Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cold potato and unfermented wheat cake

I... I can't... why can't I... I... I can't... Why can't I... I... I... ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream.

THE YOUNG-HOUSE-KEEPER, OR THOUGHTS ON FOOD AND COOKERY. BY WM. A. ALCOTT, Author of the Young Husband, Young Wife, Young Woman's Guide, House I Live in, &c. &c. [1846]. All right. Okay. This guy has some pretty good ideas. For instance, one should not consume one's body weight in meat every day, and vegetables and whole grains are good. After that, things get a little... different.

*All food must be eaten at room temperature.
Food should not be of a high temperature. I will not say, indeed, that it should be as cold as ice; but it should be cool...Above 60 or 70°, they are, as a general rule, more or less injurious; and they would probably be better at a much lower temperature still... What, then, must be the effect of hot tea, hot coffee, hot soups, hot bread, &c.
*No condiments. Including salt.
*No oils or fats.
*Only water shall be drunk, and it must not be drunk during your meal.
*Bread must be aged at least 24 hours, preferably a few days to let it dry out, as fresh bread is heating and injurious to the system.
*Only one food item must be eaten in a meal. At most, if you must, you can eat two kinds of things.
*Vast pots of gruel or potatoes must be made every week or two weeks, so as you can eat them without having to wait hours for them to cool down to room temperature.
*No meat
*Only white fruits and vegetables

Let this be a sample:
There is a great variety of forms of cookery, into which Indian meal [cornmeal], notwithstanding its supposed vulgarity, sometimes enters, but I forbear to mention them here. The very name of pancakes or fritters, whether with or without apples or other fruits, and whether with or without oysters, is enough, almost, to give one an attack of dyspepsia; and fried hasty pudding is still worse. There is no special, or at least serious, evil in warming over a mass of cold hasty pudding; but when we add the frying process, it is too much; and if I ever wish for sumptuary laws at all, it is when I think of that parent of a thousand evils, fried hasty pudding.

Parent of a thousand evils. Wow. Okay! Well. I chose to make potatoes and unfermented wheat cake.

IMG_2888.jpg picture by seshet27

Potatoes
To the pure appetite, there is a richness of the potatoe roasted in hot embers, for which we look in vain elsewhere. Perhaps it is owing to the fact, that all its properties are preserved unimpaired; whereas, in boiling, if none of its properties are actually lost, some of them may be impaired...This method is also preferable for those who eat the skins. The latter I do not recommend; but like the skins of apples, as well as many other vegetables, if not too much changed by cookery, and if well masticated, the skins cannot be particularly objectionable...It is commonly said that a potatoe is most agreeable immediately after it is [cooked]; and to those who cannot eat anything which is not hot enough to endanger their mouths, it may be so. But it is more wholesome and scarcely less mealy a short time after boiling, when it has had time to cool a little; and to an unperverted taste and good appetite, quite as agreeable. It is even pleasant and wholesome for twenty-four hours or more after boiling, to those who are accustomed to its use.

Unfermented Cakes
My opinion is, that the best bread in the world is that which is made of recently and coarsely ground wheat meal, mixed with water, and baked in thin cakes, not unlike the unfermented cakes so common in many parts of the east, and so much used by the ancient Israelites. My preference for unleavened bread arises, in part, from the consideration that leaven is a foreign and partially decayed substance, which it were better to avoid unless some essential point is to be gained by its use.

Verdict:

Cold potato: As the recipe is written it is okay, but with the simple addition of butter, overpriced boutique seasoning, salt, and heat, it was great!

IMG_2890.jpg picture by seshet27

Unfermented wheat cake: Whole wheat flour... plus water. Yeah. The absence of leavening and oil made the inside gummy. Much like library paste. In fact, now that I think on it, precisely like library paste. The first bite balled up in my mouth like rubbery mud. I felt sorry for all the pioneers that trekked across the plains that had to live on this stuff.

However, with the simple addition of a solid quarter inch of butter and syrup, it was fine!
IMG_2889.jpg picture by seshet27

I don't know why those pioneers were so whiny.

I will only add a few thoughts on shell fish. How strange it is that people in a civilized community will perpetuate, by their example, such an uncivilized--I was going to say disgusting--practice as that of eating, on all occasions when they can get them, oysters, clams, lobsters, &c. We are disgusted with the Arab and the South Sea Islander for eating locusts and snails; yet, in what respect is eating whole oysters or clams a whit more decent?

Rejected:
This last is the state in which we ought to eat eggs, if we eat them at all. Some suppose they are best raw; but this is going to the other extreme. They should be boiled just long enough to coagulate slightly part of the white.


Next time: The Hyde to William A. Alcott's Jekyll. Sir Kenelm Digby, Knight.

6 comments:

Bethany said...

Wow.
This guy needs to go hang out with that chick who made food for the convalescent.
Please tell me you went out for burgers after you ate this.

Jana said...

They could go out for... water! We did not go out for burgers, but there was coconut ice cream in the freezer.

Amber said...

The library-paste promoter is a distant relative of "Little Women" author Louisa May Alcott.

Jana said...

Hey, you're right! Thanks, Amber. Looks like they were cousins. I hope he wasn't in charge of organizing family potlucks. That would be most unfortunate.

Nonna Beach said...

Your comments in every post crack me up !LOL

I stand in awe that you turned this possible disaster into something O.k./ more palatable with just a big drizzle of sweet and a big glop of butter...Well done ! I just love this blog...

Jana said...

Aw, thanks N.B.! You make me blush.