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“Customary Before Prohibition”: Moving back in time with food and drink through the Picayune Creole Cook Book

February 19, 2016 1 comment

As I have previously described in my wine cookery posts the post-Prohibition years in America saw the rise of recipes where wine is an ingredient.  These recipes appeared in both newspaper articles and cook books.  There were indeed several books dedicated solely to wine cookery but other well-established cook books were updated to include sections or simply recipes involving wine.  One such cookbook is the Picayune Creole Cook Book.

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The Times-Picayune is a newspaper which originated during 1837 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  In 1900, the paper published their first edition of the Creole cookbook.  A number of editions were published over the last century introducing new formatting and additional recipes.  The sixth and seventh editions, published during Prohibition, do not contain any recipes that require wine or liquor for both food dishes and drinks.

Back in December, I was showing my wine cookery books to my friend Sudip as part of our general discussion about the history of cookery books.  Sudip loves to cook and in his exploration of Creole and Cajun cooking he purchased a facsimile of the 1901 second edition of the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book.  We quickly decided it would be fun to cook a few recipes involving wine so I purchased the ninth edition published in 1942.  Titled The Original Picayune Creole Cook Book the title page notes that it was Reprinted from the Fifth Edition, Containing Recipes Using Wines and Liquors Customary Before Prohibition.  As this edition is, in effect, a restoration of original recipes with wine, there is no wine cookery chapter nor wine specific indexing.  Instead the wine inclusive food recipes are integrated throughout.  The wine and liquor based drinks appear in the chapter “Domestic Wines, Cordials, Drinks”.  Here you may find Moselle Cup, Elixir of Violets, and Louisiana Orange Wine.

Sudip and I coordinated our menu which we prepared at my house.  We could not just jump straight into cooking so we started with a bowl of Ponche au Vin de Champagne a la Creole or Champagne Punch a la Creole.  I made sure to include good wine in the form of The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Champagne and Pierre Ferrand’s Dry Curacao.  The punch was pretty good.  With added sparkle from seltzer water the sweetness from the shaved pineapple and strawberry slices were balanced out by the lemon juice.  It was a rich punch so after two small glasses it was time for Sudip and I to move into the kitchen.

Ponche au Vin de Champagne a la Creole

Ponche au Vin de Champagne a la Creole

The punch recipe and indeed everything else we picked pre-date Prohibition.  Thus we were not looking at a new post-Prohibition flavor profile, instead we went straight back more than 100 years.  My ninth edition notes that some recipes may be made without wine, as even some Creole cooks object to wine, but for other recipes it is essential.  This includes our venison and chicken dishes for “the success of the dish depends greatly upon the flavoring given by  a small addition of wine.”  That is about the extent of the discussion on wine in food.

Our menu consisted of Gumbo aux Huitres (Oyster Gumbo), Supreme de Volaille a la Reine (Breast of Chicken, Queen Style), and Salmi de Chevreuil a la Creole (Stewed Venison a la Creole).  These dishes were accompanied by macaroni with cheese and roasted carrots.  The chicken and venison dishes both include wine.  I picked the chicken recipe because the breasts are stuffed with quenelles (forcemeat) and mushrooms then simmered in Madeira.  Likewise the Venison is stewed in Claret.

We continued the use of good beverages that day by using Blandy’s 15 year old Malmsey for the chicken and 2008 Domaine de la Solitude, Pessac-Leognan for the venison.  The later was a tasty wine, already taking on a firm, mature profile.  If I faulted the wine it would be for a lack of weight.  Regardless, we all practically finished the bottle while cooking.  In keeping with the menu suggestions in the cookbook we should have started with a Sauternes but with punch and four bottles of wine already selected for the evening, adding one more bottle would have done the four of us in!

Gumbo aux Huitres

Gumbo aux Huitres

The Oyster Gumbo, made without wine, calls for a tremendous volume of oyster liquor. Quarts of it in fact.  We wonder if the fresh oysters were kept at home in water due to a lack of ice or refrigeration.  In that case the home cook would have access to as much oyster liquor as needed.  We drank this with our white wine being the  2008 Varner, Chardonnay, Home Block, Spring Ridge Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.  Lou introduced me to Varner many years ago with the 2008 vintage.  Based on his recent experience I opened this bottle which was drinking perfectly.  Though you get the butterscotch and pineapple flavors the wine remains flavorful rather than overbearing in any sense.

Supreme de Volaille a la Reine

Supreme de Volaille a la Reine

The Chicken Queen Style requires chicken breasts to be stuffed with a chicken forcemeat and mushroom mixture.  On top of the breast is place the fillet.  The whole piece is then basted with melted button, sauteed on the bottom then cooked for 15 minutes in Madeira with a lid on the skillet.  Our chicken breasts were rather large so did not complete in time.  Perhaps chicken breasts were smaller back then.  I have noticed a number of wine cookery books utilize Madeira for flavoring.  I find this fascinating as Madeira was no longer the wine of choice in America during the 1900s.  Perhaps it is a holdover from the last great Madeira decades of the mid to late 19th century when it was still widely drunk.

Salmi de Chevreuil a la Creole

Salmi de Chevreuil a la Creole

The Stewed Venison Creole style reminded me exactly of boeuf bourguignon.  It is essentially the same recipe but with venison.  Which is not surprising given this is a Creole recipe.  Sudip found that after the recommended 45 minutes it was still very liquidy so he doubled the cooking time to reduce it.  I should add that Sudip used fresh mushrooms instead of the canned mushrooms despite the claim that “This dish will be improved beyond estimation if a can of mushrooms is added”.

With the chicken and venison we drank two mature red wines.  The NV (1960s) Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast Counties turned out to be a cleaner version of the magnum of NV Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 271, North Coast Counties which I opened in November.  It had an old school, sweet red wood profile with only some funk.  A solid enough wine which remained drinkable for a few days.  The 1974 Veedercrest Vineyard, Petite Sirah, Batch 2, Cask YUG 77, Sonoma County proved to be the best bottle I have yet opened of this wine.  It sported fresh and clean red fruit with supporting leather.  Whereas the Sebastiani leaned towards the funky spectrum, the Veedercrest was an elegant example of Petite Sirah that many would enjoy.

It was all great fun and you can be assured that another dinner will be in the works.

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2008 Varner, Chardonnay, Home Block, Spring Ridge Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Alcohol 14.3%.  The rich nose yielded aromas of butterscotch and yellow fruits.  In the mouth the wine was still fresh and drinking very well. There were butterscotch flavors that mixed with pineapple and some toast.  All of this was delivered with weight.  Best on the first night.  **** Now – 2017.

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2008 Domaine de la Solitude, Pessac-Leognan – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose reveals hints of maturity.  In the mouth the red and black fruit mixed with leather and watering acidity.  The wine is firm with apparent structure.  It is actually rather tasty but could stand to have more fruit weight.  It eventually took on some licorice and mature notes in the mouth.  *** Now but will last.

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NV (1960s) Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast Counties
Alcohol 12.5%.  There were sweet, old smells on the nose.  In the mouth were old school flavors, sweet red wood, and roasted earth by the finish.  The flavors were clean but certainly different.  With air the firm cherry fruit took on some foxy notes.  ** Now but will last for quite some time.

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1974 Veedercrest Vineyard, Petite Sirah, Batch 2, Cask YUG 77, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.5%.  The tart red fruit was very clean with hints of leather and some old school notes.  There were minimal, fine tannins, a citric finish, and decent aftertaste.  Still fresh  *** Now.

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“The hold-over prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval”: The rise of wine cookery in 1934

December 28, 2015 Leave a comment

After the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, the legal availability of wine in America was reflected in newspapers and books.  In particular interest for this post is the rise of articles and cook books featuring the use of wine as an ingredient through 1934.  Starting at the beginning of the month of Repeal, pictures of dishes with accompanying recipes were published in newspapers with titles such as “Roast pheasant and wine-flavored sauce”[1] and “Fresh Beef Tongue In White Wine”[2].  It was felt that these recipes would be “collected by the up-to-date hostess for use at smart dinner parties”.  Mrs. Penrose Lyly led off with a specific wine for her recipes in “Sherry Comes Back to the Kitchen”.[3]  “Cooking Art Is Now Being Rediscovered” by Cynthia Proctor is perhaps one of the earliest articles about wine cookery having appeared on January 21, 1934, in the Boston Herald.[4]  With wine described as an enhancement, several recipes were presented to “add zest” to one’s menus.  These recipes include “Beef and Oysters au Vin” utilizing “port wine” and even “Wine Jelly” with angelica.

It seems the first American wine cookery book was published by The Browns on July 12th, 1934.  The Boston Herald reviewed this book of “epicurean delights” on July 21, 1934.[5]  However, the main focus of the review is that the Brown’s were “not so exclusively devoted to wines as to fail to include this recipe for roast peacock”.  “The Wine Cook Book” was reviewed by The New York Times a day later on July 22, 1934.  This review is more descriptive of the layout of the book than embracing of the wine based recipes.[6]  The author felt The Browns who wandered “over the face of the earth” produced a unique cook book that would delight “the epicure and the connoisseur of foods and drinks” but the “prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval.”

Ida

Another important wine cookery book came out during the fall of 1934.  Ida Bailey Allen’s “The Wine and Spirits Cook Book” contained “many ancient and many modern suggestions for gracious living”.[7]  One reviewer found it a book “to present to yourself as a special celebration, or buy for a friend who enjoys trying new dishes and dressing up old favorites.” [8]  This book must have enjoyed some popularity for Ida Bailey Allen had her own daytime radio show, was the first female television host with her show “Mrs. Allen and the Chef”, and became editor at Good Housekeeping magazine.

Not all wine cookery books were entirely new publications.  Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking School Cook Book” was updated to include recipes with wine.[9]  I should note that this and “The Wine Cook Book” were published by Little, Brown & Co. of Boston.  The San Francisco Chronicle felt it was a signal to women that “so famous an institution” as the Boston Cooking School saw fit to include recipes “that require quantities of California’s noted vintages.”  Even the “Delineator Cook Book”, edited by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose of Cornell University, added a chapter on wine cookery.[10]

Ida Bailey Allen writes in her Forward that right after Repeal she received many letters and queries on the service and use of wine and liquors in cooking.  In order to publish her wine cookery book she had to perform “necessary research” which led her “into many hitherto unexplored fields”.  She dug back deep for some of her recipes date back to the Colonial period.  These recipes include “George Washington Snowballs” and “Pigeons Transmogrified”.  It seems odd at first that 13 years of Prohibition could have obliterated the memory of recipes involving wine.  However, in her first chapter we learn that wine cookery recipes fell out of use much earlier and not solely because of Prohibition.

Harrison's flavoring extracts. Phila. c 1868. #2003680539. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Harrison’s flavoring extracts. Phila. c 1868. #2003680539. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Wine cookery fell out of favor in the 19th century.  Ida Bailey Allen gives three main reasons: wines were imported thus expensive, little attention was given to native wines [perhaps in cooking], and the popularity of flavoring extracts with an alcohol base took hold.  These three reasons were echoed by Mary Meade, the pen name of Ruth Ellen Church, on January 6, 1935, in the Boston Herald.[11]  Whether the first two reasons bear out or not, I can attest that the discussion of using wine as an alternative to a flavor extract or essence persisted for a few more decades.

It was commonly felt that wine and spirits contributed to cooking in three manners: it accentuates the natural flavor of food, it adds flavor, and it improves texture by tenderizing meat.  For those concerned of the expense, Ida Bailey Allen explains that most of her recipes call for only a small amount of wine.  The “heel-tap”, or what is left in a bottle or a glass at the end of a meal, is typically a suitable volume.  Thus even those on a moderate income could afford to cook with wine and in doing so they would “open a new vista of flavors”.


[1] “Wine Flavored Sauce”. Date: Friday, December 1, 1933   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 11
[2] “Fresh Beef Tongue In White Wine”. Date: Thursday, December 14, 1933   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 28
[3] Lyly, Penrose. “Sherry Comes Back to the Kitchen”. Date: Sunday, December 3, 1933   Paper: Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)   Page: 38
[4] Proctor, Cynthia. “Cooking Art Is Now Being Discovered”. Date: Sunday, January 21, 1934   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 45
[5] For the Next Sunday When Company Comes. Book Notes. Date: Saturday, July 21, 1934   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 11
[6] Wine and Food: THE WINE COOK BOOK. By the Browns, Cora, Rose and Bob. 462 pp. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. $2.50. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 July 1934: BR10.
[7] “Here Are Some New Recipes To Make Tasty Desserts”. Date: Sunday, December 9, 1934   Paper: Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)   Page: 48
[8] “Cooking With Wine and Spirits”. Date: Wednesday, October 10, 1934   Paper: Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)   Page: 14
[9] Friendly, Jane. “Famous Cook Book Big Aid To Housewife”. Date: Thursday, November 1, 1934   Paper: San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California)   Page: 20
[10] Yea, There’s Need for a Book, When the Man Is the Cook!: A Batch of the Best Are Selected for the Bachelors. Here’s How to Escape the Ills of Eating Delicatessen. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 18 Nov 1934: B7.
[11] Meade, Mary. “Sparkling Wine Secret of Tang In Many Dishes”. Date: Sunday, January 6, 1935   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 52

“Wine Makes Food Taste Better”: Collecting wine cookery books

December 23, 2015 Leave a comment

I grew up watching “The Frugal Gourmet” cooking show on television.  Hosted by Jeff Smith, my mom owned his cookbooks and if I want an instant rush of childhood memories I need only to look at the red font of his book “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine” (1984).

My exploration into the 20th century history of wine journalism illustrates how many early newspaper wine writers were in fact food editors, of whom many were women.  It is perhaps a natural extension from publishing a food column in a newspaper to publishing a cook book.  My particular interest is the genre of wine cookery books.  I have purchased a number of these cook books this winter.  I thought it would be fun to share some of these books that I have collected given this festive season of wine and cooking.

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The rise of wine cookery books in Great Britain and America appears to have taken place in the post-war years of the 1930s.  This was a time when economies were recovering from the devastation of the Great Depression.  Andre L. Simon noted it had been several decades since there were “practical handbooks to the knowledge and use of individual wines”.  As editor of the series Constable’s Wine Library he had seen to the publication of books about Sherry, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Port.  He coauthored “Madeira: Wine, Cakes and Sauce” with Elizabeth Craig in 1933.  The following year in 1934, Elizabeth Craig’s “Wine in the Kitchen” was added to the series.

Back in America, Prohibition was repealed during December 1933.  The following summer during July 1934, saw the publication of Cora, Rose, and Robert Carlton Brown’s “The Wine Cook Book”.  If The Brown’s wine cook book was in celebration of the new found legal availability of wine, Elizabeth Craig’s book appears to acknowledge the lean years of the war and depression.  Francois Latry, Maitre des Cuisines, Savory Restaurant, London looks to France in his introduction of Elizabeth Craig’s book. He notes wine brings “new ways of adding zest to old recipes”.

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The Brown’s “The Wine Cook Book” continued to be reprinted, nine times in the first dozen years, thus continuing to be available through the end of World War 2.  The years after World War 2 saw a steady succession of wine books with ties to wineries, wine advocacy groups and some were even published by wine journalists.

The Wine Institute was founded in 1934 and created The Wine Advisory Board in 1937 as their marketing board.  The war in Europe restricted wine importations so many American looked to California for their wine.  The Wine Advisory Board worked to market Californian wine and in doing so published many pamphlets and aided many authors over the years.

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Anne Director, head of the consumer information division for the Roma Wine Company in California, published “The Standard Wine Cook Book” in 1948.  The Roma Wine Company was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, advertising both in print and on the radio.  The production of Californian wine soared in the mid-1940s. Competition amongst wineries led to increased capacity and increased advertising expenditure.  Her book is no doubt part of this expenditure.

While the Roma Wine Company is not mentioned in Anne Director’s book, she is listed as working at “America’s largest wine producer.”  They were certainly large with a bottling capacity of 20,000 cases a day in 1945.  Also related to a winery, “The Lejon Cook Book” (1947) focused in on the wines Chateau Lejon from California.  It was written by Jeanne Owen, secretary of the Wine and Food Society of New York and published by National Distillers Products Corporation.

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Perhaps any mention of wine in a recipe meant home cooks would grab a bottle from California.  Not lost upon the Wine Advisory Board they provided suitable recipes in “Fish Dishes With Wine” (1948).  In the 1950 edition of “The Standard Wine Cook Book” the small pamphlet “14 Praise-Winning Wine Recipes for Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Wild Game” was included.  It clearly recommends the local wine with choices of “California Sauterne wine” and “California Burgundy wine”.  That same year the Italian Swiss Colony employed Gertrude S. Wilkinson, former food editor of The New York Journal-America, to write the pamphlet “Food Is More Fun With Wine” (1950).

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George Leistner under the pen name Emily Chase became the first food consultant for The Home Advisory Service of the Wine Institute.  She published “The pleasures of cooking with wine” (1960).  Other publications by the Wine Advisory Board include “Favorite Recipes of California Winemakers” (1963), the shortened pamphlet version “The Revised Wine Cook Book” (1964), and “Gourmet Wine Cooking the easy way” (1968).

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During this period New York state ranked second in wine production behind California.  The Taylor Wine Company did not lay quiet for Greyton H. Taylor published the “Treasury of Wine & Wine Cookery” in 1963.

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Also that same year Rebecca Caruba, the first female sommelier in America, England, and France, published “Cooking With Wine and High Spirits” (1963).

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Morrison Wood, who wrote the column “For Men Only” in the Chicago Tribune first published “An Unusual Collection of Recipes With a Jug of Wine” in 1949.  He continued to publish a number of other cook books.  Ruth Ellen Church, who, under the pen name Mary Meade was the food editor of the Chicago Tribune, later became the first regular wine columnist in a newspaper.  Her “American Guide To Wines” (1963) was a combination wine guide and cook book with an introduction by Morrison Wood.  After retiring from the newspaper she later published “Entertaining with Wine” (1976).

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I should also mention “The ABC of Wine Cookery” (1957) published by the Peter Pauper Press.  This press came out with a series of ABC cook books during the 1950s and 1960s.  The colorful dust jackets, whimsical illustrations, and text make them quite pleasing.  For instance you may find, “Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly, Lavender’s green; Add wine to  your sauce, and you’ll eat like a Queen!”

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What appears between the covers of these books is subject to future posts.  However, for a sweet ending, Anne Director’s Christmas Pudding includes such ingredients as chopped suet, molasses, sweet milk, nut meats, Port or Muscatel.  Bon Appetit!

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