February 28, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 5

Breakfast: Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Baked Apples, Whole Wheat Gem.

I figured there was no more appropriate way to end my week of Kellogg's food than with a bowl brimming full of Corn Flakes. Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, are the ones who the invented the technique for crisping rice and corn into Breakfast cereal, and thereby creating a whole new industry.

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I pared and cored two apples and then, because I wasn't paying careful attention to the directions, sliced them up as well. They should be baked whole. I put the slices in a baking dish and squeezed a little lemon over top. I used brown sugar in my syrup.

I baked the apples at 450 for about 30 minutes, let them cool, then scooped them out into a bowl. I drizzled them with cream and ate them up, although I think this dish could have been greatly improved with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Dinner: Corn Roast and Baked Sweet Potato.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to have lunch today. I out and about in the middle of the day and well, it just didn't happen. So I had an early dinner instead.

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The corn roast was quite good, I would say the best dinner entree I've had all week. I halved this recipe and used frozen corn; it was moist and tender when it came out of the oven, so I decided not to serve it with a sauce. It was similar to corn pudding, and I easily devoured the whole dish. However, I don't think I'll be serving it at my final dinner party: although i liked this dish the best, Rice a la Carolina was the most interesting, and the most appropriate to the time period.

The baked sweet potato was also an A+.

Corn Roast. It looked exactly the same several hours later.

February 27, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 4

Rice a la Carolina

Breakfast: Potato Cakes, Banana, Whole Wheat Gem.

For this recipe, you are just supposed to form mashed potatoes into patties and fry them in butter. I used left over mashed sweet potatoes from the night before. They didn't turn out very well, I think my potatoes were not firm enough to make a satisfactory cake. They came out like regular mashed potatoes, with some burned parts.

Lunch: Egg Sandwich

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This recipe is pretty straight forward; I added some fresh cracked pepper. I also used the whole egg--why let it go to waste? It was an enjoyable lunch, the lemon juice lended a nice, fresh flavor to the eggs. It's been awhile since I've had and egg salad sandwich.

Dinner: Rice a la Carolina and Asparagus

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I wanted to attempt Rice a la Caroline because it is mentioned frequently in the book, The Road to Wellville, so I can only assume it was a San favorite. It's a layered dish, and one of the layers is supposed to be a layer of Protose. But, considering my experiences with homemade Protose, I decided to do what a housewife a 100 years ago would do: I went to the store and picked up a manufactured meat substitute.

I don't spend much time in the faux-meat department, so I shopped around a bit, looking for something that had ingredients and a flavour profile similar to Protose. Many modern vegetarian meats are made with similar ingredients: soy, wheat gluten, nuts. On a package of "chicken" tenders contained "ancient grains." oooo. In the end, I settled on a baggie called Smart BBQ, with shredded vegetable protein in a BBQ sauce. The chile sauce I made the other day was similar to a BBQ, and I thought the shredded veggie protein would be easy to spread.

I cut the potatoes into thin slices, like scalloped potatoes, and pre-cooked them for 2 minutes on high in the microwave. I added the onions, butter, and I was out of sage so I used l'herbs du provence. I then spread the layer of Smart BBQ. The rice I cooked in the microwave, and mixed with about a tablespoon of tomato paste. I didn't have hard boiled eggs, I ate the last of them for lunch, so instead I sprinkled the surface with breadcrumbs. I topped to whole thing off with a drizzle of heavy cream, and baked it at 475 for 15 minutes.

This really didn't taste bad--I ate the whole thing. The top got very creamy, almost cheese like, and the potato-onion bottom layer was especially good. I also liked that it was an individual portion as opposed to a casserole. It seemed daintier, more refined, and it didn't look like someone puked on my plate. This is a serious contender for the main course of my dinner party, but I also have high hopes for the Corn Roast I'm cooking Friday.

February 26, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 3

(Image: vintage Rice Krispie boxes from the Michigan Historical Museum.)

Breakfast: Toasted Rice Flakes, Grapefruit.

In the modern parlance, Toasted Rice Flakes are in fact Rice Krispies. Oddly enough, sitting down to my Snap, Crackle, and Pop, it was the first time during this experiment that I felt like connected to history. With every crunchy bite of this continually popular modern cereal made me think of the fashionable patients of The San, and the subsequent breakfast cereal craze that swept the nation. Thanks, Kellogg. Your cereals are delicious.

Lunch: Green Lima Bean Toast, Banana.

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I wasn't crazy about my Lima Bean Toast. It was like complicated adult baby food. I used frozen beans that I cooked in the microwave, then made a paste by whirling it in my food processor. I made the "white sauce," which is just a bechamel, and mixed the whole mess together. I spread it on some dry toast and ate it. I was unimpressed--maybe this is some Victorian mode of eating that is better left in the past.

Dinner: Macaroni Au Gratin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Fresh Spinach and The Queen of Puddings.

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Well, it's Wednesday, and Wednesday means Lost and Top Chef. So tonight turned into an impromptu debut dinner party with the arrival of my boyfriend and two friends. And it went well--very well.

Everything in the meal was devoured. DEVOURED. The Macaroni I made essentially to the recipe; I threw some red pepper flakes into the water that macaroni boiled in (a trick from half a century earlier). I also added a cup of cottage cheese to the sauce, because I worried it wouldn't be cheesy enough for my guests. I sprinkled a bit of additional melted cheese on top, and sprinkled with some lightly seasoned bread crumbs. It turned out very, very well; and the entire casserole was stuffed into tummys.. But you really can't go wrong with mac and cheese.

The mashed sweet potatoes I prepared as one does a regular potatoes, with about a quarter stick of butter and a healthy helping of cream. They were amazing. I've been thinking for awhile now that sweet potatoes need to be a bigger part of my life. The spinach was simple, fresh spinach from bag, with a dressing made of vinegar, oil, and brown mustard.

But then, my crowing achievement: The Queen of Puddings.

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This is a recipe I was testing to go on the Dinner menu next month, and it turned out wonderfully. I made it more like a bread pudding--instead of using bread crumbs, I cubed some slightly stale bread and soaked it in the milk (and a little cream for good measure). Next I mixed in the eggs, sugar, and vanilla (a little cinnamon would not hurt, either). I put it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

In the meantime, I decided to make a fruit sauce from scratch. I sliced up some left over pineapple, and put it in a skillet with sugar, water, and a dab of water. I let it simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the pineapple was soft and the liquid had reduced.

The bread pudding came out of the over, and I poured the pineapple over top. Now for the crown!! I whipped three egg whites in my mixer until stiff peaks formed, then stirred in three tablespoons of super fine sugar. I used a spatula to spread the meringue on top of the bread pudding, and put it back into the oven at 325 degrees for 20-30. It came out IMPRESSIVE. I served it warm, contrary to the recipe's suggestion.


This entire dish of the Queens of Puddings was eaten, and I was showered with compliments about my culinary abilities. My non-history-nerd friends sincerely enjoyed this meal. It gave me great hope for the upcoming dinner party in March. I was worried about Kellogg's "health food" being unappealing to a larger audience; but I also imagined there must have been a reason it so sought after a century ago.

P.S.--due to a busy schedule this week, I've had to write these posts fairly late at night. It has occurred to me that they may be sheer nonsense; the ramblings of a woman in a heavy cream drenched delirium. Just bare with me for two more days.

February 25, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 2

Eggs Baked in Cream, I love thee.

Breakfast: Egg Baked in Cream, Whole Wheat Gem, and an Orange.

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As I was preparing my baked eggs in cream, I suddenly remembered another reference to this recipe in the book Julie & Julia, the story of a woman who cooks every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was a favorite dish of the book's author, and she had referred to it as the perfect hangover cure. I looked up Mrs. Child's recipe for Oeufs en Cocotte, which was slightly more refined than the one I made. She recommends heating the cream first, then dropping the eggs in, and covering it with more cream and a little butter before putting them in the oven. It's important to set the egg dish in water, "otherwise the intense heat of the over toughens the outside layers of egg before the inside has cooked...The eggs are done when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins."

Child recommends cooking them 7-10 minutes at 375 degrees. I left my eggs in a little long and they got over cooked (the yolk was not as runny as I would have liked) but still tasted AWESOME. When it came out of the oven, I garnished it with more salt and some fresh cracked pepper. The cream and the egg white melded together, and become something that transcended a mere egg to taste like the most creamy egg-like thing in existence. I sopped up the creamy-egg-goo with my whole wheat gem, and slurped the rest off a spoon. After finishing the meal with a perfectly ripe orange, I decided that this might have been the best breakfast EVER.

Lunch: Scalloped Potatoes, String Beans, and Cottage Cheese.

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The scalloped potatoes were another huge success: the combination of the onions and the milk gave the potatoes an addictive, sweet flavor, and the butter tied everything together. I was literally licking the bottom of my bowl. I would definitely make this again. Hell, I'd take it to a potluck!

The beans I simply blanched and salted, and the cottage cheese came from a regular old Breakstone's container.

Dinner: Walnut Roast with Chile Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Radishes.

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My second night of making meatless meat was slightly better than the first. I halved this recipe and I used a seasoned bread crumb. It is important to let it sit in the cream and milk for at least 10 minutes. It coagulates into a surprisingly thick goop. When it came out of the oven (40 minutes at 375 degrees) it poofs up on top and looks all brown and yummy. For the chili sauce, I used tomato paste and thinned with a little water in place of "condensed tomatoes." It was actually good, just a bit strong. I could have thinned it out a little more. Combined with the Walnut Roast...well, it was okay. I ate about half, but it was kind of intense and weird. I don't think we have a winner yet.

The were no cooking suggested in Ms. Cooper's book for mashed potatoes, so I made them the classic way, with some butter and a shot of cream. Ditto with the radishes. I ate them in the French fashion, smeared with butter and sprinkled with salt. The fat cuts the tart bite of the radish, and it's very tastey.

Walnut Roast. It would be nice to eat a dinner that doesn't look like kitty catfood barf.

On day two, I have to say that these meals are consistently well rounded. Produce plus a starch plus a protein keep me full and give me energy. And my bowels are immaculate!

February 24, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 1: Lunch and Dinner

Asparagus Tips on Toast

Lunch: Asparagus Tips on Toast, Baked Potato, Yogurt

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The asparagus was a perfect little snack. I prepared it a little differently than the original recipe: I threw some butter in a skillet, put a slice of bread in there to toast it grilled-cheese style, and nestled the asparagus along side, with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper. Bread toasted, asparagus bright green and ready, I stacked them up and poured the butter left in the skillet over top. It was tasty: the buttery, crunchy sweetness of the bread with the slight bitter bite of the asparagus: yum. I'll be serving this at the dinner party, but with a hollandaise to kick it up a notch.

I rounded out the meal with a baked potato and a vanilla yogurt for desert--nothing special, store bought. I did not make my yogurt from scratch. It was a well-portioned, delicious meal.

Dinner: Protose Steak and Baked Eggplant.

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My first mistake: for some reason, I decided I did not need to follow the given instructions for baked eggplant. Victorians are notorious for over-boiling their veggies, so I assumed I didn't need to pre-cook the eggplant. I didn't, and it was still pretty raw when I took it out the oven. I'm going to try this recipe again, and follow directions.

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Next, I took the Protose out of the fridge (for more on how I made it, check here). It was surprising firm after mellowing a day in the cold. I threw a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and began to brown some onions. After a minute or so, I sliced the protose and set that in the skillet to brown. After it was brown on both sides, I added a little flour and cream to make a sauce with the onions.

The result? It tasted like peanut butter. I didn't spit it out, I ate it, but it was not..."good." It will not be appearing on my Banquet menu in March.

My protose sizzles in a skillet with onions.

Kellogg originally developed meat-like products to lure plump turn-of-the-century millionaires to his diet and his Sanitarium. This is where I feel his cuisine, and all vegetarian cuisine begins to go wrong. I love vegetarian cuisine. Flavourful beans, grains and vegetables--delicious! However, I think it should stand alone and not try to reproduce the taste and mouth feel of meat. It's always either disgusting or disappointing; and if you're a vegetarian, why would you want to feel like you're eating meat anyway?

Overall, it was a pretty good day. The food was better than tolerable, and in a few cases lovely. However, I think I ate about a half a stick of butter, which is more butter than I've consumed in about the last 6 months. I feel greasy.

February 23, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 1: Breakfast

Whole wheat gems.

For the next five days, I'm going to be immersing myself in the food of John Harvey Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium. All of the meals I've planned and the recipes I will be using come from The New Cookery be Lenna Francis Cooper (1914), who was at one time the head dietitian at Battle Creek.

Whole Wheat Gems, Hashed Brown Potatoes, Pineapple, and Tea.

Although I work from home, I don't ordinarily bounce out of bed and fix myself a hearty breakfast. It ended up not taking that much time, and it felt like it could be a pleasant ritual. It also felt good to sit down to my first biologic meal. I can feel my intestines being cleansed already!

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To make whole wheat gems, replace the grahams flour in the recipe with 1 cup whole wheat flour. A gem tin is essentially a cast-iron mini muffin pan, which, when greasy and hot, makes the gems extra crispy. I didn't have a gem pan, so I made these into drop biscuits by adding a 1/4 cup less milk. I baked them for 9 minutes in a 450 degree oven. They didn't take much time to mix up, and came out cute as buttons. They tasted alright--the sweetness was pleasing, but you could really taste the whole-granieness. I think they will be better tomorrow toasted and smeared with jelly.

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The hashed browned potatoes were the most difficult thing I made this morning. I only used one potatoes, and cut it into cubes. I originally baked them in a pan lined in tin foil, but when I took them out after 10 minutes they were sticking, and the brown crispy parts were tearing off. So I plucked them off the pan, burning my finger badly in the process, and dropped them into a non-stick skillet. I added the milk and popped them back into the oven, stirring after an additional five minutes. All in all, they cooked about 18 minutes. The potatoes mostly absorbed the milk, and there was also this crispy milk skin. They were pretty tasty, but I don't think you can go very wrong with potatoes, salt and butter.

I also cut up a fresh, sweet, heavenly pineapple and had a mug of herbal tea. Kellogg forbade caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco at the San; a few rules which we will ignore at the dinner party next month.

History Dish Mondays: Protose

So the big week is finally here: I've decided to spend the next five days immersing myself in the diet of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and John Harvey Kellogg. I'm not sure what to tell you to expect--either the delightful world of vegetarian cuisine, or another week of torture comparable to the Tenement Diet.

Protose is one of J. H. Kellog's invented meat substitutes. I currently have it on my menu for the Dinner on the Road to Wellville party in March. I'm skeptical that it's not horrible, so I want to give it a try in advance, so that i have time to come up with a suitable replacement, if necessary.

Protose was manufactured by the Kellogg/Worthington company until about 2000; since it was discontinued, there seems to be an online group of hard-core vegans trying to recreated it's special taste and texture. While searching for a suitable recipe, I came across this fascinating recollection of one man's experience with the cuisine of J.H, Kellogg:

"Protose. What does that conjure up for me?

You'd never guess.
The three most trusted people that Dr. J.H. Kellogg had working for him were three unmarried sisters: Gertrude, his chief administrator and executor of his will; Angie his chief dietitians; and Mable his chief nurse and the one person who accompanied Kellogg to Ontario to attend the Dion quintuplets.

By the mid-1950's, the doctor long dead, the three unmarried sisters now running the Sanitarium in Miami Springs would spend the summers back up in Battle Creek at their farm in the country.

My grandfather was the brother to these three sisters and, dying young, my own father was raised by the sisters and Dr. Kellogg.

During the summers we would visit them three or four times for a weekend and invariably one of the meals was the most delicious "roast" made out of Protose. Once you've had it, especially the way they prepared it, you were hooked."

I can't confirm whether the story is true, but fascinating none the less.
After further research, I came up with this recipe:


Original Recipe from a post on Vegan Food
With variations suggested by Chowhound.com and Ellen's Kitchen

1/2 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
1 cup wheat gluten (seitan)
1 c vegetable stock
2 T cornstarch
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 tsp Italian herb blend
Pinch of salt

Steam in top of a double boiler for three hours, stirring occasionally. Let cool in the pan, turn out on platter and slice.


Seitan, if you were wondering, is a vegan food product invented by Buddhist monks in China. You take wheat dough and wash it under water until nothing remains but the starch. It's very high in protein, but it also looks like this:

I tasted a tiny bit of it out of the bag. It had a bizarre taste I wasn't expecting: like burnt maple syrup. Very unappealing.

I buzzed the seitan in a food processor and mixed it up with all the other ingredients. I found out I didn't have corn starch, so I ended using flour instead. I used McCormick's Italian Herb Grinder for the seasoning. I took a tiny taste of the mixed ingredients and it tasted like...peanut butter with Italian seasoning.

I set it on a double boiler, and it looked done after about two hours. I flipped it out of the mold and it looked pretty unappealing. I'm preparing it in a dish for dinner today, so we'll see how that goes. But I have a feeling I'm going to end up taking this one off the menu.

February 21, 2009

Martha Washington's Great Cake

In honor of our first president's birthday, I wanted to share the recipe for Martha Washington's infamous big-ass cake.

From the Mount Vernon website, Mrs. Washington's Original Recipe:

"Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.

Notes on making Martha Washington's Great Cake:

In making the great cake, Mount Vernon's curatorial staff followed Mrs. Washington's recipe almost exactly. Where the recipe called for 5 pounds of fruit, without specifying which ones, 2 pounds of raisins, 1 pound of currants, and 2 pounds of apples were used. The wine used was cream sherry. Since no pan large enough was available to hold all the batter, two 14 layers were made and stacked (note: the original was one single tall layer). The layers were baked in a 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Should be iced with a very stiff egg-white based icing, flavored with rosewater or orange-flower water."

And in the spirit of the Month of Presidents, and the ongoing celebration of Lincoln's 200th birthday, Dj Bryan sent me this post on What about the plastic animals? about Mary Todd Lincoln's White Almond Cake:

"The Lincoln Home National Historic Site has the recipe, which I assumed was authentic. It turned out well. The recipe called for six whipped egg whites to be folded into the batter. That made the cake fairly light, but still denser than an angel food cake...

Another recipe still has me scratching my head. And I quote: 'Because I love a challenge, I took this recipe home and made Mary Todd Lincoln's cake. Even with today's modern technology, the process was slow going. In all, it took about four hours to cream the butter, whip the egg whites, chop the almonds and get it all mixed and baked. I used a mixer and a mini chopper...'

Four hours? Discount the baking time and there's still three hours left. What task could have possibly taken three hours? I don't mean to brag but it took me all of 15-20 minutes using an electric hand mixer, a mini food processor, and a large wooden spoon. Did she shell, peel and blanch the almonds? Were the almonds chopped one at a time? Did she forget to mention that she has no arms? I am baffled."

Me too. Happy Birthday, Presidents!

February 20, 2009

A Shout-Out to Lenell

I wanted to make mention that Lenell's, my favorite liquor store in New York, is closing today. She wants to reopen in a new location sometime soon, and I hope she does. She's the best supplier for hard-to-find historic cocktail ingredients, including an unparalleled selection of bitters, Absinthe, Old Tom Gin, and peach brandy for making traditional Mint Juleps.

Read the full story here: Last Call: It’s closing time for Red Hook’s cocktail rock star—for now

Come back soon, Lenell.

February 18, 2009

Have You Ever Wanted to Learn Hearth Cooking?

Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum set in the 1830's, is offering a program called Dinner in a Country Village:
"Enjoy a unique opportunity to prepare and eat a meal the way early New Englanders did. The Parsonage is the setting for this cold-weather Saturday-night program, where costumed interpreters oversee the preparations, but the guests do the roasting, baking, and mulling. Participants roast meat using a tin reflector oven, fire a brick bake oven, and mull spiced cider over the hearth before sitting down to enjoy the results, all by candlelight."
If you'd like to learn how to prepare Pounded Cheese and Scots Collops, sign up on the OSV website. The class, plus dinner, costs $85 per person.
If you're in New York, Dr. Alice Ross, who holds her PHD in culinary history, offers classes at her Long Island Home. She explores the entire gamut of hearth cookery from Ancient Babylon, to Medieval Europe, to basic hearth techniques for American cookery. She'll also teach you how to butcher, Check here for the full class schedule, which cost $400 for one session.

February 15, 2009

History Dish Mondays: Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer, not so clear.

I was inspired to try this recipe after Zaite sent me a simple brewing recipe from Alton Brown, that reminded me of the daily home brewing that was common in the 18th and early 19th century America. For families, it was an important source of clean water and nutrients; home brewing seemed to be less common after the temperance movement started to take hold in the 1840s.


Ginger Beer
Original recipe from The House Servent's Directory by Robert Roberts.
Modern recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

1 tablespoon powdered ginger; or 1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
7 1/2 cups filtered water
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the ginger, sugar, cream of tartar and 1/2 cup of the water into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

If you use fresh ginger, remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour. Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture.

If you use ground ginger, remove from heat and add remaining water and lemon juice; set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast. The bottle will not be filled to the top--this is necessary to leave room for the yeast to expel gas, carbonating the drink.

Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

You can also try this recipe with molasses for an "Excellent Jumble Beer."


When I opened the bottle after two days, it foamed up a lot. Enough that I had to hold it over the sink. I poured a little tasting glass, and it had all kinds of floaties in it. I don't know if it was the yeast, of grains of ground ginger that got kicked up from the bottom when it was opened. It tasted alright: a little zingy, a little citrus, a little yeasty.. I put the rest in the refrigerator to mellow for a few more days.

I found the longer it sat, the better it tasted. A week later, it's sweet and smooth, and still carbonated. For you home brewing guys out there, I'd love to find out what the alcoholic content is. And if you live in NYC, I still have some left if you'd like to taste it.

Rating: A
This recipe is simple, and an easy introduction to the world of home brewing.

Oh, and P.S.: If you've been following the Spruce Beer Saga, there's been a tragedy:

"With the sudden change in weather over here in Cleveland a drastic and sudden change has occurred with the Spruce beer. With a sudden drop in pressure a bottle has exploded! Inspection of the other bottles showed excessive pressurization and further investigation showed evidence of a Gusher infection. Little Bacteria were fermenting everything in site and leaving only chaos and terrible flavors in their wake. The cause of the infection hasn’t been determined yet. It seems like the product was ok through fermentation. But it’s unknown yet if it picked up it’s bugs during bottling."

February 10, 2009

Eating Offal at Þorrablót

My buddies in Iceland are experiecing the festival of Porrablot, a feast of traditional and historic Iclelandic food. It features all kinds of cured meats and offal, many of which are at least partially putrified. The feast includes Hrútspungur (cured ram's testicles), and Hákarl (fermented shark). According to my sources, the shark tastes like cat pee.

To learn more, head over to Ameriskur.

February 9, 2009

History Dish Mondays: Pain Perdu

Pain Perdu, made with hoo doo.

I had a few slices of Cider Cake left over from last week, so I decided to put it to good use in this recipe for Pain Perdu, or "lost bread." It's a Creole favorite similar to french toast.
The source for the modern recipe noted that Pain Perdu was originally flavored with orange flower water, an alcohol based floral flavoring popular in the 19th century. I didn't have orange flower water, but I did have Florida Water, another 19th century flavouring/perfume with notes of orange flower, lavender, and clove.
According to Florida Water website, it can also be used to treat "Jangled Nerves," and for "Boudoir Daintiness." It's also used for hoo doo. Who knew. (read more.)
I found Florida Water at my local pharmacy, but you can sometimes find it in the Goya food aisle in the grocery store. Orange flower water can be found in the baking section of some grocery stores, or at Middle Eastern food markets.

Pain Perdu
Modern recipe adapted from The American Heritage Cookbook.
Dash Orange Flower Water or Florida Water
2 eggs
1 tbsp confectioner's sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cups milk
Grated rind of half a lemon
6 slices of "not too fresh" bread; I used left over apple bread.
Combine ingredients and beat thoroughly. Dip slices of bread in the mixture, then fry in plenty of heated butter until crisp and golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately with maple syrup, honey, or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.


This was pretty bad. I made a few slices without the Florida Water first, and they were pretty gooshy, but somehow also dry. Maybe it would have been better with regular bread, but I'm not so sure. After the Florida Water was added, it tasted like--surprise--perfume. I drowned it in maple syrup, but it didn't do much good. I expected the lemon zest to perk it up with a citrus zing, but no. Not really.

Rating: C+ I would stick to a modern french toast recipe.

February 6, 2009

Apple Rosewater Tart

Ever been curious about the image at the top of this blog? It's an apple-rosewater tart, a recipe that originally debuted during my thesis project. I recently received an email from one of my college professors that got me thinking about this recipe again. He said:
"I can't seem to make an apple pie any more without using your Riesling wine and rosewater recipe. Actually, sometimes I use orangeblossom water, a suggestion of the Arabic grocery store where I get the rosewater."
It tastes divine.
Apple Rosewater Tart
Based on American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons
2 1/2 lbs. Apples,
2 tablespoon Rosewater
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2/3 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Riesling white wine
1 tbls. orange juice
1 tablespoon + 1tsp cornstarch

Crust recipe of your choice
1. Prepare crust
2. Slice apples and mix with sugar, cinnamon, orange juice and rosewater.
3. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add apples, wine and cornstarch. Saute until apples begin to sizzle, then about five minutes more. They will be just tender, but still fairly firm. Let cool.
4. Line tart pans with crust. Pour filling into crust.
5. Bake in an oven at 400 until crust edges are golden brown.

February 3, 2009

Dinner on the Road to Wellville

I'm re-reading The Road to Wellville, a historic novel (and movie) based on the life of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. I would credit Kellogg with launching vegetarianism into popular culture. While there had been American vegetarian advocates before him (like Dr. Graham of Oberlin college, inventor of the cracker by the same name) Kellogg's health spa, The Battle Creek Sanitarium, made it fashionable. "The San," as it was nicknamed, was frequented by the wealthy and famous. It treated all your ills with "scientific living" and "biologic eating."

What appeals to me about Kellogg's food is it's combination of the cream-and-butter French cuisine that was so popular at the turn of the century; early vegetarianism; and the foundations of the modern American diet.
Although many of Kellogg's ideas were bunk (and a few even dangerous, like radium treatments) many of them still hold up. Kellogg's diet focuses on fruits and vegetable, whole grains, and replacing proteins lost by excluding meat. He invented the breakfast cereal, launched peanut butter into the mainstream, and introduced "exotic" foods like yogurt and seaweed to America. He invented meat substitutes like Protose, which were not dissimilar from the black bean burgers and tofu hot dogs of today.
It was all a huge departure from the eating habits of the day. But Kellogg was also working around the same time as the release of The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's expose on the meat packing industry in Chicago. In a time before the FDA, it may have not been such a bad idea to eat vegetarian. Sinclair and his wife frequented the San themselves.
After reading about Kellogg's food, I became curious to try it. I tracked down a cookbook of recipes from the Battle Creek Sanitarium, The New Cookery by Lenna Frances Cooper (available in its entirety online) and I'm planning a dinner party in March. The menu will be as follows:

Salpicon of Fruits
Manhattan Soup
Toast Sqaures
Hors D'oeuvres
Radishes with Butter
Toasted Pine Nuts
Protose Roast
Baked Eggplant
Buttered Cauliflower
Potatoes a la Maitre d'Hotel
Asparagus Tips on Toast
Hollandaise Sauce
Pineapple Sherbert
Apple and Celery Salad
The Queen of Puddings
Assorted Fruits
Neufchatel Cheese on Wafers

However, I don't know if this single event would do Kellogg's diet justice. He promoted it as a way of life, not just limited to the walls of his Sanitarium, that would "exonerate the bowels" and flush the poisons from your system.

So I've been considering immersing myself in his diet for a week, to see if my bowels exonerate. What do you think?

February 2, 2009

History Dish Mondays: Cider Cake

I'm launching a new feature: Each week, I'm going to test a historic recipe. Check in on Mondays to see the results.

This week, Cider Cake. It is fast and easy to mix up and a delicious snack or breakfast. The ingredients are simple, so prep is a breeze.

Cider Cake
Original recipe from The Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child; modern recipe is adapted from The Old Sturbridge Village cookbook.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar (refined, unrefined or maple. I used regular white shug)
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour, baking powder, and spices; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour mixture and cider alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Scrape bowl and mix until combined. Pour into a loaf pan and sprinkle top with sugar. Bake 50-55 minutes.


Although I used fresh apple cider, this recipe can also be made with hard cider. It's actually more historically accurate; I think I'll try it sometime in the near future, I'm curious how it alters the taste. Additionally, Childs says to "spice to your taste." For the era that this recipe is from, that would usually mean some combination of nutmeg, ginger, and possibly mace. I used cinnamon, not popular in the first half of the 19th century, because I like it best.

When I mixed up the cake and I added the cider, the batter really blossomed with a delicious apple-y smell. I put it into a loaf pan and sprinkled the top with some sugar to give it a nice, sweet, crust. I baked about 50 minutes in a 350 oven, and turned it halfway through.

The cake came out lighter in color than I expected; the level of sweetness and texture reminded me very much of a zucchini or banana bread. I think this recipe could be made even more delicious with the addition of some sliced apples or nuts.

Rating: A
I would make this again.

February 1, 2009

Diamond Jim Brady, World Famous Glutton

The New York Times recently published an article debunking the gastronomic capabilities of "Diamond" Jim Brady, an entrepreneur and hearty eater from around the turn of the century.

Legend has it that Diamond Jim would down: "...a hefty breakfast of eggs, breads, muffins, grits, pancakes, steaks, chops, fried potatoes, and pitchers of orange juice. He’d stave off mid-morning hunger by downing two or three dozen clams or oysters, then repair to Delmonico’s or Rector’s for a lunch that consisted of more oysters and clams, lobsters, crabs, a joint of beef, pie, and more orange juice."

For dinner: "Three dozen oysters a dozen crabs, six or seven lobsters, terrapin soup,” and a steak, with a dessert of “a tray full of pastries... and two pounds of bonbons.” Later in the evening, allegedly, came an après-theater supper of “a few game birds and more orange juice.””

The times test the legitimacy of Jim's tall tale, but also has this to add:

"Indeed, who among us, especially at this time of year, doesn’t fantasize about simply letting go as Brady did, eating every rich thing set before us, impervious to guilt, health consequences or vanity? “I’d be obscenely fat, yes,” one thinks, “but I’d be celebratedly obscenely fat.”'