Thursday, June 2, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 2016, Challenge No. 11: Picnic Foods

The Challenge:
11. Picnic Foods (May 20 - June 2) Some foods are just meant to be eaten in the outdoors! Concoct a dish that is documented for al fresco dining, or foods that might particularly lend themselves to eating at a picnic.

If the fellow foodies will remember, I've set an additional challenge to interpret dishes that are listed as served at the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. While this Dinner is nowhere near a picnic, some of the foods served lend themselves to al fresco dining nicely.
The sunny strawberry lends a happy note to tables, whether a hot house strawberry in the hint of spring or a ripe berry in the heat of summer. Few picnic menus of the 1860s would be complete without Strawberries and Cream.

Gardener's Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette for 1858
 But it is in the rural picnic that “Strawberries and cream" their greatest charm. There, reclining under the thick foliage of the trees of some aristocratic domain-patular recubans sub tegmine fagi – our stores are opened by fair hands, and the fruit being duly crush with the proprtions of cream and sugar, we partake of food fit for the gods of Olympus, and wish that Strawberries were “in” all the year round. Delighting both by the taste and smell, and disagreeing with nobody, this favourite fruit confers a charm on that season of the year when spring loses itself in the clear skies and hot gales of early summer.

We've followed the preparation for Mock Cream in Challenge No. 9. Today, we'll explore the preparation of strawberries.
Cookbooks offer little in the way of preparation methods of fresh fruits considered common. The authors must assume one knows the common methods of preparing strawberries.

Literature will sometimes give a hint, such as this charming tale from Harper's New Monthly Magazine:

Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol.19, 1859
It was the morning of the Fourth of July, and raining. The beaux and belles of Hampton for a number of days had been planning a picnic on the banks of Meadow Brook, and many were the anxiously upturned faces to the skies that morning. I was a little girl then, or at least a very young lady, whose entrĂ©e into society had not been made, but whose first appearance at that party had been confidently calculated upon and dreamed over for a whole week preceding. An older brother, home on a visit from the neighboring city, had promised to escort me, provided I could produce as fine a “basket of provisions” as any of our neighbors, which I was not afraid to promise, with my mother's help. For two or three days I was occupied with sugar-rolling, flour-sifting, egg-beating, strawberry-hulling, and cherry-picking, while my mother made cakes, moulded pies and jellies, attended to the boiling of neats' tongues and ham for sandwiches. What a pleasant introduction was that to the cook-room ! and how to a charm every thing prospered in our hands! For I could not help measuring the assistance I rendered by the magnitude of the interest felt in the preparations. Every thing was completed the day preceding, and looked, my father said, as though there was to be a wedding in the house; and my brother, for whose opinion I was most solicitous, as though we had made preparation for the whole crowd. 

The Recipe:
Finally in 1877, we find Mary Newton Foote Henderson's  Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving
The French serve large fine strawberries without being hulled. Pulverized sugar is passed, the strawberry is taken by the thumb and finger by the hull, dipped into the sugar, and eaten. The Wilson strawberry, however, which seems to be our principal market strawberry, certainly requires stemming, and deluging with sugar before serving.

The Date/Year and Region: 
1800-1880, United States

How Did You Make It:
Since my strawberries were the traditional American sort I sliced them lengthwise and arranged them prettily on a glass dish. I sprinkled sugar on top and serve with the Mock Cream from Challenge #9.

Time to Complete: 
15 minutes to slice, 30 minutes to let the sugar soak in.

Total Cost: 
About $5.00

How Successful Was It: 
What's not to adore about strawberries? The cream was disappointing, as the fair reader remembers from challenge no.9, but together they were fabulous, fruity and refreshing.

How Accurate Was It: 
I feel the accuracy is high, both in preparation and presentation.

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