600 years of recipes – rare books exhibit opens tuesday!

invitation gingerAll my readers are warmly invited to the opening of “Recipe: The Kitchen and Laboratory in the West, 1400-2000,” an exhibition of rare books and ephemera in the collections of the UO Special Collections and University Archives in Knight Library on the U of O campus.

The opening will take place on April 22 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. downstairs in the Browsing Room of Knight Library.  We’ll take tours up to Special Collections at 4:00 and 4:30.  There will be short presentations by Vera’s students in the Honors College, who helped craft the labels for the early part of the exhibit, a presentation by Rebecca Childers’ letterpress students, who made us an accompanying letterpress booklet inspired by botanical illustrations with botanical ink, and me, discussing the curating of the exhibit.  This event is free and open to the public.

The images below are a teaser: one shows the nutritional wheel for bread, bread, bread, and bread, and the other is a hand-colored illustration of wood sorrel, a plant still being served on wildcrafting menus– you might find it in town right now!

The exhibit covers 600 years of documenting the practice of experimentation — ranging from extraordinary illustrated works cataloging botanical materials for medicines to photographed cakes tracking the effect of baking soda for home economists.  Prof. Vera Keller (Honors College) and I have been working on this for most of the year, and we’ve found some really amazing stuff buried in the archives. You will see a stove invented by Benjamin Franklin and stoves used in queer communes in Southern Oregon, not to mention incredibly rare volumes featuring some of the most beautiful plant images I’ve ever seen; soursop seeds; a jerboa; vegan punk johnnycakes; the infamous blue blazer cocktail; a nude lady; and the bakery that put Eugene on the map with its sanitation practices!

We’re honored to have the sponsorship of Party Downtown, who will help us celebrate this history with recipes inspired by some of the cookbooks, and Brew Dr. Kombucha, serving Just Ginger kombucha, a brew that already has a strong relationship to the SCUA with proceeds going to the Ken Kesey collection.

Can’t make it to the opening?  The exhibit will be open to the public and free of charge during SCUA’s opening hours through June.

Images are mine, taken from two works in the exhibit: Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (London: J. Haddon, 1815), RB 580.1 C899, and Raymond Hertwig, “Bleached White Flour Wholesome,” Vitality Demands Energy: 109 Smart New Ways to Serve Bread (n.p.: General Mills Corp., 1934), Bernice Redington Papers, AX92.3.



the exchange of two baked goods, a morality tale

On the day I baked M. F. K. Fisher’s War Cake (below) to fortify my culinary literature students working on their final papers, a former student stopped by my office to give me a lovely loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.  Better to receive than give, in this case! I turned it in to a simple bread pudding with cream and walnuts (above).

Fisher’s War Cake is a coffee cake-style sweet loaf with raisins cut into pieces to resemble currants.  She adapted it slightly from popular World War I ration-friendly cakes that she had eaten in her childhood.  I found one almost identical recipe in Amelia Doddridge’s propagandistic cookbook, Liberty Recipes (1918).  The name of the cake in that book — Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake — kinda gives you the idea of the studied joylessness with which Doddridge crafts her recipes.  The first step, boiling shortening and sugar together with the raisins and spices, softens the fruit.

Even renamed the slightly less bleak War Cake, this is not Fisher’s finest moment.  Without any binding agent, the cake crumbled to bits when I tried to cut it.  Luckily, I teach kids forced to eat dorm food, so they didn’t mind eating the crumbs.  I substituted currants for the raisins and used local whole wheat flour for a bit more flavor, but held off as hard as I could and didn’t add nuts or butter, even though I was sorely tempted.  And I felt pretty bad that the class before mine had a giant box of Safeway donuts for their last week treat.  War, huh, yeah.

What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

But back to that raisin loaf.  My plan was to serve the pudding with some homemade crème fraiche and brandied apricots, but I realized I must have drunk myself into forgetful oblivion with the last of the apricots when I was on that bender a few weeks ago.  The crème fraiche stubbornly refused to set up during the day, too, so we ate the pudding with slightly sour cream and some rather deliciously fizzy and/or possibly poisonous apricot-brandied cherries.

The crème fraiche, by the way, had set up beautifully by the time I woke up this morning, and it was amazing with leftovers.  I strongly recommend making your own.

victorian holiday punches

Though most of my research last summer in London involved dirty books, I couldn’t help but notice a charming little column in the threepenny weekly newspaper Society.  Amid almost incomprehensible snippets joking about long lost references to British social butterflies, spicy lawsuits, perfidious massage parlours, correspondence about the discipline of schoolgirls, and ads for liver pills, I found some delightful holiday punch recipes from December 31, 1898.

The “newest things” of the late Victorian “convivial bowl” will amuse and delight your chums, encouraging one and all to think of the good olde days.  Make these at your own risk, American puritans — they aren’t foolin’ with the alcohol or raw eggs.  But what’s a Victorian party without a whiff of danger?

Hotpot seems like an excellent recipe for all you urban chicken keepers and home brewers.  Watch out for that nutmeg, though.  A Famous Christmas Punch makes my mouth water, but even *I* don’t have two spare bottles of soused raspberries and strawberries lying around.  I can’t imagine wasting the “best champagne” we recently tasted at Marché Provisions for Prince of Wales Punch, frankly. And as for the eggnogs, the White House eggnog is similar but less creamy than Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s famous egg nog , but the Kentucky eggnog, with its eggwhite float, will probably make its modern partakers dream less of paradise than salmonella.

But above all, just remember: “in the concoction of these ambrosial compounds strict attention must be paid to the prescribed proportions.” This seems particularly bad advice to me, especially when malnourished children are toasting with the Hotpot, but who am I to be a Scrooge?

Reprinted below are the recipes exactly as they appear in the clipping, for your cutting and pasting pleasure.

Navy Punch

Take one quart Jamaica rum, one quart American champagne, the juice of eight lemons, the rinds of four, one and one-half pounds sugar, one quart hot tea, made from eight teaspoonfuls of tea.  Upon the lemon rinds and sugar pour the tea and allow the mixture to stand half an hour, stirring it often.  Then add the lemon juice and rum.  Place in the punch bowl, and when iced and ready to serve add the champagne.


Take one quart of old ale (not lager beer), five well-beaten, new laid eggs; one small teaspoonful of ground ginger, one-fourth of a nutmeg, grated, one-fourth of a pound of sugar, half a pint of Old Tom gin.  First, put the ale in a saucepan and heat until hot, but do not let boil; second, beat together the eggs, sugar, and spices; third, pour the hot ale into the mixture, stirring all the time; fourth, add the gin; fifth, put the concoction on the fire again, in the saucepan, heat until hot (be sure not to let it boil), and serve hot, in tumblers.

A Famous Christmas Punch

Take one bottle of raspberries and one bottle of strawberries, each in liqueur, one bottle of cherries, brandied, six bottles of Saint Julien claret, three bottles of good rum, three dozen oranges, one dozen lemons, one pound of sugar, four quart syphons of seltzer.  Cut two oranges and one lemon into small slices or cubes and extract the juice of the remainder.  These slices are to float in the bowl with the cherries, strawberries, and raspberries.  The liqueur (Maraschino or Curaçao) and brandy of the berries and cherries give tone to and help sweeten the beverage.

Prince of Wales Punch

Take one bottle best champagne, one bottle Burgundy, one bottle San Cruz rum, ten lemons, two oranges, a pound and a half of sugar.  Squeeze the oranges and lemons into the bowl, add the sugar and let the mixture stand thirty-six hours, stirring often.  Then pour in the liquor and let the whole mixture stand twenty-four hours.  Ice and serve in the usual way.

White House Eggnog

Take eight eggs, two quarts of milk, eight tablespoonfuls of sugar, eight wine glasses of brandy, and three wine glasses of rum.  Mix as follows: Beat the yolks of the eggs and the sugar together, and then pour in slowly the liquor.  To this add one-third of the beaten whites of the eggs, next add the milk, and then the remainder of the beaten whites.

A “Half-Dozen” Punch

For a small party the number above mentioned here is a delicious punch: —

Take one pint of claret, one glass of rum, one whisky glass of whisky, one petit verre Benedictine, three lemons, one pint of seltzer (possibly a quart), half a cup of sugar, a few brandied cherries, or a brandied peach, coarsely chopped.  Serve ice cold.

With the rum and whisky omitted this is a very nice light punch.  Lettuce sandwiches are suitable to serve with it.

Kentucky Eggnog

Here is an eggnog that will make its partakers dream of paradise.  Ingredients: Two dozen eggs, two quarts of rich milk, one quart of brandy, half a pint of Jamaica rum, a pound and a half of sugar.  Mix as follows: Separate the yolks of the eggs from the whites, add one pound of sugar to the whites, and beat until stiff enough to float.  Add balance of sugar to the yolks and beat thoroughly.  Into a large bowl throw the Jamaica rum, the brandy and the milk, and stir in the beaten yolks, float the beaten whites on top, and serve with a little nutmeg grated over each glass, or not, as preferred.  Will serve twenty people.