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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homely, but forgetful...

When I was in India I liked to read the matrimonials.  “Homely girl with PhD in Sanskrit.”  “Homely” does not mean ugly, as it does here, but rather a woman who can keep a nice home, which includes the cooking arts.  This seems to be and has been a standard for women worldwide, and at one time in the U.S. a woman’s reputation was made or broken by her abilities in the kitchen.  To aid a woman’s memory, recipes were written in rhymes, common in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth.

Rhyming Recipes could be written in any verse form, but couplets seem to have been the most popular.  A classic one for salad dressing is by Sydney Smith, an English writer and Anglican clergyman who was also a member of the Bluestockings:

Two boiled potatoes strained through a kitchen sieve,
Softness and smoothness to the salad give;
Of mordant mustard take a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites too soon!
Yet deem it not, thou man of taste, a fault
To add a double quantity of salt.
Four times the spoon with oil of Lucca crown,
And twice wine vinegar procured from town;
True taste it requires it and your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two well-boiled eggs.
Let onion’s atoms lurk within the bowl
And, scarce suspected, animate the whole.
And lastly in the flavoured compound toss
A magic spoonful of anchovy sauce.
Oh, great and glorious!
Oh herbaceous met!
‘Twould tempt the dying Anchorite to eat.
Back to the world he’d turn his weary soul
And plunge his fingertips in the salad bowl.

The Nebraska State Historical Society offers one from 1903 for bread. 

A book was published in Boston by Hattie A. Burr around 1886, The Woman Suffrage Cook Book (a second edition – 1890 - copy is available online for $750).  It included recipes from many famous suffragettes, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton who offered this breakfast dish :

Cut smoothly from a wheaten loaf
Ten slices, good and true,
And brown them nicely, o'er the coals,
As you for toast would do.

Prepare a pint of thickened milk,
Some cod-fish shredded small;
And have on hand six hard-boiled eggs,
Just right to slice withal.

Moisten two pieces of the bread,
And lay them in a dish,
Upon them slice a hard-boiled egg,
Then scatter o'er with fish.

And for a seasoning you will need
Of pepper just one shake,
Then spread above the milky juice,
And this one layer make.

And thus, five times, bread, fish and egg,
Or bread and egg and fish,
Then place one egg upon the top,
To crown this breakfast dish.

Here is a modern one that I made up for soup.  It was my favorite recipe when I was working full-time, going to school, and had a busy life:

Choose a flavor and open the can.
Then carefully pour it into a pan.
Place on stove and turn on the heat.
Warm until it’s ready to eat.
Ladle into bowls, serve with crackers.
Share it with some other slackers.


1 comment:

  1. Utterly delightful to come upon this! Your soup rhyme made me chuckle...
    I'Il be back!