Sunday, June 7, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Bonus Challenge 

"Breakfast Foods"



The Challenge: Breakfast Foods
I had all kinds of plans for this challenge but unfortunately I'm without an oven so I had to go with Plan B.

The Recipe: Johnny Cakes
1886, Rhode Island





Johnny Cakes are a type of cornmeal pancake made with Indian cornmeal and water spread thin on a board and cooked on an open fire. The early English settlers learned how to plant and cook Indian corn from their native neighbors. Supposedly the name comes from Journey because they were easy to make on a long journey. The legend goes that travelers carried cornmeal in their saddle bags and mixed the cornmeal with their water supply and cooked the cakes over an open fire on a rock, a board, a hoe, whatever was around. This recipe is a Rhode Island tradition. The special white cornmeal is stone ground at a local mill. It's probably more refined than the cornmeal used back in colonial days. A Google Books search reveals numerous anecdotes about how inedible these early Johnny cakes are and later recipes tried to improve them by adding sugar, eggs and flour. I stuck with the tried and true local recipe.  


1 c. stone ground white cornmeal
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. boiling water
fat for frying
 

Mix cornmeal, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Boil water and pour over cornmeal mix. Stir to a thick batter. Grease a frying pan or griddle and cook one side for exactly 6 minutes. Do not peek or turn over. Flip and cook for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter, apple butter, honey or maple syrup.
Makes about 10 small cakes


Wash them down with some coffee milk and you have a true Rhode Island meal!

Common Griddle Cake
A quart of indian meal, a pint of warm water, a level tea-spoonful of salt. Sift a quart of indian meal into a pan. Make a hole in the middle, and pour in a pint of warm water, adding the salt. With a spoon mix the meal and water gradually into a soft dough. Stir it very hard for a quarter of an hour or more, till it becomes light and spongy. Then spread the dough, smooth and evenly, on a stout, flat board. A piece of the head of a flour barrel will serve for this purpose. Place the board nearly (but not quite) upright, and set a smoothing-iron or a stone against the back to support it. Bake it well. When done, cut it into squares, and send it hot to table, split and buttered. You may eat molasses with it.
Eliza Leslie, Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt-book: A Useful Guide for Large Or Small Families Containing Directions for Cooking, Preserving, Pickling ..., A. Hart, late Carey & Hart, 1850. 



How Did You Make It:
I followed the recipe on the box. I fried in butter instead of drippings or lard. I cooked them in round cakes which is the traditional way. They're not light and spongy the way Eliza Leslie describes.


Time to Complete:  half an hour or so

Total Cost: $4.66 for the cornmeal. I had salt, sugar and butter on hand.


How Successful Was It?:  Very successful.This isn't the first time I've made them. I don't do it often enough to count it as a specialty. 


How Accurate Is It?:
100% except I fried in butter and I don't have any local raw honey on hand right now so I topped with grocery store honey. I didn't make the apple butter but it did come from a local  orchard.  (I find coffee milk really gross so I skipped that part of the tradition.)



Saturday, May 23, 2015

What I Read in January Part VIII . . .

What I Read in January Part VII . . .

Miss Silver Comes to Stay (Miss Silver, #16)Miss Silver Comes to Stay by Patricia Wentworth--historical cozy mystery


When Miss Maud Silver comes to stay with an old friend, she doesn't count on being called on in a professional capacity to solve the murder of James Lassiter. 25 years ago, James Lassiter wanted to marry Rietta Cray, despite her cousin Catherine Lee's attempts to attach him. Alas, James went away penniless, Catherine married Edward Welby and Rietta was left to raise her sister's son Carr Robertson. When Edward died, he left Catherine with hardly anything to live on and she turned to her distant relative, Mrs. Lassiter, for help. Catherine was allowed use of the Gate House and some furniture. Now James Lassiter has returned a wealthy man, determined to sell the estate in tact but it seems as if some valuable items are missing. If only his mother had left some proof of her intentions and if only he could find it and prove Catherine stole from the estate. He's determined to get his revenge. Carr also returns to Melling with his new girlfriend, Fancy, a showgirl, cut in the same mold as his first wife Marjorie. Carr is determined to avenge Marjorie's death caused by a despicable man who left her high and dry. When Carr discovers the identity of the man, he's furious and when that man ends up dead, he becomes one of the prime suspects. The other prime suspect is his aunt, Rietta. No one is sure who did or didn't do it but the Inspector wants to see someone behind bars ASAP. His Chief Inspector intervenes and collaborates with Miss Silver to crack the case.

This mystery is less cozy than I expected it to be. Miss Silver is mentioned once at the beginning and then doesn't appear again until the middle of the novel. She's a professional detective, not a knitting needle toting granny (though she does knit her way through the mystery). The main character is in very real danger of being accused of the crime, as is her nephew. The whole mystery involves many complicated backstories. The red herrings kept me alert. I was certain I had figured out whodunnit but then something happened that changed the course of the mystery and I was proved wrong. I did guess, at that moment, who DID do it but not why. It was all very complicated. I stayed up late to finish the story to see where it all goes. A romance or two is thrown in for good measure.

None of the characters in the novel are appealing at first but I found myself liking Rienna and Carr and feeling sorry for Rienna. I hated Catherine for being a spoiled beauty who lied and manipulated the truth to get what she wanted. James Lassiter is also a very nasty character and I feel those two deserved each other. If you are sensitive about cruelty to animals, you may not want to read every word of this book. It was only a brief mention but enough to make me despise James. He's cruel and vindictive and deliberately hurts people.

I didn't really like the author's writing style. The story was told in a cold, detached manner. The romances have very little feeling, despite the two principals being passionate people. Miss Silver shows no emotion at all and there's a lack of liveliness and humor in the story despite being set in a quaint English village where everyone gossips. The book did remind me of Georgette Heyer's early mysteries so I guess this style must have been popular in the 30s and 40s. It just didn't appeal to me and I don't think I'll be reading any more Miss Silver novels.
Murder at Honeychurch Hall (Honeychurch Hall Mystery, #1)Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison--Contemporary Cozy Mystery


Kat Stanford has just quit her job at the popular TV show Fakes and Treasures to start an antique shop with her mother. She's also hoping for an official commitment from her (married but separated) boyfriend David. When Kat's mother calls and announces she's broken her wrist and needs Kat's help, Kat is only too happy to step in. Then Kat is shocked to discover her mother has purchased a carriage house in Devon -200 miles from London! Kat promised her late father she'd look after her mother so off she goes to Devon where she finds a fleeing nanny, a little boy obsessed with a fictional WWI pilot and her special antique toy mouse, a dilapidated carriage house and a neighbor out to get her mother. She also discovers her mother has secrets she never knew. The secrets begin to come out as they battle Eric, the owner of a junk yard next door. Eric's wife Vera seems to hate Kat and Iris for some reason and the fleeing nanny up and disappears. When the police get involved, Iris decides to play matchmaker. When Kat stumbles across a dead body, she and her mother become prime suspects. Can she solve the mystery before her mother ends up dead?

This is a cozy mystery but not a typical one. The plot doesn't follow the usual path. There are a lot of mysteries that need to be unraveled and the dead body doesn't appear until 3/4 of the way through. The description on the dust jacket is misleading. The mystery kept me reading until way too late in the night. I had to know how it was resolved. There were some secrets that are easy to guess and others that aren't. I figured out who the killer was before Kat discovered the truth.

I didn't find any of the characters in this novel appealing. There are too many of them to make them real flesh and blood people. I didn't even really like Kat all that much. She insists on keeping her head in the sand regarding her boyfriend, she doesn't really listen to what her mother is telling her in the beginning and her character growth is minimal. David is a jerk and I don't know what Kat sees in him. I found the little boy, Harry, annoying. His interested in Biggles is so obscure that I have never heard of that character. He's cute when he's repeating what he's heard the adults say but mostly I found him annoying. I was fond enough of him that I didn't want him to die. His formidable grandmother, Lady Edith lacks the humor of Maggie Smith's Lady Violet. She's a complex character but doesn't have a lot of "screen" time. Eric and Vera are crazy. Neither of them seem like real people. I hated them both and I know that's what the author intended but they were a bit over the top.

This book is the first in a planned series but I'm not interested enough to read more about the characters.




What I Read in January Part VII . . .

What I Read in January Part VII . . .

Affairs at Thrush GreenAffairs at Thrush Green by Miss Read--Historical Fiction

Two years after the rectory burned down, Charles Henstock is settling into his new role with 4 parishes. There are some hiccups along the way and he wonders if he can live up to the reputation of his predecessor. Dotty Harmer's niece Connie has moved into Dotty's cottage to help out. Meanwhile, Albert Piggot receives a shock and Percy Hodge has marital troubles. Kit Armitage, long absent from Thrush Green, returns to the place of his youth to search for a retirement home. Perhaps he'll take one of the new old folks' homes being built on the site of the old rectory. He finds unexpected delights in his old home while Violet Lovestock makes plans for him. Miss Fogarty and Miss Watson are still teaching at the school while Agnes takes an arthritis treatment which may have consequences.

This book was better than the last. The modern references are kept to a minimum. Instead, the older characters remember their youth in the late 20s with fondness Much of the story focuses on Charles Henstock's insecurities and a growing romance between two characters. One character dies, which is a little sad, but the sadness quickly passes as the months go on. The romance is as usual, predictable and sweet though I didn't necessarily see those two characters together. My favorite character is old Polly the dog. There's something special about senior dogs. I still love Dotty and I'm sad to see her aging quickly. Albert Piggot's plot provides some comic relief. I was interested in how that would work out more than any other plot though I don't much like him. I think this book is best appreciated by older people around the ages of the characters. I can't really relate to any of them but I like reading about what they're up to. I feel like a part of the village.

Affairs at Thrush GreenAffairs at Thrush Green by Miss Read--Historical Fiction

Two years after the rectory burned down, Charles Henstock is settling into his new role with 4 parishes. There are some hiccups along the way and he wonders if he can live up to the reputation of his predecessor. Dotty Harmer's niece Connie has moved into Dotty's cottage to help out. Meanwhile, Albert Piggot receives a shock and Percy Hodge has marital troubles. Kit Armitage, long absent from Thrush Green, returns to the place of his youth to search for a retirement home. Perhaps he'll take one of the new old folks' homes being built on the site of the old rectory. He finds unexpected delights in his old home while Violet Lovestock makes plans for him. Miss Fogarty and Miss Watson are still teaching at the school while Agnes takes an arthritis treatment which may have consequences.

This book was better than the last. The modern references are kept to a minimum. Instead, the older characters remember their youth in the late 20s with fondness. Much of the story focuses on Charles Henstock's insecurities and a growing romance between two characters. One character dies, which is a little sad, but the sadness quickly passes as the months go on. The romance is as usual, predictable and sweet though I didn't necessarily see those two characters together. My favorite character is old Polly the dog. There's something special about senior dogs. I still love Dotty and I'm sad to see her aging quickly. Albert Piggot's plot provides some comic relief. I was interested in how that would work out more than any other plot though I don't much like him. I think this book is best appreciated by older people around the ages of the characters. I can't really relate to any of them but I like reading about what they're up to. I feel like a part of the village.



What I Read in January Part VI . . .

What I Read in January Part VI . . .

Jane Austen Takes the South by Mary Jane Hathaway -- Austenesque Christian Romance


Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits (Jane Austen Takes the South #1)Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway

Shelby Roswell, southern girl, Civil War scholar and Associate Professor had left her small town and marriage-minded mother for a career. She's on track for tenure and she's certain her new article will earn tenure soon, despite the poor review her book received from noted historian Ransom Fielding. When she discovers Fielding is Visiting Professor and teaching to a packed lecture hall, she's furious. How dare he come to her territory no doubt to ridicule her more. The gloves come off when she encounters him humiliating a student. She's determined not to let him get the better of her. Ransom vows to himself to avoid Shelby at all costs. She's fiery and fiery women are dangerous. Since the death of his wife several years ago, he's been content to date only superficial women who won't ever mean anything to him. Why does he let Shelby get to him? Should he let her? Shelby's Jane Austen loving friend Rebecca is convinced Shelby has her very own Pride and Prejudice story going on. That would imply Shelby and Ransom end up together in the end. Shelby would never marry HIM - would she?

I liked this update to Pride and Prejudice. It wasn't a direct adaptation but it had similar characters and situations. Not enough to be too close to the original but enough for Shelby's friend to get a good laugh out of it. The plot moves quickly. It's not super long - I read it in one night, but drags on a bit at the very end. The timeline is too rushed at the end to be believable. I wasn't aware this was a Christian book before I read it. Shelby's Faith is important to her and it kind of turned me off. Forgiveness is a huge theme of the novel. I would have read this book anyway because I couldn't resist a story about Civil War historians :nerd freak out: and a literary best friend :double nerd freak out.: (I'm both a literary scholar and an historian). I wasn't super crazy about the southern setting. Are people in the south really like that or is this book populated with negative stereotypes? Shelby's mother is so bizarre. What century is she living in? I'm a Yankee and the constant references to "the war" and those Yankees. The setting is a bit too local color.

The bad guy doesn't equal Wickham. Wickham isn't evil or really bad per say. He has bad judgement and hes lazy and greedy. This villain is truly criminal evil and thus the story lacks some of the first impressions that made Jane Austen's story so exciting.

My favorite character is Rebecca, Shelby's literature professor roommate and best friend. She loves Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell and makes other literary references. I loved that about her. I also love her Darcy obsession and her sense of humor about it. She's also interested in fashion which I could care less about, I still liked her. My second favorite character is Shelby. How could I not like her, a Civil War historian? Her new research project involves Civil War and Reconstruction diaries. Diaries are my speciality! What kept me from really loving her is her blind, almost childish Faith. I had a tough time accepting her belief in God's involvement in human lives. That and her lack of interest in good literature (She watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice and read the book once but has no interest in reading it again) kept me from fully loving her.

This Darcy - Ransom Fielding - is brooding. He has good reason to be. His story is hinted at and finally revealed when he's ready. It didn't really make me love him. I liked him OK. He has some gentlemanly qualities but he can also be harsh. Like Darcy, he's human and has flaws. His plot seemed a little improbable when he finally comes around in the end. The misunderstanding was so stupid and unbelievable it pretty much ruined the story for me.

This isn't a bad update but it's not one I'd read again.


Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs (Austen Takes the South #2)Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

This story is an update of Jane Austen's Emma with far fewer characters. Caroline Ashley gave up a career with the Washington Post to come home and stay with her mother after the death of her father. Three years later, Caroline's mother still isn't well enough to be on her own and Caroline has settled in comfortably, aside from her mother's Bridge parties, pink lemonade and failed chocolate triple-layer cakes. Her best friend, Brooks Elliott (Mr. Knightley) lives next door with his widowed father. Brooks comes by every day to offer comfort, chili-slaw dogs and advice. Caroline is content until she meets Lexi Martinez, a budding artist from a working class family who is about to go off to college to study accounting. Caroline also meets Franklin Keene, an up and coming publisher of manga who wants to offer her a job. Suddenly, Brooks begins acting strangely around Frank and giving Caroline advice she hasn't asked for. He couldn't be in love with Caroline, could he? Not little Caroline who has always been like a kid sister to him. If he is in love with him, she would never see him as anything other than her big brother. Franklin's sworn enemy, Lauren Fairfield, returns to her grandmother's native Thorny Hollow to photograph the antebellum mansions for a coffee table book. Caroline begins to feel jealous of the time Lauren gets to spend with Brook at his family home. Brooks still visits almost every day when he can so why should she be jealous?

This is a fabulous update of Emma. I liked it much more than Hathaway's Pride and Prejudice update. This one is less Christian. The characters go to church on Sunday and believe in God and there's a brief mention by a secondary character about God's plan for us but that's the extent of the Christian content. The story flows smoothly until the big misunderstanding, which I didn't think worked as well as it does in the original. Jane Austen's characters are limited by the conventions of their time which limit their actions. Modern Caroline and Brooks are not constrained. They should be able to have an open conversation about things. That was the only part of the story I didn't really like.

This is more of a direct adaptation than Pride Prejudice and Cheese Grits and like the previous book, most of the references are to the BBC mini series. I found that one well acted and visually stunning but it used little of Jane Austen's amazing writing. I especially liked the Regency dance scene but the ladies should have been wearing 4 layers too. There's no mention of undergarments under their dresses, which were made to fit them.

The characters in this novel are wonderful. I really liked Caroline and could relate to her being stuck in a comfortable place. I felt for her that her mother wouldn't let her out of sight easily and longed for her to find herself. She's not as annoying as Emma. She interferes with a young woman's life but I agreed with her to a certain extent. I also agreed with Brooks. Caroline is more willing to admit her mistakes and accept them. The thing I did not like about her is that she is an educated woman who worked at the Washington Post and she can not read a Jane Austen novel? That sounds a little far fetched. Brooks is a swoony sort of hero. I never liked Mr. Knightley because he was always telling Emma what to do. Brooks listens and sometimes offers advice and sometimes teases. He's always there for Caroline when she needs him. Plus he's always accompanied by his dog.

Frank and Lauren are stereotypical characters. Those who know the story can easily see who Frank is supposed to be. Even his name is basically the same. I didn't like him from the first. Lauren annoyed me with her superior attitude and slinky clothing. She was a more complicated character to figure out and I was surprised at her story a bit. Blanche is the best secondary character. She may be Brooks' grandmother but she's not a typical Granny. Unlike the other ladies of Thorny Hollow, Blanche spends her days on a singles cruise! She's a hoot. I also loved Absalom, the Golden Retriever. He's very sweet though he doesn't have a lot to do. I felt bad for Debbie Mae. My best friend can sort of relate. Shelby and Ransom make a brief cameo appearance and are mentioned a few times.

The local color stuff is still here but less annoying than in the first book. The antebellum mansions are the most prominent southern feature, crazy women who sound like they're from The Help appear briefly and there's some Confederate reenactment but no one is Yankee bashing in this book.

I highly recommend this book to Mr. Knightley's biggest fans. It's very sweet.


What I Read in January Part V . . .

What I Read in January Part V . . .

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen's MasterpieceCelebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen's Masterpiece by Susannah Fullerton-- Austenesque

The author takes an in-depth look at all aspects of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's most famous novel. Chapters discuss the writing of the novel; reactions to the book; the style of Pride and Prejudice; chapters on the characters; the translations, and more modern topics such as the sequels, retellings, etc. and the branding of Jane Austen. There is even a chapter dedicated to the first sentence.

I liked the beginning of the book where the author discusses the actual novel and how it came to be. I also liked the literary explanations on the style and the characters. It caused me to think more about certain characters and how I feel about them. I enjoyed learning about the translations, especially since I just read a novel in which the French first edition makes an appearance. The section on the book covers was very interesting. Everyone has their own idea of what the characters are supposed to look like and some publishers ignore the characters and make the covers appeal to a certain readership. I enjoyed the breakdown of the sequels and adaptations. It will help me decide which, if any, I want to read next, though she omits some. I know which ones I do NOT want to read and that's important.

Then the book started to lose me when the author discussed the film and TV adaptations. She inserted her own prejudices and opinions in her summaries and I wish she had left the subjective out and let the reader decide. Everyone has their own favorite version. I felt like she was too biased and didn't appreciate the somewhat condescending tone of the writing. I happen to enjoy the BBC/A&E version by Andrew Davies. I've never seen the 1980s version and I don't think I'd like it because I enjoy watching newer BBC adaptations that are more cinematic than theatrical.

The discussion on Selling Pride and Prejudice and the last chapter on Pride and Prejudice now and in the future felt a bit redundant. I already read Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe and watched the documentary The Many Lovers of Jane Austen (look it up on YouTube). This was more of the same.

My favorite part was all the amazing pictures, especially ones from Jane Austen's lifetime and the early illustrated editions of the novel.

If you are new to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice is your favorite novel, I suggest this is a good place to start learning more.


What I Read in January Part IV . . .

What I Read in January Part IV . . .
 
Maids of Misfortune (A Victorian San Francisco Mystery #1)Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke--Historical cozy mystery

Annie Fuller, widow, runs a boarding house and supplements her income by posing as a psychic medium providing financial, business and relationship advise from her San Francisco home. She's about to lose her home to the man who helped ruin her husband. When one of her favorite clients, Matthew Voss dies unexpectedly, leaving her $10 and shares in a mining company, Annie is stunned. The police claim suicide due to financial ruin but Annie knows that is far from true. She sets out to discover the truth, with the help of the Voss' lawyer, Nate Dawson. Nate is not thrilled with Annie's unconventional, unladylike behavior, but Annie is determined to do things her way. She has come too far since her husband's death to go back to being meek. She has a chance to save her home, her friends and help her client one last time. The course of her investigation leads her to pose as a maid in the Voss household where she goes up against a snooty ladies' maid Cartier, Mr. Voss' Bible-thumping sister Miss Voss. She finds an unexpected ally in Wong, Matthew's manservant but discovers that all is not right in the household and one of them must have murdered Matthew. Annie is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery with or without Nate's help.

This cozy mystery is quite good. Though there are a lot of standard plot points in this novel, I enjoyed it. I did figure out who the murderer was right away but there were enough red herrings to keep me interested. The period details are largely limited to the role of women but I don't know enough about San Francisco at that time to say much about the description. It's not so easy to tell the story is set in 1879 because the characters sound more modern and the descriptions of San Francisco are limited. It is a very 19th century story though, just not really specific to 1879.There was also a light romance that made the story more enjoyable. Annie and Nate enjoy a typical love/hate relationship common in period pieces. Annie is unconventional and ahead of her time and Nate was brought up with traditional values though his sister apparently isn't so traditional. I liked the banter between Annie and Nate and how she taught him to rethink his values. He did it willingly instead of being the alpha male and demanding Annie stay safe at home, which was a nice change from the typical Victorian novel. The romance has enough spark to satisfy those who enjoy love stories but it limited to kisses only.

I loved Annie. Her character growth seems to have happened already but I liked how she realized she needed to change and how far she's come. I loved how she stuck to her convictions and how she was a loyal friend to Matthew after his death. Her activities as Madame Sybil are really interesting and I admire how she was able to turn her passion into a business though women weren't allowed to be stock brokers or financial advisers.

I hope to read the rest of the series if I can get it. This was a freebie kindle download on Amazon and it did not disappoint.

What I Read in January Part III . . .

What I Read in January Part III . . .

Growing Up Italian: Grandfather's Fig Tree and Other Stories by Ed Iannuccilli -- Memoir

Stories about growing up Italian-American in Providence in the 1940s and 50s. This is sort of like a tame Italian version of A Christmas Story. Not all the stories are about being Italian and he repeats himself a few times with the same story told in different ways. My dad is a little younger and grew up in a different city but he can relate to the stories in this book. For me, being another generation, Dr. Iannuclli's experiences were vastly different from mine. The writing is pretty simple and easy to read. I'm loking forward to reading Vol. II though this one didn't wow me.


What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner? ...and Other StoriesWhat Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner? ...and Other Stories by Ed Iannuccilli -- Memoir

More stories about growing up in tthe 40s and 50s. The book is divided into sections like My Mother, My Father, Family, Friends, etc. As with the first book I enjoyed the Italian stories the best. I especially liked the story about working in his uncle's market. He hints at certain things in early stories that get fleshed out later and some of the stories are a bit repetitive. I skipped a story about fighting. My dad's stories are better than these and I'm inspired to write our own book.