Monday, January 21, 2008

Cookbooks From Early 20th Century

I have a number of old cookbooks. My collection started because I was given my paternal grandmother's cookbook, "Larkin Housewives Cook Book". It is circa 1914 and she was married in 1917 or 1918 to my grandfather This cookbook is practically in shreds. I found that my grandmother had scotch taped pages together, thus hiding pages of recipes that I guess she didn't use, to emphasize her favorite recipes on the pages she was strengthening by taping together. I untaped all of these so that the cookbook has it's original number of pages. I also purchased another identical one from online. The one I purchased wasn't much used and is in excellent condition, so I can compare them.

I was glancing through another old cookbook I have called, "The Fashion Book of Recipes" by Jessie Marie DeBoth, director of Homemakers' Schools of Chicago, New York and Canada. This cookbook is 20 years younger than my grandmother's - it was published in 1934.

Aside from the fact that I notice food was much more bland in American cookbooks back then, I also notice that a lot of gelatin and tapioca were used. Gelatin for vegetables, molds with flavored, home-made mayonaisse. There were feeble attemps at Chop Suey, and something that doesn't sound very good called, "Columbian Dinner", which consisted of tomato soup, flaked canned salmon and onions served over noodles and topped with cheese. It just doesn't sound very good - not sure why - probably the tomato soup, rather than sauce - and the salmon.

There is a whole chapter on a "reducing diet" which is excellent. Fast for two days on water, coffee or tea (if necessary) and orange juice. Then eat their 1000 calorie menu for a week. If you lose more than 5 lbs. in that week, then switch over to the 1500 calorie menu since you shouldn't lose weight too fast. The menus aren't too bad, although there are some old fashioned items that aren't popular today, like tapioca. I know there are people who eat tapioca today - but it doesn't seem to me to be as popular a dessert as it once was.

Here is how to choose and cook a chicken from scratch - and I mean scratch.

"Poultry and Game"

The term poultry applies to domestic birds suitable for food, such as chicken, fowl, turkey, geese and ducks.

Game applies to all wild birds and animals used as food, such as quail, partridge, pheasant, wild duck, deer rabbit, etc. The flesh of game has a stronger flavor than barn-yard fowl.

Fresh poultry should be firm and have a fair amount of fat under the skin. Any tame or wild fowl should hang until the animal heat is out, from 8 to 24 hours. One way of detecting the age of chicken is by the pin feathers. They are absent in old fowl; also the breast of young chicken is pliable and the flesh is lean.

Preparing a Chicken

Cut off head of live chicken and allow it to bleed well. Do not have feet tied." (Note - there is no mention of the - to me - horror of the chicken running around headless, or flailing around until the blood is all sounds misleadingly calm here).

"Next, remove feathers. If young bird, pluck by pulling feathers toward tail; if old bird, plunge in scalding water, then wrap in paper few minutes before plucking. Remove all pin feathers and stubs.

Next, singe the bird to remove the hair. Do this by taking chicken by neck and legs and holding over a flame or blazing paper. Do not scorch skin. Remove pin feathers between sharp knife and fingers or with tweezers. Cut out oil sac above tail.

Cut away the legs just below knee joints" (Knee joints? Chickens have knees??) "and draw out the tendons. Make a lengthwise slit along the neck and take out the crop and windpipe. Cut off the neck at the shoulders. Make an opening on the right side near the vent about 2 inches long, or large enough to admit the hand. Work around the organs loosening them from the body. Remove entrails, being careful not to break any of them. Throw away all viscera except heart, liver and gizzard. In cutting away liver, take care not to cut the gall bladder when removing it. Remove bits of lungs and liver that cling between the ribs. Rinse the cavity thoroughly, scrub the outside. It is now ready for stuffing or for cutting. When stuffing, do not pack in dressing - to do so will burst the skin when cooking...."

The cookbook goes on to explain how to cut a checken and/or truss it. Then, how to prepare giblets and broil the chicken. Then there are several recipes.

I must say that after completing the cleaning of the chicken, I would not want to eat anything. THAT would be a great weight loss trick - prepare your own food from hoof to plate......


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

You get used to it, Suze. Butchering is a nasty business, but it's part of the game, so to speak. I hunt or fish for all of my meat, and I too have a collection of old cookbooks. I am espcially fond of how special a chicken dinner was before the 1940s, before Frank Perdue and Tyson.

As for its weight-loss potential, all that running around chasing after things does keep you fit!

(And as an aside, you don't let headless chickens run around. You turn them upside down and stick their necks into a cone to do the killing. They are, oddly, pretty calm about all this. Still freaks me out.)

Susan Humeston said...

Luckily, my favorite food is vegetables and breads. I'm a carboholic, and feel best when I'm eating mostly those two things. Meat and fish make me feel too full, just don't agree with me as well as just veggies and carbs. That said, I do eat small amounts of meat/poultry/fish. I think, initially at least, I'd have a lot of trouble killing anything. I know that's hypocritical, since I do eat meat/poultry/fish and SOMEONE has to kill it, etc.

Your blog is wonderful - I've bookmarked it and will visit often - I think I'll skip the detailed descriptions of hunting though since I'm a wimp when it comes to that.

pissed off patricia said...

I have to say I had to watch my grandmother kill and prepare a chicken just as your book says. It was horrible and I will never forget it. I was about five at the time, but those sights stayed with me to this day.

Susan Humeston said...

My daughter is now reading a book about all the additives in today's meats and poultry, plus the horrible inhumane conditions of the places where they are kept and slaughtered - she's heading toward veganism, and, being a vegetable lover myself, I'm not far behind.