All posts by Kate Collins

Shrimp Gumbo Filé (1916) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Last week, I saw a student production of A Streetcar Named Desire. The play, famously set in New Orleans, immediately ignited memories of my time in NOLA. One moment, I was sitting under the green and white striped awning of Café Du Monde where I eagerly waited for the arrival of a small mountain beignets. Then, I was savoring every morsel of a roast beef po’boy from Parkway Bakery, blissfully unaware that rivulets of au jus were trailing down my wrists. After that, I drifted off even further and was reliving my first slurpy spoonful of duck gumbo. That dish made my heart sing!

Gumbo is one of the oldest and most iconic dishes served in New Orleans. In its most basic form, gumbo is a soupy stew cooked slowly over a low flame. It is served in a bowl with a heaping spoonful of Louisiana long grain rice. The simplicity of that description is misleading, though. Recipes for gumbo are so diverse that it is nearly impossible to define the dish in formulaic terms. Peering into a simmering pot of gumbo, for example, you might see any combination of the following meats and seafood: crabs, shrimp, oysters, ham, chicken, duck, rabbit, and sausage. You might also spot roughly or finely chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers—the so called “holy trinity” of Louisiana cooking. Often, you’ll catch a glimpse of the swirling, willowy tendrils of okra slime. Or, you might see a bay leaf bobbing along the surface of the stew as it slowly releases its tangy, herbal flavor into the stock. Gumbo, then, is anything but formulaic and reflects the amazing complexity of New Orleans’ Creole food culture.

picayune cookbookGumbo is also a dish that invites experimentation. In fact, I might characterize it as a “playful” one. Inspired by the vivacious spirit of this dish, I chose to modify some aspects of the gumbo I found in the The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (1916). I’ve included both the original recipe and my derivation of it below.

The recipe:

Shrimp Gumbo Filé
Gombo Filé aux Chevrettes

50 Fine Lake Shrimp
2 Quarts of Oyster Liquor
1 Quart of Hot Water
1 Large White Onion. 1 Bay Leaf.
3 Sprigs of Parsley. 1 Sprig of Thyme.
1 Tablespoonful of Lard or Butter.
1 Tablespoonful of Flour.
Dash of Cayenne.
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste.

Shell the shrimp, season highly and scald in boiling water. Put the lard into a kettle, and, when hot, add the flour, making a brown roux. When quite brown, without a semblance of burning, add the chopped onion and the parsley. Fry these, and when brown, add the chopped bay leaf; pour in the hot oyster liquor and the hot water, or use the carefully strained liquor in which the shrimp have been boiled. When it comes to a good boil and about five minutes before serving, add the shrimp to the gumbo and take off the stove. Then add to the boiling hot liquid about two tablespoonfuls of the “Filé,” thickening just as desired. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with boiled rice.

(Ashley’s) Shrimp Gumbo Filé

¼ cup of vegetable oil
¼ cup of flour
1 large white onion, chopped
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
1 pint of oyster liquor
1 ½ pounds of unpeeled lake shrimp
1 pound chopped chicken thighs
1 smoked ham shank
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

In New Orleans, there is a common phrase that marks the beginning of many gumbo recipes: first you make a roux. A roux is a combination of flour and fat (oil, lard, or butter) that is slowly toasted over a low flame, creating a rich, nutty flavor. For many people who are new to Creole cuisine, making it can be an intimidating process. After all, it takes at least 30 to 45 minutes to prepare a roux from scratch (no wonder people buy it in jars). The time investment is well worth it, though. The longer you toast your roux, the more complex and delicious the flavor of your gumbo!

I started off with a large soup pot (one with a thick bottom). Over medium heat, I combined equal parts oil and flour, stirring constantly (preferably with a wooden spoon). At first, the roux will be fairly thin and light yellow in color.

gumbo 1As the flour starts to toast, the roux will thicken slightly and air bubbles will begin to form on its surface. It will also appear slightly “gummy”—almost like mashed potatoes (if your roux is still thin, you can add another tablespoon or two of flour to thicken it). The key is to keep stirring.

gumbo 2After about twenty minutes, the roux will begin to smell like popcorn or toasted nuts. At this point, it will gradually begin to darken to a caramel color. Keep stirring! Over the next ten to fifteen minutes, the roux will become even darker. I always say that an ideal roux is almost the color of a Hershey’s chocolate bar (and that transformation can take over an hour). If you do not make it that far in the process, that’s OK. The most important thing is to cook the roux long enough to eliminate the “raw” taste of the flour.

gumbo 3Once you’ve reached your ideal coloring, add the chopped onion to the roux. You will hear a sizzling sound. Adding the onion stops the toasting process and will prevent your roux from burning. Allow the onions to cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You want them to sweat and begin to brown.

gumbo 4Add the chicken stock, oyster liquor, shrimp, chicken, ham shank, and bay leaf. Bring the gumbo to a boil and then reduce the heat so that you have a steady simmer going for two hours. Stir every 15 to 20 minutes. You want the stock to reduce by a third.

A few notes: I prefer using unpeeled or partially-peeled shrimp because the exoskeleton gives the stock a really wonderful, shrimpy flavor. I also use smoked ham shank over hocks because the former has more meat, which I later pull off the bone and incorporate back into the gumbo before serving. In addition, I like to use the dark meat of chicken because it has a richer flavor that works well with the nuttiness of the roux. Last, but not least, if you cannot find oyster liquor, you can substitute it with unsalted chicken broth.

After the gumbo has reduced, take it off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. (The stock will already be fairly salty because of the smoked ham shank, so you may not need additional salt).

I like to serve my gumbo over ½ cup of long grain rice. I allow my guests to add a dusting of filé powder to their own bowls before digging into their supper. I also encourage them to get up close and personal with their gumbo. I often find myself calling out instructions and encouragement: “Pick up that shrimp right from the bowl! Don’t be shy! You’re supposed to eat gumbo with your hands as well as your spoon.” At least, that was how I was taught to eat my gumbo when I lived in New Orleans. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

gumbo 5

 

Post contributed by Ashley Young, History PhD student and next year’s Graduate Student Intern for our Research Services Department.

New Collection Spans Five Centuries of Women’s History

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired one of the largest and most significant private collections on women’s history, documenting the work and intellectual contributions of women from the Renaissance to the modern era.

Isotta Nogarola, humanist, 1418-1466, from Jacopo Philippo Bergomensis' De Claris Mulieribus, 1497
Isotta Nogarola, humanist, 1418-1466, from Jacopo Philippo Bergomensis’ De Claris Mulieribus, 1497

Carefully assembled over 45 years by noted bibliophile, activist and collector Lisa Unger Baskin, the collection includes more than 8,600 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, journals, ephemera and artifacts, including author Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.. Among the works are many well-known monuments of women’s history and literature, as well as lesser-known works produced by female scholars, printers, publishers, scientists, artists and political activists. Taken together, they comprise a mosaic of the ways women have been productive, creative, and socially engaged over more than 500 years. The collection will become a part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

Cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864 Photographer is unknown
Cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864
Photographer is unknown

The materials range in date from a 1240 manuscript documenting a respite home for women in Italy to a large collection of letters and manuscripts by the 20th-century anarchist Emma Goldman.  The majority of materials were created between the mid-15th and mid-20th centuries. Other highlights include correspondence by legendary American and English suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst and Lucretia Mott; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publicity blurb for Sojourner Truth’s Narrative, written in Stowe’s own hand; exquisite decorated bindings by the celebrated turn-of-the-century British binders Sarah Prideaux, Katharine Adams, and Sybil Pye; and Woolf’s writing desk, which the author designed herself.

Baskin and her late husband, the artist Leonard Baskin, were both avid book collectors. Leonard also founded The Gehenna Press, one of the preeminent American private presses of the 20th century. Lisa Unger Baskin began collecting materials on women’s history in the 1960s after attending Cornell University. She is a member of the Grolier Club, the oldest American society for bibliophiles.

“I am delighted that my collection will be available to students, scholars and the community at Duke University, a great teaching and research institution,” Baskin said. “Because of Duke’s powerful commitment to the central role of libraries and digitization in teaching, it is clear to me that my collection will be an integral part of the university in the coming years and long into the future. I trust that this new and exciting life for my books and manuscripts will help to transform and enlarge the notion of what history is about, deeply reflecting my own interests.”

Materials from the collection will be available to researchers once they have been cataloged. Some items will be on display in the renovated Rubenstein Library when it reopens to the public at the end of August 2015.

For more information about the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection visit http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/bingham/lisa-unger-baskin.

Congratulations to Our 2015-2016 Research Grant Recipients

The Rubenstein Library’s research centers annually award travel grants to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars through a competitive application process. Congratulations—we look forward to sharing our collections with you!

History of Medicine Research Grants

Lindsey Beal, MFA, for photographic research on late nineteenth and early twentieth century obstetric and gynecological instruments.

Forceps from the History of Medicine instrument collection
Forceps from the History of Medicine instrument collection

Elaine LaFay, PhD candidate in History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, for dissertation work on “Weathered Bodies, Sickly Lands: Climate, Health, and Place in the Antebellum Gulf South.”

Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi, PhD, for work on “Deafness is Misery: Advertised Cures for Hearing Loss in Early 20th Century America.”

 

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African-American History and Culture Research Grants

Wangui Muigai, Princeton University, “An Awful Gladness: Infant Mortality and Race from Slavery to the Great Migration”

Jessica Parr, University of New Hampshire at Manchester, “’Saved from My Pagan Land:’ the Role of Religion in Self-Making in the Black Atlantic, 1660-1820.”

Whitney Stewart, Rice University, “Domestic Activism: The Politics of the Black Home in Nineteenth-Century America”

Brandon Winford, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “Building New South Prosperity: John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights”

N.C. Mutual Home Office and Mechanics and Farmers Bank
N.C. Mutual Home Office and Mechanics and Farmers Bank

 

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Research Grants

Dana Alsen, Department of History, University of Alabama, “Changing Patterns of Food Consumption in North Carolina, 1945-1989”

Dr. Makeda Best, Dept. of Visual Studies, California College of the Arts, “Sensing Memory: Kodak Cameras, Class, the Haptic, and the Labor of Memory in Late Nineteenth Century America”

Cari Casteel, History of Technology, Auburn University, “The Odor of Things: Deodorant, Gender, and Olfaction in the United States, 1888-2010”

Advertisement for Jergens Dryad Deodorant
Advertisement for Jergens Dryad Deodorant

 

Dr. Victoria Greive, Dept. of History, Utah State University, “Childhood and the Ideology of Domestic Security: Advertising During the Cold War”

Kira Lussier, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, “Managing Your Self:  Personality Testing in Corporate America, 1960-present”

Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Visiting Scholar, Institute of Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Columbia University,  “Ad Women in a (Mad)Men World: Negotiating Gender in the Advertising Business 1910-1930”

Dr. Rebecca Sheehan, United States Studies Center, University of Sydney, “The Rise of the Superwoman: How Sex Remade Gender in America’s Long 1970s”

Dr. Mark Tadajewski, Professor of Marketing, Durham University, “Jean Kilbourne: Recalling the Contributions of a Feminist Critic of Advertising”

Seth Tannenbaum, Department of History, Temple University, “Take Me Out…To the Concession Stand: Baseball, Food, and Citizenship in the Twentieth Century”

 

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Mary Lily Research Grants

Meaghan Beadle, Ph.D. candidate, history, University of Virginia, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like! Photography and Feminism, 1968-1980.”

Hanne Blank, Ph.D. candidate, history, Emory University, “Southern Women, Feminist Health: Activist Health Service and Communities of Radical Conscience in the Southeastern U.S., 1968-1990.”

Feminist Women’s Health Center
Feminist Women’s Health Center

 

Samantha Bryant, Ph.D. candidate, history, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, “‘Black Monster Stalks the City’: The Thomas Wansley Case and the Racialized Cultural Landscape of the American Prison Industrial Complex, 1960 – 1975.”

Jaime Cantrell, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, The Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Mississippi, “Southern Sapphisms: Race, Sexuality, and Sociality in Literary Productions, 1968-1994.”

Ariel Dougherty, Independent scholar, for book research on film teaching programs for young women, women of color, and queer women.

Anne Gray Fischer, Ph.D. candidate, history, Brown University, for dissertation research on the politics of prostitution in the US from 1960s – 1980s.

Anna Iones, Ph.D. candidate, English language and literature, University of Virginia, “Shocking Violence, Contested Consent: The Feminist Avant-garde from Kathy Acker to Riot Grrrl.”

Catherine Jacquet, Assistant Professor, history, Louisiana State University, Responding to Rape: Contesting the Meanings of Sexual Violence in the United States, 1950-1980.

Whitney Stewart, Ph.D. candidate, history, Rice University, “Domestic Activism: The Politics of the Black Home in Nineteenth-Century America.”

Mary Whitlock, Ph.D. candidate, sociology, University of South Florida, “Examining Forty Years Of The Social Organization Of Feminisms:  Ethnography Of Two Women’s Bookstores In the US South.”

Leah Wilson, Master’s student, English, Iowa State University, “Fleeing the Double Bind: Subverting the ‘White Trash’ Label through Female Solidarity and Erotic Power in Dorothy Allison’s Cavedweller.”

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Southeast Reading Series

Date: Friday, April 24, 2015
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Edge Workshop Room, Bostock Library
Contact: Sara Seten Berghausen, sara@duke.edu

Mur Lafferty's Ghost Train to New Orleans
Mur Lafferty’s Ghost Train to New Orleans

Please join us and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for a new regional reading series, SFWA Southeast Reading Series on Friday, April 24. This event is free and open to the public.

The SFWA Southeast Reading Series will present a panel on science fiction and technology with authors Mark Van Name, Mur Lafferty, Richard Dansky, Jay Posey, Justin Achilli, and (via Skype) Tiffany Trent. The panel will be moderated by Hillsborough author and editor M. David Blake.

The panel will be followed by a question and answer session, and a chance to mingle with the authors.

More information on Facebook.

Mad Men Monday – Season 7, Episode 9 “New Business”

Mad Men Mondays logo

Last night’s episode began and ended with scenes focusing on things that Don has lost in his life. At the Francis house, Don makes a milkshake for his sons. Betty and Henry come home and Don wistfully watches his family chatting together then leaves alone.

Megan calls to ask Don for $500 for the movers. She wants them to “just sign the papers and be done with this” and is tired of asking for an allowance.

Don tracks down Diana at a steakhouse. He wants to have dinner with her “even if it’s five minutes at a time.” Later she comes to his apartment in the middle of the night. They talk about their divorces and her past.

Peggy hires renowned photographer Pima Ryan for the Cinzano shoot. Stan scoffs at first, but then wants Pima to look at his work. Pima seduces him, and later makes a pass at Peggy. They both realize that Pima took advantage of them.

Megan’s mother, Marie, criticizes Megan for letting Don off so easy. Megan’s sister implies that Megan is a failure because of her divorce. Marie is left to supervise the movers at Don’s apartment and fills the whole moving truck with Don’s furniture. Marie calls Roger asking for cash to pay the mover. He arrives at Don’s apartment with the money and Marie rekindles their previous affair.

Harry and Megan meet for lunch to discuss her acting career. He flatters Megan, but then makes a pass at her. She leaves in disgust. She goes back to Don’s apartment, shocked to discover it empty except for Roger and Marie. Megan scolds them both and leaves.

Don and Megan meet in the attorney’s office. Megan accuses him of ruining her life. Don writes her a check for a million dollars. “I want you to have the life you deserve,” he says. She takes the check and gives Don her wedding ring.

Don arrives at Diana’s tiny apartment. He is ready for a new start and gives her a book about New York City. Diana insists that she can’t see him anymore because she forgot about the daughter she abandoned while with Don and she never wants to do that. Don goes home to find his apartment completely empty.

Last night’s episode featured references to blenders, Life Cereal, Cinzano vermouth, photography, Champagne, and Tab, among other things.  Enjoy our selection of highlighted ads that reflect the brands and themes that Mad Men characters interacted with last night.

A gallery of our selected images may also be found on Flickr.

1 blender

2 movers and guide book

3 Life cereal

4 Vermouth

5 camera

6 Champagne

7 Tab

8 Golf wear

9 white trench coat

Mad Men Mondays: Season 7, Episode 8 “Severence”

Mad Men Mondays logo

Mad Men is back!  This half-season premier felt like an extended dream sequence with Peggy Lee’s eerie hit “Is That All There Is?” bookending the episode.

The episode opens with Don holding a cup of vending machine coffee and a lit cigarette while posing a woman wearing nothing but a pricy fur coat—Don, the eternal misogynist.  The scene widens to reveal that he is in fact working a casting call at the office.

Mathis attempts to set up Peggy on a blind date with his brother-in-law.  After some initial resistance she eventually acquiesces.  While something of a milquetoast—he won’t even return an incorrect food order—the date goes well and, after some wine and a bottle of Galliano, the date nearly culminates in a spontaneous trip to Paris.  Instead, the couple settles for a phone call in two weeks.

Fearing the toll that the advertising industry is taking on his psyche, Ken Cosgrove’s wife tries to persuade him to get out of the advertising business and focus on his writing.  The following day, at the behest of a McCann-Erickson executive, Ken is fired by Roger.  While expressing some bitterness at Roger’s lack of loyalty, he chooses to interpret the moment as kismet, an opportunity.  Rather than focus on his writing he listens to his competitive instincts and accepts a position as director of advertising for Dow Chemical.  Rather than pulling Dow’s business from the SC&P he vows to be a difficult client to please in the future.

Peggy and Joan have an encounter of their own with the heavy-handed and none-to-subtle staff of McCann.  On behalf of SC&P’s client Topaz pantyhose, together they pitch the possibility of McCann introducing them to some of their department store clients.  After a few minutes of crude innuendo from the McCann reps, Peggy finally persuades them to take a look at the proposal.  Rather than a bonding experience the meeting results in an elevator argument between Peggy and Joan over the meeting’s takeaway lessons.

After a vision (dream?) of Rachel Katz, his brief fling from season 1, in Chinchilla fur, Don attempts to set-up a meeting with her under the auspices of a potential partnership between her department store and Topaz pantyhose only to learn that she has recently passed from an illness.  Perhaps it’s the memory of Rachel that informs his continued attraction to the mysterious waitress at the late-night diner.   With Rachel’s family sitting shiva, Don attempts to pay his respects only to be cast out.  Finding his way to the diner, he attempts to connect with the waitress only to be told that the tryst was merely just compensation for the large cash tip from a previous evening.

Last night’s episode featured references to toasters, L’eggs hosiery, wine stained carpet, veal, pop tarts, and Paris.

A gallery of our selected images may also be found on Flickr.

1-Topaz008
2 Carpet009
3-McGregor010
4-Pop-tart011
5-Fleischmans012
6-Veal013
7-Galliano014
8 Paris015

Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities Quiz

How well do you know your old medical instruments? Take our quiz and find out!

 

medicine cabinet of curiostiy

The History of Medicine Collections has over 850 unique medical instruments and artifacts. These items compliment our incredible book and manuscript collections. Along with the largest collection of ivory anatomical manikins in North America, we hold numerous surgical instruments and devices, microscopes, and an assortment of other unusual items.

Check out our collection guide for descriptions and thumbnail images of these items. And stay tuned – as our renovation nears completion, a number of these items will be on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

Fall 2015 Archives Alive Courses

6258172244_c31f8f5955_oWe’re excited to announce the first series of Archives Alive courses for Duke Undergraduates. These courses will enable students to develop innovative and significant projects based on original materials held in the Rubenstein Library. These courses are open to first-year and upper-class undergraduate students and range from the arts and humanities to the socials sciences. Scholar-teachers guide students’ explorations, providing first-hand exposure to advanced research practices and immersive learning that goes beyond traditional coursework. Students produce signature products that demonstrate their capabilities for in-depth investigation, team collaboration and communicating the significance of their work to others.

Classes for the Fall 2015 semester are:

Modern & Contemporary African American Art
ARTHIST 283/AAAS 227.  Curriculum Codes: CCI, EI, ALP, CZ
WF 10:05-11:20
Instructor: Richard J. Powell

Gender and Philosophy
PHIL 222/WOMENST 222.  Curriculum codes: CZ, EI
Monday 3:20-5:50PM
Instructor: Andrew Janiak

Topics in Digital History & Humanities: NC Jukebox
HISTORY 390S-1/ISIS 390S/MUSIC 290S-1. Curriculum Codes: ALP, CZ,
Thursday 10:05-12:30
Instructors: Trudi Abel/Victoria Szabo

Read the full course descriptions at Trinity College Arts & Sciences

Shin of Beef Stewed with Wow Wow Sauce (1823) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

“DINNER is the only act of the day, which cannot be put off without Impunity, for even FIVE MINUTES.”

William Kitchiner, The Cook’s Oracle, “Invitations to Dinner,” p. 39.

English cooking is a punch line. You don’t even need a joke to set it up. Just say, “English cooking,” and people start smirking, or chortling, even suppressing laughter. It hardly seems fair.

After all, Great Britain boasts its share of culinary scores. The Scotch egg is a triumph of human ingenuity, I’ll take a ploughman’s lunch any day of the week, and the standing rib roast with Yorkshire puddings rates as a time-proven classic. Really, America, with your pit-cooked barbeques and New York-style slices, don’t be so glib. Arthur Treacher would like a word.

When I volunteered to write a Rubenstein Test Kitchen post, I had no real ideas for it, but set out on a path of discovery, like Walter Raleigh sailing for Carolina.1 I can’t remember how I came across William Kitchiner’s proto-Victorian cookbook, The Cook’s Oracle, in our catalog, and learned that the History of Medicine Collection holds a copy of the Fifth Edition, published in 1823. But I can tell you that I was drawn to it by one word: Wow.

More particularly, it was that word, twice. I learned that Kitchiner is credited as the inventor of a thing called Wow Wow Sauce, an accompaniment for boiled meat dishes. Intriguingly, the recipe includes two English condiments I never knew existed: pickled walnuts, and mushroom catsup.

How – I asked myself – could I not cook something called Wow Wow Sauce? The answer is, I couldn’t. I couldn’t not cook Wow Wow Sauce.

Kitchiner was a physician by profession, but seems to have been stern and serious in his approach to cooking and socializing. His cause was to bring scholarly and scientific order to the chaotic affairs of households and kitchens. Wikipedia claims his name was a household word and the book a best-seller. Chambers’ Book of Days, a miscellany published in 1879, provides background on his life and habits.

So the two recipes I select from Kitchiner’s book are Shin of Beef Stewed (No. 493), and Wow Wow Sauce for Stewed or Bouilli Beef (No. 328). The first order of business is to secure the ingredients, and in this effort I turn to two eminent local suppliers. First, I head to Southern Season in Chapel Hill, on whose shelves I locate both Opie’s brand pickled walnuts and George Watkins brand mushroom catsup.

IMG_0253

Second, I need meat. Now, I happen to live in the town of Pittsboro, where I’m lucky to shop with Lilly Den Farm at the Chatham Mills farmers’ market each week. Tucker and Mackenzie’s place is out past Goldston, down in what’s called Deep Chatham. They hook me up with a nice-looking foreshank, a shin indeed, nearly two feet long and heavy with marbled meat. It’s covered in a tough membrane, which I skin off with a knife. Then I coat the whole thing in a generous amount of kosher salt, wrap it, and store it in the fridge overnight.

IMG_0240

The next day, just before noon, I set the shank in a pot, cover it with cold water, and bring it to a simmer.

Usually, one buys a beef shank this size cut crosswise into two or maybe three discs. The flat surfaces from these cuts are convenient for seasoning and placing in a hot, oiled pan for browning, which produces the Maillard reaction, enhancing the flavor of the meat and leading to a rich, brown broth.

But that’s not what I’m looking for here. Yes, Kitchiner himself recommends a shank cut into sections (and doesn’t mention browning), but I prefer the shin intact. No fancy Maillard crust for my Test Kitchen project. I honestly can’t describe my vision better than this Guardian author: “The grisly, gristly spectre of an ashen Victorian joint – a lump of cracked cement flanked by dismal sprigs” – Yes! That’s exactly what I’m going for, and by the way, I love your accent, please do continue – “speaks of cabbagey kitchens and bones poking out of stockpots, of puritan blandness and the unfashionably old-fashioned.” Swoon! You had me at “bones poking out.”

I’ll leave it to other Test Kitchen authors to write up dishes that are “delicious,” or “good.” I’m going for something else entirely – “English.”

Okay, that was a cheap shot. But let’s just say the target aesthetic here is more steampunk than “Top Chef.”

Kitchiner was a staunch pro-boiling partisan; he begins the “Rudiments of Cooking” section of his book with a chapter on it. His main points of advice are time-tested – skim the pot and keep it low and slow. He also shares data from his own experiments comparing the loss of mass for roasting (more) versus boiling (less, especially when the broth is reserved and used).

Kitchiner’s entry for Beef Bouilli (No. 5) is really more of a polemic in favor of boiling than it is a recipe. “Meat cooked in this manner,” he says

affords much more nourishment than it does dressed in the common way, is easy of digestion in proportion as it is tender, and an invigorating substantial diet, especially valuable to the Poor, whose laborious employments require support.

He continues in this vein, excoriating the poor for neglecting the “coarser cuts of meat” and choosing roasting over boiling, losing mass and nourishment in the process. Why, he wonders, can’t the miserable, hard-boiling, hard-drinking English be more like the French, who – despite having access to all the best booze – simmer and sip their way to perpetual good grace and humor?

IMG_0245

When the pot begins to simmer, per Kitchiner’s instructions, I skim the top with a ladle, then add a quartered onion, two stalks of celery, a dozen berries each of black pepper and allspice, and a few sprigs of thyme. About four hours later, I remove the shank. I would say that I pull the meat off the bone, but more accurately it slides off onto the platter. At this point, I figure the shin bone has a few more hours of good boiling left in it, so I return it to the pot and let it go at a rolling pace for a while. The result is three quarts of rich, heady broth.

IMG_0258

 

I’m sorry to report that I’ve completely failed in my efforts to turn the shin into a bland, dun-colored, flinty gnarl of meat. The beef I taste is flavorful, moist, and tender. Here’s my hot take on the Maillard reaction – it’s overrated.

Now it’s time to whip up the Wow Wow Sauce. I sample the mushroom catsup: liquid, salty, redolent of clove. It’s reminiscent of Worcestershire sauce, but in a different shape of bottle. The pickled walnuts are … unusual. The balsamic vinegar in which they’re packed dominates the initial touch on the palate, followed by traces of woodiness and tannin, like pine bark softened in mouthwash. Are they packed in the jars by smelly feet? I can’t say for sure. The texture is wet, crumbling clay.

IMG_0264

Kitchiner’s Wow Wow recipe is fairly specific:

Chop some Parsley leaves very finely, quarter two or three pickled Cucumbers, or Walnuts, and divide them into small squares, and set them by ready; put into a saucepan a bit of Butter as big as an egg; when it is melted, stir to it a tablespoonful of fine Flour, and about half a pint of the Broth in which the Beef was boiled; add tablespoonful of made Mustard; let it simmer together till it is as thick as you wish it, put in the Parsley and Pickles to get warm, and pour it over the Beef, or rather send it up in a Sauce-tureen.

He then describes a series of optional ingredients one could add to make it more “piquante.”

Here’s a summary of what I ended up doing:

2 T chopped parsley
3 pickled walnuts, diced
2 T butter
1 T flour
1 c beef broth at room temperature
1 T vinegar from walnuts
1 T mushroom ketchup
1 t horseradish
2 T beer

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth all at once, whisk into the roux, and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley and simmer for several minutes, until the sauce is thick and blended through. Finish with the parsley.

IMG_0258

I spoon some of the sauce over the beef and serve it with mashed potatoes (No. 106) and green beans (No. 133, more or less). I’m usually someone who likes things, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of the Wow Wow Sauce. It’s essentially gravy with pickled walnuts, and since I don’t love the pickled walnuts, the gravy isn’t working for me. One Internet commenter refers to it as “basically adding all the strong stuff the Victorians might have found in their kitchen together,” and I think that sounds about right.

IMG_0285

In the end, I mince the leftover meat, combine it with the stock, some vegetables, a splash of the mushroom catsup, and a cup of pearled barley, to make a substantial soup that – in the spirit of economy attested by Kitchiner – provides for lunches all week. This quality, the versatility of the boiled beef, is my main takeaway from my Test Kitchen endeavor, and it echoes in this proverb – with which I’ll conclude – quoted by the ever class-conscious doctor:

“Of all the Fowls of the Air, commend to me the SHIN OF BEEF, for there’s Marrow for the master, Meat for the mistress, Gristles for the servants, and Bones for the dog.”

1. Raleigh never came to Carolina, and in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t visit the Rubenstein reading room until after I’d made the dish and drafted half this post. I did lay hands on the Fifth Edition in Duke’s collection. I also pulled out the single folder of Kitchiner manuscripts in the Trent Collection, and perused the five handwritten notes on social and mundane matters. But for the cooking activities of this project, and the quotations and references in this post, I made use of an Internet Archive version of the Fourth Edition, published in 1822.

Post contributed by Will Sexton, Head, Digital Projects and Production Services

R!C!A! Film Screening: Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

Date: Thursday March 19, 2015
Time: 7:00pm-9:00pm
Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Franklin Garage
Contact: Patrick Stawski, patrick.stawski@duke.edu 919-660-5823.

Rights!Camera!Action presents Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare , 2012 winner of the Full Frame Film Festival Human Rights Award.  Directed and produced by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke, Escape Fire tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?

escape-fire-poster

It’s not surprising that healthcare tops many Americans’ concerns and is at the center of a political firestorm in our nation’s Capitol. But the current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system. Escape Fire examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care.  After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground.  A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Sponsored by the Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, and the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI.