The Convalescent’s Tray

This is the fifth article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 31, 1907, and is a discussion on how to tend to sick children and family, aka, the invalid.

One piece of advice I strongly agree with in this article is never ask the sick person what they would like to eat. It’s always better to just bring them something they can stomach in small doses. I had to Google what ‘Arrowroot’ was and apparently this root was very popular in Victorian times, especially in the colonies, and was seen as an easily digestible food for people with dietary restrictions.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

The Convalescent’s Tray

ONE of the best amateur sailors I know, who has always “absolutely usable to comprehend why one should be seasick,” made a voyage on the same steamer with me some years ago. His theory, expounded ad nauseam to the pale-faced occupants of deck chairs which had not been unfolded for the first days of the tour, was simple and admitted of no peradventure. Seasickness, according to him, was a malady of the imagination.

“Look at me!” he declaimed, standing with his back to the guards on the promenade deck, on a cloudy day in mid-ocean, when at least half of us were too faint with dread of yet rougher seas to open our eyes upon anything. “I have crossed ten times, and in all sorts of weather. I have been over that most villainous of waters— the British channel—every time I have come abroad. I spent five days on the Mediterranean once, when each day brought storm of a different complexion, and I have never missed a meal on shipboard. Yet my internal make-up can’t be unlike that of everybody else. I tell you, it is the mind—the spirit, the will—that renders me immune!”

Matter Conquers Mind.

A fortnight later compensating fate sent me across the channel, from Dover to Calais, and the immune lecturer by the same boat. All the night we had lain in our beds at the Lord Warden Hotel, hearkening, in the intervals of uneasy slumber, to the booming of thunderous waves against the chalky cliffs of Albion.

“And we sadly thought of the morrow.”

The sun arose out of a sea that was wondrous smooth after the passion of the midnight. The short chopping waves we had come to dread through horrible experiences had rounded into low, long rolls, that looked benignant. Before we were out of sight of land half of the passengers had found out what was meant by “a ground swell.” Midway in the passage I heard a jolly chuckle from the companion nearest my deck chair.

We had read “Tartarin of Tarascon” on the Atlantic voyage and laughed, as every one who has a spark of humor must laugh, at the braggart’s rush to the guard—“And France was disgraced!” This was what my companion said between the chuckles that made me lift weary lids from sick eyes.

“And France was disgraced!”

For the ground swell had got the better of Mind; had floored the Spirit; had beaten down the barriers of Will. The immune man had succumbed to circumstance, and as I opened my eyes it was to behold him hanging like a limp rag over the rail.

The scene has come back to me a hundred times since, when I have watched the passage of the invalid through the ground swell of Convalescence to the terra firma Assured Health.

Thirty years ago, when the care of a household, including young children, and the diseases to which human flesh is heir, bore heavily upon my mind, I penned this admonition:

“When, the rack of pain having been removed, the dulled perceptions of the mind reawaken to sensitiveness, and there comes to the sufferer’s mind the bugle call of Duty—sharp, imperative; when every idle moment speaks to him of a slain opportunity and the no longer strong man shakes his fetters with piteous cries against Fate—do not despise or be impatient with him. You see but the poor wreck left by the demon as he tore his way out of him at the Divine command. Gather it up lovingly in your arms and nurse it back to strength and comeliness.”

Tact Is Requited.

Because I meant it so much then; because I mean it so much more now that added years have borne in upon me with far greater force the truth of what I thought the youthful matron comprehended to the full—I claim the right to copy yet other extracts from my talk upon “Convalescence.”

Do not ask your charge what he would like to eat. He will, of a surety, sicken at the thought of selection, and say, ‘Nothing!’

Watch for the slightest intimation of a desire for any particular delicacy, and if you are assured that it cannot hurt him, procure it, if you can without letting him suspect your intention.

Feed him lightly and often, never bringing into his sight more than he may safely eat. A big bowl of broth or jelly will either tempt him to imprudence or discourage him.

Daintiness a Prerequisite.

While he is very weak, feed him with your own hand, playfully, as you would a child talking cheerfully of something else than his food, beguiling him into taking the needed nutriment.

As soon as his meals are over re move every vestige of them from the room. Even the glimpse of a soiled spoon lying on table or bureau may offend his fastidious appetite. Cover the stand or tray from which he takes his food with a spotless napkin, and serve his food in your daintiest ware.

“A hired nurse is a useful, often necessary, attendant, but, while you are upon your feet and mistress of your own house, delegate to no one the dear task of catering for the beloved convalescent.”

This catering is an art in itself. Success in it depends upon natural aptitude to some extent, but skill and tack may be acquired. Cook nothing in the room where the convalescent sits or lies. If you have friends who understand and practice what I call “kitchenly kindness,” make much of the unexpected delicacy you display proudly at the time of “feeding.” It is mysterious, yet invariable, the charm that attaches, in the invalid’s fancy to anything cooked out of the house in which he abides. One could imagine that a flavor of the love that prompted the gift goes with and informs it. Fruit, jellies, broths, game, accompanied by flowers—God’s own message to his weak and restless child—are the choicest decorations love and friendship can devise for the world bounded by the four walls of the convalescent’s chamber.

Very often the capricious appetite of a child can be coaxed a combination of an attractive tray service and a story. An ordinary white china egg receptacle, with a carved hen on the cover, may be used to advantage if the mother will take time to humor the little convalescent. For instance, the story of the little white hen that laid a fresh egg every day for the little sick boy may be made very realistic at just the right moment by lifting “Biddy” from her nest and disclosing the egg. Of course, the child will want to sample the fresh egg that was laid on purpose for him, and as the wonderful story progresses he will forget that he is eating, and the dreaded task will soon be accomplished.

Another treat which will please a convalescent child at any time, but which will greatly add to his enjoyment on Easter, is a “surprise pie.” Take a large baking pan and set into it a dainty tray with the little invalid’s breakfast. Cover the pan with ordinary manila paper, putting a dab of watercolor paint around the edges and in the center to simulate a bona fide pie. Or cover the pan with a huge daffodil made of crepe paper. This can be done easily if precautions are made beforehand, and the surprise will certainly be effectual.

Surprises Tempt Palates.

Let the youngster survey the treat, then tell him to play he is a little Jack Homer, to put in his thumb and pullout a plum. Of course, he will enjoy the joke, and when the pie “crust” is mutilated a dainty tray, decorated with pussy willows, those harbingers of spring which all children love, will be disclosed, and the food thereof he will surely partake.

An invalid, too, may be made the guest of honor on Easter Sunday, and some little surprise should be planned in her behalf. A dainty tray with a few slices of thin, crisp toast, or a “Panada” will entice her into the humor of eating and brighten her whole day.

EASILY PREPARED FOOD FOR RECOVERING INVALIDS

PREPARATIONS OF ARROWROOT.

Arrowroot Water Jelly.

IMPRIMIS—Do not let yourself be deluded into buying any but the best Bermuda arrowroot. I get mine from a responsible druggist, and in small packages. Keep it in dry place.

Stir two tablespoonfuls into as many tablespoonfuls of cold water until it is smooth. Have ready over the fire a cupful of boiling water in which you have dissolved two teaspoonfuls of white sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the dis solved arrowroot and continue to stir until it is clear, keeping the water at a boil all the time. Add a teaspoonful of strained lemon juice and take directly from the fire. Turn into small moulds wet with cold water, and when cold, set on ice. To prepare for eating, empty mould upon a saucer; strew with fine sugar, and drench with cream. Should the invalid like the flavor of rosewater, season delicately with it.

If wine be allowed by the physicians, you may substitute a small glass of it for the rosewater. In this case, heap the teaspoon with dry arrowroot, in measuring as the liquid will make the jelly less consistent. Both of these preparations are delicious and nourishing.

Arrowroot Blanc Mange.

Wet two tablespoonfuls of arrowroot with four of cold water and work into a smooth paste. Heat a large coffee cupful of milk to scalding, dropping in a tiny pinch of salt and the same of soda. Dissolve it in two teaspoonfuls of white sugar; stir in the arrowroot and cook for three minutes, stirring all the while. The three minutes should be counted from the instant the boil recommences. Flavor to taste. Form in small modis wet with cold water. Keep on ice until you are ready to serve. It should be eaten with sugar and cream.

Arrowroot Custard.

This a heavier preparation than jelly and blanc mange, but nourishing and palatable.

Wet three tablespoonfuls of arrowroot with four of cold milk, and stir smooth.

Heat a pint of milk to scalding, adding a pinch of soda; stir the arrowroot and cook three minutes after the boil begins anew. Turn into a bowl. Beat in an egg which has been whipped light with two tablespoonfuls of white sugar. Set the bowl in a saucepan of boiling water, put back on the fire and stir for two minutes after the water in the saucepan begins to boil again. Form in small moulds. Serve alone, or with cream, as desired.

Forbear to make any of these light foods too sweet or, or the patient will take a dislike to them.

Old Fashioned Panada.

Get six of the square old-fashioned Boston crackers our babies used to cut their teeth upon. Split them and lay in a deep bowl, sprinkling salt scantily and sugar rather bountifully among the layers. Cover with water that is freshly boiled. Our mothers and nurses laid stress upon this last condition. The water must cover the crackers two inches deep. Fit a close coyer on the bowl and set in a saucepan of boiling water on the range. At end of an hour you should have a bowlful of a jellied cereal. It should be eaten from the bowl with more sugar and a very little mace or nutmeg dusted over the panada.

Convalescent children are usually very fond of this dish, if it is properly made. It is very good for mothers of babies under a month old. They generally like it, too.

Always provided it is panada, and not mush. Not a cracker should be disintegrated.

Chicken Jelly.

Clean a tender chicken, wash well, and split down the back as for broiling. Set one-half away to be broiled another day. Pound other half with a wooden mallet, cracking every bone and reducing the flesh to a paste. Put into a saucepan with a close cover and cover a quart of cold water for two pounds of the chicken. Set where it will not come to the boil in less than an hour. Then let it simmer—never actually boiling—for three hours more. It must be so closely covered that the steam will not escape. Do not uncover until it has been off the fire so long as to be quite cold. Then strain, pressing hard, through a cheesecloth bag, getting out every drop of nourishment. Season the liquid to taste, return the fire, bring to a quick boil to throw up the scum and drop in the white of a raw egg. Boil one minute, strain again and set away to cool. Then leave in ice until you are ready to serve. Eaten with unleavened wafers or with thin bread and butter. It is very good and full of nourishment.

Unleavened Wafers.

Chicken Jelly.

Ch??? a teaspoonful of butter into a ??? of flour; salt slightly and make into a dough with a scant cupful of milk. The dough should be stiffer than that of a biscuit. Roll out thin, cut into round cakes and roll each of these as thin as paper. It should be as large as a teaplate. Prick with a fork in a dozen places and bake in a pan that has been floured—not buttered. Bake in a quick oven.

The wafers should be brittle and dry. They are appetizing and general favorites.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Easter Fare and How to Serve It

This is the fourth article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 24, 1907, and is a discussion on eggs and why they are so popular at Easter.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.

Easter Fare and How to Serve It

A CORRESPONDENT writes as follows:

“Why eggs at Easter? Inasmuch as we have been surfeited with eggs and fish for forty days, why not give us a rest from them and a change of diet now that Lent is over and done with (thank goodness!) for the year? I foresee that your Easter talk will be of eggs! eggs! eggs! when a fair majority of your readers would be glad not to see another for six months to come. Why not discourse instead of the juiciness and savory steam of roast beef and the tender sweetness of spring lamb?

Of course, I know this protest will be of no use. Whatever we, the mal contents, may feel, think and say—and write—the Christian world will go egg-mad on Easter Sunday, and every breakfast table display eggs in some disguise or unadorned on Easter Monday.

Yet, why egg sat Easter—I repeat with agonized emphasis—more than on July 4th, or on Whitsunday or on Shrove Tuesday?

MADELINE (Philadelphia).

A woman who is neither so bright, nor to well educated as “Madeline,” “supposed” seriously in my hearing, the other day, “that everybody eats eggs at Easter because the hens all over the country begin to lay just then, and eggs are cheap after being so high all winter.”

I was reminded—although I kept the reminiscence to myself—of a man who once remarked to me, “How lucky it is that Lent is appointed at a season when fish is plenty and cheap. But, of course, the fellows who set the time—whoever they may be—stand in with the fish merchants and make a good thing out of it!”

He was more or less of a fool, but Madeline has brains, and knows how to put her thoughts into words.

Before entering upon the business of setting our Easter feast in order, let us reason together for a few minutes as to the significance of the Easter egg.

DOWN FROM ANTIQUITY

A noted scholar observes, in connection with the custom among the members of the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches of exchanging gifts of eggs on Easter morning; “The practice of presenting eggs to our friends at Easter is Magian, or Persian.” It is, then, of more remote antiquity than is generally supposed. Whatever it may have meant in the far Orient, we find the Jews adopting the Paschal egg as the emblem of the renewed creation of the world in the spring. The Passover Feast fell at the same time as what the Christian Church calls the first Easter. The word “Easter,” which occurs in the Book of Acts in King James’ version (twelfth chapter, fourth verse), is “Passover” in the Revised Version. The Paschal (Passover) egg of the Hebrew became the symbol to the early Christian of the Resurrection of the crucified Christ. We, who adopt the custom of dyeing Easter eggs, seldom bethink ourselves of the fact that the primitive Christians used but one color in their Easter day offerings, and that red, in allusion to the lifeblood shed on the cross as “a ransom for many.”

It was an age of types and symbols. We, living in the clearer light of revealed and established religion, retain some of these, and employ them as illustrations of belief rather than guides to devotion.

Even the staid burghers of our Dutch ancestry, staunchly stubborn in Protestantism, clung to an observance repudiated by their New England brethren as “Popish.” Washington Irving tells us that in the reign of godly Peter Stuyvesant there was “a great cracking of eggs at Paas, or Easter.” “Paas” was an evident perversion of “Pasch” or “Paschal.”

I have answered “Madeline” at greater length than some readers may think expedient, and, it may be, more seriously than she expected. The subject is interesting to devout believers in what the crimsoned egg represents, and curious to those who like to trace the origin of faiths and usages we are prone to take for granted.

SYMBOLS OF RESURRECTION

To the ancient Greeks the butterfly was an emblem of the immortal soul springing into new and more beautiful life from the dead chrysalis. The Christians deduced the glorious fact of the resurrection of all the blessed dead from the rising of their Lord. They saw in the broken shell of the egg the symbol of what they incorporated into their Creed; “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

Of this we have a more eloquent and a fuller promise in the return of the flowers after the apparent death of winter. Every blade and bud and blossom has its message of cheer to the waiting heart. “There is no death.”

A “Schoolgirl” asks:

“Why do we make so much of rabbits at Easter? The shop windows are full of them, and they show up on Easter cards.”

Divers reasons are given for the conspicuous part taken by Bunny in our great festival. One is that he bounds gayly to the front, made over as good as new by much sleep underground. According to a German story, the mission of providing Easter eggs for poor children whose parents could not buy them was committed to compassionate rabbits, who, at that season alone, laid eggs of varied hues by the nestful in the fields. Hence the custom that still prevails in some districts of hunting eggs in the meadows and woods on Easter morning.

May I add a word of practical “application” to my Easter sermon? A sermon must have an application, you know.

We hear much of “Easter offerings.” If ever our hearts should be moved to thankfulness to the dear Father of us all, and to love of our fellow-men who are—with us—His children, it is at this season of awakening to new life. Woe look upon a fresh and lovely world—the same we have known and loved so long, yet renewed into beauty that is never old nor tame. Spring is the time of promise and of hope. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. In token of this glad gratitude, let your Easter offering be for those to whom life is less bright than it is to you.

“God scatters love on every side,
Freely among His children all;
And always hearts are lying open wide,
Wherein some grains may fall.”

Recipes to Prepare Easter Dishes

A Hen’s Nest for Breakfast

SIX hard-boiled eggs that have been thrown into ice-cold water as soon as they were boiled, to make the shells slip off easily. Five minutes later, roll each gently on the table, cracking the shell without breaking the egg. Peel off the shells; cut the eggs in half with a sharp knife; take out the yolks, rub to a powder and mix with the same quantity of cold chicken or of ham, minced. Make a soft paste by working into the mixture some good gravy; season to taste, and form into balls of the same size and shape as the original yolks. Pack into the whites, to resemble whole eggs. Arrange these in the middle of a hot platter; surround with fried potatoes, cut Into strips to simulate straw; set the dish in the oven, covered, just long enough to heat the eggs to the heart, and serve; or, you may make the paste softer with gravy and heat it to a boil in a saucepan before filling the hollowed whites. It will then take less time to reheat in the oven. In either case, potatoes and gravy must be hot. Pass more gravy with the dish.

An Easter Luncheon Dish

Prepare the hard-boiled eggs as directed in the preceding recipe and make the paste as before, of pounded yolks and chicken, tongue or ham. Have ready and hot a good gravy—of chicken, if you have it—add a teaspoonful of curry powder, mix with the mince; heat over the fire and add enough browned flour to make it just thick enough to mould. Stuff the eggs, put the halves neatly together in the right shape and lay upon a bed of rice in a platter. Surround with more rice, to make the “nest”; set in the oven to heat, and serve. Pass with them a boat of gravy, seasoned with curry.

A delicious accompaniment to any preparation of curry is bananas that have been left in ice until very cold. Serve one to each eater, who strips off the skin and slices it, or bites a bit after each mouthful of hot curry. If you can get short bananas that look (almost) like eggs, the pleasing effect of this dish will be enhanced.

A Duck’s Nest

Boll, chill and halve as in preceding recipes. Set the yolks in a bowl, and the bowl, covered. In boiling water at the side of the range. With a thin, keen blade shred the whites into imitation straw, and arrange them in the shape of a nest on a hot platter. Season with salt and white pepper, butter abundantly, cover and set in the oven. Now and then butter again, lest they dry and shrivel.

Work the pounded yolks into a paste with an equal quantity of minced cold duck (or turkey). Moisten well with butter, and bind with a beaten raw egg. Make into oval balls to imitate eggs; arrange within the fence of shredded whites; pour over all a cupful of rich drawn butter, and set, covered, in the oven for ten minutes to heat.

An Easter Swan’s Nest
(“Among the Reeds”)

Make a quart of blanc mange, and while it is cooling to blood-warmth make holes in the small ends of twelve eggs and empty them. As each is emptied hold it under cold water until it is full and lies at the bottom of the bowl. Leave the eggs in the water until all are ready. Pour out the water and fill the shells with the liquid blanc mange. Set them upright in a pan of meal or flour, and let them stay there until Easter. An hour before you wish to serve them break away the shells carefully and deftly, not to injure the consistency of the blanc mange. Have ready a layer of shredded citron in the bottom of a glass dish. The citrons should not be too finely cut, as it stimulates coarse grass and flags. Heap the eggs upon this layer, make a wall of coarse-spun sugar about them and stick upright in this the largest strips of citron yon can get out of the candied melon. These are the “reeds.” Dispose them as naturally as possible, keeping the design in mind, and using taste and ingenuity to carry it out.

Any housewife who is blessed with a fair share of both may get up the dish to the satisfaction of the family.

An egg and a little of the spun sugar (it may be had from your confectioner), with a “reed” or two, go to each “help.” Pass ice cream or plain cream and powdered sugar with the eggs.

You may vary the dish by coloring the blanc mange, dividing it into several portions when first made. Color one with chocolate, another with spinach juice, a third with cochineal, and leave one-fourth white.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Housemothers’ Exchange
Family Meals for a Week
The Latest in Household Linens

Different Ways of Preparing Fish

This is the third article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 17, 1907, and is a discussion on preparing fish for Lent.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.

Different Ways of Preparing Fish

EVEN if one is not a rigid churchman who eschews meat for Lent, it is well to have fish play an important part in the spring diet. Though we may not pin our faith to the old theory that fish food is brain food, we can be assured that the phosphates it contains and its digestible qualities prove very beneficial to the physical system that is relaxed by enervating spring days.

Not every one. Unfortunately, likes fish, but, if possible, the taste for it should be cultivated. Probably if we were compelled to live on it, as were the old Homeric heroes, we might be inclined to complain as bitterly as did Menelaus; but as an occasional article of diet it should have a place in every family’s weekly menu.

Nothing affords greater relief to the housekeeper sore beset by that ever-re current thought, “What shall I give them to eat today?” than to have a family with a strong liking for fish. So fortified, she can provide soup or salad, a boiled or broiled or baked second course for dinner, croquettes or scallops for an entree, and even the “piece de resistance” of the family lunch. She can be happy, moreover, in the fact that she is feeding her flock with a healthful, digestible food.

Guides to Selection

“But,” some one cries, “I cannot digest fish. Nothing disagrees with me more quickly!” Which stats should be attributed to some personal idiosyncrasy; to improper selection of the fish itself; to carelessness in preparation, or to bad methods of cooking, rather than to wholesale condemnation of a fish dietary.

For whatever the exceptional person say, fish is both digestible and nourishing to the majority of people. Where could one find greater health and vigor, for instance, than in the small fishing settlements where little or no animal food is obtainable?

Of course, not every kind of fish has equal value in this respect; the amount of nourishment varies with the species. Thus, red-fleshed fish, such as salmon, are more nutritious than the white-fleshed, the latter, however, being more digestible. Cod proves the exception to this rule. The homely and cheap herring, strange to say, possesses more nourishment than almost say other fish.

Flabby Fish Are Stale.

Not every ore is a good buyer of fish. Too many housekeepers trust so implicitly to dealer for selection that they cannot tell if a fish is fresh or stale. Yet really it not very difficult to acquire this knowledge. A fresh fish should feel stiff and rigid—flabbiness is a sure sign of staleness. The grills should be red and the eyes bright and unsunken. These are much better tests than to judge by the smell in these days of cold storage. If, on beings purchased, a fish is not found to be quite up to the mark, it can be somewhat improved by washing in vinegar and water.

Nothing is more disgusting to a careful housewife than a badly cleaned fish. Nowadays one usually buys them ready cleaned; but even so, it is important to go over them carefully before putting away. Holding the fish by the head, scrape with a sharp knife to remove all scales, then either wash in cold water or wipe all over with a clean, damp cloth. It is a mistake to immerse a fish very long in water, even for the purpose of cleaning, and it is apt to destroy the flavor.

The after-treatment of the fish depends chiefly upon the way it is to be cooked. Probably more people fail in boiling it than any other method. Always, if possible, use a fish kettle with a strainer, to avoid danger of breaking. The time-honored method of tying the fish in muslin and placing it on a plate at the bottom of a large kettle is, however, not to be despised. Boil it in as little water as possible, and except in case of salmon, which requires boiling water, put the fish into lukewarm water, as the high temperature tends to break the skin, and with cold water much of the flavor is lost.

The length of time for cooking varies with the weight of the fish. One can usually tell when it is done by the flesh separating from the bone. It can scarcely cook too slowly, however, and, after being brought to the boiling point, should simmer gently for the rest of the time. On removing, strain carefully, and keep covered until ready for use. If lemon juice or vinegar is added to the water in which white fish is cooked, the color is improved.

Half the success of the boiled fish depends upon its dressing and serving. Either a white cream sauce, with hard-boiled eggs, or a Hollandaise sauce are the most popular. A parsley sauce, or one made of a good handful of spinach or watercress, pounded and rubbed through a fine sieve, heated over the fire with three tablespoonfuls of cream, one dessertspoonful of tarragon vinegar, yolks of two eggs, salt and pepper until it is light and frothy, makes a pleasant change.

Always serve, a boiled fish in a folded napkin and garnish it with parsley, hard-boiled-eggs or if a little color is liked, with lobster coral.

Broiled fish next to planked is probably the most palatable way it can be served. There is a decided art, however, in broiling. The broiler must be absolutely clean and rubbed with suet to prevent sticking; the fire should be clear and bright, and the fish itself must be wiped perfectly dry and brushed over with oil or melted butter and well seasoned. To cook with the necessary slowness it is well to raise the broiler on two bricks. If the fire is inclined to smoke, throw on a handful of salt.

Planked fish are now in such favor that every aspiring housekeeper should own a plank. This should be of hard wood about two inches thick, and either grooved or slightly hollowed in the center to retain the juices, and furnished with clips or wires to fasten the fish to it. The plank must be heated before using. While the ideal way to plank is before an open fire, the upper grate of a very hot oven is a good substitute. Planking is usually associated with shad, but any good white-fleshed fish, as bluefish, whitefish or halibut, is equally good.

Frying is acknowledged the least digestible way to cook fish. It can, however, be dose deliciously if the fish is either rolled in flour or dipped in well seasoned egg and bread crumbs and done in very hot fat. The temperature should be slightly lower than when cooking such things as croquettes, whose interior has been previously prepared. Oil or cottolene is the best medium for frying, as lard is very apt to taste.

Besides these staple ways of preparing fish, delicious rechaufees, croquettes and salads be made from left-overs. Escalloped fish in little individual forms or shells are good either for a family lunch, or as a course at more formal affairs. It should always be served with sauce tartare, or, at least, with a rather acid mayonnaise.

Every one should own some of the interesting ides molds which now are very inexpensive. These five most attractive forms in which to prepare left-overs, or, indeed, new creamed fishes. The sauce in which the fish is prepared should always be a little stiffer than when it is not to be molded. A very attractive way to serve salmon, either fresh or canned is in timbale molds. It is also very artistic as a course for a dinner when chopped, creamed and molded in the shape of a huge curled fish and served on a flat platter, covered with caper sauce and garnished with parsley and lemon.

Various bisques and fist soups are excellent Lenten fare, and should be more generally used than they are, as should also fish salads, chowders and creams. We are not very well acquainted in this country with the fish pies of which the English are so fond, but they provide a quite delicious way to utilize cold fish and cold mashed potatoes.

Indeed, the variety in fish fare is very marked, and gives small reason for complaint, should this sea or fresh water food be a matter of daily or frequent occurrence on the family board.

Fish Recipes for Lenten Fare

A Left-Over Fish Bisque.

RID COLD baked, or boiled, or broiled fish of bones and skin, pick into fine bits with a silver fork. Get from your fish merchant for a few cents a pint of oyster liquor. Put over the fire, with a generous lump of butter, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, add the fish, cook one minute and stir in a scant cupful of crumbs soaked in milk. Simmer for three minutes and serve. Pass sliced lemon with it.

Red Snapper Soup.

Heat a quart of white stock to a boil, stir in two cupfuls of the cold cooked fish, freed of skin and bones, and minced finely Add pepper, salt, a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and a great spoonful of butter. Heat a cupful of milk to boiling, thicken it with a white roux and a half cupful of fine cracker crumbs. When the fish has cooked in the soup for five minutes, stir the liquid into the thickened milk and serve.

Planked Shad.

Have your fish cleaned and split down the back. Wash and wipe dry. Have ready a clean oak or hickory plank about two and a half inches thick, and of such length that it will go readily into your oven. Set it in the oven till it is heated through. Rub your shad on both sides with an abundance of butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay it, open side up, on the hot plank, and fasten it firmly in place by putting a tin tack in each of the four corners. Lay the plank on the upper grating of the oven, and rub the fish with butter every few minutes until done. You can tell when this point is reached by testing with a fork. Carefully withdraw the tacks and serve the fish on a hot platter. Serve with melted butter and garnish with lemon and sprigs of parsley.

Shad Roe Croquettes.

Parboil and blanch. When perfectly cold break up and pass through a colander or vegetable press. Season with lemon juice, kitchen bouquet, paprika, and salt. Have ready a cup of rich, rather thick drawn butter. Stir the roe into it, and add a well-beaten egg together with a tablespoonful of fine bread crumbs to give the croquettes consistency. Let the mixture get perfectly cold, mold into croquettes, dip in egg and bread crumbs and leave on the ice over night. In the morning renew the crumbs and fry in deep, hissing fat, which has been brought gradually to a boil.

Salmon Loaf.

Flake cold boiled salmon and moisten it with a gill of a cream, a half gill of milk and two beaten eggs. Stir in a handful of fine crumbs, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoonful of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and a tablespoonful of minced parsley. Mix thoroughly, turn into a greased pudding dish, and bake in a steady oven for three-quarters of an hour; then turn out upon a hot platter. Serve with a white sauce. This may also be boiled in a large covered fish mold.

A Curry of Salmon.

Open a can of salmon two hours before using and remove all bits of skin and bone. Pour two tablespoonfuls of olive oil to a frying-pan and fry in it a minced onion. When the onion is brown, stir into the oil a tablespoonful of flour mixed with a teaspoonful of curry powder, and when these are blended add a large coffeecupful of boiling water. Season and stir for a moment, and turn the salmon into the mixture. Cook for two minutes and serve. Pass sliced lemon with this dish.

Halibut Steak Baked With Tomatoes.
(A Creole recipe.)

Make a rich sauce of tomatoes, fresh or canned, seasoning with butter rolled in flour, sugar, pepper, onion juice, and salt, adding, if you have it, a sweet green pepper, seeded, and minced. Cook fifteen minutes, strain, rubbing through a colander, and cool. Lay the halibut in oil and lemon juice for an hour, place upon the grating of your covered roaster; pour the sauce over it; cover and take twelve minutes to the second if the oven be good. Sift Parmesan cheese over the fish and cook five minutes longer. Serve upon a hot dish, pouring the sauce over it.

Imitation Caper Sauce.

Cut cucumber pickles into tiny cubes with a sharp knife. Do not chop them, as the must be of uniform size. Drain perfectly dry and stir into hot drawn butter. Boll for one minute. Eat with fish or chops.

Bearnaise Sauce.

Beat the yolks of two eggs very light; put into a raised-bottom saucepan and set in one of boiling water; stir into it a few drops at a time, three tablespoonfuls of salad oil, beating as you stir; then, as gradually, the same quantity of boiling water; next, one tablespoonful of lemon juice, a dash of cayenne and salt.

This is served with all sorts of fish; also with chops, cutlets, and steaks.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Just Waisting
Too Careless

Delicious and Savory Soufflés

This is the second article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 10, 1907, and is a discussion on the soufflés.

I have never made a soufflés myself, however, based on television, movies, etc. I am aware that it can be difficult ensuring the soufflé does not fall after it has been taken out of the oven.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.

Delicious and Savory Soufflés

PRONOUNCED as if written “soofflay.” Some will recognize them by the hearing of the ear who might mispronounce the printed word into unintelligibility.

“Kitchen French” thus translates it: “A pudding beaten to a froth and baked very quickly.”

Our good standby, the dictionary and cyclopedia, goes into details: “A delicate dish, sometimes savory, but usually sweet. It is made light by incorporating whites of eggs beaten to a froth, and placing it in an oven, from which it is removed the moment it puffs up, and served at once.”

Not a bad description from one who, presumably, is not a professional cook. The souffle is as often savory as sweet in my kitchen. It is one of the most popular methods known to us of utilizing left-overs. As I shall show presently, there are few vegetables that may not be saved from the stigma of “warmed-ups” by working them into the compound with the French name. For a quarter century the potato puff has been a frequent and welcome visitor to our table. It may not taste better when christened “souffle,” but it more nearly approximates the dignity of a “company dish,” especially if it be crowned with a meringue.

She is a stupid or bigoted mistress who does not learn something from every change of cooks. I, for one, am not ashamed to confess myself the debtor to even the least accomplished woman who has ever presided over my range and sink. If you will deign to study her methods, you will find that each incumbent has some specialty. One, a redheaded daughter of Erin, boasted modestly when I engaged her, that she “had quite a name for her corn bread.” She was a mediocre cook in general. She made the best corn bread I have ever eaten that was made of Northern Indian meal. I introduced the recipe into my first cook book under the title of “Nonpareil Corn Bread,” and told her I had done it. From a second cook I got a capital recipe for Yorkshire pudding, registering it under its rightful name in the face of her insistent declaration that it was “Auction Pudding.” To a later date belongs my instructor in souffles. She was a fair cook in other lines. She had a genius for souffles. It did not lower my respect for her that she was conscious of this. So long as harmless vanity in her one accomplishment did not interfere with the average excellence of her work, I encouraged her. In fact, I had secret enjoyment in the sight of Janetta’s mien and movements when allowed to transform a cupful or a saucerful of this or that left-over that might have been consigned to the garbage pail but for her proclivity to reduce any given culinary quantity to a souffle.

Her methods were worth watching. To begin with—and this stage is commended as an example to the novice in kitchen work—she collected all needed materials and tools before beginning the real business of the hour. Eggs, cream or milk, the vegetable or fruit, or marmalade, or rice or tapioca, which was to act as the foundation of the airy structure—bowls, egg beater, bake dish, sugar and other condiments—were set in intelligent order upon the table and duly scanned ere she seated herself solemnly in front of the array and fell to work. In the three years of her incumbency she never once failed to send in a soufflé at the right moment—puffy, tender, hot, and in all things satisfactory. What matter if an artist magnify her office when the result is invariably success? It is something to be proud of—the ability to do one thing as well, if not better, than anybody else can do it—be it ruling an empire or tossing up a souffle.

RECIPES FOR SOUFFLES OF VARIOUS KINDS

A Cheese Souffle
(A nice luncheon dish.)

PUT two tablespoonfuls of butter into a deep frying-pan, and when it hisses stir into it two tablespoonfuls of flour. Rub and stir to a smooth “roux” and add gradually a cupful of milk. Bring to a boil, having dropped a quarter of a teaspoonful of soda into the milk, and stir in an even cupful of grated cheese, a saltspoonful of salt and a dash of cayenne. In two chilled bowls have ready the yolks and the whites of four eggs, beaten separately and very light. Turn the contents of the frying-pan into a third bowl, and pour in with this gradually the beaten yolks, beating all the time. Fold into the mixture, and lightly, the stiffened whites. Pour all into a bakedish ready heated and buttered, and bake in a quick, steady oven to a delicate brown. Send to the table promptly, before it falls.

Bread-and-Cheese Souffle.

Scald two cupfuls of milk, adding a half-teaspoonful of soda. Add a cupful of fine, dry crumbs, and take from the fire. Leave the crumbs in soak for ten minutes, beat to a smooth paste, add a cupful of finely grated and very dry cheese, a tablespoonful of melted butter, a pinch of cayenne and a saltspoonful of salt. Beat hard for a minute and add the yolks of three eggs whipped light; lastly, the stiffened whites of the eggs. Pour into a heated and buttered bakedish, sift fine crackerdust on the top and bake, covered, for fifteen minutes in a brisk oven. Uncover and brown lightly.

A delicious dish, and more wholesome than one based entirely upon cheese.

Baked Souffle of Eggs.

Scald a cup of milk, putting in a tiny pinch of soda. Beat the yolks of six eggs until light and creamy, and the whites till stiff enough to stand alone. Add one-half teaspoonful of salt, a dash of pepper and one rounded tablespoonful of butter to the milk, and stir it into the yolks; then beat in the whites very quickly. Pour into a deep, buttered pudding dish and bake in a moderate oven ten minutes, or to a delicate brown. Serve immediately in the bakedish.

Orange Souffle.

Cut stale sponge cake into small cubes and saturate with orange juice. Pour into a dish and pour over it rich custard. Cover with whipped cream and put Maraschino cherries on top.

Spinach Souffle.

Chop a cupful of cold cooked spinach very fine, or run it through the vegetable press. Beat in a tablespoonful of melted butter, salt and pepper to taste, half a teaspoonful of sugar and a pinch of mace nutmeg. Stir and beat to a smooth paste; add half a cupful of milk, the beaten yolks of three eggs, and when these are well mixed with the other ingredients, ??? in the stiffened whites. Beat for thirty seconds and turn into a buttered dish. Bake twenty, minutes in a quick oven. It is very good.

Green Pea Souffle.

Mash a cupful of cooked peas to a smooth pulp, working in, as you go on, a tablespoonful of melted butter. Mix with this a cupful of milk, into which you have dropped a pinch of soda. Season with salt and pepper; beat in the whipped yolks of three eggs, and, a minute later, the stiffened whites. Turn into a buttered bakedish; bake, covered, in a brisk oven for twenty minutes, then brown lightly.

Potato Souffle.

Into a cupful of mashed potatoes work a cupful and a half of milk which has been scalded, and a pinch of soda added. Beat hard and light. Season with salt and pepper and a teaspoonful of onion juice. Add a teaspoonful of melted butter and beat to a cream before whipping in the yolks, then the whites, of two beaten eggs. Turn into a buttered pudding dish and bake, covered, for ten minutes in a quick oven. Then, uncover and brown.

Rice Souffle.

Make a roux of a tablespoonful of butter and one of flour heated and stirred together in a saucepan. When smooth pour in a cupful of milk heated with a bit of soda. Remove from the fire, and, when it is lukewarm, beat into the sauce a cupful of cold boiled rice, then the yolks, and finally the whites of three eggs, beaten separately. Bake in a pudding dish set in a quick oven. Keep the dish covered for ten minutes.

Onion Souffle.

Make as you would the rice souffle, substituting for the cold boiled rice a cupful of boiled onion—yesterday’s “leftover”—run through the colander or vegetable press, and free from all bits of skin and fibre.

It is very savory.

The Queen of Souffles.

Soak half a pound of prunes over night. On the morrow drain them well, remove the stones and mince the prunes finely. Whip the whites of seven eggs to a standing foam, beat in quickly six spoonfuls of powdered sugar; whip the minced prunes into this meringue; turn into a buttered pudding dish and bake in a hot oven. Twenty minutes should send it to table hot and high—a very dream of lightness and deliciousness.

Serve whipped cream as a sauce.

Date Souffle.

Is made in the save way, and is esteemed by some epicures as hardly second to the “Queen.”

Chocolate Souffle.

Make a roux of a tablespoonful of butter and one of flour in a saucepan. When smooth, add, by degrees three-quarters of a cupful of milk. Have ready in a bowl the beaten yolks of three eggs, into which have been stirred three tablespoonfuls of sugar. Turn the white sauce upon this; add four tablespoonfuls of grated sweet chocolate, and whip to a lukewarm cream. Set on ice to cool, stirring now and then to hinder a crust from forming. When quite cold, fold in the frothed whites of the eggs, and turn into a buttered pudding dish. Bake quickly and serve at once with whipped cream.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
The Housemother’s Exchange

Some Delicious Lenten Entrees

This is the first article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 3, 1907, and is a discussion on the entree. It is interesting to note that the entree was once identified as “a made dish introduced between the principal courses of a dinner.” Over one hundred years ago today an entree was a dish eaten prior to one of the main dishes, whereas, today the entree is known as the or one of many main dishes in a meal.

Also discussed in this article are sweetbreads. Like the chafing dish, sweetbreads are something that have gone out of fashion based on my knowledge. In fact, on first glance I assumed sweetbreads would be confectionery considering sweet is in the word. Imagine my surprise when I Googled that sweetbreads are actually the thymus or pancreas of a calf and lamb and that sweet refers to the flavour of the meat.

Another item on the menu is the calf’s head which is another item that isn’t exactly easily accessible to people today.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.

Some Delicious Lenten Entrees

Who sets the fashions? The question never has been, and it never will been answered satisfactorily. About 800 years before the birth of the Christian era somebody or something ordained that the daughters of Zion should wear changeable suits of apparel, round tires (tiaras) like the moon, mantles, wimples and crisping pins. The inventory is too long to be copied out in full here. So circumstantial it is, one suspects that the indignant prophet called upon the womenkind of his household for help in making it out.

St. Paul, writing in the second half of the first century, A.D., is more general in condemnation of the ultra-fashionist whose taste ran to embroidery and jewelry. In the fiftieth century, the mysterious arbiter of customs had so led away wise as well as silly women that the heap of finery cremated in the public square at Savonarola’s command to his converts made a smoke that darkened the heavens at midday.

Who first abolished the hoop and towering headdress of Queen Anne’s reign, and who brought them in again in the middle of Queen Victoria’s? Who forbade the sweeping curtsey of our grandmothers, and is now drilling our grandchildren in the very same motion?

WHENCE TABLE FASHIONS?

Who ordained the good man’s tables must no longer groan under the weight of a dozen dishes, but be decorated with flowers, and tricked out with chef d’oeuvres, and that all which builds up and solaces the inner man shall be served from kitchen and “service table”? Who dictated that dish is not to be touched with the knife and ice cream must be eaten with a fork in preference to the honest and convenient spoon?

Who banished the “side dish” from the main board and taught us to call it an entree?

We, who cling to English speech—sometimes at the expense of grammar and oftener by the sacrifice of elegance—persisted in naming them as “made dishes” until chefs and butlers put us to open shame and forced the foreign phrase between our teeth. We all say “entree” meekly now, and we have ceased to torment ourselves with speculations as to the identity of the Tyrant to whom man and woman kind have done homage for all these thousands of years. In the days of the Empress Eugenie we said with glib complacency that she “gave fashions to the world.” She sank out of sight, and the nameless Despot of whose abiding place no man knoweth unto this day still tells us, though his thousands of myrmidons, what we shall wear, and when; what we shall eat, and how and where.

MODERN IMPROVEMENTS

This is not a growl, dear reader! The Dictator is not consistently unkind. We eat, drink and live, generally, more sensibly than our fathers dreamed of doing. But one can’t help wondering how it happens that we do! When did you, dear housemother, who lay no claim to the reputation of a fashionable woman, discover that it is no longer “the thing” to have a hot roast at the foot of the table to be carved by John, a secondary roast at the head, a couple of side dishes and faithful flankings of vegetables up on side of the board and down the other? This was entirely en regle for the second course of a dinner party forty years ago. Soup preceded it. When we wished to be in very fine feather, we had a fish and a salad course. Can you cast your thoughts backward and tell us, with any degree of accuracy, how you arrived at the conclusion that your present mode of serving and eating was the better way—in fact, the one and only way for “nice people? To adopt? Go a step further. How did it come to pass that, without any concert of action, all your neighbors also took to the altered fashion of “diners a la Russe,” and the accompaniments of service table and a dozen etceteras to which your children have been used for the major part of their lives? We spoke with bated breath of giving what the consulting caterer called “a course dinner” when those young folks were in the nursery. We sit down to “course dinners” seven days in the week, nowadays. We have not grown much richer. Our position in society is an inheritance from parents who were of gentle blood and breeding. Yet we do not live as they lived. Who sounded the order for the change of base?

“Entree” is defined in my small manual of “Kitchen French” as “a made dish introduced between the principal courses of a dinner.” The definition is food—as I once heard a circuit rider say encouragingly to a brother who stammered to a hopeless breakdown in the middle of a prayer—“very good, so far as it goes!” But “made dishes” is a term so constantly applied to “rechauffes,” or warmed-up meats, that we have come to associate it exclusively with “left-overs.” And all entrees are not second thoughts, an effort more or less successful, to evolve savoriness out of insipidity. For example, sweetbreads, kidneys, mushrooms, asparagus—in some of the ways I have written of lately—macaroni in divers shapes, sweet core on the ear or as a pudding, stuffed eggplant—and half a score of other “first hand” edibles—are entrees. I do not undertake to supply one word which will aptly define what has superseded the obsolete side dish; the intermediate course of the company dinner, and which serves excellently well as the principal dish of the family luncheon when the base is meat. As a matter of necessity and custom, we fall back upon “kitchen French” and cover the long list—growing with the increasing luxuries of our civilization—with the ambiguous, elastic ENTREE.

MANY TOOTHSOME DISHES

I am thus minute in explanation, because I know of no other culinary phrase which is more misused and abused. Your “made dish” may be an entree, but, as we have seen, all entrees are not left-overs. It is a joy, too, in these days of individual ramekins, casseroles and casserole chafing dishes to make toothsome and savory entrees.

The chafing dish pictured for instance, is a product of modern arts and crafts workmanship, and a most useful one. The tray itself is of mission wood, and the stand copper, with brass trimmings. The head is inclosed so the whole dish gets the benefit, and there is a quaint door effect like and old-fashioned oven. The cover is of copper, and has a mission wood handle, in keeping with the tray. In fact, it is quite unlike the silver and aluminum chafing dish of other days.

Bake Sweetbreads

Wash the sweetbreads carefully, freeing them from skin and strings. This done, drop them into boiling water, slightly salted, and cook for ten minutes. Turn off the water and cover the sweetbreads (in a cold vessel) with iced water. In five minutes drain and cover with more iced water. Leave them in this for one hour. Take out and wipe dry.

This process is known as “blanching.” It is necessary to the right preparation of sweetbreads, making firm and white what would else be flabby and dull-red.

Cut fat salt pork into thin strips (lardoons) and make incisions in the sweetbreads with a narrow, keen blade. Thrust the lardoons into these. They should project half an inch on each side of the sweetbread. Arrange the larded sweetbreads in a deep bakedish; pour a cupful of well-seasoned stock about them, cover and bake for twenty minutes. Several times during the cooking lift the cover and baste the sweetbreads copiously with the gravy.

Remove the sweetbreads to a hot dish; stir into the gravy left in the dish a roux made by cooking a tablespoonful of butter with one of browned flour. Add a teaspoonful of onion juice and three olives, minced fine. Cook one minute, add a glass of brown sherry and pour the gravy over the sweetbreads.

An Easter Entree of Sweetbreads

Blanch, lard and bake the sweetbreads as directed in the last recipe. Set in a closely covered dish over a pan of boiling water while you prepare the “nest” which is to receive them. Cut into long shreds some cold meat. Chicken or turkey or veal is best for the purpose. The meat should be white. Mix with a generous cupful of boiled spaghetti, drained and clipped into length. Make a ring of the mixture upon a hot platter, wet well with a cupful of rich, hot gravy, set in the over for five minutes, or until heated through, lay the sweetbreads within the garnish around with the dish.

A pleasing variation of this handsome dish may be made by pouring tomato sauce, made rich with butter, thickened with browned flour and seasoned with salt, pepper and onion juice, over the nest and content after they are dished.

Sweetbread Pates

Wash and blanch the sweetbreads. Cut into neat dice and mix with an equal quantity of canned mushrooms (champignons), cut into pieces of corresponding size. Blanch a dozen almonds and shred into tiny bits. Have ready a cupful of good drawn butter, rather highly seasoned. Stir sweetbreads and almonds into this and set over the fire in a double boiler. Heat a dozen shells of pastry in the oven and when the mixture in the inner boiler is very hot fill them with it.

A Casserole of Liver

Wash a lamb’s liver and lay in cold water for an hour. Take it out, wipe, and slice. Fry together half a dozen slices of fat pork and a sliced union until the fat is crisped. Strain off the fat and return to the fire. Lay the liver in it, and fry quickly, first on one side, then the other, until it is slightly browned. Scald the casserole and lay the sliced livery in it. Between the slices put a dozen potato marbles, cut out with a gouge and parboiled, and half a dozen boiled green peas, left from yesterday, or a few champignons, may be added. Fill up the dish with soup-stock or gravy, thickened with browned flour. Fit on a close cover and cook for an hour and a half. This is a cheap and most savory entree that will not be unwelcome as the mainstay of a family dinner.

Send to table in the casserole. If the cover does not fit tightly, fill the space between it and the casserole with a thick paste of flour and water. The chief advantage of the casserole is that it keeps in all the flavor and juices.

Calf’s Head en Casserole

Boil a calf’s head until the flesh leaves the bones of its own weight. Leave it in the liquor until perfectly cold. Cut into pieces an inch long and half as wide. Thicken two cupfuls of the pot liquor with a roux made by cooking together two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice.

Add the meat to this and turn into the casserole. The tongue, cut into dice, should go in with the rest of the head. Lay on the top two hard-boiled eggs, sliced, then sift over all very fine bread crumbs to form a light crust. Stick dots of butter in the crumbs; fit on the cover and bake for forty minutes.

Send to table, covered, in the casserole.

Savory Macaroni

Cook half a pound of macaroni for twenty minutes in salted, boiling water. Into another saucepan put two cupfuls of beef stock; thicken with a brown “roux” made as I have directed in former recipes. Cook for five minutes, stirring it smooth; add four tablespoonfuls of tomato catsup, a teaspoonful of kitchen bouquet, the same of inion juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the cooked macaroni and add it to this gravy. Pour all into a bakedish; sift a mixture of fine crumbs and double the quantity of Parmesan cheese over the surface, stick bits of butter here and there; add the tiniest dust of cayenne, and bake, covered half an hour, then brown lightly.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
The Housemother’s Exchange

Different Ways of Preparing Asparagus

This is the final article in February of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on February 24, 1907, and is a discussion on how to cook asparagus.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Different Ways of Preparing Asparagus

THE high rank of “Asparagus officinalis” awarded to this child of the early springtime justifies us in making it the subject of a paper entirely given up to its nature, works and ways. It was in high favor in imperial Rome. The epicurean patrician— when the modern master would say, “Be quick about it!” and the city conductor would growl, “Step lively!”—enjoined his slave to “do it in less time than is needed to cook asparagus!”

Most of us are familiar with the tale of the two French gourmands who quarreled over the rival merits of oil and butter in cooking asparagus, finally compromising by sending word to the cook to prepare half of the vegetable with butter and half with oil. The friends chatted amicably for awhile after the point was settled. Suddenly the advocate of butter, who was the guest of the other, fell down in a fit. The host raised him and saw that he was dead. Whereupon he laid down the lifeless body, ran to the head of the kitchen stairs and shouted to the chef: “Do it all in oil! The butter-man is dead!”

An American lover of the table avers that Asparagus officinalis “is an aristocrat from tip to stalk.” All of which goes to prove that the owner of the high-sounding title differs utterly from human upstarts. He is an upstart, nevertheless, and the further he gets away from his native soil the less worthy is he.

AT ITS BEST IN VIRGINIA

In Virginia, where our aristocrat of the kitchen-garden is at his best, he is systematically kept under the surface of the ground. Asparagus is planted in rows, and as it peeps above the earth, it is banked out of sight, the long lines of rich mould rising steadily to keep pace with its growth. As a result, when the asparagus is cut for the table it is bleached from root to tip and tender throughout. It took me a long time to learn to accept the spindling green stalks offered in Northern markets as asparagus. Sometimes German green-grocers and market-women called it “grass.” This was said to be a perversion of the stately name. Indeed, country folk often spoke of it as “sparrowgrass.” A half century ago Frederic Cozzens, genial and loving humorist, made us laugh with him at the bucolic ambitions of Mr. Sparrowgrass and his spouse. We quote him to this day.

PREJUDICE AGAINST “GRASS”

I own, frankly, to a rooted prejudice against the “grass,” which time and usage have not overcome. My heart still turns fondly to the plump and pale columnettes grown in Southern market-gardens. Yet I am told that what medicinal virtues are inherent in asparagus are more, potent in the green spindles than in the bleached larger stalks. I am quite ready to believe the further assertion that these virtues are eliminated from canned asparagus and that the delicate straw-color of the closely packed stalks is due to chemical agents. We all know how flavorless the canned imitation is by comparison with the fresh vegetable.

Like other succulent growths, asparagus depreciates quickly when drawn from the earth. If cooked within an hour or two after it is cut, the twenty minutes’ boil recommended by cook-books will send it to table tender and good. It has long been my custom to cut off half an inch from the lower part of asparagus bought in the markets and to set the stalks upright in water as I do with cut flowers. It responds gratefully to the treatment, growing crisp and plump in a few hours. A damp cloth should be thrown over it and the vessel in which it stands.

ASPARAGUS RECIPES

Boiled Asparagus (English Style).

Cut off an inch from the lower part of the stalks and scrape them from end to end with a sharp knife, taking off the thin outer skin alone, without bruising the rest. All the stalks must be of equal length. Bind them into a bunch and set up right in a saucepan of boiling water slightly salted, just deep enough to leave over an inch of the tips out of water. Lay clean stones about the base of the stalks to prevent them from tipping over. Fit a close cover on the saucepan to keep in the steam, and after you feel that the boil has begun, cook twenty minutes.

Take up the asparagus, drain off all the water, untie the threads and lay the stalks, alternately tip to base, on a hot dish. Cover with a good drawn butter and serve.

This might be called a “steamed” rather than boiled asparagus, the distinctive feature of the process being that the tips are steamed and thus left plumper and less sodden than if immersed with the stalks in the boiling water. If the asparagus be withered and stale, cook for twenty-five minutes.

Boiled Asparagus (German Style).

Cut two inches from the lower part of the stalks. (The thrifty German housewife never throws these away. They go into the stockpot, adding pleasantly to the flavor).

Scrape off the woody skin and tie into bunches of a dozen stalks each. Lay at length in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Put on a cover and cook fast for ten minutes; then add an even teaspoonful of salt and a heaping teaspoonful of butter. Cook for fifteen minutes more; drain, lay on buttered toast and pour over it a cupful of drawn butter based on milk, into which a beaten egg has been stirred and heated for one minute. Season the white sauce with salt and pepper.

Baked Asparagus (Italian Style).

Cut the stalks short, as directed in the last recipe, and cook tender in salted
Boiling water. Drain and cover the bottom of a buttered bakedish with a layer, arranging in alternate rows of tips to the ends of the stalks. Have ready this sauce: Drawn butter, based upon a cup of hot milk thickened with a roux of a tablespoonful of flour cooked smooth with a scant tablespoonful of butter; the yolks of two eggs beaten light and two heaping tablespoonfuls of Parmesan cheese. Cover the layer of asparagus with this, dust lightly with cayenne, put in the rest of the asparagus, arranged as before; pour the remainder of the sauce on this and sift fine crumbs that have been dried in the oven on the top of all. Bake, covered, for ten minutes, then brown delicately.

This is a savory entree, and much liked by those who have eaten it in Italy. Parmesan cheese must be used in the manufacture. No other kind will give the right flavor.

Asparagus Cups.

With a cake-cutter cut rounds of stale French bread an inch and a half thick. With a cutter a size smaller mark a circle in the centre of each round to the depth of an inch. Carefully take out the crumb defined by this circle, leaving a well-rounded well, with a thin layer of bread at the bottom. Fry these to a light, even brown in salted fat, and fill with the following mixture:

FILLING.

Cook the tips of a bunch of asparagus tender in water to which you have added a little salt and a teaspoonful of butter. Drain, pepper; mix with a rich drawn butter; return to the fire, and when it simmers stir into it (carefully, not to break the tips) a beaten egg. Simmer for a minute; arrange the hot “cups” on a heated platter and fill them with the mixture.

Serve very hot. You may improve the entree by sifting Parmesan cheese over the filled cups and setting in the oven for a minute. It is very good, prepared in either way.

A Scallop of Asparagus (Swiss Style).

Leave but an inch of the stalk below the tender part of the tips. Cook tender in boiling water, salted, adding a bit of butter at the end of ten minutes. Drain and dispose a layer in a well-buttered bakedish. Have ready six eggs boiled hard. Rub the yolks to powder, season with pepper and salt and strew thickly over the asparagus. Dot with butter and put in the rest of the asparagus. Pour over the top a cupful of milk heated to scalding, then thickened with a roux made by stirring together in a pan over the fire a great spoonful of butter with a tablespoonful of flour. Cover this sauce with very fine, dry crumbs, stick bits of butter in it, pepper and sift Parmesan cheese over all. Bake for fifteen minutes, covered, in a brisk oven, then uncover and brown lightly.

Curried Asparagus.

The tips are used for this dish.

Make a roux by frying a sliced onion in three tablespoonfuls of butter, until the onion is slightly colored. Strain it out, then return the butter to the fire and stir into it a heaping tablespoonful of flour, a teaspoonful of lemon juice, a dash of paprika and a tablespoonful of curry powder. Have ready heated in another saucepan a cupful of milk (adding a pinch of soda), and stir it gradually into the roux, removing it from the fire to do this. Set again on the range, stir for a few seconds and pour over the asparagus tips, which have been cooked tender in salted boiling water, drained and arranged in a deep dish.

A delightful side dish when cold lamb or cold chicken is the piece de resistance.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
A Ginger Jar’s Transformation
The Housemother’s Exchange

Savory and Nourishing Lenten Fare

This is the final article in February of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on February 17, 1907, and is a discussion on Lenten fare such as mushrooms.

Personally I love mushrooms but I am hesitant towards Dandelions.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Savory and Nourishing Lenten Fare

IT IS hardly thirty years since I wrote, prefatory to a chapter on mushrooms:

“Not being ambitious of martyrdom, even in the cause of gastronomical enterprise, I never eat native mushrooms; but I learned, years ago, in hillside rambles, how to distinguish the real from the spurious.”

All the mushrooms sold in our markets at that and anterior dates were gathered in such rambles. August and September were harvest months. Then, parties of young folk, baskets in hand, repaired to sunny uplands early in the summer day before the freshness of the dew was dried by the climbing sun. The younger the mushroom the more wholesome it was, provided it were fairly above-ground and fully formed. The foraging party was led and officered by one learned in the characteristics that set aside the edible fungi from his prettier and poisonous brother.

THE TIME-HONORED TESTS

“Would you mistake a peach for a potato?” demanded one to whom I lamented my ignorance and consequent dread of mushrooms. All the same, when we got our spoils home, we applied to them all the tests known to our grandmothers and to the generation following. We inspected the root for signs of the poison “cup”; the stem for trace of the ominous “hood”; we stirred the mushrooms with a silver spoon while cooking them, and dropped a silver-skinned onion into the pot. And, after the savory mess was pronounced “Not guilty,” the most wary of us declined to eat of it, “for fear all signs might have failed.”

It is not ten years since the younger member of our family went wild over a new mushroom manual just published. Quoting to the bewildered cook the lament, and failing to convert her into the belief that “whole hundredweights of rich, wholesome diet was rotting under the trees, and that a plenteous harvest of delicious feasting annually goes begging in our woods and fields,” the explorers brought home to me “specimens” they were sure were rich and wholesome, or would be when properly cooked. One dark-red fungus complied with every requisition of the “beefsteak mushroom.” lauded by the fascinating mushroom author.

TRIED IT ON THE DOG

“It cannot be poisonous, even if it is not a real steak,” argued the ringleader of the experiment party, “for it grew upon a stump, and the wrong kind never grow on wood.”

As a compromise between the elders who hesitated and the juniors who urged, it was finally decided to “try it on the dog” literally, and “Mops,” described by his small master as a “pure mongrel,” was chosen as the victim. The steak was cooked, also a fine specimen of the “oyster mushroom,” which grew on a tree trunk, and poor Mops swallowed a few inches of each. This was at breakfast time, and as he was alive and jumping at 1 o’clock, the boys ate the rest of the “rich, wholesome diet” for luncheon. It was a successful experiment, as all agreed. That is, neither dog nor boy was the worse for it. If the cook and I noted, with silent satisfaction, that beefsteaks and oysters were left to grow and perish on the logs for the rest of the season, we refrained from raillery.

A NEW ERA

The facile French tongue has a way of disposing of a dead and introducing a live era in a single phrase—“Nous avons change tout cela!”

The product of latter-day mushroom culture is absolutely safe. The edible springs from “spawn” harvested by the intelligent horticulturist. He has greenhouses, hotbeds and cellars built expressly for the work. His supply is not dependent upon summer suns and September dews. By judicious management, he has a goodly crop on hand to meet the epicure’s demand for tempting variation of Lenten fare as the penitential weeks tax the housewife’s resources.

Nor need the demand be confined to the rich and epicurean. Mushrooms are the Lenten substitute for meat. In certain portions of the city they may be bought for 50 cents per pound, while in fashionable quarters they bring 95. Study your markets. It is well known, for example, that in New York the same quality of meat, poultry and vegetables may be bought from one-quarter to one-third cheaper in the large markets near the wharves than in the upper districts where wealth and fashion dwell. The same difference is to be found in all large cities. Buy mushrooms in the lower markets. Buy them, too, from responsible dealers who will not impose those that are stale to rottenness upon you for fresh, or raise them yourself if you have a good cellar space.

DANDELIONS

They are a native and not a patrician “greens.” In the country they are highly and justly esteemed as wholesome, and the eaters who relish turnip tops the more for the bitter “tang” which sets nicer tastes against them reckon dandelions as suave by comparison.

They, too, have their bitter stage. It does not begin until the flower forms. The greens should be gathered in advance of the appearance of the “harmless gold.”

Mushroom and Dandelion Recipes

Broiled Mushrooms.

Wash and strip off the skins. If large, cut each in half; if small, leave them whole. Lay upon a buttered broiler, and cook over a clear fire, turning at the end of three minutes, to broil the other side. Have arranged on a hot-water dish rounds of thin bread, delicately toasted. Butter, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; lay a mushroom on each and serve.

Grilled Mushrooms.

Wash and peel, cutting off the stems. Lay all in a platter and cover with melted butter, with which you have mixed the juice of half a lemon.

Leave the mushrooms in this for fifteen minutes before transferring them to a buttered broiler. Brown lightly on both sides. Lay upon buttered toast (cut very thin), cover, and keep hot while you broil the stems, and when they are done garnish the dish with them.

Baked Mushrooms.

Peel and cut off the stems. Put a layer of the mushrooms in the bottom of a well buttered bakedish, the gills downward. Pour upon them a few spoonfuls of melted butter, mixed with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. Next, put in a layer of the stems and treat in the same way. Cover with mushrooms and set in a brisk oven, fit on a close top and bake, covered, for ten minutes: remove the top, pour hot butter over the mushrooms; leave in the oven for ten minutes more and serve.

Creamed Mushrooms.

Peel, scraping the stems, without cutting them off. Turn into a saucepan, cover deep with hot water, slightly salted, and simmer for ten minutes. Meanwhile, heat in another vessel a cupful of milk, adding a tiny pinch of soda; rub a heaping tablespoonful of flour into a heaping tablespoonful of butter; stir in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Drain the salted water from the mushrooms, season with pepper and add the hot, thickened milk. Set the saucepan in a pan of boiling water over the fire for five minutes and turn the contents into a heated dish.

Mushrooms and Lobster.

To two cupfuls of picked lobster meat allow half a pound of mushrooms. Peel, skin them, and cut into dice of uniform size. Heat two tablespoonfuls of butter in a saucepan, and stir into it one of flour. With a silver fork ??? and mix the lobster and mushrooms together, add to the hot “roux”; set over the fire and simmer for five minutes; take from the range, add half a cupful of cream, which has been scalded (with a bit of soda). Now return to the fire, setting the saucepan in an outer boiler of hot water. Simmer for three minutes more; stir in a glass of sherry and serve.

Mushrooms Stewed With Oysters.

Select twenty-five fine oysters; drain off the liquor and dry them between two towels. Put two tablespoonfuls of butter into a saucepan, and when it hisses add the oysters and stir until they “ruffle” and are smoking hot. In another vessel heat the oyster liquor; season with salt and pepper. Turn into this a cupful of milk heated and thickened with a tablespoonful of flour wet up with cold milk. Heat these together for three minutes. Have ready a cupful of mushrooms, peeled and cut small, stems and all. Turn these into the white sauce you have just made and simmer five minutes. Cook slowly and steadily, stirring often; season with salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of butter. Heat again, stir in the hot oysters, cook for one minute, and add the beaten yolks of two eggs. As soon as they are fairly mixed with the other ingredients turn out and serve.

If properly made, this is a delicious dish.

Dandelion “Greens.”

Pick the leaves from the stems, wash and drop into cold water. Boil as I have directed you to cook spinach—in the inner vessel of a double kettle—adding no water to the vegetable except what clings to the leaves. Fill the outer saucepan with boiling water and cook, covered until the greens are soft. Rub then through the vegetable press into a saucepan; beat into them a teaspoonful of sugar and one of lemon juice, salt and pepper, a tablespoonful of butter and one of cream. Don’t forget a pinch of soda in the cream. Beat light and smooth. bring to the final boil and serve.

Creamed Dandelions.

Cook the leaves as directed in last recipe. While they are boiling make a good drawn butter with two cupfuls of milk, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one of flour, a little salt and pepper. Add the pinch of soda to the milk. Drain the dandelions, pressing out all the water; mince finely, stir into the sauce, cook for a minute after the boil is reached, and, just before serving, beat in slowly a well-whipped egg. Take immediately from the fire and pour into a deep, covered dish.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
The Care of the Bathroom
The Housemother’s Exchange