I’ve mentioned this new blog to a few people and they almost invariably ask, “Why?” It looks to me like the reasons people are writing here are as varied at they themselves are, but for me it’s part of a trend of doing for myself. It’s very simply that the idea of going back to some of the old ways of doing things around the house to find out what’s been forgotten appeals to me.
So what has been forgotten? Something inherently missing in today’s world? Absolutely not. I am infuriated by “the good old days” syndrome in which the past is fine and wonderful and today is somehow weaker and wrong. And believe me when I say that Mrs. Beeton and I have some fundamental differences of opinion. For example, she says of the tomato plant that it “has a most disagreeable odor” whereas I’ve been known to stick my face in one and swoon. And I won’t be taking up her suggestion of beef tea when I’m ill (the whole “Invalid Cookery” section really kills). But there are things we have forgotten how to do that are described here; ways of preserving food and ways of working with vegetables we don’t find in the grocery store or at the nearest chain restaurant are two that interest me most. That’s primarily what I’ll be talking about in my posts, in addition to exploring whatever random Victorian-era comfort food tickles my fancy. And gravy, good lord, Mrs. Beeton’s world is all about gravy, and I am right behind her on that.
The first thing I was planning to do here was chronicle my attempts to keep eggs without refrigeration. Mrs. Beeton offers several suggestions, and I’d figured that by now I’d have been able to get my hands on a big box of saw dust and some extremely fresh local eggs. It is, however, harder to find saw dust than you might think. Still, the call has gone out and by this time next week I should have something to show you. In the meantime, let me introduce you to my friend, Scotch Woodcock. This falls under the “random comfort food” category. I was thinking about doing Welsh Rare-bit but was, honestly, seduced by the name “Scotch Woodcock.” The recipe is quick, so I include a slightly abbreviated version below.
1653. Ingredients – A few slices of hot buttered toast; allow 1 anchovy to each slice. For the sauce – ¼ pint of cream, the yolks of 3 eggs.
Mode. – Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs; beat the former, stir to them the cream, and bring the sauce to the boiling point, but do not allow it to boil, or it will curdle. Have ready some hot buttered toast, spread with anchovies pounded to a paste; pour a little of the hot sauce on the top, and server it very hot and very quickly.
Ok, so, I first went out to get some good bread with a little heft. This is the only part of the recipe that worked for me.
The recipe appears super simple, but it’s that “to the boiling point, but do not allow it to boil” part that killed me. I curdled the damn sauce every time. This is partly due to my being a generally impatient person, and partly due to the difficulty of not boiling such a small amount of cream mixed with egg yolks. Eventually I put some sauce on the bread, even though it was essentially like really runny scrambled eggs. It tasted fine, but looked frightening. Feel free to turn away.
Would I make it again? Possibly, but I would skip the anchovies and tart the whole thing up with some fresh dill or maybe even curry powder. Other ideas? I’d love to hear them.