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.
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)