Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kitchen Wisdom

Although I have a computer, a Kindle, 
and more televisions than I care to count,
I still enjoy looking through old books 
during the long nights of a wintery January.

Reading old cookbooks can be an enlightening experience.
I'm not speaking of slick, commercial recipe collections,
which often restrict themselves
 to a rather prosaic accounting of ingredients and methods.
I'm speaking of cookbooks self-published by small community groups.
These are the ones that contain glimpses into times 
that had different social mores and  culinary tastes.
These are the books that offer household advice and local custom
along with their recipes.

I learned a few things from the 1970s cookbook Virginia Hospitality.
For example, some favorite colonial recipes included fricasseed pig ears, 
which required the ears to be simmered in stock 
and then served in a white sauce; 
And there was also some delight called pigs pettitoes. 
There are indeed pig toes, as confirmed by Google images.
And I didn't even know pigs had toes.
Regardless, I don't care to visualize a large bowl 
heaped with any animal's toes on my dinner table.
But it certainly demonstrates how frugal 
and less wasteful previous American generations were.

persimmon photo courtesy of

Other points of interest gleaned from Virginia Hospitality:
bear meat is succulent but may cause violent or erotic dreams; 
persimmons are a perfect complement to possum meat;
buffalo still roamed in the valleys of the Virginia Piedmont
during the colonial period.

And this trick for preserving eggs:
coat them in mutton suet and pack them in bran,
small end pointing down.

All fascinating and all a little strange to the modern reader.
But the strangest has to be this little tidbit from the appetizers section:
"A petrified rat was found sealed in the wall. 
This may have been intentionally placed there to scare off witches,
according to an old British custom."

At least it wasn't an appetizer.
Join me tomorrow when I look at some unusual advice.

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