Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Current obsession: colonial times cookbooks

One of my current obsessions is reading cookbooks. Not those shiny celebrity chef volumes, but old fashioned cookbooks from the 1800s and 1900s. I found a whole treasure trove of them here.

They are seriously the most interesting, amusing and educational reads. I found it absolutely intriguing to read about how people ran their kitchens and households in those old days. I also picked up some really useful tips and recipe ideas in them.

A couple I finished recently include…

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Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six
Don’t take the 25 cents literally. After all this book was published in 1878. But I did some quick research and learnt that 25 cents (in the US) is actually equivalent to $5 in today’s terms. Feeding a whole family for $5! Sounds like it could beat Curtin Stone and his Feed Your Family for Under $10, eh? Well five dollars might be a bit of a stretch in today’s reality, but there’s certainly some gist to the concept.

Here is one amusing excerpt I found which actually does make sense at some level…

If you will reflect on the reasons I give in the next chapter for boiling food, instead of roasting or baking it, you will learn two important lessons in economy, namely: that boiling saves at least one fourth the volume of food, and that the broth which is produced, when properly managed, always gives the foundation for another meal. You should always bear in mind that the object of cooking is to soften and disintegrate food, so that it can be easily masticated; and to expand it, so as to present a large surface to the action of the digestive organs.

And one clever tip I picked up…

Lemon and Orange Tincture – Never throw away lemon or orange peel; cut the yellow outside off carefully, and put it into a tightly corked bottle with enough alcohol to cover it. Let it stand until the alcohol is a bright yellow, then pour it off, bottle it tight, and use it for flavoring when you make rice pudding. Add lemon and alcohol as often as you have it, and you will always have a nice flavoring.

Foods That Will Win The War and How to Cook Them
This was such an intriguing window into what life was like during those tough war days. Especially with all the rationing and cost cutting measures the US government enforced on it’s people. But the recipes and tips in this book showed how people really tried to make the best of things back then. Great insight into people’s resilience and creativity and evidence of the truth in the saying “necessity is indeed the mother of invention

Some amusing and intriguing excerpts…

A slice of bread seems an unimportant thing. Yet one good-sized slice of bread weighs an ounce. It contains almost three-fourths of an ounce of flour. If every one of the country's 20,000,000 homes wastes on the average only one such slice of bread a day, the country is throwing away daily over 14,000,000 ounces of flour--over 875,000 pounds, or enough flour for over a million one-pound loaves a day. For a full year at this rate there would be a waste of over 319,000,000 pounds of flour--1,500,000 barrels--enough flour to make 365,000,000 loaves

So the housekeeper who goes to her task of training the family palate to accept meat substitutes and meat economy dishes, who revolutionizes her methods of cooking so as to utilize even "the pig's squeak," will be doing her bit toward making the world safe for democracy.

Elimination of food waste is to-day a patriotic service. It is also a most effective method of solving our food problem. This country, like all the powers at war, will undoubtedly be called upon to face increasing prices so long as the war continues, and waste in any form is not only needless squandering of the family income, but failure in devotion to a great cause.

Of our men we ask their lives; Of ourselves, a little less food.

I am presently reading The American Frugal Housewife. Who needs to pay $50 for some celebrity chef cookbook when you can get all these for free! ^_^

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