Friday, January 24, 2014

REVOLUTIONARY COOKING: Over Two Hundred Recipes Book Review (c) By Polly Guerin

BOOK REVIEW by ARRT Board Member, Polly Guerin,  for the February 4th, 2014 Meeting of the American Revolutionary Round Table

REVOLUTIONARY COOKING: Over 200 Recipes. (Published by Skyhorse Publishing 2013)
By Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan, Illustrated by Betty T. Duson

Scholars interested in what Americans’ breakfasted, dined, drank and entertained will find the book, Revolutionary Cooking a rich source of information that sheds light on some rather unusual meals in a text spiced with a bit of social history.
   In the early years when Americans settled in the New World, they came to this country totally unequipped and unprepared. For one thing, the settlers were unfamiliar with country living and the American Indian became both teacher and savior instructing the settlers in hunting, food preparation for such unfamiliar foods to them at that time, such as corn, pumpkin and squash.
  Did you know that breakfast in the 18th Century was typically a mug of beer and some mush and molasses, invariably taken “on the run” just as we do today? Although the settlers acquired a taste for slightly spoiled meat due to the lack of preservation, they masked it with spices. The settlers did not even know how to make tea and instead stewed the tea leaves in butter, threw out what liquid collected, and munched on the leaves.
   It is interesting to note that eighteenth century egg and bacon pie is today’s quiche Lorraine. The recipes, in a sense are all original because they are the result of personal adaptations from old recipes called “receipts” pronounced re-ceets which have been tested by three different cooks in three different kitchens.

RECIPES (RE-CEETS) Imagine having to deal with guidelines calling for “a wine glass of…,” “two porringers of ….,” as much mace as needed,”…or “boil at 2 or 3 wollops. Just deciphering these early instructions into comprehensible jargon is quite an accomplishment. The authors found the source of their research in English cookbooks family journals, and notebooks from 150 to 250 years ago..
   The first truly American cookbook, American Cooking, was printed in 1796 by Amelia Simmons with such recipes for pumpkin pudding, crooknecked squash, slapjacks and Indian pudding. Bread made from cornmeal alone dried out too quickly so “rye’n ‘ Injun” bread was created, which was corn and rye mixed together. The English apple tart became American apple pie. Beer drinking reached zeniths of consumption as it was believed to have medicinal qualities and could prevent scurvy.

UNUSUAL DINING Some of the early recipes called for some unusual ingredients. “Cold Grapefruit Soup, for one gave the following instructions: 3 large or 4 small avocados, 2 l/2 cups of grapefruit juice, juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of sugar, l/4 ground allspice, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and two cups of ice water, blended together and served cold.
   Or you might find Lemon flummery, Apple-shrimp curry, sour rabbit and potato dumpling to name but a few of old recipes, to tempt your palate. Sunday dinner for a young Massachusetts’ boy consisted of baked beans and salt port followed by baked Indian pudding with butter. As was the custom in those early days, dinner was accompanied by long-winded graces. Pease Porridge, of nursery rhyme fame, became today’s split-pea soup.
   Whether it was with the help of indentured servants, slaves, or other family members preparing dinner was a full time job. How about dining on Grady Smith’s Oyster Jambalaya, or the Tweedy Family Steak and Kidney Pie or Royal Mincemeat, or Fruited Pork Shops or Panbroiled Doves or Quails.
  To top it off desserts might include Lemon Curd Tarts, Apple Pie, and if there was time for tea you might have been served a Bacon-Tomato Casserole or Agnes’ Gumbo or Cleto’s Game-Bird pie or Olde-tyme Indian Pudding.
  The illustrations of utensils, tankards, porringers and pots accompany the text as does a section of colored images of dining settings. This book is also available as an ebook. $16.95. American history enthusiasts will find Revolutionary Cooking a fascinating resource.

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