The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Historic Cooking: Thanksgiving Pudding from 1925.

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Hello again; here we are near the end of a year that has been absolutely abnormal!  Things have changed even more for me; I was laid off from my job at the school in mid-August, due to increased costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic, and have been unemployed since then.  As I have found whenever I need to look for a job, I am overqualified for all of the minimum-wage or entry-level jobs that people are hiring for (and there are fewer of those jobs available because of all the businesses that have closed), and under-qualified for everything else!  I may need to use this time to go to grad school and get either a Master's or a teaching credential, or both, but I have no idea how I will pay for it while unemployed! I have no illusions of anything improving under the new presidency, since my situation remained the same under all the previous ones. 

One good thing that has come out of this excess of spare time, is that I have immersed myself in historical research, as well as attending as many history-related webinars and online lectures as I can, and it has resulted in some new things (none of which will earn me any kind of income, but oh well).  I have continued with the YouTube channel that I started in July and August, and it has been really interesting, although I still hate editing the videos!  I have made some interesting connections with other historians in the U.S., and it has inspired me to keep going with my own research and costume and cooking projects.  I have a whole list of historic recipes that I would like to make into videos for the YouTube channel, and I am currently translating my beginning hand-sewing class -- which I taught to elementary school students a few years ago -- into a series of videos, too.  But the weather has grown cool, and all I want to do right now is bake, and drink tea!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Clothing the Californio: The Lecture -- part of CoCoVid and Virtual FrockCon 2020, and other news

Elizabeth Urbach in
Californio costume. 
Hello again!  I have a few pieces of news to share! 

First thing: The Cup That Cheers is now also a YouTube channel!  I've gotten some messages over the years, telling me that some readers wish they could see me make the historic recipes and some of the historic costumes, that I've written up and posted here on the blog, and this spring and summer's time spent in lockdown gave me more time to think about creating educational videos.  Since I work at an elementary school which will be starting the school year online, some of the videos will be aimed at elementary and middle school-aged children and the time periods that they study in Social Studies, but others will be aimed at an older audience, and will include making historic recipes and costumes, as well as costume history.  I also taught beginning hand-sewing at my school, and I will be translating that class into a series of videos for the channel. 

Clothing the Californio title card for
YouTube videos. 
Creator: Elizabeth Urbach

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Historic Cooking: Artichokes, Italian Style from 1898.

This is another entry for the Historical Food Fortnightly project, which is now being continued on Facebook.

Artichokes, Italian Style. 
From _El Cocinero Espanol_, 1898.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: April 22-May 5: Flower Power. A dish that is floral, flowery, or flour-y, as you desire.

A month late in posting, but better late than never!  It took me a while to decide what to do for this challenge; I have orange-blossom honey, rose petal honey, dried rose petals, and both orange-flower and rose water in my pantry.  What to do?  I finally decided on artichokes – which are a flower! -- when I saw them in the grocery store, but then it took me another while to choose the historic recipe to use to cook them.  My first couple of artichokes had to be cooked and eaten in a not-particularly-historical-way when they were on the point of going bad, and I hadn’t yet chosen a recipe!  A week or so ago I bought some more artichokes and again, took more than a week to choose, not because there weren’t many recipes, but because there were so many choices! 

I selected a recipe from Encarnación Pinedo’s _El Cocinero Español_, which I have been slowly translating from the original 19th century Californian Spanish, because I’ve been wanting to try some of the recipes.  This recipe book is the earliest published cookbook from the colonial Spanish/Mexican California culture; I’m sure there are other recipe collections in existence, but as far as I know, they are still in manuscript form, hidden in attics and storage areas, and the California history scholars and museums that I contacted didn’t know about them. 

Page from _El Cocinero Espanol_,
by Encarnacion Pinedo, 1898.
_El Cocinero Español_ was published in San Jose in 1898, written by a lady from an influential Spanish ranch-owning family, who recorded the traditional Californio recipes that she learned at home, and at the Catholic convent school that she attended in the 1850s and 1860s (staffed by South American nuns).  At the time the book was written, the author, Doña Encarnación, was unmarried and lived with her sister, her Yankee brother-in-law, and their children, one of whom was already grown up and married to a Yankee.  The author and her sister were raised during a very difficult time in California history when the established community of Californios was being abused on all sides by American and English (and other foreign) immigrants and settlers, due to the misunderstanding, encouraged by the newspapers, that all land and property titles that existed before 1850 (California entered the United States), were legally null and void, and that all existing residents were reduced to the status of conquered enemies.  In reality, California was purchased (as part of the treaty that ended the war, because the residents had already started fighting for independence from Mexico), not conquered (it was the central government of Mexico that was conquered);  all property titles were upheld (but actually ended up being required to be confirmed in court), and all existing residents were automatically made citizens of the United States, but that is not how most people understood the situation!

In her introduction to the cookbook, which was initially written as a private family record of their history and food culture, Doña Encarnación records the animosity and distrust that her mother (her nieces’ grandmother) held for the foreigners, especially the Yankees, and attempted to pass on to herself and her sisters (including her nieces’ mother), and details some of the abuses that their family, in particular, suffered at the hands of the Yankees. The book was written in order to secure, to her nieces, their Californio family identity and history, in the form of the stories and recipes, which Doña Encarnación saw was not being taught alongside their American identity, and feared would be lost forever, as the girls would all, likely, marry American or other non-Californio men.  It is likely that the book was published because it fulfilled the same purpose for other mixed Californio/non-Hispanic families.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Blogging during the Quarantine

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Oh my goodness!  So much has changed since the last post!  I think that everyone in the world (or almost everyone, at least), is going through this unprecedented experience: just about the whole world is shut down (or just opening back up), and most of us are sheltering in place by not leaving our homes except to get groceries and attend to other emergencies, wearing masks and gloves, and staying at least 6 feet away from people outside our own households.  There is a lot of controversy (and name-calling and character-assassination on both sides of the issue) about whether or not such strict lockdown is necessary or even legal.

The school where I work has been closed since mid-March (although we did a very quick switch to 100% online/remote learning, with varying degrees of success), and all of the living history and costume-related events, as well as all other public events for the next several months, have been canceled or rescheduled.  Costume College, which was scheduled for the end of July, has been canceled, and the theme that was set for 2020 has been pushed forward to 2021.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Posting again after a year ...

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I haven't entirely forgotten this blog ... really ....

So many things have changed since I last posted -- on December 31st of 2018!  Most important among the changes is another new place to live.  I moved in about 6 weeks ago, but I'm still unpacking things; I have almost all of my possessions out of my storage unit, however, and I need to get another bookcase or cabinet to hold my antique books and the dishes and silver that I inherited from my grandparents.

I am still working in the library at the school, and I'm also in charge of running the Rancho Day event for 4th grade, and assisting with the Tea Party section of the Colonial Day event for 5th grade, for both of which I wear historical dress, of course!  Rancho Day for 2020 will be at the end of next month, and Colonial Day will be a few weeks later, in early to mid February.  I need to get my costume in order for both events!

I walked in the Rose, White & Blue Parade in San Jose again, with
Photo: Deborah Borlase.
the Greater Bay Area Costumers' Guild, and our theme was Prohibiton: Pro and Con.  I made a ca. 1918 skirt out of blue linen (not quite finished, but it was wearable) and wore it with my vintage embroidered blouse and my "Votes for Women" sash, to illustrate that the people opposing prohibition were also opposing women's voting and other legal rights.  The two issues (prohibition and women's suffrage) were so intertwined that most of the women's organizations campaigned for both issues simultaneously; the amount of control that "Big Alcohol" had over the national, state, and local governments was one of the biggest obstacles, if not the biggest one, to women getting the right to vote, which is a fact that people have largely forgotten and which, even the historians in my costume group wanted to dismiss, as "clouding the issue."

Monday, December 31, 2018

Historic Cooking: Fig Bread Pudding from 1907 and the history of Figgy Pudding.

Happy New Year!  "Time flies ..." and all that.  I have settled in to my new place -- a vintage Airstream trailer from 1967 -- but haven't got the oven up and working yet (it runs on propane and involves open flame every time you use it ...) so the only historic cooking I've done so far has been on the stovetop (also propane, involving open flame) and I haven't gotten many photos of the projects.  I am working on a Twelfth Night Cake for the coming week (I'll bake it in my mom's regular electric oven), so hopefully I'll get that written up and posted within the month.  One Historical Food Fortnightly challenge which I made this year, I also did last year but didn't get around to posting about it -- Figgy Pudding.  I decided to use a different recipe for figgy pudding, one that didn't take as long to boil as the one I usually use, so the research for that sent me down the rabbit hole of figgy pudding history.  I ultimately decided that I like the flavor of the Victorian recipe better than this one, but it was still an interesting recipe.

Just after Thanksgiving I made another figgy pudding for my Christmas caroling choir – the Lyric Theatre Victorian Carolers – as I have for the past several years, but this year I wanted to try a different recipe.   In researching other recipes, I followed one of the many "bunny trails" that I remembered from my previous research on the topic of figgy pudding: what is it and how old is it? 

Fig Bread Pudding.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Figgy pudding seems like such an old-fashioned treat, the kind that dates back to at least the 18th century, but my own investigation into period cookbooks has turned up surprisingly few recipes for it -- under the name "figgy pudding" -- that date before the Victorian era. In The Monthly Magazine: Devonshire and Cornwall Vocabulary from 1810, it defines "figs" as: "Figs, raisins. A "figgy pudding"; a pudding with raisins in it; a plumb pudding." Also, there is a somewhat sniffy (in my opinion) entry in The Oracle—A Weekly Journal of Response, Research, and Reference from December 1882, which states, in answer to the question "In Somersetshire the poor people call raisins figs and a plain pudding they speak of as a figgy pudding. Why is this?" that "It would be hopeless to seek a rational explanation of the error. We can only surmise that in the days when communication was less facile than at present, the rural population having little acquaintance with colonial produce, used figs as a convenient generic term for the dried fruits sold by grocers. ... We do not think the error is peculiar to the poor: it is rather characteristic of the rural population." Well, la di da!

The authors of most "history of figgy pudding" articles on the Internet seem to agree that figgy pudding, plum pudding, and Christmas pudding are all names for the exact same thing, that none of those dishes actually contain figs or plums, and that this somehow made sense to the people of the past because they were weird like that way back then.  However, that kind of explanation for "why people in the past did things a certain way" always makes me suspicious, because it so often turns out to be totally untrue!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Historic Cooking: Fourth of July Pudding from 1916.

Fourth of July Pudding.  Photo: Liz Raven.
The Redone Challenge: Today in History (June 29-July 12, 2014) Make a dish based on or inspired by a momentous occasion that took place on the day you made it. Get creative - you would be surprised by all the interesting things that happened every single day!

The Recipe:
A Fourth of July Luncheon. To be served buffet style or on the porch.  By Cora Farmer Perkins.

FOURTH OF JULY PUDDING: Pick over, wash and hull one quart box of strawberries.  Sprinkle with one cupful of granulated sugar, cover, and let stand two hours.  Mash, squeeze through a double thickness of cheesecloth, and add one cupful of cold water, and lemon juice to taste.  Turn mixture into a brick mold.  Beat one pint of heavy cream until stiff and add one-half cupful of powdered sugar, one-half tablespoonful of vanilla, a few grains of salt, and two thirds of a cupful of rolled dried macaroons.  Pour cream mixture over fruit mixture to overflow mold.  Cover with buttered paper (buttered side up) and adjust cover, when mixture should be forced down sides of mold.  Pack in rock salt and finely crushed ice, using equal parts, and let stand three hours.
            Remove to chilled serving dish, garnish with selected strawberries, and cut in slices for serving.
--from _Woman’s Home Companion_, July 1916. 

The Date/Year and Region: the United States, 1916. 
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)