Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quakers: Cooking ... and boozing

I came across a most delightful cookbook, called Clayton's Quaker Cookbook: Being a Practical Treatise on the Culinary Art adapted to the Taste and Want of All Classes, by H.J. Clayton, published in 1883 by the San Francisco Women's Cooperative.

 In his introduction, H.J. Clayton puts a moral--and democratic-- spin on his culinary enterprise: 

"While carefully catering to the varied tastes of the mass, everything of an unhealthful, deleterious or even doubtful character has been carefully excluded; and all directions are given in the plainest style, so as to be readily understood, and fully comprehended, by all classes of citizens."

Clayton also uses the introduction to explain his entrance into a field so unlikely as cooking. Being of a delicate constitution, instead of  "rugged work" in the fields on the family farm, he was left in the kitchen, "to assist his mother in the culinary labors of the household."

In case we are in doubt, he defines cooking as "the art of dressing, compounding and preparing food by the aid of heat."

His recipes are heavily oriented to meat and fish, and given the ubiquity of butter to Clayton's cooking regime, vegans would starve. In fact, Clayton can scarcely imagine a world without butter.

"With the exception of bread ... there  is, perhaps, no article of food  more universally used by mankind than butter." 

For the best butter, an old style spring house is "essentially requisite" for "Who that has ever visited one of these clean, cool and inviting appendages of a well-conducted farm and a well- ordered household, at some old farm of the olden time, does not recall it in the mind's eye as vividly as did the poet Woodworth when he penned that undying poem of ancient home life, "The Old Oaken Bucket that Hung in the Well."

But much butter in 1883 was  of inferior quality, mostly due to the "ignorance" and "slovenliness"  of churners. Quakers, exemplars of the buttermaking art, could offer guidance in the art of producing a superior product, for they, as he put it, finding cleanliness close to Godliness,  kept all their utensils "scrupulously clean" and never added too much salt to their cream.

The cookbook's many recipes include Calf's-Head and Ox-Tail soup, "Clayton's Mode of Cooking Canvas-back Ducks" and "Boiled pig's-feet and Hocks,"  as well as Terrapin soup,  Boiled celery and Boiled eggs.  "Eggs Ought Never to be Poached," declares one entry, for the process renders them "tasteless and also unhealthy ... Indigestible, and of course, unwholesome." Desserts include "A Nice Cake" and "Apple snow."

Some things never change, and then as now, the unhealthy state of food comes  under fire:

"In these degenerate days of wholesale adulteration of almost every article of food and drink," Clayton declares, "it is eminently just and proper that the public should be advised where the genuine is to be procured."

The book also offers household hints. Under "Roaches, Flies and Ants--How to Destroy," Clayton advises mixing powdered borax with "Persian Insect Powder" and using a turkey or goose quill to fling the poison about the kitchen. 

Clayton's work challenges the idea that 19th century Quakers kept far away from alcohol.  His recipe for Egg Nog includes "two pints cognac brandy or Santa Cruz rum." His "Omelet for Dessert," made with eggs, "a teacup of rich milk or cream" a tablespoon of "fine white sugar" and "a very little salt," ends with instructions to pour "a wine glass of good California brandy" over the omelet "and set on fire."  If  testing the quality of coffee required  the thinnest china or "delf-ware cup by which the lips are brought close together,"  so for wine "the thinnest quality of glass is for the same reason requisite."  Lest  we think this penchant for alcohol represents Clayton's fall from the faith, we  have his recipe for "Quaker Cake," which includes, along with butter, flour, ginger, eggs and "saleratus" --baking soda--  "a half cup cider or any spirit."


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