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Historical Recipes the Next Big Thing

So it seems that chefs are mining the past/returning to roots in search of the next trend.


While there's an awful lot of different comments you could make on this not-quite-yet-trend, the first thought that comes to my mind is, "Uh, oh. Here's the next simple thing that chefs will fetishize and take to crazy extremes."

Should I be worried or happy that there may be return to "real" food?

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  1. I had the same reaction but have decided to be relatively pleased, especially if it gets us back to food that resembles something to eat. My new motto: old is the new new.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      agreed -- if it gets us away from "open a can of mushroom soup" it can't be bad. (with apologies to Campbell's)

      1. re: sunshine842

        The OP article isn't about home cooks who can't cook trying 'historical recipes'. It's about restaurants exploring history, as an alternative to fusion cooking and molecular gastronomy. It's about going back and trying old proven recipes rather than feeling the pressure to constantly innovate.

        1. re: paulj

          not many restaurant trends manage to avoid becoming popular for the home cook.

    2. Heston Blumenthal had a series a few years ago on that very subject. He researched historical recipes to create updated versions:


      2 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        And his latest restaurant, "Dinner", features the reworkings of historical dishes.

        1. re: ferret

          HB seems to always be a couple of years ahead of the 'chef' crowd.
          I have some old cb's from the thirties/forties. Just for fun I'm going to try a few recipes.

        2. This reminds me of Historical Masterchef on Horrible Histories. Too funny!
          (Hope this link works but not sure.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: Kat

            This looks like a great show, is it really made for kids?

            1. re: coll

              It is made for kids about 10 and up based on the Horrible Histories books. But, it is a great show for adults too and some of the humor is clearly just for grown ups. For example, there is a musical skit about Charles Dickens and the depressing nature of some of his novels which is sung in the very distinctive style of Morrissey and made me nearly laugh my pants off!

              1. re: Kat

                Sort of like Soupy Sales? I don't think they do that anymore around here ;-) I bookmarked the site for next time I have insomnia....sounds like fun.

          2. Check out the british show "Supersizers" from a few years ago.
            The spend a week eating in the same way as they did in various points in history.

            1. Definitely a resounding YES. There are a bunch of books on this, including Heston, Ballymore Cooking School and others (they seem to be coming out of the UK). Real food means better health and a focus on simplicity--not necessarily in the recipes themselves (after all, who wants to go track down a wild pheasant except Marco Pierre White?) but in the general concept of making food from scratch. Not only is that fun--in my book--but it could be helpful in teaching young people & kids where the heck food does come from.

              5 Replies
              1. re: sandiasingh

                Historical cooking is not necessarily simple, and isn't (necessarily) more real than modern ones.

                Nor is it necessarily healthier. On Supersizers most eras produced a decline in various medical lab measures. Fat, meat, alcohol consumption was generally higher. Fruits and vegetables were not all that common; raw or lightly cooked ones even rarer. WW2 with government promotion of a frugal but healthy diet was the exception.

                1. re: paulj

                  Of course it would depend on the era and class involved, but on the whole I think modern Westerners eat better than their great grandparents

                  I read recently that the poor of Paris in the 18th Century subsisted on bread bought at local bakeries. That was their staple. They didn't eat anything else.

                  My dad told me once that his family (farmers in Arkansas and later Oklahoma) at dried bean all winter. I suppose they had some sort of root cellar to supplement. An orange was considered a sufficient Christmas gift, and was no doubt a luxury.

                  I know that in my mother's and grandmothers' day, canned veggies were the norm especially in the winter. And I doubt anyone was making and baking whole wheat bread either.

                  I just don't think generalizations about older recipes being better is necessarily factual.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    Medieval rations were several pounds of bread per person (plus beer). Starches that we take for grantedlike potato, rice , even pasta, were unknown. Those who could afford it ate a lot meat.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Yes, and turnips were not a widely grown crop until the late Middle Ages and then they were mainly grown for cattle feed. Then they became food for peasants.

                      I really think we live in a great time for cooking and eating.

                      But I also think that "historical" recipes would be fun, but without all the romanticizing.

                  2. re: paulj

                    I remember reading in a history book that the typical middle class family in 19th century Britain spent more on their annual butcher's bill than they did on their servants' wages, combined.

                    Not only does it say a lot about how cheap servants were but it also implies how much meat the middle and upper classes ate.

                2. According the the Macnamee book that came out a few years ago, that's exactly what Alice Waters and friends did at Chez Panisse for the first seven or eight years it was open - all their menus were taken from historical cookbooks. One of the advantages to having access to the libraries and bookstores in a college town.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                    I just read that this morning in Jacques Pepin's bio, The Apprentice.

                  2. http://recipewise.co.uk/
                    is a good source of UK historical and regional foods.

                    It used to be called 'HistoricalFoods.com'. Then they tried a subscription format to get at the more detailed account. Now it looks like all the recipes are open access, but in a plain text format.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        Before turducken there was the Yorkshire Christmas Pie, with pigeon, pheasant, fowl, goose, turkey - and hare and game on the

                      2. If you get a chance to see this cooking show, "A Taste of History," please take a look. It is a combination of food history and authentic, historic cooking techniques. Really well done. Has won multiple Emmy awards.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MrsPatmore

                          I think I've seen this on Create. Thanks for posting.

                        2. Hooray! It means I'm going to be back in style again! '-)

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Caroline1, I don't know about you, but it is a huge burden for me being a trend setter. I have had this problem since I was a teenager :-)

                            But hey, somebody has to do it so let's sally forth!

                            1. re: sandiasingh

                              I think a good way to start is to collect all of the recipe books starting with Mark Bittmann and going all the way back to Michel Guerard and his stupid damned "Cuisine Minceur" and burn those puppies, one and all! WHY does no one understand that Wellingtons and Stroganoffs and pates foie gras (or not) are NOT fattening OR unhealthy UNLESS you eat the whole damned thing! <sigh>

                              Maybe if this catches on, there will be some sanity restored to today's world of cooking???? Ya think???? '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Yes, you have to look at it in the big picture. If it gets people thinking about the origins of food and trying to make even a simple dish the old fashioned way, just for fun, I'm all for it.

                                And of course, it's more nutritious, if for no other reason that it it MOST LIKELY that your consumption of factory made ingredients will be less, which IMHO is the most important thing about it. This is not a blanket statement, I'm just saying the likelihood of your food being more nutritious is higher because you're paying attention.

                                Supersizers was a hoot and that's about it for me. I think it could have been more effective if they had treated with a tad more seriousness. It was all pretty silly. And YES, I do understand the point of the show was to show the affect of olden day foods on the human body. I still stand by my opinion.

                            2. re: Caroline1

                              Bring back the Beef Wellington with the bottom layer of prosciutto. :)

                                1. re: paulj

                                  I made Wellington on New Years Day wrapped with pate and sliced prosciutto, and yesterday I made stroganoff with all the leftover meat. Good to know I'm on the cutting edge! I thought I was being horribly old fashioned.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    Good taste never goes out of style, coll. :-)

                                2. re: Caroline1

                                  "It means I'm going to be back in style again!"

                                  Darling, you're the little black dress AND the three, brass button, navy blazer of timeless style when it comes to all things culinary.

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    Flattery will get you EVERYWHERE!

                                3. How does one braise a mastodon, anyway?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: hal2010

                                    Drive it into a hot spring. Getting it out might be harder.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      It's called "pre-dawn-of-time sous vide cooking!" Look, Ma, NO plastics! '-)

                                  2. I'd say they're a little behind on trending. Perhaps it may be described as the Last Big Thing, but certainly not the Next Big Thing.

                                    1. If this IS the new focus, I fervently hope that the related shows drive home the point that cookbooks and standard measuring are relatively recent developments. It pains me to see the number of threads on the Home Cooking board from people who are terrified that they'll ruin a dish if they diverge from the recipe in some minor way. True, we all have to start somewhere, and learn by our mistakes, but increasingly it seems to me that fear is replacing the spirit of adventure when it comes to making something for the first time. Though Julie Powell, of Julie & Julia fame, seems to have gone off the rails in terms of her personal life, I applaud her approach to the Julia Project. When she couldn't find the right ingredient or equipment, she'd make do, relying on a "What could happen?" mantra.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Cooking as your mother taught you can be just as constraining as a cookbook. Add to that the expectations of other relatives, and the opinions nosey neighbors, traditional village cooking usualy evolved slowly.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          I just read in the Cambridge World Food History book that Fannie Farmer of the Boston Cooking School introduced the 'level measurement', 'which was probably the first challenge in all of history to the slapdash practice of using a pinch of this and smidgen of that'. I happen to have a little book of selections from that 1st modern cookbook (1896).

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            If you'd like to read or download it in eBook format you will find it here:


                                            I'm just not convinced that there are many cooks around today who are interested in rice pudding that takes 4 hours to bake. On the other hand, don't knock it until you've tried it! '-)

                                        2. I really like historical recipes myself, in the sense that I like to learn how people approached food using different supplies and equipment.

                                          For instance, beef burgundy. I am told that this is a technique for making a tough cut of meat tender, but as a contemporary cook I have to ask: Why would I pay $4 for a pound of low-end beef plus $10 for a bottle of wine, when I could pay $10 for a pound of good beef?

                                          Hell my local Fresh Market has Prime Standing Rib Roast for $15/lb right now (I'm considering getting one as my Christmas present to myself).

                                          But then again, I am not living in France a hundred years ago but in the Ozarks now. Wine is not handed out like party favors here, and poor cuts of meat are actually difficult to come by. It might have made sense in a country where beef was scarce and wine plentiful, but what are we doing cooking it today other than for taste and for nostalgia?

                                          That's what I'd like to learn from chefy historyslumming: why did their choices make sense, and do they still today?

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: ennuisans

                                            Well, I suppose if you don't like stews, then you don't like stews.

                                            I love stews and we cook them often. Not because we can't afford higher priced meat but, as you indicate, for the taste. There's simply something about the taste of meat, long cooked in a flavoursome stock. Whether it's stew, boeuf bourguignon, boeuf en daube, tagine, Lancashire hotpot or Vlaamse rundsstoverij, they all have a regular place on our table.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Oh gosh no, I love stews, soups, anything like that, including beef burgundy. I got the impression that, like coq au vin, it was originally meant as a way to get the good out of a less-than-ideal piece of meat, presumably by folks who couldn't afford the good stuff. If it started out as a poor person's dish (and perhaps it didn't) it has become a fairly expensive one where I live.

                                              But still tasty, and nice to have as a treat now and then.

                                              1. re: ennuisans

                                                soups and stews were ways to make cheap, otherwise-inedible cuts edible...along with having things that didn't have to be mollycoddles, leaving the lady of the house more free to do the kajillions of other things she needed to do in the days before lawn mowers, washing machines, microwaves, etc., etc., etc.

                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                  Coq au vine and beef Bourguignon are basically the same recipe while simply changing the protein. All stew, daub, braised, slow roast recipes are methods to use the huge amount of animal that remains after the choice cuts are taken away.

                                                  There are also a lot of classic recipes that are identical but called by different names when the cooking method changes the result. For example, French crepe, popovers, and Yorkshire pudding are all made with the same batter, but the crêpes are fried like a pan-sized pancake, popovers are baked at high heat in individual molds with a neutral fat, and Yorkshire pudding is traditionally baked in a large very hot roasting pan (often the one a roast beef was just cooked in) with the beef fat and possibly the drippings as well, and in a hot oven, then cut into individual portions and served alongside the roast beef. Same identical batter turned out with thee very different results, but all great eating!

                                                  These "adaptations" are at the core of a lot of classic dishes. Changing a single ingredient, such as replacing beef with chicken, can result in some amazing flavor results. The Bourguignon procedure also works well with duck (skim the fat regularly), as well as rabbit and most wild game.

                                                  1. re: ennuisans

                                                    'good stuff', 'less than ideal' reflect contemporary cultural values more than some universal, or even centuries old, quality of the various cuts. There's nothing inherently better about the tenderloin or loin as opposed to the chuck or shank. Supply and demand have set a higher price for those tender cuts from along the backbone. But the phrase 'high on the hog' is a 20c American one, not centuries old English.

                                                    One of the chefs on this years The Mind of a Chef even challenged the notion that 'soul food' was developed from the 'rejects' from the masters' table. Some cultures (and chefs) value the qualities of offal and chewier cuts for themselves. A good stew isn't just a way of making do with a 'less-than-ideal' cut of meat.

                                                    Even what we value in the prepared dish has a cultural source. Why do (North) Americans prefer a thick rare steak, while many Latin Americans prefer the same cut thin and well done? The French ideal for a beef stew seems to be uniform chunks of well trimmed muscle, while I've had Chinese beef stews with gelatinous, chewy, or even crunchy, bits of tendon, cartilage and fascia.

                                              2. One of my favorite cookbooks is a gift I received recently, "Fresh from the Past" Recipes and Revelations from Moll Flanders' kitchen.
                                                It prints a historical recipe on one page, and on the facing page it is reinterpreted using more modern techniques and in some cases ingredients.
                                                It also includes a lot of interesting history and the recipes come from a wide variety of old historical cookbooks. It's interesting to learn the history of the dish and how it would have actually been made using the technology of the past.

                                                1. As most CHers know, the Hesses discussed this at length in their book, "The Taste of America," which was written in the '70's.

                                                  Their detailed research on historical recipes is well worth the price of the book alone and is a real eye opener to the severe dissing our ancestors took regarding their "inferior" tastes.

                                                  66 Replies
                                                  1. re: sandiasingh

                                                    I am sad that I am not one of most CHers.

                                                    1. re: sandiasingh

                                                      Never heard of this book, but my first cookbook was "The NY Times Heritage Cookbook" by Jean Hewitt. My mother (not a cook at all, despite 6 children) gave me this book as a holiday gift when I was just in high school and developing my interest in cooking. It remains one of my favorite cookbooks

                                                      1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                        "The Taste of America" by John and Karen Hess was written in 1977 and is still highly readable today. They meticulously researched early American cooks and recipes to demonstrate that America's cooking heritage is much richer than we have been led to believe. Additionally, they skewer chefs and food writers (Claiborne, Child, Beard, etc. who embraced the dawn of manufactured and fast food) and fully endorse the simple, delicious cooking of housewives and families.

                                                        It is a very entertaining read, informative, sarcastic and funny. The Hesses were extremely opinionated about food (as am I), and don't hesitate to express their views.

                                                        Since it was written in 1977, the sad condition of the American food supply has actually improved, especially in the last ten years or so with the movement toward fresher and healthier ingredients. The Hesses are both gone now, but I think they would be encouraged by the direction we are going in this country.

                                                        Highly recommended reading.

                                                        1. re: sandiasingh

                                                          Thank you for this very detailed info about the book! A used copy is only $4.50 on amazon.com, I just put it in my shopping cart

                                                          1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                            You bet. Let us know what you think.

                                                          2. re: sandiasingh

                                                            "Additionally, they skewer chefs and food writers (Claiborne, Child, Beard, etc. who embraced the dawn of manufactured and fast food) and fully endorse the simple, delicious cooking of housewives and families."

                                                            I may be missing something here but I have cookbooks written by Claiborne, Child and Beard and there's little in the way of manufactured and fast food in them.

                                                            Anyway, the simple, delicious cooking of housewives is great when we're not cooking for huge families 3 x day, restricted heavily by what's seasonally available (fresh fruit and veggies in the winter?), constrained by tiny budgets at a time when food was much more expensive than today, few, if any labor saving devices, cooking over unpredictable wood burning stoves or fireplaces. In a way I can't blame an entire generation or two for falling in love with the convenience of mass produced food.

                                                            I'm not knocking the book or the premise of heritage cooking. I find early cookbooks and the ingredients they include fascinating, but to use the WSJ link as an example, one of the recipes is from Martha Washington who was the rich mistress of a large plantation staffed with many servants in the kitchens and whose wealth gave her access to a much broader range of foodstuff both raised on her plantations or imported, than the typical colonialist. The diets of small farmers or settlers on the frontiers or the urban working classes, who constituted the majority of the population, was incredibly basic and hardly delicious. My recollections of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books is that her family seemed to subsist on little other than a monotonous diet of potatoes and salted pork.

                                                            I don't think there's ever been a time when it was possible for so many people to eat so well as today, by which I mean healthily with fresher ingredients, along with the enormous range of foodstuff now commercially available. It's a shame more people don't take advantage of this.

                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                              Such a passionate response. Have you read the book?

                                                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                There's a free (pretty extensive) preview of the book on Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=JMVS...

                                                              2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                I don't want to re-write the book here, Roland Parker, but they go into great detail about early books such as "The Virginia Housewife," by Mary Randolph (1824), Hannah Glass's "Art of Cookery," (1805) and "American Cookery," by Amelia Simmons (1796) as well as many others. They don't get into the issue of class, as you pointed out, but are focused on the quality of the recipes and ingredients.

                                                                They also site in detail many, many recipes by Clairborne, Beard and Child, that called for packaged ingredients like canned broth and tomato paste, etc.

                                                                I totally agree with you about the availability of food today and the choices we have as consumers and cooks. We are very fortunate indeed.

                                                                The editors of Bon Appetite are paying attention to the changes occurring in the marketplace as evidenced by their January issue which is not just about a "healthy New Year cleanse," but captures important trends taking place right now, such as gluten free flours and grains, the variety of fresh greens available, and heritage, grass fed meats among others.

                                                                1. re: sandiasingh

                                                                  I have read Hess's book (ok, glanced through it) and frankly, it's too difficult for me to take seriously a writer who derisively writes off Child and Alice Walters for not being "real cooks" because if they aren't, then who is? Hess certainly had her own agenda in promoting what she had to say.

                                                                  I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you over the value of rereading the early cookbooks. The variety of produce and meats/fish consumed in those days is a delight and I love the use of nutmeg and mace in so many early baked breads and cakes. And I find the combination of certain ingredients in certain dishes fascinating.

                                                                  But there's an implicit danger in reading too much from these early cookbooks. They can and do provide a snapshot of what early and 19th century Americans ate but we should not take it to mean that the cookbooks represented the typical diets of the typical Americans at the time. The Virginia Housewife was written by Mary Randolph, godmother to Robert Lee's wife and a member of the southern plantation aristocracy, as was the Carolina Housewife (by Sarah Rutledge, and the Rutledges were one of the richest rice planter families in SC). Hannah Glasse was a member of the minor landed gentry in England. Little is known about Amelia Simmons but there's enough inference to imply that she worked as a cook or housekeeper for more affluent families. My favorite early 19th century baking cookbook is by Eliza Leslie, who was from a comfortable Philadelphia family that had lived in London and whose father was a good friend of Benjamin Franklin. These women had access, through their own wealth or their employer's, to a range of foodstuff that may not have necessarily been commonly available, not to mention the support of kitchen help to do all the tiresome chopping and making of stocks, canning, baking and preserving, as everything was made from scratch.

                                                                  And not everything "homemade" is to be preferred. Compared to modern day diners, early Americans ate relatively little fresh meat, including beef and chicken as not only were they expensive and saved for special occasions, people didn't have the refrigeration means necessary for keeping meat fresh and edible. Much of the meat consumed in those days was smoked and every farm had a smokehouse. Smoked meat is fine if had occasionally but on a regular, daily basis, the high carcinogenic levels in smoked meat could and did present a health problem that the early Americans weren't aware of. Lots of people canned fruits and vegetables for the winter months, but that led to the risk of botulism.

                                                                  Access to fresh produce also wasn't guaranteed. Not only did the seasons have its impact on the diet but the Americans who lived in urban areas and mill towns were dependent on a largely unregulated marketplace with little in the way of ensuring quality control in food. Rotten and spoiled produce and meat was frequently encountered. The more affluent could pay more for better foodstuff from reliable purveyors but poorer Americans often had to take what they could get and it wasn't always pretty.

                                                                  I also don't want to give too much moral weight to the implied lessons of "keeping it simple" and cooking seasonally and cooking everything from scratch because in those days those were your only options. Trust me, many of these women would have gladly embraced many of the labor saving devices or pre-made ingredients such as tomato paste or even canned stock.

                                                                  Cooking in those days for the majority of the population was a difficult, tiresome chore. Diets was relentlessly monotonous as the diaries of people who lived on the frontiers or small farms show us. This lasted well into the 1930s when poor rural southerners ate little other than fried salted pork covered with molasses or sorghum. Many people were borderline malnourished for much of their lives and I'll never forget Laura Ingalls Wilder's story of her family's hardship during one long winter when they nearly starved to death.

                                                                  The irony is that for all the talk about the dangers of modern era processed food versus the healthier benefits of fresh, seasonal home cooked food, the modern person is still living a longer and healthier life than his counterpart a hundred years ago.

                                                                  1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                    Interesting and thoughtful post, Roland Parker. I have to agree that I couldn't read a whole lot of the Hess' books. I read a couple of extensive excerpts (free on Google Books, linked above) from Taste of America and Carolina Kitchen and honestly didn't care for their writing style. Although I have no factual basis to dispute any of their assertions, I felt like I was being lectured to and yelled at . . . not what I'm looking for at this point in my life. That being said, it is apparent that their work is well-researched, and certainly thought-provoking.

                                                                    1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                      Those ToA preview pages are from the end of the book, dealing with modern (1970s) food professionals - critics, home ec professionals etc. There they are quite critical, but most of what they skewer is pretense. They do some behind the scenes of a NYC 'best' pastrami sandwich review, and find that most of the meat came from the same processor. Calvin Trillin is their favored food writer.

                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                        Not to quibble, paulj, but I read excerpts from several chapters as well as the forward to the later publication of Taste of America - I was quite surprised at the extent of free content available

                                                                        1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                          p226 is the first page it lets me see.

                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                            Hi paulj,

                                                                            Are you sure that you are @ Google Books website? I can easily navigate to the table of contents with hot links to each chapter, e.g.,http://books.google.com/books?id=JMVS...

                                                                            1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                              The only TOC link that I get is chapter 14

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                Holy cow, that's weird! I'm on a tablet using Chrome browser and each of the chapters in the table of contents is a hot link with many pages of text available

                                                                                1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                  Just checked my tablet - it has all those links!

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    But I've reached my 'viewing limit' for this book.

                                                                                    I was able to scan a few of the pages in the 1st chapter. They were just as polemic as the ending ones.

                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                      Sounds like you've seen enough of the Hess books, but I'm curious about the "reached yout viewing limit" issue. I've had that message on Amazon book previews, but never on Google Books. If interested, I would try clearing your cache + browsing history, and under Chrome advanced/privacy settings check the box for "do not track." Maybe that will allow you unfettered previews on Google Books. Good luck

                                                                                      1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                        Yea, an incognito window might be worth a try.

                                                                    2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                      Thank you, Roland, for such an informed viewpoint. Maybe you should write a book? (Don't tell me you have, please!).

                                                                      1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                        In general, it's not a good idea to dismiss (especially at such great length) the work of writers whose work you have by your own admission not actually read. Nothing annoys me more as a librarian, in fact.

                                                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                          As a librarian, can you point to serious discussions of the Hess writings? All I find online are the glowing obituaries. What do professional historians, food or otherwise, think?

                                                                          I haven't had a chance to look at the earlier parts of Taste of America, but the later parts, dealing with recent history and trends have more of a popular polemic quality as opposed to serious history.

                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                            I don't know what resources you have available to you where you live. You should ask the staff at the library where you live. But , please, read the primary source BEFORE you read the secondary sources. Just READ THE BOOK YOU'RE DISCUSSING before you start looking for the reviews and MasterPlots and CliffsNotes on the book. Otherwise how could you participate in a serious discussion in a way that would be useful to you, let alone to anyone else?

                                                                            1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                              I'll settle for the Cambridge World History of Food. I saw a copy in the library today, and also found a free online source (also via the library system). I read some of the Colonial American section this afternoon. There were a few Hess citations (the rice book and a couple of the historical cook books).

                                                                              Repeatedly there was the pattern of describing the abundant and varied food of the well-to-do class in one paragraph, followed by a paragraph describing the spare and boring diet (esp. in winter) of the poor and slaves. I was reminded of Roland's post.

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                I have read extensive excerpts from the Hess books, including forwards and complete chapters. No Cliff notes or other reviews/interpretations (other than set forth by folks in this thread).

                                                                                1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                  'I have read extensive excerpts from the Hess books, including forwards and complete chapters."

                                                                                  That's fine but of course it is not the same as actually reading the entire book.

                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                    ratgirl, I never said they were the same. I said that I'd read enough to know that I didn't care to read more. I don't need to read both volumes and all 15 chapters of Mein Kampf to know that A. Hitler's subject matter and writing style is not for me. With all due respect to librarians, etc.

                                                                                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                      I wasted money on the book on your recommendation. Thankfully, amazon.com allows for returns. At 80 years of age, I remember, first hand, the eras and the food TRENDS the Hesses write about. I don't like their style, I don't like the misinformation they treat as fact, and I find the book not worth reading.

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        Caroline, I'm sure I never recommended that you BUY any book. I'm sorry it was not a book for you, but like all books it's a book that can be borrowed from a library - you may have to request it specially, but this is what librarians do.

                                                                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                          Not to worry! It did teach me something. It taught me that in this day and age, even "food historians" may suffer heavily from "intellectual myopia." It's not anything new. In fact, I have an imaginary target painted on my study wall that is to throw books at when a writer fails at good, solid research. The Hisses have plenty of company! '-)

                                                                      2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                        First, as someone interested in food and its history, you should read John and Karen Hess, period. Much of their erasure from memory is due to their politics, IMO - they were socialists and were kind of "premature-anti-food-fascist" as a result. Michael Pollan and others have become famous and financially successful for advocating the same things - local, seasonal, traditional.

                                                                        Also, in terms of access to fresh seasonal ingredients, one of the Hess' least celebrated real accomplishments is the establishment of the New York City Greenmarket, for which they both lobbied for YEARS. Among the non-enthusiasts of the project: Child, Claiborne, with Beard a mild supporter.

                                                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                          Michael Pollan comes to mind often when reading "The Taste of America." They repeatedly talk about "your grandmother's food." I heard Marion Nestle say that Pollan copped that from her but now I think I see where it originated!

                                                                        2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                          "My recollections of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books is that her family seemed to subsist on little other than a monotonous diet of potatoes and salted pork."

                                                                          If that is the case, I suggest a reread of the series, or a perusal of Barbara Walker's Little House Cookbook, because LIW's books lovingly describe the food she grew up on in all its variety. Not that it was complicated or never monotonous (especially during times of hardship), but despite the fact the Ingalls family didn't have great means, the food, simple as it might be, is characterized as varied (within reason, given seasonality and availability) and far from "hardly delicious."

                                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                            Laura Ingalls Wilder's books were hugely popular and they did lead to a romanticization of the life she had, especially during the 1950s when Americans couldn't get enough of the ye olde pioneer days. For every story we have of the hog killing or making maple syrup or the Christmas dinner in Little House in the Big Woods we have descriptions of how Pa made the long journey to a town in Little House on the Prairie and brings back a little bag of brown sugar, which Ma carefully puts away for special occasions (in settled areas brown sugar was cheap and commonly available). In a later books describing the family's life on the Dakota prairies, a neighbor gives the family a flock of baby chicks, which makes Ma so happy not only because they would finally have fresh eggs after all these years, but eventually fried chicken and it's pointed out that the younger daughters could only remember eating slabs of cheap salt pork that Pa bought from the local town (and which would have been imported from more settled areas). I also recall stories of the missionary Christmas barrel sent to the Ingalls by well-meaning people back east (and which implies how poor the family really was) and finding a whole frozen goose at the bottom. A rare delicacy.

                                                                            A few good years or stories of "feasts" doesn't obscure that Pa Ingalls was a failed farmer who dragged his family across America and their repeated frontier experiences kept the family on a borderline existence with a diet that largely consisted of bread, potatoes, cheap salt pork and the occasional wildfowl or game meat. The latter probably meant the Ingalls, like most settlers, frequently suffered from parasitic worms.

                                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                              In all times in which man has lived in social communities, regardless of whether they dwelt in caves or mud huts or 90th floor NYC apartments, eating has ALWAYS been an occasion when everyone wanted to eat the food prepared by the best cook they knew. That is a truth for primitive hunters and gatherers as much as it is for any modern culture that seeks out exotic street foods being served from food truck windows or rapturing over tasting menus.

                                                                              My great great grandparents crossed the U.S. from east to west to finally reach California, where they settled with their young children. One of those children was my great grandmother who I remember well from my own early childhood. One memory in particular is of her cooking Thanksgiving dinner for family that consisted of more than 20 people when all generations were counted, and she began the dinner preparations by chopping off the turkey's head, plucking and gutting it, then taking it into her kitchen to stuff, truss, and roast. She learned how to do all of that as a child crossing the plains in a covered wagon when my great great grandfather would "bag" wild turkeys.

                                                                              I can tell you, with certainty, that the romanticized B.S. about "the Ingalls, like most settlers, frequently suffered from parasitic worms" was NOT the rule of thumb, but a rarity that was most likely a result of a non-cook doing the cooking. If anything, ALL cooks of that era cooked everything on the "well done" side as a precautionary step to prevent "parasitic worms", and that included most vegetables as well. My best advice is not to take everything you read as fact. Also keep in mind that acquiring parasitic worms was the rare exception.

                                                                              I haven't read all of the Ingalls family books, but if ANY of those tales, book or TV series, has the family receiving a "missionary barrel" of food sent to them from "back east" that contained a frozen goose at the bottom of the barrel, why in the world didn't alarms start ringing in your head right there!

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                ummm, maybe the goose was delivered by pony express during a cold snap?

                                                                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                    The bird at the bottom of the missionary barrel was a Christmas turkey, held frozen solid on a train that was stuck on the rails in the middle of a seven month blizzard (The Long Winter, Wilder). The family eats very differently in the later books when their garden and chickens are thriving.

                                                                                    1. re: Tara57

                                                                                      That makes absolutely no sense because ANY animal found frozen in that time would have been immediately discarded. Freezing, as a means of preservation, was totally unknown in the U.S. at that time. NO frozen birds of any kind would have gone into a missionary barrel or a food supply shipped half way across the country. The ONLY consumption of frozen animal protein as a food source in that era of American history that I have ever heard of is the consumption of "long pig" by the Donner party when they were overtaken by a serious inter blizzard in Donner Pass. NOT your modern day trip to the frozen food section of your local supermarket!

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        From The Long Winter, Wilder:

                                                                                        "If it isn't our Christmas turkey, still frozen solid!"


                                                                                        1. re: Tara57

                                                                                          From the amazon.com Laura Ingolls Wilder page on amazon.com:

                                                                                          "Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in the log cabin described in Little House in the Big Woods. As her classic Little House books tell us, she and her family traveled by covered wagon across the Midwest. She and her husband, Almanzo Wilder, made their own covered-wagon trip with their daughter, Rose, to Mansfield, Missouri. There Laura wrote her story in the Little House books, and lived until she was ninety years old. For millions of readers, however, she lives forever as the little pioneer girl in the beloved Little House books."

                                                                                          She was born in 1867 and married in 1865, so surely she was a CHILD during the period of her life she writes about in Little House on the Prairie. I have no idea how old she was when she wrote those memoirs, but the kindest thing I can say about the chapters you link me to regarding a frozen Christmas turkey is that she seriously misremembered the incident.

                                                                                          She died in 1957 when frozen foods were common and had been for decades. But frozen Christmas turkeys circa 1880 or thereabouts? I don't believe it! If you will read this historical account of the history of frozen foods in the 20th century, you will learn why I don't believe this account. The link:


                                                                                          The part I specifically hope that you will read is this cut and paste:

                                                                                          The development of the TV dinner traces its history back to the origin of the technology for freezing food for later use. The practice of freezing food has been known for centuries. No doubt, this technology was discovered accidently by people living in cold climates such as the Arctic. However, it was not until the nineteenth century that any real commercial use of frozen food technology was known. The earliest commercial attempts at producing frozen food were centered on meats. One of the first patents related to freezing food was issued to H. Benjamin in 1842. Later in 1861, a U.S. patent was issued to Enoch Piper for a method of freezing fish. The incidence of frozen food became much more widespread later in the century with the advent of mechanical refrigerators. In 1861, the first meat freezing plant was established in Sydney, Australia. One of the first successful shipments of frozen meats occurred in 1869.
                                                                                          Success in the frozen beef market prompted food manufacturers to develop freezing methods for other food types. One method was the "cold-pack" process that was used around 1905. This early technology was based on a process called slow freezing. In this method, food was processed and then put into large containers. The containers were put in low-temperature storage rooms and allowed to stay there until frozen solid. This could take anywhere from one to three days. Unfortunately, this technique had two significant drawbacks. First, for some products like vegetables, freezing was too slow. The vegetable's center would start to spoil before it was frozen. Second, during freezing large ice crystals would be produced throughout the food. This lead to a break down in the food structure, and when it was thawed, the taste and appearance became undesirable.
                                                                                          Clarence Birdseye improved on this process when he developed a quick-freezing method. During the early 1900s, Birdseye worked for the U.S. government as a naturalist. Stationed in the Arctic, he had the opportunity to see how native Americans preserved their food during the winter. They used a combination of ice, low temperatures, and wind to instantly and thoroughly freeze fish. When this fish was thawed, it looked and tasted as good as if it were fresh. Birdseye returned from the Arctic and adapted this technology for commercial use. By using his method, Birdseye was able to reduce the time it took to freeze food from three days to a few minutes. He perfected the method and in 1924 began the Birdseye Seafoods company.
                                                                                          The product was a success and he turned his attention to methods for freezing different types of foods. In 1930, after years of development, he patented a flash-freezing system that packed meat, fish or vegetables in waxed-cardboard containers. He helped get these products in the grocery stores by codeveloping refrigerated grocery display cases in 1934. Since freezers were not widely available to consumers, this product did not succeed immediately. However, in 1945 airlines began to serve frozen meals. In the early 1950s freezer technology had advanced to the point that people could afford to have them in their houses. This led to the introduction of TV dinners in 1954. Since this time, they have been a convenient alternative to homemade meals."

                                                                                          As you will hopefully have learned, the technology for freezing turkeys with a method that rendered them edible after thawing was not developed until 1930, but the storage methods for storing them in supermarkets and the storage methods for freezers in the home came much later.

                                                                                          Please don't misunderstand. I am NOT saying that Laura Ingolls Wilder is a bad writer! Not at all! But what I am saying is that for whatever reason, this portion of her tale is a gross misrepresentation of fact.

                                                                                          Having some experience as a writer, I can tell you that it is not uncommon in film and television writing to ...uh... "transpose" time periods to make things easier for an audience to relate to. For example, Shakespeare's plays presented in modern times with modern clothing, cars, and the whole nine yards. In my opinion, it doesn't do much for Shakespeare, and it really sucks as an educational tool, but nevertheless, it is done.

                                                                                          So the best I can say is MAYBE Laura made this time shirft herself in order to make a more complicated real life incident easier for children to understand. It's the most logical reason I can come up with, but it is a GREAT disservice to those children and adults who read her work and think that whatever fiction she paints is a factual representation of life in that time frame.

                                                                                          CULTURAL LITERACY IS CRITICAL!

                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            Ladies, are you really arguing over a 100-year-old turkey, let alone shouting about it?

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              Then you've missed my point completely.

                                                                                          2. re: Tara57

                                                                                            Looks like The Long Winter was set in DeSmet, SD around 1880 (but written 1940). My mom was born in 1919 about 60 miles away, closer to the Minnesota border.


                                                                                            The turkey was in a Christmas barrel that had been sent by train by a Minnesota pastor, but was delayed in transit by heavy snows. Shipping a turkey by rail around Christmas from Minnesota to eastern SD makes sense. I can also imagine it being well frozen if it sat in an unheated train car until the trains finally arrived in the late spring.

                                                                                            Obviously we shouldn't take books like this as primary historical sources. But I don't see anything obviously out of place.

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              all of which is completely logical, and since none of us were there, nor even alive in that day, we're hard-put to discount what was probably a very, very memorable event in the life of folks who didn't have much.

                                                                                          3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            "Cooking Alaska" (an Alaskan community cookbook) has a sidebar about freezing game in the winter, and using it until spring thaw. It talks about leaving the game (e.g. moose) in large chunks covered with skin, and sawing off pieces as needed. In the Alaska bush, food is (was) often stored in a cache, a small building on stilts to keep it out of reach of scavengers.

                                                                                            This is contemporary source, but I would wager that that kind of storage goes back the Klondike years and before. An educated Easterner might have turned up his nose at frozen meat, but I doubt if a frontiersman would have - not if that meat was his main source of food for the next several months.

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              There are accounts from Imperial Russia about markets in St Petersburg with naturally frozen piles of carcasses and, as you said, you hacked off a chunk when needed. It was picturesque until the spring thaw and things deteriorated rather quickly thereafter.

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                How good frozen meat will be depends entirely on how the meat is frozen. Clarence Birdseye, learned how to "flash freeze" from the Inuit when he was working on a research program (or whatever) in the Arctic Circle. The Inuit showed him how they used wind and the extreme cold to "flash freeze" the fish and game they caught. But it's a process that demands either an Arctic/Antarctic pre-global warming climate OR a deep freeze to keep the animal flesh in a post-thawing condition that would be acceptable. It wasn't until the 20th century that Birdseye developed a method of duplicating the process right here in the U.S. temperate zone through the use of freezers and chillers and all that jazz and introduced the world to the first grocery freezer section of frozen fish, which soon led the way to the world's first flash frozen TV dinners of oily fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn in a compartmented aluminum "tray." You had to supply your own dinner roll!

                                                                                                Which does NOT mean that the Inuit's "flash freeze" technique was not known and may very well have been part of the "native knowledge" of all people who lived in Alaska, as well as any people in any northern hemisphere country that adjoins the Arctic circle.

                                                                                                One of the problems that archaeologists and food historians share is that no body ever writes about things that are blatantly obvious to them. For example, take the term, "He wrote ... ... ..." What did he write and how did he write it? Did he use a pencil? A hammer and chisel? A typewriter? A micro-keyboard on his Blackberry? The same thing applies to cooking and recipes and methods.

                                                                                                The major problem with "frozen meat" is that if it is not flash frozen, then when thawed the meat will be pretty yucky, no matter how you cook it, because slow freezing and thawing ruptures all of the cells in the tissue and it's going to come out nearly like and probably worse than freezing today's "water injected" ham or smoked turkey breast "luncheon meats." Freezing will swell up all of the cell fluids plus the extra water that has been injected, and when you thaw it out you will have a whole lot of fluid in the package when you first open it. I DO freeze my smoked turkey sandwich slices, BUT... when I use them, but drain the package when opened and thereafter I place a couple or slices between paper towels, then run a rolling pin or a peanut butter jar or whatever over them in an effort to restore something at least similar to the pre-frozen texture.

                                                                                                My point is that we really don't know for sure about a lot of food processing done "in the wild" before modern technology and flash freezing came into use in the 20th century.

                                                                                                It was also "standard" in those days prior to refrigeration to eat all meats (wild birds, domesticated critters, any edible proteins except fish) in a rather "gamey" state accomplished by hanging them in the open. When the "aroma" was right, then the critter was dressed and WELL seasoned with cinnamon or nutmeg or mace to mask the gaminess. Cinnamon also has a preservative quality, so sometimes the flesh was rubbed well with a spice compound before hanging. But those were times when cooks taught each other to cook and there was no need for deeply instructive step by step cookbooks. If you look through the cookbooks of Careme, Escoffier, and even those offered in Larousse Gastronomique, that is how many of the recipes were presented, and if you din't know a "mother sauce" from a can of peas, you were in deep trouble!

                                                                                                In the case of the Little House tale about the frozen turkey in the missionary box, I tend to think it was purchased dressed, but unfrozen, a la Ebinezer Scrooge, and put in the bottom of the missionary box, then the extreme winter storm temperatures fortuitously overtook the train (or however it was shipped to the Wilders) and froze it before it was delivered. But even so, I still have to ask myself what kind of idiot would pack a fresh OR frozen turkey in a box of used clothing????? Ain't no way it would have been a Butterball sealed in shrink-wrap plastic!

                                                                                                One of the things I always try to keep in mind when reading history, and possibly especially food history, is that while WE may divide time into "The Edwardian Period," or "World War II era" or even "Ancient Roman cookbooks," the fact is that the food people eat flows smoothly from generation to generation, and people ALWAYS love and retain cooking techniques and word-of-mouth recipes for whatever tastes good. The food and styles of food in America today reflect the immigrants, the wars, the family traditions, and the efforts of people who greatly miss the foods of their childhood of their homeland. All of these things are reflected in the foods of America today.

                                                                                                The downside of it is that because of the computer age and mass communication, and instant streamed videos and such, It's as easy to find sushi in Istanbul, Nairobi, Mumbai, and Los Angeles as it is to find it in Tokyo! The end result of that kind of thing is that I can now order a freaking tika masala PIZZA right here in Dallas... <sigh> Personally, I would much prefer to have pizza for lunch and tika masala for dinner, but who am I to stand in the way of progress? '-)

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  I'm thinking you're not really all that familiar with just how frigging cold it gets between Minnesota and South Dakota in a normal winter, let alone an event like "the great Blizzard" or "the polar vortex"

                                                                                                  The folks shipping that long-departed bird knew how cold it would get....and had the weather been okay, it would have been **insulated** there under all the clothes...so it very likely would have been more than fresh enough to cook when it arrived, had it not been inadvertently frozen in transit.

                                                                                                  Of course it would have been dressed -- even that many years ago, they knew that an ungutted animal would decompose long before it ever got to its destination, and there's no way anybody of that era would have let a big bird like that go to waste unless it was past salvage.

                                                                                                  Given the lack of science and technology, the folks of that era couldn't have been stupid, or they wouldn't have survived in the numbers that they did. Some of it luck, but some of just not stupid.

                                                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                          I can add to this, as an Ozarker who grew up just a few dozen miles from the official landmark Laura Ingalls house, that my grandmother to this day hates cooking beef because she didn't do it growing up and does not know how, and that I grew up eating pork cooked like shoe leather because we didn't have meat thermometers and didn't want to die from trichinosis.

                                                                                          Even now if I cook pork or beef for my family there is no "medium well". And while I may be the best cook in my way, my way is not the best result.

                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            " Around the beginning of the twentieth century, it was estimated that 1 out of 6 persons specifically in the United States was infected with T. spiralis, for example."
                                                                                            The parasite was discovered in 1835, and the link between eating undercooked pork and the disease was discovered in Germany around 1860. When did the idea of cooking pork thoroughly to prevent this disease take root in 'frontier' cooking?

                                                                                            In the Kansas book (see Wiki article):
                                                                                            "The Ingalls family becomes terribly ill from a disease called at that time "fever 'n' ague" (fever with severe chills and shaking) which was later identified as malaria. Laura comments on the varied ways they believe to have acquired it, with "Ma" believing it came from eating bad Watermelon."

                                                                                            Malaria is a parasitic disease.

                                                                                            Oregon Trail ills
                                                                                            cholera, diptheria, typhus

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              I don't know about the Ingalls family specifically, but human parasitic infection is very, very common, worldwide. Transmission can occur through drinking or bathing in contaminated water, contact with domestic or wild animals (or animal food or droppings), and person-to-person contact - as well as through consuming contaminated food. More common in developing countries, yes, but there are still plenty of the buggers in the US today, including roundworms, pinworms, hookworms, naughty protozoa - esp. Giardia, scabies mites, common head and body louse, etc. The CDC's website has a ton of information

                                                                                              Also absence of symptoms does not mean no parasites! Parasites can live in the intestines for many years without causing any symptoms for some people

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                Paul, as I said, you do need to better educate yourself. Yes! Malaria *IS* a parasitic disease, BUT.... It is transmitted via MOSQUITOS. There are only two ways it can be transmitted directly from human to human:

                                                                                                1. An infectious mother MAY transmit the disease to her infant in utero or even during birth.

                                                                                                2. Blood transfusion from an infected donor. NOT a problem for the Ingolls family or any of their peers.

                                                                                                Otherwise, you got it from female mosquito bites. Malaria has been and still is a global problem. In the day of the Ingalls family, it is improbable (but NOT impossible!) that they would have known much about malaria, much less that quinine is an effective agent for reducing and controlling the symptoms of the disease, though that has been common knowledge in some parts of the world since the 17th century. Malaria is NOT a food born disease. If you can control or eliminate the mosquito population, you can stop malaria outbreaks.

                                                                                                As for thrichinosis and it's impact on "frontier families" of that era,there were two meat sources for the parasites: pigs and bears. Improper management of food waste and sanitation factors helped increase the number of infected animals, thereby increasing the risks for humans eating those critters. Cooking pork well had been known for so long that it was never questioned. What MAY have compounded the food born risk was if the cook's fuel supply was low and a cook was trying to conserve. Stewing or spit roasting a large chunk of bear or a fresh ham can take a very long time to cook through. But NO ONE served rare pork (or bear) intentionally.

                                                                                                But the settlers did do what they could to try to stay healthy and safe from disease as best they knew how. There was a saying among frontier families and pioneers who traveled or lived along streams and rivers: "DON"T drink downstream from the outhouse!" Good advice in any time frame.

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  Who needs to be better educated about the malaria and its spread? Me or Ingles' "Ma"? According to
                                                                                                  it was Mrs Scott, the kind neighbor, who thought malaria came from bad watermelons.

                                                                                                  As for avoiding drinking downstream from outhouses, that would have been easy on the Oregon trail. There weren't many outhouses along the trail. But since the trail followed rivers like the Missouri and Platte, it would been difficult to avoid water uncontaminated by the wagon train upstream from you.

                                                                                                  "Nearly one in ten who set off on the Oregon Trail did not survive. The two biggest causes of death were disease and accidents. The disease with the worst reputation was Asiatic cholera, known as the "unseen destroyer." Cholera crept silently, caused by unsanitary conditions: people camped amid garbage left by previous parties, picked up the disease, and then went about spreading it, themselves."

                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                    You're the one who equated malaria with intestinal parasites:

                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      You are reading more into my juxtaposition of quotes than I intended.

                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                        so why do you earn any more of a free pass for juxtaposition than you allow anyone else?

                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                          who would have guessed Little House on the Prairie could be such a volatile subject. anyone remember the episode when the rats got into the cornmeal and every one in town was dying of the plague?

                                                                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                            Guess I'm going to have to order some of these from the library, for some reason the fad passed me by at the time.

                                                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                              For me, this discussion is a great illustration of the critical importance of "cultural literacy." Surely we have all met people who have a very tenuous grip on any 'history" that happened before they were born. When I was in my thirties a girlfriend's 14 year old son came home from school and asked her, wide eyed, if "they had electric lights when you were a kid." When he put down his backpack and went outside to shoot hoops with his pals, we rolled on the floor laughing!

                                                                                                              The problem is that that kind of cultural prejudice is not always cured through education. MANY people, ranging from scientists to bums, suffer from it. And equally as many suffer from the idea that if something is published in book form -- fiction or not -- it MUST be fact!

                                                                                                              And that's what I see happening here with some contributors. They seem to misunderstand that "Little House On The Prairie" portrays a time when medical and scientific knowledge had not reached our present day understanding, yet people were seriously trying to figure out the world around them and avoid illness and death as best they could.

                                                                                                              It turns out that Mrs. Scott, the kindly neighbor, wasn't too far off track because many diseases thrived due to unsanitary conditions, even though malaria is not one of them. But waste from watermelons would certainly have contributed to the breeding ground for many many many pathogens! So Mrs. Scott did at least have have a good grasp of cause and effect.

                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                    Food in the missionary barrel does not make sense. Clothes, yes:
                                                                                                    "Ida's clothes came out of a missionary barrel, but Ida was so sweet and merry that she looked perfectly dear in anything"
                                                                                                    Little Town on the Prairie

                                                                                            2. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                              Second the recommendation!!! They are extraordinary writers and thinkers.

                                                                                              Thanks for reminding people about this gimlet-eyed examination of food writers and 'celebrity' cooks in the US. It is well worth the time to find a copy and read it.

                                                                                              And anyone who wishes to understand southern/low country cooking and food culture must have _A Carolina Rice Kitchen_ by Karen Hess. No other book comes anywhere close to her scholarship and research. And now, we can order and cook the rice she discusses, something nearly impossible at the time she wrote. She would be very happy to know this has happened, in part because of her writing.

                                                                                              1. re: kariin

                                                                                                Could not agree more. In fact of all of their books The Carolina Rice Kitchen is probably my favorite.

                                                                                        3. Here's an article (with photos) on Karen Hess from Edible Manhattan last summer.


                                                                                            1. Feeding America

                                                                                              online source of early American cookbooks.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                Bookmarking that page reminded me of this one:


                                                                                                Scads of old online cookery. Scads.

                                                                                              2. I have seen long ago (before the internets) some recipes for cooking whole animals. I would love help finding so if you have an idea. I know they are out there I just cant find them.

                                                                                                26 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                                    I'm tired of doing whole pigs. But I love the video. Thanks

                                                                                                    1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                      Haha! Now there's a quotable quote :-)

                                                                                                      1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                        Does all of the Bovinova methodology for cooking whole animals have to be done with the open-air roasted, as on a spit or on a grill over fire or embers method? In other words, are traditional "clam Bake" and/or traditional Hawaiian imu cooking methods also allowed? Just curios!

                                                                                                        Oh, and if an occasion rises where you want a roast suckling pig's "face" to be gorgeous for presentation, what I used to do when oven-roasting such a critter for Christmas dinner was to tuck large green marbles (the kind kids play with) into the eye sockets before presentation. And it's also critical to place a large ball of crushed aluminum a bit larger than an apple in the pig's mouth BEFORE roasting or you'll never be able to pry it's jaws open enough to add it after the critter is cooked!

                                                                                                        .... just in case anybody needs to know... '-)

                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                          I've also seen a baby pineapple used, it's very impressive. I once had to drive a suckling pig in a little wooden coffin to a customer, at least I got that one tip out of it.

                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                            The name and purpose have been changed. The name is now Bovinoche. We want to cook lots of different things in different ways.

                                                                                                            I am scared to talk much about it on here as the mods mistake my research for promotion.

                                                                                                            But I collect old recipes and love showing people that the old ways still tasted good.

                                                                                                            1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                              Not 100% accurate. The '"old ways" often tasted MUCH better...! on this subject, Arby's comes bursting to mind! '-)

                                                                                                      2. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                        JB BANNISTER how did the whole swordfish turn out?

                                                                                                        1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                          I'm doing the swordfish in May 16. I am adding a alligator whole on Saturday.

                                                                                                          1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                            Sounds awesome, I assume you are familiar with the "china box" cooker for whole animals. Whole alligator would probably be really nice in a China box

                                                                                                            1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                              I'm still just trying to figure out how to wrangle an invite to one of JB's extravaganzas.

                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                Invite? I'm pretty sure you can get into Bovinova by just buying a ticket. I just can't seem to manage to be in the right place at the right time.

                                                                                                                1. re: Wahooty

                                                                                                                  didn't realize that it was a public event with ticket sales.

                                                                                                                  Nowhere near my 'hood, though.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    Road trip! Your 'hood can be wherever you want it to be. ;)

                                                                                                                1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                                  So JB, are you cooking whole gator in the China box? I don't know much about harvesting gator meat even though there are plenty around here. My general understanding is that the good meat is only in the tail. Is there more to eat in the rest of the beast?

                                                                                                                  1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                    I have eaten all the parts of the gator. I still think just frying the nuggets. I have seen this done before but it will be my first time. BTW the fat is HORRIBLE. It has to be really trimmed.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                                      The fat is akin to turtle fat..stinks. Get rid of all of it as soon as you can. Like shooting a deer through the liver. Awful odor.

                                                                                                                      1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                                        Okay JB, that's what I was getting at - geez they are stinky son of guns. I guess that's to be expected - you are what you eat, and gators prefer rotten food. I was wondering how you were going to cook a whole one, given the "stink" factor. As I said, I'm no expert but it is my understanding that only the tail is typically used because of this stink issue. I'm curious to know how this turns out!

                                                                                                                          1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                                            Whole gator skinned. The only skin will be the front of the head (where skin turns to bones) and the tips of the claws. I will probably inject the tail with a seasoning and rub it down with cajun spices. I fully intend to have it cooked to a temp of well done and will do my best to not have it taste like ass (which is what it normally taste like.)

                                                                                                                            1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                                              I've never done (butchered) the skull myself but what you describe sounds like what was being touted as cheeks several years ago. But the tail is the good stuff. it fries up very well. Our usual method is a gator sauce piquant. I have never injected tail meat.

                                                                                                                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                                                I got Cheeks off one last year that were the size of a volleyball.

                                                                                                                              2. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                                                yeahhh....unfortunately the fun of saying you've eaten alligator far exceeds the fun of actually eating it.

                                                                                                                                When we lived in France, people were fascinated to hear we'd eaten gator and rattlesnake and lived to tell about it.

                                                                                                                                Comme poulet....like chicken.

                                                                                                                                1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                                                                                                  <will do my best to not have it taste like ass (which is what it normally taste like.)>

                                                                                                                                  I'm sure your guests will appreciate your efforts . . . LOL. I'm glad you said it, not me. But honestly, that's what I was thinking. The smell of fresh caught gator alone is enough to make me want to heave. First big clue IMHO is that most people only eat the tail and that's usually prepared around here as fried chunks or ground in sauce piquant.

                                                                                                                                  Bear in mind that folks around here are known to eat river catfish and Jack Crevalle, so they're not what I would call picky eaters. ;-)

                                                                                                              2. what do you mean by 'historical"?

                                                                                                                I enjoy reading recipes, etc from the Medieval and Renaissance time.

                                                                                                                1. On PBS
                                                                                                                  Pride and Prejudice: Having Ball
                                                                                                                  includes recreating foods featured at an 1814 ball.