01 April 2014

Books and My Food

Books and My Food.  Is there a title that more accurately describes my life?  This little gem from 1906 was compiled by Elisabeth Luther Cary and Annie M. Jones.  The premise is simple: every day of the year is marked with a quotation from a book and a recipe.  The Misses Cary and Jones were greatly enamored of the English novel and drew most of their quotes from them.  There is Shakespeare and Thackeray.  Some Charles'  Lamb and Dickens.  And they are especially fond of Charlotte Bronté. 

As with most very early cookbooks from the 20th century, there is little direction for cooking, so you are kind of on your own.  Still, it is a cute mix of the culinary and the literary in one place.  Not to mention you have food and literature for every day of the year.

If you were following the cookbook who you be reading today?  A selection from William Makepeace Thackeray's "The Ballad of Bouillabaisse."   Today's meal, it would follow, will be a fine bouillabaisse.  Well, it would be a fine fish stew.  The author's feel that there is really no reason to put all that extraneous stuff Thackeray mentions in the poem. 

April 1st

This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is --
  A sort of soup or broth, or brew,
Or hotch-potch of all sorts of fishes,
  That Greenwich never could outdo:
Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffron,
  Soles, onions, garlic, roach and dace:
All these you'll eat at Terré's tavern
  In that one dish of bouillabaisse.

The famous bouillabaisse is indeed as Thackeray describes it, a sort of fish chowder, but it is seldom contains all the ingredients he mentions.  It may be made with four pounds of fresh cod, two onions, a clove of garlic, one peppercorn, two stalks of celery, a quart of white potatoes cut in small pieces, salt, pepper, and a quarter of a pound of salt pork, cut in slices. Put all the ingredients together in a granite kettle and stew slowly in water enough to cover them for three to four hours. Just before serving add 1 quart of hot milk.

I wonder what cod would look like after being cooked for four hours?  After four hours that cod and potatoes would probably be cooked down to a soup, more of a broth or slurry than a stew one might imagine.  It might be more productive to read the entire Thackeray poem and seek out a different bouillabaisse recipe.  Or simply cook the salt pork for and hour or two and add the veggies and fish during the last half hour of cooking.  You are more inclined to have a fish stew that way.

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