Portrait of a Cider Cake

Whistler book coverAnyone with an interest in 19th century art has studied American artist James McNeill Whistler’s iconic portrait of his mother, which now hangs in the Louvre. We’ve also heard Mr. Bean, the British comic character, call Mrs. Whistler in her portrait “a hideous old bat who looked like she’d had a cactus lodged up her backside.” Hard as it may be to believe from this description, Mrs. Whistler did like to cook. Continue reading

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Abraham Lincoln’s Corn Meal ‘Rail Splitters’

Lincoln rail splitters
Presidents’ Day, celebrated today, started to honor George Washington. Since Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was February 12, he also receives special homage in February. Since I’m still making recipes from the1860s, I found a Lincoln-inspired recipe for “rail splitters” in The President’s Cookbook, by Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks (1968). Continue reading

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A ‘Cheap and Quick’ (and Comforting) Pudding from 1862

Confederate pudding cooked 2In any era, wartime cooking brings out the spirit of making do with whatever can be scrounged up when most supplies go to the war effort. The Confederate Receipt Book, published in Richmond in 1862 as the Civil War entered its second year, advertised itself as “adapted to the times.” Continue reading

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In My February Kitchen

IMK Feb iciclesWhat’s going on outside my kitchen this month dominates everything right now. In the past week, more than 40 inches (about 1 meter) of snow has fallen on Boston and another storm is supposed to arrive tomorrow. These icicles have taken up residence in the past few days – the opposite of what Celia at figjamandlimecordial, the In My Kitchen host extraordinaire, must be experiencing in Australia this month.

IMK Feb orchid

Though soup and tea help soothe after rounds of snow shoveling, I’m trying to think tropical by blaring reggae as I cook and buying produce from warmer climes. Continue reading

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More Snow, More Hot Rum

Cocktail - spiced rum (2)Two feet of snow and more predicted? How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862) by Jerry Thomas once again provides a welcome reward for shoveling. This time, I made it up to recipe number 200, Black Stripe. Continue reading

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Potato Soup with a ‘Teacupful’ of Rice

Potato Soup 1Call this Civil War Potato Soup comfort food from the 1860s. Thickened with rice as well as bread, the recipe from Godey’s Lady’s Book puts a triple helping of starch in a bowl. It promises nothing fancy and delivers nothing but soothing warmth. Continue reading

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Abraham Lincoln’s Favorite Cake

Lincoln cake 1Because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, I’m immersing myself this month in recipes from the 1860s. Most women of that time started married life knowing how to make a few dishes. Mary Todd Lincoln, First Lady from 1861 to 1865, made this recipe for white almond cake throughout her marriage to Abraham Lincoln. Continue reading

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