Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Recipes Tried and True

Recipes Tried and True was a cookbook "Compiled by the Ladies' Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Ohio, 1894", and now on the Web somewhere in Canada. Makes you think, don't it?

This is an amazing cookbook, somewhere halfway between Mrs. Beeton and today, and looking it. Yes, there's recipes using both sour and sweet milk, and differentiating between teacups and coffeecups as measurements. You use butter the size of a walnut or a hen's egg. But there's also icebox recipes, including one for making, gelatine molds with fruit in them. Did you ever wonder what "Milk Toast" or "Fig Pudding" was? Here you go.

Some things are familiar stuff, others odd beyond recognition, and some look like they're familiar stuff under different names. "Queen Pudding" sounds like lemon meringue pie. "Spanish Fritters" look like French toast without crusts to me. But who'd've thought of eating "French Bread Pancakes", which apparently are what you get if you leave bread in your French toast batter overnight? But what got me was the "coffee cake". Coffeecake was what it was. I would never have guessed that the ladies of Marion were so gung ho for coffeecake in 1894, would you?

You can definitely tell the region, social status and ethnic groups from the names. Yet there's no sauerkraut and wurst for the Presbyterian ladies, though there is a recipe for "Schmier Kase". Maybe nobody needed to know your sausage recipe. There's cornmeal mush, though, which is just one of those Midwestern things, I guess. Check out all the different preserves -- even an egg one! And don't miss the distinction between "Summer Mince Meat" and "Mince Meat". (Hint: only one of them includes 4 pounds of beef, though one beef tongue is even better.)

Finally, there's this poem that must have been common wisdom about cakes:

With weights and measures just and true,
Oven of even heat,
Well-buttered tins and quiet nerves,
Success will be complete."

But don't take my word for it. Go take a look at Central Ohio cooking from back in the day. You might even decide to bake a raisin pie.


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