Category Archives: Just for Fun

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

How NOT to Pie a Duke Professor

In honor of Pi Day, it’s time for a pop quiz.

If you, an esteemed Duke University professor, received a pie in the face in front of your class, what would you do?

A. Update your CV, in preparation for finding an alternate career far away from college students.
B. Cry.
C. Pause for snack time, then continue your lecture on a sugar high.
D. Chase your assailant and catch him while wading through a creek.

If you were popular chemistry professor James Bonk (who passed away in 2013), your answer would be D.

Pie-Die Advertisement, From the Chronicle, March 21, 1975.
Pie-Die Advertisement, From the Chronicle, March 21, 1975.

Duke students have always been enterprising—a proud trait imaginatively demonstrated by the brief but legendary history of Pie-Die, Ltd., a student-run company that placed its first advertisement in the March 21, 1975 issue of the Chronicle.

For a fee, Pie-Die would track down your target of choice and, well, you get the idea. Apparently, business was quite good: on March 28th, an anonymous letter to the editor of the Chronicle, written on behalf of the “Family,” spoke of a “labor shortage” and offered a job to anyone with “expertise in dexterity and cunning not to mention a dash of insanity.” A hit on a professor cost around $30, while $300 bought a contract on then-Duke president Terry Sanford.

The letter concluded:

We sincerely hope that those who receive our pies are not left with a bad taste in their mouths. All pies are administered in good clean wholesome fun in the best “mom-apple pie” tradition. To prove our intentions, all proceeds will go to World Famine Relief after operating costs have been met.

The first to be hit was psychology professor Irvin Alexander, who was pied in front of his class in Zener Auditorium. He wore a fencing mask to his next class.

James Bonk’s turn came on March 31st, one day shy of April Fools’ Day. His hired assailant caught him with a pie at the end of one of his famed “Bonkistry” lectures. The first-year “hit-man” either didn’t know or failed to properly consider Bonk’s athletic prowess: he was a volunteer coach for Duke’s men’s tennis team and had played the sport since his childhood.

The Pie-Man's Attack. From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.
The Pie-Man’s Attack. From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.

With his 200 students cheering him on, Bonk chased the young man out of his class, across campus, and finally caught up with him in the middle of a stream, where he demanded to see the student’s Duke identification card.

Captured! From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.
Captured! From the Chronicle, April 1, 1975.

This type of prank was becoming a trend on college campuses, and Bonk’s pursuit became national news. It was the perfect opportunity for pun-loving headline writers: the Charlotte Observer‘s article was titled “Pie-Eyed: Latest Craze is Chunking Custard,” while the Raleigh Times went with the more subtle “Creamed professor nabs pie thrower.” The Chronicle‘s headline was direct: “Bonk gets bonked.” The newspapers reported that the student would possibly face disciplinary action and that Bonk would also hold him responsible for his dry-cleaning costs.

After this, we lose track of Pie-Die: was there a turf war with their competitor, Fli-Pie? Did they ever catch up with Terry Sanford? Let us know in the comments if you can shed any light on these Duke history mysteries. (And, if you were a part of Pie-Die, let us know if you have any documentation from those days that you’d like to add to the University Archives. The statute of limitations must be up by now.)

Oh and, by the way, the pie that hit James Bonk was lemon meringue. Happy Pi Day!

Post contributed by Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist.

 

 

 

Growing up Duke

When Angier B. Duke (1884-1923) and Mary L. Duke (Biddle) (1887-1960) were born, Trinity College was still plodding away in Randolph County, and the American Tobacco Company was just a twinkle in James B. Duke’s eye. Still, W. Duke, Sons, and Company, the family business founded by Washington Duke, was so successful that parents Benjamin N. and Sarah P. Duke could already afford to give their son and daughter a childhood that wildly exceeded that of previous generations in terms of comfort and education. The couple’s first son, George Washington Duke, died at about two or three years of age in the early 1880s. His life preceded the time span of most of the papers held by the Rubenstein Library, and only a few reminders of his brief existence can be found, such as the haunting note from Ken Roney, Ben’s uncle, following the death of Roney’s son: “You know and I know now, how hard it is to give up a promising son.” Given this tragic past, the couple’s second and third children were much doted upon by their parents.

Among the few remaining mementos of their childhoods in the Benjamin Duke papers, some of the most amusing are the letters the children wrote to their father when he was away on business in New York. A young Angier was full of demands—for a sword case, a pair of shoes, and a visit from “Uncle Buck”: “when he comes he must stay with us longer.”

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In 1893 he also sent along his first school composition, an essay on Christopher Columbus (historical myths intact). Mary delighted in telling her father of her April Fools’ Day pranks:

“I have had a right good time April fooling people. I fooled Mrs. Robinson, and brother, and many other people. I don’t think you can fool anybody much up there.”

While the ties between the Duke family and Trinity College were obviously very strong (“Duke University,” need I say more?), it still seems extraordinary how closely connected Angier and Mary were with the campus community from a young age. A steady stream of professors were welcomed at the Duke home, including former presidents Crowell, Kilgo, Few, and many other names you might be able to pick off a university building in passing. Sarah P. Duke hosted literary societies such as the Shakespeare Club, and guest speakers also lodged at the Duke home. Angier and Mary’s private tutor was Arthur H. Meritt, whose day job was professor of Latin, German, and Greek.

Community events also drew together the Dukes and other Durham residents with the college faculty, including spelling bees and athletic matches. An 1896 letter from Angier to his father conveys his enthusiasm for an upcoming “kite-sailing” contest to be held by Professors Lockwood and Meritt. The same Professor Lockwood (physics and biology) used a nine-year old Mary, or rather four Mary’s, as the subject of one of his trick photograph experiments.

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Mary L. Duke (Biddle)

When the time came for Angier and Mary to attend college—well, it’s safe to say that Carolina wasn’t on the table. By the time they began their respective terms at Trinity (Angier in 1901 and Mary in 1903), the siblings already had buildings named after them, built with funds from their father and grandfather. The Mary Duke Women’s Building was demolished long ago to make way for new dormitories, while the Angier B. Duke Gymnasium, better known by the nickname “The Ark,” still stands on Duke University’s East Campus.

While the siblings lived in New York after they graduated, they always maintained a connection to Durham and their alma mater. Angier served on the Trinity College Board of Trustees, was president of the Trinity Alumni Association, contributed to the construction of the first fraternity dwellings sanctioned by the college, and left a generous bequest in his will, which was executed after his untimely death in 1923. He and Mary both donated considerable sums to realize the completion of the Alumni Memorial Gymnasium, built in honor of the students and alumni who perished during World War I. Perhaps the greatest testaments to Mary Duke Biddle’s philanthropy are the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and her support of the arts through the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. Like their parents, uncle and grandfather, both Angier and Mary succeeded in leaving a mark on the institution that had truly become part of the family.

Post contributed by Mary Mellon, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Intern

Apple Pudding Pie, or Pie Pudding, No. 2, Yankee Style (1896) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

It’s the fourth Friday of the month, so it’s time for another trip to the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen!

title pageThe History of Medicine Collections has a number of popular medicine guides, truly some of my favorite material in the Rubenstein Library’s holding. When I use such items in undergraduate instruction sessions, I refer to them as the Web MD of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Then we all chuckle and talk about how Web MD is terrible because no matter what you type into the search box, it tells you you’re dying.

So it’s refreshing to consult 19th century popular medicine guides that don’t tell you you’re going to die and instead give you home health remedies, tips on teaching your children sex education, and recipes for healthy cooking. For my participation in the Rubenstein Library’s Test Kitchen, I chose one such popular medicine guide, Dr. Chase’s Third, Last, and Complete Receipt Book and Household Physician, or, Practical Knowledge for the People, as my source for culinary delight.

But what to choose? There were hundreds of recipes, including an entire chapter devoted to “Food for the Sick,” which includes recipes for “chicken water” and “corn coffee.” With another chapter devoted to “Culinary Recipes,” I opted to forego those targeting the sick, in an attempt to make something that my family might enjoy.

Having become totally obsessed with the Great British Baking Show, I wanted to try to make a pudding of some sort. Dr. Chase’s book has not one but six apple pudding recipes, and I thought surely I could make something work (even without a pudding bowl).  I opted for Apple Pudding-Pie, or Pie-Pudding, No. 2, Yankee Style. The ingredients seemed simple, the directions vague but not totally unclear, and honestly, it seemed like maybe it would be edible. I was also intrigued by this “plan that avoids the soggy and indigestible bottom crust.”

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The ingredients were bland enough: apples, flour, baking powder, an egg, butter, and sweet milk. I assumed that I could use evaporated milk for “sweet milk.”

I peeled, cored, and sliced three Granny Smith apples and sprinkled them with cinnamon. Not having a pudding bowl, I opted for a Bundt pan. I whisked the baking powder and flour together and separately melted the butter, then added the egg and evaporated milk to the butter and whisked these together. I added the wet to the dry trying not to over stir. I then had something that looked like Trader Joe’s pizza dough – not a cake batter at all. I spread this over my apples, even though it was hard to do, and put it into the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. As my colleagues have noted, 19th century cookbooks aren’t known for giving tons of details, so I was winging it with the temperature and baking time.

before and after

At one point, I opened the oven, and the odor was reminiscent of mothballs. As I stood muttering about how long it should stay in, my husband (a Yankee, no less) quipped, “do you think if you leave it in there long enough it will turn into fudge brownies?” But I decided to wait, and after 45 minutes, took the pan out of the oven. I inverted the pan, and, I have to say, the hole created by the Bundt pan was aesthetically pleasing, and after tasting the pudding pie, this might have been a nice place to put loads of sugary, rich cream. Overall, the crust was indeed not soggy, nor did it have any flavor. And the apples were tasty when scraped off the digestible, spongey crust.

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So while I may not be able to recommend this particular recipe, I would recommend this book for a multitude of other reasons, including some great illustrations.

key to a happy home

Post Contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections

Say it with…Elephants?

It’s hard to kiss and make up. This Valentine Cupid, sweet as he is, carried no red roses to Democrats in 1954, only a satirical reminder of “broken promises” made in 1952, the year Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected (along with running mate Richard M. Nixon). This Valentine’s Day, hug your favorite Republican — or Democrat!

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By Leo Herschfield; Democratic Digest Records, Box 24

This cartoon cover art comes from the records of the Democratic Digest (1953-1961). The small-format magazine was the official mouthpiece of the Democratic National Committee. In addition to correspondence from readers, critics, and Democratic senators and governors, chiefly in response to political issues of the day (among which McCarthyism, civil rights, labor, nuclear weapons, farm subsidies, and party politics), about a third of the collection consists of hundreds of pieces of color and black-and-white layout art, including political cartoons by noted illustrator Leo Hershfield and others. There are also smaller amounts of editorial files and printed material. The Democratic Digest was continued in 1961 as The Democrat.

Post contributed by Paula J Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist. 

Crazies in Love: A Valentine’s Open House

Date: Thursday, February 12, 2015
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Amy McDonald, amy.mcdonald@duke.edu

Dearest readers and friends, we long to see you on Valentine’s Day. Won’t you please set our hearts a-flutter and come to our Valentine’s Day open house?

Do you fear that you will be too busy penning epistles of undying love to your own beloveds to join us? Ah, but this event is crafted especially for you: we’ll be sharing the most swoon-worthy of love declarations from the Rubenstein Library’s collections, so you may find just the term of endearment you need to woo your mate.

Perhaps a few examples to help the time pass more swiftly until we meet?

We’re charmed by the simplicity of this short note from the scrapbook of Odessa Massey, Class of 1928:

Note from Odessa Massey's scrapbook
From the Odessa Massey Scrapbook, 1924-1928.

Or the more expressive route taken by Francis Warrington Dawson—writing to Sarah Morgan, his future wife–is always sure to succeed:

Letter from Francis Warrington Dawson to Sarah Morgan, February 10, 1873. From the Dawson Family Papers.
Letter from Francis Warrington Dawson to Sarah Morgan, February 10, 1873. From the Francis Warrrington Dawson Family Papers.

“How deeply should I thank God that he has allowed me to know you, which is to love you, for the sun now has a brighter light & the sky a deeper blue. The whole world seems truer & better, & this pilgrim, instead of lingering in the depths, is breasting the healthy difficulties of existence, with his eyes fast fixed on you. Whatever else may fail, believe always in this devoted & unselfish love of Francis Warrington Dawson!”

Or whose heart wouldn’t melt upon receiving this most adorable valentine, from our Postcard Collection:

Valetine, undated. From the Postcard Collection.
Valentine postcard, undated. From the Postcard Collection.

And there might even be tips on how to present yourself when you present your valentine!

Barbasol advetisement, 1944.
Barbasol advetisement, 1944. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/adaccess_BH0643/

 

Have we convinced you yet? What if we mention that there will be chocolate and candy?

Until next Thursday,

Your Rubenstein librarians

Tomato Soup Cake (1972) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

It’s the fourth Friday of the month, so it’s time for another trip to the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen!

As an intern in the University Archives, I determined to find a recipe from among the University Archives collections for my Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen post. I settled on one from a cookbook in the Law Dames records. The Duke Law Dames was a social and service organization in the 1950s-1970s made up of primarily law student wives, but it was also open to women law students and wives of faculty and alumni. The group helped new members settle into the Durham area and offered social and educational events such as lectures, cooking demonstrations, and parties. As the spouse of a Duke graduate student, I identified with the Law Dames’ aims to welcome new arrivals and provide a community of support (although no group cookbooks or fashion shows for me).

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Culinary Casebook was published in 1972. The cover (clever artwork!) is worn and has a few stains, and there are pencil marks within: page numbers written in the title page, checkmarks next to some some of recipes. I think this book was well-loved and well-used. It includes front matter about ingredient substitutions, meal planning, herb, meat and sea food guides, and some diet and nutritional information. Reminding me of an almanac, there is also a section of miscellany: symptoms and prevention of common illnesses, first aid tips, planting charts, Bible verses, how to determine the date of Easter. Why can’t I find that in today’s cookbooks?

As a vegetarian, my selection was somewhat limited but I still had a hard time deciding which recipe to try. The successful Velveeta Corn Ring from an earlier post made me more bold and adventurous than I might have otherwise been, and I settled on something that sounded a bit strange and piqued my curiosity: Tomato Soup Cake.

recipe

Tomato Soup Cake

1 can tomato soup
1tsp. soda
¼ c. cream
Dissolve soda in soup and let stand a few minutes. Take another bowl and put in:
1 c. sugar
1 heaping Tbsp. Spry
1 pinch salt

Mix well, then add both mixtures together, then add:

2 c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves

(Sift twice before adding.) Mix well and add:

½ c. raisins, floured
1 tsp. lemon extract

Bake 1 hour in slow oven in bread pan 9x5x2 ½ inches deep – 10 minutes at 350 degrees, 50 minutes at 325 degrees.

ingredients

I’m not a method historical cook, so I resorted to using my stand mixer. More power to you though if you want to use the old-fashioned bowl and spoon. The recipe does not specify if the tomato soup should be condensed or not but since condensed tomato soup is the most ubiquitous that’s what I used, reasoning I could always add a can of water later if the batter looked too dry. It came out perfectly though with just the condensed soup.

I come from a “pop” not a “soda” kind of family, but my first reaction was to think there was some kind of carbonated beverage in the bread. The recipe is, of course, referring to baking soda. As anyone with some knowledge of chemistry might have guessed, when I stirred the baking soda into the soup it reacted to create a nice, fluffy, fizzy kind of mixture. I’m not much of a chemist, so this surprised me!

I hadn’t heard of Spry before. A quick Google search told me it was a brand of vegetable shortening, so I substituted Crisco. Interestingly Spry’s popularity waned after the 1950s, which makes me wonder if the recipe originated at least twenty years before its publication in the Law Dames cookbook. A little online browsing reveals a general consensus that tomato soup cake originated in the early twentieth century prior to World War II.

I didn’t have cake flour on hand and couldn’t find it on my grocery trip, so I found a substitution: for each cup, use all-purpose flour and replace two tablespoons of it with cornstarch.

I assumed that the cloves called for were ground cloves. I also forgot to sift together the powdered ingredients. So much for reading the recipe beforehand! Actually I had, but I was too caught up in the drama coming together in my mixing bowl.

batterI put the batter in a greased 8.5 inch pan and baked for an hour as instructed. I ended up leaving it in for an additional fifteen minutes, but chalk it up to the peculiarities of my oven. The smell of cinnamon and cloves reminded me of pumpkin bread or some other kind of spicy, wintry baked deliciousness. Very appropriate for these chilly January days.

finished product

The cake emerged looking and smelling more like a quick bread than a cake to me; I’m not entirely sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be or if it’s because I used all-purpose flour. Either way, it was delicious. The mild, faintly tart flavor mixed well with the raisins and spices. Warmed up with a bit of butter, it made a great breakfast, snack, or dessert. I would give it five stars!

When considering historical recipes, perhaps most people think of time measured in centuries, not decades – I know I do. Yet the pace of change can be very fast; it’s interesting to note what has changed and what has not in forty years. Assumptions about common knowledge or available ingredients shift over time, and something that sounds normal at one time seems strange at another – I didn’t know what to expect from tomato soup cake. But the Law Dame who submitted this recipe knew what she was doing! Here’s to trying something (old?) new

Post contributed by Jamie Burns, Isobel Craven Drill Intern, University Archives

Doris Duke’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Milk

Long live the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen! We’ve had so much fun trying out recipes from our collections that we have decided to continue the series on the last Friday of each month.

Christmas is over, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating. If you have room in your life for a little more dessert, I highly recommend trying Doris Duke’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Milk, one of hundreds of recipes available in the Doris Duke Papers.

Doris Duke’s collection includes boxes and boxes of recipes and menus from each of her houses — Duke Farms (Somerville, New Jersey), Rough Point (Newport, Rhode Island) , and Shangri-La (Hawaii). Duke appears to have collected a lot of her recipes during her travels (Thai and Hawaiian recipes were favorites), but her books also have plenty of American-style comfort food. Looking through the recipes was really fun, and it was hard to choose just one. I found a great one called Wine Jelly, which appears to be Doris Duke’s take on jello shots — except with sherry.

I wanted to make something to share with the Rubenstein Staff Holiday Party, so I went with the chocolate ice milk. It’s not quite as wild as some jello shots, but does have a ridiculous amount of chocolate, as well as espresso and a bit of cognac. And don’t worry about your New Year’s resolutions: it’s ice milk, not ice cream, so it’s totally healthy!

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Doris Duke’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Milk, from Box 177 (Folder 2) of the Doris Duke Papers.

The recipe dates from the early 1990s, so I found it fairly easy to make. The “bittersweet” part of the title is misleading — although the recipe has a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, it also has a full 2 pounds of semi-sweet chocolate. I used chocolate chips to save myself the effort of chopping chocolate. I also used homogenized skim milk, which seemed to work fine.

step 1The trickiest part for me was tempering the eggs, which involves pouring some of the warm chocolate into the yolk mixture, and then reuniting all of it back on the stove top. Do not expect any drastic change in the chemical composition of your mixture. When I finished heating everything and was ready to let it chill for 30 minutes, it basically looked like a giant bowl of chocolate milk. I was worried I would have to serve it with a straw.

step2After chilling for 30 minutes, a loose film had started to appear on the top of the mixture, which was reassuring. I put it in my ice cream maker for about 20 minutes, which thickened it up nicely. After an overnight in my freezer, it was ready for the party.

Verdict: This dish reminded me of hot chocolate, except it was frozen. It is extremely rich and pairs well with cake. Don’t skip the cognac. Just think: what would Doris do? (I know what you’re thinking. She’d also make the Wine Jelly. Here’s that recipe.)

wjPost contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

Wonder Woman’s Wintry Foe: The Blue Snowman

WW_BB_Cover (2)-page-001We write a lot about Wonder Woman. We write about her role(s) in nation making and myth making, her background tinged with exceptionalism and her femininity. We write about her big-screen potential, her small-screen potential, and any other mediums she might translate well to. (A serialized podcast, anyone?) What we don’t write about, or at least what we don’t write about often, are her foes—those vanquished, occasionally obliterated super villains who dared to mess with the princess of the Amazon. They are pushed to the periphery, partly hidden behind Diana Prince’s bright sun. Sometimes, however, a villain grinds his/her way back into the orbit, demanding that we take notice. The Blue Snowman is one of those villains.

First appearing in Sensation Comics #59, the Blue Snowman treads a very literal path: he is blue; he is a snowman, albeit one with very bushy eyebrows; and he puffs away at a pipe while plotting mayhem in Fair Weather Valley. A special “blue snow,” a chemical concoction designed to freeze everything and anything, is his weapon of choice. Money is his passion, and blackmail his way of obtaining it. That is, it would be if Wonder Woman hadn’t received a distress call from a friend in Fair Weather Valley, begging for the “marvelous Amazon resistance (4),” Wonder Woman. A swift kick, a lasso of truth whipped into action, and some near misses later, the Blue Snowman is apprehended and all is well.

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A tried and true story, perhaps a throw-away story, except for one small twist that you had to know was coming: the Blue Snowman is not really a snowman at all. Behind the snowman suit of iron is Byrna Brilyant, the daughter of a scientific genius who intended to use his blue snow invention to somehow save humanity. (The mechanics of using a blue snow-like substance for good are left up to the readers’ imaginations. I imagine non-melting ice cream is somehow involved.) This game-changer occurs in the penultimate panel of the comic, and yet, to Wonder Woman and crew, it is not actually a game changer.  Byrna’s story thus ends not with a bang, not even with a whimper, but with the slightest sound of a pin dropping hundreds of miles away.

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Although the reasoning can be guessed, we never learn why Byrna disguises herself as a man; why she chooses to go into crime instead of following in her father’s footsteps; or even why the Blue Snowman’s eyebrows are so bushy. Perhaps we learn her origin story in later comics, but perhaps we don’t. Like so many other super villains (and heroes, for that matter), it seems she can be found mostly in the white gutters between the comic panels. She is liminal, pushing boundaries and existing between boundaries.

She and her brethren don’t have to, though. Within the Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection, there are over four hundred boxes of comic books and counting. And within those comic books, there are thousands of characters ripe for synthesis, dissemination, and massive extrapolation. So here’s to those characters, those slightly quirky, serviceable villains who seek the limelight but somehow still fall short.

Post Contributed by Liz Adams, Research Services Library Assistant

Motivation station: A look at workplace motivational posters from the 1920s

While you are pondering your favorite Demotivators poster, consider the history of the motivational poster genre. It turns out our predecessors in the Greatest Generation needed to be inspired or, perhaps more to the point, advertisers decided they needed to tap the group’s general deep sense of faithful commitment to shape their behavior in the workplace.

action posters
An introduction to the series

 

In the early 1920s, salesman Charles Howard Rosenfeld proposed a series of motivational posters for workers to Charles Mather, who worked for his family’s Chicago printing house, the Mather Company. These “Constructive Organization Posters” were sold by subscription in over 300 varieties between 1923 and 1929.  In 1925, Rosenfeld and another Mather Company employee left to form their own printing company, C. J. Howard Inc., in order to sell their own line of “Action Posters.”

memo
Caption: The cards were 7” x 4.75”, designed to be displayed individually on workers’ desks on an easel.

 

xmas
The cards were printed as multicolored lithographs, often with striking designs. Unfortunately, the designer is not credited.

 

We have 28 examples of these “Action Posters,” printed instead as a set of cards promoting work habits and qualities that would help the business employee to advance. They hold up examples of those who: consciously earn their fellow workers’ respect, keep healthy and happy, do not worry or gossip, remain loyal to the company, provide accurate work and work steadily, seek constant improvement, have a winning attitude, make good suggestions, take criticism well, and follow through on instructions. All of these traits were in contrast to so-called problem employees, who were unhealthy, resentful, lacking in motivation, and destined to be employed elsewhere in the very near future.

parrots
A not-so subtle message about prattling at the water cooler.

 

new year
The Action Posters include seasonal well-wishes for employees.

 

We wish you Happy Holidays, no matter where you find your motivation.

Find more information, visit the catalog record for this item.

Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, original cataloger/archivist for small manuscript collections.