Monday, December 31, 2012

Plum Pudding - slicing

Cutting the round "cannon ball" pudding in a wedge slice.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Plum Pudding

Notice how the round pudding was cut in slices from the top left side.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


The panetiere was/is a wooden French bread box or bread bin; and a gloriously elaborate one at that.  Not your 1960s bread box - causing a rethinking of the querry - "Is it bigger than a bread box?"
More examples follow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Cake and the Little Mouse

"The Little Mouse, who made itself a House in a Christmas Cake" - excerpts of the poem with illustrations from the book Aunt Affable's New Books for Children. London: 1844   

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Cake or Black Cake

Black Cake certainly doesn't sound as festive as Christmas Cake as it was sometimes called, or even Fruit Cake or Plum Pudding.  Not only does it not sound festive, black cake doesn't sound too appetizing... thoughts of burnt cookies or toast spring to mind.  But it is tasty, rather like a spice cake if only raisins are used. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving and the 14th Amendment

Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner by Thomas Nash depicts the many immigrants affected by the Fourteenth Ammendment...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nutting Parties

Nutting??  Two social events were called Nutting Parties - an indoor party with a nut theme (see below for a 1907 description) and an outing to pick various types of nuts (1832 and 1902, below).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Cake

Election Cakes, which appeared in the 1796 cookbook by Amelia Simmons, were labeled “old fashioned” by 1830 in Child’s The Frugal Housewife and by 1850 (in Beecher), they were at least '”100 years old.” ...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Campaign Tables

18th Century British campaign tables, George Washington, and 19th Century American Civil War army tables.  39 sketches and photographs show some ingenious ways tables were taken apart, folded and transported by the army.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicken ladders

Just look at that chicken climbing the ladder. The following 9 pictures show three basic types of ladders and ramps since the 16th century.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Peacock Pye and Swan Pies

17th century paintings show elaborate peacock and swan pies adorning the dining tables.  No question, a real show piece.  But - a real head, neck and wings??  A 1757 recipe below detailed how it was done.  Other options - butter, wax or stick forms.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sweet Potato Dinner

Placing sweet potatoes in or on coals from a fire is an easy way to cook them...and that is how they were cooked in the painting "General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His Meal."   The image was on the $10 bill of the Confederate States, and on a post war South Carolina $5 bill...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Old Economy Village - Erntefest

Old Economy, founded in 1824, is a marvelous collection of 17 buildings filled with furniture and items made by the Harmonists.  Most of the buildings are brick, but the wooden community kitchen has interesting openings (vents) in the roof.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plate Warmers

Plates were warmed in the kitchen or in fancy plate warmers suitable for the dining room.   The open side of the plate warmer faced the fire to slightly heat the plates. The plates could be removed in some, through a door on the side opposite the fire. ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cardoons, Sherdoons, and Artichokes - 1759

The following four recipes on Cardoons, Sherdoons and Artichokes are from William Verral's book  A Complete System of Cookery. London: 1759

Monday, August 27, 2012

Food History Exhibits 2012 part 2

8 exhibits related to food and drink history in museums in the US....

Monday, August 20, 2012

Peach Picking, Peach Houses, Peach Pickles

Peach picking in Delaware, 1878 and Georgia, 1887 with details of baskets, staff, ladders, wagons and a sorting table; pictures of Peach Houses, how to dry the peaches in Peach Kilns and ovens, and a recipe for Peach Pickles, 1774.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob.... as street food.... in 1808...     The girl is selling corn on the cob that was boiled in the husks and served with salt on the streets of New York City.  Adding a bit of butter with the salt is not new...   

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chamber Horse

An exercise chair with inner springs (illustrations below) from early 18th century was used by diverse people from the author of the novel Pamela, John Wesley, the children of King George III and prisoners to James Bond...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chantilly Cake - Trifle in a Cake

Chantilly Cake or Trifle Cake, from early 1800, is a trifle within a Savoy Cake.  The top of the tall cake is cut off and the inner part of the cake removed to form a container for the custard, whipped cream and liquors: Port (“Lisbon Wine”), Brandy, and White Wine. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lunch Hour NYC exhibit

Although the exhibition at the New York City Public Library, "Lunch Hour NYC," is over, there is an online exhibit HERE . It is fun to see the links have been put on the 'doors' of the Automat...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Coffee houses

This picture is identified in the British Museum collection as Interior of a London Coffee-house. Anonymous. 1650-1750.   Closeups from this and other images show some equipment in coffee houses of the period...

Thursday, June 28, 2012


This hedgehog has a sweet almond paste body with slivered blanched almonds for the spikes.  The original receipt from Hannah Glasse, 1777 and my modern interpretation is below.  Also a description of hedgehogs as "timid, shy and stupid" and yet it was their attacker who became "fatigued with fruitless attempts to annoy it" and left. 1822

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rumford Roasters and Reip Ovens

Not all metal ovens are Rumford Roasters.  Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson, 1753 - 1814) and his Roasters, pictured left, are certainly the most well known, but other iron and tin ovens inserted into the side of the hearth were used in Europe and the United States such as the Reip Oven and Roaster of Maryland, patented in 1825. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reading while cooking

For those of us who have occasionally read a book in one hand while stirring with the other... here is a sketch from 1859.  "Showing why the dinner was late" is from Trials and Confessions of a Housekeeper by Timothy Shay Arthur, Philadelphia: 1859

©2012 Patricia Bixler Reber

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

USDA at 150

The USDA is 150 years old today.   On May 15, 1862 President Lincoln signed the order to create what he called The People's Department - the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  To honor Lincoln, the 'Abraham Lincoln Tomato' was introduced in the 1920s, and The People's Garden project was started in 2009, the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Woodrow Wilson and Mother's Day

Mother's Day is this Sunday.  President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother's Day on May 9, 1914.  His mother, Jesse Woodrow Wilson, 1826-1888, wrote a handwritten recipe book. Among the recipes was one labeled - "Woodrow's favorite - Charlotte Russe" see below...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Burnt Custard

Although her "Burnt Custard" sounds, well, burned, it is composed of delicious layers of various textures. Sponge cake slices (Savoy Cake) are placed on the bottom of a bowl. A sweetened cream (liquidy custard) of egg yolks, milk and sugar, is poured on top. Then... 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mary Randolph's 1825 Refrigerator

Mary Randolph included a sketch of a refrigerator in the 1825 2d edition of The Virginia Housewife.  It was a wooden box within another wooden box with crushed charcoal in-between.  It was described in 1815, but not the first refrigerator...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thomas Moore's Refrigerator, 1802 patent

A patent for a refrigerator (ice box) was granted to Thomas Moore and signed by President Thomas Jefferson. In 1802 Jefferson went to the Moore home in Montgomery County, Md to see the new Refrigeratory, and later bought one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Food History Exhibits 2012

Below are 8 current food history related exhibits.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chair Screens

Fireplaces with open fires or stoves were needed to heat  rooms in 19th century homes, including the dining room.  A creative way to protect the backs of those seated on the fireplace side of the dining room table was to place a screen on the chairs.  Leslie's 1850 instructions to make a chair screen...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Washington Pie part 2

The previous posting on Washington Pies, HERE described the round layered cake with jelly or cream filling.  The second type of Washington Pie was a square cake composed of broken cake pieces within a bottom and top pie crust.  According to the following newspaper article, it probably was named for Washington, DC where it was sold in many bakeries prior to the Civil War, and when sold "... in Baltimore... there was nothing of Washington about it except the name." --

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Washington Pie

For Washington’s Birthday the other year I posted information on Washington Cakes, HERE and this year the topic is Washington Pie.  During the 19th century, there were two types of cakes called Washington Pie.  The first was a round layer cake of sponge or pound cake with jelly or cream between the layers like Jelly Cakes or Boston Cream Pies.  The second Washington Pie was composed of pieces of leftover cake moistened and encased in pie crust, baked in  2 1/2 foot square pans and initially sold at Washington, D.C. bakeries. ...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Julienne Soup

Potage a la Julienne was/is a soup of broth with vegetables evenly cut in long thin square shapes, like wooden matchsticks or shoesting potatoes. Two recipes from 1759 and 1846...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Horse Cakes

A Civil War treat sold in Alexandria, Virginia stores for a penny was a gingerbread cookie "cut in the flat, rude shape of a prancing horse with very prominent ears and very stubbed legs. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Food History Symposiums 2012

There are 6 historic food conferences and symposiums in the next three months: