Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Sadie Leap!

I have just one chance, this much is clear,

Whisper to her it is now leap year.

To be born in February is sometimes classified as a noble distinction since many famous Americans were born in this month. To be born on February 29, the odds get even greater. The United States has about 200,000 people who were born on Feb. 29. Considering the population of the United States, as of July 2007 approximately 301,139,947, that's about 1 in 1500. By the way, Do you know any leaplings?

February the Month

February is the Roman month of purification. It gets its name from the Latin word Februarius through the word februare, meaning to expiate or purify. At the Festival of Februa, celebrated on February 15, people repented of their wrongdoings and offered sacrifices to their gods. At first, February was not in the calendar which had only ten months. Around 700 B.C., Numa Pompilius changed the year of 304 days to a lunar one of 355 days. He then added two months; January, at the beginning of the new year and February at the end. Numa gave this month 29 days with thirty in Leap Year. Around 452 B.C., the Decemvirs inserted February between January and March. Another change was made when Augustus Caesar renamed August after himself and "borrowed" a day from February, leaving it with 28 days. It is said that Augustus did this because he wanted his month to have as many days as July which was named after Julius Caesar.

In earlier times though the decorations would have been left up until 'Candlemas', 2 February. This festival was established in the 5th-century date was traditionally seen by the church as a day of celebrations for the 'Purification of the Virgin Mary'. Women who had become mothers or borne children during the previous year were honoured on this day and went to a special service at the church, carrying candles on this day. This Christian festival replaced the Roman festival of 'Februa' for which women processed through the streets on this day, again carrying lighted candles, symbolising the purification of all. The day was spent by women completing religious rites connected with purifying the body and mind. source
The calendar year is 365 days long, unless the year is exactly divisible by 4, in which case an extra day is added to February to make the year 366 days long. If the year is the last year of a century, eg. 1800, 1900, 2000, then it is only a leap year if it is exactly divisible by 400. Therefore, 1900 wasn't a leap year but 2000 was. The reason for these rules is to bring the average length of the calendar year into line with the length of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, so that the seasons always occur during the same months each year. source

Leap Year the Day

I first explored the relationship between February 29 and Sadie Hawkins Day back in November @ Months of Edible Celebrations. Sadie Hawkins was a female character in the Al Capp cartoon strip Li'l Abner. Although both days share the tradition of women proposing marriage to men, their beginnings are quite different. The Leap Year tradition of women asking for a man's hand in matrimony is said to have started in the 5th century with St. Bridget. Bridget of Ireland is the protector of pregnant women, midwives and one of the three patron saints of Ireland. She is the Patroness of Dairy, Cattle & Poultry Workers. According to history books Saint Bridget beckoned St. Patrick complaining that the nuns were upset because they never had a chance to propose to the man they wanted to marry. (during the time of St. Bridget, nuns were able to marry) She petitioned St. Patrick for all women to be able to propose to a man. St. Patrick granted women the 29th day of February, to propose to their men. The story is also told that St. Bridget proposed to St. Patrick and he turned her down. Instead he promised to give her a silk gown and a kiss. Now, according to English law of the time, February 29th had no legal status but, there was an unwritten law that stated if a man turned down a woman's proposal during Leap Year he had to compensate her with a kiss plus either a silk gown or a pair of gloves as St. Patrick had promised.

Some say that this custom originated in fifth-century Ireland, where St. Patrick allowed women to take the initiative every four years after St. Brigid complained to him that they were having to wait too long for husbands. Others credit a Scottish law enacted in 1288 under the unmarried Queen Margaret, which allowed a maiden “liberty to bespeak ye man she likes” during leap year. The knave who refused to marry her and could not prove his engagement to another was assessed a fine. excellent source

Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins Recipe

In the United States, some people refer to February 29th as Sadie Hawkin's Day. Based on the Al Capp comic strip, Sadie Hawkins was a female comic character who was not the most attractive girl in the city of Dog Patch where her father was mayor. Sadie's father was afraid he would never marry her off. In desperation, he decreed a Sadie Hawkins Day. All unmarried men in Dogpatch would get a ten minute head start before Sadie and the other unmarried women began running after them. The man each woman caught would end up in front of Marryin' Sam for a shotgun wedding. When Al Capp created the Sadie Hawkins event, it was not his intention to have the event occur annually on a specific date. Like many, I chose to celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day in November @ Months of Edible Celebrations but, I did find a out that the 6th annual Leap Year Festivalis being held at the Leap Year Capital of the World February 28- March 2, 2008.

Leap Day Recipes

Seems to me a good stash of recipes set aside just for Leap Year is a wise decision. Why not call them Bissextile recipes. Bissextile day, is better known as February 29.) You have to admit, it does sound rather becoming. Now remember, the entire year is a Leap Year. 366 days of recipes may seem like too many to begin with so why don't we start with the classic cocktail invented at London's Savoy Hotel on February 29, 1928. It is said the Leap Year Cocktail was "responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail that has ever been mixed." Wow! that's 120 years ago. There was a time when you could attend a Leap Year Ball throughout the whole Leap Year. Leap Year Dances were common as well. Ladies, if you have intentions of proposing marriage any time this year, comprising a delightful meal can't hurt. Oh, it isn't about proving what a "good housewife" you would make. A once in four year dining experience deserves the very best.  I prefer to rely on the taste of The Barber of Seville, operatic composer, Gioacchino Rossini. William Tell and Cinderella, also his operas, are wonderful resources for a theme party. If I had my Dinah Shore cookbooks here in New York, I would refer to it because Dinah Shore (1916) like Rossini (1792) was born on February 29. Coming up with a theme party shouldn't be too difficult. One could base it on one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most famous operas The Pirates of Penzance. Frederic's birthday was on Leap Day.

For my contribution I would like to reveal a recipe I found in the book by Jean Conil titled For Epicures Only. (1952) I was so elated to find this recipe in the book and even more excited when I couldn't find it anywhere on the internet. I'm sure it's out there somewhere but I couldn't find it. Here is what the author had to say about the dish.

The following recipe Chausson a la Rossini, was created in 1860 in honor of Rossini, the Italian composer, who was fond of foie gras and truffles. Many garnishes and dishes characterized by goose liver and truffles, have been called by his name.
Chausson De Jambon A La Rossini ham turnovers with goose livers & truffles
Prepare some puff pastry, roll it out and cut it with a large plain cutter. In one half of each circle place a thin slice of cooked ham, a tiny slice of foie gras truffle, a tablespoon of duxelle (chopped mushrooms, shallots, and fresh herbs) and a tablespoon of Madere (Madeira ) sauce in cold jelly form. Fold over the other half of your pastry, wet the edge and you will have your turnover. Brush it with an eggwash before baking it. A sauce pot of Madere sauce should be served with it. Note: This nice little entree can be served cold and is ideal with a salad, or served hot with spinach leaves.

1.Leap Year @ National Maritime Museum
2.Speak Up - It’s Leap Year! (excellent article by Lynn Niedermeier)
3.The Leap Year Day Project

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Canny Cook

As I mentioned earlier in the month, February is National Canned Food Month. It was quite tempting to immerse myself in the science of food processing and packaging technologies in order to properly introduce the effects the canned food industry has had on the American diet. Instead, I've decided to share an interesting little booklet I have titled The Canny Cook News. Normally I would dig deep into the history of canning and uncover resources which would include Nicolas Appert ("The Father of Canning") and perhaps a few tidbits about Auguste Escoffier (It seems Escoffier had his hand in the process of tomato canning.) but, I already attempted to do that on Canned Food Day which was and always is on the anniversary of the birth of Nicolas Appert in October. So today, I simply want to share some recipes from this booklet published in 1930.

The National Canners Association

This issue of The Canny Cook News #6, pays tribute to the winners of what appears to be a recipe contest that was sponsored by The National Canners Association. A quick trip to wikipedia informed me that The National Canners Association was a trade association which was started in 1907. They had been instrumental in the fight for better laws resulting in the passing of the first Food and Drugs Act in 1906. Through the years, the association increased its scope of coverage and in January of 2008 once again renamed itself The Grocery Manufacturers of America. Now according to wiki, the National Canners Association was started in 1907 but The Grocery Manufacturers of America say they had their start in 1908. I only mention this because, The National Canners Association could be celebrating their 100th anniversary if they did indeed begin in 1908 but, that's for them to figure out. We want winning recipes that take advantage of the conveniences of canned food.

Commercial canners did not find housewives as easy to persuade as did bakers. For one thing, the popular fear of tin was widespread. Acid food were mistakenly though to dissolve the tin plating on cans and cause illness. Unscrupulous canners evaded sanitary safeguards and adulterated their products with unwholesome dyes and preservatives...Traveling exhibits were shown to clubs and school children illustrating the dangers lurking in canned foods. One such exhibit was a doll whose dress was tinted with dyes recovered from processed food...Responsible canners who wished to see the business purged of malpractice cooperated in the public fight for better laws...In 1907 they founded The National Canners Association, which was later to establish research laboratories for the study of canning technology...At the same time, can manufacturing machinery was studied and modernized. The cans we are familiar with today, and the machinery to make it, were developed between 1905 and 1908. Three hundred cans, 98-1/2 per cent steel, could be turned out in 1 minute. The same operation that processed the steel sheet gave it its final coating of tin. The top of the can could be crimped on in a way to protect the closing solder from touching the food.The Everlasting Pleasure by Kathleen Ann Smallzried ( 1956 pg. 207)

Okay, I don't want to make the same mistake that Peter Durand made early in his "canning" career. He put the can before the opener. According to The Great Idea Finder website, the tin can was invented almost 50 years before the can opener. "Early cans were mighty fortresses of heavy-gauge wrought iron that often weighed more than the food they contained. Soldiers in the early nineteenth century attacked them with bayonets. As late as the American Civil War, hungry troops resorted to rifle fire to open them. A can of roast veal came with these forbidding instructions: Cut round on the top with a chisel and hammer. (another source) William Lyman is credited with inventing the prototype of the modern day can opener. He had been trying to develop a way of opening cans since 1858 (around the same time that Erza Warner invented a large curved blade style opener which was driven into the can's rim and worked around the edge with such great force that the can opener never left the grocery store as the can had to be opened before it left the store:) William Lyman's first patent (US patent #54929) was for a hook lever for opening jars. His can opener patent (#105,583) was a variation of Warner's and although it had problems, it was used extensively into the 1920's.

The next change occurred on 1925 with the introduction of a jagged wheel for rotating the can by The Star Can Company of San Francisco, CA. This basic idea continues to be used on today's can openers, and was the foundation for the first electric can opener, invented by Philips in December 1931. source

Recipe Contest Winners

The following recipes were declared the winners by the charter members of the Canny Cook Club. The recipes were judged on the basis of palatability, interesting new combinations and ease of preparation.

Luncheon Spaghetti
First Prize
1 can spaghetti in tomato sauce
1 can celery soup
1 can cream style corn
1 small can mushrooms
1 tbs. chopped onion
1 tbs. butter
1 egg well beaten
1/2 c. American cheese, grated
salt, pepper, paprika to taste
Brown the onion in the butter, and add the celery soup, corn, mushrooms and seasonings. Cook slowly for 15 minutes. Stir frequently.
Pour contents of the can of spaghetti into a baking dish, add the egg and cheese, and mix well. Add the other ingredients and bake in hot oven until the mixture is nicely browned. Serve hot as a luncheon or supper dish. Serves 8
Mrs. R. F. Harnell, Washington D. C.

Chicken Loaf
Second Prize
For the Loaf:
1 lb. can boneless chicken, cut fine
1 small can tongue, cut fine
1 small can mushrooms, cut fine
salt, nutmeg, & mace
1/3 canned milk (unsweetened)
1/3 c. almonds, cut fine
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. breadcrumbs
1/3 c. water
For the Gravy to baste:
1 can consomme
3 tbs. catsup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour for thickening
  1. Mix together all the ingredients for the loaf. Blend the seasoning thoroughly. If too dry, add a little more water. Form into loaf, bake in a buttered dish 1 hr. in moderately hot oven.
  2. Mix consomme, catsup, Worcestershire sauce together. Baste the loaf with this several times while still baking. When done, remove the loaf and thicken the consomme with the flour, mixed to a smooth paste with a little cold water.
  3. when ready to serve, cut thick slices of the loaf, add gravy and garnish with currant jelly.
  4. If the loaf is to be served cold, omit the flour in consomme. Soften 2 tablespoons gelatin in 1/4 cup of the cold consomme, add boiling consomme and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon, pour this over the loaf and chill thoroughly. Serve cold garnished with olives and currant jelly. Serves 8.
Mrs. I. M. Epstine, Los Altos, CA

I can't resist, I must include this Navy recipe for "Cracker Hash."

FYI: If you are a wine drinker, you have Samuel Henshall (maybe Henshell) to thank for another indispensable opening device patented in 1895. The Corkscrew.

In 1795, Reverend Samuel Henshell added a metal button between the worm and shaft. This gripped the cork and turned it in the neck of the bottle, making it easier to remove. Henshell’s "Button Screw" began a flood of new inventions with over 400 designs being registered or patented in the 19th century. more info

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Where Ritz goes, we follow"

What defines a luxury hotel? I've stayed in my share of hotels through the years. Some good, some not so good. Some downright awful! Once, I stayed at what I define as a luxury hotel. The Waldorf Astoria. At one of those milestones in my life, that most of us climb over, I tackled my list of "somedays." Well, that's what I call it. I suppose some call it a To Do List. Anyway, on my someday list, I had written, Spend a Weekend At The Waldorf. Now, I didn't have stay at a luxury hotel. I had stay at the Waldorf. So my definition of a luxury hotel is one that measure up to how I spent my weekend at the Waldorf Hotel. If it were only that simple.

Cesar Ritz

Today is the anniversary of the birth, of perhaps, one of the greatest hoteliers in the world. César Ritz. César Ritz, son of a poor herdsman, was born in Niederwald, Switzerland on February 23, 1850. In 1898, César Ritz introduced new definitions to luxury by opening a hotel that bears his name, the Ritz. Exquisite hotels like the Ritz became palaces of people.

One of 13 children, at a young age, César Ritz got a job as a hotelkeeper apprentice. He stayed at that job a few months until he was fired for not having an "aptitude for flair." Ritz tried his flair at two other hotels and both times he was fired. In Paris, Cesar Ritz developed his strategy while working his way up at another fine restaurant in Paris. So impressed was the owner that he offered Ritz a partnership. At 19, he thanked his employer, but, refused his offer. He left the restaurant to go to work as a waiter at the finest restaurant in Paris, the Voisin. At the international hangout for royalty and gourmets, Ritz was introduced to the fine art of serving people. He learned how to carve a roast and press duck, how to decant wine, and how to serve food in ways that pleased both the eye and the palate. César Ritz honed his skills quickly and began to study tastes, desires, and influences of everybody he served. Customers such as Sarah Bernhardt and Alexandre Dumas the younger, were so impressed with his elegant service that they requested him by name. He knew their desires so well, that "their wish was his command." It is said the Prince of Wales, who was a friend of his, once told him "You know better than I what I want, you order food to my pleasure." César's instinct for the personal touch drew the attention of influential customers. There's a story about the invasion of the Germans in 1871. Paris had such a food shortage that butchers had no choice but to slaughter many animals as food. At the restaurant Ritz served them in high style, trompe sauce chasseur it became all the rage and Ritz an overnight sensation in Parisian culinary circles.

Alexander Etienne Choron was a French chef from Caen who created the sauce choron, which is Béarnaise sauce with tomato puree. Choron was the chef de cuisine at the famous Voisin restaurant in Paris. During the Siege of 1871 he served many animals as food, including elephant, camel, cat, wolf, and St. Bernard. source
A short time later, Ritz left Paris and worked for three years in resort restaurants and fashionable hotels in Nice, San Remo, Rome, Baden-Baden, and Vienna. Good luck now came his way. Ritz was the restaurant manager at Rigi-Kulm, an Alpine hotel renowned for its location and cuisine, when he was informed one cold winter day that the heating plant had broken down and, at almost the same moment, that a group of 40 wealthy Americans were to arrive soon for lunch. Ritz ordered lunch to be served in the drawing room instead of the dining room--it looked warmer because of the large red curtains that framed the room. He directed the waiters to pour alcohol into large copper pots and then set them afire, and bricks were placed in the ovens. The room was warm when the Americans arrived, and each of them was given a brick wrapped in flannel to warm their feet. By the end of the meal, which started with a peppery hot consommé and ended with flaming crêpes suzette, the guests were gushing with praise for the young manager.

While Cesar Ritz was developing his persuasive skills, a brilliant French chef by the name of Auguste Escoffier was also climbing the ladder to infamous fame. Cesar Ritz met chef Auguste Escoffier when he was managing the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo. Ritz later managed the Savoy Hotel in London, with Escoffier as his chef. In fact, it was at the London Savoy, where The great chef Auguste Escoffier created many of his famous dishes. For example, in 1893 he invented the Pêche Melba in honor of the Australian singer Nellie Melba.

In view of Cesar Ritz's connection with the great master Escoffier, since it was thanks to him that Escoffier became famous, I wish to pay my tribute to this great Swiss master. Cesar Ritz opened the Savoy, Claridges and the Carlton in 1899 and gave his name to the Ritz Hotel in Paris, opened in 1898, the Ritz Hotel, London, opened in 1905, and the Ritz Carlton opened in New York in 1907. He was perhaps the greatest hotelier in the world and set the highest standards in the industry. He always patronized good chefs and encouraged them in their careers...He was a friend of kings and queens and of the highest people in the world, and his name is now synonymous with luxury and comfort in its highest sense...Hotels all over the world were open under his name after his death. (Jean Conil For Epicures Only 1952)

The story of Cesar Ritz's life goes far beyond the scope of this blog. Through determination, modernization, ingenious strategy, resourcefulness, attention to detail, and a little bit of luck, the name Ritz became synonymous with luxury. "Puttin’ on the Ritz" was always in the best interest of the guest. It is said, he was constantly aware of the considerations and preferences especially of his female guests. The halls were situated with the perfect lighting to enhance the glow on the women's faces to heighten their beauty.

In 1892 Ritz journeyed to London to manage the Hotel Savoy, an elegant hotel in the midst of a financial crisis. Ritz brought along his lifelong associate, Auguste Escoffier, a chef whom he had met during one of his jobs in Europe. With Ritz devoting his attention to a myriad of details, sometimes roving from room to room remaking beds to assure his guests the most comfortable night's sleep in London, at other times arranging lavish entertainment for important customers, and with Escoffier whipping up gourmet dishes in the kitchen, the Savoy soon became the toast of London's high society. When Alfred Beit, a diamond mogul from South Africa, asked Ritz to arrange a party for him, Ritz flooded the Savoy's main dining room and transformed it into a miniature Venice, with dinner served to guests as they lounged in gondolas serenaded by native gondoliers. At another party, with Cecil Rhodes, James Gordon Bennett, Lord Randolph Churchill, and Gilbert and Sullivan attending, Ritz arranged for Caruso to sing for their evening pleasure. After three years, the Savoy's stock rebounded. source

As luck would have it, Ritz and the directors of the Savoy had an argument and Cesar Ritz left the Savoy. By this time, Ritz had many influential friends including The Prince of Wales. (who was later to become King Edward VII) When the Prince announced in a telegram "Where Ritz goes, we follow," Ritz was encouraged to follow his someday list and open a hotel of his own. His would be the epitome of elegance. On June 1, 1898, Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier opened the Hotel Ritz in Paris on the historic Place Vendôme, constructed by Hardouin-Mansart, the architect of Versailles.

On June 1, 1898, following a winter and spring of furious rebuilding inside the old mansion, Ritz invited his loyal (and royal) clientele, including the aforementioned Prince of Wales, to help him celebrate the opening of his dream-come-true--the absolute finest hotel in the world. No one has ever doubted Ritz's success at creating the world's best hotel. Ernest Hemingway, a client of the Ritz bar (eventually named the Hemingway Bar) between the world wars once said: "When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Paris Ritz." source

Together, Cesar Ritz and the "king of chefs and the chef of kings" executed intricate comforts, provided "ritzy" entertainment and cuisine worthy of their aristocratic patrons right down to the last detail. They developed and refined hotel service and Ritz established the traditional apparel for hotel personnel: a black tie for the maître d'hôtel, a white tie for the waiter, and brass buttons for the bellhop's uniform. In 1899, once again, Escoffier and Ritz opened another hotel. This time it was The Carlton in London. It was at the Carlton in London where Escoffier first introduced the practice of the à la carte menu.

It was Cesar Ritz who originated the phrase, "The customer is always right." His intense efforts to please his patrons and his meticulous attention to the last detail led to a breakdown in 1911. Seven years later on October 24, 1918, Cesar Ritz, King of Hoteliers died leaving Escoffier to run the Carlton until 1919.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bookbinder's Restaurant

I've always had a fascination with the restaurants of bygone eras. I'm not sure why. My first recollection of "dining out" was at W.T. Grant's in Bayshore NY. My mother, sister and I would sometimes take the bus to Main Street in Bayshore to do window shopping. I'm not exactly sure what years those were. I would venture to guess it was in the early 60s. Main Street was a vibrant suburban block lined with thriving small businesses. The highlight of my day was when we got to Grant's. I can't remember what we were "allowed" to have, if anything. I wish I could but, I can't. I barely remember the awe I felt sitting at the counter. I'm thinking this has something to do with the feelings I still get when I think about places like Delmonico's, Sardi's, Trader Vic's or the 21 Club.

I remember my mother telling us stories of dancing and dining in her era. It all seemed so glamourous and exciting. Perhaps, those "talks" were the few times I actually saw a gleam in her eyes. My parents both grew up in lower Manhattan. Their selfless sacrifice was moving us kids out to the suburbs for a safer, healthier, "clean air" lifestyle. I don't think they really ever liked it though. They made due.

Bookbinder's was never on my list of notable restaurants to dine at. Naturally, I had heard of it. Unnaturally, I don't know how, why or where. Oh how I wish I did. But, this day isn't about me or my lack of memory jogging. It's about The Old Original Bookbinder's and the pictured Bookbinder's Cookbook by Charlotte Adams.

Established by Samuel Bookbinder in 1865, Bookbinder's legendary seafood restaurant was located in Philadelphia's historic Old City. It was host to countless Presidents, politicians, dignitaries and celebrities. According to their website, "When you dine at the restaurant there’s a chance you’ll be served at a table once taken by Diamond Jim Brady, Babe Ruth, Tennessee Williams, Teddy Roosevelt, Al Jolson, Elizabeth Taylor, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers, Lillian Russell or Frank Sinatra." And much like its acclaimed guest, it has a rather illustrious history. Here is an excerpt from John Mariani's website Philadelphia Stories. John Mariani is the author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink and The Four Seasons: A History of America's Premier Restaurant plus other award-winning books.

The story of the two Bookbinders restaurants in Philly is more confusing than it is complex, but here goes: Back in the 1865 a lunch counter named Bookbinder's opened on Walnut Street, run by Dutch immigrant Samuel Bookbinder, whose family continued to run the place until 1935, when a family squabble send Samuel's grandson off to Fifteenth Street to open his own Bookbinder's. The keys to the original premises were handed over to the city's Jewish charities, but the place was repurchased in 1941 by the Taxin family, which still runs it today and claims they can trace the restaurant's lineage back to 1865.  So, up until a couple of years ago Old Original Bookbinder's on Walnut Street and Bookbinder's Seafood House on Fifteenth Street co-existed independent of one another.  Then both closed, for although business was already down, 9/11 really put the kibosh on them. The 15th Street restaurant never re-opened, but the Walnut Street property did, last February, still under the Taxin family aegis and care.

The restaurant's distinguished history is also reflected upon in The Old Original Bookbinder's Restaurant Cookbook by Charlotte Adams (1961).

"...Samuel Bookbinder established the restaurant in 1865, right after the Civil War. He put it in a most strategic place near the docks, whence came just caught fish and seafood and all sorts of choice foods from foreign lands. It was also handy for the sea captains, who became an important part of the clientele. There were many business establishments in the neighborhood which meant that diners came from insurance firms, banks, import houses and not the least important, from the farmers' markets in Dock Street nearby, men who know when food is fresh and good if anyone does...It is said that in the beginning days Sarah Bookbinder, wife of the founder, used to ring a bell to inform the neighborhood that lunch was ready. That bell still hangs inside the doorway of the restaurant..."

Because of its notorious legacy Bookbinder's became one of the country's most well-known seafood restaurants. For those who couldn't trek to Philadelphia, or any other home of famous eating places, cookbooks were published so they could try their hands at home in their own kitchens. The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places is one such book published in 1950. Just imagine serving your guests Lobster Newburg a la Bookbinders. How impressive:)

Lobster Newburg a la Bookbinder's
The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places

I chose this recipe for Lamaze Sauce from the Old Original Bookbinder's Cookbook for one reason. I like it:)

Lamaze Sauce
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. chili sauce
1 c. India relish, well drained
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs. horseradish
1 drop Tabasco
1 hard cooked egg, chopped
Good grind of black pepper
1 pimiento, chopped
1 tbs. chopped chives
1 tsp. Escoffier Sauce Diable
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Refrigerate until needed. Makes about 3 cups sauce.

While we're on the subject of "great American restaurants, here's a recipe from another "famous" restaurant harvested from Entertaining with Style which was published by the makers of Benson & Hedges cigarettes in 1980.

Shashlik Caucasian-The Russian Tea Room
Ingredients 2 lb Boneless lamb; cut into 2 inch cubes 1 cup cooking oil 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon dill weed 1 Small clove garlic; minced 4 celery tops; coarsely chopped (1 cup) 3 tomatoes, quartered 2 onions, cut in wedges 2 green peppers; cut in squares Directions:

Place lamb in large bowl or shallow dish. In screw top jar combine oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, bay leaf, dill, garlic, and celery, pour over the lamb. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

On each of 4 long skewers, thread lamb, tomato, onion, and green pepper; repeat, using 4 to 5 cubes of lamb on each skewer. Grill Shashlik over medium coals 12-16 minutes, turning once or, place shashlik on rack in shallow baking pan, 4 inches from broiler. Broil 10 minutes, turning once, for medium rare. Brush meat and vegetables with additional marinade, if desired. Serve on a bed of hot cooked rice. If desired, garnish with fresh dill. Makes 4 servings.

revised February 2013

Resources: 1. "Everybody Went to Bookie's" 2. Old Original Bookbinder's Snapper Soup

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Toothpick Day


The first machine for the manufacturing of toothpicks, was patented on February 20, 1872, by Silas Noble and J.P. Cooley, of Granville, Massachusetts.

"Pick not thy teeth with thy knyfe, but take a stick, or some clean thyng, then doe you not offend"
(Rhodes: 15th century philosopher)

Toothpicks & "Playing The Harmonica"

(:toothpicks & picking one's teeth:)

Charles Forster, the man who "Fathered the Toothpick Industry in America, came up with the idea of manufacturing disposable wooden toothpicks while on a trip to South America, where he saw natives using slivers of wood to clean their teeth.

When quite a young man, Charles Forster, a Buckfield [Maine] native, went to Brazil as captain of a schooner owned by L. L. Tower and others of Boston, remaining for several years, and while there became interested in watching some of the natives whittling toothpicks from Spanish willow. In 1865 he went to Boston where he entered the employ of the B. F. Sturtevant Co., who were then manufacturers of wooden shoe pegs which were made by a process similar to that now used for the manufacture of toothpicks.

Watching the shoe pegs as they came in a stream from the choppers gave him the idea that toothpicks could also be produced in large numbers by the same or similar process and after due time he suggested to Mr. Sturtevant that they make some and put them on the market. Mr. Sturtevant smiled at the idea of trying to sell "slivers of wood" but he allowed Mr. Forster the use of some of his machines and also allowed space in a building owned by Mr. Sturtevant on Sudbury street in Boston, and one of his men (Mr. Freeman) to assist him. (Dixfield Historical Society)

As luck would have it, after Charles Forster sent a sample box home of toothpicks to his wife, who showed them around to all her neighbors and friends, Mr. Foster had orders for more toothpicks than he could send. He set up a factory in Strong, Maine and machinery was developed to peel blocks of wood into long, thin ribbons. An 1/8 block of wood could produce a ribbon 90 feet in length. These ribbons were cut into toothpicks, which were moved by pitchfork into the sun to dry like hay. Then they were sorted and packed by hand. The toothpicks were constructed of only the finest polished white birch. In it's heyday, the toothpick manufacturing plant used about 1,000 cords of birch and poplar. How many toothpicks is that you ask? According to Smithsonian Magazine, Forster created a market for disposable toothpicks by having Harvard students eat at local restaurants, then loudly demand a toothpick after finishing their meals.

The toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House. Enterprising Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America. To promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks. (Union Oyster House History)

At one time, the state of Maine manufactured 90% of the countries toothpicks and Forster Manufacturing was the world's largest producer of toothpicks. Unfortunately, "The Toothpick Capital of the World" rolled out their last toothpick on April 29, 2003.

The toothpick has been around longer than our species. In the Old Testament, it is written that "one may take a splinter from the wood lying near him to clean his teeth." The skulls of Neanderthals, as well as Homo sapiens, have shown clear signs of having teeth that were picked with a tool, according to anthropologist Christy G. Turner of Arizona State University. Since ancient times, men of note have used toothpicks. Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, died in 289 B.C. when he used a toothpick soaked in poison by an enemy. The prophet Muhammad assigned the care of this important tool to a servant called the "master of the toothpick." (Smithsonian Magazine)

At one time, you could tell a person's status by what they used to pick their teeth. Kings, queens, and lords picked their teeth with "designer" toothpicks made from gold, silver, or ivory and inlaid with precious stones. Often, they were inlaid with precious stones. Twigs and porcupine quills were most often used by the "lower classes." By the 17th century, the toothpick was the latest fad for the educated classes in Europe they were even included in traveling sets together with a knife and spoon. In France, for example, toothpicks were served with desserts, usually poked into fruit to be handy following a meal. After they were used, they could be placed behind the ear for future use. "Chew sticks" became so popular that books on etiquette such as Tanhausers Court Manners often included advice on the proper use and acceptance of the toothpick. Picking your teeth during a meal was an absolute taboo. It could cause a person to be black listed from future social functions and cause a whirl of gossip. Even today, the toothpick hanging out the side of the mouth is found to be quite offensive and picking your teeth in public is still best to avoid.

Toothbrush History:

Although toothpicks have a long history as civilization's primary tooth-cleaning instrument, the earliest known oral hygiene tool was most likely a toothbrush. The western world abandoned toothpicks in the 1700s as the evolution of the toothbrush took hold. Toothpicks matured into the chew stick which were about the size of a modern pencil. One end was chewed into and became softened and brush-like while the opposite end was pointed and used as a pick to clean food and debris from between the teeth. The twigs used were carefully chosen from aromatic trees that had the ability to clean and freshen the mouth.

revised February 2013


  • 1. In Praise of the Toothpick
  • 2. A Cool Tool
  • 3. Toothpicks & Maine
  • 4. Collecting Toothpick Holders
  • 5. Collecting Toothpick Dispensers
  • 6. Amazing Carved & Painted Toothpicks
  • 7. A School Project
  • 8. All About Toothpicks @ The Old Foodie

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents' Day

I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is Made in America
-George Washington-
Politics & Pot Roast ©2006
Politics & Pot Roast ©2006

"What first I want is daily bread,
And canvas backs and wine;
And all the realms of nature's spreads
before me when I dine.
Four courses scarcely can provide
My apetite to quell,
With four choice cooks from France beside,
To dress my dinner well."
-John Quincy Adams-

Let's celebrate Presidents' Day! I recently discovered The White House Cookbook online by Mrs. F. L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann. Now mind you, I have at least three editions of The White House Cookbook, one edition of The White House Cookbook from 1967 and a copy of The Presidential Cookbook.

Presidential Cookbook 1896
Presidential Cookbook ©1896

However, discovering The White House Cookbook at Project Gutenberg, I was ALMOST as excited as when I found the first White House Cookbook to add to my personal cookbook collection!

I discovered mine in a pile of old newspapers at a yard sale many years ago. The cover was off and the book had been frugally rescued by someone who crafted a binding and cover out of...you guessed it old newspapers. I snatched it, and the huge pile of newspapers, up for $1.00. To this day, I can still feel the exhilaration when I think about the day I found that pile. My mind began to race. There could have been teeny scraps of paper revealing the truth behind the rumor, Eisenhower's favorite food was prune whip. Perhaps, I could get my hands on the recipes that James Buchanan favored when he gave sauerkraut and mashed potato parties. I could hardly control myself. And Cleveland, what about Grover Cleveland? Corned Beef and Cabbage for him? I just had to take the chance. It was racing through my mind; presidential food; FDR's recipe for fried cornmeal mush could have been layered in there, Andrew Jackson's turkey hash recipe may have revealed itself tucked between those pages. There could have been a sheets filled with presidential food trivia just longing to be discovered. Maybe I could find out for sure whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt really served hotdogs to King George VI or if it was true that Ulysses S. Grant had cucumbers soaked in vinegar for breakfast every morning.

Etiquetter Rules for State Dinners | Politics & Pot Roast

I already knew that Lincoln favored oysters, but somewhere in the bottom of that pile, I could have found a genuine recipe for Old Fashioned Pepper Pot Soup. They say, that George Washington was a devout beer lover. Can you imagine what it would feel like to discover Washington's beer recipe in that pile? My mind's eye was widened at the thought of finding anything related to Thomas Jefferson my most treasured culinary presidential hero. Any shred of Jefferson's likes or dislikes related to food would have sent me in a whirl! Why? Perhaps, it is because Jefferson was a very descriptive note maker and kept an extremely informative diary. He was significant in many introductions to American foodways and was probably criticized by most of his peers. Thomas Jefferson hired the first French chef for the kitchens of The White House. His name was Lemaire. An admitted Epicurean, Jefferson loved boned anchovies, imported Dijon mustard and Madeira by the gallons. As an avid garden, and thank goodness a preserved memory recorder, we know that he grew endive, onions, broccoli, and kale. If he wasn't serving french fries to guests for dinner in Monticello, he was probably fooling around with pasta. Thomas Jefferson spent almost 8 years in France. While he was there, he kept notes on different dishes he sampled, especially the ones he enjoyed. He introduced us to vanilla, and even brought back a recipe for ice cream which eventually would be incorporated into Baked Alaska. He brought a French chef to the White House and often asked political colleagues from other countries to bring various foods with them to America. Yes indeed, Jefferson notes would certainly cause quite a charge for me. Sadly, there was nothing more in that pile of newspapers except for that early edition of The White House Cookbook.

I wasn't really disappointed though as that sensational find always reminds me to dig deep when I come across a pile of anything relating to cookbooks!

Leaves FromThe Table of George and Martha Washibgton ©1948

I managed to find a few Presidential recipes to share with you today. I can't remember what book the recipe for Jefferson's Rum Omelet came from but, I can say it's good! (minus the salt:) The promotional cookbook pictured is titled Leaves From The Table of George and Martha Washington. It is a revised edition of an heirloom recipe book by Martha Custis Washington. This revised 1948 edition put out by Taylor Wine has a few of the original scripted recipes and Taylor Wine adaptations. The original recipes are classic recipes of Colonial Virginia. Unfortunately, my scanner is on the brink, so I couldn't get a good picture but when I fix the scanner, I will include a scan of one of the originals with a post of the adaptation. In the meanwhile, enjoy Jefferson's Omelet and one of John Tyler's favorite dishes, Tyler Pudding from Star Spangled Recipes compiled in 1968.

Editor's Note: February 19, 2008-Scanner up and running. As promised, a recipe for French Fritters from Leaves From The Table of George & Martha Washington original and adapted recipe below.

French Fritters
Jefferson's Rum Omelet
6 eggs beaten2 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt2 tbs. confectioner's sugar
3 tbs. sugar4 tbs. apricot preserves
4 tbs. rum
Add salt, sugar and 2tbs. of rum to beaten eggs. Beat again until fluffy. Heat butter in omelet pan, pour in egg mixture, cook until firm, lifting up from sides. When firm throughout, but still a little moist, fold over, slip onto warm platter. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Make a sauce of remaining rum and preserves. Pour over omelet.

According to legend and not necessarily facts, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), 7th President of the United States, who was an American General at the time, called his cook over to tell him what to prepare. The cook had been drinking "moonshine" corn whiskey the night before and his eyes were as red as fire. General Jackson told the cook to bring him some country ham with gravy as red as his eyes. Some men nearby heard the general and from then on, ham gravy became "Red Eye Gravy." source & recipe

Tyler Pudding
1/4 c. butter
2-1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 fresh grated coconut
pastry for 2 9 inch pies
Cream butter and half of the sugar well. Beat eggs well and gradually add the remaining sugar, beating constantly. Add salt. Mix in cream well and add vanilla. Stir in coconut and pour into partially baked pie shell. Bake in low (300 degree) oven for about 20 minutes until set. If you like lightly toasted coconut, reserve some of the cocnut from the pie and sprinkle it on the top. If it is not browned sufficiently when the custard is set, run it under the broiler a few minutes with thhe oven door open.
Lincoln's Favorite Cake
Mary Todd, before her marriage to Abraham Lincoln, is said to have made this cake for him, and the verdict was-- "the best in Kentucky"
3 c. sifted all purpose flour
3 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsps. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
7oz. finely chopped almonds
1 c. butter
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp. almond extract
  1. Grease bottom only of a 10 inch tube pan. Line with waxed paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. Cream butter with extracts. Add 1 cup sugar gradually, creaming until fluffy.
  4. Beating only until smooth after each addition, alternately add dry ingredients in fourths and milk in thirds to the creamed mixture. Stir in the almonds.
  5. Beat egg whites until frothy; add 1 cup sugar gradually, beating well. Continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold meringue into batter just until well blended. Turn batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour, or until cakes tests done.
  7. Remove from pan; cool completely.
  8. Frost with Fluffy White Frosting. Decorate with finely cut candied cherries. Makes one 10 inch tubed cake.
Fluffy White Frosting
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
few grains of salt
1/3 c. water
1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine all ingredients except extract in top of double boiler. Set over boiling water and beat with hand rotary or electric beater 8 minutes, or until soft peaks are formed when beater is lifted upright. Remove from water and add extract; beat 1 minute.
The American Family Cookbook revised by the staff of the Culinary Arts Institute. (1974)
The James K. Polk Cookbook ©1978

Another wonderful cookbook I would like to share with you for Presidents' Day is The James K. Polk Cookbook published by The James K. Polk memorial Auxiliary, Tennessee, copyright 1978. I tried to take an unglaring picture so you could see the cover. I hope it worked.

The fruit basket from the Polk state china is the centerpiece for a table setting using dessert plate, sliver, and port glass. (All pieces are part of the museum collection. The silver which is engraved on the back is turned down in the traditional manner. One of Mrs. Polk's fans is shown to the left of the plate

As I polk along through this book, I realize I probably should have dug deeper into the information available in it more than I now have time for. I am going to note James Knox Polk's birthdate in November and include more information about him and Mrs. Polk then. For now, I leave you with this:

When President and Mrs. James Knox Polk entered into the White House in 1845, the public seemed ready to accept a less extravagant style of entertaining after some of the excesses their predecessors, President and Mrs. John Tyler. Sarah Childress Polk was credited with doing less entertaining than ever been done before and with frowning upon fun, specifically "dancing, card playing and wine drinking as time unprofitably spent."

1. The White House Cookbook Online!
2. Trout Steaks with Wine & Rosemary (Martha Custis Washington)
3. Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial Celebration Recipes (2009)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

"Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings"

Who is the Apple of your Eyes?
When a person looks at something or someone and it is the object of their affection it fills the pupils of their eyes. Long ago the word aeppel also meant eyes as it did apple. So blurring the vision with the object of love became 
"The Apple of One's Eyes."

A Bit of Fun For Single People Only!
That reminds me of another bit of scroggling. Well not really that would have to be a rotten apple. Don't do this if you are married. If you can manage it, peel an apple without letting the peel break so it is in one continuous circle. Didn't you watch Sleepless in Seattle? When your done, don't throw it away. Hold it over your head with your right hand and circle it around the top 3 times. When your done drop it over your left shoulder. The letter it forms when it falls to the floor is the intitial of your future mate.
Lostwords & Meanings
Belly timber-food
Lip clap-a kiss
Mally-affectionate, fond
Yoske-to hic cup
Snapsauce-licking one's fingers
Wog-food on the face
Scork-corer for apples
Inkle-to attend a party uninvited
Pingle-to eat with a small appetite
Glop-swallow greedily
Poplolly-a special loved one
Yarken-to prepare
Yix-a hic cup
Snawk-to smell
Reelpot-person who passes the drinking jug
Chank-eat noisily, chomp
Lug-a fruit basket
Quaggle-to shake like jelly
Harvested from Lost Words of Love by Susan Kelz Sperling

P.S. Today is also the anniversary of the birth of Mattie Knight. At twelve years old Mattie Knight was often referred to as "The Lady Edison." 

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New York City's Beloved Citizens

Jell-O Week

This past Monday (Feb. 10) marked the Buzz of Jell-O Week. Celebrated the second full week of February, JELL-O week is held in honor of “American’s Most Famous Dessert.” In January 2001, the Utah Senate declared JELL-O® gelatin the “Official State Snack” of the Beehive State. To celebrate, an annual “JELL-O® Week” was proclaimed by Governor Michael O. Leavitt. Although debated by some, the "Jell-O Capital of America," claims residents eat twice as much Jell-O per capita than the average American. At Confessions of a Mormon Foodie, John reveals the "Utah Mormon Jell-O Culture"

Utahans love Jell-O, and it's become a huge part of Utah Mormon Culture. (If they knew what it was made from I don't think they'd be so thrilled, but you never know.) I don't think it's a coincidence that the boundaries of the Jell-O Belt covers Utah, and the areas outside of Utah, that were generally colonized by the Mormon Pioneers.

Gelatinous Substances

The chemical basis of jelly is gelatin. The purest form of all, however, is isinglass, a substance obtained from the swim bladder of fish, especially sturgeon. Isinglass, is the purest form of animal gelatin. It is a tough, semi-transparent silvery-white substance which is prepared from the sounds (air or swim bladders) of certain fish. The best-quality isinglass comes from the Russian sturgeon. Isinglass also comes from carp, catfish, cod, hake, and other kinds of fish. Prior to the inexpensive production of gelatin, isinglass was used in confectionery desserts such as fruit jelly, complex "jelly moulds", very popular during the Victorian era, and blancmange. In 1795, a Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdoch invented a cheap substitute for isinglass using cod. This was extensively used in Britain in place of Russian isinglass. All forms of connective tissue can be made to yield some form of gelatin. At one time, glue was a crude form of the substance obtained from hide-clippings, and ordinary commercial gelatin was simply a purified form derived from the same source. The connective tissues of young animals are especially rich in gelatin-yielding material. Veal, for example, contains 4 to 5 per cent, of connective tissue, and is therefore a favorite basis for making soup stocks. Isinglass finings are used extensively as a processing aid in the British brewing industry to accelerate the fining, or clarification, of beer. Another beer fining agent, which is suitable for vegetarians is Irish Moss also called carrageen. Carrageen is an edible seaweed, usually purplish, found on the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America. Carrageen is the source of carrageenan, used as a thickener and emulsifier, it is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in milk products such as ice cream and other processed foods. Carrageen and agar-agar are also used in Asia for gelatin-like deserts such as almond jelly. Irish moss is also a beverage in the Caribbean. At the Caribbean Food Emporium, I found a recipe for an Irish Moss Drink. Most Irish Moss Drinks are served chilled. They are very thick and sometimes thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. I also found a delicious looking Mango Cheesecake recipe that is topped with a Mango Glaze created with the stems of Irish Moss. Curious? Take a look see...here. The chief physical peculiarity of gelatin is its capability of dissolving in boiling water, and subsequently setting into a jelly on cooling. It is remarkable how weak a solution is capable of doing this. Even with as little as 1 per cent a solution can be set. I should note, the modern product is processed so exhaustively, it is no longer considered an animal product.

Gelatinous Homage

Jell-O cookbookJell-O cookbook

Now that we are totally confused about the chemical basis of gelatin, I think it is high time we stick to the subject at hand, Peter Cooper. I should be ashamed of myself. Up until researching this post, I had no idea that Peter Cooper of Jell-O fame was one and the same as Peter Cooper of New York City fame. Now mind you, I have known the fairy tale surrounding Jell-O almost as long as I have been collecting cookbooks. Not that I am a gelatiniana hound or anything. Is there such a word I wonder? IMHO, the real hero today is Peter Cooper. If not for Peter Cooper's "patent (US Patent 4084) for powdered gelatin derived from the bones of geese," colored gelatin may have slipped into oblivion. There is a vast amount of information available about the amazing life of Peter Cooper and so today, on the anniversary of his birth, I would like to dish a small homage to him.

"The production of wealth is not the work of any one man, and the acquisition of great fortunes is not possible without the co-operation of multitudes of men."~Peter Cooper~

Peter Cooper was born in New York City, on February 12, 1791. Peter Cooper grew up in Peekskill, N.Y. His maternal grandfather, John Campbell, was Mayor of New York, and deputy quartermaster-general during the Revolutionary War, in which his father also served as a lieutenant. Peter Cooper's father was a respectable hatter and as soon as he was old enough he worked in the trade of hatmaking. With a limited education, he worked as a coachmaker's apprentice, cabinet maker, grocer and was involved in the manufacturing and selling of cloth-shearing machines. Cooper grew to become a self-taught engineer, a prolific inventor, a successful entrepreneur and a philanthropist. His extraordinary inventive capacity produced things like a cutting device for lawn mowers, a torpedo boat, the first blast furnace, a compressed air engine for ferry boats, a water-powered device to move barges down the newly-constructed Erie Canal, a machine to grind and polish plate glass, and a musical cradle. In 1854, with his brother Thomas, he manufactured the first iron structural beams which hold up the famous dome of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He once ran for President, in 1876.

In 1808 Cooper was apprenticed to a New York coachmaker. Although he showed promise in this trade, he declined to take the loan necessary to set himself up in the business. Instead he took a job in Hempstead, Long Island with a manufacturer of cloth-shearing machines. There he obtained a license to make and sell the machines in New York. He then designed, patented, and manufactured an improved version of the machine. He recalled that "the first money I received for the sale of my machines was from Mr. [Matthew] Vassar, of Poughkeepsie, who afterwards founded that noble institution for female education, called Vassar College." source

Peter Cooper is the founding father of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, (the nation's first free institution of higher learning) which was chartered in 1859. Lot by lot he bought the property on which Cooper Union stands; some time before the actual construction of the building he purchased the material and stored it on the site. The Cooper Institute is the result of the recollections of Cooper's early days as a workingman's son who studied alone evenings by the light of a tallow dip. He had less than a year of formal schooling. It was founded on the belief that education should be, as Cooper expressed it, "free as water and air." Students were admitted in the order of application, but, everyone before their admission, had to state that they were obliged to earning a living. The Cooper Union offered its first course at night, to students ages sixteen to fifty-nine.The Cooper Institute was one of the first colleges to offer a free education to the working class, children, and women. The free Reading Room and Library was kept open until ten at night, admitting both women and men. Today, The Cooper Union offers public programs for the "civic, cultural and practicable enrichment of New York City."

My design is to establish this institution, in the hope that unnumbered youth will here receive the inspiration of truth in ail its native power and beauty, and find in it a source of perpetual pleasure to spread its transforming influence throughout the world.

"Believing in and hoping for such result, I desire to make this institution contribute in every way to aid the efforts of youth to acquire useful knowledge, and to find and fill that place in this community where their capacity and talents can be usefully employed with the greatest possible advantage to themselves and the community in which they live." ~
Peter Cooper~
Let those who think it an easy thing to do good, ponder the lesson taught by Mr. Cooper's experience in building the Institute. He modeled the Union upon several polytechnic schools in Paris, the Birkbeck Institute in London, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. The mere saving and donating the money for the purpose was but a fraction of the work performed. Great difficulties had to be overcome in designing so unique a building. Mr. Cooper was determined that it should be fire-proof, consequently a separate foundery had to be erected to forge the iron used in the construction; when this was done, the estimated outlay fell short twenty- five thousand dollars of the actual cost. (countless other obstacles had to be overcome, and finally the Institute was completed, at an immense cost over its estimated expense. In fact, it took all Mr. Cooper's money to finish it, and he was comparatively a poor man when all the bills were paid; but, as if to reward his sacrifices, his business has since improved, until he is now richer than ever.source

On February 27, 1860, the school's Great Hall became the site of a dramatic speech by Abraham Lincoln opposing Stephen A. Douglas on the question of federal power to regulate and limit the spread of slavery to the federal territories and new States. The speech is now referred to as the Cooper Union Address.

Peter Cooper worked closely with the minister, Henry Whitney Bellows, on the United States Sanitary Commission and to promote New York educational reform. While serving as the Assistant Alderman for the New York Common Council, he led the Croton project to improve the city's water supply by damming the Croton River in Westchester County, New York. When the Common Council merged with the education board, he served as a trustee for over twenty years and led the campaign of the Free Schools Society, organized to give free instruction to New York's children. He opposed public subsidization of Roman Catholic schooling, saying that no public funds should be used for schools promulgating a religious doctrine. source

The Cooper Union was not the only institution of higher education Peter Cooper subsidized. At 87 he traveled south to help fund the Cooper-Limestone Institute.

Springs. “Limestone College of Gaffney grew out of Limestone Springs Female High School (1845). It was located on the Limestone Springs Hotel property, purchased by Rev, Thomas and William Curtis, Baptist clergymen, who operated the school from 1845 to 1863, and after the [Civil] War from 1866 to 1872. The school was reopened in 1873 under Major Bomar and Captain Petty, with Peter Cooper of New York as a generous contributor. In 1880 as Cooper-Limestone Institute for Young Ladies, the school was placed under control of the Baptists of Spartanburg County, to which religious group Peter Cooper had donated his share of the property. In 1899 the present title, Limestone College, was adopted. source

In 1828, Cooper began building and designing the first protoytpe locomotive in the United States at his iron foundry, in Baltimore. The Tom Thumb, demonstrated the potential of steam-powered rail transport. Later, he turned his entrepreneurial skills to successful ventures in real estate, insurance, telegraphy and railroads. In the late 1850s, when Cooper was a principal investor and first president of the New York, Newfoundland & London Telegraph Co. and the North American Telegraph Company, the firm undertook one of the 19th century's most monumental technical enterprises—laying the first trans-Atlantic cable telegraph. Here are a few lines from The History of New York State a personal website by Dr. James Sullivan

In 1857 the attention of New York was largely engrossed by the enterprise of laying a cable across the Atlantic Ocean. The great project had loomed into the realm of possibility gradually. Cables had been laid across bays and smaller seas in various parts of the world, and had worked successfully. It needed the sort of tasks with which Americans had become familiar to contemplate as practical the enterprise of bridging 3,000 miles of turbulent ocean. The leading spirits in the enterprise were Cyrus W. Field, and Peter Cooper, who went to Europe and enlisted the support of a number of capitalists and scientific men.

Gelatinous Subjects

Peter Cooper may have made his fortune with a glue factory and an iron foundry but, as his means increased, his enthusiastic interest in the welfare of the skilled laborer did not diminish. Peter Cooper had a number of patents and inventions to his credit including, the first American patent for the manufacture of gelatin. He subsequently established a number of other patents for its manufacturing and established manufacturing standards for its production.

In 1845, he obtained a patent for the manufacture of gelatin. Gelatin itself was discovered much earlier, having been referenced by a French researcher in the 17th century who created it by boiling animal bones. The gelatinous substance that separates from the bones is pure protein, and today it has a multitude of uses in the food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and photography industries. While Cooper patented its manufacture, he did little to commercialize it. He packaged it for sales to cooks, but there was little interest. Some time later, around 1895, he sold his patent to Pearl B. Wait, a cough syrup manufacturer. Repackaged and renamed, Jell-O was born. source

Since today is also the anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, another revered figure, I thought it would be interesting to "connect" the two. I discovered, among Abraham Lincoln’s favorite dishes was scalloped oysters. During his aspirations to become the next President of the United States, he served thousands of oysters at rallies in Illinois. He popularized oyster roasts as a way to get voters to political rallies. Oyster parties became such "the rage," that the seemingly perishable oyster had to be somehow be transported from New York Harbor to American tables. Here is a snippet from an interesting article published in the New York Times in 2001.

In the first half of the 19th century, oyster wagons with fresh horses and ice carried New York oysters deep into the continent. New York-style oyster bars were featured in most Midwestern cities. Abraham Lincoln, campaigning in Illinois, gave oyster parties. Oyster wagons and ice stations were not new; the Romans had transported Brittany oysters to Rome the same way. But in the 1840's, the railroads brought transport of perishable food into a new age. source

It appears that Lincoln was also a fan of gelatin. At the Lincoln Log, I found at least 3 documents attesting to the fact that Lincoln often purchased "Red Gelatine," "Cooper's Isinglass," and cream of tartar at his local drug store. I did find a reference to Cooper's Isinglass in a book available at the Google book site. The title of the book is The Year-book of Facts in Science published in 1844. (pg 226)

The Daguerreotype image in all its forms may be transferred by any copying process to other suitable surfaces. In other words, it may be printed from. To carry this process into effect, the operator proceeds as follows: The Daguerreotype, which he designs to copy, is to be covered with a thin film of gold in the usual way, care being taken that the film is neither too thick nor too thin. If it be too thick, the resulting copy is injured, and difficulties are more liable to arise in effecting the separation of the gelatinous coat; if too thin, the plate itself will suffer injury by having the figure torn off. A clear solution of isinglass is next to be prepared; it must be of such a consistency that a drop of it poured on a cold metallic plate will speedily set. Much of the success of the process depends on this solution being properly made. There is a substance in the market which goes under the name of Cooper's Isinglass, which I have found much better than any other for these purposes.

Okay, so what do we have to "connect"? We have Peter Cooper's gelatin, Abraham Lincoln's love of an American staple, oysters, and Valentine's Day in two days. Alright, I might be pushing it here but, oysters are quite popular in the aphrodisiac mind set. It is said that oysters are considered an aphrodisiac by some, partly because of the mythological story that the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite "sprang forth from the sea on an oyster shell." Perhaps, the word aphrodisiac itself takes hold of the APHRO from the Goddess of Love. And, we all know the legend of Casanova, who ate dozens of oysters a day. With all of the "ingredients" assembled, let's explore Jellied Oysters. I mean really, what other time would a person have to actually peruse a recipe for jellied oysters. Amazingly enough, it was not that easy to find a recipe for jellied oysters. Jellied fish yes, jellied eels, yes. Goodness, I even found a recipe for Jellied Moose Nose! But, the only acceptable recipe I could find for this post was from another online Google book titled Culture and Cooking; Or: Art in the Kitchen published in 1881. (pg.41)

Jellied Fish is a favorite dish with many, and is very simple to prepare; it is also very ornamental. Take flounders or almost any flat fish that is cheapest at the time you require them. Clean and scrape them, cut them in small pieces, but do not cut off the fins; put them in a stew-pan with a few small button onions or one large one, a half teaspoonful of sugar, a glass of sherry, a dessert-spoonful of lemon juice, and a small bunch of parsley. To one large flounder put a quart of water, and if you are going to jelly oysters put in their liquor and a little salt. Stew long and slowly, skimming well; then strain, and if not perfectly clear clarify as elsewhere directed. (See if your stock jellies, by trying it on ice before you clarify.) Now take a mold, put in it pieces of cold salmon, eels that have been cooked, or oysters, the latter only just cooked enough in the stock to plump them ; pour a little of the jelly in the mold, then three or four half slices of lemon, then oysters or the cold fish, until the mold is near full, disposing the lemon so that it will be near the sides and decorate the jelly ; then pour the rest of the jelly over all and stand in boiling water for a few minutes, then put it in a cold place, on ice is best, for some hours. When about to serve, dip the mold in hot water, turn out on a dish, garnish with lettuce leaves or parsley and hard-boiled eggs. The latter may be introduced into the jelly cut in quarters if it is desired; very ornamental force-meat balls made bright green with spinach juice are also an improvement in appearance.

If you're anything like me, a luncheon of jellied fish is just not going to cut it for Valentine's Day. I'm more in praise of Cocoa, Cupids & Nightcaps, but, I feel the purpose of this post has been duly accomplished. As we celebrate "American’s Most Famous Dessert," we should include the fabric of it's humble beginnings with those who propelled it as an American staple. I'm sure the next time I am walking around the East Village, and stroll upon Cooper Square, I will make the connection. Consider this. Peter Cooper had deep religious convictions. When Peter Cooper died on April 4, 1883, "twelve thousand citizens passed by his coffin at All Souls Church. Robert Collyer, a Unitarian minister, gave the funeral address to a full house, while thousands more flooded the streets. Flags were lowered to half-mast and bells rang as Cooper's coffin was escorted to Brooklyn." The New York Herald recorded that no funeral in the memory of any living person could compare. One of the most beloved citizens of New York City in his time, Cooper inspired the charitable acts and civic responsibility of other tycoons such as Andrew Carnegie, George Peabody, Matthew Vassar, and Ezra Cornell. His life furnishes a remarkable instance of a youthful ambition that came to fulfilment. While we are molding those gelatin alphabet letters for the children, at home, school or church, why not inspire the lesson by talking about it's creator, his humble beginnings, his dedicated hard work and the notion that all things are possible with a Jell-O state of mind from the state of Utah to the The Big Apple.

In 2006, Peter Cooper was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The National Inventors Hall of Fame is an organization that honors important inventors from the whole world. The only prerequisite of induction is being named an inventor on a US patent. As of 2007, there were 371 inductees. New inductee announcements are made in early February, around Inventor's Day. Inductees are chosen by a national panel of inventors and scientists.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization founded in 1973 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations. The organization hosts the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge, an annual contest for inventors nationwide, in collaboration with the United States Patent & Trademark Office, Time magazine and The History Channel. wiki

The statue of Peter Cooper in the small park at Third and Fourth Avenues, near Cooper Union was erected at the cost of $40,000. It was voted upon by the park board of New York in 1894 and the money was raised by the local population.

  • 1. Kraft Celebrates JELL-O® Week
  • 2. Confessions of a Mormon Foodie
  • 3. Isinglass @ Wiki
  • 4. Peter Cooper @ Rochester Steam Engine Library
  • 5. Peter Cooper @ Mit
  • 6. Peter Cooper @ wiki
  • 7. The Cooper Institute
  • 8. Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address
  • 9. Oysters: a Dish Fit to Be Served to a President
  • 10. Golden Age Radio Celebrates Jell-O (informative, decorative site)
  • 11. National Inventors Hall of Fame
  • 12. Tasteful Inventions

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fluffing With Inventions

"Spread one piece of bread with Fluff.
Then spread another with peanut butter.
There you have it: a Fluffernutter!"
The Yummy Book

I had big plans for today's post and then I got side tracked. First I was going to celebrate the debut of one of the first TV cooking shows, The French Chef created by Julia Child. The French Chef made its debut on February 11, 1963. Although "the Mother of French Cooking in America" was Dione Lucas, in the eyes of Julia Child, Julia Child pioneered a television platform that endeared her viewers while introducing them to a form of cooking which they were not comfortable with and thought they could not afford. Viewers were eager to experience what they had read in her already published books Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 and 2. There's a wonderful tribute to Julia Child's show at PBS, American Masters Series. Here's a nibble:

"Scooping up a potato pancake, patting chickens, coaxing a reluctant soufflé, or rescuing a curdled sauce, Julia Child was never afraid of making mistakes. "Remember, if you are alone in the kitchen, who is going to see you?" she reassured her television audience." source

My next idea was to celebrate today as the birth date of Lydia Maria Francis Child. Lydia Maria Child made her living as a novelist, short story writer, school teacher, editor, writer for children, and abolitionists. She was born on February 11, 1802 in Medford, Massachusetts. She was encouraged by her brother to write, and publish her first historical fiction titled Hobomok when she was in her early 20's. The "daring" novel featured romance between a Native American man and a white woman. This was followed by The Rebels, The Mother's Book, The Girl's Book, and The History of Women. Although her novels were not her most successful works, she created and edited The Juvenile Miscellany, the first major children's journal which was quite popular. In 1828, she married David Lee Child, a lawyer with the a prominent future. The state of the newly weds finances can be seen in the title of her book The Frugal Housewife. Lydia Maria Francis Child life deserves to be shared and savored more carefully and so today, I think it would be best to lead you over to Baking History where Manuela has just prepared Lydia M. Child's 'Loaf Cake" from the American Frugal Housewife. As I write this post, Manuela teases me like this...

The cake dough is really wonderful, spiced with cinnamon and a little bit of rose water and I expect it will turn out really great once baked.

Detour...Today is Inventor's Day.

In recognition of the enormous contribution inventors make to the nation and the world, the Congress, pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 140 (Public Law 97 - 198), has designated February 11, the anniversary of the birth of the inventor Thomas Alva Edison who had over 1,000 patents, as National Inventors' Day. source

Fluffernutter CookbookInventor's Day is one of my favorite days to celebrate at Months of Edible Celebrations. So much so, that I didn't want to wait until Inventor's Month in August to create my new inventor's blog. I've named it Tasteful Inventions and it has been updated with new inventors and their inventions. It is still a work in progress (I suppose it will always be as such) but I plan on using it as a sort of launch pad for one place visitors can go as a resource for more research if they get a "hankering." As I was preparing the "starter" list for Tasteful Inventions, I became a little too stuck on the origins of Marshmallow Fluff. I kid you not. This is what I found.

The origins of Marshmallow Fluff actually go back to 1917. Before World War I, a Sommerville Massachusetts man by the name of Archibald Query had been making marshmallow crème in his kitchen and selling it door to door, but wartime sugar shortages forced him to close down. By the time the war was over, Mr. Query was no longer interested in restarting his business but, he was willing to sell his formula. Mean while, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower had begun making candy together and had set up a company in 1920, Durkee-Mower. They pooled their savings and bought Archibald Query's recipe for $500. Having just returned from France, they renamed their product "Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff" but "Toot Sweet" didn't stay on the label for long. In the 1930s the company became a pioneer in radio advertising when it sponsored the weekly "Flufferettes" radio show on a regional network in New England. source

But, the real story on this "gooey, sugary substance" can be traced back to around 1912 when a company by the name of Limpert Co. was selling a version of marshmallow crème to pharmacies.

The back story on this gooey, sugary substance is that in the early 1900s, it was very much in fashion to use white sauces to dress up foods. Marshmallow crème was already in existence; this semi-liquid version of marshmallow, which had been made for centuries, first as a derivation of a flowering plant called the marsh mallow, and later mostly of sugar, corn syrup, vanillin and egg whites, was developed sometime around 1912, when a company by the name of Limpert Co. was known to have begun selling a version of marshmallow crème to pharmacies. source

I suppose it was after reading these pleasantly surprising beginnings that I had to once again "hit the books" to see if I had my Yummy Book here with me in New York. Lo and Behold! I did. I haven't enjoyed a fluffernutter in ages. "What's a fluffernutter" you say? Well, as I recall, the Fluffernutter is a sticky concoction typically made with peanut butter, white bread, and Marshmallow Fluff. Some say, a Fluffernutter can't compete with a good old fashioned Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, but there are those who beg to differ. Without getting into too much detail, I was one of those women who craved Fluffernutters during pregnancy. Perhaps, that's why I couldn't resist mentioning the invention of Marshmallow Fluff today. Below, you will find a couple of recipes included in the book. One is for Lemon Meringue Pie with Fluff Meringue and the other for Fluff Filled Cookies sort of a Moon Pie recipe. I'd also like to include a few Fluff sandwich fillings from the booklet.

Fluff Sandwich Fillings
Cheese & Ginger: Mix 1 package of cream cheese with minced preserved ginger to taste. Add Marshmallow Fluff by the teaspoon until mixture is good for spreading. Spread on Boston Brown Bread or Orange Nut Bread. Enough for 6-8 sandwiches.
Apricot & Nut: Mash 1 cup stewed apricots with a fork. Addd 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1 heaping tablespoon Marshmallow Fluff. spread on whole wheat bread. Fills 6-8 sandwiches.
Maraschino Fluff: Mix finely chopped Maraschino Cherries with Marshmallow Fluff. Spread on white bread 2 tablespoons chopped cherries and 1/4 cup Fluff. Fills 4 sandwiches.
Fluff & Peanut Butter: Spread one slice of bread with Fluff, another with peanut butter and put together for a sandwich.
  • 1. The Online Yummy Book (recipes)
  • 2. Have a fluffernutter
  • 3. "What the Fluff"
  • 4. Williams-Sonoma sued over 'Fluffernutter'
  • 5. Tasteful Inventions