Archive for the ‘modern recipe (!)’ Category

A year ago (June 22nd, to be exact) I gave a presentation at the 2015
National ALHFAM* Conference. Held at the College of William and Mary,
down in Williamsburg, Virginia, it featured five days of sessions, tours,
professional-development workshops, time spent traipsing all ’round
Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and more.


During my session, I offered the paper below. It deals with my research
and findings surrounding various supposedly-historic cookbooks, starting
with the two published by the Montclair Historical Society, which oversees
the operation of The Israel Crane House. As you’ll see, it was what I like
to call “a straight talk,” in that there was no power-point slideshow or
shoot-from-the-hip ramblings. It was just me, speaking for about 35
to 40 minutes, followed by a brief Q & A. Oh, and I also took down


a boat-load of books for “show ‘n tell” and two batches of small cakes
(aka cookies), for an audience taste-test. My session was held in what
was probably the smallest room in the building, but a good-sized crowd
filled the space. Overall, I think it went well, and I had great fun
conducting it. HUZZAH!

Now, the material given here is as I presented it. And yes, it’s quite
long, as there’s alot of information. So I’ll be sharing it in several
separate sections. In addition, this is the ONLY place where you’ll
be able to read the entire paper, word for word, as I wrote it. Most
papers, you see, (but not all, as not every presenter participates)
are compiled each year in a bound volume entitled “Conference
Proceedings.” However, when I submitted mine, I was promptly
told that it wouldn’t be published. And then I was given a laundry
list of reasons why. It was too long, it was too critical, I’d pointed
fingers, I’d named names. I’d even dared to suggest that too many
book authors, as well as museum staff, are not as historically-accurate
as they could, or should, be. They even found fault with the length
of both the job title I use and that of my bio (apparently, the former
was limited to just two words and the latter to two sentences). Oh,
and BTW, the photos I sent were useless. And so on and so forth.
I was simply dumbfounded! The Proceedings’ editors told me, if I
wanted my presentation published, I must re-write it, removing all
that they deemed “offensive.” Then we went back and forth, ’round
and ’round, and back again. I’d ask, “What objections, specifically,
do you have?” and receive no definitive answers in return. Well,
other than being told that a single paragraph at the bottom of page
such ‘n such was fine.


The whole thing was downright bizarre.

Finally, I gave up trying to understand their issues. Besides, I had
absolutely no interest in re-writing what I’d spent years researching
and compiling. I had no intention, either, of re-doing it just to appease
the odd sensibilities of a couple people. I mean, come on. If you’re
afraid of being sued, print a disclaimer that states something along
the lines of, “Opinions expressed herein are solely those of individual
authors and not of the organization as a whole.” Golly, doesn’t that
already exist? If not, it should! In any event, eventually I made peace
with the fact that my small contribution to the 2015 National ALHFAM
Conference was vanishing into thin air. It was to be as if it’d never
been presented. Ahh, well…such is life.

But, wait. Someone had second thoughts. Or something. This past
winter I was contacted and told to review the edited version of my
paper “as it will appear in the Proceedings.” Huh?!? I didn’t know
what was going on or what to think. What games were these? First,
you won’t, then you will? What’s up with that?! And more importantly,
WHY?!? What happened to the whole “it’s not being published?” stance?
In any event, I couldn’t bare to read it, to see what white-washing had
been done to my years of hard work. And I don’t know what the final
decision was. I gave up trying to figure it out. And, at this point,
I don’t really care.

You know, this nonsense reminded me of when, at Conner Prairie,
I was given the task of fleshing out more fully the bio (fictional,
of course) of a particular Prairietown family. I remember putting
alot of time and effort into it, but, dagnabit, it seems that it wasn’t
what those in charge expected or wanted! So a committee (!)
was formed, and its members completely re-did it. Too bad
for me! And then there’s the more recent “Savoring Gotham”
debacle…but that’s a tale for another day.

Nevertheless, I’m posting my paper here, in its entirety, warts and
all. Like it or don’t like it. Your choice. But it’s MY choice to publish
it. I’m proud of what I wrote. And I’m pleased to be able to offer
up here, in this forum, what I had to say a year ago. As opposed
to what someone else thinks I should’ve said.

So, let’s get to it…

[NOTE: Details on all books and other materials mentioned herein
can be found under “Sources” at the end of each section.]



This session is dedicated to long-time librarian Lynne M. Olver, who
passed away this spring
[April 2015]. Her passion for food history
led to her creation of the well-known and highly-valued site,
http://www.foodtimeline.org. Lynne was always supportive
of my on-going research for this project.


Several precepts have stuck with me since my initial foray
into hearth cooking nearly 25 years ago. It was then that
I worked at Conner Prairie in my home state of Indiana.
And it seemed, at least to me, that certain directives were
drummed into interpreters’ heads on a daily basis. Naturally,
I often wondered if perhaps they were just messing with us.
You know, setting up impossible standards for us to follow,
just for sport, and then laughing, as they watched everyone
fail miserably? Of course, since leaving the Prairie, I’ve
discovered that it indeed often tended to be a case of “do
as I say, not as I do,” so…but more on that later.

Nevertheless, I took them at their word, took it seriously
and took it all to heart. I did my darnedest at the time
to adhere to the rules that were given me. In fact, the
overall philosophy that governed my time there was, and
has become, the very foundation of everything I did while
there, and that I still do, even today.

So, what were those mandates? They were:

1.) always be as historically-accurate as possible; and
2.) the three most important things are research,
research, and research.

Now, six years ago, when I began cooking over the open
hearth at The Israel Crane House in Montclair, New Jersey,
which is a property owned and operated by the Montclair
Historical Society (MHS), the powers-that-be requested
that I use receipts from the two cookbooks that’d been
published by the Society, especially the first one:

1.) Fanny Pierson Crane, Her Receipts, 1796; and
2.) The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook.

I promptly, but politely, replied, “No, thanks!” And I said
this because of what was instilled in me at Conner Prairie
all those years ago. I then explained that when doing any
hearth cooking, I use only receipts from original historic
cookbooks. This means works by Hannah Glasse, Amelia
Simmons, Mary Randolph or any other author appropriate
for the time period at hand (the 1830s at the Crane’s).

Of course, I’d previously read both of the Montclair Society’s
cookbooks from cover to cover, so I knew that neither
contained original historic receipts. In fact, for me, those
two volumes have more in common with Joy of Cooking
than with Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Mrs. Bryan’s The
Kentucky Housewife
or any other historic cookbook. Nearly
every recipe in the MHS books is a modern adaptation. They’ve
been re-worked and/or re-written and thus bear little or no


resemblance to any originals. It’s not difficult to determine,
as there’s everything from the use of baking powder and
cornstarch to cans of “frozen lemonade concentrate.” Even
the format is modern, with lists of ingredients given first,
followed by instructions on what to do with them. In addition,
my years of experience working with historical receipts,
together with my knowledge of culinary history, enables
me to ascertain that some ingredients and cooking methods
scream “MODERN!” as they either didn’t exist or they couldn’t
be done during this or that time period. It ranges from the
afore-mentioned baking powder (not until 1859) to the use
of chocolate as a candy coating (not until the late 1840s).
The bottom line is, as anyone who knows me well can
attest, I prefer to use ONLY those receipts that’ve been
taken from original historic cookbooks. I don’t care one
iota for any that’re adapted or modernized. Just blame it
on those principles I learned, and the training I received,
while at Conner Prairie!

However, I told the Montclair Society officials that if they
could provide me with the actual original manuscript book,
the one written in Fanny Pierson Crane’s (Israel’s wife) own
hand, I’d be more than happy to cook from it. In fact, it’d be
a tremendous thrill to do so! I’d simply love the opportunity.
Problem was, no one knew anything about the book or where
it was or might be. Was it somewhere in the Crane House?
Or in the MHS offices? Was it hidden on a shelf? Or maybe
buried under a pile of books in a rarely-used room? Had
anyone ever seen it? Or heard of it? Alas, no one knew
anything, but everyone vowed to hunt for it.

And thus, the Great Search for Fanny’s personal collection
of household receipts began. As months went by, I’d inquire
every now and then, “Has anyone found Fanny’s book, yet?”
Sadly, no one had. At least, not yet. And before long, as no
manuscript materialized, I began to have my doubts. I even
jokingly said once or twice, “Maybe this book doesn’t exist?!”
Of course, I hoped that wasn’t true, but…you never know!

Eventually, toward the end of that first year’s season, one
of the two books’ five authors visited the Crane House. The
Museum Director brought her into the kitchen where I was
cooking, they both sat down and a conversation about Fanny’s
receipt book began. The woman rambled on about this and
that, these things here and over there, all nothing of any
real consequence, until finally the Director asked her, point
blank, “Is there an original manuscript upon which the Fanny
cookbook is based?” The author’s reply was, “Oh no, dear!”
in a tone that sounded as if she meant, “Oh no, dear. Where’d
you get a crazy idea like that? What a silly thing to think!”

Wow. So my earlier suspicions were correct. There is NO
manuscript! Unbelievable. So, it really IS a fake. A phony.
Wow. Guess the title should be “Fanny Pierson Crane, Her
FAKE Receipts.” And this, from an historical society, no less.

Naturally, this raised all sorts of questions, including:
Where’d all the recipes in this little booklet come from?
Are they adapted from original historic ones? Are they
at least based, even in the slightest, on any? Or are
they, indeed, made up, crafted out of thin air? Are they
what I hate to see, modern recipes masquerading
as historic ones?

So I set out to answer as many of the above questions
as I could. I began my investigation by spending much
of that summer looking through historic cookbooks in my
own personal collection (all facsimiles) for any and all
receipts that might possibly match, at least in part,
those in the Fanny book. I compared multiple “reals”
to the “fakes,” line by line. It proved to be a difficult
and tedious task. It was pretty fruitless, as well!

Then one day, I sat down and opened what I’d by then
dubbed “Fake Fanny” at random, and I happened onto
the page with the recipe for “Maids of Honor.” Suddenly,
it hit me: I’ve seen that before! I think it’s in The Williams-
burg Art of Cookery
, by Helen Bullock. So I got out my copy,


checked and sure enough, there it was. The same name,
the same ingredients, the same amount of those, even
a few of the exact same words. The only difference was
that Williamsburg’s is in paragraph form (as are most
original historic receipts, up until roughly the late 19th
century), and Fake Fanny’s is not. Then I remembered,
too, what the previously-mentioned author had said
during her ramblings that day in the Crane kitchen,
that she and the other authors had “studied” the work
of Helen Bullock. AH-HA! It was now becoming clearer!

So then I began to carefully compare, in any and every
detail, the Williamsburg book to the Fake Fanny. In
short, there are at least ten recipes in Fanny that’ve
been lifted from it. All are much like the “Maids of Honor,”
above, in that they have the same title, the same
ingredients, the same amounts, etc., with the only
difference being, again, that Fake Fanny’s are not
in paragraph form. Many are similar, yet slightly
different, such as Williamsburg’s “Orange Cake” and
Fanny’s “Glazed Orange Cake,” while others are nearly
direct lifts, such as Fanny’s “Greengage Plum Ice Cream,”
which is a poorly-disguised “King’s Arms Green-gage
Plum Ice Cream.”

Of course, this stealing, er, I mean, “borrowing” of receipts
is nothing new. It’s been done for centuries. Glasse stole,
er, borrowed from E. Smith and Raffald, Farley borrowed
from both of them. Emerson stole from Glasse and Simmons
(in fact, according to the late food historian, Karen Hess,
Emerson copied everything in Simmons, including the
mistakes!). Nowadays, though, there are more and
supposedly stricter laws against plagiarism, although
they can be complicated. I asked prolific book writer
and fellow food historian Andy F. Smith about all this,
and he told me,

This is all a murky area. Recipes are
considered formula and therefore
cannot be copyrighted. However,
the form of the recipe is considered
intellectual property and therefore
is copyrighted. So you can take
the ingredients and the instructions,
put them in your own form/words,
change the name, and it is now yours.
What professionals do is take a recipe
and change several ingredients/steps
and place ‘Adapted from’ and give
the original source.

Of course, the problem here is, nowhere in Fake Fanny
is the Williamsburg book mentioned, let alone an “adapted
from” credit given. There’s no bibliography of any kind,

Smith went on to say,

However, you can quote sections
directly from published works
without making changes. The
courts have limited this in
a number of ways (can’t take
poetry or songs, for instance)
and to be on the safe side it
must be less than 1-2 percent
of the total work. So if a cookbook
has 200 recipes you could take
2-4 recipes without a problem.

Well, there are 60 recipes in Fake Fanny, so “1-2 percent”
of that is 0.6 to 1.2. And there are, as I stated earlier, at
least ten.

There’s another problem here. The fact that the Fanny book
is indeed a fake also affects Thirteen Colonies, because its
New Jersey section is comprised of some (but not all) of
the same recipes. Oddly enough, a few are ever-so-slightly
different here and there, which may be the result of some
minor editing. Or perhaps the authors were aiming for that
“change at least one thing, and the recipe is yours” criteria?
At the same time, this all means that they’re guilty of pla-
giarizing themselves. Which, as I understand it, opens up
a whole ‘nother can of worms and causes a new set of
problems (a topic for another time, perhaps).

However, what I was most shocked to discover during my
perusal of all these books is that recipes in Fake Fanny
can be found in different sections of Thirteen Colonies!
For example, Fake Fanny’s “Abigail’s Soft Molasses Cakes”


are also given as Lydia Watrous Buckingham’s “Soft Molasses
Cakes” in the chapter for Connecticut. And Fake Fanny’s recipe
for “Miss Mary’s Meringues, Kisses for Dessert Pyramid” is
also Elizabeth Matthews Heyward of South Carolina’s “Kisses
for a Slack Oven” (not to mention, who the heck are Abigail
and Miss Mary?!). The “Hospitality Thins” in Fake Fanny
also belong to Sarah Gibbons Telfair of Georgia. Fanny’s
“Crock-Preserved Fruits” are also offered by New York City’s
Samuel Fraunces. And “Rose Geranium Jelly” was supposedly
also part of Catherine Moffatt Whipple of New Hampshire’s
repertoire of dishes. The list goes on and on and on, and
all told, there are 26. Yep, 26 recipes allegedly collected
by Fanny Pierson Crane were apparently also compiled by
some other person in some other colony. From Massachusetts
to Delaware to Georgia, Fanny’s recipes are spread throughout
the East coast. I tell you, I’ve heard of recipe sharing, but
this is ridiculous! And too widely-rampant to be plausible.

At the same time, I had to laugh while reading in Fake Fanny
such statements as “simple enough for the Crane children
to make,” when the same recipe is Magdelena Hoch Keim’s,
in the Pennsylvania section. Gee, don’t they mean the Keim
children?! Or when in Fake Fanny, the copy for “Chocolate
Truffles” mentions Thomas Jefferson’s supposed influence
on the use of chocolate in the early years of this country
(um, yeah, no!), and how it was felt even “in the Crane
household,” despite its presence in the Virginia chapter,
since it purportedly belonged to Betty Washington Lewis.
So, don’t they mean the Lewis household?!

Unfortunately, this stealing, er, I mean “borrowing” doesn’t
end there. A few years ago, I bought a used copy of The First
Ladies Cook Book, Favorite Recipes of All the Presidents of
the United States
cheaply at a neighborhood flea market.
I discovered that recipes were taken from it, as well. There


aren’t as many, though, only five. At least that I’ve found
thus-far. There may be more. Of course, as before, this may
also mean there are a few in Thirteen Colonies, seeing as
the two books share quite a bit of material.

Incidentally, when I initially skimmed through First Ladies,
I found a clipping from The New York Times of Helen Bullock’s
obituary tucked inside (she was the book’s Consulting Editor,

Image (102)

and the author of Williamsburg’s pseudo-historic cookbook).
NYT didn’t mince words. It bluntly stated,

Her [Bullock’s] Williamsburg cookbook
became the bible for the preparation
of food in Williamsburg exhibitions,
at least until the 1980’s, when it
was discovered that Mrs. Bullock,
an eminently practical woman, had
taken certain liberties with the
original recipes. Having discovered
that 17-century [sic] cooks, lacking
ingredients like baking powder and
vanilla, has often prepared dishes
no discriminating 20th-century diner
would eat, she sensibly adapted them
to modern tastes and ingredients.

She did WHAT?!? Oh, my! I guess that explains the insertion
of baking powder and confectioner’s sugar (cornstarch), the
use of modern measurements, and more throughout the book.

So, is that it? Sadly, no.


To be continued…stay tuned to see what other travesties are
lurking out there!


*ALHFAM = The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural
Museums. See my postings about the 2015 National Conference starting
with THIS ONE.

SOURCES mentioned in Part I (only):

Bullock, Helen, Consulting Editor. The First Ladies Cook Book,
Favorite Recipes of All the Presidents of the United States
Parent’s Magazine Press, NY, NY, 1966.

Bullock, Helen. The Williamsburg Art of Cookery. The Colonial
Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA, 1938 and 1966.

Bryan, Mrs. Lettice. The Kentucky Housewife. Cincinnati, OH, 1839.

Donovan, Mary, Amy Hatrak, Frances Mills, and Elizabeth Shull,
written and illustrated by. The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook.
Montclair Historical Society, Montclair, NJ, 1975.

Emerson, Lucy. New-England Cookery. Montpelier, VT, 1808.

Farley, John. The London Art of Cookery. London, England, 1783.

Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
London, England, 1747.

Hatrak, Amy, Frances Mills, Elizabeth Shull, Sally Williams,
compiled and illustrated by. Fanny Pierson Crane, Her
Receipts, 1796
. Montclair Historical Society, Montclair,
NJ, 1974.

The New York Times. November 11, 1995. The New York
Times Company, NY, NY.

Raffald, Elizabeth. The Experienced English Housekeeper.
London, England, 1769.

Randolph, Mary. The Virginia Housewife. Washington, D.C., 1824.

Rombauer, Irma S. Joy of Cooking. Scribner (imprint
of Simon & Schuster), eighth edition, 2006 (continuously in print
commercially since 1936; first published by the author in 1931).

Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery. Albany, NY, second
edition, 1796.

Smith, Andrew Franklin. Author and food historian. Personal
correspondence via e-mail, 2011.

Smith, E. The Compleat Housewife. London, England, 1727.


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I tell ya, there’s nothing like a modern recipe masquerading
as an original receipt (recipe) from an historic cookbook to
ruin my day and get me all riled up! It’s just the sort of thing
that drives me absolutely NUTS!!!

It started two weeks or so ago when Paul Gasparo, a friend
and fellow member of The Huntington Militia (HM), sent me
a copy of the recipe he’d used to bake a couple of loaves
of bread during HM’s annual Independence Day festivities*
at the end of this past July. His bread had turned out well,


and it was mighty tasty. So naturally, all the HM members
were abuzz with excitement over it. The most intriguing
aspect of Paul’s bread was the fact that it didn’t require
any kneading. Other than modern no-knead breads, I’d
not previously encountered any in an historic setting.
Thus, I was eager to see the recipe Paul had used!

Soon this arrived via e-mail:

Plain Bread

OK. First I see it’s for a no-knead French Bread. Interesting.
Then, it’s from Charles Carter’s cookbook, The London and
Country Cook
, published in 1749. OK, great! I have that
book downloaded on my computer. Next I notice…oh no,
it can’t be! The first ingredient given is “All-Purpose Flour!”
This immediately tells me that what I’m looking at is NOT
an original receipt. Yep, sadly, it’s yet another re-written
and modernized adaptation. And, as many people know,
I HATE those! With a passion! dagnabit.

So I asked my friend where he’d found this recipe. Well,
here we go again; it was taken from the 2013 calendar
that James Townsend & Sons published. “OH!” I told him,
THAT explains it!”

And so, off I went to search Carter’s 18th century work
for the original French Bread receipt. Well, lo and behold,
along with a few others, I found these two:

To make French-bread.
BEAT two eggs with a little salt, lay
to them half a pint of ale-yest, or
more, then put to it three pounds
of fine flour, and put into it as much
blood-warm milk as will make it soft
and light; then make it into loaves
or rolls, and when bak’d and cold,
rasp or grate all the outside off,
and then it is fit to set at table.


To make French bread.
TAKE a quarter of a peck of flour;
three or four eggs; and beat them
very well in a porringer with two
or three spoonfuls of sugar: mix
the eggs and sugar together, and
put them into the flour: take a quart
of milk lukewarm; put a little salt into
it, to give it a savoury taste; a pint
and a half of yest: mix the salt and
yest together with the milk, put it
into the flour, make it up into dough
very weak, and put it into a clean
cloth till it rises as big again: make
it up as large as you please, put it
into wooden dishes, and let it rise
almost as big as it did before: the
oven must be made very warm;
and when they are proved, put
them into the oven: if it be very
hot, let them stand an hour; if not,
an hour and a quarter. You must
take care to keep the dough, while
it is in the cloth or wooden dishes,
very warm, covering it with a blanket.

Of course, now the Big Question is, which of the above
receipts did Townsend adapt? If, indeed, it was either
one of those. After all, there ARE others in Carter’s book
that he could’ve modernized. However, I don’t think that’s
the case; it’s gotta be one of the above. But which one?
I’m leaning towards the second. If nothing else, it calls
for sugar, as does Townsend’s, and the other ingredients
are the same. The similarities end there, however, as he
not only rearranged the order of combining the wet and
dry ingredients, but he also jettisoned a second rising.
And what happened to putting the dough first into
a cloth and then into “wooden dishes”? Ahh, well, as
is typical of most “receipt modernizers,” Townsend
re-wrote it as he saw fit.

However, the Elephant in the Room is whether or not
either (or both) of the above French breads doesn’t
require kneading. True, that exact word isn’t used,
but does that mean it doesn’t apply? After all it IS
bread, and everyone KNOWS that bread dough MUST
be kneaded, yes? Besides, it’s widely known that many
historic receipts leave out those minor details we may
deem highly important, from specific steps in the whole


process to the amounts of each ingredient to how long
a dish should be cooked. In short, every little step is
NOT always spelled out. But does that “unwritten rule”
apply here? Maybe. Maybe not!

There are also specific phrases above, such as “make it
up as large as you please” and “make it up into dough,”
that could be construed to imply, or even mean, kneading.
Many other historical receipts use those same, or similar,
words. In fact, in other 18th century (and earlier) bread
receipts, I found directives to “work it up into a light
paste” and “make it up pretty stiff,” as well as “work
up the dough very light” and “worke your paste well.”
So, do those call for kneading? Or no?

In addition, what about those two little words “very weak”
that follow “make it up into dough” in the second receipt?
Is that entire phrase saying to merely mix every ingredient
and then let them all sit, with no kneading, before putting
the whole thing into the oven? But won’t such a dough be
rather soupy or liquidy? Seems it might be more batter-like,
perhaps similar to cake batter or waffle batter. Except that
it’s not batter, it’s DOUGH. Alas, I pose these questions, but
I have no answers! (If anyone out there has any ideas,
please share!)

Interestingly, I found another 18th century French bread
receipt that also calls for making up the dough “very weak,”
and it seems, possibly, to call for a light kneading. It’s from
W.A. Henderson’s cookbook The Housekeeper’s Instructor, or
Universal Family Cook
(circa 1795). It states in the first few
sentences to mix the flour and yeast “till it is tough.” Then,
after the dough has its first rising:

Instead of working it with your
hands, as you would dough
for English bread, put the ends
of your fingers together, and
work it over your hands till it
is quite weak and ropey…
(emphasis mine)

Now, to me, this possibly says to knead the dough, albeit
gently or lightly. And so, making it “weak” perhaps does
NOT mean to let it just sit like a big ol’ blob or to allow it
to be mushy. Still, I wonder…maybe I’ve got it all wrong?
And if that’s the case, just WHAT then does “weak” mean?!
Sadly, once again, I don’t have an answer. Ahh, yes, so
many questions, so few answers. However, I will continue
to search.

Despite these nagging questions surrounding the meaning
of this or that word or the interpretation of these phrases
or those in any of the above historic receipts, I suppose,
in the end, none of it really matters. Knead it, don’t knead
it, heck, as long as it works, who cares?! Especially if you
aren’t concerned with the whole historic vs modern issue.
I’ve even considered making two batches of dough and
kneading one but not the other, just as an experiment
to see what, if any, difference it makes either way in
the final product.

Of course, when (and if) I do so, I’ll use Carter’s original
receipt and NOT Townsend’s version. I’m not particularly
interested in whether his works, kneaded or not. After
all, his is a MODERN, totally NEW, recipe, through and
through. Which, by the way, I don’t understand at all.
Why do people adapt, re-write, and modernize receipts
from historic cookbooks? What’s the point? If you want
a modern recipe, go buy the Joy of Cooking or a book


by Martha Stewart. Otherwise, present the original,
as it was written, and then tell us how to make THAT.
It can be done, and it’s really quite easy (and fun!).
Heck, I do it all the time. Even in my hearth cooking
classes, with folks of varying skills, we’re able to
figure out original receipts from past centuries. All,
mind you, with fantastic results! Besides, how else
will anyone get a TRUE taste of food from the past?!
Modernize an historic receipt, and that’s exactly what
you’ll get: a modern dish.

My BIGGEST complaint, however, about Townsend’s
modern re-write is the fact that it’s being passed off
as an original receipt. He wants us to believe that
the recipe for “No-Knead” French bread on the March
pages of his 2013 calendar is taken from The London
and Country Cook
, by Charles Carter. And yet, it’s NOT!
C’mon, Mr. Townsend, if you’re going to do these dang
adaptations, please, PLEASE, tell us so upfront. But
don’t claim your newly-created mash-up is the actual
as-it-was-originally-written receipt from a specific
historic cookbook. To say, or imply, that it IS, when
clearly it ISN’T, is a Big Fat Lie! This recipe is a fake!
In fact, what you’re doing here looks and smells an
awful lot like FRAUD. Ugh. People do this all the time,
and as I said previously, it drives me absolutely NUTS!!!
There are far too many of these historic wanna-be’s.
And it’s especially annoying and disconcerting when
a seller of historic reproductions perpetuates them.
Year ’round, in a calendar, no less. dagnabit. Well, all
I gotta say is, better watch your back, Mr. Townsend.
I’m on to you and your wily ways!

And finally, if Townsend wanted to include an 18th
century no-knead French bread receipt (modernized
or not) in his calendar, why didn’t he use one that
specifically says that? Why muck about with one
that seems rather vague? Besides, receipts stating
flat-out “no kneading required” DO exist. I searched
a few of my historic cookbooks and found three. And
I imagine there are plenty more. A perfect example is
the following, courtesy of The Compleat Housewife,
an 18th century cookbook by Eliza Smith (1727):

To Make French Bread.
Take half a peck of fine flour,
put to it six yolks of eggs, and
four whites, a little salt, a pint
of good ale yeast and as much
new milk, made a little warm,
as will make it a thin light paste;
stir it about with your hand, but
by no means knead it; then
have ready six wooden quart
dishes, and fill them with dough;
let them stand a quarter of an
hour to heave, and then turn
them out into the oven; and
when they are baked, rasp
them: the oven must be quick.
(emphasis mine)

C’mon Townsend. Get with it!

bread loaf round and metal topped decorative jug w face

P.S. As for Townsend’s claim (hidden in the fine print on the photo
for March 2013) that “Some early 19th century texts use ‘Dutch oven’
and ‘bread oven’ interchangeably.” I have NO idea where he got that!
I’d sure like to know what his source is. I wonder, as well, about his
interpretation of it. I’d like to see a couple examples of this supposed
“interchangeable” use, as well, because I’ve never heard of it. Ugh.
Just what we need. A fake recipe AND mis-information!


*Although the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2, 1776
and published in
The Pennsylvania Gazette on July 4, it didn’t arrive
in Huntington, Long Island, until July 23 (via a rider on horseback,
of course!). This historic event is commemorated by The Huntington
Militia every year with a variety of festivities that’re open to the public,
including a reading of the Document, musket and cannon firings, open-fire
cooking, historic children’s games, and more.

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I made Apees many times while working at Conner Prairie
years ago. A batch would be baked for afternoon tea every
now and then at the Campbell House. And as I said, what
I remember most about my past dealings with these small
cakes was that, when baked, they were to be light in color,
and that they were made with sour cream. Then recently,
as you know, I whipped up a few batches of Apees for use

at the Crane House during the Big Tour. I shared the receipt
(recipe) here,
as well, and it does indeed state that the end
result is to be “slightly coloured,” but, good golly, there’s no
sour cream! What? Why not? How can that be?!

Well, let me first give you a little background to this story.

You see, back during my glorious days at CP, I didn’t select
the receipts I used. Rather, they were chosen for all cooks
by someone else, most likely many years earlier. Of course,
at the time, I had no idea what the sources were for many
of them. However, seeing as it was a living history museum
(at the time, that is), I always believed that each and every
one came from genuine, authentic, real-live historic cookbooks
that were appropriate (and highly so) for the site’s specific
time period (1836). Turns out, however, I was wrong. In fact,
I’ve since learned that some were far from being “appropriate,”
even far from being historic. And knowing what I know now,
I’m amazed, and disappointed, at what passed as “historic”
back then, especially considering all the emphasis that was
placed on the need for historical accuracy.

So, if the oddball Apees-with-sour-cream receipt wasn’t pulled
from a bona-fide historic cookbook, what was the source? Well,
it came from what I like to call a “pseudo-historic” cookbook,
the kind that shouldn’t even exist, let alone be used at any
type of historical site. Namely, The Conner Prairie Cookbook,
edited by Margaret A. Hoffman (1985 and 1990):

1 C. butter
1 1/3 C. sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 C. flour
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 C. sour cream

Work the vanilla into the butter
and then add the sugar, a little
at a time, until it is very smooth.
Beat in the eggs. Mix the flour,
cream of tartar and salt and add
alternately with the sour cream.
Drop by spoonsful into baking pans.
Bake about 10 minutes in a moderate
(350 degree) oven. Cookies should
be very pale.

Forget the fact that the first thing the directions say to do is
to “work the vanilla into the butter” when there’s NO vanilla
on the ingredients list. Did you notice all the, um, “unusual”
ingredients? (including the missing vanilla) Golly, the only ones
this has in common with Eliza Leslie’s historic Apee receipt
are the flour, sugar, and butter. I mean, seriously. Two eggs?
Cream of tartar? And then there’s that real oddball that’s
been stuck in my memory all these years: the Big Dollop
of SOUR CREAM?!? What the heck?!? WHY? And where are
the caraway seeds? All of the other truly historic Apee receipts
I found have caraway seeds. Why are there none in this one?
Or, is the sour cream supposed to be a substitute for them?
But why do you need, or would you even want, to exchange
them for something else? And if you do, why trade them

Now, I’ve tried diligently during the past three (nearly) years
to remain non-bitchy here, but there comes a time… And I’ll
write more in depth later about this topic, but for now, well,
see…dagnabit…this is what I just don’t understand:

When a person, or a group of people, decides to put together
a cookbook containing historic recipes from another time period,
why is it that, instead of selecting actual recipes from cookbooks
that were published during the chosen era, they choose to make
them up out of thin air? Why do that? How is that OK with anyone?
Such a newly-created recipe is certainly NOT historical. It’s basically
a fake! And often, as in this case, there’s little that even vaguely
approximates a genuine historical receipt. Why would anyone put
SOUR CREAM into what’s essentially a cookie? What’s the point?

Of course, the biggest problem is that these “pseudo-historic”
books like this, which contain recipes that are “modernized,”
“adapted for modern tastes,” and/or made up entirely, are
assumed to be, and passed off to everyone as being, historically
authentic, when most definitely THEY ARE NOT!! Not to mention
people automatically assume these books are legit because they
were written, published, and distributed by an historic museum
or other such institution. And unfortunately, there are many,
MANY others just like this one floating around. The whole thing
just drives me nuts!

Stayed tuned, dear readers, there’s alot more to come on this.
ALOT more!


NEXT: Back to the food shared with visitors at the Crane House

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The modern recipe I use to make Syllabubs is
on the website for The New York Times! HUZZAH!

It’s included here in the feature “Readers Photos
and Recipes: Essential Summer Dishes.”

And yes, it’s a “mo-dern” adaptation, but one based
on historic receipts (recipes). Of course, I had to make
some and then write it all down. Mmmm, yum! And now
it (along with a photo I took) is published for all the world
to see! HUZZAH!

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Summer is fading fast, and good ol’ Fall will soon arrive.
Which, for me at least, means time for a few more rounds
of cooking tasty apple fritters over an open fire. HUZZAH!

Now, I won’t be fryin’ up any for a few weeks yet (check
out Carolina’s Calendar for details), but in honor of this
tasty autumn treat, here’s Colonial Williamsburg’s take
on the little delectable morsels, courtesy of the Museum’s
website feature “History is Served.”


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A week ago Sunday, I was prepping
a squash pudding that was then to
be cooked at the hearth of the Israel
Crane House
. A good-sized crowd of
folks came to watch, and, in fact,
for quite awhile it was wall to wall
people. HUZZAH! I think everyone
had a fantastic time. I know I did!
And I can’t wait to be there, cooking,
again early next month (December 5 – – come join us!).

As to the squash pudding…I chose it because there is a receipt
in Fanny Pierson Crane’s (Israel’s wife) manuscript cookbook.
And that was the “theme,” if you will, of the day’s hearth activities:
preparing and cooking dishes from Fanny’s receipt book. However,
I’ve never seen her book; at least, not the actual original (although
I hope to at some point). What I have seen, and possess a copy of,
is a published booklet containing modern adaptations of Fanny’s
receipts. And, as frequent readers can attest, I don’t care for such
modern re-writes of historic works. I want to know what the original
is, what Fanny herself (or any other author of such a book) wrote.
Too often, the process is re-arranged and/or ingredients are added
that either weren’t available or “invented” yet or are contrary to the
make-up of the dish as a whole. In my view, it’s difficult enough
to approximate how a dish looked and tasted in centuries past,
so why make it worse by adding, deleting, or otherwise altering
specific components? Plus, as an historian, I want to view, and
to preserve, the bona-fide originals. Including a modern version
is fine, as long as the actual, written-on-a-page-by-the-hand-
of- -, well, of whomever, is there right beside it.

In any case, for my squash pudding, instead of using a modern
version, I followed Amelia Simmons’ receipt from her cookbook,
American Cookery. Which, incidentally, was published in 1796,
the same year that Fanny supposedly began hers:

A Crookneck, or Winter Squash Pudding.
Core, boil and skin a good squash,
and bruize it well; take 6 large apples,
pared, cored, and stewed tender, mix
together; add 6 or 7 spoonfuls of dry
bread or biscuit, rendered fine as meal,
one pint milk or cream, 2 spoons of
rose-water, 2 do. wine, 5 or 6 eggs
beaten and strained, nutmeg, salt
and sugar to your taste, one spoon
flour, beat all smartly together,
bake one hour.

The above is a good receipt for Pompkins,
Potatoes or Yams, adding more moistening
or milk and rose-water, and to the two
latter a few black or Lisbon currants, or
dry whortleberries scattered in, will
make it better.

Now, Israel, Fanny’s husband, owned and operated a mercantile, and
it’s quite possible that he stocked Amelia’s book. So perhaps Fanny
copied her receipt? Or at least, based it on Amelia’s? Of course, I’ll
be better able to determine whether or not she did either, when
I see Fanny’s original manuscript. And believe me, this whole
experience makes me even more eager to study it!

For comparison, here’s the modern version from Fanny Pierson Crane,
Her Receipts 1796
, compiled, illustrated, and adapted by Amy Hatrak,
Frances Mills, Elizabeth Shull, and Sally Williams (1974). When I first
saw this, my initial reaction was, “Why is there CHEDDAR CHEESE
in a squash pudding?!” Nevertheless, here it is:

2 pounds winter squash
1/2 pound cheddar cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Pare squash, remove seeds, and cut
into small pieces. Boil until tender,
drain well, and put into a deep
baking dish. Add cheese cut
into small pieces; saving a little
to sprinkle on top. Saute the onion
in butter. Mix into squash and cheese,
and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Beat
eggs to blend, add milk, then pour over
the squash. Sprinkle remaining cheese
on top. Dot with fresh bread crumbs
and butter. Grate nutmeg on top. Bake
slowly for 30 minutes or until top is
delicately browned and set. Serve
at once.


BTW…I used a buttercup squash

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The English are well known for their love of meat pies.
Receipts (recipes) for them can be found in cookbooks
of nearly every era. They appeared less and less often
as the centuries progressed, however. By the early
19th century, they had pretty much fallen out of favor
and so began to disappear from cookbooks.

meat pie shapes

Meat pies were usually enclosed
in a thick pastry crust. This “coffin,”
as it was called, was not meant
to be eaten. Rather, it merely
served as the container in which
the pie’s contents were cooked.
They were essentially the earliest
versions of a modern baking dish.

These coffins were frequently quite
elaborate, with all kinds of designs
carved into them or added on top.
Sometimes braiding and piping would
be draped round. Entire pies were
formed into various shapes (see left),
whether abstract or that of spades,
diamonds, or squares. They were
even molded into the shapes of birds,
animals, and fish.

Here now is a receipt for a meat pie from The Taste of the Fire,
The Story of the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace
. Feel
free to mold it into the shape of a calf or a pig!

Take buttys of Vele, & mynce
hem smal, or Porke, & put on
a potte; take Wyne, & caste
ther-to pouder of Gyngere,
Pepir, & Safroun, & Salt, &
a lytel verthous, & do hem
in a cofyn with olkys of
Eyroun, & kutte Datys
& Roysonys of Coraunce,
Clowys, Mace, & then
ceuere thin cofyn, & lat
it bake tyl it be y-now.

[Modern Version]
Put minced veal or pork into
a saucepan along with some
wine, ground ginger, saffron,
verjuice, pepper and salt and
cook until the meat is done.
When cool, mix in some raw
egg yolks, chopped dates,
currants, ground cloves and
mace. Place the mixture into
a pastry case and cook in
the oven until golden.


[meat pie art: detail of a painting (from a “Private
Collection”) in The Taste Of the Fire, The Story
of the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace

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