An Economical Recipe

[A post that roams all over the place...even I didn't know where we were going to end up!]

Have you ever looked at some of the glossier house and home magazines and wondered how anyone was supposed to afford all that fancy stuff? Check out this Martha Stewart appetizer, for example. Easy to make, yes. But all those ingredients are going to cost you plenty. And I don’t really have time to chase down pink peppercorns and marinated feta cheese, either.

Anyway, back in 1887 people were thinking the same thing. Two women wrote in to the Ladies’ Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper about this very issue. Mrs. H.R. wrote that she had subscribed for 2 years but “I have never seen anything written for poor people. All house decorations, cooking receipts and other suggestions seem to be written for women with more money than I have.” Oh, Mrs. H.R., I know just what you mean when I flip through those glossies at the drugstore!

And An Old and Pleased Subscriber asks for cake recipes “that would not require eight, eleven and six eggs.” Fair enough, right? I wouldn’t want to make a cake with six, eight or eleven (eleven!) eggs in it, either.

So Eliza G. Parker, the editor responsible for the section of the paper with the title “The Practical Housekeeper” (that’s ironic!) thought she’d better pony up a few practical dishes for the complainers. Mrs. H.R. got a bunch of recipes for horrid things like Brain Croquettes and Tongue on Toast. That’ll teach her to whine about how the Journal was slanted towards the idle rich. But the Pleased Subscriber was rewarded with a recipe for Creole Cake. And since I’ll take any cake over a brain croquette, thank you very much, I am going to pass on the instructions on how to make it: 

Creole Cake

Beat the yolks of two eggs with a cup and a half of sugar and two ounces of butter together until very light, add a cup of cold water, a cup and a half of flour, beat until smooth, add the stiffly beaten whites of two eggs, and a cup and a half more of sifted flour with a teaspoonful of baking powder (if strong [i.e.. has a high gluten content], I use Dr. Price’s Cream Baking Powder) and a little grated nutmeg. Mix well and bake in a moderate oven until done.

 Louisiana King Cake

Most Creole Cake recipes I’ve seen have lots of interesting things in them – everything from Armagnac and prunes to chocolate and coffee, or a very rich fruit cake. The most famous Creole Cake is King Cake, which is made for the feast of Epiphany and is also served at Mardi Gras. It usually contains a small trinket (a bean or a little baby doll) and the person who gets the trinket in their slice is the King or Queen for the day, but it also means they have to buy next year’s cake. It would be ideal if the trinket was money, really. Or else they could just make the economical recipe from 1887 and call it a day.

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