25 April 2009

Home Cook

Home Cook by Mrs. Ella Myers was published in 1880. Not just a cookbook, it also offered sections on medicine and farming.

Today’s cookbooks offer up a wealth of information on the recipe. My favorite is the written instruction to use, “freshly ground pepper,” as though sprinkling on a pre-ground pepper would drastically alter the dish! In one cookbook, I actually saw a specific type of pepper listed -- Tellicherry.

There is an amusing anecdote told by Miss Eudora Welty about her mother. Her mother was the cook of the household, but Welty once tried cooking from her mother’s recipes. Like many of the recipes in Home Cook, she found little instruction on what one should actually do with the ingredients. When Miss Eudora complained of this lack of clarity, Mrs. Welty explained that any cook worth their salt could look at a list of ingredients and know how to assemble them into the proper dish. Needless to say, Miss Eudora remained a writer and not a cook.

While most of the recipes in these old cookbooks seem hard to follow. I am especially fond of theses relics because there are often, tucked in the pages, dishes that are boldly modern. Take a few of these old combinations, add some detailed instruction and a fashionable ingredient or two and you would have a daring cookbook.

Oyster Potato Balls

This is a very palatable dish for suppers, and its production being so very simple, it only requires to be pointed out to become popular.
Beard a dozen (more or less, according to the number you provide for) small plump oysters, cover them singly with the plain mashed potato paste, roll them with flour, or beaten-up egg and bread-crumbs, into balls, and fry them in butter or drippings.
Put into each ball when you make it up a teaspoonful of the oyster liquor.

I can see this recipe turning up in any cookbook. Of course it would have chipotle infused potatoes or chopped cilantro with a lovely chutney on the side. Still, I'm looking forward to some oyster balls real soon.

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