Saturday, August 19, 2017

Six Cups of Coffee (1887)

Six Cups of Coffee: Prepared for the Public Palate by the Best Authorities on Coffee Making

When I went to the Project Gutenberg website and searched for more Catherine Owen, it offered this up to me. Listed as being by Marion Harland, Maria Parloa, Helen Campbell, Catherine Owen, Mary J. Lincoln, Juliet Corson and Hester M. Poole, it immediately made me go "Hmmmmm...". Most of those names are VERY recognizable to me as cooking experts of the day.

Initially I assumed that this was made up of sections from books by each of them, the coffee-making portions being excerpted for this. I haven't checked, and I may be wrong.

The publisher is listed as Good Housekeeping Press, Clark W. Bryan & Co., Springfield, Mass. A trip to Wikipedia tells me that Good Housekeeping magazine was founded in 1885 by one Clark W. Bryan. So far, so good. Among the multitudes of ads at the end of the book (which remind me that the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is still in the future -- quackery abounds!) I find an advertisement for the magazine itself, which includes a long list of contributors to its pages. Included in that are the seven ladies whose work was brought together for this book.

To the book itself! It's not very long and I suspect this was a stapled booklet. The preface, written by someone at Good Housekeeping explains that there is a lot of bad coffee out there, and given how much of it America drinks, it really should be the best. It also says of the "six cups of coffee", "They are not made from old grounds re-heated for the occasion, but are as fresh as the intelligence and the experience which have produced them." I guess that told me!

While this booklet may have really been too much information for anyone who wanted to make a simple pot of coffee, it is very interesting in how it illustrates the ways the different authors went about it. Maria Parloa probably does the best overall summary. Beginning with a plug for Guatemalan coffee (?), she quickly explains the different types of coffee, how to buy and store them, how to roast your own, and four different ways of making coffee, depending on whether you wanted to start with cold or boiling water, and if you were going to filter it or not.

Marion Harland is next, and she very briskly explains to you the one and only best way of making coffee. As a small concession, she does give you instructions for two different pots.

Helen Campbell takes a different tack, and uses two stories to illustrate the bad way and the good way to make coffee.

Juliet Corson gives several ways of making coffee, but gives special attention to the coffee's effects on one's digestion.

Mrs. D.A. Lincoln explains that bad coffee is a very slapdash affair, then gives exceedingly precise instructions how to make good coffee. Think parody hipster barista.

Catherine Owen gives recipes and expands on them, then explains how to troubleshoot your coffee problems.

After our six cups, we get 'The Story of Coffee' by Hester M. Poole which is what it says it is, a nice overview of the history of coffee, plus a look at the coffee industry "today".

We finish with a section of advertisements. The first spot is, of course, given to The Schnull-Krag Coffee Co., advertising their coffee and the "QQ common sense condensing coffee pot". A quick look for Schnull-Krag on the internet today finds me only ephemera for sale, all of it suggesting that the S-K Coffee Co. never made it into the 20th Century.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Gentle Breadwinners: The Story of One of Them by Catherine Owen (1888)

Yes, that's a screenshot. This lovely little book I have found (so far) only as a free e-book online, and I can't even find a picture of the cover.

The two young Misses Fortescue -- Dorothy, 25 and May, 20 -- find themselves in dire straits upon the death of their father. They move to the country where their elderly aunt and uncle, well-bred but horribly poor, have a house.  But how will they make a living? They try their hands at one thing and another, then the eldest discovers that her former hobby of baking can be more useful than she realized. Not only that, she seems to have a talent for it, and the business that ensues. At the very end, however, she is tendered a marriage proposal, seemingly to assure the gentle reader that even an old maid of 25 who lowers herself to cooking for other people and becoming a businesswoman can still get a man. In the author's defense, there is no suggestion that marriage will make her quit the business. (Whether that would be the assumption of the day or not is something else.)

I love this sort of book. It's a cozy read with nice characters and a message of "if she can do it, so can you". I'm not likely to cook from it at any point soon. Trying to do that would be a project, and require a bit of research on my part. Some of it would be translating the recipes (What is that temperature? What is that measure?), some would be translating terms. For example, what she describes as "marzipan" sounds different than what I am used to. And then there's ingredients. Can you still get "bitter almond oil"? And if I tried it, would my husband move out immediately, assuming I was trying to poison him?

The recipes in the main portion of the book are primarily baked goods, but also candied fruits and other confections as she branches out. There is an added section at the back, "The Contents of Dorothy's Notebook", which contains recipes of the Aunt, and are therefore recipes that can be made on very little money (in 1888).

Friday, August 4, 2017

Cooking With the Dead by Elizabeth Zipern (1995)

This is not a zombie cookbook. This is a cookbook made up of the stories and recipes of the folks who followed the Grateful Dead around from show to show, and frequently acted as food vendors to pay for their travel.

Me, I'm not much of a Grateful Dead fan. Their music was okay, but I never sought it out. I picked up this cookbook because I found the fan culture interesting, the way people would travel on the road with them and feed each other. I keep it because of the stories of the people. They talk about how and why they do what they do. Some are constantly on the road, some hit half a dozen shows in the summer, and all of them talk about what they make and why and how they make it. There's usually a picture of the person who contributed the story and the recipe.

The recipes are all vegetarian. They sound like perfectly good, way-too-healthy recipes.  I have made none of them. I have no problem with vegetarian recipes, but these hit a slight phobia of mine: that of "happy hippie food". I have no problem with hippies either, but when I come across a lot of recipes with tofu, hemp seed, "vegan", I flash back to my earliest experiences with hippie/vegan food in my youth.  It took me a long time after to believe that lentils could be enjoyable things. I have no problem with hippies or vegans, but LEARN TO COOK BEFORE YOU FEED OTHER PEOPLE.
Bleah.  Brown rice and lentils are both wonderful ingredients, but when cooked in plain water with no other items they can taste like wet cardboard.

I got way off topic there. There is nothing about this cookbook to suggest that the recipes would taste like wet cardboard. They look delicious. But it is the stories of the people that keeps this one on my shelf.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dad's Own Cookbook (1993) by Bob Sloan

At first glance, this comes across as a slightly more sexist (but possibly less obnoxious) version of "Cooking For Dummies". I hate being called a dummy. But by the time I started to dig into it, I was going "Hey! My mother never taught me most of this either! Why single out the guys? I want this too!"

Yes, it's a starter cookbook. But it's a starter cookbook that is simple and has nice friendly pictures (by Paul Hanson) that never talks down to you. It has pages to discuss ingredients in detail, it talks about tools and techniques, and gives shopping tips. There are also suggested menus for special occasions. And unlike some starter cookbooks, these are foods you *want* to eat.  Yes, he will tell you how to fry an egg and make a grilled cheese sandwich (nothing wrong with those). But he will also tell you how to make Pasta Puttanesca, Jambalaya and Grilled Swordfish. *And* give wine tips to help you decide what you want with them!

Bottom line -- while it's not a book I'm going to curl up with for a nice read, if you're looking for a good starter cookbook, whether you be Dad, Mom, or a starving college student, this is a good one.

Now, as I am not the target audience, I pestered my husband (a better cook than I am) into giving me a few words about it.

"The dad part is a little hokey, but it's a fine intro to cooking cookbook. Mix of base techniques (each veg or protein gets an intro and a quick how to broil, pan fry, steam, bake, etc. overview) along with recipes that look good but aren't too challenging skill wise.

I'm not big on how they organized some parts (e.g. section on Lunch while others are by food), but nothing bad.

So overall o.k. intro cook book."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Aquavit (2003) by Marcus Samuelsson

Ouch. Okay, first of all, let me apologize for the photo. I thought the worst thing about it was going to be the lighting. But since I have downloaded it onto my computer, every method by which I look at is has it oriented normally...except this. For some reason, it wants to stay rotated 90 degrees.  But enough of that.

So...Aquavit.  I like Marcus Samuelsson on TV, and I had the good fortune to eat at Aquavit here in Minneapolis a couple of times.  The food was delicious.  But I have to admit to not being a big fan of the coffee-table book cookbooks, with lots of expensive glossy photos and not a lot of text. So when our cookbook dinner group (every two months someone hosts and picks the cookbook) chose this as our cookbook for this month, I didn't have it and had to get it from the library.  It's big, it's beautiful, and I have to admit that the food was all quite good.

Our menu (if I remember everything): Cured Tenderloin of Beef with Mango Ketchup and Fruit and Berry Chutney
Gravlax Club Sandwiches
Swedish Meatballs
Honey-Glazed Pork Ribs
Roasted Caramelized Root Vegetables
Quick Pickled Cucumbers
Spicy Sauerkraut
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Blueberry Soup
Carrot Parsnip Cake

Delish. And while I love my mother's not-terribly-Swedish Swedish Meatballs recipe*, I thought these were great and could have made a whole meal out of the mashed potatoes and meatballs. Much better than Ikea. I haven't decided yet whether or not I'm going to buy us a copy of this cookbook (originally $45, but I think it's OP), but I'm definitely copying a few of the recipes for later use.

*I don't know the origins of my mother's meatball recipe, but I'd love to find out. Have any of you run across an all-beef meatball recipe that includes chopped up dill pickle? Let me know!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Attempting to turn my Facebook page into a proper shop, but it's slow. If you see anything you're interested in, just drop me a line there, here or

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Diners' Club Cookbook by Myra Waldo (1959)

The Diners' Club Card was the first independent credit card in the world, created in 1950. It started as a group that allowed patrons to charge a meal at a participating group of restaurants. It had 20,000 members by the end of 1950, and more than doubled in 1951. It wasn't until the late 1960's when the cards that would become VISA and MasterCard challenged its dominance.

It makes sense then that in 1959 they would come out with a Diners' Club Cookbook. Advertising and product both! Myra Waldo was an experienced cookbook author (her Pan American's Complete Round-The-World Cookbook had come out in 1954), and they pulled in recipes from Diners' Club restaurants all over the US.

As a cookbook...well, it really is a classic list-of-recipes cookbook. There is a long introduction from the Vice President of Diners' Club, Inc., and then a short author's note, and then the recipes. "Great Recipes from Great Restaurants."  They sound just fine. Myra Waldo did her job and made sure that they are laid out correctly and are easy to follow. But that's it.

Personally, I like cookbooks that give me a little more to chew on. The restaurants are credited -- what kind of restaurants were they? Why this recipe?  I can understand why the recipe that represents Pea Soup Andersen's is the Pea Soup, but why is Michael's in Minneapolis represented by Curried Shrimp?  This may be best as a history reference. I don't believe that the two restaurants mentioned as being in Minneapolis, Michael's and Country House, were still here when I arrived in 1987.  Searching online I can find a Michael's in *Rochester* that was old enough but closed in 2014. The only reference I can find to Country House is in a comment to an MPR News blog in 2011.

It's a nice little cookbook, and I might even try a recipe or two. But it doesn't have enough going for it for me to put it on a "Must Have" list.