The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #13 -- Ethnic Foodways: my great-grandmother's biscotti.

Soft Biscotti.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: #13 – Ethnic Foodways. Foodways and cuisine are at the heart of every ethnic group around the world and throughout time. Choose one ethnic group, research their traditional dishes or food, and prepare one as it is traditionally made.

My family is half Sicilian and a quarter Calabrese (from Calabria in southern Italy), and traditional (for us) Italian holiday food includes a few types of cookies.  When my grandmothers were alive, we usually bought our cookies at the Italian bakery, or from the supermarket (Stella D'oro brand used to carry some of our favorites), but now, purchased cookies are less available to us, so in the last several years I've started researching and making some.  This has also helped me enjoy all our Italian cookie favorites, since my nut allergies have made most traditional Italian cookies not an option for me (lots of almonds and hazelnuts). 

The issue with re-creating historic Italian cookies is the fact that literacy has not been a common skill in Italy and Sicily for many years – really only since World War 2.  My own grandparents were the first literate generation in their families; their parents were illiterate, and so was the rest of that generation, so their recipes have been passed down by mouth and by example, rather than being written down.  With that oral tradition comes the tradition of each person making the recipe slightly differently, according to their own tastes, which makes it hard to trace it back to the "original" version! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #12: If They'd Had It -- the Quince Marmalade version!

ingredients for Quince Marmalade.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: #12 -- If They’d Had It -- November 2 - November 15

I had a hard time deciding which recipe to do for this challenge.  Should I choose mushroom ketchup, quince marmalade, macrows (macaroni), or something else?  I wanted to do them all.  I ended up wavering between the ketchup and the marmalade, and when I found the ingredients for both recipes in the farmer's market and in my pantry, I decided to do them both.  The quinces for this recipe came from the heritage apple vendor at the farmer's market. 

Quinces are a very old type of fruit.  Similar to apples and pears, they have a very hard flesh that doesn't soften until it's over-ripe, a delicious apple-y fragrance, but a very bitter and astringent taste that doesn't mellow out until it's very over-ripe.  They also have a lot of pectin in them.  They are mentioned as far back as ancient Rome, when they were recommended to newlyweds on their wedding day; nibbling on a slice of quince was supposed to perfume their breath!  
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)