Yesterday, I spent a good eight hours editing some chapters in my upcoming Kasota Spring Romance contemporary series Out of a Texas Night. A part I’d written a while back brought back memories of my Granny’s cooking. Here’s a little excerpt: Since Avery had been staying out at Mesa’s family’s ranch, the Jacks Bluff, she’d had the opportunity to enjoy more than her share of Lola Ruth’s larrupin’ good handmade goodies. Somewhere deep inside, she figured Lola Ruth had lied for years about not using lard for her famous fried pies. Somehow, Avery couldn’t see the loveable woman turning to shortening or vegetable oil, much less coconut or avocado oil, after all of this time….
I kept thinking about how wonderful my Granny’s fried pies were and that she fried them in plain ol’ lard. What changes we’ve had in cooking over the last century. With Easter dinner nearing and my grandkids coming for the week, I started my grocery list. While doing so, of course I was thinking about what I planned to blog on today. Suddenly, I remembered a section in a wonderful research book about life in the 1800’s, so I pulled it from the shelf and began getting some ideas. I thought I’d share a few with you. Coffee: drunk throughout the century, although tea was more popular until after the Civil War. Early in the 1860’s folks began using Borden condensed milk. Chase and Sanborn coffee was sold in sealed cans as early as 1878, while Maxwell House canned coffee came around a few years later. As I recall from previous research, Arbuckles added a peppermint stick as a treat in each package.
The more I read the more interested I got about things we have today that makes cooking so much easier that were new products in the 1800’s and earlier.
The general store or mercantile were the main source of foods in the 1800’s. The typical items we use today were available, salt, sugar, spices and the like. Beer, whiskey, molasses and vinegar were dispensed through spigots from barrels. Pickles and crackers were also sold from barrels, while dried legumes/beans were on the floor in bushel baskets.
Canned goods weren’t widely available until the Civil War and after; however beans in tomato sauce were first successfully canned and sold commercially by Van Camp in 1861. Yes, our familiar Pork and Beans were favorites a century and a half ago.
Baking powder was sold commercially from the late 1860’s. Previously, housewives leavened their cakes and biscuits with sour milk and molasses or pearl ash or saleratus (closely related to potassium bicarbonate, which is similar to soda). Granny’s chocolate cake recipe that is in back of The Troubled Texan uses soda and buttermilk. This is what I’ve used for years.
One of America’s favorite foods and one that are especially good at baseball games is the hot dog. To me there isn’t anything better than a good ol’ hot dog. They haven’t been around as long as some of the other cooking items, I’ve talked about. They were introduced in the 1880’s in St. Louis.
Which of course brings to mind one of the favorite condiments for a dog, ketchup. Heinz ketchup was bottled for the first time in 1876. Until then, the housewives made their own by squeezing very ripe tomatoes with their hands until they were reduced to pump, then they put a half a pound of salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boiled them for two hours, stirring frequently. While hot they’d press them through a fine sieve then add a little mace, nutmeg, all-spice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and pepper to taste. Then they’d boil over a slow fire until thick and bottle when cold. One hundred tomatoes made four or five bottles and could be kept for two or three years.
The original potato chip was invented in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York, and applicably named the Saratoga chip.
The Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) opened in 1859 on Vesey Street in New York. Its rows of tea bins contained teas from around the world. By 1880, there were ninety-five A&P stores from Boston to Milwaukee. And, yes, if you are asking yourself, they are the same A&P Grocery stores that were basically on the East Coast for nearly a century before they filed bankruptcy.
What grocery product would you have trouble doing without? I’m going to give you my two answers. Pork & Beans because since my grandkids were little I cut up wieners and put in a can of Pork & Beans, warmed them and they were served with Kraft Mac and Cheese. My oldest granddaughter will be graduating from college in a few weeks and to this day they all say I’m the only one that can fix P&B’s and Mac & Cheese the way they like it. Proves that Granny’s (yes, I’m Granny named after my maternal granny) cooking is always the best.The produce I couldn’t do without is soda. I used it for everything from cookin’ to cleanin’!
So, now tell me your cain’t-do-without product!
I’ll be drawing two winners who leave a comment and
send you an eBook of The Troubled Texan.