instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

"Mince Pies," from Lydia Maria Child's "American Frugal Housewife" (1833)

Where's the Beef? In 1832, it was in the pie!

Mincing Medievalism
Mincemeat pie is a relic of the time centuries ago when two things were true of European food: one, that until Shakespeare's day pies were made more often with meat, poultry, or fish than with fruit or vegetables as the primary ingredient; and two, that very few dishes of any kind, including pies, tasted primarily sweet or primarily savory. Most dishes, including pies, offered what we would consider a blend of sweet and savory tastes, something like the sweet-and-sour items on a Chinese restaurant menu. Or like that American classic of the Betty Crocker era--ham baked with brown sugar and pineapple.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

"To alamode a round," from Amelia Simmons's American Cookery (1796)

Not Your Average Pot Roast, from 1796

A La Mode des Francais, Anglais, Américains
The expression "à la mode," as appended to apple pie in modern American English, actually makes no sense: apple pie in the style or fashion of . . . what? Or whom? Have we slovenly Americans yet again, in importing vocabulary and cuisine from France, robbed both of their native clarity and elegance? Not really. It turns out that long before apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream, another "à la mode" dish was so widely loved that there was in that case as well no need to fill in the blank after the "de." This was, in the Anglophone world, "beef a la mode." Nor was the American Amelia Simmons the first to make the usage even more casual by turning the phrase into a verb that served as shorthand for the entire process of cooking the dish: "To alamode a round." The English author Elizabeth Raffald had pulled a similar stunt three decades before: "To a-la-mode beef." Read More 
Be the first to comment

"To Bake a Bulloks Cheek to Be Eaten Hot," from Hannah Woolley's The Queen-like Closet (1670)

A Cheeky Dish


A Bit of Thanksgiving Corrective
Before the standard roast turkey, stuffing, and gravy overtook Thanksgiving dinner like some monocultural virus decimating all other species and preparations, New Englanders enjoyed a healthy diversity of meat, game, and poultry on their annual festive board. Describing a typical New England Thanksgiving of the time, the December 23, 1801 issue of the Hampshire Gazette enthusiastically details steaming joints of roast beef, platters of mutton, tender chicken pies, and succulent geese alongside the reasonably-sized and well-dressed turkey to be found on the typical regional table. Alas, the modern turkey is not only an invasive weed of a bird driving out the many pretty Thanksiving offerings of the past, it is also untidy and overgrown, usually a titan of 18 to 22 pounds that takes visceral strength and uncanny arm movements to wrestle into the oven. Ah, for the eight or nine or even ten pound dainty fowl of yore. And in case we haven’t made our anti-turkey case sufficiently strong, be it remembered that the big bird is, after all, yet more poultry in a contemporary culinary world more awash in the stuff than the Jersey shore currently is in storm detritus.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Beef, or Veal Stewed with Apples (Very Good) by Catharine Beecher

Beef Stewed with Apples--indeed very good! A dish from 1846.


Despite its title, this dish isn't much like a modern stew of pieces of meat, fowl, or fish simmered along with vegetables in a rich broth or gravy. It's more like a seventeenth- or eighteen-century hash, which, as we explain in Northern Hospitality, was an elegant preparation of thinly sliced meat. Beecher's recipe calls for beef or veal, cut "in thin slices," and apple "sliced fine."

We confess that we thought this might be a rather bland dish. It was a popular preparation right into the nineteenth century, which is why we included it in our book. But there is so little to it--just sliced beef or veal, apples, a bit of onion, salt, pepper, and some butter to coat the pan. Read More 

1 Comments
Post a comment