The 1916 Cookbook Project Starts
It was a dreary Labor Day here in New Jersey when I finally started translating my grandfather’s cookbook. What was I THINKING?? The first chapter is on soups. One hundred thirty-eight recipes. Ironically the first recipes aren’t soups at all; they’re croutons for decorating the soups.
I have many cookbooks that belonged to my mother and what I find interesting is how cookbooks evolve over time. Today’s cookbooks have precisely measured ingredients listed in the order of use; photographs to guide us and numbered steps to walk us along. Often they even include the amount of prep, cooking, and rest time involved. Go to the internet for a recipe and you have the added benefit of comments from people around the world who made the recipe before you. How they adjusted it; what worked and what didn’t. A cookbook from the early 20th Century doesn’t necessarily include those nice lists and definitely doesn’t have step-by-step photographs. Some recipes might be only a couple of lines because you learned how to do something earlier in the book. Food processors, stick blenders, and other small electric appliances were never mentioned. Chop, slice, dice, knead, whip, and puree were all manual skills. Grandpa’s book is of this sort. Although it technically has 1,500 recipes, many are only a few sentences long. Now put such a cookbook in another language and then give it to me to translate. This could get ugly fast. Still, I committed to this project and I’m doing my best even if it gets me committed.
Recipe 1 Royal Croutons
Separate the yolks of 6 eggs and joined them with half a glass of milk, and beat well with wire then put in a skillet greased with butter. Then put two whites in a saucepan as the yolk. Whites in one of two colors it saucepan lightly green (have no idea what that sentence was all about). When prepared the three pots you put them inside in a pan with hot water in the oven and allow about twenty minutes to coagulate the egg whites. When you remove them from the oven let them cool and then and then chop into small square pieces like dice backgammon. These three colors, white, green and yellow are the Royals crouton,which will need for soups and soup.
What did I get myself into??
What I Did:
Decide that I didn’t need to use half a dozen eggs; two would do.
Buttered three small ramekins to use as pans.
I separated two eggs, keeping the two whites in two separate bowls. The yolks were beaten with the milk and put into one of the ramekins. Next I put one of the whites in a second ramekin. Now for the green eggs. Green eggs; really? Dr. Seuss kept flashing through my head each time I read this recipe. Green had me stumped. The word, “prasinada”, kept coming up as a town in Greece; I’m confident grandpa didn’t mean for me to add a town to the eggs. I decided to add chopped herbs, in this case parsley, to the last egg white. I mixed in the parsley as well as possible and put the glop in the third ramekin. The ramekins were then set in a pan of water and put in a 350F oven until they solidified; about 28 minutes.
Once completed I carefully lifted each one from its ramekin onto my cutting board. This was not as easy as it sounds; part of the eggs stayed in each. The yolk was more of a soft custard that crumbled as I tried to cut it. Baking in the oven created a clear skin that was very difficult to cut through. I tried using my smallest cookie cutter which, unfortunately, is a delicate snowflake. The picture on the left shows the mess on the cutting board; the final product floating on a plate of chicken broth is at the bottom of the page.
Do I think I made something reasonably close to what he meant? Yes.
Would I make this again? Yes.
How would I modify it in the future? First, I would use a non-stick skillet with a lid on a very low flame. Baking in the oven created a skin that was difficult to cut. Next, I would either use no milk or no more than a teaspoon for two egg yolks. Lightly season the egg to compliment the soup it will float on. I might even make cutouts to decorate a platter.