Monthly Archives: December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Eastman Johnson's Christmas Time -- The Blodgett Family, 1864, Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain - Wikipedia)

Eastman Johnson’s Christmas Time — The Blodgett Family, 1864, Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain – Wikipedia).

Well, Christmas is fast approaching—there are cookies that need baking and carols that need singing, so…

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support this past year and to wish you and your families a very peaceful Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.

May 2016 bring new discoveries that excite, entertain, and educate us about the lives of our ancestors whose traditions & values have been passed down to us and remain woven into the fabric of who we are. I’ll leave you with a couple of quick, easy recipes for any last-minute baking. See you in 2016!

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Grandma’s Ice Cream Patties

Ingredients:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg well-beaten
1/8 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup walnuts/candied cherries (cut into quarters/eighths)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly. Blend in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and salt together and add to the creamed mixture, blending well. Measure small spoonfuls of batter (1/2 tsp) onto well-greased baking sheets. (If you use parchment paper, they don’t spread out as much and the edges are more widely browned). Place a piece of walnut/candied cherry in middle of each cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (as early as 6 minutes, especially if you are at a low altitude). Yield: 4-5 dozen patties.

Cranberry-Walnut Pie

Mix together:
• One cup of cranberries
• One cup of walnuts
• One-half cup of sugar
Put mixture in a greased pie pan.

Then, mix together:
• One cup flour
• One cup sugar
• One melted stick of butter
• And two eggs
Dump on top of cranberry mix and spread out.

Bake at 325 degrees F. (163 degrees C.) for 50 minutes. Serve with large dollop of whipped cream.

Categories: Christmas, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments

Jule & Juliet, 1896: Madame De Ryther’s “Roast Saddle of Venison” — a recipe from the Adirondacks

Hound and Hunter (1892) – by Winslow Homer. Per Wikimedia: Homer’s watercolor sketch for Hound and Hunter showed, lying behind the boy, a rifle that the artist later painted out. When this final canvas was exhibited in 1892, its subject was condemned as a cruel sport then practiced in the Adirondacks. Some viewers believed the youth was drowning the deer to save ammunition. The artist curtly responded, “The critics may think that that deer is alive but he is not—otherwise the boat and man would be knocked high and dry.”

Hound and Hunter (1892) – by Winslow Homer. [image cropped] Per Wikimedia: Homer’s watercolor sketch for Hound and Hunter showed, lying behind the boy, a rifle that the artist later painted out. When this final canvas was exhibited in 1892, its subject was condemned as a cruel sport then practiced in the Adirondacks. Some viewers believed the youth was drowning the deer to save ammunition. The artist curtly responded, “The critics may think that that deer is alive but he is not—otherwise the boat and man would be knocked high and dry.”

One new thing I’ve learned about late 19th-/early-20th-century food writer Madame Jule De Ryther comes from the New York Times, March 1, 1896, article “The Secrets of the Carver; An Early English Dinner. Studies in the Operative Surgery of Animals” by Juliet Corson. It featured a roast saddle of venison recipe, “traceable to Adirondack hunters and guides,” that belonged to Madame De Ryther, “the descendant of a line of hunters and hosts whose forest cookery has long been famous.”

John George Brown (American, 1831-1913) Claiming the Shot - After the Hunt in the Adirondacks

John George Brown (American, 1831-1913) Claiming the Shot – After the Hunt in the Adirondacks

While Jule De Ryther, a famous concert soprano, found a second career discussing and sharing her knowledge about food, Juliet Corson (1841-1897) spent her whole career trying to educate the public about food and cookery, and healthy and economical eating, particularly among society’s poorest. She was a proponent of letting nothing go to waste and making the tastiest and most nutritious meals possible no matter how small the budget. At 35, she founded the New York School of Cookery and operated it for seven years before ill-health forced her to close it down. She traveled the country, between bouts of ill-health, to promote the need for cookery classes in public schools. The French Consul General in NYC even consulted with her to see how her methods could be adapted to France.

Miss Corson’s numerous publications included Fifteen-Cent Dinners for Workingmen’s Families, published by the author for free distribution to working-people earning $1.50, or less, a day (New York, 1877), Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six (1879), and Practical American Cookery & Household Management (1886); for links to other publications, click here. I’ve not had time to read any of them, but I am sure she has plenty of tips that could apply to us today. Many of us are always looking for economical ways to feed our families and maximize our resources. One can only speculate what else Corson may have taught us had her life not been cut short at age 56 by a debilitating tumor (NYT obituary – “Death of Juliet Corson; The Well-Known Writer and Teacher of Cookery and Dietetics Expires Almost Alone”).

Juilet_Corson

Juliet Corson (Credit: Wikipedia)

By the time Miss Corson penned this article in 1896, she was near her life’s end. You can tell from the article how passionate she is about food, and how knowledgeable. I was going to include just the portion about Madame De Ryther, but decided to include the entire article since it contains so much interesting information on the history of food and the preparation of game, an art that was already being lost in this country back then when venison was “the only wild meat ever seen freely in the New York market,” and is now in most places a great rarity, which is understandable of course, but it’s still interesting to get a sense of how our ancestors lived and worked, and what they ate. And how they may have prepared it.

Have a good Monday, all!

PS: Receipts = recipes; frumenty = thick wheat porridge usually served with venison (in Medieval times).

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Categories: Adirondacks, Corson Juliet food educator, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Hunting, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

1825 newspaper reports the astounding survival story of frontiersman Hugh Glass

HughGlass

Hugh Glass, b. cir 1780, Pennsylvania; d. 1833, Yellowstone River (Credit: Wikipedia Commons; Author unknown)

If you’ve been to the cinema recently, you may have seen the brief but brutal trailer for Leonardo Di Caprio’s latest film Revenant (“one that returns after death or a long absence” per Merriam-Webster’s). Based on true events, the film recounts what happened in August 1823 to frontiersman Hugh Glass when he—at roughly age 43  (a senior citizen by early 19th-century standards)—was deliberately abandoned in what is now South Dakota by two men who had been ordered to stay behind with him after a brutal bear attack left him almost dead. The men were members of a corps of 100 men, led by General William Henry Ashley, who were traveling up the Missouri River on a fur-trading expedition. (For more on “Ashley’s Hundred,” click here.) (If you are planning to see the film and don’t want to know the back story, stop reading here!)

Seriously wounded, Glass regained consciousness to find himself alone with no provisions or weapons two hundred miles from the nearest American settlement. Determined to survive, get back his weapons, and hunt down his betrayers, Glass bound his broken leg and crawled for six weeks through the wilderness, surviving initially on berries, before making it to Fort Kiowa (in present-day South Dakota) where he recovered. Then he set off again, still in pursuit of his belongings and betrayers, surviving more near death experiences before wandering into Fort Atkinson (present-day Nebraska) in June 1824—much to the astonishment of all those who recognized him and thought him long dead. Glass had gone there because he’d heard the second of his betrayers was at the Fort (he’d already tracked down and pardoned the first). But by then that second betrayer was serving in the Army so Glass spared his life.

Image

“Back-Trailing on the Old Frontiers — Drawing by Charles M. Russell” (Milwaukee Journal, July 2, 1922) – Credit: Wikipedia

Out of curiosity as to what was actually reported in the press at the time, if anything, I did a bit of research on the Fulton History site, and discovered the below article from an 1825 issue (exact date not clear but sometime between June-December 1825) of the New York Spectator in which Hugh Glass’s harrowing adventures are recounted. (see below.) It’s not hard to imagine our American ancestors living at that time reading this article with rapt attention, and recounting its contents to family, friends and neighbors. Having read the article and some other materials about Hugh Glass, I can see why the film trailer looked so brutal. By today’s standards, those were extremely stark times, and what Glass went through could not look anything but raw, gritty, and downright harrowing. I’m still weighing up whether I want to see the film.

Wpdms_nasa_topo_hugh_glass_route

“The 200-mile route of the 1823 odyssey by Hugh Glass” (Credit: Wikipedia)

The frontiersman, already the stuff of legends, eventually lost his life in winter 1833 to attacking Arikara Indians. Glass’s story could not help but fuel the imaginations of future generations of Americans.

In 1915, Glass’s adventures inspired John G. Neihardt, future poet laureate of Nebraska (1921), to write the 120+ page epic poem The Song of Hugh Glass. In 1923, on the 100th anniversary of Glass’s amazing feat of survival, one Nebraska English professor, Julius Temple House, announced his plans to recreate the journey exactly as it happened (of course, minus the bear attack, open wounds, real broken leg, Indian attacks, etc.): “Professor, with Leg Bound, Will Crawl 100 Miles; Would Duplicate Feat Hunter Had to Do in 1823” (Buffalo Courier, 19 August 1923). (Scroll down for the article.)

Professor House had been a contributor to Neihardt’s The Song of Hugh Glass and in 1920 published a biography: John G. Neihardt: Man and Poet. Did Professor House ever make the journey? I found no evidence of that, so, perhaps, it was a publicity stunt or the professor was simply swept up in the romanticization of the old West and the yearning for a frontier that was no more. The Professor found romance in a different form ten years later when, as a widower, he met and married his childhood sweetheart from 50 years before, and took up a teaching post in Athens, Greece (October 2, 1933, The New York Sun). Perhaps, by then, he no longer had any need to channel his “inner Hugh Glass.”

 

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Categories: Hugh Glass frontiersman | Tags: | 7 Comments

1903/1904: Quince jam, plum jelly, and salad recipes from Madame De Ryther

Merchant's wife on the balcony - Boris Kustodiev, 1920

Merchant’s wife on the balcony – by Russian painter Boris Kustodiev, 1920

Quince

Quince (Credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, I had heard of quince (Cydonia oblonga), but never actually tried this “exotic” fruit until I was studying Russian in Moscow several decades ago. I was having tea at the apartment of two elderly ladies I’d befriended, and they gave me a jar of homemade quince jam (варенье из айвы – “varen’e iz aĭvy”) to take back to my dorm. It was delicious, and a tinge of sadness crept over me when it came time to scrape the last remnants off the sides and bottom of the jar. After that, I started noticing quince in Moscow’s big city markets. Much of that quince hailed from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, areas within the quince’s native territory of SW Asia, Turkey, and Iran. And during a subsequent trip to Tbilisi and Yerevan, serendipitously at harvest-time, I saw quince everywhere—along with an abundance of grapes, apples, and other fruits.

Per Wikipedia, today’s top producers (in order) are Turkey, China, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Iran, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Spain, Serbia, and Algeria. Most quince you find in the US, if you can find it, comes from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. While, it can be found in orchards in places like Oregon, its general scarcity in the US is allegedly related to the reluctance of commercial growers to cultivate quince due to its susceptibility to ‘Fire blight’ disease.

Source: [http://pharm1.pharmazie.uni-greifswald.de/allgemei/koehler/koeh-eng.htm List of Koehler Images] Copyright expired due to age of image (Source: from ''Koehler's Medicinal-Plants'' 1887)

Cydonia oblonga –  copyright exp’d due to image age (Source: from ”Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants” 1887)

Can you eat quince raw? I bought a kilo at a Moscow market, and quickly discovered that they are very tough, sour, and generally unpleasant that way. That said, I’ve since learned that some cultivars do exist that are okay to eat raw, e.g., ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Kuganskaya’ from Russia, and ‘Mellow’ from Ukraine.

On the surface one might think that jams, jellies, butters, and preserves are the formats in which the highly aromatic quince shines most brightly. However, enterprising cooks have come up with other uses, e.g., syrups, liqueurs, butters, and wine, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you search for quince-related blog posts around the web, you’ll find dozens of recipes from just the past few weeks–for pies, tarts, stews, curries, breads, cakes, and more, demonstrating that this fruit has fans worldwide. While how often you run into the actual fruit offline, in the real world, seems largely to depend on where you live, via online shopping the quince can come to you in the form of jam, jelly, paste, relish, balsamic vinegar, chutney, marmalade, and even throat lozenges.

View of the West Front of Monticello and Garden, depicting Thomas Jefferson's grandchildren at Monticello, watercolour on paper by Jane Braddick Peticolas 1825

View of the West Front of Monticello and Garden, depicting Thomas Jefferson’s grandchildren at Monticello, watercolour on paper by Jane Braddick Peticolas 1825

Our ancestors living in Colonial times would have been very familiar with quince trees. Jefferson had one in his gardens at Monticello. Quince seeds are an excellent source of pectin for making preserves so it was considered essential to have at least one on your property. But the appearance of Knox gelatin toward the end of the 19th century changed all that, and the quince’s decline began. For an interesting and entertaining article that includes those little factoids and much more, read the May 2, 2012, New York Times article: In Praise of the Misunderstood Quince.

Basket of Graphes, Quinces and Pears - Claude Monet, 1882-1885

Basket of Graphes, Quinces and Pears – Claude Monet, 1882-1885

Today’s blog post includes a 1903 column by Madame De Ryther on making quince preserves and plum jam, and a 1904 article on salads. Obviously, 110 years ago, the quince still had a place in mainstream American cuisine. The article on salads appeared in spring, but I thought I’d include it here in the run-up to Christmas, since it’s always nice to include something lighter on the table during this season of heavy eating. I’d hoped to try making quince preserves, but no grocers in this area sell the fruit; one of them offered to special order some for me, but I did not want to deal with the added expense.

As for the salads, Madame De Ryther has tons of interesting ideas and tips on combinations I’d never considered. The one recipe that stood out to me the most was the one for cucumber salad since that is the way my father always made his cucumber salad, and I am sure he picked up his technique from his mother (b. 1882) who was a passionate cook and baker and would have followed columns like Madame De Ryther’s with great interest. Or perhaps that is just the way her own mother made cucumber salad. So much that goes on in the kitchen is passed down from one generation to the next.

If you end up trying any of Madame De Ryther’s recipes, please leave a comment! Best wishes to all for a good week ahead.

Still Life with Dish of Quince - Francisco de Zurbaran, 1633-1664

Still Life with Dish of Quince – Francisco de Zurbaran, 1633-1664

Quince – some resources:

Indianapolis Journal, October 18, 1903

Indianapolis Journal, October 18, 1903

New York Press, 12 June 1904

New York Press, 12 June 1904

Categories: Food: Family Recipes & Favorites | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Job Angus’s daughter visits President Eisenhower on the occasion of her 100th birthday

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, official portrait, 1967 (Credit: Wikipedia)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, official portrait, 1967 (Credit: Wikipedia)

I recently came upon a remarkable little film clip showing Mrs. Nettie Angus Moulden’s February 1, 1955, visit to the White House where she met with President Eisenhower on the occasion of her 100th birthday. (Nettie was in remarkable form and went on to survive almost another 6 years.)

Nettie (1 Feb 1855 – 22 Jan 1961) was the daughter of Antoinette G. Hopper (1823-1899) and Job Angus (1821-1909) about whom much has been written in this blog, Job having been a good friend of President Lincoln, the superintendent of buildings and grounds at the White House, and the manager of many building projects in Washington DC and elsewhere. Job Angus was my 2nd-great-grandfather James Angus‘s brother.

President Eisenhower signed Nettie’s autograph book which already contained the autographs of a number of US Presidents, beginning with President Lincoln and including Pres. Andrew Johnson,  Pres. US Grant, Pres. Benjamin Harrison, and Pres. Grover Cleveland. She had been to all the inaugurations since Lincoln’s and passed away on the eve of JFK’s*.

Nettie’s secret to a long life?: “I like having a good time and being happy—and I like to eat”!

To view the clip, please click here

For newspaper clippings on the event, click on the below links:

Sarasota Herald Tribune, 2 February 1955
Ocala Star Banner, 1 February 1955
Reading Eagle, 1 February 1955
Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 2 February 1955
The Southeast Missourian, 3 February 1955

*See: Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America by Thurston Clark, Penguin 2010.

Categories: Angus, President Eisenhower | Tags: | 2 Comments

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