KITCHEN POETS – PART 4
Amongst my notes I found a short rhymed recipe for something called TOGUS BREAD. Togus bread takes its name from the word Togue, a Canadian French word of Indian origin. This bread is supposedly as native to Maine as Brown Bread is to Boston:
Three cups of sweet milk, one cup of sour,
Three cups of Indian meal, one cup of flour,
Of soda sufficient a teaspoon to fill;
The same of salt will season it well;
A cup of molasses will make it quite sweet,
And a very good dish for a Yankee to eat.
Interest in rhymed recipes appears to wax and wane; the recipes appeared in quite a lot of community cookbooks a hundred years ago, less frequently throughout the second half of the 1990s – but seem to be enjoying a new kind of popularity in recent years. While trying to track down more information about a recipe called Tartelettes Amandines on Google, I found an article about Morrisons supermarket in the United kingdom hosting a rhymed recipe competition of sorts in 2009. Some “real” poets (as opposed to us amateurs) were invited to write rhymed recipes for Morrisons which they planned to have read over loudspeakers in Morrisons 415 shops around the U.K. They also challenged customers to create their own rhymed recipes. And I would have liked copying some of these to share with you but there must be a block on them on Google because I was unable to copy/paste anything other than 2 pages. That being said, at least we know the rhymed recipe is alive and well – in England, at least.
While exploring rhymed recipes on the other side of the pond, I came across a page copied from “The Raj At Table” (a Culinary History of the British in India) by David Burton. What is interesting about the following rhymed recipe is that Burton attributes the rhyme to Alexander Pope. I have several other copies of the poem, none providing authorship. One copy for Sack-Posset (that I had to explore Google to learn what it was) claims to be from The New York Gazette, February 13, 1744, found in Early American Beverages by John Hull Brown, in 1966.
David Burton writes, “East India Company merchants introduced punch to England where, early in the eighteenth century, milk punch became all the rage. This was the successor to the old English posset, and a verse-recipe for “East Indian style posset” is attributed to Alexander Pope”:
From far Barbadoes on the Western main
Fetch sugar, ounces four, fetch sac from Spain,
One pint, and from the East Indian coast,
Nutmeg, the glory of the Northern Toast,
On flaming coals let them together heat,
Till the all-conquering sac dissolve the sweet,
On such another fire put eggs, just ten,
(New-born from tread of cock and rump of hen),
stir them with steady hand, and conscience pricking
to see the end of ten fine chicken,
from shining shelf, take down the brazen skillet,
a quart of milk from gentle cow and fill it
when boiled and cold, put milk to sac and eggs,
unite them firmly, like the triple league,
and on the fire let them together dwell.
Sandy’s Cooknote: The copy of this that someone else sent to me is slightly different and uses twenty eggs instead of ten and the last four lines have been changed. The same revised rhymed recipe appears in “History of Alcohol in America” and notes that Sack is a special strong dry wine of the sherry family. Also, in Bill Bryson’s “MADE IN AMERICA, An Informal History of the English Language in the United States” he writes that Puritans were in the habit of imbibing an alcoholic concoction known as ‘sack posset’. He writes that the drink was consumed in large quantities at social gatherings such as weddings, christenings, and funerals. Author Jason Earls comments that (after his research on sack-posset) that it seems highly similar to a typical egg nog drink with brandy and sherry added.
While we are visiting the other side of the pond, the following is a rhymed recipe for Twelfth Cake as it appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Dec. 1857 & 1859:
To two pounds of flour—well sifted—united
Of loaf sugar; ounces sixteen;
Two pounds of fresh butter, with eighteen fine eggs,
And four pounds of currants washed clean;
Eight ounces of almonds, well blanched and cut small,
The same weight of citron sliced;
Of orange and lemon-peel, candied, one pound,
And a gill of pale brandy, united.
A large nutmeg grated; exact half an ounce
Of allspice, but only a quarter
Of mace, coriander, and ginger well ground,
Or pounded to dust in a mortar.
An important addition is cinnamon – which
Is better increased than diminished –
The fourth of an ounce is sufficient. Now this
May be baked four good hours till finished.
Sandy’s Cooknote: This recipe for Twelfth Cake reflects a time when sugar was bought in a “loaf” and you had to grate it yourself. Nutmegs were also purchased whole and you’d have a tiny little grater to grate you own nutmeg (actually – I have a nutmeg grater). Twelfth night, which in England is also called Epiphany or Old Christmas, falls on January 5th. In medieval times, Twelfth night was a huge celebration. According to Dorothy Gladys Spicer’s “FEAST DAYS FROM MANY LANDS” there were revels, feasting, and all kinds of merrymaking on Twelfth night. Most important was the Twelfth cake. Inside the cake were a bean and a pea. The first man to find the bean in his portion was acclaimed King of the Revle, and the first woman to find the pea became Queen. Then a mock court was established. Twelfth night revels dwindled in popularity after the calendar change in 1752. By the time of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Twelfth cake had actually become more of a fruitcake. Currents, back then, might not be altogether clean and had to be washed, while a gill was a measure for wine equal to ¼ of a pint.
Also English is an “Old English Remedy” reputed to be 6 centuries old:
Put your feet in hot water
As high as your hose,
With a number four dip
Well tallow your nose;
Take a quart of rum’d gruel
When in bed, as a dose.
Back on this side of the pond is a recipe for making cake from the
personal collection of Sarah Edmond Booth, collected in a small notebook over 150 years ago. Now in print, it’s helping to support the Cornelius H. Booth Library in Newton, Connecticut.
It was Caroline Stoke, curator of the Newtown library who discovered Sarah’s notebook, hidden among Hawley family memorabilia preserved in a library vault, and saw in it help for the present day library.
Carolyn Greene, a local caterer and the cookbook editor and Michele Grillo, an avid Newtown baker, undertook the monumental task of converting the 150 year old recipes into modern workable recipes.
The Sarah Booth Cookbook was published in 1995.
RECIPE FOR MAKING CAKE
If there’s a lady in this learned land
Upon her teaboard wishes something grand
Let her take this advice;
Here’s a cake, whose flavor’s past dispute—
The most fastidious palate needs must suit;
Try it-‘tis very nice.
Two pounds of flour from freshly gathered wheat
One half a pound of butter that is sweet
White sugar of the same weight
A pint of milk three eggs a little yeast
Such as is fresh ‘tis said is always best
A relish to create.
Part of the flour and milk and yeast mix well
And let it stand till it doth plainly tell
Tis as the other-light
The butter then the eggs and sugar stir
Together nicely – as you would prefer
Pound cake on bridal night.
The last along with balance of your flour
To the first mixture you should gently pour
And let them once more stand
That the grand compound may become as light
The merest glance assures you it is right
Then put it in the pan.
To rise your cakes fit for a courtier’s table
Requires I judge as near as I am able
Five hours or thereabouts
Then you will have or I’m no judge I ween
As wholesome comfits as were ever seen
For lives or for roule
P.S. A lady at my elbow hints
That as a stitch improves a rent in chintz
Salt makes the dough less tough
Use it or not I deem it little matter
Since cakes like capons never need the better
When they are good enough.
Sandy’s Cooknote: Normally, I wouldn’t load you down with so much background information – but I have a copy of The Sarah Booth Cookbook (although I can’t say how it came into my possession) and the background story of how this little book became published is pretty interesting, I think.
Remember the Bishop Williams who composed the Boston Baked Beans recipe that didn’t have any molasses in it? The Browns included a second rhymed recipe of Bishop Williams’ in “AMERICA COOKS”. Here is Bishop Williams’ rhymed recipe for
LAKE GEORGE PONE
A forgetful old bishop,
All broken to pieces,
Neglected to dish up
For one of his nieces
A receipt for ‘corn pone’
The best ever known;
So he hastens to repair his sin of omission,
And hopes that, in view of his shattered condition,
His suit for forgiveness he humbly may urge:
So here’s the receipt, and it comes from Lake George:
Take a cup of cornmeal
(And the meal should be yellow);
Add a cup of wheat flour
For to make the corn mellow;
Of sugar a cup, white or brown, at your pleasure,
(The color is nothing, the point is the measure).
And now comes a troublesome thing to indite,
For the rhyme and the reason they trouble me quite;
For after the sugar, the flour, and the meal,
Comes a cup of sour cream: but unless you should steal
From your neighbors, I fear you will never be able
This item to put upon your cook’s table;
For, ‘sure and indeed,’ in all towns I remember
Sour cream is as scarce as June bugs in December
So here is an alternative nicely contrived
Is suggested, your mind to relieve,
And showing you without stealing at all
The ground that seemed lost may retrieve.
Instead of sour cream take one cup of milk—
“Sweet milk”—what a sweet phrase to utter! –
and to make it creamlike, put into the cup
just three tablespoons of butter.
Cream of tartar, one teaspoonful—rules dietetic!
How nearly I wrote it down ‘tartar emetic’!
But no, cream of tartar it is, without doubt,
And so the alternative makes itself out,
Of soda the half of a teaspoonful add,
Or else your poor corn cake will go to the bad.
Two eggs must be broken without being beat;
Then of salt a teaspoonful your work will complete.
Twenty minutes of baking are needful to bring
To the point of perfection this ‘awful good thing.’
To eat at the best this remarkable cake,
You should fish all day long on the royal-named lake,
With the bright water glancing in glorious light,
And beauties unnumbered bewildering your sight
On mountain and lake, in water and sky;
And then, when the shadows fall down from on high,
Seek Sabbath Day Point as light fades away,]
And end with this feast the angler’s long day,
Then, then you will find without any question
That an appetite honest waits on digestion.
END OF PART 4