One of my favorite things about Isabella Beeton’s 1861 cookbook, The Book of Household Management, is that she lists practical information about the cost, time to make, serving size, and season for each recipe. Knowing the season was especially important; although some fruits and vegetables could be grown in greenhouses all year, others were only available for short windows of time. Even today, that’s still the case with rhubarb, which in my area at least only appears for a few brief weeks in late spring. To make this recipe, I started haunting my grocery stores and local farmers’ markets at the start of April, checking constantly for the first sign of rhubarb’s bright red stalks. Somehow, the excitement of finally finding it after weeks of waiting feels much more gratifying than if I had been able to get it all year round.Read More »
Last year, I made an 18th-century recipe for a hedgehog, a popular dessert in which an almond paste was formed into the shape of a hedgehog and stuck with almond slices to resemble spines. The idea of the hedgehog-shaped dessert survived into the 19th century, but later recipes started using a cake as the base of the hedgehog instead. This recipe, from Addison Ashburn’s 1807 cookbook The Family Director, calls for either a sponge cake or a French roll as the hedgehog base. The base is then soaked in wine and brandy and surrounded by custard, making this version just as decadent as its 18th-century predecessors.Read More »
The English custom of eating spiced buns on Good Friday dates back to at least Tudor times, when a London law forbade the sale of spiced buns except on Good Friday, Christmas, and at burials. The first known mention of the name “hot cross buns” comes from a rhyme in the 1733 book Poor Robin’s Almanack: “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns.” Although on modern hot cross buns the cross is usually piped on with pastry, in most recipes before the 20th century the cross is cut or stamped into the buns. This 1896 recipe from Fannie Merritt Farmer is an exception to both traditions; in her version, the cross is piped on with icing.Read More »
“A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart…it was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray, and Dr. Grant doing the honours of it, were worth looking at.” – from Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, 1814.Read More »
Over a year ago, I discovered a recipe for my great-great-grandmother Grace Raver’s cake, thanks to an article from my grandfather’s cousin, Anne.
In her article, Anne recalled that her grandmother Grace would vary the cake according to the seasons; she would flavor it with black walnuts when they were harvested in fall, but would make the cake with orange and lemon the rest of the year. I’ve made the black walnut version of this cake a few times already, so I decided to try the orange and lemon version this time.Read More »
This recipe comes from Eliza Acton’s 1845 book Modern Cookery In All Its Branches, my favorite historic cookbook of all time – so far I have made more recipes from this cookbook than any other. In addition to her clear instructions and the fact that she actually lists measurable quantities for each ingredient, I also love Eliza Acton’s cookbook for its literary references. Acton was a published poet as well as a cookbook author, and seems to have been interested in contemporary literature. Some of her recipes, such as Ruth Pinch’s Beef-Steak Pudding, are named after specific characters; others relate more generally to the profession of writing, such as The Author’s Christmas Pudding. This recipe, Miss Bremer’s Pudding, is most likely named after the Swedish author Fredrika Bremer, whose works were popular in England at the time.Read More »
‘”Come along in, and have some tea!” he managed to say after taking a deep breath.
“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake — seed cake, if you have any.”
“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and to the pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.’ – from The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937.Read More »
“‘Now what can I serve that everyone likes?’ you ask yourself when you plan party refreshments. And if you decide on ‘something chocolate,’ you’re sure to be right. For chocolate is America’s favorite flavor.” – My Party Book of Tested Chocolate Recipes, 1938.Read More »
“‘I don’t know, Tom,’ said his sister, blushing, ‘I am not quite confident, but I think I could make a beef-steak pudding, if I tried, Tom.’
‘In the whole catalogue of cookery, there is nothing I should like so much as a beef-steak pudding!’ cried Tom, slapping his leg to give the greater force to this reply.”– from Martin Chuzzlewit, by Charles Dickens, 1844
“As to Dolly, there she was again, the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry-coloured mantle, with a hood of the same drawn over her head, and upon the top of that hood, a little straw hat trimmed with cherry-coloured ribbons, and worn the merest trifle on one side—just enough in short to make it the wickedest and most provoking head-dress that ever malicious milliner devised.” -Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, 1841.Read More »