Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thoughts about Old Treatises on Food and Cooking ~ By My Guest Sid (Chef at Large)

This is my celebrations for reaching 200 blog posts.... A lot of you will wonder, why am I not making something fancy to celebrate it. Getting to the 200th post has been a journey full of wonderful people who walked with me in life and some joined me thru the blog world.

So I thought of having an event called 'Celebrations' where I would open out my blog to some of my friends who would share some parts of their journey with me as Guest Posts......

My guest today is Sid of Chef at Large fame. He's done software for 18 years and gave it up to pursue his hobby of 'Food' fulltime. He's reviewed 177 restaurants in Delhi NCR, posted 223 recipes on chefatlarge.in between him n his contributors as I write. He sums up the space of ChefatLarge on facebook really well saying "We talk about food, share food experiences and recipes, go out together... essentially have a really nice time with all aspects of food. :) Plus a few giveaways every now and then, some random, some with contests... food nonetheless. :D"

Sid had given my reference to The Shangri-La for a tasting table at 19 Oriental Avenue. This was our first meeting... was very memorable one with his special card trick[I won't give away what it is... ask him when you meet him :) ] and all the chatter about food....

He became my tester for a new recipe of Sugarfree Cherry Brownies. We would interact often on facebook. His photography skills are quite something. His food pictures make me droooolll... and A special set was the one where he was experimenting with HDR... Awesome, turned a simple olive oil condiment set into something so exotic that it made me not just droooool but also begin writing a food story...... :) His breakfast album on facebook made me crave for breakfast at lunch, dinner and breakfast...

Here's some more eye candy of his clicks for food lovers....

We met at a Wonton making class and special lunch organized by Intercontinental Eros and a few days later at Chocolate making workshop there itself.
A small something for the Indian readers of Sid.... He will select 1 lucky commenter to win complimentary vouchers of Stone, Moets Restaurant Complex in Defence Colony Market, New Delhi. So be sure to leave a note at the end of this post with your location. Readers in other countries can share the same with anyone in proximity of the restaurant.

Sid Writes.....

Writing a guest post isn't half as tough as it seems to be. It's double! For one, you're acutely aware you're writing as a 'guest' on someone elses blog. You want to be polite, interesting, relevant and all those other politically correct and nice things that you wouldn't normally think about when writing on your own blog. What makes it a little tougher is the certain knowledge that Ms. Chandra will without doubt turn up her pretty nose and say, 'This sucks! What were you thinking?', without it giving another thought. Frankness IMHO is overrated... but Nachiketa manages to get away with the most atrocious statements without causing the least offence.

On the subject of frankness, I know this chap who every now and then starts off with, "If I can be blunt with you", and then says something wildly offensive, something that gets you goggle eyed and mad. But then he did mention the disclaimer before gushing his unique brand of insightful honesty. I'm sure there are others in my shoes, figuratively speaking, who aren't sure about what to write and don't want to risk offending The Wrathful Nachiketa by refusing or begging off. Perhaps a little something that would provide inspiration to those poor souls, caught between the Nachiketa and a hard place, risking eternal damnation by not writing a guest post.

BTW I met Nachiketa through a giveaway on Deeba's blog. She's one of the bubbliest people I've ever met and her her energy levels are... infectious to say the least. Congratulations Nachiketa on your 200th post. It's a good thing, nice feeling and great going girl!

Perhaps I'll just share my current obsession, old treatises on food and cooking. It is really so very interesting to find and read old cooking related texts. Most provide a great deal of insight into the general beliefs at the time. For example, The 'Boke of Kervynge' published in 1508, says, '... beware of grene sallettes & rawe fruytes for they wyll make our soverayne seke ...' or 'Beware of green salads and raw fruits for they will make your master sick'. It also has some very interesting recipes like:

Wynge that partryche.
Take a partryche and reyse his legges and his wynges as a henne / & ye mynce hym sauce hym with wyne poudre of gynger & salte / than set it upon a chaufyng-dysshe of coles to warme and serve it.

Then there are the recipe books from more recent times. One book I always remember is 'Good Things to Eat' by Rufus Estes, published in 1911. In his introduction Rufus writes, 'I was born in Murray County, Tennessee, in 1857, a slave. I was given the name of my master, D. J. Estes, who owned my mother's family, consisting of seven boys and two girls, I being the youngest of the family.'. Here's Rufus' recipe for Asparagus Soup:

Take three pounds of knuckle of veal and put it to boil in a gallon of water with a couple of bunches of asparagus, boil for three hours, strain, and return the juice to the pot. Add another bunch of asparagus, chopped fine, and boil for twenty minutes, mix a tablespoonful of flour in a cup of milk and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper, let it come to a boil, and serve at once.

A recent addition to my collection is 'The Khaki Kook Book', published in 1917, that describes itself as '[a] Collection of a hundred cheap and practical recipes mostly from Hindustan', written by Mary Kennedy Core during her time in Bareilly, India. She begins with her thoughts on Indian kitchens...

Perhaps she might do some of it if she had an up-to-date little kitchen, with linoleum on the floor, if there were a sink and a gas range, and all sorts of lovely pots and pans, but alas! in India there is not even a kitchen. It is a cook-house, and is quite detached from the rest of the house. If she cooked there, the missionary lady would have to keep running back and forth in the hot sun or in the pouring rain of the monsoon. There is no linoleum--only a damp, uneven stone floor, and there is no sink--all the work requiring water is done on the floor by a drain-pipe, and sometimes if the screen gets broken over the mouth of the drain-pipe, toads come hopping in, and sometimes even cobras come squirming through. The Indian cook-house is always dark and smoky. There is no little gas range; just a primitive cooking place made of bricks plastered together. This contains a number of holes in which are inserted grates. Charcoal fires are burning in these little grates. Charcoal has to be fanned and fanned with a black and grimy fan to get it into the glowing stage. Of course a clean fan would do as well, but one never sees a clean fan in an Indian cook-house.

... and continues on to some recipes, one of which I cooked for lunch yesterday - Beef Curry.

Cut a pound of fresh beef into bits. Any cheap cut does well for this. Slice an onion very thinly, and fry together in a dessert-spoonful of fat of any kind, the meat, onion, and two teaspoonfuls of curry powder. When they are nicely browned add several cups of water and simmer gently until the meat is very tender and the onion has become a pulp, thereby thickening the curry gravy. This requires long, slow cooking. More water may be added from time to time. If one has a fireless cooker, it should always be used in curry making. Serve with rice prepared according to taste. In India, curry and rice are always served in separate dishes. The rice is served first and the curry taken out and put over it. Usually chutney (Chapter VIII) is eaten with curry and rice.

(Spanish Rice from a 1905 recipe and Curried Beef from a 1912 recipe.)

When you begin to get obsessed with all things old and edible, as I have, then other little bits of information begin exposing themselves to you, such as this letter, written in 1556 by Jacob Bifrons about cheese and cheese making in Switzerland. It begins with:

My son, returning to Curia in Pontissella, told me you suggested that I should write to you about the ways of cheesemaking and the types of cheese of our region. This I now do most willingly, and I hope that this will be pleasing to you. There are two types of cheese which concern us; one lean and called 'domestic' since it is made both in the house and in the Alps and its use goes back before the memory of man. The other type is called 'fat' cheese and it was brought from Italy into our region in the last 30 years.

Books such as 'The Forme of Cury', which was published around 1780 and compiled around 1390 were written as historical compilations in their own time and provide a storehouse of information, as do books like 'The Accomplisht Cook' published in 1685, that has a recipe quite similar to one in The Boke of Kervynge. Being a copycat in 1685 must have been so much simpler than it is now. For the authors part, he was replicating a recipe from a book that was nearly two hundred years old. Considering the expensive nature of books at the time, there was probably little chance of being caught out. It also clearly illustrates the changes that took place in the English language over a period of about 180 years.

Wing that Partridg.
Raise his legs, and his wing as a hen, if you mince him sauce him with wine, powder of ginger, and salt, and set him upon a chafing dish of coals to warm and serve.

I could go on and on, on this sort of thing. Suffice to say, we can greatly increase our understanding of food and the culinary arts by delving into the past. In fact, that's the easy way out, because food today didn't just become the way it is out of the blue. It evolved. It was gradually influenced by history, politics, the military and geography among other factors to reach the state it is in today. What better way to understands it's path than to obtain and read books such as these?


Dr.Sameena Prathap


That was a great guest post...You have a greatttttttttttt space here...do stop by mine when time permits....



sangeeta said...

Hi Nachiketa...
First time here and it was a great experience reading many of your guest posts...it was nice to know about you and your lovely friends.

I am already a fan of Sid's foodie writings and this write up was thoroughly enjoyable...

Sid Khullar said...

Thank you Sangeeta :)

Marisa said...

Congrats on 200 posts! What a milestone.