Monday, June 30, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #2 The Challenge That Wasn't

So without any brilliant inspiration for the Soups, Sauces and Gravies challenge, I settled on a recipe I was curious about: Tomato Mustard from Vaughan's Vegetable CookBook printed in 1919, which I found on the fabulous  I chose this recipe mostly because I couldn't figure out what the end product would be...  it sounded a lot like ketchup...  but then why was it called tomato mustard.  My curiosity was piqued and that was enough for me.

The ingredients were pretty straightforward..I thought.

1 peck of tripe tomatoes
1 teaspoonful of salt
2 dessertspoonfuls of onions chopped fine
1 dessertspoonful of whole pepper
1dessertspoonful of allspice
1 dessertspoonful of cloves
1/2 spoonful of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoonful of curry
1 teacupful of mustard

Googling I found out that 1 peck = 13 pounds and change.  That was a lot of tomatoes, so I decided to do a half recipe.

I chose Roma tomatoes because they were on sale. had a handy measures and weights section and I learned that a dessertspoon was 2 teaspoons and a teacupful was a scant 3/4 cup. There was no equivalent for spoonful, but, as it turns out, that would not turn out to be an issue.

The directions seemed pretty basic:

To the tomatoes add the salt; let it stew a half hour, and strain through a sieve.  Add the onions, whole peppers, allspice, cloves and cayenne pepper.  Let it simmer down one-third, adding the curry and mustard. Then simmer half an hour longer.

So I quartered the tomatoes, added the salt and some water, set the pot on low for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the tomatoes looked like this.

Clearly, they needed some additional stewing time, so I put a lid on the pot, turned up the heat a little and let them stew for another 30 minutes.

They looked like they were beginning to break down, but they clearly weren't anywhere near stewed.  So I let them cook and kept checking every 30 minutes.  After three and a half hours they looked like this:

Unfortunately, at this point, we had an engagement with friends, so I gave up and called the recipe a fail.  I'm guessing the failure came from either not dicing the tomatoes a lot smaller or that low on my electric range is a lot lower than low on a 1919 stove.

Either way, it was at least an interesting experiment..  even if it didn't satisfy my curiosity.

The Challenge: #2 Soups, Sauces and Gravies
The Recipe: Tomato Mustard from Vaughan's Vegetable Cookbook
The Date/Region: 1919  Guessing Britain
Total time: 3.5 hours
Total cost: $10 in tomatoes
How successful was it?  Epic Fail


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Catching Up

I am happy to say my tendinitis is subsiding nicely after not sewing for several weeks.  The down side of that is there is not a lot exciting to report.  But I have a thumb stabilizing brace and 2 refills on my anti-inflammatories, so I hope to test the waters on sewing again soon.

My Vesper Martini (from Casino Royale) got a lovely mention in the challenge #1 wrap up of the Historical Food Fortnightly   Which makes me happy, because I had been afraid I was pushing the envelope on "food" a little too hard with a cocktail.

I am still semi-uninspired for challenge #2: soups, sauces and gravies, not in part because when I went to reference my trusty copy of Jane & Michael Stern's Square Meals: America's Favorite Comfort Food Cookbook, I found that I had apparently gotten rid of it in a fit of healthy cooking.  I'd owned it for easily 15 years, annotated it extensively and just don't know where my head was when I sent it to Goodwill.  I found a reprint on Amazon but it won't be quite the same (and is currently in used book mail purgatory, so no idea when it will actually arrive) But I work best under pressure, so I'm still hoping for inspiration at the last moment.

On the sewing front, I am ecstatic to report that Historical Sewing is doing a reprise of the corset class in July, so I have a second chance to actually get my corset finished.

Other than that, there's nothing much to tell, which is a little anti-climactic, since this is the 50th post since I started the blog. So I will leave you with a picture of Mercury and Ziyi, who are just as unproductive as I've been lately.  More to tell soon, I hope!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Good News and Bad News

The bad news is that I finally went to the doctor for my annual insurance physical and the annoying and worsening pain in my wrist/thumb that I thought was just the beginning of arthritis is acute tendinitis. The doctor put me on anti-inflammatories and, and since I can't quit my day job where I use a computer for over 8 hours a day,  has suggested eliminating sewing as much as possible until it calms down significantly.  (This has been going on since the beginning of the year and has gotten bad enough that I have zero movement in my thumb and constant pain in my wrist)

This puts a severe damper on my projects in progress.  My corset class is over and it's totally my fault that not only do I not have a finished corset, I don't even have a correctly fitted mockup.  I am back burnering the project for a bit while I determine the best course of action...  but as I will explain below, I am going to find myself in need of a corset in the coming months.

My HSF Art challenge is also still not complete.  I am working on it slowly, but there is much handwork in the project and that is especially hard on my wrist. It will definitely need to be done in small chunks. That being said, I am going to skip the Politics in Fashion challenge.  I had lots of ideas, but none of them manageable with time, budget and current skills.  And since my corset was going to be my Shape and Support entry, I will have to rethink that challenge.

As to the good news, we have three excellent opportunities to play dress up in the next 3 months! In addition to DragonCon, which deserves its own planning post, a facebook re-enactor acquaintance told me about a civil war weekend in September near Atlanta.

If Jay and I go, it will be as spectators (and Jay as a civilian) but we will still dress up.  I know we can't meet re-enactor standards of historical accuracy, and honestly I'm not sure I want to try with everything else going on in life right now.  But I can do "relatively accurate"   Except that I don't have a darned thing Civil War currently in my closet..  not even a corset.  Still, I love a challenge, right?  *wry chuckle*

And we are planning on dressing up for the Mary Poppins sing-a-long at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in August.  The Fox is a 1920s movie palace in downtown ATL with the most fantastical Egyptian/middle eastern decor that was saved from demolition and now is a venue for theatre, concerts and, in the summer, classic movies.  We went to see Breakfast at Tiffany's there last summer and I thought  "ok  classic movie...  no big deal" and wore mundane clothes.  And was stunned at the amount of women doing various levels of Holly Golightly cosplay.

So this year when the summer series was announced and we saw Mary Poppins was being shown, it was a no brainer that we would go..  and go in costume!  I have a guilty secret..  I can sing pretty much the entire soundtrack to Mary Poppins.

A Mary Poppins cosplay has been on the backburner for a while.  Jay actually bought me the parrot headed umbrella (from the Disney Store) for Christmas.  And now I actually have a reason to get my act together and actually do it!

Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #1: Literature (or Shaken, Not Stirred)

I can't claim credit for this idea.  It was all Jay's. But I am old enough to admit that I am not likely to surpass this in terms of perfection  for the challenge, so here it is.   I also somehow got my dates confused and thought the challenge ended today, not started today, so I am (for once) ahead of schedule not behind..  yay! And it's kind of ironic that I will be late on my HSF challenge entry.

I would like to humbly offer the iconic Vesper martini from Casino Royale (published in 1953)

The Challenge:  #1  Literature
Date/Region:  1953.  Since Bond invented the Vesper, I'm going to say British for the region.

The first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953.  So it fits the pre-1960 requirement.
The 1953 cover, designed by Ian Fleming himself, from

The recipe itself comes directly from the book, which is about as primary as primary documentation can get. :)  In chapter 7, Rouge et Noir, Bond is in the casino and orders a drink.

"A dry martini," Bond said.  "One in a deep champagne goblet... three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Linnet.  Shake it very well until its ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel, got it?"

A few lines later he says:  "This drink's my own invention.  I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."    After a sip of the drink, he tells the barman: "Excellent.  But if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better."  The name comes in the next chapter, Pink Lights and Champagne, when he meets Vesper Lynd and names the drink after her.  

Interestingly, this is the only time in the novels that Bond orders a Vesper.  In other books, he orders vodka or gin martinis, but still always shaken, not stirred.  The only other reference to the Vesper in the Bond universe is in the movie Quantum of Solace in which Bond drinks 6 of them. (which is quite the impressive feat, because one of these is pretty darned potent.)

The ingredients were as simple as a trip to the liquor store (or the package store as they say in Georgia). I was afraid we were going to have difficulty finding the Kina Linnet, but the store had 2 kinds of a French aperitif wine called Linnet. A quick Google illuminated us that they don't sell Kina Linnet anymore, but that the blonde Linnet would be an acceptable substitute.

The Gordon's Gin was easy to find, but apparently in 1953, Gordon's was a 100 proof gin and what you can readily buy now is 80 proof.  

Since the only specific for the vodka was grain not potato, we went with Grey Goose, which is our preferred brand to drink.  Technically speaking, this is not entirely period correct for the recipe, since Grey Goose wasn't around until the 1990s, but I am willing to cede this point of accuracy since the remainder of the bottle will remain in our liquor cabinet.

We are sort of cocktail geeks and are rather fond of a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned in the evening, so we had all the cocktail mixing tools (shaker, strainer, jigger) on hand already.

We did not, however, have the classic champagne coupe glasses that Bond specifies for the Vesper.

I actually looked around locally for champagne coupe, thinking I would pick up a pair and be more historically correct, but the only place I found them was Williams-Sonoma and I didn't want to spend $70 just for this challenge, so the trusty cocktail glass will have to suffice.

Pretty straightforward.  Put into the shaker 3 large jiggers of Gordon's, 1 of vodka and a smaller jigger of Lillet.

Actually, the picture is incorrect.  The ingredients go in the glass part of the shaker.

Shake until icy cold.
I'd say that looks icy cold, wouldn't you?

Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon peel.  

Time to make: 5 minutes.  Time to research...  much longer than that :) 

Total cost:  So hard to calculate since we bought whole bottles of liquor and only used a few ounces of each.

How successful was it:  Very.  *hic*