A particular friend of mine suggested that I write a blog post, sharing the wisdom of one of my antique books. It’s called The Home Cook Book and it was published by Ladies of Toronto and Chief Cities and Towns of Canada in 1877. It’s billed as Tried! Tested! Proven! And it went through at least seventy editions, so the information it includes must be solid gold.
Now, besides the recipes (I’ve tried a few—they’re a bit bland, but serviceable), it addresses other important things that every woman will want to know.
“Success in housekeeping” it insists, “adds credit to the woman of intellect, and lustre to a woman’s accomplishments. ..no matter how talented a woman may be…if she is an indifferent housekeeper it is fatal to her influence, a foil to her brilliancy and a blemish to her garments.”
Well, I certainly don’t want you to be seen with blemished garments, so I’m going to share with you some of the wisdoms that will help you with your housekeeping efforts. We’re assured that “there is nothing so difficult to learn that she may not be proficient in a year or two at most”…so take heart. There’s hope for us all. Read the rest of this entry »
I am reading The White House Cook Book (the 1889 edition) as research for a novel I’m writing. It’s a fascinating look into cooking and baking with a wood stove. Some recipes uncommon today make me smile. For instance, when making squirrel soup, you must strain the finished soup through a course colander, “so as to get rid of the squirrels’ troublesome little bones.”
I worked my way to the desserts. There I found a recipe for apple custard pie with brandy, which I’ve never sampled, have never seen on a restaurant menu, and appears not to be a staple of the modern cookbook. I suggested to Jay, my gourmet cook husband, that he give it a try. I wanted him to duplicate the recipe, but his being a diabetic made that impossible from the get-go. Besides, he immediately balked at grating the three large pared apples by hand, opting to put them in his Cuisinart and chopping them in short bursts. I compared his result with a bit of apple I had grated, and the consistency was pretty close. The recipe read “to every teacupful of the apple add two eggs well beaten, two tablespoonfuls of fine sugar, one of melted butter, the grated rind and half the juice of one lemon . . .” What in today’s measurement is a “teacupful”? Well, look it up on the Internet and the answer is “six oz.” Those three large apples added up to four teacups or 24 oz. of apple. Jay substituted Splenda for sugar and bottled grated lemon peel. But when it came to adding “half a wine-glass of brandy” for every teacupful of apple, he simply reached into the cupboard and grabbed a red wine glass. But has the red wine glass changed size during the ensuring years? There was no time for more research. Jay was on a roll. He measured a half wine glass of brandy per teacupful of apple — the result was that he added three mini-bottles of Christian Brothers brandy. The last ingredient was a teacupful of milk per teacupful of apple. Again we came up short. We use skim milk and I was certain the author expected that rich milk would be used. I took a can of whipped cream from the refrigerator, sprayed it into a measuring cup and added skim milk, then mixed them together. Pretty rich. “Pour into a deep dish lined with paste and bake 30 minutes.” Jay had enough for two pies. He poured the thick batter into a prepared Pillsbury crust (he has learned to coat it with egg white so it won’t get soggy, just as the author suggested so many years ago) and the remainder into a graham cracker pie crust shell we happened to have on hand. They looked tasty already. Read the rest of this entry »