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another era's cookery

Since I love both books—not just reading, the actual physical books too—and cooking, it's only natural that I should be drawn to cookbooks. Obvious, right? Of course, I don't like just any cookbooks. No Rachel Ray quick-and-easy generic American food for me; give me the scientific, the ethnic, or the antique. Especially the antique. Not even to cook from necessarily, but to read and marvel at the recipes of yore. I only wish the ones I have went back further, but cooking in the 70s was plenty different enough to be of interest to a historian of culinary trends.

This evening I was perusing The Farmhouse Cookbook, by Yvonne Young Tarr, which was published in 1973. It's a really interesting mix of old-time recipes, alot of them of Pennsylvania Dutch extraction, with trendy modern dishes. Soy sauce is an ingredient in at least one recipe, for example, and glazed ham with pineapple makes an appearance. On the other hand, if you had access to 100 lbs of hams you could also follow the recipe for Farm-Cured Ham on page 140 and, "[l]ike the country folk of the past, ... enjoy this time-ripened delight." Time-ripened here refers both to the recipe and the product itself; I only wish I had room to store that much ham, carefully wrapped in brown paper and muslin bags, on the premises. Ditto the bacon, which also calls for 100 lbs of meat.

I was also fascinated by the recipe for Calf's Head Soup, which I read to Leah. Even though she joined me yesterday in vigorously defending, in principal if not in practice, the use of "mechanically separated meat"—doesn't it seem right to use all possible parts of the animal?—she thought the line could be drawn at brains. In her defense she's never been a fan of brains, but I don't think it's entirely a necessary conclusion that she would resist eating them when they were cooked unrecognizably into a soup. The point is moot, however, because I could no more easily get my hands on a calf's head than I could pig meat in three-digit weights. Although I bet if I asked around at the farmers market...

(David Walbert at Walbert's Compendium writes more knowledgeably than I'll ever manage on the topic of old recipes, and I recommend you check out his blog if you're at all interested in the subject.)

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