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Culture and Cooking Part 7

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PEA SOUP.--Steep some yellow split peas all night, next morning set them on to boil with two quarts of water to a pint of peas; in the water put a tiny bit of soda. In another pot put a large carrot, a turnip, an onion, and a large head of celery, all cut small and covered with water.

When both peas and vegetables are tender, put them together, season with salt, pepper, and a little sugar, and let them gently stew till thick enough; then strain through a colander, rubbing the vegetables well, and return to the pot while you fry some sippets of bread a crisp brown; then stir into the soup two ounces of b.u.t.ter in which you have rolled a little flour.

This soup is simply delicious, and the fact of it being _maigre_ will not be remembered.

POTATO SOUP is another of this good kind, for meat is scarcely required, so good is it without.

Boil some potatoes, then rub them through a colander into two quarts of hot milk (skimmed does quite well); have some fine-chopped parsley and onion, add both with salt and pepper, stew three quarters of an hour; then stir in a large piece of b.u.t.ter, and beat two eggs with a little cold milk, stir in quickly, and serve with fried bread. There should be potatoes enough to make the soup as thick as cream. Do not be prejudiced against a dish because there is no meat in it, and you think it cannot be nourishing. This chapter is not written for those with whom meat, or money, is plentiful; and if it be true that man is nourished "not by what he eats, but by what he a.s.similates," and, according to an American medical authority, "what is eaten with distaste is not a.s.similated" (Dr. Hall), it follows that an enjoyable dinner, even without meat, will be more nourishing than one forced down because it lacks savor; that potato soup will be more nourishing than potatoes and b.u.t.ter, with a cup of milk to drink, because more enjoyable. Yet it costs no more, for the soup can be made without the eggs if they are scarce.

Or say bread and b.u.t.ter and onions. They will not be very appetizing, especially if they had to be a frequent meal, yet onion soup is made from the same materials, and in France is a very favorite dish, even with those well able to put meat in it if they wished.

CHAPTER XV.

A FEW THINGS IT IS WELL TO REMEMBER.

EVERY housekeeper has pet "wrinkles" of her own which she thinks are especially valuable; some are known to all the world, others are new to many. So it may be with mine; but, on the chance that some few things are as new to my friends as they were to me, I jot them down without any pretense of order or regularity.

Lemons will keep fresher and better in water than any other way. Put them in a crock, cover them with water. They will in winter keep two or three months, and the peel be as fresh as the day they were put in. Take care, of course, that they do not get frosted. In summer change the water twice a week; they will keep a long time.

In grating nutmegs begin at the flower end; if you commence at the other, there will be a hole all the way through.

Tea or coffee made hot (not at all scorched), before water is added, are more fragrant and stronger. Thus, by putting three spoonfuls of tea in the pot and setting in a warm place before infusing, it will be as strong as if you make tea with four spoonfuls without warming it, and much more fragrant.

Vegetables that are strong can be made much milder by tying a bit of bread in a clean rag and boiling it with them.

Bread dough is just as good made the day before it is used; thus, a small family can have fresh bread one day, rolls the next, by putting the dough in a cold place enveloped in a damp cloth. In winter, kept cold, yet not in danger of freezing, it will keep a week.

Celery seed takes the place of celery for soup or stews when it is scarce; parsley seed of parsley.

Green beans, gherkins, etc., put down when plentiful in layers of rock salt, will keep crisp and green for months, and can be taken out and pickled when convenient.

Lemon or orange peel grated and mixed with powdered sugar and a squeeze of its own juice (the sugar making it into paste) is excellent to keep for flavoring; put it into a little pot and it will keep for a year.

Bread that is very stale may be made quite fresh for an hour or two by dipping it quickly into milk or water, and putting it in a brisk oven till _quite hot through_. It must be eaten at once, or it will be as stale as ever when cold.

Meat to be kept in warm weather should be rubbed over with salad oil, every crevice filled with ginger; meat that is for roasting or frying is much better preserved in this way than with salt; take care that every part of the surface has a coat of oil. Steaks or chops cut off, which always keep badly, should be dipped into warm b.u.t.ter or even dripping, if oil is not handy (the object being to exclude the air), and then hung up till wanted.

Mutton in cold weather should be hung four or five weeks in a place not subject to changes of temperature, and before it is so hung, every crevice filled with ginger and thoroughly dredged with flour, which must be then rubbed in with the hand till the surface is quite dry. This is the English fashion of keeping venison.

It may be useful for those who burn kerosene to know that when their lamps smell, give a bad light, and smoke, it is not necessary to buy new burners. Put the old ones in an old saucepan with water and a tablespoonful of soda, let them boil half an hour, wipe them, and your trouble will be over.

Meat that has become slightly tainted may be quite restored by washing it in water in which is a teaspoonful of borax, cutting away every part in the least discolored.

In summer when meat comes from the butcher's, if it is not going to be used the same day, it should be washed over with vinegar.

Poultry in summer should always have a piece of charcoal tied in a rag placed in the stomach, to be removed before cooking. Pieces of charcoal should also be put in the refrigerator and changed often.

Oyster sh.e.l.ls put one at a time in a stove that is "clinkered" will clean the bricks entirely. They should be put in when the fire is burning brightly.

Salt and soapstone powder (to be bought at the druggist's) mend fire brick; use equal quant.i.ties, make into a paste with water, and cement the brick; they will be as strong as new ones.

Ink spilled on carpets may be entirely removed by rubbing while wet with blotting paper, using fresh as it soils.

CHAPTER XVI.

ON SOME TABLE PREJUDICES.

MANY people have strong prejudices against certain things which they have never even tasted, or which they do frequently take and like as a part of something else, without knowing it. How common it is to hear and see untraveled people declare that they dislike garlic, and could not touch anything with it in. Yet those very people will take Worcestershire sauce, in which garlic is actually predominant, with everything they eat; and think none but English pickles eatable, which owe much of their excellence to the introduction of a _soupcon_ of garlic. Therefore I beg those who actually only know garlic from hearsay abuse of it, or from its presence on the breath of some inveterate garlic eater, to give it a fair trial when it appears in a recipe. It is just one of those things that require the most delicate handling, for which the French term a "_suspicion_" is most appreciated; it should only be a suspicion, its presence should never be p.r.o.nounced. As Blot once begged his readers, "Give garlic a fair trial in a _remolade_ sauce." (Montpellier b.u.t.ter beaten into mayonnaise is a good _remolade_ for cold meat or fish.)

Curry is one of those things against which many are strongly prejudiced, and I am inclined to think it is quite an acquired taste, but a taste which is an enviable one to its possessors; for them there is endless variety in all they eat. The capabilities of curry are very little known in this country, and, as the taste for it is so limited, I will not do more in its defense than indicate a pleasant use to which it may be put, and in which form it would be a welcome condiment to many to whom "a curry," pure and simple, would be obnoxious. I once knew an Anglo-Indian who used curry as most people use cayenne; it was put in a pepper-box, and with it he would at times pepper his fish or kidneys, even his eggs.

Used in this way, it imparts a delightful piquancy to food, and is neither hot nor "spicy."

Few people are so prejudiced as the English generally, and the stay-at-home Americans; but the latter are to be taught by travel, the Englishman rarely.

The average Briton leaves his island sh.o.r.es with the conviction that he will get nothing fit to eat till he gets back, and that he will have to be uncommonly careful once across the channel, or he will be having frica.s.seed frogs palmed on him for chicken. Poor man! in his horror of frogs, he does not know that the Paris restaurateur who should give the costly frog for chicken, would soon end in the bankruptcy court.

"If I could only get a decent dinner, a good roast and plain potato, I would like Paris much better," said an old Englishman to me once in that gay city.

"But surely you can."

"No; I have been to restaurants of every cla.s.s, and called for beefsteak and roast beef, but have never got the real article, although it's my belief," said he, leaning forward solemnly, "that I have eaten _horse_ three times this week." Of course the Englishman of rank, who has spent half his life on the continent, is not at all the _average_ Englishman.

Americans think the hare and rabbits, of which the English make such good use, very mean food indeed, and if they are unprejudiced enough to try them, from the fact that they are never well cooked, they dislike them, which prejudice the English reciprocate by looking on squirrels as being as little fit for food as a rat. And a familiar instance of prejudice from ignorance carried even to insanity, is that of the Irish in 1848, starving rather than eat the "yaller male," sent them by generous American sympathizers; yet they come here and soon get over that dislike. Not so the French, who look on oatmeal and Indian meal as most unwholesome food. "_ca pese sur l'estomac, ca creuse l'estomac_," I heard an old Frenchwoman say, trying to dissuade a mother from giving her children mush.

The moral of all of which is, that for our comfort's sake, and the general good we should avoid unreasonable prejudices against unfamiliar food. We of course have a right to our honest dislikes; but to condemn things because we have heard them despised, is prejudice.

CHAPTER XVII.

A CHAPTER OF ODDS AND ENDS--VALEDICTORY.

I HAVE alluded, in an earlier chapter, to the fact that many inexperienced cooks are afraid of altering recipes; a few words on this subject may not be out of place. As a rule, a recipe should be faithfully followed in all important points; for instance, in making soup you cannot because you are short of the given quant.i.ty of meat, put the same amount of water as directed for the full quant.i.ty, without damaging your soup; but you may easily reduce water and _every other ingredient_ in the same proportion; and, in mere matters of flavoring, you may vary to suit circ.u.mstances. If you are told to use cloves, and have none, a bit of mace may be subst.i.tuted.

If you read a recipe, and it calls for something you have not, consider whether that something has anything to do with the substance of the dish, or whether it is merely an accessory for which something else can be subst.i.tuted. For instance, if you are ordered to use cream in a sauce, milk with a larger amount of well-washed b.u.t.ter may take its place; but if you are told to use cream for charlotte russe or trifles, there is no way in which you could make milk serve, since it is not an accessory but the chief part of those dishes. For a cake in which cream is used, b.u.t.ter whipped to a cream may take its place. Wine is usually optional in savory dishes; it gives richness only.

Again, in cakes be very careful the exact proportions of flour, eggs, and milk are observed; of b.u.t.ter you can generally use more or less, having a more or less rich cake in proportion. In any but plain cup cakes (which greatly depend on soda and acid for their lightness) never lessen the allowance of eggs; never add milk if a cake is too stiff (but an extra egg may always be used), unless milk is ordered in the recipe, when more or less may be used as needed. Flavoring may be always varied.

In reducing a recipe always reduce _every ingredient_, and it can make no difference in the results. Sometimes, in cookery books, you are told to use articles not frequently found in ordinary kitchens; for instance, a larding-needle (although that can be bought for twenty-five cents at any house-furnishing store, and should always be in a kitchen); but, in case you have not one for meat, you may manage by making small cuts and inserting slips of bacon.

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Culture and Cooking Part 7 summary

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