Category Archives: CULINARY HISTORY

OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS

BY Amy Jo Ehman

In the Foreword to OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS, written by Bill Waiser, (author of SASKATCHEWAN: A NEW HISTORY and numerous other books, is a professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan. Waiser starts out the Foreword with a quote from someone named Dan Thompson, who described the first year on the family homestead in Saskatchewan in 1911, “I used to get so hungry I would eat grass.”

Writes Professor Waiser, “Thompson’s lament was not uncommon. Homesteading for many settlers, especially for those living in isolated areas was an impoverishing experience. While the early 20th century marked the beginning of remarkable technological innovation and steady improvement in Canadian daily life, those in pioneer farm districts seemed to have stepped back in time…”

The Professor explains why: “Since it took several years before the crops provided decent income, homesteaders had to become virtually self-sufficient, learn to live a simpler life by making do with little. Hardship and privation were common.
Settlers faced the double challenge of brining the land under cultivation and trying to survive in the meantime. And survival took valuable time and energy away from other activities.
Before breaking a single acre, homesteaders had to find a reliable source of drinking water, build a shelter and put in a garden.

This last challenge—feeding themselves—has been largely ignored by prairie historians…”

“And yet,” writes Professor Waiser, “It was one of the most basic of human needs and took precedence over other homesteading tasks if settlers were to stave off possible hunger…many did not bring with them enough provisions and often had to make do with what they had.

Amy Jo Ehman tells this story and much more in this fascinating account of the role that food has played in the history of the region…”

“Some of the recipes,” says Professor Waiser, “including the preparation were based on age-old customs and traditions that people brought with them—it was part of their cultural DNA….other cooks took advantage of local resources—or because of the lack of ingredients, were flexible, if not inventive, in what they put on the dinner table…”

He says that what becomes readily apparent in reading these recipes is that there was no such thing as standard fare. People in Saskatchewan enjoyed an eclectic mix of tastes and flavors. At the same time there were certain comfort foods that enjoyed widespread popularity . The cookbook contains old and new recipes, something for everyone; recipes range from Baked Beans to Boiled Raisin Cake, Chicken Paprikash (one of my favorites) to Latkes and Lazy Cabbage Rolls, from making a Sourdough Starter to Watermelon pickles – and much more.

Professor Waiser writes, “Amy Jo Ehman is to be applauded not only for bringing these past recipes together in a single volume but also for putting the province’s food history into perspective in an engaging and entertaining style…”

There is something to be said about collecting cookbooks; to the uninitiated, a cookbook is simply a collection of recipes. Some cookbook authors wrote only one cookbook (i.e., Joy of Cooking) and created life-long checks in the mail (in much the same way that movie stars receive residual checks)—perhaps in the same way that Margaret Mitchell wrote GONE WITH THE WIND. Mitchell spent over a decade writing GWTW which turned out to be a best seller and then went on to become the movie of the century. Who doesn’t remember Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, delivering the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – given another place and time, Margaret Mitchell might have gone on to write the Gone with the Wind Cookbook”

But I didn’t sit down to write about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind today – I began thinking about all the many unique cookbooks that someone somewhere was inspired to put together. I’ve written about some of these unique cookbooks before on this blog—and I could spend the rest of my life writing about a lot of other ones—but today I want to tell you about a wonderful historical cookbook with the title OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS by Amy Jo Ehman, published in 2014.

To be perfectly honest, I would never have learned about OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS if not for my penpal Doreen, who lives in Saskatchewan and has been one of my Canadian penpals since 2006. (My other Canadian penpal, Sharon, was living in Niagara Falls, Canada, when we first met in 2008 and was a perfect hostess when I went to visit her in 2009)

I met Doreen and her husband, Harv, also in 2008 and again when they were back in my neck of the woods in 2011. What might have been chance meetings has turned into a triangle of three deep friendships. I was charmed to receive OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS because I sort of doubt Doreen would have looked twice at a cookbook before meeting me.

When I was a teenager taking American History and World History classes, I loathed history—but as a young adult I became fascinated with American pioneer history – and one thing tends to lead to another – American pioneers led me to a fascination for the women who traveled across the Oregon trail and what they did to survive. What I have discovered in recent years is that American pioneer history is not unlike Canadian pioneer history. On both sides of the border, in the 1700s and 1800s, pioneering also meant often going hungry. Or—as I have heard—“making do or doing without”.

Artist Paul Kane, in his memoir “Wanderings of an Artist” writes about his adventures traveling from Toronto to Fort Edmonton and the west coast, and enjoying meals provided by native hunters- having antelope, deer, bison and grizzly bear. He mentions roasted bear paw and sampling moose nose which I was intrigued to learn because I read about roasted bear paw and jellied moose nose in some of my old Alaskan cookbooks which leads one to wonder which came first – Alaskan Eskimos or the Aboriginal people of the Cree, Blackfoot or Assiniboine.
“As long as bison were plentiful”, writes Ehman, “the aboriginal people and newcomers ate well. This meat-based diet was supplemented with fresh and dried fish, a variety of berries and prairie plants such as cattails, tender wild greens and the ‘prairie potato’, a root that was dried, pounded and used as flour before wheat flour arrived with the fur trade….” (a good example of ‘making do or doing without’).

“The first recorded wheat field on the prairies,” writes Ehman, “was planted in 1754 at Fort a la Corne, on the Saskatchewan River east of present-day Prince Albert…” which begs the question—did Canada suffer from a dust bowl such as that in the USA, from over-farming the mid-western lands with wheat crops?

Amy Jo starts OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS with her own introduction, writing “When I think of my Grandma Ehman, I think of apples. Apple pie, applesauce cookies, apfelkuchen. Of picking apples and eating sour apples and climbing high in the branches of the old crabapple tree. Food and love and history intertwined…” (She had me in the first sentence, thinking of her Grandma Ehman, she thinks of apples just as when I think of my Grandma Schmidt, I think of apples! **)

Amy Jo describes the journeys of her ancestors, in particular her father’s family arriving in Regina in 1890 direct from their village near the Black Sea. Three generations earlier, they had left their villages in Germany to take up free farmland in Russia. Which might explain why, she writes, when Canada came calling for farmers, her family felt no hesitation in venturing out again

It has troubled Amy Jo that they learned so little in school about the culinary history of their land.

“In 1952,” she writes, “the Saskatchewan Archives Office at the University of Saskatchewan asked old-timers what the pioneers ate. “Their answers paint a picture of frugality and self-sufficiency. They grew, raised, foraged, bartered and often did without…they bought only what they could not produce themselves: white flour, oats, baking soda, molasses, sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit. Yet even with such basic ingredients they managed to preserve their familiar food traditions while sharing recipes with their new neighbors from around the world. Then as now, food is history, hope and love entwined…”

It’s a pioneer’s story on the entire North American continent.

Amy Jo starts OUT OF SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS with some of the original inhabitants of Saskatchewan, the Metis, who had a wintering village on the bend of the South Saskatchewan River.
I confess I had to turn to Google to learn something about the Metis:

[The Métis, Canadian French are one of the recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada. They trace their descent from mixed ancestry of First Nations and Europeans. The term was historically a catch-all describing the offspring of any such union, but within generations the culture into what is today a distinct aboriginal group, with formal recognition equal to that of the Inuit and First Nations. Mothers were usually Cree, Algonquin, Saulteaux, Menominee,Mi’kmaq or Maliseet, or of mixed descent from these people and Europeans. At one time there was an important distinction between French Métis and the Anglo-Métisor Countryborn descended from English or Scottish fathers. Today these two cultures have essentially coalesced into one Métis tradition. The Métis homeland includes regions scattered across Canada, as well as parts of the northern United States (specifically Montana, North Dakota, and northwest Minnesota). These were areas in which there was considerable intermarriage due to the fur trade.]

By 1872, writes Amy Jo, life was changing rapidly for the residents of Petite Ville… “Bison were fast disappearing, replaced on the horizon by the imminent arrival of European settlers and the advent of agriculture. The Metis of Petite Ville decided to give farming a try. To stake out their place, plant potatoes and barley, raise horses and live year-round on their land…excavations at Petite Ville and other historic sources tell us that in addition to bison meat and pemmican, they also ate wile game such as deer and snow shoe hare; birds such as ducks, geese and grouse; fresh water fish and native plants. Berries were pounded to a pulp and dried and later boiled to make pudding and cakes. Fish were broiled and smoked. Meat was kept in outdoor ice pits protected from animals and vegetables stored in root cellars beneath the floor or cut into the side of a hill. And while there may no evidence of gardening in the overgrown foundations of Petite Ville, writes Amy Jo, “it is well documented that the Metis were accomplished gardeners…[but] by 1875 Petite Ville was largely abandoned, its residents moving to more permanent communities…”

The ultimate fate of the Metis is not unlike that of many American Indian tribes; the government in Ottawa ignored their request for a title to their land and a decade later, in 1885, revolt against federal troops led to a tragic struggle to preserve their land, their independence and their distinct way of life. And treaties signed by the Canadian aboriginals suffered the same fate as the treaties signed by American native Indians.

September 4, 1905, was Inauguration Day; Saskatchewan had become a province. Amy Jo devotes the next few chapters on the development of Saskatchewan and the many settlers who came to farm the land and become a part of the development of the province. Included are reprints of old photographs, followed by recipes.

There are a wealth of recipes to accompany the many old photographs—it’s a really great read. Now I have to admit that my copy of OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN was sent to me by my Saskatchewan girlfriend. I was unable to find it listed on Amazon.com . Published by MacIntyrePurcell Publishing, Inc., the ISBN number is 978-1-927097-61-8; this information may enable you to find a copy. And why would there be copies of OUT OF OLD NOVA SCOTIA KITCHENS and not one for old Saskatchewan Kitchens?

One final note— Amy jo Ehman is a local personality in the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting System) – Canada’s answer to the USA’s PBS (Public Broadcasting System).

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

** MY GRANDMOTHER’S APPLE TREE
In my grandmother’s back yard there was an apple tree—sour apples, or cooking apples—I don’t remember if there was more than the one tree. In my memory banks there is only the one apple tree.

When the tree was laden with apples ready for picking, grandma sent my brother Jim (the oldest grandson) up the tree to shake some of the limbs so the apples would fall and could be collected in grandma’s big apron or grandchildren or her daughters-in-law would gather up the apples and carry them to a big round tub.

Grandma put some of the best apples into a red wagon and had a grandchild (sometimes it was me) to the sisters, whose house was behind St Leo’s. The sister who worked in the kitchen would exclaim over the apples and offer me a piece of peppermint candy.

We would transfer the apples to containers that sister provided and I could then take the wagon back to grandma’s house which was right up the street from St Leo’s—the church, the school, the priests’ house and the sister’s house, all in a row.

Meantime the apples would be washed and then anyone able to handle a peeler or a paring knife would start peeling the apples, cutting away bad spots. I don’t remember that any of us children were allowed to handle a peeler, much less a paring knife. My mother and two aunts, Aunt Dolly and Aunt Annie, would spend the day peeling apples.

Some of the apples were turned into apple sauce. During the war (WW2) when sugar was rationed, the apple sauce was canned sans any sweetener. We had sour apple sauce in the basement pantry for YEARS—you put some apple sauce on your plate and then were allowed to add a little sugar and stir it up.

Grandma made a lot of apple strudel, her specialty and I imagine some of the best apples were stored down in grandma’s cellar, to be used in future batches of apple strudel.

I have a Granny Smith apple tree in my back yard, now, and I make apple sauce, all the while thinking of my Grandma Schmidt and her apple tree and wishing—oh, how I wish! – that I had the recipe for Grandma’s Apple Strudel.

–Sandra Lee Smith

DINNER IN THE DINER

This was first published in WordPress in 2010 and I acquired several new friends because of it. One is a fellow whose wife was the daughter of the original Twin Trolley Diner–and the other is a gentleman in New Jersey who lived on Queen City Avenue around the same time my cousins lived on that street.
So, bear with me for reprinting it–I have discovered that many of my subscribers are not familiar with my earlier posts.

My love affair with diners dates back to my early childhood, where, in South Fairmount in Cincinnati, Ohio, there was a place on the corners of Queen City Avenue and Beekman Streets, called the Twin Trolley Diner. I loved that restaurant. It was a favorite place to stop and have a bite to eat after going to the movies at the West Hills Theater in South Fairmount. We lived in North Fairmount and everyone either walked or took the streetcars, also known as trolley cars, to get where they were going.

Buses replaced streetcars while I was still very young. Even so, children walked everywhere. To have an adult drive you someplace was simply unheard of. We walked to and from school, the library, movie theaters, the Dairy Queen, bakery, drug store, or the corner mom & pop grocery stores – unless you were going Downtown; then you took a streetcar or the bus. The Twin Trolley Diner was also right on the street car/bus line. (It might surprise you to learn, too, that when women or girls went Downtown, they wore high heels, hats, gloves, and stockings—the works! People didn’t go Downtown in casual attire, even if it meant walking all around Downtown in uncomfortable high-heeled shoes! (I ruined a lot of high heeled shoes this way).

There was another place in Cincinnati that enjoyed enormous popularity, one I didn’t even think of as a diner until I read about it in a cookbook called “ROCK & ROLL DINER” by Sharon O’Connor. The diner is a place called Camp Washington Chili and the restaurant has been at the same location since 1940. It was just about a mile from our house, just across the Hopple Street Viaduct. Camp Washington Chili was always open 24 hours a day and very often, when I was a teenager, someone would get a yen for “Coney Islands” or “White Castles” and we’d make a late-night quick trip to both places. I think this happened mostly when I was babysitting for my older sister and she and her husband would come home from their evening out on the town.

“Coney Islands” are specially made small hot dogs on smaller-than-average buns, loaded down with hot dog, Cincinnati chili, chopped onions, shredded cheese and mustard. Cincinnati chili is a special blend of chili, originally created by a Greek chef and a “five way” is a plateful of spaghetti topped off with chili, kidney beans, chopped onions and finely shredded cheese—with oyster crackers. Nearby was a White Castle restaurant, also a chain of diner eateries popular in my hometown. Their hamburgers were smaller than regular-size hamburgers – a really hungry person could easily eat about three Coney Islands and three White Castles. (When I was a little girl, the Sunday paper often featured a White Castle coupon—you could get 5 hamburgers for twenty-five cents! I think we clipped a lot of those coupons). Another memory from my earliest childhood is coming home on the street car with my grandparents, after spending a Sunday at their “lodge” downtown near Findlay Market. When we transferred streetcars at Hopple and Colerain Streets, Grandpa would go into the White Castle and get a bag of hamburgers for us to take home and eat.

And, even though Camp Washington Chili has been at the same location since 1940, it’s no longer the same building. When the City wanted to widen Hopple Street, they wanted a slice of the land on which the original Camp Washington Chili building was located. The owners obliged and now Camp Washington Chili is in a new—albeit very art-deco-ish building. The owners and the food are the same, however, (although the menu has expanded). A few years ago, I visited my hometown and my nephew and his wife and I enjoyed lunch at Camp Washington Chili. All of the walls of the interior of the restaurant are decorated with tributes that have been appeared in numerous books, magazines, and newspapers about this most famous Cincinnati eatery.

There are, now, many chili “parlors” throughout the city of Cincinnati, most either Skyline or Empress. Camp Washington Chili was one of the earliest, however and is so famous that the mayor declared June 12 to be Camp Washington Chili Day. When I go to visit relatives and friends in Cincinnati, usually the first thing we do is head for one of the chili parlors. There is even one in the Greater Cincinnati airport (which, incidentally, is located in Kentucky—but that’s another story!)

“Diner history”, writes Sharon O’Connor in “ROCK & ROLL DINER” (published in 1996 by Menus and Music Productions, Inc) “began in 1872 when Walter Scott drove a horse-drawn freight wagon filled with sandwiches, boiled eggs, buttered bread, pies, and coffee down Westminster Street in Providence, Rhode Island. Late-night factory workers couldn’t purchase anything to eat after 8 p.m. when all the restaurants in town closed for the evening, so the enterprising Scott brought the food to his hungry customers…”

A few years later, a man by the name of Samuel Jones noticed some of the lunch wagon customers standing outside in the rain eating and he had an inspiration – he would build a lunch cart big enough for people to come inside. In 1887 at the New England Fair in Worcester, Massachusetts, for the first time ever, customers entered a lunch cart on wheels. “Jones’ cart had a kitchen, fancy woodwork, stained glass windows, standing room for customers and a menu that included sandwiches, pie, cake, milk, and coffee,” writes O’Connor. “The idea of eating inside a lunch cart was an instant success.”

Before long, lunch wagons were being mass-produced by a man named Thomas H. Buckley, who became known as the “Lunch Wagon King.” Buckley added cooking stoves to his lunch wagons, which allowed expanded menus. These lunch wagons, O’Connor explains, underwent a number of changes and gradually evolved into the roadside diners of the 20th century. Curiously, early in the 1900s, when street railway companies were beginning to electrify, enterprising wagon owners converted many of the discarded trolley cars into permanent restaurants.

Soon after, several other entrepreneurs went into the diner manufacturing business and began shipping pre-fabricated miniature restaurants that were approximately thirty feet long and ten feet wide to various parts of the country. Sometime between 1923 and 1924, the name “lunch car” evolved into “diner”.

“In 1922,” writes O’Connor, “diner manufacturer Jerry O’Mahony’s catalog pictured ‘lunch cars’; two years later, it showed many models called ‘diners’…”
“This new name,” explains Sharon O’Connor, “linked them with the fine dining experience offered on Pullman trains, and it also better described the expanded fare of breakfast, lunch, and dinner available twenty-four hours a day…”

Richard Gutman, author of “AMERICAN DINER, THEN & NOW” delves a great deal deeper into the origins of the diner, and the life of Walter Scott and others who came up with the original food carts. Gutman’s book also offers many illustrations and photographs of diners from their inception on.

It was during the mid-1920s that diner owners also began to make a bid for female customers to come into their restaurants. Initially, most women wouldn’t set foot into a diner. The Diners’ early days as late-night lunch carts gave them a reputation of being for men only. Now, ladies were invited to come in; flower boxes, shrubs, and frosted glass were added to the décor. In addition, the menus began to offer salads. The bid for female customers also led to another major innovation. Writes O’Connor, “Because most women didn’t feel comfortable perched on counter stools, manufacturers began to offer diners with table or booth service. By the end of the decade, diners were regarded as inexpensive, respectable places to eat and this reputation served them well during the 1930s…” (It was also during the 1930s that the term “Luncheonette” came along. This had, I suspect a more respectable ring to it for the ladies rather than something like “hash house” or “Lunch Counter”).

In 1928, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. However, diners made it through those difficult years—people still had to eat, and diners offered inexpensive meals.

The popularity of diners peaked in the 1950s, when an estimated 6,000 of these small, family-owned businesses were in operation. In 1962, along came McDonalds and the advent of the fast-food chains caused a major decline in the diner business. The 1982 movie “Diner” inspired a revival in diner mania – but then, in the 1990s, baby boomers became fascinated with the Retro look – and everything old was new again. New versions of the 1940s and 1950s style diners are being re-created and the older diners are being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, a lot of places, like the Twin Trolley Diner, are gone forever. And, one of life’s ironies about this entire story is that now, again, we have “food trucks” that go around to office buildings and factories during break and lunch hours, so that workers can go out and grab a bite to eat—what goes around certainly does come around!

Diners, I discovered, have their own “lunch counter lingo”. This is a sort of shorthand slang used between servers and the cooks in traditional diners and luncheonettes. John Mariani, author of “THE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN FOOD AND DRINK”, published by Hearst Books (originally in 1983, but updated and revised in 1994) provides a sampling of terms if you are interested in Diner Lingo. Says Mariana “lunch counters have provided etymologists and linguists with one of the richest stores of American slang, cant, and jargon, usually based on a form of verbal shorthand bandied back and forth between waiters and cooks….”

Some of these terms, such as a “BLT” for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, have become a familiar part of American language. H.L. Mencken, published in 1948, incidentally, culled Mariana’s list, from several other sources, notably “the American Language”. Mencken, in turn, found some of his sources dating back to a writer for the Detroit Press in 1852. Waiters, he says, developed most of it, in the 1870s and 1880s.

Here are a few Diner lingo terms:

ADAM AND EVE ON A RAFT: two poached eggs on toast.
BABY, MOO JUICE, SWEET ALICE OR COW JUICE: milk
AXLE GREASE Also ‘SKID GREASE”: butter
BIRD SEED: cereal
BLUE PLATE SPECIAL: A dish of meat, potato and vegetable served on a plate (usually blue) sectioned in three parts
BOWWOW: A hot dog
BOSSY IN A BOWL: Beef stew, so called because “Bossy” was a common name for a cow
CITY JUICE: Water
CROWD: Three of anything (possibly from the old saying ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd)
DRAW ONE: Coffee
EIGHTY-SIX: Translates to “do not sell to that customer” or “the kitchen is out of the item ordered”. Might be traced to the practice at Chumley’s Restaurant in New York City of throwing rowdy customers out the back door, which is No. 86 Bedford Street
FIRST LADY: Spareribs, a pun on Eve’s being made from Adam’s spare rib
FRENCHMAN’S DELIGHT: pea soup
There are many other terms, most of them completely outdated in 2003, such as ZEPPELINS IN A FOG which were sausages in mashed potatoes. How many young people today even know what a Zeppelin was? (No, it wasn’t a rock group!)
**
“Now…” writes author Sharon O’Connor, “diners are flourishing across the United States, from nostalgic prefabricated booth-and-countertop models to custom-designed spots that seat hundreds and gross millions. Colonial- and Mediterranean-style places are being redone with less stone and brick and more polished granite, marble, glass, and stainless steel. New versions of classic 1940s- and 1950s-style diners are being re-created, and older diners are being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Menus across the country are diverse `and include traditional diner fare as well as more eclectic and regional selections….”

Some diner historians dispute what really constitutes a diner, however, and point out that many of today’s so-called diners are really imitation diners, or wannabes.

As noted in a magazine called “Roadside”, “if your diner is a storefront, or built into a shopping mall, or into a strip plaza, it is not a diner. If it sits anywhere within the boundaries of an amusement park, it is not a diner. If it serves $8.95 cheeseburgers and requires reservations, it is not a diner….”

Since I embarked on a mission to find out more about the diners of my childhood, I have discovered there is a wealth of published material on the subject! Whether you want to know the history of diners or how to cook comfort foods such as the diners were famous for serving, someone has written about it.

Diner cookbooks are a lot of fun to read and they are usually packed with nostalgic comfort recipes.

Cookbooks such as “ROCK & ROLL DINER”, and “BLUE PLATE SPECIAL” offer photographs of diners throughout the country and provide recipes featured at these restaurants (although nothing quite compares with actually visiting a fifties-style diner, sitting in a red-vinyl booth and ordering your favorite comfort food while selecting songs from the wall juke box. Food and atmosphere have always been key elements to the success of these diners. And, isn’t it ironic that the fast-food chains which once threatened the existence of the diners—are now in competition with them?

Want to learn more about diners, their specialties and their history?
You may want to look for the following:

“ROCK & ROLL DINER” by Sharon O’Connor, published 1996 by Menus and Music Productions, Inc.
“BLUE PLATE SPECIAL/THE AMERICAN DINER COOKBOOK” by Elizabeth McKeon and Linda Everett, published 1996 by Cumberland House Publishing Inc.,
“THE STREAMLINER DINER COOKBOOK” by Irene Clark, Liz Matteson, Alexandra Rust, Judith Weinstock, published by Ten Speed Press, 1990.
“DINER” by Diane Rossen Worthington, published 1995 by Sunset Publishing Corporation
“THE ROUTE 66 COOKBOOK” by Marian Clark, published 1993 by Council Oak Books
“AMERICAN DINER, THEN & NOW” by Richard J.S. Gutman, the John Hopkins University Press, paperback edition 2000 *
“RETRO DINER/COMFORT FOOD FROM THE AMERICAN ROADSIDE” by Linda Everett, published 2002 by Collectors Press, Inc.
“DINERS/AMERICAN RETRO” published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
“WHAT’S COOKING AT MOODY’S DINER/60 YEARS OF RECIPES & REMINISCENCES” by Nancy Moody Genthner, published August 2002 by Dancing Bear Books…and something for the kiddies, a children’s book on the subject, “MEL’S DINER” by Marissa Moss, 1994, by BridgeWater Books

–Sandra Lee Smith

NEW YEAR’S EVE & NEW YEAR’S DAY FOODS FOR GOOD LUCK

Throughout most of written history, we know that people have eaten certain foods on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, hoping for riches, love, or other good fortune. For people of some nationalities, ham or pork has long been considered the luckiest thing to eat on New Year’s Day. You might wonder how the pig became associated with the concept of good luck but in Europe during medieval times, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Since pigs are associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat, it might be one explanation for having pork on New Year’s Day.

Austrians, Swedes, and Germans frequently chose pork or ham for their New Year’s meal and brought this tradition with them when they came to America. Germans and Swedes often picked cabbage as a lucky side dish and in my parents’ home, pork and sauerkraut was served at midnight on New Years Eve, along with mashed potatoes and creamed peas. (It might not have been so lucky, going to bed after eating such a hearty meal as after midnight!)
Turkey is considered lucky in some countries; Bolivians and residents in New Orleans follow this custom. Fish is considered lucky food by people in the northwestern part of the United States who may eat salmon. Some Germans and Poles eat herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. Other Germans eat carp.

Sometimes sweets or pastries are eaten for luck. In the colony of New Amsterdam, now New York, the Dutch settlers still enjoy these treats. Germans often ate doughnuts while the French have traditionally celebrated with pancakes. In some places, a special cake is made with a coin baked inside. (Curiously, my German grandmother fried doughnuts with a coin inside each – on the Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany, celebrated January 6th). Such cakes are traditional in Greece, which celebrates Saint Basil’s Day and New Year’s at the same time. The Saint Basil’s Day cake is made of yeast dough and flavored with lemon. The person who gets the slice with the silver or gold coin is considered very lucky!

Many of the luck-bringing foods are round or ring-shaped, because this signifies that the old year has been completed. Black-eyed peas are an example of this, and they are part of one of New Year’s most colorful dishes, Hoppin’ John, which is eaten in many southern states. Hoppin’ John is made with black-eyed peas or dried red peas, combined with hog jowls, bacon, or salt pork. Rice or other vegetables may be added. The children in the family might even hop around the table before the family sits down to eat this lucky dish. In Brazil, lentils are a symbol of prosperity, so lentil soup or lentils with rice is traditional for the first meal of the New Year.

Thousands of miles away, the Japanese observe their New Year’s tradition of eating a noodle called toshikoshi soba. (This means “sending out the old year.”) This buckwheat noodle is quite long, and those who can swallow at least one of them without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life. (Or maybe the luck might be not choking on the long noodle!)

In Portugal and Spain people have an interesting custom. When the clock strikes midnight, people in these countries eat twelve grapes or raisins to bring them luck for all twelve months of the coming year.

The ancient Romans gave gifts of nuts, dates, figs, and round cakes. Northern Italians began the new year eating lentils to symbolize coins. In the Piedmont region of Italy, the New Year’s Day meal of risotto signified wealth with its abundance of small grains. Another Italian custom is to eat sweets for a year of good luck. It can be as simple as a raisin or a more elaborate, almond-filled cake in the shape of a snake. As a snake sheds its old skin and leaves it behind, this cake symbolizes leaving the past behind as a new year begins.

In Spain, you are promised good luck in the new year if, at midnight, you eat one grape with each stroke of the clock.

Dumplings are a traditional New Year’s food in northern China. Because they look like nuggets of gold, they are thought to signal good fortune.
The Vietnamese celebrate their new year in late January and eat carp – a round-bodied fish thought to carry the god of good luck on its back.

Cambodians celebrate their new year in April by eating sticky rice cakes made with sweet beans.

In Iran, the New Year is celebrated in March, when grains of wheat and barley are sprouted in water to symbolize new life. Coins and colored eggs are placed on the table, which is set for a special meal of seven foods that begin with the letter “s”.

I posed this question – special foods to welcome in the New Year – to some friends. Lorraine wrote that at her mother’s they always had Menudo on New Years; she says her friend Geri always has Black Eyed Peas. My friend Patti who lives in Cincinnati wrote “Sauerkraut, Limburger cheese & Pickled Pigs Feet…I did not partake”.

Penpal Penny who lives in Oklahoma wrote “Here on New Year’s Day ……black-eyed peas and hog jowl……for good luck, greens…..for financial good luck then of course you have to have cornbread and fried potatoes. I always fix slaw though any kind of greens will do. You just want to make sure you eat PLENTY of both of the peas and greens!! Good ole poke salad ( or as the old timers would say…. poke salit ) would be wonderful with it….some years I’ve lucked out and found plenty in the spring and had a bag or two in the freezer.” And girlfriend Sylvia wrote, “We eat black eyed peas!! I think that is a southern thing…”

From my penpal Bev, who lives in Oregon, I received this email, “My family had no New Years Eve or day traditions…When I was 40 became acquainted with a shy, soft spoken…gal when I went to Chemeketa Community College. She was taking classes as background for writing. and had in her mind a book she wanted to write…To my surprise, she was a member of MENSA. That was probably the first time I had ever heard of that elite society. Anyway, she and her husband invited us to their home for New Years Day, and served some type of beans. Seems to me it was limas. Have you heard of that before? This couple had lived in Japan but I can’t imagine beans being a good luck dish from that part of the world…” (In a subsequent email Bev decided it might have been black-eyed peas they were served).

Marge wrote “My grandmother was a first generation American born of German immigrants in Nebraska. While that was not our usual New Year’s fare, we ate sauerkraut often especially in the winter time, and she used pork tails in hers often and often pork ribs while she cooked the kraut. I rarely make sauerkraut though Dorman likes it. I know some people make (sauerkraut) with bratwurst sausage…”

Chris wrote “As far as New Year’s Eve, I remember my grandpa always bringing home herring. It came in a squat jar in kind of a vinegar sauce. I don’t buy it anymore but it’s pretty popular in the grocery stores around here during the holidays.”

Rosie wrote “I never had anything special for New Year’s Eve or Day but Bernie always used to eat pickled herring on New Year’s Day before we were married. It meant a prosperous year or something. He’s German and Belgium so I’m assuming it’s one of those traditions”

And in my household, we returned to the custom of pork and sauerkraut, reflecting the German heritage of both Bob and myself.

This New Year’s Eve (2012), my penpal Bev and her husband Leroy will be here for dinner and we are going to have sauerkraut (homemade!) and sausages. I cooked two corned beef briskets yesterday in my pressure cooker so we can have Reuben sandwiches the next day. When I was visiting them in Oregon in October, they took me to a wonderful German restaurant in Portland and we enjoyed Reuben sandwiches. I may have lost a little of my connection with German and Hungarian cuisine and maybe this New Year’s dinner will be an opportunity to re-connect. I would love to share more of my German Hungarian roots with you!

May 2015 bring us all good luck and happiness. Thank you for being such loyal subscribers to the Sandychatter blog. As I re-wrote and posted this article about food traditions in many countries, I spent mostly a quiet New Year’s Eve (the fireworks going off scared both of my dogs who huddled close to me). Earlier my sister and her husband, along with sons Cody and Joe (and Joe’s wife and two children, a little boy and a little girl) paid me a visit. Joe’s son, Joe Jr., helped me unwrap gifts from all of them. I am delighted to report that son Joe is moving back to California–Joe is a computer expert and I will have someone to call when I have computer issues. Joe lived with Bob & me for a few months when we were still on Arleta & I feel a kinship with him. Happy New Year to everyone, 2015.

Sandy@sandychatter

PUTTING IT UP AND PUTTING IT DOWN

While searching (unsuccessfully) through my notebooks (for about two weeks) for a particular cherry tomato recipe that was requested by a friend of my penpal Bev, who lives in Oregon—it belatedly crossed my mind that I might have written something on my blog about the weeks spent making green cherry tomato pickles—and there it was.

I know people who can fruits and vegetables on a mammoth scale so my attempts may sound puny by comparison. Then the other day I found this introduction to Chapter 11 in the Arizona Highway Heritage Cookbook. It was titled PUTTING IT UP AND PUTTING IT DOWN:

“From the beginning, women sought to preserve food at its peak for a later date. They either put it up—in baskets, pots and jars—or put it down—in the ground, in the cellar, or layered with care, mostly in crocks.

Pickling goes back to folk medicine. Cleopatra persuaded Caesar that pickles were a health food. Captain Cook took sauerkraut to sea to prevent scurvy…”

Writes the author, Louise DeWald, “Coming from Pennsylvania seven-sweet and seven-sour territory, I grew up with canning and pickling and jamming. Some of our family recipes went back before Civil War days. What a delight to discover some of those in the old handwritten receipt books of many families who came West.

Prickly Pear Preserves and Pyracantha* Berry Jelly were not among those. Arizona’s sweets and sours are distinctively its own, adding a tiny hot yellow pepper here and a cactus pad there.

Preservation and cooling prior to the ice box was ingenious. Dorothy Hubbell, daughter in law of Indian Trader Lorenzo Hubbell, described “the non-powered cooler made for storage of milk, butter, and other supplies. It was a cabinet of three large rimmed tin shelves covered with strips of heavy material which were wet down, then kept damp. Meat was in a cool dry place, usually well salted…”

ARIZONA HIGHWAYS HERITAGE COOKBOOK, with text written by Louise DeWald, color photography by Richard Embry and Photographic Food Stylist Pam Rhodes is a beautiful hard-cover cookbook with hidden spiral binding, published in 1988 by the Arizona Department of Transportation. The text and inviting photographs reached out to me; I haven’t yet attempted Prickly Pear Jelly, but I have made Watermelon Pickles and Pickled First Crop Figs. When Bob and I lived in Arleta, we had 3 fig trees; you couldn’t keep up with the crop of figs although birds did their part to eat the figs on the top branches.

What I love most about ARIZONA HIGHWAYS HERITAGE COOKBOOK is the wealth of historic recipes accompanied by the history of Arizona. (Ever since I bought three books of fiction by Nancy E. Turner, with history of Arizona woven into the storyline, I have wanted to know more about Arizona.

And to be honest, I had to look up Pyracantha which is a thorny evergreen shrub. Pyracantha, or firethorn as it is also known, is a pretty shrub with attractive flowers and magnificent red, yellow or orange berries in autumn. More Google research revealed that:

“Pyracantha berries are not poisonous as many people think although they taste very bitter. They are edible when cooked and can be made into jelly. Pyracantha jelly is quite tasty, and is similar to apple jelly in both appearance and flavor with a little tang. As Pyracantha are quite common and do produce masses of berries it is quite easy to gather enough berries to make yourself a few jars of jelly, be sure to wear gloves to protect hands from thorns.

We recommend using red Pyracantha berries, off varieties such as ‘Red Column‘, pick berries when they are bright red (in late autumn) if the birds haven’t got there before you.

Pyracantha Jelly/Jam Recipe

There are a few recipes for making Pyracantha jelly but we have tried a few, and this one seems to be the best and works well.

What you need:

3½ lb Pyracantha berries
2½ pts water
4 fl oz lemon juice (Pro Rata)
3½ lb sugar (Pro rata)
Liquid pectin
Pyracantha ‘Red Edge’

First pick your berries and measure out 3½ lb of Pyracantha berries and then wash them in water. Get a large pan and fill with water and bring to the boil. Now add the Pyracantha berries and bring to the boil and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes.

Now remove the pulp and strain (cooked berries) through a muslin cloth.

Next, remove the berry juice and measure how much you have. Add the juice back into the pan and for every 1½ pints of juice you have, add 4oz of lemon juice and 3½ lb sugar. Now bring back to the boil again and when boiling add one full bottle of liquid pectin and keep stirring, keep boiling for around one minute and keep stirring. A thin layer of foam will start to form on top of the contents in the pan.

Any excess berry juice can be frozen and used to make jelly later if preferred.”

I was so excited learning about pyracantha berries and want to ask my son Kelly to go with me to the nursery nearby to see if the pyracantha shrub grows here in the Antelope Valley, considering that our climate is similar to the desert regions of Arizona. I remember learning about fruits and berries unfamiliar to me when we lived in Florida. My next-door-neighbor’s best friend had a Mango tree and brought me huge amounts of mangoes. If not quite ripe, they could be put on a low window sill in our Florida room. I learned a lot about Mangoes but I think mango jam and mango chutney were two of my favorite recipes. Sorry, I digressed!!

Canning fruits and vegetables has been a hobby of mine for well over 20 years. We had a lot of fruit trees and a Concord grape arbor in Arleta; my family is helping me plant fruit trees here in Quartz Hill—we’ve planted apple, apricot, cherry, pomegranate, and pear trees so far and they have begun to produce fruit My son and daughter in law have promised me a pecan tree for the back yard. I’d like to try planting Concord grape vines too; the grape vines I have right now are all sweet grapes. A friend has been bringing Asian pears to me to make jam or relish and another girlfriend I met at bowling has been giving me figs from her back yard—I’d like to plant a fig tree or two here as well.

All of which, I hope, will provide more jams and jellies, chutneys and juices to put up or put down. No, we don’t have cellars here in the high desert—but I HAVE made batches of sauerkraut when heads of cabbage is inexpensive in March and as long as it stays cool in the garage, the kraut will ferment for 6 weeks so that I can put it up in quart jars. My son has had bumper crops of different kinds of squash—we couldn’t give enough of it away last year but I noticed that, as long as the weather remains fairly cool, the squash will keep in the garage or a pantry.

And if you are interested in putting up (canning) green cherry tomatoes, here is that recipe:

What You Need:

(For 12 quarts of green cherry tomato pickles)
14 pounds of green cherry tomatoes
12 cups of white vinegar
12 cups of water
12 tbsp. of kosher salt
dill seeds
whole black peppercorns

red pepper flakes or whole small chili peppers—dried or fresh

Jars — either quart-sized jars or 6 pint-sized jars, as well as lids and rings, a hot water canner (if you’re planning on storing your pickles long term)
Jar lifter

Prepping Your Tomatoes

(Note: If you’re planning to process your pickles in a hot water canner, you should fill the canner with water, add your jars, and turn the water on to sterilize and warm your jars. Just leave the jars in the water until you’re ready to use them. Place the lids and rings in another pan with simmering – not boiling- water until you’re ready to use them.)

Gather and wash 14 pounds of green tomatoes. I used green cherry tomatoes because they seemed to stay firmer after processing, but any green tomato will work. You can cut your tomatoes in half if they’re larger or cut them into quarters. (I left mine whole and used different sizes – large and small. The very small ones filled empty spaces in the jars.)

Now, make your brine. Add the vinegar, water, and salt to a pan, and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, it’s time to start filling your sterilized jars.

Remove the jars from the boiling water canner with your jar tongs. Set them on a towel on your counter (so they don’t crack when they come into contact with the cool surface) and add the following to each jar:

• 1 tsp. dill seeds
• 1 tsp. black peppercorns
• 1/4 tsp (or more if you want them spicier) of red pepper flakes–or small whole red chili peppers (fresh or dried)

Once your spices are in, start packing your tomatoes into the jars. Really pack them in. Once they’re packed, add brine to fill the spaces between tomatoes. Use a chopstick or knife to go around the inside of the jar and remove any air bubbles, then fill with more brine if you need to. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace, then wipe the rims of your jars to clean up any brine, add your lids and tighten your rings.

Put your jars in your hot water canner, and cover with a lid. Once the water comes up to a boil, start your timer — you’ll be processing your pickles for fifteen minutes.
Once time is up, remove your jars and place them on a towel on a kitchen counter. They’ll have to sit there for several hours to cool. When they are cool, you can label the pickles and put them in a dark place to “age” – 6 weeks should be about right. This is the length of time I age my hot Hawaiian pineapple pickles.

Making Refrigerator Pickled Green Tomatoes–You can also forget about the boiling water processing if you just want to make a few jars of pickles to be eaten within the next month or so. Prep your tomatoes, add your spices, tomatoes, and boiling brine to the jars, and place in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to eat in about a week.
What to Do with Pickled Green cherry tomatoes? You can snack on them or slice or dice the pickles to go on top of hamburgers or hot dogs. They can be diced and added to tuna or chicken salad for sandwiches—or cut up to go into salads. The sky’s the limit.

ARIZONA HIGHWAYS HERITAGE COOKBOOK is available on Amazon.com new, at $4.99 and pre-owned starting at one cent. Remember that postage and handling on pre-owned books is $3.99 at Amazon.com. My copy was pre-owned and is in very good condition.

—Sandra Lee Smith

REDISCOVERING BREAD PUDDING

Bread pudding was one of the few desserts that we grew up on, Although we might have that or rice pudding just as easily for breakfast as we did for dessert.  Dessert just wasn’t a part of my mother’s repertoire, except for special occasions like Christmas.

 It’s easy to understand how the bread pudding (or rice pudding) managed to make it to the table. We always had bread; my mother baked homemade bread twice a week in large roasting pans. We rarely had “store bought bread” in the house until much later, after my mother began working at Crosley’s over in Camp Washington.  (My sister Barbara recalled that we had the only mother in the neighborhood who worked full time—mind you, this was a time, in the 1940s and 1950s, when most mothers stayed at home).  It doesn’t surprise me that we might have left over rice from any meal; my mother’s rice was like library paste.  The most you could hope for was to break down the pasty consistency by spooning on a lot of chicken broth.  We always had mom’s library paste rice with stewed chicken for Sunday dinner. I was an adult living in California before I discovered that I really do like rice. (and my brother Bill has confessed to liking mom’s  library paste rice.)

I don’t think my mother had a recipe for making bread pudding although it’s entirely possible that she may have followed the recipe for Bread Puff Pudding that I found in her Ida Bailey Allen Service Cookbook.  The recipe is a simple combination of milk, bread crumbs, a bit of butter, small amount of sugar, vanilla, and a couple of eggs.  These would have been all ingredients on hand in my mother’s kitchen. Mom’s bread pudding sometimes contained some raisins, too.

What got me thinking about bread pudding was a surgery my daughter-in-law had one year.  Keara was recuperating from a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, and was able to eat only soft foods.  I sent home to her a double batch of creamy tapioca pudding. She requested another comfort food; bread pudding.  Then, while searching through my box of newspaper clippings, I came across an article that appeared in the December 10, 1987 edition of the Los Angeles Times – and the subject was – you guessed it – bread puddings.

One of the recipes sounded so good that I decided it was the one to make; I just had to go out and buy a loaf of white bread, which we seldom have on hand, and then “make it stale” by letting the slices set out on the kitchen counter for half a day.

Well, I want you to know, this was a great bread pudding recipe—I did have to sample it, of course, to make sure I wasn’t sending Keara something she wouldn’t be able to eat!

Betty Balsley, the author of this particular article in the Los Angeles Times, explains her love for leftovers (something I can really relate to) and says that she’s always fascinated by the way home cooks as well as professional chefs adeptly handle flavors and texture to produce unforgettable culinary creations.

“Thus it was,” she writes, “that when attending the Newspaper Food Editors and Writers Assn. Conference in New Orleans in October, I gained an unmentionable number of pounds sampling an almost amazing variety of these classic American sweets (i.e., bread puddings). “None,” she claims, “were bad. A few were so-so but the majority were worth every calorie they added to my frame…”

What followed was an assortment of bread pudding recipes, ranging from Omni Royal Orleans Bread Pudding to Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding souffle with Whiskey Sauce.  I chose to make “Allie And Etell’s Bread Pudding. The Allie, I presume, is Paul Prudhomme’s sister Allie.  I added raisins to my batch of bread pudding, because what is bread pudding without raisins?

By now, as you might suspect, my curiosity was piqued. Do only the chefs of Louisiana know how to make bread pudding? Sylvia Lovegren, in “FASHIONABLE FOOD” writes of it “Bread pudding was another one of those old-fashioned all-American dishes that were de rigueur for trendy chefs. Although bread puddings were made around the country with every sort of ‘regional accent’, one of the most popular was one with a Southern, especially southern Louisiana, twang….”

Lovegren then offers a recipe for Bread Pudding with Pecan Bourbon Sauce.

Since the topic of bread pudding appears in Lovegren’s chapter for the 1980s, possibly this also explains how an article devoted to bread puddings ended up in a 1987 edition of the Los Angeles Times. Most food historians whose works I consulted don’t mention bread pudding at all.  So, what’s the story?

Even my tried-and-true “WISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOKERY” has disappointingly little to say about bread pudding, other than suggesting they are an excellent way of using slightly dry bread and offering two recipes. Numerous “Americana” cookbooks fail to mention bread pudding at all, whereas, – at least – in “THE BEST OF SHAKER COOKING”, authors provide ten recipes for the dessert, ranging from Shaker Mountain Blueberry Pudding to Maple Bread Pudding. All sound delicious.

A Good Housekeeping cookbook published in 1942-43 offers ten bread pudding recipes as well, including one for the Queen of Puddings which is mentioned in “PIONEER POTLUCK”, stories an recipes of Early Colorado, collected by the State Historical Society of Colorado. “THE PIONEER COOK BOOK” published by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers provides one recipe for Grandma Taylor’s Milton Pudding or Bread Pudding.  Queens Pudding is also mentioned in the “LINCOLN HERITAGE TRAIL COOKBOOK” by Marian French. (It seems that bread pudding was elevated to Queen’ Pudding by spreading the top with a layer of jelly or preserves after it was baked. Then you made a meringue with the whites of a couple of eggs and two tablespoons of sugar, and spread that over the top. Finally, you baked it again until the meringue was a light brown.

“THE PRACTICAL RECEIPT BOOK” published in 1897 by the Young Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Sewickley, Pennsylvania offers no less than sixty-five pudding recipes, two of which are for the Queen Pudding.

However, finding recipes for Bread Pudding doesn’t answer my original question—nor does it explain to me why or how this delicious dessert disappeared from the American culinary landscape.  Have we all become so busy that the only kind of puddings we have anymore are of the instant packaged variety that require only the addition of milk—or, equally tasteless — a pre-made item that you pick up in the dairy section of the supermarket, which only requires peeling off a foil cover? Ew, ew!

Perhaps we have to search into the much more distant past for the answer to the origin of bread pudding, or desserts in general as we know them.

Not much is known about desserts in the middle ages.  Patricia Bunning Stevens writes about desserts in “RARE BITS” subtitled “Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes”.

Describing the middle ages, she states, “…at the end of the meal, the table was cleared and spiced wine served, with sweet wafers, raisins, nuts, and ‘comfits,’ as sugared caraway seeds and anise seeds were called. It is from these simple beginnings that our modern ‘dessert’ stems, for the word comes from the French desservir and, ultimately, from the Latin dis servir, to remove what has been served, to clear (the table).

As time went by, the idea of true desserts spread and various countries developed their own preferences. “To Englishmen” writes Ms. Stevens, “the only dessert that ever really counted was the pudding….”  She continues with a rather detailed explanation of the English Pudding which contains dried fruit and spices; however, Ms. Stevens has nothing to add on the subject of bread pudding.

Until around 1800, the word pudding nearly always signified a sausage of some kind—i.e., a meat-filled casing. In “FRUITCAKES & COUCH POTATOES,” author Christine Ammer also notes that, “In Britain, the word ‘pudding’ alone often signifies the dessert course of a meal, whether or not it consists of the thick, soft, sweet mixture so called by Americans”.

Writing about plum puddings, Betty Wason, in “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS,” notes that it was during the reign of Henry VIII that the Christmas feast came about.  “Plum Pudding,” says Wason, “originated as ‘plum soup’ made of mutton stock, currants, prunes, raisins and sherry; then bread was added to thicken it, and it was called ‘plum porridge’.  Eventually it became mostly meat with suet, wheat, raisins, currants, and spices added. Even the stews of England in those days were sweet and gooey, so spiced no one knew quite what the meat tasted like. (I think the main reason for that may have been that the meat was bad or tainted—the heavy spices would have masked the actual taste of the meat. It was for the same reason that the French concocted so many sauces to put over meats. But I digress).

“Plum Puddings,” Wason explains, “were made by the dozens—literally—because according to superstition, it was good luck to eat a plum pudding on each of the days between Christmas and Epiphany, ‘making a wish on the first mouthful each day.’  But woe to anyone who nibbled at a holiday pudding before the Christmas feast began—he would be in trouble for twelve months to come…”  (Sounds like something someone’s mother would have come up with to make sure no one was getting into the feast day food too soon!)

While doing a search on Google.com, I found a short but illuminating clue to the history of bread pudding. To make bread pudding, an oven is necessary; you can’t make it very well in a pot on top of the stove.  In early pioneer times, as we know, food was cooked over an open fire. The English version of foods like plum pudding were cooked on top of a stove but the whole mess was put into a pudding cloth that was suspended into a pot of water. The English pudding came into its own only with the invention of the cloth pudding bag at the end of the sixteenth century (before that, animal organs were used to encase the pudding process).

Another clue—centuries ago, women might mix up their own loaves of bread but they usually had to take it to something like a communal oven or to a professional baker–to have it baked. The lady of the house might mark her bread with the letter of their name or her own special design (from which we have the Patty Cake nursery rhyme line, “roll it and shape it, mark it with a “b” and put it in the oven for baby and me”.

To make something like bread pudding, as we know it, stoves—with ovens—had to be invented and make their way into ordinary households.

Having found no definitive answer to my initial question—who created or invented the first bread pudding—I feel compelled to make an assumption or two.

Bread pudding as we know it is most likely a creation of the mid-or-late 1800s, devised during frugal periods, to make use of stale bread. And there were, indeed, many austere periods in American history. It was one of the primary reasons so many men and women headed west in the mid 1800s, searching for a better life.

**

Louisiana chefs have, unquestionably, elevated the status of bread pudding to new heights while modern day cooks have come up with new and delicious creations using croissants, dried cranberries, day old cinnamon rolls or cinnamon bread. (type in bread pudding on Google.Com and you will come up with literally thousands of websites and bread pudding recipes galore.

Here for you to try is one of the recipes that appeared in the Los Angeles Times article. I’ve made a few minor changes to the original recipe because, as most people who know me are aware, I can’t leave a recipe alone.

¼ lb (1 stick)  unsalted butter (should be softened, room temperature)

1 cup sugar

2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk (undiluted)

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

7 slices stale white sandwich bread, toasted

½ cup seedless raisins or dried cranberries

Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium speed until mix is well creamed, about 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cream of tartar and ginger. Beat on low speed until well-blended, about 3 minutes.

Break toasted bread into small pieces and arrange in even layer in bottom of ungreased 8×8” baking pan. Sprinkle on raisins. Pour milk mixture over the bread and let it stand for about 1 hour, occasionally patting down any bread that floats to the top.

Bake 450 degrees 20-25 minutes or until top is very well browned and mixture shakes like a bowl of jelly when pan is shaken. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.   Makes 8-10 servings

Note: raisins, roasted pecans or other nuts or coconut can be added to recipe if desired.  I’ve discovered that dried blueberries also makes a nice addition.

I’ll leave you with this quotation, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, in which he writes, “Hallo!  A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day!  That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other…”

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE …The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking…by Joseph E. Dabny, is a monumental work, presenting Appalachian cuisine from pioneer days to the present.

Author Joseph Dabny is a retired newspaperman and public relationships executive who has studied Appalachian and hill-country food traditions for many years.

A beautifully written foreword is provided by noted food historian and cookbook author, John Egerton. He states, in part, “In place of the denigrating mythologies of Appalachia—the buffoonish Snuffy Smith-Lil’ Abner-Beverly Hllbillies stereotypes—we see these salt-of-the-earth citizens for what they truly area: smart, industrious, creative, frugal, good-humored, and highly skilled, especially when it comes to putting great meals on the table.

Because he grew up at tables such as these in the southern arc of the Appalachian highlands—and remains close by even now—Joe Dabney knows how to recreate the atmosphere and the characters and the food…Dabney is unquestionably the right person to pull together a patchwork quilt of a book such as this…”

The author was born in South Carolina in 1929; when his father, a merchant, went bankrupt by a wave of customer credit caused by the Great Depression, the family—which included six other children—left their home in the Piedmont for a rented farm in Greneville County, a hundred miles to the northwest.  “There,” writes Egerton, “just below the eastern shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Dabneys rode out the Depression with unwavering faith, hope and charity—in God, Franklin Roosevelt, and a support group of relatives and friends…”

“Back in Kershaw at the age of seven” says Egerton, “Joe had already learned the code of the hills and it would serve him well from then on…and it is those people, the ancients and his own more recent kin and neighbors, whose voices echo through Dabny’s smooth-flowing narrative. To be sure, this is a cookbook and most of the talk is about food—or over it, at the table, –but it is much more than that. It’s about characters like whiskey-maker Theodore (Thee) King of Gum Log, Georgia, and Simmie Free of Tiger, Georgia and ninety year old Nina Garrett of Near Cartecay, another Georgia hill-country community…Dabney’s book is also about hog-killing and smokehouses, about making lye hominy and gathering greens, about ramps and cushaws and leather britches [dried green beans], about cracklin’ bread and corncob jelly*, whistle pig and poke sallet, apple butter and stack cakes…”  (I made corncob jelly last year when my youngest son had a beautiful crop of corn on the cob. I removed most of the corn from the cobs, to blanch and freeze it – and not wanting to waste all those cobs, I made corncob jelly. It’s delicious!).

Mr. Dabney acknowledges that many people helped with the creation of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE,” which includes a bibliography of more than two hundred books.

I feel as though I should know Mr. Dabney; many familiar names jump off the pages of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE. My dearly-loved Georgian columnist Celestine Sibley, who died not long before I wrote my first review of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE in 1999 for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and had the delight of being featured in one of her newspaper articles…author Nathalie Dupree,  another favorite cookbook author, and author Janice  Holt Giles—whose books I have dearly loved my entire adult life, featuring pioneer history often centered around her home deep in a Kentucky ‘holler’ and made me love American pioneer history forever after—these are just a few of the American authors whose work I admire and relish and wish I had the ability to write like they do…they all recreate and make us familiar with the foodways and people of places such as Appalachia. Here, I noticed also, comments about Mark Sohn, whose great cookbook MOUNTAIN COUNTRY COOKING that I reviewed for CCE members some time ago.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE is not a cookbook you will breeze through…it should be savored, page by page, like a fine…scuppernong wine. Here is a history of a people and their food; a celebration of foodlore handed down from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and the Cherokee Nation.  As Celestine Sibley would have said, “This one’s a keeper”.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE was published by Cumberland House in Nashville in 1998. It is widely available on Amazon.com and other sites, starting at $3.33 for a pre-owned copy with a wide range of prices for new copies.

Mr. Dabney is also the author of THE FOOD, FOLKLORE AND ART OF LOWCOUNTRY COOKING, A CELEBRATION OF THE FOODS, HISTORY AND ROMANCE…

Another favorite of mine is BISCUITS, SPOONBREAD, AND SWEET POTATO PIE, by Bill Neal and if your interest is piqued to continue on a quest along these lines, you may want to also read John Egerton’s SOUTHERN FOOD, AT HOME, ON THE ROAD, IN HISTORY, originally published by Alfred Knopf in 1987.  Visit Amazon.com and Alibris.com for an extended list of titles by the author, not all are cookbooks.

For a more-in depth look at some of my favorite southern cookbooks, please refer to THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH, PARTS 1 AND II, posted on this blog in 2011.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

VISITING THE FARMER’S MARKET – PART ONE

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, dancing a jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.
– Mother Goose nursery rhyme

And one other that I have loved for a long time:

MARKET DAY

White, glittering sunlight fills the market square,
Spotted and sprigged with shadows. Double rows
Of bartering booths spread out their tempting shows
Of globed and golden fruit, the morning air
Smells sweet with ripeness, on the pavement there
A wicker basket gapes and overflows
Spilling out cool, blue plums. The market glows,
And flaunts, and clatters in its busy care.
A stately minster at the northern side
Lifts its twin spires to the distant sky,
Pinnacled, carved and buttressed; through the wide
Arched doorway peals an organ, suddenly —
Crashing, triumphant in its pregnant tide,
Quenching the square in vibrant harmony.
–Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

The children’s nursery rhyme, “to market, to market…” reminds of us a time when it was customary throughout the country to “go to market” on certain days of the week, in particular Saturday mornings, to purchase groceries and produce, before the advent of the corner grocery stores and, later on, supermarkets.

Happily, we have had a resurgence of farmer’s markets throughout the United States. Market day is Thursday afternoon on Lancaster Boulevard in the Antelope Valley, but the market of my childhood was Findlay Market, near downtown Cincinnati. When I was a child, I – or one of my siblings – would accompany our Grandma Schmidt on the street car toting hand-sewn oilcloth shopping bags which we would fill with melons, oranges, lettuce, parsley, onions, and tomatoes – and sometimes a freshly killed hen from a butcher shop at Findlay Market. I wasn’t especially fond of the butcher shop (which remains in business to this day) but found the sawdust strewn on the floor interesting to slide around on, or make patterns in with my shoes.

Mary Anna DuSablon provided a bit of historical background to Findlay Market in her wonderful book CINCINNATI RECIPE TREASURY/THE QUEEN CITY’S CULINARY HERITAGE.

“Findlay Market,” she writes, “the first suburb to be annexed to Cincinnati was named after General James Findlay, who owned the property. Findlay was a proprietor of a prosperous log cabin store, which was founded in 1793…”

Originally, Ms. DuSablon explains, “the area was simply designed as an open air market for farmers, but in 1852, a cornerstone was laid for an open-sided cast iron market building, which would cost $12,000. It was an immense success.

In 1902 the market house was enclosed and refrigeration was added. With its colorful vegetable, fruit and flower stands along the curbs, and stores of every description around the square, Findlay Market became Cincinnati’s first shopping center, reflecting its German heritage later intermingled with the Italian.”

Dick Perry mentions Findlay Market in his book VAS YOU EVER IN ZINZINNATI? published by Doubleday in 1966, describing it this way, “The market itself is located in the dilapidated Mohawk district on an Elder Street esplanade between Elm and Race. But the esplanade can’t contain it. The market is so gregarious it spills out of the market place itself, and vendors line both sides of Elder Street between Elm and Vine, both sides of Race Street from Green to Elder, and the east side of Race Street from Elder to Findlay. Stalls, vendors, and seeming disorder are everywhere. On market days, the din, confusion and scents are beautiful. What can be bought there? Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, flowers and special delicacies…”.

That was in 1966 and possibly Findlay Market’s heyday. In more recent years, whenever I have made a trip to Cincinnati, my nephew Russ and I have gone down to Findlay Market to shop and look around. For a few years reconstruction was going on and only a few shops were open and doing business. I had the good fortune to be in Cincinnati shortly after Findlay Market reopened a few years ago, with one long enclosed building where private vendors offer everything imaginable from soup to nuts – but especially meat. We found many different sausages and were invited to taste some of them, when I mentioned to the butcher going to Findlay Market with my grandmother in the 1940s and 1950s. Findlay Market has undergone a facelift but the produce and meat and poultry being offered is still top notch.

Farmers markets are as old as this country itself; indeed, the practice of farmers taking their produce, chickens, and eggs to town to sell is centuries old, dating back to medieval times. Didn’t we learn that even President Jefferson often accompanied his French steward to the Georgetown market on his daily trip to pick fresh vegetables and fruit for that day’s meals? According to Kenneth Leish in his book THE WHITE HOUSE, they sometimes spent as much as $50 in a single grocery shopping expedition—certainly a vast amount of money for those times.

As a matter of record, Thomas Jefferson had this to say about markets, “I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden.”

Describing the marketplaces of the middle ages, author Reay Tannahill writes in her book, FOOD IN HISTORY (published by Stein and Day, 1973), “As the towns grew, small markets which had beg8un for the friendly bartering of produce, grew into important trading events, where coinage, spices, wine, and silks, replaced baskets of apples and day-old chicks as currency. Frequently, so much of a town’s prosperity revolved around the market that stringent precautions had to be taken to guard the stallholders against robbery, violence, and the medieval equivalent of the protection racket. A “market peace” similar to that of ancient Greece was established, symbolized in this new Christian world by a cross set up in the market place.”

“Later,” explains Tannahill, “Every great city had its great markets, and control over these became, in every sense, a royal headache. Exacting obedience from the merchants and ensuring the ‘market peace’ were feasible only if the place of sale was subject to regulation. It became the custom to establish different areas of the city, in which different types of merchants could offer their wares” (This has long been usual in the markets of Asia and the custom had also been adopted in Byzantium).
Other rules and regulations grew, says Tannahill, as merchant associations and guilds became more powerful. As an example, Ms. Tannahill tells us, “In early 14th century London, out of town poulterers* found it profitable to wander the streets selling their goods to housewives who had neither the time
nor the inclination to go to market. The guilds resented this freelance competition and in 1345, an edict was passed which flatly prohibited “folks bringing poultry to the city, to “sell it in landes, (sic) in the hostels of their hosts, and elsewhere in secret” and commanded them to take it “to the Leaden Hall and there sell it, and nowhere else.”

*A poulterer was an old term for a poultry man.

In another book titled PUBLIC MARKETS AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION, the author states that the public market as a type of building was firmly established by the seventeenth century. In England they continued to be the economic and social centers of urban life until the early 20th century; they still play an important role in many English cities.

One fact stands clear: the market place, as a custom, has been with us for centuries. European immigrants brought this custom to the United States, where it has flourished for several hundred years.

And the topic of farmers markets obviously makes good copy—you can find newspaper articles throughout the USA, devoted to farmers markets; I can count on one or two a year from the L.A. Times and the San Fernando Valley’s Daily News. Since I first started researching material for this article, I have been collecting both magazine and newspaper articles on farmer’s markets. Some of these markets, such as the Farmer’s Market in Hollywood, California, and the 200-year old French Market in New Orleans, the Soulard Market in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Pike Market in Seattle, Washington, are so well known that they attract millions of tourists every year.

Which market place may have been first in this country seems to be open to debate. According to PUBLIC MARKETS AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION, “Among the first records of market activity in the colonies, is a 1634 entry in the diary of Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts, showing that a court order had established a market in Boston, to be held every Thursday. Some years later, Boston constructed its first public market building in the center of t own, leading to the town dock. Around the same time, New York City centralized food retailing into public markets. As new cities developed the pattern continued. In Columbus Ohio, local leaders erected the first public market building even before the city received its corporate charter from the state—a reflection, perhaps, of the relative important of food and government. By 1918, the U.S. Census Bureau found that more than half of American cities with 30,000 inhabitants or more had municipal markets.

The Central Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, also claims to be the Nation’s oldest Farmer’s Market. (In 1730 when Lancaster began as a town, a market place was established).

The Baltimore, Maryland’s public market system dates back to 1763 when the first market was erected at Gay and Market Streets, with funds raised from a lottery. Eleven markets eventually encircled the heart of the city, each serving a distinct neighborhood and clientele.

Lexington, Market, in Baltimore, began in 1783 with the permission of Colonel John Eager Howard who allowed a farmer’s market to be placed upon Howard’s Hill. Thirty years later, the city erected a building on Howard’s Hill and officially named the market Western Precinct Market. However, in 1818, after the city of Baltimore expanded its boundaries, the market changed its name to Lexington Market. By 1822, Lexington Market was so famous that U.S. Attorney General William Wirt described it in a letter, “You may conceive the vast quantity of provisions that must be brought to this market when you are told that 60,000 people draw their daily supplies from it, which is more than twice as many people as there are in Washington, Alexandria and Richmond.”

And, Ralph Waldo Emerson, while visiting the Lexington market, described Baltimore as “the Gastronomical Capital of the Universe”.

In 1949, the Lexington Market burned to the ground; the market was rebuilt with a bond issue. Today, this farmer’s market holds many food stalls that have been in the same families for three, four and even five generations.

For a few decades in recent times, the popularity of farmers markets spiraled downward in decline, as American housewives discovered supermarkets and prepackaged cellophane-wrapped mushrooms and tomatoes, frozen TV dinners and microwave ovens. (And what brought people back to farmers markets and fresh produce? Could it be that the very same generation of children who grew up on TV dinners—of which I was one—tired of and became disenchanted with frozen tv dinners and shopping at supermarkets where prepackaged tomatoes and mushrooms usually concealed dark spots and bruises on the undersides of the vegetables, hidden from view?)

Some markets survived despite the efforts of cities to abolish them. The city of Chicago, for example began trying to disband the Maxwell Street Market soon after officially designating the area as a public market in 1912. Government efforts to close the open-air market occurred regularly in the decades that followed, including the removal of all site management functions in the 1970s, but the market miraculously survived to this day with over 800 vendors and perhaps 30,000 customers on a peak Sunday…

By the early 1970s, a number of cities began to re-evaluate their public, or farmer’s markets. Certainly, Central Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was one of the first recipients of federal funds for historical preservation when it was restored in the early 1970s.

In her cookbook titled THE FARM MARKET COOKBOOK (Doubleday, published in 1991) Judith Olney writes, “That I am not alone in my need for honest food, for a sense of community and change, became startlingly clear when I began to work on this book. In my travels, editors told me of new markets started in their cities. An Iowa government worker report that every town in the state with a population of over 5000 seemed to have generated a market in the past three years. Bellweather, California, was booming – 5 markets ten years ago, 120 markets in 1989. All across America, behind city halls, in parking lots of malls, in refurbished deserted warehouses, farm markets were springing up like a bountiful nationwide crop of wild edible mushrooms..those wonderful institutions, many of them established by waves of immigrants who had maintstreamed into American society in the stalls of the markets, were coming back to life…”

“And,” she continues, “so life spins around. The booming markets of our agrarian past, those links to our foreign born heritage that we rejected in the 1960s and 1970s like brash teenagers disowning embarrassing parents, we now embraced in our wiser maturity….”

Ms. Olney visited heartland markets in over a third of this country’s states while researching her book and even provides a geographical index to markets across the country and a listing of mail order market items.

An important factor to all of this, explain Richard Sax and Sandra Gluck, in their book FROM THE FARMERS’ MARKET, is not just the ability of the consumer to be able to obtain fresh produce, but that it also provides one solution to agriculture’s financial problems, allowing the farmer direct market of his produce, thereby eliminating the middleman and some of his profits.

This has become a crucial outlet for the small family-run farm, at a time when conglomerates and supermarket chains have forced many such farms to close down. In 1820, according to a recent report in Newsweek, nearly 75 percent of the United States population lived on farms. Today only 3 percent do. (FROM THE FARMERS MARKET by Sax & Gluck.

END OF PART ONE – Next I will share with you some of the Farmer’s Market cookbooks in my own collection.

–Sandra Lee Smith