Between now and the 18th, I will be home for a grand total of five four days*, including weekends (three conferences and a dental clinic). If I were a good person, I would have prepared three weeks' worth of posts in advance.
Let us close our game of poker, take our tin cups in our hand As we all stand by the cook’s tent door As dried mummies of hard crackers are handed to each man. O, hard tack, come again no more
CHORUS: ‘Tis the song, the sigh of the hungry: “Hard tack, hard tack, come again no more.” Many days you have lingered upon our stomachs sore. O, hard tack, come again no more!
Well into the 19th century, soldiers were expected to provide at least some of their daily rations by foraging, ie “living off the land.” The problem with even the most bountiful countryside, obviously, was that after a very short time it had been stripped bare. An army that did not keep moving, starved.
Improvements in transportation technology went some way towards solving this problem. However, then as now, soldiers fought on carbohydrates (or starches as they were then referred to). Armies needed bread and lots of it.
Not just any bread; bread that could withstand days (or weeks, or months) of transport were a necessity to an army. Hardtack was the answer; a bricklike confection of flour, salt and water that could probably have doubled as a weapon, were the need to arise.*
(*as a staff sergeant once remarked to me during a formal battalion dinner as I was urging him to try a pumpernickel roll, claiming that the Germans had conquered most of Europe on them, “How? By using it as ammunition?”)
‘Tis a hungry, thirsty soldier who wears his life away In torn clothes—his better days are o’er. And he’s sighing now for whiskey in a voice as dry as hay, “O, hard tack, come again no more!
In it’s original form, hardtack was not edible unless you no regard for your teeth. Soldiers soaked it before adding it into a variety of dishes, most of them called by the unaffectionate nicknames of skillygallee or slumgullion (slum for short).
CHORUS ‘Tis the wail that is heard in camp both night and day, ‘Tis the murmur that’s mingled with each snore. ‘Tis the sighing of the soul for spring chickens far away, “O, hard tack, come again no more!”
If the soldier was in a hurry, or had lost his mess-tin, he dunked his hardtack in hot coffee or soaked it in water and then in salt pork fat. It was then slapped onto the blade of a bayonet and toasted over an open fire.
The soaking in hot liquid also drove out the weevils and maggots with which hardtack was commonly infested. More on hardtack, weevils, rations, and other details of Billy Yank's life at Hardtack and Coffee.
There is a very nice middle-aged lady one county over whom I occasionally meet on a professional basis. For some reason her parents gave her a name that by rights should only belong to an ecdysiast. Think "Fifi LaFox" or something similar.
She's a pediatrician. I assume she did it to spite them.
(Seriously, I obviously can't give her real name, but if you saw it somewhere you would probably think she was headlining this week down at the Kit-Kat Club).
1 goose 2 large onions sliced 1 tablespoon mixed herbs or herb bouquet 1 sprig thyme, celery and bay leaf 2 tablespoons gelatin to each pint of stock hard cooked eggs sliced salt pepper
Cook goose in just enough water to cover with the seasonings, onions and herbs. When done remove the meat from the bones; return the latter to saucepan and cook for another 15 minutes. Skim off the fat, strain liquid through a piece of muslin or cheese cloth. Mix soaked gelatin in stock. Set a little of the liquid at the bottom of a mold, arrange eggs on it, and cover with more stock. Let this set, then fill with the goose meat cut in even sized pieces, and pour stock over all of it. Turn out when set and serve. Good with cold applesauce.
(Workbasket magazine, January 1959. Submitted by Mrs. John Edwards).
To chase last Tuesday's cat, a crocheted poodle from Workbasket magazine, June 1949. Two pages of instructions on my Flickr account, along with an ad for a "Yuth-Bust" bra to give you a more alluring, youthful bustline (instantly).
When lunching at a local restaurant, if the waiter casually asks where you work, don't answer "at the health department" unless you're prepared to see him turn pale and backpedal towards the kitchen to alert the manager.
In 1955 the supermarket industry in America celebrated its silver jubilee by publishing the Super Market Cook Book (dedicated to Mamie Eisenhower, "the Housewife of America's No. 1 Household").
"The super market is so much a part of our lives today that it is hard to believe it is only twenty-five years old and that its origin goes back only to 1930. Like many other great American industries, such as the electric light, the airplane, and the automobile, the super market didn't just happen. It was the product of far-sighted grocers who sought a way to bring down the cost of food for the average homemaker."
And, although they didn't mention it, a way for the food industry to change American eating habits from a gloriously messy and diverse jumble of ethnic, religious, and regional preferences to something more uniform.
The selection below, from the chapter called "The Food Problem," shows menus that were carefully selected to woo this country's housewives to a way of cooking (and shopping) that was tidy, planned and careful. Note that the actual food on the menus doesn't vary that much--proteins, starches, vegetables and sweets (and coffee. What would this nation be without coffee?). The poor--excuse me, those with limited budgets--ate cheap cuts of meat and simple desserts. Families of moderate means ate lamb chops instead of lamb stew. Rich families got a first course and elaborate dishes indicating the presence of a servant to help put dinner on the table.
And the working wife scrambled eggs and opened cans, but still cooked a recognizably formal sit-down meal for her family.
Suggested Spring Dinner Menus for a Limited Budget
Lamb Stew with Dumplings Carrot Strips Snow Pudding Coffee
I've tried the office and the home. I've tried full sunlight, indirect sunlight and no sunlight. I've tried watering and not watering. I'm about ready to pitch this and buy her a spider plant because the petunia is not working.
The spousal unit returned from the supermarket yesterday with a pretty bright-pink bottle of grenadine syrup tucked with his purchases; something we never buy, and the result, no doubt, of a hurried and/or inexperienced bagger getting two customers’ items muddled. I went online to see what possible use I could make of it.
The maker’s website suggested several candy drinks, including tequila sunrise. No thanks. I seemed to remember that back in the bad old days when cocktails were first becoming popular, grenadine was a common ingredient in a number of libations, and went looking for a traditional bartenders’ guide. On the Michigan State University’s Feeding America website I found The Ideal Bartender, written by Tom Bullock in 1917 and proudly asking in all caps on the title page:
“IS IT ANY WONDER THAT MANKIND STANDS OPEN-MOUTHED BEFORE THE BARTENDER, CONSIDERING THE MYSTERIES AND MARVELS OF AN ART THAT BORDERS ON MAGIC?"
…above a photograph of Mr Bullock, a scholarly-looking, well-dressed gentleman of middle years.
The recipes list ingredients that are now unknown (such as abricotine) or unlawful (such as absinthe), and drinks that have long since fallen from fashion, such as flips and toddies. Here is one for a Bacardi Cocktail, using grenadine (but not Rose’s).
“Use a large Mixing glass. Fill with Lump Ice. ½ jigger Cusiner Grenadine 1 jigger Bacardi Rum. Shake well and serve in a Cocktail glass.”
I’ll have to try this, perhaps this evening, and let you know how it turns out. But I think I’ll stay away from Bombay Punch (fruit, sugar, carbonated water, 1 quart brandy, 1 quart sherry, 1 quart Madeira and four quarts of Champagne), the Bismarck (vanilla cordial, Benedictine, Kummel, Angostura bitters and an egg yolk) or the Coffee Cocktail (ice, a raw egg, sugar, port, and brandy, but no coffee).
Didn’t a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge offer Bob Cratchit a “steaming bowl of Bishop” the day after Christmas? Thanks to Mr. Bullock, I can now tell you what that is.
BISHOP A LA PRUSSE
“Before a Fire or in a Hot Oven roast 6 large Oranges until they are of a light brown color, and then place them in a deep dish and scatter over them ½ lb. of Granulated Sugar and pour on 1 pint of Port or Claret Wine. Then cover the dish and set aside for 24 hours before the time to serve. When about ready for the service, set the dish in boiling water; press the Juice from the Oranges with a large spoon or wooden potato masher and strain the Juice through a fine sieve or cheese cloth. Then boil 1 pint of Port or Claret and mix it with the Strained Juice. Serve in stem Claret glasses while warm. A little Nutmeg on top improves the drink, but should not be added unless requested by customer or guest.”
"He was thumped and bucked and pounded into what was in the seventies considered a proper frontier soldier, for in those days the nursery idea had not been lugged into the army. If a sergeant bade a soldier "go" or "do," he instantly "went" or "did"—otherwise the sergeant belted him over the head with his six-shooter, and had him taken off in a cart. On pay-days, too, when men who did not care to get drunk went to bed in barracks, they slept under their bunks and not in them, which was conducive to longevity and a good night's rest. When buffalo were scarce they ate the army rations in those wild days; they had a fight often enough to earn thirteen dollars, and at times a good deal more. This was the way with all men at that time, but it was rough on recruits."
A collection of stories, with fifty black and white illustrations, by Frederic Remington (available at Project Gutenberg).
Iced Strawberry Cocktail Breaded Veal Cutlet Rice Croquettes with Tomato Sauce, String Beans Simpson Lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing Caramel Nut Pudding, Coffee
Hints of springtime here, with strawberries and Simpson lettuce. If you are not familiar with it, Black-Seeded Simpson is an heirloom variety of early leaf lettuce. We’ve grown it (not recently) and I remember that it is very tender. I’m not crazy about the idea of Thousand Island or any other mayonnaise-based dressing with it.
Thousand Island Dressing. Beat until light 2 raw egg yolks. Add teaspoon lemon juice and beat again. Add teaspoon salad oil and beat. Then continue to add, with beating, salad oil, teaspoon by teaspoon, until 1 ½ cups have been used. Then add more lemon juice slowly until altogether 2 tablespoons have been used. Beat in teaspoon salt, a tablespoon finely chopped sweet red or green pepper, a slice of onion, and 2 cups chili sauce. Let stand in ice box to thicken.
Menu for the first Sunday in May, 1953:
Lamb en Brochette with Grilled Tomato and Bacon Buttered New Peas Pineapple Celery Salad with Mint French dressing Chocolate bread Pudding, Iced Coffee
The recipe for Pineapple Celery Salad is missing from the salad book, interestingly enough (although there is an entire page of “Spring Flower Salads,” with illustrations, that are pretty icky), so I will give the one for the dessert instead.
Chocolate Bread Pudding
2 ounces (squares) chocolate 3 cups milk ¼ teaspoon salt ½ cup brown sugar 2 eggs, separated 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla 6 sliced dry bread, cut into ½-inch cubes 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Heat chocolate and milk in double boiler until chocolate is melted. Add salt. Combine brown sugar and egg yolks; add chocolate mixture gradually, stirring vigorously. Add vanilla. Combine bread and chocolate mixture; let stand 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn into buttered baking dish, place in pan of hot water and bake in moderate oven (350° F) 30 minutes, or until almost firm. Beat egg whites until foamy; add half of sugar, beating until blended; add remaining sugar and continue beating until mixture will stand in peaks. Pile meringue lightly into mounds in order around edge of pudding. Sprinkle meringue with shaved chocolate and continue baking 8 minutes longer, or until meringue is delicately browned. Serves 6.
Except for the salad dressing, my menu of choice this month would be 1927 (vintage greengrocer image from the ever-enchanting Patricia).