We all scream for ice cream! Without question, ice cream is one of the most popular treats in America, but do you know much about its history?
According to Laura B. Weiss, author of Ice Cream: A Global History, iced drinks can be traced back to at least the ancient Greeks and Romans. But many historians believe that the emperors of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China may have been the first to eat a frozen milk-like confection — made with fermented cow, goat or buffalo milk which had camphor added to make it flake like snow. Italians generally are credited with inventing ice cream as we know it today, popularizing a concoction of sugar, flavorings (often fruit like lemon or strawberry), and ice or snow sometime in the mid-seventeenth century. Ice cream was particularly favored by the French aristocracy in the 1800s, and Thomas Jefferson is said to have gained an appreciation for the treat while serving as US ambassador to France from 1784-1789. Continue reading
Bolgiano’s 1918 Catalog
In honor of the patriotic spirit of the Fourth of July, plus the gardening season that is upon us, we take a special look at victory gardens!
Though more known for their place in the Second World War, victory gardens (or war gardens as they were initially called) were first advocated during World War I. In addition to rationing other goods, citizens were urged to do their patriotic duty and grow their own vegetables, fruits and herbs at home in order to free up resources for the military. It was hoped that with more resources, the U.S. forces would have better success on the warfront. Continue reading
The origin of curry, the saucy, spiced dish celebrated in India and Great Britain, is not exactly known. But it is now thought that similarly spiced dishes were developed concurrently, but independent of each other, in England and in India thanks to the spice routes that spanned from Asia and into Europe. Exotic spices like turmeric and pepper made their way into England during the conquests of the Romans in 40 AD and the Moors in 711 AD, and came in handy during Middle Ages when highly seasoned meats could make aging meat more palatable. Continue reading
Did you know that January is National Soup Month? We didn't either but it gave us a great topic for this month's Cooking from the Collections feature! We whipped up two creamy, comforting vegetable soups that are sure to warm you up. We're happy to say that although they are the simplest recipes we've tried, they were also the most lauded by our SIL tasters (well, those without lactose issues, that is). Turns out you can't go wrong with butter and milk, flavored with a smidgen of vegetables. A cooking textbook from 1915 demonstrates that Paula Deen wasn't the first to hit upon that successful formula!
Green Pea Soup
This recipe comes from the fascinating A text-book of cooking by Carlotta C. Greer, published in 1915. As the title indicates, it was designed as a textbook to accompany cooking classes and hidden in the "Body-Building Vegetables" chapter was this gem. Despite the healthy-sounding name, this soup was so very rich and creamy that one taster commented "That soup should be a sauce". In fact, the basis of the dish is a simple white sauce, flavored with a bit of mushed peas. I take partial blame for the meager amount of vegetables, though. The recipes instructed me to cook the peas until "very soft". It occurred to me later that my modern idea of peas that are soft are probably still undercooked by 1915 standards. In addition, I found that mashing something through a strainer takes some serious upper body work! My weak biceps, combined with peas that may have been a bit too hard, produced little pea puree. Next time I will cook the peas to my desired level of doneness and then blend them with the cooking water using an immersion blender. You can read more of Greer's recipes via the digitized copy on Google Books here!
- 1 pint or can peas
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups water (or liquid from canned peas)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- Add peas, water and sugar to a saucepan and cook until peas are soft.
- Drain the peas and press through a strainer (as I mentioned this didn't work out so well for me, perhaps a food mill would be better?). Set aside.
- Heat butter in saucepan until bubbling and then add flour, salt and pepper. Stir constantly until flour is golden brown. Slowly wisk in the milk and simmer until sauce has thickened.
- Stir in pea puree and serve.
Cream of Tomato Soup
Our tasters also enjoyed this cream-based vegetable soup, from Cooking with Sour Cream and Buttermilk, published by the Culinary Arts Institute in 1956. The sour cream added a bit of tang but the real surprise ingredient here is Accent, a brand of seasoning containing monosodium glutamate (MSG). We don't necessarily endorse the use of MSG, but our fore-warned tasters reported not ill side effects from their limited exposure. Is it the Cream of tomato Soup of my childhood? No, that soup always will come from a can.
- 2 1/4 cup of No. 2 tomato juice (unsure of what "No.2" indicated, we used regular Campbell's)
- 1 stalk of celery with leaves, cut crosswise into quarters
- ½ small onion, sliced
- 2 springs of parsley
- ½ bay leaf
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- A few grains of white pepper ( I used black pepper, did not see purchasing white pepper for the use of a few grains)
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, blend in 2 tablespoons of flour
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of monosodium glutamate or Accent
- Few grains of pepper
- ¾ cup of milk
- ¾ cup thick sour cream
- Combine in a saucepan tomato juice, vegetables, spices, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 min.
- Meanwhile, prepare in a large saucepan the Sour Cream White Sauce. Heat butter, salt, pepper and Accent over low heat until mixture bubbles. Gradually stir in milk. Cook rapidly, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Stirring vigorously, add in very small amounts thick sour cream. Cook 2 or 3 min longer, stirring constantly until sauce is just heated.
- Strain tomato juice mixture. Add it very slowly to the hot white sauce, stirring constantly and vigorously with a wooden spoon: DO NOT BOIL.
- Serve immediately.
Welcome to Part II of December's Cooking from the Collections feature! This month, our intrepid recipe testers tried their hand at old fashioned sweets. The treats included Martha Washington’s recipe for sugar cookies, a boozy 1950’s rum pudding, and a gingerbread cookie that might have been a favorite of James Smithson. Who do you think would win a holiday bake-off? The founder of the Smithsonian, our very first First Lady or an aspiring June Cleaver? Today we present the remaining two recipes. Click over to Friday's post to learn more about James Smithson's gingerbread.
All three desserts ready for sampling.
Martha Washington’s Sugar Cookies
Before there was Martha Stewart in the kitchen, there was Martha Washington. Thanks to a transcription by Karen Hess of Martha Washington’s Booke of cookery, anyone can whip up the the original First Family’s favorite treats for the holidays. Not only does Hess dutifully transcribe Martha Washington’s personal cookbook, she also translates ingredients and cooking methods for modern times. These basic cookies (callled "cakes" by Martha) were really rather plain, but could easily be spruced up with vanilla or lemon zest or festive royal icing. If nothing else, they’ll make an excellent conversation starter. Do you think George was a fan of sweets? That might explain the teeth.
Adapted from Martha Washington’s Booke of cookery, transcribed by Karen Hess. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Makes about 30 cookies.
- 3 cups of unbleached pastry flour
- ½ cup of raw granulated sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- 10 tablespoons butter, cold and cut in to small pieces
- Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Line 2-3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Sift together flour and sugar in large bowl.
- Stir in egg, cream and rose water.
- Transfer mixture to food processor and add butter pieces. Pulse just until the mixture forms a solid dough.
- Allow the dough to rest. The directions are a bit fuzzy on this. I put mine in the fridge, so that it would be easy to roll out, for about 15 minutes.
- Roll the dough out (I worked in sections and kept the unused part in the fridge) and cut in to shapes. Use a water glass if you’re going for authenticity!
- Space the cookies about an inch apart on the pans and bake, about 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans half way through. Remove to wire racks for cooling.
— Erin Rushing
Swedish Rum Pudding
This recipe is from Elegant Desserts , published by Culinary Arts Institute, the same folks that brought us The Casserole Cookbook, previously discussed here. Of course I wanted to serve it with lingonberries they are Scandinavian and besides it would also mean a trip to IKEA and it doesn’t get more Swedish than that. Overall, this dish did turn out. To some the rum maybe overpowering but it had just enough.
Adapted from the Elegant Dessert pamphlet published by the Culinary Arts Institute 1955.
- ¼ cup of cold water
- 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin
- 4 egg yokes
- 2 cups of heavy cream (I used whipping cream)
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons rum
- lingonberry or raspberry sauce
- Set out six custard cups
- Pour water into small cup and sprinkle evenly with gelatin. Let gelatin stand about 5 minutes to stoften
- Meanwhile blend well in the top of a double boiler the egg yolks, cream, sugar and salt. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly and quickly, until egg yolk mixture coats a silver spoon (Here I used an everyday flatware spoon)
- Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Immediately stir in gelatin. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool stirring occasionally. Add in the rum and stir until thoroughly blended. Pour mixture into the custard cups and set in the refrigerator to chill (about 2 hours).
- When ready to serve, unmold desserts by carefully running a knife around inside edges of cups; invert onto serving dishes.
- Serve with lingonberries or Raspberry Sauce.
— Ninette Dean