July 31, 2009

The Gallery: The Bride of To-day who To-morrow will be a Hostess

"A treasure chest of Wallace Silver!" from the Wallace Hostess Book by Winnifred S. Jales, published 1920.

I also dig this Maggie Gyllenhaal lookin chickie from the cover.

July 29, 2009

Urban Chickens

Continuing with a chicken theme this week, I read this in National Geographic:
In 19th-century Manhattan, hogs roamed the streets and cattle grazed in public parks. Today, chickens are the urban livestock of choice, and not just in New York. City dwellers across the U.S. are adding hens to their yards and gardens, garnering fresh eggs, fertilizer, and community ties, with localities debating and updating their ordinances accordingly.

Urban chickens fell out of favor in the last century because of industrialization and other factors. In the 1990s, though, they enjoyed a renaissance in the local-food-loving Pacific Northwest. The current recession and farm-to-table movement have taken the trend further still. “Just get a few chickens and you can feed yourself,” says AbuTalib of the Bronx’s Taqwa Community Farm. “He who controls your breadbasket controls your destiny."

I recently read about Urban Chicken raising on Not Eating Out in New York; the author took a class on chicken raising at the New York Botanical Gardens, in the Bronx.

I think I would be a happier New Yorker if I had a little backyard inhabited by hens.

Me, as a teen, with my pet rooster.

July 26, 2009

Cornell Chicken

The other day, I was at the New York Slow Food Cook-Off in beautiful Long Island City. There, Rub chef Scottie Smith spun me a yarn about the Cornell Chicken:
"As far as I know, it's New York State's only native Barbecue; and it originates from Cornell University, hence the name. In the 1950's, there was a surplus of chicken. So the USDA tasked Cornell University to find a way to use the surplus of chicken. So professor Bob Baker actually came up with the recipe, and just released it in the newspapers and everything and people used up all the chicken.

And then Bob Baker ended up taking that recipe, and making millions of dollars at the New York State Fair every year, and you can still get Bob Baker's Chicken up at the state fair every year.

...It's just a marinade of eggs, vegetable oil, cider vinegar, poultry seasoning, a little salt and pepper. It's pretty simple but it really brings out a lot in the chicken. Tastes pretty good once it's been grilled up."

Dr. Baker also invented the chicken nugget. He "published his chicken nugget recipe in the 1950s as unpatented academic work, while McDonald's patented its recipe for Chicken McNuggets in 1979 and started selling the product in 1980 (wikipedia)." I have been unable to find the original nugget recipe on the internets.

Watch the video below to learn all you'll ever want to know about Cornell Chicken. The original recipe is below, released by Cornell after Baker's death in 2006. It's a simple sauce, but it seems to be a real winner.

Cornell Chicken
Cornell University, The Cornell Daily Sun

1 cup cooking oil
1 pint cider vinegar
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg

Beat the egg, then add oil and beat again. Add other ingredients, then stir. The recipe can be varied to suit individual tastes. Makes enough for 10 chicken halves. Leftover sauce can be stored in a glass jar and stored in a refrigerator for several weeks.

Baker suggests that to cook chicken broilers, you need a hot, non-flaming fire. Broilers should be placed over the cooking fire after the flames are gone. Use this barbecue sauce as a basting material, he suggests. During cooking, the sauce should be brushed on the chicken every few minutes.


July 24, 2009

Apocalypse House

There's a new show running on Discover called "The Colony."

"The series, which throws together 10 people to survive holed up in a warehouse after a simulated epidemic has destroyed civilization, chooses a group of people whose skills and knowledge would have special use in this Road Warrior world. There are engineers, a nurse, a machinist, a handyman, a doctor.

To help simulate the stress of the experience, the participants start off by being sleep-deprived for 30 hours. Then cabin fever—plus deprivation from coffee, cigarettes, booze and other comforts—kicks in. Many reality shows—say, Big Brother—give participants alcohol and other indulgences to get them to act out. The Colony tries to accomplish this by taking things away. (TIME Magazine)"

The premise of this show reminded me of a reality series that used to play on PBS featuring modern people trying to live like early settlers: Colonial house, for example, focused on the difficulties of establishing a colony at Plymouth. I'm intrigued, because it seems like the denizens of our future apocolyptic world are going to have to deal with a lot of the same issues that our first colonists did.

And also zombies.

The Colony plays Tuesday nights at 10 on the Discovery Channel.

July 21, 2009

An Apology and Some Questions

Hello Everyone,

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting as much recently; I've certainly noticed, at least. The reason is this: unfortunately, the recession has hit me particularly hard this month, and I have not had the finances that cook much more than mac and cheese and rice and beans.

That being said, I hope to be able to resume with my adventures soon. Which brings me to my questions. Now that there is a readership out there, I'm curious: what do you think so far? What have you enjoyed the most? What type of posts would you like to see more of in the future? Do you have any burning culinary questions that you would like answered? Or is there a part of history that you've always been curious about, that you would like to see explored on the blog? What have you been working on recently?

Please take the time to answer--cooking is about community, and I would like this to be a forum for all of us.

Most Sincerely,


P.S. - One more question: does anyone have a cow in the new york area that I can milk? I had this idea for a short film on 'super slow food.' I want to make bread and butter completely from scratch, including culturing the yeast and pulling on some cow teets.

July 17, 2009

A Moldavian Import

Whilst doing my research on American citron, I went to a grocery store that I seldom frequent, and happened across these jars of pickled watermelon rind. I have never seen (or perhaps never noticed?) a commercially available watermelon pickle. These were imported from Moldavia.

July 15, 2009

The Gallery: Vintage Historic Williamsburg

Kitchen of Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia from "15 Post Cards of Historic Williamsburg," an undated souvenir set.

Interior of Chowning's Tavern, Williamsburg, Virginia. "Chowning's Tavern, reconstructed on its eighteenth-century foundations and furnished in early American antiques, dispense hospitality in the colonial manner, with authentically costumed servitors."

Tap Room of the Raleigh Tavern

July 10, 2009

The Pint Sized Farm

The history museum that gave birth to my 19th century obsessions is now home to a garden sponsored by the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Great Lakes is growing herbs and vegetables in its Cleveland restaurant, and for brewing beer.

From GLB: "Surrounded by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Hale Farm, which is operated by the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), functions as a 19th century agrarian and village community with strong educational emphasis on the history, culture and development of the Western Reserve. A fallow, historic orchard field, dubbed the "Pint Size Farm", has been transformed by GLBC into an edible, culinary landscape using centuries-old gardening techniques and modern organic agriculture including the use of spent brewer’s grain and worm castings as organic compost and fertilizer...A large area of the new plot is dedicated to growing "beer herbs" featured in GLBC’s saison Grassroots Ale and other pub exclusive beers."

Grassroots Ale is described as: "A fragrant saison blended with coriander, lemon balm, chamomile and lemon basil..."

Get a little taste of Hale Farm at the GLB company website.

July 8, 2009

Retronovated Recipes: The Frozen Mint Julep

I've concocted this recipe based on Jerry Thomas' "The Real Georgia Mint Julep Recipe." A winning combination of peach, mint and bourbon, the flavors blend together perfectly into a drink that's just the right amount of sweet. It is frosty, delicious, and boozey; which is really the only kind of drink I want this summer.

The Frozen Mint Julep
Inspired by The Read Georgia Mint Julep, by Jerry Thomas

1 pint Haagen-Daaz Peach Sorbet
1 handful fresh mint
6 oz Bourbon (or to taste)

Place all ingredients in a blender. Fill blender with ice. Blend until smooth. If the consistency is too think, add more ice. If it is not boozy enough, add more booze. Pour in glasses and enjoy.


July 6, 2009

History Dish Mondays: Little Citron Puddings

I did more research on the uses of American citron (see my previous post), and discovered it tended to be used in the same way as many candied fruits: in cakes (particular wedding cakes) and cookies. I came across the recipe for Little Citron Puddings, which seemed unique but not out of the ordinary, and relatively simple to make. I decided to give it a whirl.

The next day, I took a teacup of custard out of the fridge and gave it a taste. At first, I thought the citron didn't offer any flavor except gelatinous and sweet. But after trying a few bites of custard sans citron, I realized it really did add some depth of flavor that I couldn't quite put my finger on. The custard was a good consistency, the nutmeg delightful, and the tea-cup container pleasing and convenient. However, it just wasn't really...good. It lacked a certain something, and the texture of the citron was a tinch repulsive.

I'm thinking that American citron is one of those Victorian dishes I just can't get behind. But I'd be curious to try the same methods with a real citron, to see if it's more flavorful.

July 3, 2009

Serving the Servants

There was an interesting item in the New York Times about historic house museums shifting the focus from rich and famous occupants, to the servants that made these huge homes run.

The new servant's tour at the Breakers, a Vanderbilt estate, is "...accompanied by audio commentary from blunt, almost embittered retired servants and their children."

The article continues: "A former footman recalls spending entire days just polishing brass or waiting on tables while female dinner guests ignored him. As he stood holding out heavy trays of food, he explains on the audio narration, he would imagine taking revenge: 'You think about dropping the whole thing in her lap.'"

Anyone who has worked as a caterer in New York will agree that not much has changed.

Read the full article:

The Scullery Maid Behind the Brocade at Mansion Museums (NY Times)

July 1, 2009

The Gallery: I Know What Men Like

From Betty Crocker's Foods Men Like: Sure to Please Recipes for the Man in your Life, published 1970.