Category Archives: Antiques

Clarissa Dillon on the great age of English puddings

D. Clarissa Dillon at the Thomas Massey House (1693) Broomall, PA
D. Clarissa Dillon at the Thomas Massey House (1696) Broomall, PA

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” is a simpler statement than posterity has endowed. In her monograph, “Blessed be he that invented Puddings,” (2013) Dr. Clarissa Dillon explains that it’s just an instruction not to under cook the pudding. Too little time in the water bath results in a loose mass rather than the firm ball that signifies proper texture. Of course, she’s not writing about Jello-O instant pudding in this case.

process making puddings (sausages were considered puddings)
author inflating casing & process making puddings (sausages were considered puddings)
"sausages" – puddings in the 16th-18th centuries
“sausages” – puddings in the 16th-18th centuries

Clarissa Dillon, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Bryn Mawr College and the foremost authority on 16th through 18th century English and colonial American cooking and household industries, tackles the often confusing interpretations of our shared culinary past. For centuries, puddings were virtually any mixture of ingredients from sweet to savory including meats, seafood, fruits, oats that were blended, wrapped in a casing and steamed. This included what we call today sausages. The casing could be sheep gut or heavy linen cloth.

17th/18th century meal being cooked at the Thomas Massey House (1693)
17th/18th century meal being cooked at the Thomas Massey House (1696)

Puddings were a major component of the English and American table during these centuries and often served as the foundation of a one dish meal in this age of cooking on an open wood fired hearth. In her monograph, Dr. Dillon covers the breadth of combinations that must have delighted an imaginative cook of the day. Puddings can also be seen as the casseroles of the era in so far as any leftover could be added to compliment ingredients creating a new dish.

18th century toaster at hearth of Thomas Massey House (1693)
18th century toaster at hearth of Thomas Massey House (1696)

In an age where few could afford to waste food, even blood from butchered animals combined with cream, eggs, oatmeal, herbs and spices created the famous Black Pudding, a sausage that still graces many a full English breakfast. Without preaching to the reader, Dr. Dillon’s “Blessed be he that invented Puddings” effectively dispels the myth that past diets were monotonous and tasteless. The recipes include a litany of herbs, spices and flavorings that many cooks today believe were either rare or reserved for the very rich – raisins, nutmeg, mace, oysters, anchovies, currents, gooseberries, almonds, saffron, sherry and, by the 18th century, New World Indian corn.

spices, eggs & removing seeds from currents w/ a needle
spices, eggs & removing seeds from currents w/ a needle

The genius of creating puddings to serve as the center piece of a one dish boiled meal proves that the cook of old was just as conscious of time management as any modern household. The recipe for a basic oatmeal pudding could serve as a savory carbohydrate for some meat and vegetables easily steamed in the same pot. Fortunately, we do not have to labor over the raisins today individually seeding them with a long needle.

Dr. Dillon tying the pudding for steaming
Dr. Dillon tying the pudding for steaming

An Oatmeal Pudding

This recipe in “Blessed be he that invented Puddings,” by Dr. Clarissa Dillon is from “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” by Hannah Glasse, London 1747.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces good quality oatmeal such as Irish steel cut (not quick cooking)
  • 16 ounces suet – edible suet from a butcher, not what one puts out for the birds.
  • 16 ounces currents
  • 8 ounces raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large square of thick linen cloth at least 2’X2’

Procedure:

  1. Finely shred the suit with a knife or the grater blade of a food processor.
  2. Combine with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Fill a large pot ­– 2 to 3 gallon size – with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat (or over a good fire if you have a cooking hearth).
  4. Dip the linen cloth into the hot water and spread out onto the work counter. Coat the cloth with a handful of flour – this seals the fabric.
  5. Place the oatmeal mixture in the center of the cloth and bring the corners up to encase the mixture into a ball and securely tie it with kitchen twine. Be careful not to make the ball to tight because there must be room for the oatmeal to expand.
  6. Place the ball into the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours.
  7. If desired, half way through cooking, add any meat you wish to the pot – pork butt, cubed beef, chicken – and root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, carrots and potatoes. Continue to cook until the ball of pudding feels firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from the water and let rest on a sheet pan for a few minutes. Unwrap the cloth and slice the pudding, surrounding it with the meat and vegetables.

As one 18th century author, William Ellis, put it, “if they cannot dine on this with good boiled beef, or with pork, or with bacon and roots, or herbs, they deserve to want (skip) dinner.”

steaming pudding
steaming pudding

When in the Philadelphia area do visit the historic Thomas Massey House (c.1696)

Additional articles on historic cooking by Marc d’Entremont at…

Church Keys are going extinct but not Clarissa Dillon: Colonial cooking in the 21st century

 

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Waiting to Invent: Thomas Edison in Florida

This photo at Seminole Lodge is titled "Waiting for another invention" – T. Edison (on ground), H. Firestone (left) & Pres. W. G. Harding 1921 in Florida
This photo at Seminole Lodge is titled “Waiting for another invention” – T. Edison (on ground), H. Firestone (left) & Pres. W. G. Harding 1921 in Florida

Much is written in the media today concerning the inability to disconnect while on vacation – professionals glued to email and cell phones around the pool. Yet that’s hardly unique to the 21st century. In 1885 when Thomas Edison purchased 14 acres along the Caloosahatchee River as a winter retreat in the remote southwestern Florida farming hamlet of Fort Myers he had no intention of turning his mind off.

The guest house of Seminole Lodge, Fort Myers, FL
The guest house of Seminole Lodge, Fort Myers, FL
Edison's office in the Moonlight Garden
Edison’s office in the Moonlight Garden

Although Thomas (1847-1931) Mina (1865-1947) and their children spent most winters at their Seminole Lodge estate, his office provides ample evidence he was still connected by correspondence to his invention laboratory at Menlo Park, NJ. Along with good friends Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford the Edison Botanical Research Corporation was established and a laboratory constructed on the estate in the 1920s. The goal was to make America independent of foreign rubber.

Edison Botanical Research Corporation laboratory at Seminole Lodge
Edison Botanical Research Corporation laboratory at Seminole Lodge

Edison dubbed Seminole Lodge his jungle. He and Mina surrounded their home with lush gardens. But first, they had to construct the houses.

Seminole Lodge
Seminole Lodge
Entrance & pilings remain of the 1,500' pier at Seminole Lodge
Entrance & pilings remain of the 1,500′ pier at Seminole Lodge

The railroad was not extended to Fort Myers until 1904, which meant convenient travel was by ship. A 1,500 foot pier was built as a landing for family, guests and the materials necessary for Seminole Lodge. Prefab houses were also not new to the 21st century. The lumber for the two identical mirror-image houses that are Seminole Lodge was fabricated in Maine, shipped to Fort Myers and assembled on site.

Seminole Lodge, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers, FL
Seminole Lodge, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers, FL
Dining room at Seminole Lodge
Dining room at Seminole Lodge

The adjacent second house was originally the winter home of business partner Ezra Gulliland, but was bought back by Edison after a serious split with Gulliland. The spacious, airy wood structures were connected with a pergola and the second house turned into combination guest quarters, dining room and kitchen for Seminole Lodge. Both houses were electrified, of course, with power from both generators and batteries – all the product of Edison’s fertile mind.

Henry Ford house, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers, FL
Henry Ford house, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers, FL
Ford Model T, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers, FL
Ford Model T, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers, FL

Children of America’s great industrial age, Thomas and Mina were friends with other magnates of the day, especially Henry Ford. A frequent guest of the Edisons at Seminole Lodge, Ford purchased the beautiful yet modest Craftsman house in 1916 adjacent to Seminole Lodge. Although the Fords only used the home for two weeks each winter to celebrate Edison’s birthday, their friendship and business partnerships were life-long.

(clockwise left) motion picture projectors, water powered cylinder phonograph c.1890, early record players, electric industrial tractor c.1917, Edison Manufacturing Co. electric fan c. 1900
(clockwise left) motion picture projectors, water powered cylinder phonograph c.1890, early record players, electric industrial tractor c.1917, Edison Manufacturing Co. electric fan c. 1900

After Thomas Edison’s death at age 84 in 1931 Mina continued to winter at Seminole Lodge. Mina was Edison’s second wife having been widowed in the early 1880s when only in his 30s. The daughter of an inventor, university educated and an employee at the Menlo Park lab, Mina was as much an intellectual equal to her husband as a wife.

Fountain of natural coral at Seminole Lodge
Fountain of natural coral at Seminole Lodge
At Seminole Lodge: the 1st private swimming pool built in S.W. Florida, 1911. The above ground pool constructed of Portland cement – Edison held the patent
At Seminole Lodge: the 1st private swimming pool built in S.W. Florida, 1911. The above ground pool constructed of Portland cement – Edison held the patent

Mina was active managing their households, the botanical gardens and the Edison business ventures. Edison was said to greatly appreciate Mina’s intellect and input in discussing his many theories for everything from the phonograph, electric batteries to motion picture cameras. In 1947 Mina deeded the estate to the City of Fort Myers on condition that it be preserved as a public memorial to her husband’s genius.

Edison's "jungle" at Seminole Lodge
Edison’s “jungle” at Seminole Lodge

Henry Ford sold his house in 1947, and it remained a private home until the city purchased it in 1988. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is operated and maintained as a non-profit offering a plethora of tours and activities including an extensive museum dedicated to the genius of these two men. A visit to Edison’s jungle is to step back to an age where great ideas were conjured in the mind rather than by an electronic device – although Thomas probably would have invented the computer if he’d had time.

Sunset over the Caloosahatchee River at Seminole Lodge
Sunset over the Caloosahatchee River at Seminole Lodge

You can read part 2 on Seminole Lodge:  Edison’s Jungle in Fort Myers, Florida

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Hellenic News of America

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Florida life before air conditioning

McMullen-Coachman Log Cabin (1852)
McMullen-Coachman Log Cabin (1852)

IMG_0642Other than the already centuries old Spanish domains in the north and the panhandle, south of St. Augustine Florida in the early 19th century was a land of bayous, forests, gators and mosquitoes. Fortunately, Florida’s still that way in some places.

 

 

 

 

The House of Seven Gables (1907)
The House of Seven Gables (1907)

Yet by the 1890s the Tampa Bay/Clearwater/Pinellas County Gulf of Mexico shore had been discovered by affluent Americans traveling by the new railroads that opened Florida. Their vacation homes would reflect the styles of the day from simple cottages to Edwardian mansions and Craftsman houses.

DSC_4894

Over two dozen historic structures – and growing – comprise the the 21-acre Pinellas County Heritage Village representing Florida life from the mid-1800s to the outbreak of the Second World War. You can continue the story at…

From tiny to grand at Pinellas County Historic Village

 

H.C. Smith Groceries (1915)
H.C. Smith Groceries (1915)

 

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Culinary Travel Examiner

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Fort Hunter: slavery, the Gilded Age and philanthropy

Party games at Fort Hunter Mansion late 1800s
Party games at Fort Hunter Mansion late 1800s
View of the Susquehanna River from a mansion window
View of the Susquehanna River from a mansion window

 

Fort Hunter captures a sweeping 200-year panoply of Pennsylvania.  From frontier outpost, slavery, Revolution, the promise of canals, Civil War, the age of steel to modern philanthropy, this bucolic site was at the center of history.

 

 

 

From 1786 to 1831 over 20 enslaved African-Americans made the soap, ironed the clothes, cooked and cleaned the house, worked the farm and its businesses. Narrowly avoiding being in the center of the Civil War, Fort Hunter entered an era as a focal point for Harrisburg society in the 1880s.

Fort Hunter Mansion
Fort Hunter Mansion

With over 80% of the mansion’s furnishings, antiques and art original to the families that called Fort Hunter home, a tour of the house provides a rare glimpse into 200 years of American life.  Read the intriguing story…

A Harrisburg historical site mirrors American history

 

DSC02751

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Travel

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

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Mount Olympus is more than legend

 

Mt. Olympus & the village of Litohoro
Mt. Olympus & the village of Litohoro
Within the Mt. Olympus range
Within the Mt. Olympus range

Home to Zeus and his family of gods, declared the first Greek national park in 1938, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 and a European Union “Most Important Bird” area, the region includes 120 species of flowers, 1,700 species of plants with 23 exclusive to the Mount Olympus microclimate.

The Bath of Zeus
The Bath of Zeus

No wonder the gods wanted this prime real estate. At its base is Dion, the nearly three-millennium old holy city of ancient Macedonia dedicated to Olympian Zeus. Within the confines of the park is the 600-year-old Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Dionysios of Olympus. And scattered throughout are sites steeped in legend and history. Read what has attracted the multitudes for eons in my column for the Hellenic News of America:

Mount Olympus: playground for gods and mortals

 

Restoration of Monastery of St. Dionysios of Olympus
Restoration of Monastery of St. Dionysios of Olympus

 

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Travel

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

Food & Recipes Examiner

Vermilionville Living History and Folk Life Park

 

L'École (the schoolhouse) at Vermilionville
L’École (the schoolhouse) at Vermilionville

 

Vermilionville
Vermilionville

 

Virmilionville holds the spirits and memories of the people who lived, loved and worked in them for over two centuries

Vermilionville
Vermilionville

There is much to see and learn at Vermilionville. The self-guided walking tour gives the visitor the opportunity to linger and absorb the feeling of life in a pre-20th century village.

 

Cajuns are the survivors of ethnic cleansing carried out of a grand scale in the 1760s…I know. As the direct descendant of survivors I grew up with the history as bed-time stories… read at

Vermilionville honors Cajun culture in Lafayette Parish

 

Virmilionville
Virmilionville

 

You can read all my articles at:

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Driving Halkidiki

harbor, Neos Marmaras, Sithonia, Greece
harbor, Neos Marmaras, Sithonia, Greece

Sitting at a beach side café in Possidi on the Halkidiki peninsula of Kassandra, this North American was struck by an unfamiliar scene. People were reading.

Driving Kassandra unplugged and tuned into Greece

Nea Fokea:14th Century Byzantine tower and church
Nea Fokea:14th Century Byzantine tower and church

Fingers of land jutting into the Aegean, Kassandra, Sithonia and sacred Athos have, like all of Macedonia, been at the center of turbulent times since the 4th century B.C.E. In the 21st century the only turbulence seemed to be the long lines of cars every summer weekend that bring holiday seekers from Thessaloniki and Eastern Europe.

water sports in Sithonia
water sports in Sithonia

Family owned since it opened in 1989, the rooms surround an opulent pool that is the focal point of the Flegra Palace Hotel including the Soleil Bar with its dramatic glass floor jutting over the water.

Soleil Bar at the Flegra Palace Hotel
Soleil Bar at the Flegra Palace Hotel

Flegra Palace Hotel plans new venture in Pefkohori, Greece

Fortunately mere mortals can dine at Ambrosia, the open-air dining room at the Flegra Palace Hotel in the Halkidiki seaside resort town of Pefkohori, Greece.

Ambrosia, Flegra Palace Hotel
Ambrosia, Flegra Palace Hotel

Chef Aphrodite Balanou makes Ambrosia in Pefkohori, Greece

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Suite101

Beach in Ouranoupolis, Athos, Greece
Beach in Ouranoupolis, Athos, Greece