Motivating cookbook

A squeeze bottle of grape jam lacks the personality and adventure of a jar of wild currant jelly or wild strawberry jam picked, cooked, poured and sealed into jelly jars with wax by my mother.
To break the wax seal, my mother inserted a sharp knife, twisted and pried at the wax and hoped, but usually failed, to remove it in one smooth piece. That insured slivers of waxy accents with the first few slices of jam on toast. How soon I have forgotten the wonders – and the work of the old fashion way.
But it all came back as I perused the “Rumford Complete Cookbook,” published in 1908 by Lily Mayworth Wallace, gold medalist graduate of National Training School of Cookery, London, England.
She told jam makers to “cover the jelly, when cold with melted paraffine (sic) wax, having the wax quarter of an inch thick as it contracts when cold and if too thin a portion of the jelly will be left uncovered.”
Wallace’s recipe for poached eggs reminded me of the times my mother made them for me. I never made them for my children. Probably because early on I saw the revulsion when another relative served my ready-made family a meal of poached eggs. My mother made them for me when I was sick – motivation enough to get any child back into the classroom.
Poached eggs are nothing compared to Wallace’s list of recipes for the sick.
For starters, she offered Toast Water made of two slices of stale bread dried out in the oven and baptized with a cup of boiling water seasoned with a bit of salt. Covered, cooled and strained, she wrote that some served it “hot in the place of tea or coffee.” Now there’s an idea: Coffee made with the flavoring of dried toast – motivation enough to get any caffeine addict back into office.
Wallace especially favored gruel – boiled forever – before it was carried into the sick room. She offered three recipes: oatmeal gruel, cornmeal gruel and arrowroot gruel. From meals such as this the English developed the phrase “a grueling experience” and the motivation to leave the island to conquer the world.
I know oatmeal and cornmeal. I have heard of arrowroot, but before the Rumford cookbook, I had never encountered Irish Moss, another dish Wallace recommends for the sick.
A quick search on the Internet yielded a picture of the fragile frond of the seaweed which grows along the Atlantic Coast and is used for medicinal purposes – except during the Irish Famine, when it was used for regular food – motivation enough to get any Irish man to move to America.
Wallace cooked Irish Moss with milk, sugar and vanilla. She also offered the sick “Chicken Chartreuse.” I thought chartreuse was a brilliant yellow-green color, not a cold, molded salad of minced chicken that left the patient looking a bit chartreuse.
But this gold medalist in cookery was not all about sick room cooking.
In her complete cookbook, Wallace also offered a recipe for Wedding Fruit Cake. Because she wrote in an era before the universality of seedless raisins, she admonished readers to be sure to seed the raisins – as in take out all those little crunchy things naturally growing inside each grape. And you thought you didn’t like today’s fruit cake, consider one made by a cook who forgot to seed the raisin – motivation enough to establish a tradition of exchanging uneaten fruitcakes.
Ahhh, the wonders of the old fashion way of doing things – motivation enough to go shopping for some fast food.