As an over-the-edge foodie, I am always trying various dishes and techniques, and sometimes they turn out so beautifully I fear I can’t live without them. The phrase, “the best thing since sliced bread”, may describe a lot of things, but once I became the mistress, and tamed the little yeast critters, purchased bread just doesn’t cut it anymore.
There is nothing like the aroma of baking bread. When my great aunts (sisters who married my grandmother’s two brothers) came over from Germany as young women, they brought with them little pots of yeast their mother gave them for their new homes. The family kept that yeast going for years until my mother’s generation when, through lack of interest given the availability of store-bought bread, they let it die and tossed it. More’s the pity, it was heavenly. I could honestly smell it when I stepped off the school bus as a kid when my mother had spent the day making bread. I knew there would be bread, buns, and sinfully rich doughnuts all made from that miraculous dough, some put into the freezer for a later day and the remainder just waiting to be gobbled up.
I have made my own yeast using potatoes and hops on occasion, using a recipe from my book, Victoria’s Home Companion; Or, The Whole Art of Cooking but inevitably I’ll be away when it needs to be fed and it will die just like that my aunts brought from Germany. Luckily, if I want a period loaf the Victorians prepared a sponge which rarely sat over 24 hours before it was used in baking, and I can manage that if I want more than packaged yeast.
I’ve also made and kept sourdough starter, but alas, it too can be demanding when it wants to be fed and replenished.
The loaves in the photo below were made from purchased yeast, with potato in the dough, which makes a really nice bread.
The difference between hard rectangles or rounds of dough akin to what Ellie Mae Clampet might have turned out, and a soft loaf with beautiful crust is allowing the yeast to grow and mature without rushing through the process, and to give it a warm but not hot environment in which to produce gases which in turn make the bread rise. Another mistake I used to make was using water that was too warm in which to bloom the yeast. Warm is good, hot is bad.
My favorites are a loaf I make from rye, whole wheat, and a little white bread flour, buttermilk bread, oatmeal bread, Anadama, and Sally Lunn. There’s something rewarding about seeing the dough rise and then there’s the sheer pleasure of eating it fresh from the oven.
Blissful Meals, yall, The Historic Foodie
Fricasee may appear under a number of spellings in 18th century cookery books, but however you spell it, as foodie tech Alton Brown would say, “It’s good eats”.
White fricasee is, in fact, perhaps my favorite period dish, well one of them anyway. This morning I’ll share a few of the easier receipts.
A Fricasy of Chicken. After you have drawn and wash’d your chickens, half boil them; then take them up and cut them in pieces, and put them in a frying pan, and fry them in butter, then take them out of the pan and clean it, and put in some strong broth, some white wine, some grated nutmeg, a little pepper and salt, a bunch of sweet herbs, and an eschalot or two; let these with two or three anchovies stew on a slow fire and boil up; then beat it up with butter and eggs till it is thick, and put your Chickens in, and toss them well together; lay sippets in the dish, and serve it up with sliced lemon and fried parsley. – E. Smith, The Compleat Housewife. 1739.
Sippets are toasts browned in a little butter. Most receipts will instruct cooking the chicken pieces in butter, but do not have the chicken “half boiled” before cutting it up.
In The Whole Duty of a Woman (1737), the preceding receipt is found, and a second one which also contains oysters, mushrooms, and anchovies, bacon, mace, and sweet herbs with claret. For this receipt there was no boiling of the chicken before cutting it in pieces to fry in the butter.
A third version did instruct boiling or roasting the chicken before skinning it and frying in the butter, and it was seasoned with a generous amount of lemon juice with anchovies, mace, pepper, broth, and thickened with cream and eggs. The cook was instructed to serve it over mushrooms and oysters.
To Make a Fricasee. Fley three chickens or rabbits, cut them into little bits, put them into a quart of water, then take them up, and put them in a frying pan to a Pint of white wine, as much strong broth or water, a little pepper, cloves, or mace and a few sprigs of sweet herbs, one anchovy, two shallots, two slices of Lemons. Stir it till tender, then put in a pint of oysters, some mushrooms, fifty balls of forc’dmeat, boiled in water a little, then some burnt [browned] butter, and serve it with sippets, lemons slic’d and barberries. – Harrison, Sarah. The Housekeeper’s Pocket Book. 1739.
Forcemeat balls are made of finely minced meat, bread crumbs, and seasoned with chopped herbs, and bound together with cream or eggs.
Esther Copley’s cooking style mimics my own, or I should say mine mimics hers, in that she does not get bound up in exact amounts in order to prepare a dish. Her instructions left a great deal to the taste and preferences of the cook.
Instead of giving various recipes she said, “we shall just observe that cold chicken may be agreeably rewarmed in a small quantity of gravy seasoned with pepper, salt, nutmeg or mace, flavored with eschalot, sweet-herbs, or lemon peel; thickened with cream, butter and flour with the addition of oysters and mushrooms, in all these particulars varying according to taste and circumstance”. – The House-Keeper’s Guide. 1838.
White fricasee remained popular through the 19th century. The following receipt is from Cookery as it Should Be, 1856. It is little different from those a century earlier except that the instructions are a little clearer in describing the method of preparation.
Draw and clean one pair of fowls, lay them in water for half an hour, then dry them, and lay them in a stew pan with milk and water, and a little salt, and let them simmer until cooked. Put into a saucepan half a pint of cream, a quarter of a pound of butter, and a little grated nutmeg, stir this and set it on the fire to simmer, and stir in a wine glass of white wine, then lay in the cooked chicken, and let it remain in this, covered up, until dished. Chop up parsley and strew it over the chicken.
The reader has noticed by now that the chicken in these recipes was cooked, but the method was not to brown it. In recipes where the chicken or other meat was browned the resulting dish is a Brown Fricasee. The following receipt is given for contrast. Both versions are tasty, and changing the preparation methods can change the dish enough to cause it to be met with almost as a new dish entirely.
Brown Fricasee. Prepare the chickens for cooking, lay them in a stew-pan just covered with water, sprinkle in a little salt, and let them slowly simmer for twenty minutes; then take the pieces out and dry them with a cloth. Put a lump of butter into a pan, dredge the chicken well with flour, and lay it into the hot pan to brown; break up the yolk of an egg, a little grated nutmeg, cayenne and salt, take some of the broth in which the chickens were boiled, put it in the stew-pan, and stir in the egg and seasoning, with a little flour for thickening, and when well mixed, lay in the browned chicken until ready for dishing, and garnish with parsley. – Mrs. Goodfellow’s Cookery as it Should Be.
Blissful Meals, yall, from the Historic Foodie
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Gervase Markham wrote of rusks made of ground rice flour as being, “pleasanter, sweeter, and much longer lasting than those of wheat”, in 1668. – A Way to Get Wealth.
In 1699, William Dampier wrote of rusk sent by the governor, “fine rusk, or bread of wheat flower, baked like Biscuit, but not so hard”. – A Voyage Around the World.
Nathan Bailey defined bread in his 18th century dictionary as, “hard bread for stores”. The same brief definition was published in several dictionaries during the 18th century. John Marchant (1764) expanded upon that a little saying it was, “a sort of hard light bread used with chocolate”.
Because it was hard and dry it kept well, therefore, is spoken of in many instances of ships voyages.
Benjamin Franklin was among those who declared rusks better than ship’s biscuit, “for being made of good fermented bread, sliced and baked a second time, the pieces imbibe the water easily, soften immediately, digest more kindly, and are, therefore, more wholesome than the unfermented biscuit. By the way, rusk is the true original biscuit, prepared to keep for the sea, biscuit in French signifying twice baked”. – The Works of Benjamin Franklin. 1840.
Eliza Leslie’s recipe from 1832 called for a quarter of a pound of powdered sugar, a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, one pound of flour sifted, one egg, three wine-glasses of milk, a wine-glass and a half of best yeast, a tablespoonful of rose-water, and a teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon.
The flour and spices were sifted into a pan, then the butter cut into the milk, and the milk warmed enough to melt the butter. The egg was beaten and added to the flour with the milk and butter, rose-water, spice, and lastly the yeast. The ingredients were stirred well together, then the dough kneaded well on a floured surface. The dough was then divided into small pieces of equal size and each piece kneaded again into a thick round cake. The cakes were laid into a buttered iron pan and set in a warm place to rise. The tops were pricked with a fork and then the cakes were baked in a moderate oven. – Seventy Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats.
Receipts varied little for a period of several years. Marion Harland’s 1874 version made use of a pint of warm milk, 1/2 cup of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, a teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of yeast.
A sponge was made of the milk, yeast, and enough flour for a thin batter, and left to rise overnight. Next morning, the butter, eggs, and sugar, previously beaten together, were added together with the salt, and flour enough to make a soft dough. The cakes were still molded with the hands of uniform size and put close together in a pan to rise until very light. After baking the tops were brushed with a soft cloth dipped into molasses and water. – Common Sense in the Household.
The preceding receipts make no mention of baking twice, as one would biscotti, according to some of the early definitions, however, others did instruct the cook to split the baked rusks open and put the halves back into the oven to dry them.
Elizabeth Lea gave two receipts – one which was twice baked and which was said to last months without spoiling. The latter was made similar to the versions given already, but after baking the rusks were split open, and the halves put back in pans and put back into the oven to slowly dry for an hour or more. They were recommended by weak persons with whom rich cakes might not agree, or for taking on a journey. Nutmeg and mace could be added to the taste, and for richer versions two eggs could be used instead of one. – Domestic Cookery, 1859.
Numerous receipts were published through the 19th century for making puddings from rusks. In some receipts, the rusks were placed in a dish and a custard mixture, and sometimes almonds, were put over them and baked, similar to the way a bread pudding is made. In others, the rusks were pounded up, stirred well into the custard mixture, then the pudding baked.
Blissful Meals, Yall, The Historic Foodie
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While the concept of putting meat or cheese between two pieces of bread and heading out the door to the fields or other destinations may date from very early in history, actual instructions for making sandwiches don’t appear in print until the third quarter of the 18th century. Below are some of the first references for sandwiches of various fillings.
Medieval trenchers of bread on which foods were served, the bread to be eaten or not as desired, were in essence the forerunners of the open-faced sandwich.
Charlotte Mason published a receipt for sandwiches in 1787 in which one was told to put some thin slices of beef between thin slices of bread and butter. If preferred thin slices of veal or ham could be used instead of the beef. – The Lady’s Assistant for Regulating and Supplying the Table.
SANDWICH OF FILLET OF FOWL AU SUPREME. Cut off the fillets of as many fowls as will supply the party intended to be given. Twelve fowls will give you sandwiches enough for a large assembly. Twelve au supreme are sufficient. First make the bechemel well seasoned* …mark the fillets in a saute-pan with very little butter dip the fillets in melted butter, put them in the saute-pan powder a little salt over them, and saute them two hours before you can make use of them, to have them quite cold when you cut up. When you make the sandwiches, slice the fillets as thin as possible without trimming them. Take them up very thin, and leave them one upon another to prevent their getting dry, for sandwiches should not be made till late in the evening, otherwise the bread will become dry, and they will be good for nothing. When you begin to make the sandwiches, (which you should not do till towards nine o’clock, to serve up at twelve,) lay two bits of bread side by side, spread upon them a very little of the bechamel then put the white of the fowl on one of the bits of bread, with al ittle salt, and put the other piece on the same way as before so that they may join well: cut the sandwich in half only. Serve on silver plates; one sandwich upon another, a little turned, but do not try to innovate or improve by attempting to serve them miroton-way, when the plate is reasonably filled. Ude, Louis Eustache. The French Cook. 1829. London.
The preceding source offered recipes for sandwiches of fillets of pheasant, fillets of sole, anchovies, and salad (green herbs).
An 1823 book advised that hot suppers were, “not much in use”, where people were prone to eating late, which explains the instructions above for having the sandwiches ready to serve at midnight. – Radcliffe, A Modern System of Domestic Cookery.
Two years earlier (1827) Domestic Economy and Cookery for Rich and Poor instructed the cook to make Anchovy Sandwiches by spreading anchovy paste on bread, topping with a seconc slice of bread, and trimming the crusts.
For Ham Sandwiches the same source recommended mixing cheese and butter, seasoning agreeably, and adding thin slices of ham, tongue, redded beef or bacon. A Common Sandwich was made by layering sliced ham, redded beef, or tongue, laid neatly between two slices of bread and butter, with mustard if wanted.
Shrimp sandwiches were quite appealing made from potted shrimps or shrimp butter. “Butter the bread, and arrange the shrimps, press together, and cut them neatly.” Oyster and lobster butter were recommended to make elegant sandwiches; and egg-butter “answers well” with minced or pounded anchovies. “Fish sandwiches are the lightest; sprinkle them with anchovy essence”.
Radcliff suggested sandwiches could be made from a long list of suggestions he gave for cold suppers which included game, fowl, rabbits, fish, oysters, small birds, cutlets, cold tongue, ham, collared things, Hunter’s beef sliced, rusks buttered with anchovies, grated hung beef with butter, grated cheese, potted meats, crabs, lobsters, prawns, crayfish, etc. (1823)
Anchovies could be boned and pounded in a mortar with butter to make the anchovy paste for sandwiches. Some sources suggested toasting the bread for the sandwiches. – Hunter, Alexander. Culina Famulatrix Medicinae. 1806.
Christian Johnstone gave detailed suggestions for making sandwiches of various sorts. The Cook and Housewife’s Manual. 1828.
These are a convenient and economical, but, at the same time, a rather suspicious order of culinary preparations, especially in hotels and public gardens; they are therefore getting into disrepute. Sandwiches may be made of ham or tongue sliced, grated, or scraped: of German or common pork sausage, cold salted rump, anchovies, shrimps, sprats, potted cheese, or hard yolks of egg and Parmesan or Cheshire cheese pounded with butter: forcemeat, and potted meat of various kinds, cold poultry, with whatever seasonings of mustard, currie-powder, &c. &c. are most suitable to the meat with which the sandwich is made. The only particular directions that can be given are, to have them fresh-made, and to cut the bread in neat even slices, of any shapes that are fancied, and not too large or thick.
That book told the cook to prepare a Cheese-Sandwich by mixing two-thirds of grated Parmesan or Cheshire cheese and one part butter with a small portion of prepared mustard, and covering slices of bread with the cheese mixture and thin slices of ham, or any cured meat; and covering with a second slice of bread. Mixing an anchovy into the potted cheese mixture was optional, per the discretion of the cook.
By the 1840’s bakers were selling what they termed sandwich loaves which attests to the popularity of various sandwiches by that time. As the century progressed more and more types of sandwiches and recipes for making them were included in cookery books. By the 1920’s and 30’s specialty sandwiches were becoming a part of regional cuisine in cities throughout the U.S.
Blissful Meals, Yall, The Historic Foodie
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Lemons were a common ingredient in cookery books, and it might be interesting to have a quick look at the many ways they were used to flavor food and beverages.
For use in soup see www.thistledewbooks.com for reviews and description of Soup Through the Ages: A Culinary History with Recipes.
LEMONADE: Rasp two lemons, and squeeze six, put to them three gills of syrup and the rest water; taste it, and if it is not to your palate alter and mend it till it is right; then strain through a lawn sieve and put in your glasses for use. – Nutt, Frederick. The Complete Confectioner.
LEMON ESSENCE: [for flavoring] Rasp your lemons all around very thin, and allow for every quarter of a pound of rind one pound of sugar; mix it the very same way you do essence of cedraties, put it into a stone jar, and bladder it up the same. [tying an animal bladder over a bottle was a common sealing method].
LEMON ICE CREAM: Rasp one lemon, and squeeze three or four; add two gills of syrup and one pint of cream; mix it all together, and pass it through a sieve and freeze it.
LEMON WAFERS: Take six lemons, and squeeze into an earthen pan; pound and sift some double refined sugar and mix it with the lemon juice; put one white of an egg in with it and mix it up well together with your spoon to make it of a fine thickness; take some sheets of wafer paper and put one sheet of it on a pewter sheet or tin plate, put a spoonful on and cover the sheet of wafer paper all over with your knife; cut it in twelve pieces and put them across a stick in your hot stove with that side the paste is on the uppermost, and you will find they will curl. When they are half curled take them off very carefully and put them in a sieve, that they may stand up; let them be in a hot stove one day and you will find that they will be all curled and then they are done.
LEMON WATER ICE: Rasp one lemon, and squeeze three and put in two gills of syrup and half a pint of water; pass it and freeze it rich.
LEMON DROPS: Squeeze the juice of six lemons into a brown pan or bason, take some double refined sugar ; pound it and sift it through a very fine lawn sieve; mix it with the lemon juice and make it so thick you can hardly stir it; put it into a copper stew pan, with a wooden spoon stir it over the fire five minutes then take it off and drop them with the point of a knife, of the same size as with orange drops and let them stand until cold and they will come off the paper. If you wait for their cooling they must be put in some cool place. They must be put on [buttered] writing paper.
The preceding are from Frederick Nutt, The Compleat Confectioner, 1790, London.
Lemon Cream, Elizabeth Raffield, 1769 [lemon creams date from the early 18th century]:
Take a pint of spring water, the rinds of two lemons pared thin [zest only, no white], and the juice of three; beat the whites of six eggs very well; mix the whites with water and lemon, put sugar to your taste and then set it over the Fire and keep stirring it till it thickens, but don’t let it boil, strain it through a cloth, beat the yolks of six eggs, put it over the fire till it be quite thick, then put it in a bowl to cool, and put it in your glasses.
There were lemon jellies, lemon wines and brandies, lemon puddings, lemon pickles, lemon shrub, and lemon cakes and pies in addition to the recipes given here, and when we factor in how many dishes lemon juice was used in as a flavoring it becomes apaprent lemons were a valued ingredient for those early cooks.
Blissful Meals, yall, The Historic Foodie
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No part of the United States produces this article but the Carolinas and Georgia. Spain and Portugal took a considerable quantity, but the great quantity of American rice is in the northern parts of Europe. All that went thither was first landed in Great Britain…A ship lately arrived at Lisbon from South Carolina, laden with rice, the demand for that article was so little there that it would have been at a much better market if it had come to England. – Sheffield, John. Observations on the Commerce of the United States. 1784. London.
In 1800, contrary to the previous source, southwest Louisiana reported some 170,000 acres were planted in rice. – Louisiana Sugar Cane Planter’s Assoc., The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer.
The preceding book said that Portugal had begun growing rice in Brazils which was considered superior (to them, at least) to the American rice, and subsequently prohibited the importation of rice into Portugal from the Americas.
The U.S. exported 134,468 barrels and 53 bags, larger exportation than any other crop including tobacco and wheat, in 1783.
Rice was used in a number of ways, not the least of which was pudding. In 1800, instructions were for a quarter of a pound of rice, an egg, a pint of milk, sugar and nutmeg. For that small amount of liquid the rice had to have been precooked, although instructions did not make that clear.
Eliza Smith’s 1739 rice pudding was flavored with cinnamon and mace, and made rich with the addition of sugar, half a pound of butter, and 10 or 12 eggs, minus f0ur egg whites from that quantity. – The Compleat Housewife.
Hannah Glasse gave a receipt for baked rice pudding in 1744 in which she specified much better than the previous source how to construct the pudding. A quarter of a pound of rice was to be boiled in a quart of milk until it thickened, then allowed to cool before adding a quarter of a pound of butter, sugar to the taste, and freshly grated nutmeg. The pudding was then baked.
Another receipt from her book used the same amounts of ingredients as the first recipe, in 1744, but gave good instructions on how the pudding was to be made. She instructed the cook to use a quarter of a pound of flour of rice, and a pint of milk which were to be stirred constantly so as not to scorch during cooking. When it thickened it was to be taken from the fire and poured into an earthen pan with a pint of cream or new milk, and sweetened to taste, and flavored with freshly grated nutmeg or lemon zest. Six egg yolks and two of the whites were beaten, and added to the rice mixture. The mixture was then boiled in china dishes, and turned onto a plate with melted butter, a little sack, and sugar put over it. – The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
Bread was commonly made using rice. A quarter of a lb. of rice was put into a sieve to drain and then allowed to cool. The cool riced was mixed with 3/4 lb. of flour, a teacup full of yeast, a teacup full of milk, and a tablespoon of salt. The mixture was allowed to stand about three hours, then kneaded up, rolled in flour, and put to bake. The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1794, & Burke, Edmund. The Annual Registry. 1800.
Rice was commonly used in soup through the 18th and 19th century, either as a main ingredient, or as a thickener. Dishes of rice and fowl, called pillow, pilau, pilaf, or some similar spelling was a commonly prepared dish, and in the South remains popular today.
In Charlotte Mason’s version the rice was boiled with pepper, mace, and cloves, then dished around and over a boiled fowl, and garnished with tender cooked onions and halves of boiled eggs. – The Lady’s Assistant. 1787.
Rice was versatile enough it could be used in many dishes, and it increased enough in bulk upon cooking that it was economical enough for even simple families. Because it took little space to carry, and did plump so much with cooking increasing its bulk considerably, it was also recommended emigrants pack it for ocean voyages.
[see www.thistledewbooks.com for ordering information for Soup Through the Ages: A Culinary History With Period Recipes.]
Fishing and Hunting for the Dinner Table
By: Victoria R. Rumble
Fish has been a mainstay in the diet of the Americas since recorded time, and the varieties available meant a ready supply of meat for the table almost any time of year. Fish and game were never a more welcome part of a family’s diet than during the shortages brought about during the war.
Refugees as well as citizens wrote of fishing and of the value of fish in their diet during the war. Many had known little else their entire lives, so they simply pursued the crafts they’d known and perfected the skills they’d possessed almost from birth. Near Beaufort, SC, a visitor described the locals as belonging to the class labeled, “poor whites”, who made a meager living fishing and raising a few vegetables. Abbott, John Stevens Cabot. The History of the Civil War in America. 1866. Springfield, Mass.
Those a little more well-to-do, may have approached hunting and fishing from more of a sporting point of view than the poor whites, who were more interested in putting food on the table, than in the sport of it, but whatever their approach, numerous writers left accounts of Southerners’ love of hunting and fishing.
Several of the Southern States-Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana among
others-possessed excellent military academies. The population, almost wholly
occupied in agricultural pursuits, was necessarily accustomed to life in the open
air, to horses, to hunting and fishing, to exposure, to unusual physical exertion from
time to time. Ropes, John Codman. The Story of the Civil War. 1895. NY.
The people of Apalachicola, FL were so destitute of supplies during the war they were said to be, “dependent on fish and oysters for subsistence”. William Davis wrote of federal commander, Stellwagen, and his declaration to a crowd of mostly women and children, who gathered upon his addressing them, that they had permission to fish and to use their own fishing boats provided they made no attempt to aid blockade-runners. Davis, William Watson. The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida. 1913. NY.
Following the war negro share-croppers who were “found”, that is, who had rations supplied as part of their wages, were granted the right of hunting and fishing anywhere in the vicinity as part of their arrangement with the land owner. Fleming, Walter Lynwood. Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama. 1905. NY.
Soldiers always found the addition of fish and game to their meager diets rewarding, and often resorted to a variety of methods of obtaining it.
While the troops of the command [in Missouri] were little interested in fishing
at that season of the year, they became more interested in hunting wild game, which
had noticeably increased since the war. With every foraging party sent out, the
mounted men of the escort to the wagons were constantly on the lookout for deer,
wild turkeys or wild hogs and were frequently rewarded with success in bringing in
with their other supplies some of the wild game, to the delight of other members of
their mess. – Britton, Wiley. The Union Indian Brigade in the Civil War. 1922.
Kansas City, MO.
Soldiers were often so bored during the inactive days in camp they welcomed the sport as much as the meal the pastimes provided.
We had little to do in the daytime. After drill, the time was our own, and we employed
it fishing for bullfrogs. They were plentiful and took the hook readily. It was great
sport, catching them with pole, line, and fishing hook to which a piece of red flannel
had been attached. The frogs were so greedy that they would often jump a foot out
of the water to get the bait. After the catch, we cut off the legs and after soaking
them in salt water, fried them in pork fat. The flesh was white and very tender; I
never tasted anything nicer, and they proved a great addition to the army ration.
Vail, Enos Ballard. Reminisces of a Boy in the Civil War. 1915. Brooklyn, NY.
Even those who played administrative roles during the war managed to arrange trips to the woods to renew their mental acuity.
He so ordered his business that he could leave it for several days or a few weeks,
and it was upon these trips when he lived among the fundamental things of the earth
that he imbibed much of the strength and courage for his greatest undertakings. In
the midst of the work of selling the war loans and the construction of the Northern
Pacific Railroad, hunted down, oppressed and anxious though he were, he went off
to fish with the enthusiasm of a boy. This became almost his only recreation… Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson.
Jay Cooke, Financier of the Civil War. 1907. Philadelphia.
Before joining the army many soldiers had been anglers and market fishermen, and were thus skilled at finding a meal with what equipment could be fashioned in the field. Diary accounts exist in which prisoners of war recorded their realizations that their hunger could have been at least somewhat alleviated had they been able to procure fish or game from near their prison confines.
Back as far as the Civil War, excellent fishing for black bass in the big eddies
among the boulders and in the outer edges of the swift channel ways, all of
which was plainly seen from the windows of Libby Prison, by one, at least, of the
inmates, and the sight increased the misery of captivity, for it recalled the freedom
of former days and his life on the mountain streams. Outing: The Outdoor Magazine
of Human Interest. December 1904.
Men who served aboard navy vessels during the war, and who had an interest in angling, availed themselves of the opportunity. A member of the Seventh Iowa Infantry stated when he attempted to board a vessel in search of his brother, the first officer he saw came out of a cabin and proceeded to begin fishing over the stern of the steamer. – Smith, Henry. History of the Seventh Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry During the Civil War. 1903. Mason City, IA.
After the war, men like Charles Hallock, who spent three years in the northern army to preserve the union, made careers of writing about their experiences fishing and hunting. After getting out of the army Hallock spent three years in the wilds of Canada gathering fauna for museums and fishing the streams, and submitted articles about his experiences which were published in 1872. Hallock, Charles. An Angler’s Reminisces. 1913. Cincinnati.
Here lies an old woman who always was tired,
For she lived in a house where help wasn’t hired.
Her last words on earth were: “Good-by, friends, I’m going
To where there’s no scrubbing and baking and sewing.
And everything there will be just to my wishes,
For where they don’t eat, there’s no washing of dishes.
They say that loud anthems will ever be ringing.
But as I’ve no voice, I’ll get rid of the singing.
Weep not for me now, and weep for me never.
For I’m going to do nothing forever and ever.”
From the Home Science Magazine. May, 1903.
Blissful Meals, Yall
The Historic Foodie
Dish washing was a laborious, time consuming, boring job, and one that was despised by women as soon as eating vessels were crafted and they felt the need to cleanse them.
Although he gave no indication of how the dishes were washed, one of the first accounts of the process being accomplished was penned by Peter Talbot in 1670. “And that there is no work better than other, to make water to wash dishes, to be a Sower, or be an Apostle, all is one to please God.” – Talbot, Peter. A Treatise on Religion and Government With Reflections Upon the Cause and Cure of England’s Late Distempers and Present Dangers. 1670. No location of publication given, probably London.
Mean jobs, such as dish washing, were sometimes hired out to a char-woman. “An experienced char-woman had been retained for the day to wash dishes in the background and revive the spoons and forks upon the sly between the courses; having received particular directions from Mrs. Gudge to dip them into pump water afterwards that they might not feel warm when placed before the visitors.” – Smith, Albert. The Struggles and Adventures of Christopher Tadpole at Home and Abroad. 1848. London.
What, say you, is a char-woman? Per a debate published in Notes & Queries, the correct term should be charewoman, a woman hired to do a chare or chore. “Charewoman means a woman who does chares or odd jobs of work.” Notes and Queries. Aug. 18, 1860. London. The Imperial Dictionary, 1883, went on to clarify that a char-woman was hired on a daily basis, and Pickering said the American chore was a corruption of the English char, and in America he thought the pronunciation confined to New England. – Pickering, John. A Vocabulary. 1816. Boston.
No matter what the proper spelling, the most commonly found spelling is char-woman, and the term was still in use into the 20th century to designate a woman hired by the day to do housework. Char-women received little pay for their work, as one writer penned the phrase that they purchased a house beyond their means, and therefore, could employ no servants save a little girl to wash dishes. How sad that a grown, albeit uneducated, and untitled, performed the same labors as a small child, and probably for the same pay. – Percy, Sholto & Reuben. The Percy Anecdotes. 1826 London.
If one were employing a little girl to wash a family’s dishes, the question begs to be asked, how good a job did the child do when we consider the heavy pots of water that had to be heated and carried to the pans for the process? How poor must a family have been, to let out a little girl to do such work given the need for heating water around the fire? How might we assume the following advice was adhered to? “Always have plenty of dish-water, and have it hot. There is no need of asking the character of a domestic if you have ever seen her wash dishes in a little greasy water”. – Child, Lydia Maria. The American Frugal Housewife. 1841. NY.
Ah, gentle reader, men were mindful of the strenuousness of the task, and in 1850 the American Agriculturist stated a patent had been granted for a machine that could wash dishes. A man may have devised the machine and secured the patent, but when it was advertised to make readers aware of its coming on the market, the notice was placed in the section styled, “The Ladies Department”, of the magazine while the remainder was filled with crop reports and articles on newfangled farm machinery. July, 1850. NY.
“Few women have the courage after dinner, when the day is done, to wash dishes. That is drudgery. It means putting the cups and saucers, plates, platters, and vegetable dishes into a big pan of hot suds, rubbing them with a dish cloth, setting them to drain and wiping each piece with a towel. Noah’s wife’s dishes were cleaned in the same way and very probably Noah’s wife lamented her reddened and roughened hands as the wives of less distinguished men have done ever since. Probably, too, she found that her best pieces of tableware got scratched in the process or slipped out of her soapy hands and smashed into bits. It is not likely though that she bothered her head much about the condition of the dish cloth or the drying towels. Living, as she did, in that menagerie, she could hardly be blamed for not keeping everything sweet. If any of her daughters have bothered their heads much either it has been mighty little purpose, seeing that they have not greatly improved the process. Men that keep hotels, though, being able to get only the lowest class of help to wash dishes–what a comment that is upon us men that expect the wives of our bosom to do such work–found that the bill for broken china was ruinous. Guests insisted upon being served upon fine porcelain, and refused to eat from slabs of ironstone, so some way out had to be found. A machine was invented capable of being operated by anybody, and that could be trusted to wash thoroughly, rinse and dry the most delicate ware without chipping or breakage, all at the rate of 6000 pieces an hour. Think what an army of dishwashers such a machine must displace, and what an economy it must be! For not only is the hotel-keeper rid of the necessity of standing room and subsistence to that army, but of providing captains and generals for it, and of enduring the damage that it must inflict upon friend and foe alike, after the fashion of all armies.
The dishes are collected and scraped and then dropped into wire baskets with wooden interiors so arranged that the dishes stand on edge without touching each other. Pitchers, cups, bowls, and the like go into the centre. The basket is lowered into the washing tank, where hot suds, mixed with air, so as to present thousands of sharp cutting edges, are driven against the dishes wiht tremendous rapidity and force. They are washed in twenty seconds. A trolley carries the basket to the rinsing tank, where two souses take off the soapsuds. They drain and dry from the heat they have absorbed from rinsing water. China and silverware thus treated always look brighter and newer than if washed by hand.” – Frederic J. Nash, in Ainslees. The Home. Pacific Monthly. Oct. 1900. [Note 50 years has passed since notice of a patent was published]
What would women of 50, 100, or 500 years earlier have thought about such a machine? It is a reasonable bet that such contraptions were exceedingly rare in 1900 as various writers on the subject of domestic economy were still instructing in the proper way to wash dishes when the article was published.
“Put only a few dishes in the pan at a time. Do not use much soap on gilt china. Before beginning to wash dishes, have them all sorted and put in groups, keeping those of the same kind together. Wash, rinse, and wipe one group before beginning another. In wiping dishes the hands should not come in contact with the dish. Hold the dish in the left hand, having the twel between hand and dish. Never wipe with a towel that has become wet. Glass, silver, and china should present a brilliant surface when the wiping is finished. This can be done by washign them very clean, and wiping thoroughly with a soft, clean towel. The towels should be washed, rinsed, and hung out to dry after the dishes are finished. Pewter, Britannia, and block-tinware are often used on the table in the form of tea- and coffee-pots, dish-covers, and chafing-dishes. These can be polished with powdered rottenstone and oil, or oil and whiting, or in the same way that silver is polished. Wash the article first in hot soap and water, and wipe dry. Dampen a cloth with sweet-oil, and rub it over the article to be polished. Put rottenstone or whiting on a piece of soft, dry flannel, and rub over the oiled surface. Then polish with dry whiting and chamois. Steel knives are polished with hot soft soap, Bristol brick, and a large cork. Wash the knives in soap and water and wipe dry. Have a smooth board on which rests the blade of the knife perfectly flat. Dip the cork in the soap, then in the powdered brick, and rub the steel until all staines are removed. Then polish off with dry powdered brick, and wipe with a soft cloth. To keep steel from rusting cover it with sweet-oil or mutton tallow, and wrap in soft paper. To remove rust put oil and quicklime on the rusted article. After several days rub with oil and rottenstone or Bristol brick.” – Parloa, Maria. Home Economics. 1898. NY.
Blissful Meals, Yall, Kiss your Dishwasher next time you turn it on and poof, out come clean dishes. Now if we could only find a way the machine could unload itself and put the dishes away.
The Historic Foodie