The Gutenberg Project is trying to digitize as many old books (copyright has run out on) as they can, and you can get some of them for free on Amazon, and no doubt, other places. I’m finding the really old cookbooks to be, as Spock would say, “Fascinating”. Emphasis on first syllable.
These cookbooks are a slice of history, of our not-so-distant past, but my how the times have changed!
Take the book sitting in my lap (well, virtually, but in my Kindle). It is entitled 365 Foreign Dishes: A Foreign Dish for every day in the year 1908. (1908 was a leap year: I just checked, the editor omitted a dish for February 29th… presumably one ate a Native American dish that day…. My vote is for a good old clam bake.)
Anyhow, the editor or editors (there’s no known information except publication date) were not writing for today’s squeamish mindset. In fact, they don’t even give you a chance to acclimate: Dish Number One for January 1st starts as follows:
Austrian Goulasch (presumably Goulash):
Boil 2 calves’ heads in salted water until tender…
Wow, that’s SOOOOooo not going to go over today. At any rate, the thing that really makes this dish Austrian is the addition of paprica (sic), and really, not that much. To be honest, I’ve come up from a line of odd offal eaters that I’d try this (maybe with a different armament of spices), but seeing this as the first recipe in the book really threw me.
Foreign ports of call accessed in this book: Austria, India (Hindu Venison?), England, Turkey, China, Scotland, Egypt, Belgium, Bavaria, France (French Pineapple Bisque?), Russia, Norway, Holland, Spain, Poland, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Japan (Japanese Salad: celery, apples, truffles, chrysanthemum flowers, eggs and olives). There are also some recipes of Jewish provenance (Israel didn’t exist at that time.)
Anyhow, I figured first up to try would be a recipe that would incorporate a few ingredients I already have. No, there are no spare calf heads rolling around in my freezer at the moment. And while there are desert selections in this book, I really don’t do deserts much, and I’m still recovering from some really excellent Eastern European homemade cookies a friend from that area of the world gave me over the holidays, so I have to pick something else.
Norwegian Salad (Recipe for January 15th, 1908)
“Cut some pickled herring into pieces and mix with flaked lax, 2 peeled apples and 2 boiled potatoes. Cut into dice pieces; add some chopped shallots and gherkins; sprinkle with finely minced tarragon and chervil, salt and pepper. Cover with a plain salad dressing.” — 1908.
Cookbook writers weren’t particularly specific back then regarding amounts, but this is better than most. I am going to assume recipes back when were not meant to serve just one person, and go from there. I will also decide that “lax” means “lox”, and is not some sort of shortcut for “laxative”.
Here we go:
2 medium potatoes, preferably something with flavor like a Yukon gold. (Each potato works out to about 7 ounces (200 grams), and I ended up with red potatoes.) (Russets are evil tasteless bits of modern McDonaldization). Boil in salted water until soft but not soggy — about 30 minutes for the above-sized potato. Prick with fork to test. Leave the skins on but of course remove eyes and other imperfections before boiling. (PS: I could only find “red potatoes”, or the deadly Russets, unless I wanted to buy a whole bag, which I did NOT.)
10-11 ounces (300 grams) Marinated herring in wine sauce, not the cream sauce. If some of the onion bits want to come into the salad, more power to them. Cut the herring into approximately 1/2-1 inch segments. I am figuring that “pickled herring” is going to be rather similar enough to the marinated herring we currently see this fish labeled as, in our supermarkets.
7 ounces (200 grams) Smoked wild salmon. Shred as need be. I try for 1/2 – 1 inch shreds, of one thin layer deep. I’m sure in Norway in 1908 they were using their local wild salmon, but I don’t know if any of that is left. I source my smoked wild through Costco, but BJ’s is another warehouser that at least, also carries it.
2 peeled and cored apples. I try to go for local, but this is a bad time of year for that, so I bit the bullet. Washington State, Gala apples. Coarsely chop, say 1/2 to 1 inch segments.
2 medium Shallots, finely chopped.
2 small dill pickles or gherkins, finely chopped. All right, I used some of my home canned dill pickles here, but it is up to you.
1.5 teaspoons dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon chervil (if you can find it – on short notice, I did not. Try Penzey’s. I adapted with savory, about 1/2 teaspoon.)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all of the above, and add a simple homemade oil and vinegar salad dressing, just to lightly coat. Oil – Olive oil. Vinegar – apple cider vinegar (I used the Bragg’s one with the “mother” not filtered out, 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil.) The amount you want to use of this dressing probably should be just enough to cover, not drench.
This turned out VERY well. Even though the potato wasn’t as flavorful as one of the “gold” varieties, this worked well together. I’d say the above amounts would provide five servings. Let’s see, if that was real good, perhaps I should try the boiled calf head recipe next?
Entered into Fresh Bites Friday. http://www.realfoodwholehealth.com/blog/
Funny and well-explained with details. I loved reading this and am curious about the book. Thanks for the great blog post!! I will check out the rest of your posts. . . .
Thanks and I hope you enjoy…