Books for cooks - Recipes old and famous

Last week and this, we’ve been looking at some of the newest and most interesting food books. Along the way, we’ve collected some great recipes including a recipe for spring pea salad with minted cream and another for pan-roasted mushrooms.

Well, today we turn our direction to a new path with a philosophical peek at Americans and their diets through the ages. Included is a recipe from the pilgrims. Then we settle in an American city famous for its food, grabbing a vegetarian recipe for one of their most famous dishes along the way.

A Short History of the American Stomach by Frederick Kaufman (Harcourt Trade Publishers)
Starting with the Pilgrims and rapidly dancing forward through time, A Short History of the American Stomach is a delightful romp through the eating habits of Americans throughout the ages. Americans which have been gorging and purging and starving. Americans who have feasted and fasted and ingested a wide variety of foodstuffs. And Americans who, according to Kaufman, have been suffering from the same concerns yesterday as they do today.

You won’t find any recipes is this over-the-top, but amusing nonetheless read, but that is probably for the best as they would be most unwelcome next to stories about people such as the Puritan Mather who believed in fasting and vomiting to keep both stomach and mind healthy.
Vegetarian recipe: Potatoes for Pilgrims
I got this recipe from a fun blog I pop by every so often called The Old Foodie. If you are interested in old recipes, this is definitely a blog worth visiting.

Boil six or eight potatoes, and cut them in slices. Make a little frying batter, and dip in it half a dozen onions thinly sliced; fry these in hot fat, and when they are browned, put the potatoes into the pan with them. Pour over them as much milk as will barely cover them. Sprinkle powdered sugar upon them, let them stew gently a short time, and serve very hot. Time to stew, five or six minutes. Probable cost, 8d. Sufficient for four or five persons.

Frying batter
To four ounces of flour add a gill of lukewarm water, a pinch of salt, and two-tablespoonfuls of salad oil. Let the mixture stand awhile, and, before using, dash in the whites of two eggs whisked till firm.
[Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery; 1870’s]

Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen (W. W. Norton)
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for New Orleans. New Orleans, shot through with the smell of greasy po’boys and rich olives, smooth as molasses whiskey and sticky sugar, ankle-deep filth, unwashed bodies, and clean sweet grass. And I think the entire country developed a soft spot for New Orleans after the uninvited and unwelcome Hurricane Katrina and her mad dance throughout the city. Which is why I was interested in Gumbo Tales.

From chapter to chapter, the author talks about all sorts of types of cooking, from gumbo (predictably!) to muffuletta, po'boys, shrimp remoulade, and my personal favorite, red beans and rice. And, along the way, she visits establishments as diverse as Central Grocery and Galatoire's to give us a nice taste, if you’ll forgive the pun, of the city.

Alas, the book has no recipes. And that's a shame. So I'll guess I'll just have to head to the nearest Louisiana-bound airplane.

But in the meantime, here is a recipe from the July 2008 Bon Appétit.
Vegetarian recipe: Red beans and rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
A few dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed well in a strainer
4 cups hot cooked rice (from 1 cup raw rice)
Sour cream (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper, and sauté until the pepper is very tender, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle in the chili powder and paprika, and cook 30 seconds. Mix in the tomato sauce, water, hot sauce, and kidney beans, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and fragrant. Serve over rice with a small spoonful of sour cream on top, if desired.