From Mrs. Rorer’s Vegetable Cookery and Meat Substitutes (1909):
Mock Oyster Soup
1 bunch salsify
1 pint milk
1 quart water
1 sliced onion
1 bay leaf
1 tbs butter
1 tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Scrape the salsify; throw it at once into cold water to prevent discoloration; ; cut it into slices about half an inch thick; throw these into a kettle, with the water, onion, and bay leaf; cook slowly half an hour. Put the milk in a double boiler; add the butter and flour, rubbed together; stir until the milk is thick and smooth. Then add it to the salsify and water in the saucepan; add the seasonings, and serve with oyster crackers.
Put the breadcrumbs in a saucepan with a pint of water; cook for a few minutes; add the hard-boiled eggs, chopped; take saucepan from the fire and add the nuts (a mixture of peanuts and pine nuts is best), and the rice. When this is well mixed, add the raw eggs, slightly beaten. Form this into the shape of a turkey, reserving a portion for the legs and the wings. Take a tablespoon of the mixture in your hand and press it into the shape of a leg; put a piece of dry macaroni into it for the bone and fasten it to the turkey. Brush the turkey with butter and bake for one hour. Serve with cranberry sauce.
Peel and cut in slices three large onions. Put them into a saucepan with one ounce of butter, cover, and simmer gently about three-quarters of an hour; the onions must be colored. When tender and soft, add a tablespoonful of flour, mix and press through a colander. Add one gill of stock and one gill of cream, stir continually until it boils. Add a half teaspoonful of salt, a dash of pepper, a grating of nutmeg and it is ready to serve.
Mock Mince Pie
1 cup seeded raisins, chopped fine
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup cider or grape juice
4 Uneeda biscuits
1/2 cup washed currants
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded citron
1 tbs vinegar
Juice and rind one lemon
Roll the crackers, put them in a bowl, and add all of the fruit. Beat the egg until light, add the molasses, grape juice or cider, sugar and lemon. Mix, and, if you like, add a half teaspoon of cinnamon.
2 tbs nut butter
1 pint flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water
Rub the nut butter into the flour, add the salt, and gradually the ice water; the crust must not be too wet. Roll this out as you would other pastry. Line a pie-tin; put in the mock mince meat, cover with an upper crust; bake 45 minutes in a moderate oven.
Before The Joy of Cooking, there was The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Written by Fannie Farmer, principal of the school, and published in 1896, it was the best-selling cookbook of its age – and like any classic, it is ripe for reevaluation. And who better to conduct such an examination than Chris Kimball, founder of Cook’s Illustrated and host of PBS’s America’s Test Kitchen?
Fannie’s Last Supper is the result. In it, Kimball describes the experience of recreating one of Fannie Farmer’s amazing menus: a 12-course Christmas dinner that she served at the end of the century. Kimball immersed himself in the full experience of managing close to twenty different recipes – including Rissoles, Lobster a l’Americaine, Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, and Mandarin Cake — all in an authentic Victorian home kitchen. The recipes required mastering many now-forgotten techniques, including regulating the heat on a coal cook stove and boiling a calf’s head without its turning to mush – all sans food processor or oven thermometer. Sourcing the unusual ingredients and implements led to some hilarious scenes, bizarre tastings, and an incredible armchair experience for any reader interested in food and the Victorian era.
Fannie’s Last Supper is also a working cookbook, including the dishes from the dinner and revised and updated recipes from The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. It is a culinary thriller in which one travels back in time to take a fresh look at something that most of us take for granted – the American table.
I consider myself an amateur cook, and I love both food and history (and food history) and Fannie’s Last Supper fulfills my every requirement in a book combining American social history, food, cooking, and eating habits. And better yet, a TV special accompanies the book, which will air on local U.S. public broadcast networks this Fall. Visit the official website, FanniesLastSupper.com for more information on both the book, the author, and the TV program.
English cooking had a bad rap during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Caricatures of the typical Englishman (“John Bull”) poked fun at his florid face, his avoirdupois, and his bad manners when eating a meal consisting of a joint and boiled vegetables. In contrast, the typical Frenchman was even-complected, with a graceful figure, and impeccable and elegant table manners as he sat to dine at six course meal of the most aromatic and delicately prepared dishes. The mania for French cooking began with Antonin Carême, chef de cuisine to the Prince Regent, who simplified meals and organized dishes into distinct groups, and solidified under Alexis Soyer, whose feasts dominated the imaginations of the early Victorians. French haute cuisine reached its pinnacle beneath the magical fingers of Auguste Escoffier, who became one of the leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Yet, beneath the canapés and ragoûts, traditional English cooking retained its position on the tables of not only the poor and working classes, but on the menus of aristocratic and royal houses.
Traditional English cuisine was influenced by England’s Puritan roots, which shunned strong flavors and the complex sauces associated with European (Catholic) nations. Most dishes, such as bread and cheese, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, boiled vegetables and broths, and freshwater and saltwater fish, had ancient origins, and recipes for the aforementioned existing in the Forme of Cury, a 14th century cook book dating from the royal court of Richard II. Not surprisingly, English cuisine had its regional dishes, the most famous being Cornwall’s Stargazy Pie, Derbyshire’s Bakewell tart, Lancanshire’s hot pot, Leicestershire’s Stilton cheese, and Devonshire’s clotted cream.