Learning to Cook and Proper Utensils

This is the third article in July of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on July 21, 1907, and is an educating article on cooking.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

Learning to Cook and Proper Utensils

A KNOWLEDGE of cookery does not come by nature, although many persons seem to think it does, if one may judge from the little trouble they take to prepare themselves for the work. Neither is it a “knack” that can be picked up at will and requires no preliminary instruction. Any one who wishes skill in the practice of cooking has to work for it as for any other profession. The great advantage of it over many other kinds of work is that even a little attention and labor will produce good results, and that such results appear at an early stage of the study.

Cookery has been called an exact science, and in a way this is true. But it is not like chemistry in its exactness—rather like agriculture, which, after the best efforts have been made, must in a great degree depend for success upon the weather. So in cookery perfect work in preparation may sometimes be spoiled by the eccentricities of the oven or the fluctuations of the fire.

Barring such accidents as these, however, one may be fairly sure of good effects, if one goes about the task in the right way. A few things even the “born cook” must know to start with, or there will be a failure.

Of course, the ideal method of learning cookery is by the practical direction of a skilful teacher—not by attendance at a cooking school, but by work in a kitchen, where, in the good old style inculcated by the immortal Mr. Squeers, we “spell it first and then go and do it.”

In other words, if one have a good cook book, and a competent cook at one’s elbow to give a few needed directions and corrections, one can learn more quickly by experience than in any other way.

DETAILS ARE IMPORTANT

If this cannot be attained, and if there is no motherly soul at hand to give counsel, the cooking school may be resorted to. I have known persons who declared they had derived great good from cooking lessons, but my observation inclines me to think that the gain was made when the pupils had had some preliminary instruction.

If one understands the rudiments, the “frills” can be acquired at a cooking lesson; but unless one enters a class for beginners at a regular cooking school, it is hard to attain familiarity with the first things of the kitchen.

The tyro in cookery who must make her own way with little or no aid except that which she can derive from a cook book should resolve from the first not to despise the day of small things.

There should be no high-flying attempts at elaborate dishes; and I may add that this advise is worth heeding even by those who know a little something of the outlines of cookery. When a familiarity with simple dishes is once gained the more involved processes will follow more or less as a matter of course, but they should be avoided for a good while.

A man once said that if a woman knew how to sweep a floor, to broil a beefsteak, and to make a loaf of bread, she would have no difficulty in getting a husband. He might have added, “or in keeping one.”

Even with this high aim in view, however, it is not well for the beginner to start too rashly upon a career as a bread maker. The broiling of the steak, a knowledge of how to cook plain vegetables, to roast a piece of meat, to make toast, tea and coffee, even to boil eggs, will all serve as beginning better than any process where judgment has to be used, as is essential in making bread, biscuit or cake or anything else in which the thickening qualities of the flour or other uncertain quantities have to be considered.

I have often wondered why it is that the young girl learns to make cake before she attempts anything else. Perhaps it is on the same principle as that which moves her to acquire a knowledge of embroidery before she can darn stockings and to play the piano before she can make her bed or sweep her room!

When I had daughters of my own who had to learn to cook, I gave them instruction in cookery and kitchen economy as I would have done in a language or a science.

THE RUDIMENTS

They were taught how to broil steak and chops, how to mix bread and biscuit. They were enlightened as to the difference between the consistency of dough for bread, for cake, or batter for griddle cakes and waffles.

They were taught that there were two kinds of frying—one, the process conducted in shallow fat, which is described by the French as to “saute” (pronounced so-tay), and is employed in frying sausage, pan fish, cutlets and the like; the other, the frying in deep fat, in which the object is immersed, and which is suitable for doughnuts, crullers, croquettes, fritters, potatoes and so forth. They learned that the heat in the latter case must be such that a bit of bread dropped into the fat would brown in a minute, and that food cooked in this mode was different thing from articles left to soak in lukewarm grease.

Also they learned that bread to rise to the correct degree must increase to double its bulk; that if eggs and milk were cooked together more than just the right length of time they would curdle; that to make a white sauce—the model of nearly all sauces—a tablespoonful each of butter and flour must be allowed to half a pint of milk; that the oven for roasting meat must be kept at a high temperature for ten or fifteen minutes after the roast goes in, so that the outside may be seared and the juices retained; that soups must always cook slowly; that the toughest meat can be made tender by long, deliberate cookery, and a score of other things which, while they were not sufficient to produce experienced cooks, were yet superstructure could be reared. I would advise every woman with daughters at home to go and do likewise.

“GO SLOW”

But there are housekeepers who have already homes of their own, or who are entering upon them, and are unequipped with the rudiments. If they have to learn these for themselves, I can only repeat, the advice I gave a few minutes back— “Go slow!” Provide yourself with a good cook book, and begin with simple dishes.

Believe the words of a veteran housekeeper when I say that your John would rather have for his dinner a well-baked potato, a perfectly broiled steak and a satisfactory cup of coffee than all the fancy and made dishes that you can perpetrate—unless these are done with the skill that bespeaks practice as well as enterprise.

Often I am asked concerning the utensils required for the cook, and I never hear the query without recollecting the dishes I have eaten that were prepared with the simplest utensils, and were yet good because the cook knew how to handle them.

One might as well expect French to be won by the purchase of a dictionary and a phrase book as cookery to be gained by an outfit of utensils. Certain articles are, of course, indispensable. A gridiron, a frying pan, baking tins, a covered roaster, mixing bowls and spoons, a grater and a vegetable press, a skimmer and a strainer, measuring cups and flour sifters, egg beaters and paring knives—but the list of these you will find in your cook book or can obtain from any housekeeper or from a salesman in a house-furnishing shop.

Having secured your utensils let me give you one bit of advice about them. Never begin to cook until you have gathered to you everything you are going to use in the preparation of the dish you have undertaken.

DELAYS ARE PERILOUS

The inexperienced cook wastes time and imperils the product of her hands by having to stop at critical moments to run to the pantry for this or that essential.

If you are making a batch of biscuit, have ready your mixing bowl and flour sifter, your spoon, measuring cup and rolling pin, your biscuit board and tins. Bring together all the materials, too: your flour and shortening and salt and milk and baking powder.

Having these and your recipe, recall to mind all you have heard about cookery being exact.

Remember that the famous French cooks are careful to weigh even the vegetables they use in their soup and leave nothing to chance. Presence of mind and happy guessing may be admirable in some emergencies, but they are out of place in the category of the inexperienced cook.

Be sure of your recipe, then go ahead! Follow directions and take no liberties. Nice customs may courtesy to great kings and queens, but a woman must be pretty sure of her dominion in her kitchen before she departs from the customs dictated by her superiors in knowledge and experience.

One of these days you, too, shall arrive, but, until then, “follow the man from Cook’s!”

Marion Harland

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More Summer Vegetables and How to Cook Them

This is the fourth article in June of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on June 23, 1907, and is the second talk on cooking less well-known vegetables in summer time.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

More Summer Vegetables and How to Cook Them

NEXT-TO-EVERYBODY has some idea how to fry eggplant. Therefore, I omit the recipe for preparing the delicious vegetable in that way. Comparatively few cooks know how good it may be made if handled in obedience to the directions which follow this preamble.

Parboil the eggplant for ten minutes if it be of medium size. Put it over the fire in cold, salted water and keep it there for ten minutes after the boil is reached. Plunge then into ice water and leave it to get cold and firm. It is well to parboil and cool it the day before it is to be cooked, as it will then be cold to the heart. When this has been done, cut the eggplant in half, lengthwise, and scrape out the heart, leaving a crust an inch thick. Mince the pulp and mix to a forcemeat with minced chicken, or veal or duck, fine crumbs, well seasoned, melted butter and a dash of onion juice. With this forcemeat fill both halves of the eggplant, put them together in the original shape and bind securely with soft cotton lamp wick or tape. Lay in your covered roaster, pour a cupful of good stock about it, cover closely and bake. Baste with the stock every ten minutes. It should be done in about forty-five minutes, unless it is very large.

Transfer to a dish, remove the strings carefully not to separate the halves, and keep hot while you thicken the gravy left in the pan with browned flour rolled in butter. Boil up and pour over and about the eggplant.

Eggplant a la Creole.

Prepare as directed in the preceding recipe until you are ready to stuff it. Then make the forcemeat of the pulp, a chopped sweet pepper, one young okra pod minced, four or five ripe tomatoes, cut up small, and a cupful of fine crumbs. Add a great spoonful of melted butter, pepper and salt to taste, not omitting a little sugar to correct the acid of the tomato. It is well to parboil the pepper if it be large, before adding it to the stuffing.

Fill the hollowed halves with the mixture, bind as in the last recipe, and lay in the pan.

Pour a rich tomato sauce about it and baste with butter and water. Keep the top of the roaster on while the eggplant is cooking, and it will not shrivel.

Serve as with the stuffed eggplant above described and pour the tomato sauce about the base.

Scalloped Eggplant.

Peel, cut into strips as long as your finger and nearly as wide. Lay these in ice-cold water well salted, and leave in a cold place for an hour. Then boil until they are clear and tender, but not broken. Drain all the water off in a colander, and arrange the strips in a buttered bake dish. Butter, pepper and salt, strew with fine crumbs, season these in like manner; then another layer of eggplant, and so on until the dish is full. The last layer should be thicker than the rest, and soaked with cream. Bake, covered, half an hour, then brown.

A Scallop of Mushrooms.

Select mushrooms of medium and uniform size. Skin them without cutting off the stems. Lay enough to cover the bottom of the dish, stems uppermost, in a pudding dish. Dust with salt and pepper, and pour into the gills a little melted butter. Then strew very lightly with fine cracker crumbs, and arrange a second layer upon the first. Season and butter, cover with crumbs, soak the crumbs in cream; dot with butter and bake, covered, for twenty minutes, and brown very delicately. Serve at once. There is no more delicious preparation of mushrooms than this.

Sweet Peppers a la Creole.

Cut a slit in the side of each pepper and extract the seeds, touching the inside as little as possible. The pungency lies chiefly in the seeds. Lay the emptied peppers in boiling water for ten minutes. Prop the slits open with a bit of wood to let the water reach the inside. At the end of the ten minutes drain the peppers and cover with ice-cold water, leaving them in it until they are perfectly cold. Wipe and stuff with a forcemeat of any kind of meat that you have on hand, preferably poultry, veal or lamb. Add to the meat a raw tomato skinned and chopped, and one-third as much fine crumbs as you have meat. Season with salt, melted butter and a very little sugar to soften the acid of the tomato. Wet well with gravy. Tie the filled peppers into shape with soft thread and set upright in the covered roaster; pour a cupful of gravy about them, and bake, covered, for twenty minutes, then five more, uncovered. Serve upon a heated platter, pouring the thickened gravy over and about them.

You may, if you like, substitute fish, picked free of bones and skin, for the meat.

Or, mushrooms, skinned, parboiled and cut small—not chopped.

Or, and perhaps best of all, sweetbreads, blanched, then stewed for ten minutes in the gravy that is to be poured about the peppers. This last-named dish is exceedingly dainty.

Swiss Chard.

An excellent vegetable, so lately introduced into our country that the name is unfamiliar to most of our housewives. It is not very unlike spinach in general appearance, although it belongs to a different family of esculents.

Pick over carefully, stripping the leaves from the stalks, and lay them in cold water for an hour. Drain, without drying, and put the leaves into the inner vessel of a double boiler. Fill the outer with cold water, and bring to a quick boil, keeping the inner vessel closed. This will steam the chard in the juice extracted from the leaves.

I may observe here that spinach, steamed in the same way, with no water except that which clings to the leaves after washing, is quite another vegetable from that which is generally served on our tables under the name.

When the chard is tender and broken, drain, pressing in the colander. Turn now into a wooden bowl and chop, or run it through the vegetable press. Set over the fire in a saucepan, stir in a teaspoonful of sugar, a tablespoonful of butter, salt and pepper to taste and beat to a creamy mass. When piping hot, serve in a deep dish, with sippets of toast arranged upon it.

Vegetable Marrow.

Another esculent popular for a century among our English cousins, but which needs a formal introduction to the rank and file of our native cooks. It is akin to the squash family, with a smooth richness of flavor and flesh all its own. Having cultivated it successfully in my garden for ten years, I can certify that it takes kindly to American soil and climate and is easily brought to perfection.

Pare away the rind, cut into squares or strips and lay in cold water for half an hour. Drain and put over the fire in plenty of salted boiling water. Cook until clear and tender, but not until the pieces lose form. Drain off the water, pour in a good drawn butter, set the saucepan at the side of the range for ten minutes to let the sauce sink into the marrow, and serve.

Cold vegetable marrow, cooked as above directed, maybe wrought into an excellent pudding to be eaten with meat. Run through the vegetable press, beat in a spoonful of melted butter, season with pepper and salt, and add two well-beaten eggs. Turn into a buttered bake dish when you have beaten all the ingredients together for a minute; bake, covered, for fifteen minutes in a quick oven, and brown lightly.

Green Corn Pudding.

Grate, or slice with a sharp knife, the kernels from twelve ears of corn. If the corn be hard, grate it. If immature, it will lose nearly all its substance under the grater. The knife will slice it to better advantage. Season with pepper and salt, and stir in a tablespoonful of sugar and two tablespoonfuls of melted butter. Beat light the yolks of four eggs and whip the whites stiff. Stir the yolks into a scant quart of milk and into this the seasoned corn. Finally, fold in the frothed whites, pour the mixture into a buttered pudding dish and bake, covered, half an hour, then brown.

Green Corn Gumbo.

Put two tablespoonfuls of butter into a saucepan, and when it hisses, add three onions of fair size, sliced thin. Brown slightly, and put into the sizzling pan six tomatoes, peeled and sliced, two sweet peppers that have been parboiled and minced, two okra pods, also sliced thin, and the grains from six ears of corn. Add a generous cupful of stock—chicken, if you have it—salt, pepper and a teaspoonful of sugar. Cook, covered, forty-five minutes, steadily but not hard.

Just before dishing, stir in two teaspoonsful of “file” (sassafras powder), boil up and serve.

If you wish to use this as a soup, double the quantity of stock. The dish described here is to accompany meat or fish.

You may convert this into a curry gumbo by the addition of a heaping teaspoonful of curry powder.

The “file” may be had of first-class city grocers .It gives smoothness, and yet piquancy, to the gumbo.

Cucumbers a la Syrie.

Half well-grown young cucumbers lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Leave in salt and water for half an hour, wipe and till with cold meat—beef or veal, or mutton—seasoned well and mixed with one-third the quantity of fine crumbs. Moisten with gravy. Bind the sides of the cucumbers in place with soft twine; lay in your covered roaster; pour a cupful of gravy about them and bake, covered, for half an hour. Uncover, and brown slightly. Untie the strings, lay the cucumbers in a heated platter, and pour the gravy about them.

I made the acquaintance of this dish in northern Syria, eating it first almost in the shadow of the cedars of Lebanon, and improved the friendship many times afterward. It is singularly pleasant to the palate, and more digestible than raw cucumbers.

Okra Gumbo.
(A Louisiana Dish.)

Wash and scrape lightly a dozen young okra pods. Lay in cold water while you peel and slice six tomatoes; chop a peeled onion; seed and scald a large a sweet pepper, and chop it. Put the okras then into a saucepan, cover with boiling water and cook for ten minutes. While they are cooking, heat two tablespoonfuls of butter in a frying pan, add the onions and pepper, and cook for one minute’s simmer. Turn into a saucepan with the tomatoes, and cook gently for half an hour. Slice the okras, add to the rest and cook fifteen minutes more. Season with salt, and stir in a teaspoonful of “file” five minutes before dishing.

Line the dish with thin, buttered toast.

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Some Summer Vegetables and how to Cook Them

This is the third article in June of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on June 16, 1907, and is part one of two on cooking vegetables in summer time.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

Some Summer Vegetables and how to Cook Them

WE WILL not waste time and space in repetitions of what has been said strongly and often in this column of the gastronomic and sanitary virtues of tomatoes. No more wholesome vegetable comes upon our tables. I may add, none that is susceptible of more and agreeable varieties of cooking. I offer a few formulas that may be novel and attractive to our housemother who is not content to trot steadily in the track worn dusty by her forbears in the sphere of culinary enterprise.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Green Corn.

Select large, smooth tomatoes of uniform size; cut a piece from the blossom end of each with a keen knife and lay it aside. With a small silver spoon (an egg-spoon will do) dig out the pulp and seeds, leaving the walls untouched. Mince the extracted pulp and mix it with cold boiled green corn—two-thirds of the corn and one-third of the tomato pulp; season with melted butter, salt, pepper, and sugar. The sugar must never be omitted from tomatoes when cooked in any way. When the ingredients are well incorporated, fill the emptied tomatoes with the mixture, replace the tops, set them close together in a bake dish, put a bit of butter on each to prevent scorching, cover and bake ten minutes before removing the cover. If they are “sizzling” by then, uncover and cook from ten to twelve minutes more. The oven should be brisk. Serve in the bake dish.

Uncooked corn may be substituted for the boiled, if it be young and tender. In that case, cook five minutes longer, before uncovering. This is a good way of using corn left over from yesterday.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Mushrooms.

Empty fine ripe tomatoes, as directed in the last recipe. In this dish the pulp is not used. Put it into your soup stock before giving it the daily boil.

Have ready a cupful of fresh mushrooms, which have been peeled and cut into thirds—not minced. Put into a saucepan two tablespoonfuls of butter and a small onion, finely minced. Add the mushrooms and cook slowly for eight or ten minutes. Remove from the fire, season with pepper and salt, stir into the mixture two heaping tablespoonfuls of dry crumbs, and fill the tomatoes with it. After this is done, pour a tablespoonful of rich gravy—chicken or veal, if you have it—into each tomato, letting it sink into the mixture. Then strew line crumbs over all and fit on the tops cut from the tomatoes. Lastly, pour a little stock into the bakedish to keep the tomatoes from burning and add to the flavor; cover, and bake for twenty minutes. If you have not the fresh mushrooms, use champignons. This is a delicious luncheon dish, and good at any time.

Broiled Tomatoes.

Slice large, firm tomatoes, without peeling, into rounds rather more than a quarter inch thick. Arrange them upon a buttered broiler and cook for ten minutes over hot coals, turning every minute. Lay on a hot dish and coat with a sauce made of butter beaten to a cream with a little onion juice, salt, pepper, and sugar. Set the dish upon the upper grating of the oven to melt the sauce before serving.

Breaded and Fried Tomatoes.

Cut as for broiling; season with pepper, salt, and sugar; coat with dry crumbs, and fry quickly in a little butter.

To speak correctly, this process should be called “sauteing.” To fry is to immerse in boiling fat. To saute is to fry in just butter, oil, or other fat to keep the article to be cooked from sticking to the pan.

Green Tomatoes.

Green tomatoes may be sliced and broiled, or saute, according to the recipes given for ripe. They make a nice breakfast relish on a warm morning.

They may also be fried in the fat that has exuded from breakfast bacon, and the bacon be served as a garnish to the dish. They go well together.

Onions.

Onions are at their best in the “rich midsummer prime.” In winter they are plebeians. Useful they may be, and they may be rendered almost delicate by cooking in two waters and then treated to a final boil in milk. In summer a parboil of ten minutes in slightly salted water and a second ten minutes in half milk, half water converts them into patricians.

Stuffed Onions.

Arrange six or eight large Bermuda onions, peeled and washed, in a bake dish, cover with boiling water slightly salted and cook for half an hour, or until a wire will pierce them easily. Transfer the dish to a table, turn off all the water, and, with a sharp thin blade, extract the hearts of the onions without breaking the outer walls. Fill the cavity with a forcemeat or minced cold chicken and fine crumbs, seasoned with pepper and salt and moistened with melted butter. It should be very soft. Strew butter crumbs over the top, pour a rich white sauce in the dish until it almost touches the tops of the onions, cover and bake for half an hour, then brown delicately.

Scalloped Onions.

Slice full-grown, but young, onions across a quarter-inch thick, lay in a bakedish and cover with hot water. Fit a close cover on the dish and set in a quick oven for ten minutes. Drain off all the water, season with salt and pepper, pour a good drawn butter over them, strew with fine dry crumbs, stick butter bits over this and bake, covered, for ten minutes, then brown lightly.

Potato Snow.

Pare ripe but young potatoes so carefully that the peelings are as thin as paper. If they are thin-skinned, you may scrape off the outer covering, taking care not to leave the eyes or bits of colored skin. Put over the fire in plenty of boiling water, salted, and cook fast until they are tender, but not broken. Drain off the water; turn the potatoes into a colander and set in a hot open oven when you have sprinkled salt over them. Have at hand four or five squares of clean, cloth—clean dishcloths will do. Take up the potatoes, one by one, lay on the cloth and give the opposite ends of this a wring, enveloping and crushing the potato. As each crumbles into dry meal, reverse the cloth and let the meal drop into a heated dish. When you have a heap of snow and the last potato has been crushed, serve at once without touching the “drift.”

Garnish of Sweet Potatoes.

Wash and peel sweet potatoes of uniform size, and slice them evenly, lengthwise, a quarter inch thick. When this is done, run two stout straws from end to end of each potato when you have put the slices together in imitation of the originals. Pass a soft cotton string about the restored vegetables to hold the slices in shape, and parboil for eight or ten minutes in boiling salted water. Drain well, and lay in the roaster when a piece of beef is nearly done. Baste with the dripping and brown lightly. When the meat is dished, clip the threads, withdraw the straws, and arrange the potatoes about the meat. Do not let them fall apart until they are served.

A Potato “Buck.”

Slice enough cold boiled potatoes to fill a bakedish three-fourths of the way to the top. Arrange in layers, sprinkle each stratum with salt, pepper, bits of butter and Parmesan cheese. Have ready a cup of half milk, half cream, into which you have beaten three eggs. Pour this over the prepared potatoes and bake, covered, fifteen minutes, then brown.

Brussels Sprouts on the Half-Shell.

The “half-shell” is that of an Edam cheese from which the inside has been scooped by degrees, leaving it as hard as wood. Cook the sprouts tender in two waters, adding salt to the second. Cut each sprout in two and put a layer in the bottom of the shell when you have washed and wiped it. Cover lightly with fine cracker crumbs, dot with butter, season with pepper and salt and let fall on each layer a few drops of lemon juice. Stick butter bits thickly in the uppermost layer of sprouts, cover with crumbs and bake to a light brown. The sprouts should be put in very hot and the filling be done so rapidly that they do not cool before going into the oven. Long baking would affect the integrity of the shell. The slight flavor of cheese is a pleasant addition to that of the vegetable.

Scalloped Beets.

This is a good way to use up cold beets, usually regarded as unavailable except pickles of salad. Slice the beets and put in layers into a bakedish. Strew each with dots of butter, pepper, salt, and a very little onion juice. “Just enough to be suspected, but not convicted,” said the merry matron from whom I had the formula. A few drops of lemon juice on each slice are the finishing touch to the seasoning. Cover with fine crumps; put a few spoonfuls of melted butter on the crumbs and bake, covered, for half an hour, then brown the crumbs.

Next week I shall talk of mushrooms, green beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, vegetable marrow, okra, and other summer delights, some of which have not had from American cooks the intelligent appreciation their merits deserve.

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Creamed Sweetbreads a Chafing Dish Dainty

This is the third article in April of the School for Housewives 1903 series published on Apr 19, 1903, and is a short article on cooking with the chafing dish.

School for Housewives – Creamed Sweetbreads a Chafing Dish Dainty

A good chafing dish dainty for a late supper is creamed sweetbreads, served on toast; with coffee and little bread and butter sandwiches it is vey satisfying. Its strong point is that it is quickly done, requiring only heating at the time, as the creamed sauce and sweetbreads are prepared in advance, without in any way taking from the delicacy of the dish.

A pair of sweetbreads, one pint of cream sauce and a dash of sherry are the ingredients.

The sweetbreads should be cut in small discs. The cream sauce is first put in the dish and heated, stirring all the while. When the sweetbreads are added the stirring continues until the boiling point is reached. The lamp is then lowered and a wineglass of sherry added. This may be served on toast or in “patty” cups.

To make a pint of cream sauce take two tablespoons of butter, two of flour, one pint of cream or milk, half teaspoon of salt mixed with the flour. Blend the butter and flour until a smooth paste, then put on the fire and add gradually the cream. Stir constantly until the proper creamy consistency is reached, which should take twenty minutes. This quantity serves four.

The sweetbreads are simply parboiled.

To make the bread and butter into dainty little sandwiches is much nicer than to have the “spreading” of it at supper time, while the plate of prettily shaped sandwiches adds to the feast.

Marion Harland

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A Suggested Substitute for the Tyrant Potato

This is the second article in April of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Apr 9, 1905, and is an article on the benefits of rice over the potato.

Personally I would eat a well cooked potato over rice any day.

School for Housewives – A Suggested Substitute for the Tyrant Potato

Among the many new avocations undertaken by the clever modern woman, when suddenly thrown upon her on resources, is that of professional glove cleaner.
In a magazine article written almost twenty years ago I thus characterized a vegetable which by methods mysterious to the student of dietetics has established itself as a “necessary of life” in all English-speaking countries. Potatoes are no cheaper than turnips, and less easily raised than cabbages; less nutritious than carrots, and more insipid than any one of the half-dozen esculents I could name.

When “new” they are almost as indigestible as bullets, when “old” they have a rank, weedy taste. Yet the arrogant tuber holds royal rank in palace and in cottage. Children are allowed to eat it before they cut their eye teeth, and the family bill of fare gives precedence to it tri-daily in many a home. Prices of potatoes are quoted along with wheat and corn; poor and rich must have them, no matter how dear.

As I write there lies before me a well-written paper covering two columns of the Culinary Corner in a prominent family weekly. The article is headed “A Potato Luncheon.” I quote from the introductory paragraph:

ENERGY CONTAINED IN RICE

“Concerning the potato as an article of food, arguments have waxed warm, pro and con. Without taking either side, it may be said that no vegetable which may form soup to dessert, not omitting bread, is to be scorned for its food properties, and of none is this true except the potato.”
“The menu follows:
Potato Soup,
Potatoes with Cheese,
Potatoes with Onions,
Curried Potatoes,
Potato Salad with Potato Gems,
Potato Souffle, Potato Cake,
Potato Pie.”

Not staying to discuss what may be called a culinary freak – since no sane housekeeper would risk setting family and guests for all time against the stupid tuber tortured into seven different forms – we relegate the ingenious menu to the niche occupied in gastronomic literature by the Frenchman’s pebble soup. Dr. Franklin is said to have astonished a party of friends with a sawdust dinner.

To prove that I do not stand alone in unfavorable criticism of our ugly tyrant, I give a story told to me today of Mrs. Borer’s views upon the same subject:

“Why,” she asked, in the course of a demonstrated lecture, “will people persist in ranking potatoes as the principal vegetable admitted to their tables?”

“Because they are nourishing,” said a listener.

The lecturer shook her head; “but they are not!”

“Because they are readily digested?” ventured another.

“Not at all!” replied the lecturer.

“Very harmless?” was the third venture.

“Quite the reverse!”

After a silence, some one spoke more confidently.

“But what tastes better than a mealy roasted potato?”

Mrs. Rorer smiled; “Al, now you have advanced one fairly sound arguments in their favor!”

I hope the anecdote is authentic! It is good enough to be true and worthy of my distinguished contemporary.

A baked or roasted potato – while it has no flavor to boast of – is the least objectionable member of its class.

Now for my suggested substitute for the plebeian who ought never to have been raised from his native level.

A careful writer upon the comparative value of food says: “Plain, boiled rice, rightfully cooked, is actually digested and begins to be assimilated in one hour, while other cereals, legumes, and meats, and most vegetables require from three and a half to five hours. Rice thus enables a man to economize fully expended in the digestion of ordinary food, setting it free to be used in his daily vocation, in the pursuit of study, or social duties, and in the case of invalids and enfeebled vitality, adding it to the reserved force of the system.”

“It has been carefully estimated that rice contains more than four times the energy in Irish potatoes, and when the waste in preparing potatoes is considered, the difference is increased to six-fold. It is scientifically ascertained that of the food taken into the human body, one-sixth goes to the replenishing and upbuilding, and five-sixths go to produce energy. The value of food is based upon the amount of energy it can furnish rather than its capacity as a mere flesh-producer. It is evident that, on this basis, rice stands first among human foods.”

(C.H. HOWARD, U.S.A.)

The idea that rice is wishy-washy stuff, fit only for the consumption of invalids and children, amounts to prejudice among the ignorant and the laboring classes. Those whose charitable work qualifies them to pronounce upon this point will sustain this statement. Other cereals come under the same condemnation. One invalid to whom I offered cracked wheat thoroughly cooked, and mantled with real cream, returned the reply; “Thank you, ma’am, but I would not eat such messes when I was well, let alone when I am sick.”

Another to whom I sent a bowl of delicious chicken broth, refused it because “there was rice boiled with it, and she couldn’t bear nothing that had rice cooked in it.”

A third would not so much as taste rice jelly, so sure was she that “there was no substance to it!”

A well-to-do parishioner in a country church once came to me in perplexity concerning the stocking of the pastor’s pantry, which was to be a surprise gift upon his return from a trip abroad. Shelves creaked under pies, cakes, jars of pickles, preserves, mincemeat, butter, lard, coffee, etc. There were two barrels of flour, one of potatoes, one of sugar, a chest of tea, a box of soap, and – hence the distress – one woman had sent in a tin case containing ten pounds of rice!

“I dare not keep it back,” lamented the mistress of ceremonies. “But I am downright ashamed of it. It looks so common, somehow!”

Being Southern-born, I retorted in surprise; “Not as common as potatoes, too my way of thinking.”

How shall we fight a prejudice so reasonless and so deep-rooted?

In the first place, by teaching those who hold it how to cook our substitute properly.

HOW RICE SHOULD BE COOKED

To borrow from our military dietetist:
“There is one practical difficultly to be surmounted, especially among the families of our working people. Rice is not generally well cooked in the North. The boiled rice is apt to be soggy, or mashed, in a way to be unattractive in looks and to the taste, and undoubtedly less healthful than when properly cooked. It should be boiled or steamed so that each kernel stands up distinct and whole. A certain amount of mastication is conductive to better digestion. One reason that rice is more popular in the South is that it is usually better cooked.”

Marion Harland

 

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A Tempting Chafing Dish Luncheon

This is the first written article in March of the School for Housewives 1903 series published on Mar 29, 1903, and is a short article on luncheon.

School for Housewives – A Tempting Chafing Dish Luncheon

A spring time luncheon for two, which contains one hot dish, sandwiches, fruit, cakes and coffee, may be cozily served with the aid of a chafing dish, on a small table in the sitting room.

Creamed shrimp on toast is the hot dish selected. It is simple enough to be successfully prepared by a novice. Beat in a chafing dish the yolks of two eggs, half a cup of cream, a teaspoonful of anchovy sauce. Sit all the while with a wooden spoon; when the cream begins to thicken put in half a pint of boiled shrimp. Let the shrimp get hot, but do not allow to cook long enough for the eggs to curdle. Serve on strips of toast.

To make the lettuce sandwiches, cut the bread out with a sandwich cutter, removing all crust. The lettuce s cut into strips, not minced. These are put between the buttered slices of bread and well moistened with mayonnaise.

The strawberries are served with shipped cream; a tempting plate of macaroons is passed with them.

Coffee is large cups is served all through the lunch.

This gives quite a sufficient repast to invite a friend to enjoy with you, and yet involves so little fuss that it is in the reach of the college girl or bachelor girl, who has only a limited amount of room and convenience.

Marion Harland

Preparing the First Course for the Easter Breakfast

This is the fourth article in March of the School for Housewives 1904 series published on Mar 27, 1904, and is an article on Easter breakfast.

School for Housewives – Preparing the First Course for the Easter Breakfast

By applying a little ingenuity to the customary egg course of the Easter morning breakfast it is possible to convert plain boiled humpty-dumpties into subjects of delight and merriment.

The day before the feast lay in as many doll hats as there are to be eggs.

Have some of the hats masculine and some feminine in character.

Before dropping the eggs in the water mark with indelible ink, eyes, nose, mouth and even a little fringe of hair upon the surface of each.

Be sure that the ink dries thoroughly before submitting it to the water.

Just before serving place each egg in an egg cup and top it off with one of the hats.

Of course, additional touches in the way of issue paper skirts and the like are possible if there is time.

But these are not necessary the success of the novelty, which is exceedingly fetching without further elaboration.

Amusing characterization can be managed, if there is a little spare time to be devoted to it, before breakfast time comes.

Brownie eggs are exceedingly picturesque and not hard to do. It is only necessary in this case to have pointed case of brown tissue paper in the place of hats, and to give the features a quaint Brownie twist. The Roosevelt Brownie – an amusing little cow puncher with very prominent teeth, about the most recent rival among these fairy folk – is one that can be imitated with great success upon eggs.

Another amusing figure is that of the clown, to which the white surface of the egg lends itself very readily. A pointed cap of white paper is about the only dress exquisite for a very laughable pierrot.

Monks and nuns with veils or cowls of brown or black are easily done and very distinctive.

Marion Harland

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The Housewife’s Weekly Exchange
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Some Excellent Advise to Parents
Yeast and Two Delicacies
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