Traditional recipes

The Food Almanac: Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Food Almanac: Thursday, December 5, 2013

Days Until
Christmas–20
New Year’s–27
Make those reservations now!

Today’s Flavor
This is National Pot Pie Day. The cold weather has settled in, and there’s something inherently warming about a pot pie–both in the thought and the eating of it. Second, we still have a lot of turkey to get rid of from Thanksgiving. Especially the dark meat, which with its bigger flavor and chunkier pieces, are perfect for pot pie.

Pot pies have gone out of vogue, and I think I know why. The pastry used for them is too firm and yucky. And the filling doesn’t have enough zing. It just sits there in a starchy sauce thickened with too much flour and potatoes, and without enough chunks of meat or vegetables. I think the solution is to use a fluffier pastry than the dense pie crust usually found, and make them smaller. And we ought to use more seasonal vegetables and things that go with pepper. Like beef and oysters together, for example. Carrots. Brussels sprouts. Mushrooms.

You will go a long time between sightings of pot pies in restaurants. It doesn’t seem like restaurant food to most people, except perhaps in rural areas where home-style cooking is all they know. Even there, the chains have killed so many old cafes that there aren’t many left to make pot pies. Reclaim them by making one or two this week.

Drink And The Law
At 4:32 p.m. on this date in 1933, Utah (of all states!) ratified the Twenty-First amendment to the Constitution, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment, and therefore ending fourteen years of Prohibition. We could lift a glass legally again. But not so fast. One of the provisions of the new amendment was that states and localities could continue to make their own laws concerning alcoholic beverages. Out of that came the impossible hodgepodge of local and state rules, some of which defy rationale. (Example: By Louisiana law, a restaurant must pay for deliveries of beer, but not wine or spirits, at the time of delivery.) Prohibition, of course, exacted it own costs, primary among them (from our perspective, anyway) the closing of much of the American wine business.

Annals Of Expensive Bottles Of Wine
Today in 1985, a bottle of 1787 Chateau Latour once owned by Thomas Jefferson (whose initials are on the bottle) went at auction to Malcolm Forbes for $157,500. That would be insanely cheap nowadays, but I remember that this made headlines back then. I wonder if the late Forbes ever opened it? Chateau Latour is one of the first-growth Bordeaux standard-setters, and made in a style that leads to long life. But I don’t know about that long.

Annals Of Healthy Eating
Today in 2006, New York City passed a law banning trans-fats in food served in restaurants. They had till 2008 to stop using trans-fats in frying oils. By now, the evil stuff is supposed to be gone from every ingredient. Many thought of this as an outrageous intrusion into personal liberty, but it does address a very real and proven health hazard. The fallout from this has not all landed yet, and other cities are considering the same ban.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Soup Bowl Creek runs through a valley in the Coastal Range in California, eighteen miles west of San Jose, California. The creek is at about the 2500-foot altitude, on the eastern side of Cow Hill. These are steep, tree-covered volcanic mountains whose western flanks hold some excellent vineyards and wineries. But you’d never get up there except on a horse or maybe with an all-terrain vehicle. The nearest restaurants are a bunch of chains in Morgan Hill, eight miles away as the crow flies. Pinoy Lichon BBQ and Grill sounds good.

Edible Dictionary
dim sum, Chinese, n.–Small, light dishes traditionally served with tea from the early to middle parts of the day. The words translate as “warm the heart,” for the fact that most dim sum is beautiful to look at, served hot, and light in texture. Dumplings of many kinds make up a big part of the dim sum constellation, but many other foods are made into these bite-size morsels. Fish, meatballs, vegetables, and rolls are also common. A look at the appetizer portion of a standard Chinese restaurant reveals many of the things that often show up on dim sum carts. Carts bearing different dim sum selections are pushed around the room, and diners select what appeals to them. Each item is served on a different shape and color of plate; the plates collect on the table, and the server can calculate the check from that data. Some dim sum restaurants show their offerings in a picture book. A few serve dim sum in the evenings, but that’s not traditional.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Stale brioche is the ultimate main ingredient for pain perdu (French toast, lost bread).

Annals Of Food Writing
Today is the birthday, in 1935, of Calvin Trillin. He’s written a great deal about food over the years; his famous book on the subject is Alice, Let’s Eat, but he has two others along those lines that he refers to as his “Tummy Trilogy.” A recent piece of his in The New Yorker described his passion for a stew served only during Holy Week in a few towns in South America. He writes on many other things; lately, he’s been reflecting on his father, his wife, and his being a father. His unique humor makes his words a pleasure to read.

Annals Of Chewing Gum
Today is the birthday of chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, in 1894. And, coincidentally, on this day in 1905, the trademark of Chiclets–for lozenge-shaped, candy-coated gum, a competitor with Mr. Wrigley’s works–was registered.

Food Namesakes
A clothing and paraphernalia store called Apple was opened by the Beatles on this date in 1967, on Baker Street in London. Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé was born today in 1944. Rock musician J.J. Cale was born today sometime after midnight on this date in 1938. Now here’s something odd. Yesterday we had birthdays both for somebody else named Cale and somebody else named Crabbe. Hmm. . Honey, a movie about an inner-city girl who wanted to become a choreographer, premiered today in 2003. .Sir Arthur William Currie was born today in 1875. He was a Canadian military hero in World War I. And Eddy Curry Jr., NBA basketball player, was born today in 1982. Today is the feast day of St. John Almond, who lived in Ireland in the 1600s.

Words To Eat By
“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”–Calvin Trillin, born today in 1935. Here are a couple more of his better lines:

“I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground and won’t stand still.”

“My wife Alice has a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day.”


Food History Jottings

However, the eighteenth century archival record is curiously silent on this matter. There does not seem to be anything on the story in any of the nineteenth century records either. It is not until the twentieth century that the story surfaces. And it surfaces with a clamour, with many leading food writers telling the story of the Pudding King, some claiming that it was George himself who was actually responsible for making it our national Christmas dish. So if there are no eighteenth century primary sources for the story, where on earth does it come from? Many food authors cite the recipe and the legends attached to it, including worthies like May Byron (1929) Florence White (1932), Dorothy Hartley (1954), and Elisabeth Ayrton (1974). However, all are unanimously silent on one important matter – none of them give their sources.

Plum pudding is liberally steeped in myth as well as brandy

What this article actually says is that this recipe had been in the possession of the Royal Family since the days of George I. What it does not say is that it is for making a pudding that was actually served to him. Anyone who has experience of early Georgian recipes will realise that this cannot be an exact transcription of the original. Its structure and language are entirely modern. If it is based on an eighteenth century original it is very much an adaption for an early twentieth century reader. We know of no other eighteenth century pudding recipes that instruct the cook to weigh the eggs. Nor is Demerera sugar an ingredient that is usually named in eighteenth century recipes. It might be common ingredient now, but surprisingly candied peel is not an ingredient that occurred in eighteenth century plum puddings. The earliest recipe that Plumcake has found for one which includes it is in John Mollard, The Art of Cookery (London: 1801). Moulds for boiling puddings are described in nineteenth and early twentieth century recipes, but not in those from the early Georgian period.


If George I ate plum pudding at Christmas, it would have been boiled like this, in a cloth
Plum puddings were boiled in fancy moulds in the 19th and early 20th century. However, in 1911 the word mould could also mean a plain basin like those used by most cooks today
Dr Johnson's alternative definition of 'plum'

6 comments:

This is absolutely brilliant! I've seen one 19th century King George pudding recipe, which is a rather plain plum pudding, but it isn't repeated in any other source. There are numerous recipes for "George Pudding", but this is a rice pudding. There was a popular 18th century song that had the lines:

"When George in Pudding time came o'er,
And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
My Principles I chang'd once more,
And so became a Whig, Sir.
And thus Preferment I procur'd,
From our Faith's great Defender
And almost every day abjur'd
The Pope, and the Pretender."

"Pudding Time" is "in good time" or "in the nick of time".

Beyond this, there is no real association of any of the Georges with puddings. Given the huge amount of 18th/19th century English cookery books produced, I wonder why none of the 20th century writers checked their story?

We would be very interested Adam to see the 19th century recipe for King George Pudding you have seen. Is it British or American. Plumcake has found a number of 19th century American recipes for King George Pudding. There may be others. They occur in the following texts -

A new daily food: A collection of tried and reliable recipes, brought forth from the store house of things new and old Morrisania, N.Y. St. Paul's Church Lydia Shillaber Press of Bedell & Brother, 1885, p.79.

Centennial Cookery Book, Ohio (1887) p.101

The Universal Household Assistant, S.H. Burt, New York (1884) p.374

We doubt very much if these US recipes are relevant to our argument. Also they do not tell us which King George.

The recipe I have seen is in the Burt book.

I wonder if the mythology of "The Pudding King" developed out of desire to make the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family more British restrospectively?

Brilliant - Thanks for this great blog

I was under the impression that candied peel was going into these boiled puddings about 50 years before 1801, the date you have in your posting. Mrs. Raffald does not include a Plum Pudding in her book but her ‘A Hunting Pudding’ is certainly what we would call a Plum Pudding or Christmas Pudding today. It includes both candied citron and candied orange (and cream, oddly enough).

I can’t find any similar puddings before her time with candied peel, although recipes for plum porridge, plumcake, and mince pies include candied peel at least a few decades before Mrs. Raffald’s book.

Both Plumcake and I have searched pretty deeply for eighteenth century plum pudding recipes in terms of the included ingredients, but as with all surveys of this kind, we cannot pretend that it has been an exhaustive search. It is however ongoing and we realise the area that really needs to be examined are recipes in unpublished manuscripts. But looking at the printed recipes before 1801, which are given the title 'plum pudding' (sensu stricto), we noted a definite lack of candied or preserved peel in the mix. We decided to exclude other baked and boiled puddings from this analysis, including various 'bread puddings', which could be argued were close plum pudding relatives, but were not called 'plum puddings' by the authors. The generic definition of these puddings was rather elastic. So we just confined ourselves to 'plum puddings' in the strictest sense. Hunter's pudding is of course a close relative, but it was not called 'plum pudding' by the various authors who offer recipes for this rich dish at the luxury end of the plum pudding spectrum. We would have ended up including a vast multitude of oatmeal puddings, Richmond puddings, George puddings, Oxford puddings,brown bread puddings etc., so we limited our search.

One of the most influential cookery texts of the eighteenth century is The Lady's Companion (London: 1751 5th edition). An earlier edition was Hannah Glasse's main source for many of her recipes. The 1751 2 volume edition has a massive chapter on puddings, probably the largest of any Georgian recipe collection. Scattered throughout its pages are six recipes for plum puddings, none of which names preserved citrus peels as an ingredient. though one entitled 'A very good Plumb Pudding and not expensive' indicates that the cook could include 'a few Sweetmeats' in the mix. Sweetmeats here could mean candied citrus peel, but it could also indicate any preserve or dried fruit.

It is interesting to note that The Lady's Companion also includes an early recipe for A Hunting Pudding, which is close to Raffald's in that it contains both currants and raisins as well as cream, brandy etc - in fact all the ingredients that Mrs Raffald lists. Except for one thing - instead of candied citron and candied orange, the anonymous author just tells us to include 'a little Lemon peel shred', which could mean fresh lemon peel here.

I am sure that eighteenth century plum pudding recipes will turn up that do include candied or preserved peels, but in the printed sources they seem to be exceptionally rare.

In the 'Pudding King' essay, we were attempting to demonstrate that the myths that arose regarding George I's relationship with plum pudding evolved from a messy understanding of an early twentieth century magazine article. Our statement that candied peel was not used in the eighteenth century in plum puddings was one item of evidence we used to show that the recipe quoted in the article was modern, or a modern reworking of an old one.


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