Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mighty Potato

I love potatoes.

I have an unnatural obsession with them.

On a personal note, this all started two years ago when I had to write a short play based on a recipe for french fries which became a multi-country/multi-era riff on the history of the potato - The Potato Play: A Brief & Innacurate History - and just about every project I've worked on since has been connected in some way to the potato. In fact, The Potato Play was produced this past September at a potato-themed fundraiser in England (the U.N. named 2008 the Year of the Potato) and I just received an apron with potatoes on it as a thank-you for the rights to the play.

But I digress. I am back with Mabel and am looking at her recipes. She opens her chapter on vegetables with, naturally, the potato.

She writes:

Why is potato so valuable a food?
1. It is easy to cultivate.
2. It can be kept through the winter.
3. It is easy to prepare as a food.
4. Potatoes give us the needed bulk rather than any large amount of nutritive value. Because potatoes lack protein they should be used with meat or fish or eggs in combination with milk and cheese. Potatoes are cheaper when bought by the quantity, and as they keep well, should not be purchased in small amounts unless necessary.

Even in 1917 they were advocating for potato skins!
"...if we peel a potato before boiling it we lose a great deal of this good mineral matter with the peeling."

There are a number of recipes for potatoes along with tips on how to rejuvinate old potatoes. Recipes include:
Baked Potato
Browned Potatoes
Baked Creamed Potatoes (use leftover potatoes!)
Mashed Potatoes
Rivc Potatoes (using a potato-ricer)
Creamed Potatoes with Cheese
Fried Potatoes
Another Creamed Potatoes with Cheese
Potato Pancake

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Note From Mabel

Thanks once again to the power of google, I stumbled upon a blog which had a link to a home-keeping guide from 1917: "The Home and Its Management: A Handbook in Homemaking, With 300 Inexpensive Cooking Receipts" by Mabel Hyde Kittredge. As you might imagine, it is a treasure trove of information, advice and insight into the life of an early 20th century housewife, so I'll provide the link to the full document (with illustrations!) here. But read on for a few gems I've culled:

On hiring staff:
[Having a servant or staff] does not mean that the work connected with homes are tasks for which any woman is too fine and so hires a person to do the work for her. It means (or should mean) that in many homes there are too many things for one woman to do, especially in homes where children are to be cared for.
On the rights of servants:
A servant is less protected by law than any other business woman. Thirty-nine states have laws limiting the working hours of women in factories and stores. In only nineteen are women workers in hotels and restaurants included; in only five are public institution servants protected; and in no State are the servants in our homes protected by law. They are obliged to work as many hours as the head of the house directs, or give up the place.
On how to treat servants:
Do not ask any woman to perform for you any labor that hurts her dignity or any act that each individual should do for herself. Never address a servant with anger or as if she belonged to you. Show all employees the same courtesy you expect from them. Remember that you make them just as angry as they make you; you probably seem unreasonable and at times stupid.
Her chapter on the dining room is filled with etiquette lessons, both for the servants (meal preparation, table setting, cleaning) and household member. She closes her chapter with a quote by Booker T. Washington:
See to it that a certain ceremony, a certain importance, be attached to the partaking of food.
Words for us to all live by!

More on Mabel soon.....