the use “liquid air” to freeze ice cream table side. Her earlier ice cream book, The Book of Ices, is available online or for purchase as a reproduction, and offers recipes that range from almond (or orgeat) to souffles of curry a la ripon. Fancy Ices goes to the next level, showcasing recipes ranging from a coffee strawberry ice cream to a cucumber sorbet to complicated trompe d’oeil molds. It’s a masterpiece that’s thrilling to flip through. If you live in the New York area, Fancy Ices is available by off-site request at the New York Public Library’s main reading room at Bryan Park. It’s a special experience, unwrapping a book like this pulled from the archives, and physically flipping through pages and pages of recipes ranging from the inspired to the bizarre.

The Recipe

creamofFull recipe here.

I heard of this recipe in Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making, and excellent book particularly if you’re looking for inspiration in the way of unique historical flavors. In this recipe, each of the layers is flavored with a different vegetable(s), stock and/or alcohols. You can read the lengthy and complicated original recipe here, but here are the basic ingredients by layer:

Green: Cucumbers, peas, white sauce (flour, butter, pepper), green food coloring, gelatin, chicken gravy, whipped cream.

Red: Tomatoes, shallots, red food coloring, stock, sherry, gelatin, whipped cream.

White: Canned artichoke hearts, chicken gravy, gelatin, white sauce, whipped cream.

The vegetables were boiled with gelatin until soft, and then run through a fine mesh strainer until all that remains is a smooth liquid, which is frozen in a rectangular mold a layer at a time.

veg_cream8Boiling the green vegetables.

 

veg_cream5Creating the puree.

The process was immensely labor intensive and I was fortunate enough to have my Mom in town to help me. When I enlisted her aid, she protested and asked why we couldn’t do the lovely strawberry-lemon ice on the proceeding page of Fancy Ices. But let’s be honest: that’s not what you people want to see. You want to schadenfreude of artichoke-chicken ice cream.

The Results

Lacking a proper Neapolitan mold, we used a loaf pan. We allowed our creation to freeze solid and then carefully submerged to pan in warm water and ran a sharp knife along the side to released the Valentine cream. After some vigorous shaking, it came out PERFECT. Compare ours with the illustration in Fancy Ices:

creamofvegIllustration of Valentine Cream of Vegetables from Fancy Ices.
veg_cream4My finished Valentine Cream of Vegetables.

Success. I feel like we recreated something that looks, smells, and tastes just like Mrs. Marshall intended. It is her vision made real.

But how did it taste?

My mom and I cut a slice and decked it out with the horseradish-mustard-mayonnaise Mrs. Marshall recommends. We ate it without complaint. The stocks, chicken gravies, and sherries made it taste like a cold, jellied soup. Not horrific, but not delicious.

This dish felt subtlety out of style, a particularly taste and texture combination that was just slightly unpalatable. Perhaps no one ever really loved the taste and the dish had always been more about status: time consuming and complicated, it required the full attention of two skilled cooks several hours to complete. Only someone wealthy enough to EMPLOY my mother and I would be serving this at their ball.

Although, Mrs. Marshall’s Valentine Cream of Vegetables isn’t so off trend in 2014. This summer, Haagen-Dazs Japan launched two vegetable flavored ice creams, Carrot-Orange and Tomato-Cherry; and new local ice creamy Odd Fellows has offered Edamame, Butternut Squash and Beet-Pistachio flavors.

What do you think? Have you had a vegetable-based ice cream and do you think they could have a place in the world of frozen treats?