Monday, June 29, 2009

Predictions, 1896 edition

'In the year 1887,' says Mr Edison, 'the idea occurred to me that it would be possible to devise an instrument which should do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, and that, by a combination of the two, all motion and sound could be recorded and reproduced simultaneously....

...A little more discussion about details followed, and then Edison said: 'I have no doubt whatever of the outcome. Before many years we will have grand opera in every little village at ten cents a head. And the very highest grand opera; you will see and hear Patti in your own parlour. She will be heard a hundred years after her death. The President's inauguration can be treated in the same way. Pope Leo and his cardinals may be seen and heard for a hundred years to come.'

'What a way to write history !' he continued enthusiastically. ' How much more effectively one could convey to future generations an idea of the President than words and writing could! In fact, written records would cease to have their historical importance. Yet,' he added, ' these things are not so wonderful as they seem.'

--From Thomas Alva Edison--

If most people couldn't hear or see most political speeches and had to read them instead, how different would politics be?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Marketing, 1823 edition


It is requisite, in the first place, to know the different parts of those animals which are brought into our markets, ready slaughtered, and generally denominated butcher's meat.
The ox, or cow, when killed, is called beef, in which the fore-quarter consists of the haunch...

--From A Modern System of Domestic Cookery--

The chapter on marketing in this book (and all books in this time period) is all about how to purchase items at a market. It explains what all the cuts of meat are and which is considered the best to buy. So, instead of pie charts you get pictures like this:

Our marketing: how to sell things.

Their marketing: how to buy things.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tainted food, 1852 edition

Coffee, fragrant and refreshing, has almost become a myth...

...with foreign roguery and home roguery, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the sore temptations to cheat the customs, the chances are twenty to one against us, that the brown powder we are at so much pains with, once flourished at the end of a blue flower, on a long stalk under our own hedges, being known where it grew under the name of wild endive, christened in trade chicory, and being in reality a tall and aristocratic sort of dandelion, possessing too the medicinal properties of dandelion, and none whatever of the properties of coffee. But even if people be taken with a liking or this dandelion tea instead of coffee, they cannot even have it pure, the chicory itself is far too costly to content the avaricious roguery of a number of dealers, and so the chicory itself is adulterated with roasted corn, parsnips, manglewurzel, beans, Egyptian lupin seed, biscuit powder, burnt sugar, roasted carrots, oak bark, tan, acorns, mahogany sawdust, and no little sand, the result of the original dirt judiciously left as a make-weight upon the root of the chicory itself.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

Even the fake coffee wasn't real!

The author goes on to tell us that:

-Mustard was just flour and husks with turmeric.
-Milk might contain ground-up bits of plaster.
-Green tea was black tea coated with a poisonous dye to look green.
-Brown sugar contained dirt.

If someone said your cookies "taste like dirt," they might just be on to something. Of course if you were offended, you could always make them some green tea.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mac 'n' cheese, 1823 fusion cuisine edition


The usual mode of dressing it in this country is by adding a white sauce, and Parmesan or Cheshire cheese, and burning it. But this makes a dish which is proverbially unwholesome: but its bad qualities arise from the oiled and burnt cheese, and the half-dressed flour and butter put in the white sauce.

Macaroni plain boiled, and some rich stock or portable soup added to it quite hot, will be found a delicious dish, and very wholesome. Or boil macaroni as directed in the receipt for the pudding, and serve it quite hot, in a deep tureen; and let each guest add grated Parmesan and cold butter, or oiled butter served hot, and it is excellent; this is the most common Italian mode of dressing it.

--English way of dressing Macaroni.

Put a quarter of a pound of macaroni into a stew-pan with a pint of milk, or broth, or water; let it boil gently till it is tender, and then put in an ounce of grated cheese, a bit of butter about as big as a walnut, more or less, as your cheese is fat or poor, and a tea-spoonful of salt; mix it well together, and put it on a dish—and strew over it two ounces of grated Parmesan or Cheshire cheese—and give it a light brown in a Dutch oven.—Or put all the cheese into the macaroni, and put bread crumbs over the top.

--From A Modern System of Domestic Cookery--

Macaroni and cheese was considered "proverbially unwholesome"; kind of hard not to be if everyone was burning it. The dish seems to have been of Italian origin, originally dressed with butter and cheese. The English innovation was to make it in a rich cream sauce and brown the dish or cover it with bread crumbs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mac 'n' cheese, 1852 edition


Take a quarter of a pound of macaroni, a pint and a half of new milk, put it in a stewpan, and let it stew till quite tender, take half a pound of Parmesan, grate it, add it to the macaroni, quarter of a pound of butter, pepper and salt, and a little cayenne, according to taste, mix them well together, and let them stew ten minutes, brown with a salamander, and serve.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

This sounds delicious and rich. By the way, salamanders were blobs of metal you could heat up in the fire and hold over food to brown it. Much like chefs might use a butane torch today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Science reporting, 1852 edition (with translations)

With this oxygen our life is in some sort a continual battle; we must either supply it with especial food, or it will prey upon ourselves;--a body wasted by starvation is simply eaten up by oxygen. It likes fat best, so the fat goes first; then the lean, then the brain...

A human is like a fire, you have to keep throwing fuel on it or it goes out.

The reason for this hungriness of frosty air is simply that our lungs hold more of it than they do of hot air, and so we get more oxygen a fact that any one can prove, by holding a little balloon half filled with air near the fire, it will soon swell up, showing that hot air needs more room than cold.

How fast the human fire burns is entirely dependent on the amount of oxygen that comes in contact with the lungs. Since there is more oxygen in a volume of cold air than warm air your body needs more fuel when it is cold. Put a balloon near "the fire" if you don't believe me.

The Englishman in India provokes a make-believe appetite for meat; he has no notion of changing his home-habits because he has left home a few thousand miles away; he goes to war with sun and air, eats meat abundantly; in short, stops up the grate with throwing on fuel where there is but little of the fiery oxygen to consume it, grows sickly yellow, and so pays in suffering the common penalty of ignorance.

If you move from a cold (high oxygen) environment to a warm (low oxygen) environment you need to cut back on cold weather foods, like meat. Otherwise 'fuel' will build up in your body, you'll turn yellow, and die.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

So far we have these "modern" ideas:

-The food you're eating can make you sick.

-Toxins can build up in your body.

Later on in the book they tell you the ideal food (human milk) and provide a nutritional chart to help you match it. They recognized two main nutrients, the flesh producing and the warmth giving, but you had to navigate an elaborate ratio system (each food has its own ratio of nutrients) if you wanted to eat in a healthy manner.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Easy as pie, 1852 edition


Take half a pound of beef-marrow finely chopped, a few currants washed and picked, some slices of citron and orange peel candied, a little grated nutmeg, a table-spoonful of brandy, and the same of syrup of cloves, and half a pound of Naples biscuits; strain to this a quart of new milk boiled with cinnamon and lemon peel; allow the mixture to cool, and then add the yolks of eight eggs, and the whites of five. Bake it in a dish with a puff-paste round it.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

Most pies were meat based and recipes for sweet pies were mixed in with recipes for savory ones. They would even make free-standing pies, which almost sounds like an alien idea to me:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Desperate Housewives, 1852 edition

Her first and imperative duty is to make herself acquainted with the extent of her husband's income, its resources and its limits, and to resolve with firmness to regulate her household with such prudent and proper economy as not to exceed it.

From this resolution, as she hopes for the maintenance and continuance of a happy home, unshaken by creditors, unthreatened by poverty, let no consideration, no ridiculous pride, no assumption of a position beyond her means, suffer her to depart; her future welfare, and that of her husband and children, depend in a great measure upon her perseverance in this determination.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

Reading this book and seeing what kind of ideas would be going through a traditional housewife's mind, I'm wondering if the housewife-dissing feminists were really feminists at all. From the perspective of 1852, they kind of sound like stuck-up rich people.

By the way, the stove pictured was an economy model and took a pound of coal an hour to keep going. It could cook for a dozen people, and was considered portable.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spam, 1852 edition


Put the venison into a pan, and pour red wine over it, and cover it with a pound of butter, put a paste over the pan, set it in the oven to bake. When done take the meat out of the gravy, beat it well with the butter that has risen to the top, add more if necessary, season with pepper, salt, and mace pounded, put into pots, set them in the oven for a few minutes, take them out; when cold cover with clarified butter.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

To preserve meat, you'd cook it, mash it up with fat and spices, and then cover it with clarified butter. There were many recipes for 'potted meats' as they were called and even suggestions on how to deal with meat that didn't smell good any more. Potted meat is still made today.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Education problems, 1852 edition

Unfortunately, although much has been said and written in the subject, domestic economy does not form one branch of the education of a young lady; she learns, of course, French, German, Italian, Music, Dancing, Drawing, takes Calisthenic exercises, &c.--accomplishments, with one or two exceptions, of which she rarely takes advantage after her marriage...

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

They spend hours and hours every day teaching children information they never use. And I can't understand why they spend time in gym when they don't have the basic skills needed to survive in the world.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beef, it's what's for dinner, 1852 edition


Take a fine steak and dip it into cold spring water, let it drain a few minutes, lay it in a dish and pour over it sufficient clarified butter hot, and cover it; let it remain twelve hours, then remove the butter, and roll the steak with the rolling-pin a dozen times rather hardly, let it lie in front of a clear fire ten minutes, turning it once or twice, put it into a frying-pan, with water half an inch in depth, and let it fry until it browns.

Mince some parsley very fine, chop an eschalot as fine as can be, and season them with cayenne, salt, and a little white pepper, work them with a lump of butter, and when the steak is brown take it from the pan, rub it well with the mixture on both sides, and return it to the pan until enough; dish it, thicken the gravy in the pan with a little butter rolled in flour if it requires it, and pour it over the steak and serve.

--From The Illustrated London Cookery Book--

Other than their habit of keeping meat at room temperature for long periods of time, their recipes sound pretty good. By the way, many of the recipes called for prodigious amounts of meat; ten or twenty pounds. Obviously soups would always be going, to handle the leftovers and extra bits.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrity Chef, 1852 edition

The Illustrated London Cookery Book

Frederick Bishop
Late cuisinier to St. Jame's Palace, Earl Grey, The Marquis of Stafford, Baron Rothschild, Earl Norbury, Captain Duncombe, and many of the first families in the Kingdom give to the public receipts [recipes], which shall enable them to place excellent and even high-class dishes upon their table, without putting them to a great amount of expenditure.

Now, you too, can eat like the rich and famous, but at a fraction of the cost!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sexy Tranny, circa 1600

I grew as impudent a thief, and as dexterous as ever Moll Cutpurse was, though, if fame does not belie her, not half so handsome.

--From Moll Flanders--

Moll Cutpurse, AKA Mal Cutpurse, AKA Mary Frith; thief, pimp and cross-dresser. She was also known for smoking which was said to have added years to her life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Retirement planning, 1722 edition

...but this I knew, that Maryland, Pennsylvania, East and West Jersey, New York, and New England lay all north of Virginia, and that they were consequently all colder climates, to which for that very reason, I had an aversion. For that as I naturally loved warm weather, so now I grew into years I had a stronger inclination to shun a cold climate. I therefore considered of going to Caroline, which is the only southern colony of the English on the continent of America...

--From Moll Flanders--

Even before America was an independent country, old people wanted to move south.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Familiarity Breeds Contempt, 1722 edition

But how hell should become by degree so natural, and not only tolerable, but even agreeable, is a thing unintelligible but by those who have experienced it, as I have.

--From Moll Flanders--

BONUS 600 BC (original) edition:

When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.

--From Aesop's Fables (The Fox and The Lion)--

I always thought "familiarity breeds contempt" was somehow negative, but the idea has a positive side. It makes sunshine out of darkness.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not Pornography, circa 1613

It's not pornography, it's just Saint Sebastian. The arrow location is entirely random, so is his posture; also, the look on his face is pain, I swear. It's religious! Anyway, there's no room under the bed, so it's going to hang on the wall.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vanity, 1722 edition

I dressed me to all the advantage possible, I assure you, and for the first time used a little art; I say for the first time, for I had never yielded to the baseness of paint before, having always had vanity enough to believe I had no need of it.

--From Moll Flanders--

If you think you're beautiful why would you put on make-up? Doesn't every dab and stroke say you think you're ugly?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Temptations, 1722 edition

Let them remember that a time of distress is a time of dreadful temptation...

--From Moll Flanders--

Is it any wonder that those most in distress are those most prone to temptation?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Life without contraception, 1722 edition

...but she was full of this argument, that she save the life of many an innocent lamb, as she called them, which would otherwise perhaps have been murdered; and of many women who, made desperate by the misfortune, would otherwise be tempted to destroy their children, and bring themselves to the gallows...

...The only thing I found in all her conversation on these subjects that gave me any distaste, was, that one time in discouraging about my being far gone with child, and the time I expected to come, she said something that looked as if she could help me off with my burthen sooner, if I was willing; or, in English, that she could give me something to make me miscarry...

... 'Why, first,' says I, 'you give a piece of money to these people to take the child off the parent's hands, and to take care of it as long as it lives. Now we know, mother,' said I, 'that those are poor people, and their gain consists in being quit of the charge as soon as they can; how can I doubt but that, as it is best for them to have the child die...

--From Moll Flanders--

Monday, June 8, 2009

How to please your man (on a rainy day), 1894 edition

Upon rising, dress with particular care. On the certainty that no one will be in, there is a tendency to don old clothes and add to the gloominess of the wet evening. Father and Fred will be unconsciously cheered by the sight of smiling faces and bright dresses. They will enjoy and appreciate the hot chocolate or cocoa or some little extra planned as a pleasant surprise.

The feeling of satisfaction on looking back over the well-employed hours and uncongenial tasks performed will help to create a happy atmosphere at the dinner table and enable all to laugh heartily over the little joke which Fred brings home from the office--his way of contributing to the family cheer.

--From Good Housekeeping--

The housewife was also enjoined to take a short rest during the day to "smooth her brow".

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A rainy day circa 1580

I read this in Moll Flanders:

...I took care to lay up as much money as I could for a wet day...

and went looking for the origin of the idiom "to save for a rainy day". I found it was from a play, The Bugbears, by John Jeffere/Jefferay/Jefferie (they can't agree on the spelling) but couldn't find how it was actually used. Here it is:

wold he have me kepe nothyng agaynst a raynye day?

Would he have me keep nothing against a rainy day?

You have got to love the spelling. My thanks to Google book search. Link to text (see page 26)

Friday, June 5, 2009

The purpose of marriage circa 1722 was requisite to a whore to be handsome, well-shaped, have a good mien and a graceful behaviour; but that for a wife, no deformity would shock the fancy, no ill qualities the judgment; the money was the thing; the portion was neither crooked nor monstrous, but the money was always agreeable, whatever the wife was.

--From Moll Flanders--

I think I have to put "traditional family values" in scare quotes from now on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Self destruction

It was indeed a subject of strange reflection to me to see men who were overwhelmed in perplexed circumstances, who were reduced some degrees below being ruined, whose families were objects of their own terror and other people's charity, yet while a penny lasted, nay, even beyond it, endeavouring to drown themselves, labouring to forget former things, which now it was the proper time to remember, making more work for repentance, and sinning on, as a remedy for sin past.

--From Moll Flanders--

Take away a man's hope and he'll take away the rest.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The trouble with vanity

If a young woman once thinks herself handsome, she never doubts the truth of any man that tells her he is in love with her...

--From Moll Flanders--

People want to feel love so much now-a-days, that this quality of vanity makes it a virtue instead of a vice.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Leaked sex tape, 1722 edition

...was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and dies a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums …

--From Moll Flanders--

We could use this as a soundtrack, to class it up: