The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #10 -- Let Them Eat Cake! with Rice Cakes With Butter

Mrs. Hale's Rice Cakes With Butter, from 1841.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: #10 -- Let Them Eat Cake! October 5 - October 18
"The 16th is the anniversary of the beheading of Marie Antoinette (zut alors!). In honor of Madame Deficit, prepare your best cake from a historic recipe. And then eat it, bien sur."

This challenge came along at a good time, because my brother and I each attended a wedding in the past fortnight, and therefore wedding cake played a small part in our thoughts recently.  My friend, the bride at one wedding, is allergic to wheat, so she had a completely wheat-free wedding brunch menu and had locally-made gourmet ice cream instead of wedding cake.  My brother's friend, the groom at the other wedding, is from the U.K. and he and his bride had two receptions, according to my brother: one with tea and cakes directly after the wedding ceremony and church service, and a dinner later in the evening.  My brother couldn't tell me what kind of cakes there were, only that they were fairy cakes (cupcakes) and brownies.  But a tea-and-cake wedding reception – how fun!  I'm pretty much up for tea and cakes any time, wedding or not.

My friend is a "foodie" and is always looking for good recipes, especially so now that she has been diagnosed with a wheat allergy.  I made her some wheat- and gluten-free Italian cookies for part of her wedding gift, and when I started researching recipes for this challenge, this rice flour cake recipe caught my eye.  Bonus: it doesn't contain any "wierd" ingredients that some modern gluten-free baking recipes have!  Everything apart from the rice flour comes from a normal pantry, and even the rice flour is relatively easy to find in areas with large Asian communities.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: The Frugal Housewife, with Shrimp Curry from 1942.

ingredients for the Shrimp Curry (with trout).
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Challenge: # 9 The Frugal Housewife
Throughout history, housewives and housekeepers have kept a close eye on their budgets and found creative ways to pinch pennies while providing delicious and nutritious food. Create a dish that interprets one historically-documented method of frugal cooking.  

I chose to interpret frugality as a way to use pantry staples, including canned meat, to pull together an easy dish.  You could also use leftover fish from another meal in this recipe!

The Recipe: (where did you find it, link to it if possible)
Found in my grandmother's cookbook, Burnt Toast Recipes: Victory Edition, published in Los Angeles in 1942, this recipe for Shrimp Curry takes advantage of pantry staples to make it economical as well as tasty.  The recipe book is a collection of recipes put together by the Women's Auxiliary to the Women's and Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, which took care of the wives and families of servicemen who were stationed in the area during WW2.  My grandmother worked as a candy striper at the hospital during the summers, taking the train out from Omaha, NE where she lived and taught school during the rest of the year.

California seemed to be lucky in comparison to other areas, because of our climate enabling food to be grown year-round, as well as the large number of dairies and poultry farms, and everyday residents who kept a cow and a few chickens around for butter, eggs and milk.  Fish were being caught and canned in Monterey throughout the War, and while much of it was sent to other parts of the U.S., and overseas to our armed forces and our allies, there was still quite a bit of food available, with or without food rationing.  This recipe is frugal in its use of butter and imported spices, and makes good use of canned fish.  Although it calls for shrimp, any canned fish can be used.  (Ignore the mushrooms in the photo above -- they were part of another recipe but mistakenly got into the photo for this dish.)  

Shrimp Curry
Sautè 1 small minced onion in 2 tablespoons butter until onion is soft but not brown.  Stir in 1 ½ teaspoons curry, 2 teaspoons flour and ½ teaspoon salt.  Simmer tightly covered for 20 minutes, then add 1 can shrimp (cleaned and shredded), 2 teaspoons lemon juice.  Simmer for 5 minutes and serve with browned rice.  – recipe from Alberta Austin.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Antique Autos returns to History Park!

Vintage car in the park in 2012.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Some of my costume group in 2009.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
 I've been getting ready for the 14th Annual Antique Auto event at History Park, where the tea guild will be joining me for a picnic tomorrow afternoon.  It's such fun to research recipes and costumes -- because I always want to do something slightly different from what I did last year -- that I often find myself hurrying the morning of the event, and not finishing whatever costume or recipe I'd been working on, and pulling out something wearable from the costume closet, or something ordinary from the pantry, and going with that.  I'm hoping that this year will be different, since -- at the request of one of the guild members -- we are having a potluck picnic, and at least I don't have to make all the sandwiches.  I have decided to bring dessert -- a cake and some strawberries that I got at the farmer's market yesterday -- as well as the iced tea.  Then there's my costume; I could wear the 1920s frock that I've worn before, but I don't have a hat to go with it, or I could wear one of my Edwardian skirts, although I don't really have a good blouse to wear with them, or a proper hat, either -- just a modern straw hat with a ribbon on it.  I have all these plans to make blouses, and even some fabric to do it, and I want to make a tailor-made suit, and - and - and ... 

Anyway, while I decide, and work on my things, here are some suggestions from the readers of the _Woman's Home Companion_ magazine from 1916, so you can put together your own "motor picnic" in the next month or so: 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #7 -- The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread -- Raspberry Jell from 1945.

Calves' feet boiling for jelly.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Having tried (and failed) to make jelly the old-fashioned way from calves' feet, it was a very quick and easy job to make jelly with packaged gelatine.  The calves' feet need to be cleaned, covered in water and boiled gently for 4 hours, until the meat and cartilage fall off the bones and are dissolved into the broth.  Then the bones and meat chunks and any undissolved cartilage need to be picked out of the broth and the broth needs to cool and settle overnight.  Then the fat that rises to the top of the broth needs to be cleaned off the top, and the sediment that sinks to the bottom needs to be scraped off as well.  The resulting jelly is a transluscent, meaty brown color that needs to be melted again and strained through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheesecloth or wet muslin to remove more sediment.  Then the jelly needs to cool and settle again, and if it's not yet clear and flavor-less, it needs to be melted and run through a jelly bag again.  Once it's clear, only then can you add the flavorings and pour it into a mold and let it set into its finished shape!  That takes at least a day, just to prepare the unflavored gelatine! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Catching up -- school days begin again!

My mom's empty classroom.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Hello everyone,

I haven't fallen off the face of the blogosphere, but wow!  It has been a long time since I've posted.  Several things have been going on in the meantime. My mom retired from her kindergarten teaching career and I helped her move out of her classroom; 20+ years in the same classroom = a surprising amount of stuff!  Weeks and countless hours of sorting, packing, throwing away, giving away, and hauling papers, books, DVDs and videos, pictures, posters, activities and worksheets that she used to supplement the curriculum, and all the toys, puzzles, and manipulatives that belong in a kindergarten classroom.

I also spent 6 weeks as a teacher's aide in the same school's summer school program, teaching Medieval
history to a class of mostly 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.  It was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Soups & Sauces Challenge: Caviche.

ingredients for Caviche.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
So, I'm still working on Challenge #1 for the Historical Food Fortnightly: I'm having trouble finding a piece of literature that mentions a specific dish that I have a period recipe for!  There's a lot of general mentions of meals, without saying what dishes or foods make up the meal, or only mentioning foods that don't really require a recipe, like fruit or a glass of wine, or foods that are made exactly the same way today as they were in the period (like tea and coffee).  I've decided on Calf's Foot Jelly, mentioned in one of the earliest novels, in 1807.  I think I ruined it, though, so I'll have to come back to the recipe and post about it later!  In the meantime... 

The Challenge: Soups & Sauces 

The Recipe: "Caviche" from the recently printed excerpts from Recipes from the White Hart Inn by William Verral, originally published in 1759.  The original recipe reads: 

Take three Cloves, 7 scruples of Coriander-seeds bruised ginger powder'd and Saffron, of each half a Scruple, three Cloves of Garlick, infuse them in a pint of good white-wine vinegar, and place the bottle in a gentle heat, or in water to warm gradually.  It is to be used, as Catchup, in small quantity as a sauce for cold-meats.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Surprise: Antiques Roadshow!

Souvenirs of the Antiques Roadshow!
 Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The book that I brought: souvenir illustrations from the
Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 in San Francisco.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Back in April I found out that the Antiques Roadshow was going to be at the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is less than 20 minutes from my house.  I missed them when they were in my home town a few years ago, because you have to put your name/e-mail address in a drawing on their website before a certain cut-off date, and then check the website after the deadline to see if you were chosen; I didn't find out about it until the date had already passed.  This time, though, I saw their ad after watching the show, put my e-mail address in, and actually got chosen for tickets!  The tickets are free, and each e-mail address chosen gets 2 tickets; each ticket holder gets to bring 2 items to be appraised.  I offered my second ticket to my friend Rose from the costume guild, and we had an exciting, if tiring day today at the Roadshow!
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)