Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly: Culinary Vices

Vice is such a relative term. Today's diets veer between no fats, no carbs, no gluten, no sugar. For many of our ancestors, budget would have been a larger factor than health. Food out of season would have been impossible to get or very expensive to ship. Foods that we consider sinfully decadent like lard or heavy cream would have been relatively inexpensive and easily available.

At the moment, budget is a big factor in my cooking, both historic and modern, but I was able to find a luxurious recipe from The Court and Country Confectioner (1770) that seemed to fit this month's challenge.

Year/Region: 1770/London

How Did You Make It: I halved the recipe, so I juiced 3 oranges to make 1 cup (1/2 pint) and stirred with 2 eggs and an extra yolk. I considered using less sugar, but went with the full half pound of granulated. I stirred it all over a double boiler with 1/4 orange peel until it set up into a thin (very, very, very thin) custard.

Time to Complete: I'm so bad at losing track of time when I cook. Fifteen minutes maybe?

Total Cost: Probably less than a dollar. The oranges were a gift shipped from Florida.

How Successful Was It? Not terribly. The recipe was very good about using actual measurements (1 pint of orange juice vs the juice of X oranges), so I knew I was following the ratios. For my preferences, there simply wasn't enough egg in the juice to make anything thicker than the consistency of eggnog. I had hoped for a firmer custard or something along the lines of a lemon curd. I could have definitely halved the sugar, but stuck with the recipe. LB said "That's weird" and then suggested that "we" make some shortcakes or an unsweet white cake to soak up the custard. I let it set up a bit then added some melted butter in the hopes of giving it more firmness and make it more like a curd.

How Accurate Is It? Middling. The biggest difference is that the recipe called for Seville oranges, and I used a modern hybrid. Sevilles are bitter oranges, the kind for making marmalade. I've no idea where to buy them. I otherwise followed the recipe faithfully although I opted to cook over a double boiler, having always made custards thus. I tasted the results before trying to tweak it a bit into more of something I actually wanted to eat.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly: Meat & Potatoes


A series of factors led me to chose this recipe from The Cook's Oracle. I'd been called on at the last minute to cook for the Battle of New Orleans reenactment and realized I needed to scroll back the dates of recipes I'd been using. In the bit of last year's challenge I completed, I tended to focus on the Civil War. Finally, I was looking for a recipe that was extremely budget conscious. Extremely.

I was thrilled to find this one. Once I began it, I realized how similar it was to one of my most favorite breakfast recipes, Potato Bacon Scones. Seriously, it's nearly identical. 
 Year/Region: 1817/London

How Did You Make It: I mashed the potatoes with some butter and milk, diced the ham, and added the egg yolks. The resulting mixture was much too soft to form into balls, so I did mix in a bit of flour to stiffen it up a bit before rolling about 2 Tablespoon's worth in flour as called for "in the last receipt."

 I never did make successful balls, as the potato mixture flattened as soon as it hit the hot grease. I fried them until well browned. I was a bit confused by the recipe's call to "brown them in a dutch oven" as the frying process browned them so much. I skipped that step unless the recipe actually meant to do the frying in a dutch oven. 

Time to Complete: I boiled the potatoes for 20 minutes, mashed them and let them cool another 20 minutes. The fry time took maybe a total of 20 minute as I worked in batches. Total time: 1 hour.

Total Cost: I spent $1.38 on two potatoes. The ham had been a great deal before Xmas at 89 cents a lb. and the recipe used 1/4 lb. I used 2 T of butter and splash of milk, so probably another 30 cents. I can't really calculate the cost of a bit of flour. The bacon grease was free. Total: $1.91. 

How Successful Was It?: Moderately successful.  Because I was rushing, I didn't scroll back in the book to see the instructions for how to mash potatoes. 

 Their mashed potatoes use far less butter and milk than we do today, so their mixture would have been firmer. I was unable to shape the mixture into balls. There was no seasoning in the mixture either, so they were a bit bland for the modern palate. I sprinkled them with kosher salt after frying. Those are really picky critiques though; these were delicious. I ate three and LB immediately ate six and later went back for more.

How Accurate Is It?: Very. I used all of the recipe's ingredients as described, all the way down to the "clean drippings."  This is some gorgeous grease:

Writing Forthcoming

Soon! I am having significant connectivity issues at home. In addition, I have been travelling extensively since mid-December. Once I got back home, I was scrambling to catch up in an online course (I finished!) and prep for the new semester (haven't even begun that bit beyond ordering the texts).

I've signed up for the Historical Food Fortnightly and strongly considered dropping out due to the insane demands on my pocketbook and time right now. Still, I managed to meet challenge one with only the purchase of a couple of potatoes, so I'll be back soon with the post.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

10 on Tuesday: 10 Things I Did Last Week

Some days, I feel like I've nothing to say when I update my journal, but I actually did manage to do quite a bit last week.

1) I've started helping to teach an Irish dance class, focusing on the ceili dancing. It was my first dance form, but I haven't had to break it down to teach before. I'm slowly discovering the vocabulary I need.

2) I posted a poem on my Facebook page every single day for National Poetry Month. Some have personal resonance for me, some don't. I have enjoyed them all.

3) I drank a deliciously chilled retsina; a mojito; and many, many hard ciders, one of which was a locally brewed raspberry. This week I may rest my liver a bit.

4) I cooked several palatable meals for vegan houseguests. Vegetarian is easy. Vegan is much, much harder.

5) I napped, probably an average of two a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I'm starting to think my current insomnia jag is age-related. We'll see. I'm feeling surprisingly functional and sane for so little sleep, which is odd for me.

6) I met a friend to walk our dogs in the park. I need to do that much more often than I do.

7) The dog and I finished up our final tricks class with a private lesson from the trainer. After a month, I came away with 3 or 4 new tricks to work on and a renewed love of working with my boy.

8) I'm not saying. A girl gets to have a few secrets here and there.

9) I took apart and cleaned a 1910s banjo.

10) I was a rock star.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Sandwiches

I'm so glad the Ten on Tuesdays have been all about food of late. I always have something to say about food.

Ten Favorite Sandwiches: I'm not actually much of a sandwich eater. I'm more likely to eat lunch meat with cheese and hold the bread, even since childhood. I was hard pressed to come up with ten, but one forges onward:

  1. Subway's 6" Veggie: I get it without cheese and on whole wheat when I'm feeling virtuous. I load it with briny stuff (banana peppers, tomatoes, vinegar, salt & pepper, herb mix). It's essentially just a lettuce sandwich, but I don't care.
  2. Bahn Mi:  I could eat a bahn mi twice a day every single day and still wake up in the night wanting more. Actually, I'd probably wake up in the middle of the night because I have the bad habit of adding extra fish sauce to my bahn mi.
  3. Egg White Delight McMuffin: I cheered when McDonald's created these. They actually don't taste that great, but I still seem to eat them on a regular basis. There's the added benefit of feeling somewhat healthy when I eat them.
  4. Fried Egg with Ketchup: Apparently some people eat their fried egg sandwiches with mayonnaise. I choose not to associate myself with such cretins.
  5. Peanut Butter and Bacon: I've been eating these since childhood and would rather have one of these than a BLT any day. I don't know if it was just something my family ate, but it's a great flavor combination.
  6. Lebanon Bologna: Lebanon bologna is a Pennsylvania lunch meat, a sort of vinegary salami, that I used to splurge and mail order. The Boar's Head brand now available here isn't as good as the real stuff, but it'll do.
  7. Grilled Pimento Cheese on Pumpernickel: I began ordering these in college at a local restaurant and now make them whenever I get a chance or excuse. Add a slice of ripe tomato and try not to let the hot cheese burn your chin as it squeezes out of the toasted bread.
  8. Watercress: Peppery and delicious and great on whole wheat.
  9. Cucumber: Slather some extra-thin Pepperidge Farm white bread with softened butter, run the cucumber through a mandoline, raise your pinkie finger, and dig in.
  10. Soft-shelled crab: My all-time favorite sandwich. Squishy white bread, plenty of mayonnaise, and what looks like a breaded, deep-fried spider. What's not to love?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Obligatory Knitting Content

I actually have been knitting and knitting a lot. I need to reach a certain income threshold due to Missouri's butt-headed insistence on turning down Medicaid expansion, and knitting is helping me do that.

Commission after commission has flowed from my fingers, the latest being the Katniss vest/cowl from The Hunger Games. My sister now wants one, and I do too. One of my friends said I looked badass in it, a good thing to be now and then. This one is going off to live with one of Steu's trainers.

I've got two more commissions in the pipeline, but am taking a break to knit for myself for a bit.

I picked the Revel Modular Kerchief, for which I picked up some souvenir yarn in Warrenton, VA this past Christmas. In many ways, it's a very simple pattern: just a garter-stitch triangle with a knitted-on garter border, all designed to make the best use of the long color repeats.

The pattern is so simple, however, that I have managed to mess it up three times, accidentally skewing the center increase. Hours of work down the drain. I'm finally back on track, but may stick with the fiddly stuff in the future. Harder is somehow easier.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Kinds of Cheese.

A friend nudged me to blog again, I'd been having strong writing urges anyway, and today's 10 on Tuesday was perfect for me.

So here I am. Again.

I had a long talk this weekend about food choices with a friend who has recently gone vegan. I've actually been eating fairly healthy for me, but find that I do best with a high-protein, low-carb diet.

I generally give up cheese and all dairy products for the month of December to save my voice, but I probably think about cheese during that time the way a smoker trying to kick the habit thinks about cigarettes. I don't think I could ever go vegan.

  1. Raclette: All the accoutrements! The grill, the little trays, the side dishes! The melty, gooey goodness! The conversation! 
  2. Stilton: I love all blue cheeses, and probably could have written a list of my top 10 blue cheeses alone, but I settled for only three, all ridiculously expensive. Beyond the taste, and the semi-dry crumbly texture, I love the color of Stilton. There's no other cheese that has quite that shade of yellow. I also love tracing the puncture veins and nibbling out the blue.
  3. Cabrales: A Spanish blue, not for the faint hearted. I love it best warmed and melted with a filet, but it's also good in mashed potatoes, or cold with endive or just in chunks. It's definitely the most intense cheese on this list.
  4. Roquefort: This one combines two of my loves: blue veining and a high cream content that just coats the mouth. 
  5. St. Andres: Speaking of high cream content. Brie is for newbies; you can buy brie at Walmart, for pete's sake. Go with a triple creme every chance you get.
  6. Brillat Savarin: Another triple creme. I love it also for its namesake, who said "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."
  7. Bulgarian Feta: Not French. Definitely not Greek. Always pick Bulgarian feta. Something about it has the perfect degree of brininess and intensity.
  8. Kefalotiri: The Greek cheese used in saganaki. Enough said.
  9. Cabecou: My favorite illegal cheese. It's a tiny little thing, but so full of complex flavors from the rind to the puddling center. Plus, you're left with a handy terracotta dish at the end.
  10. Pimento: I bet you thought this list would be all gourmet. Nope. Homemade pimento cheese is cheese nirvana for me.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Outstanding Barters

I love to barter, but it's occurred to me that I've got quite a few outstanding ones right now and wanted to note them down lest I forget.

  • TL--norwegian cap for some madder yarn
  • CV--sortie cap for something lovely
  • NG--undersleeves for pasteboard box
  • BL--undersleeves for wheel cap/cart
I'm not in a huge hurry, but didn't want to totally lose track.