Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Literary Luncheon

Back in the old days, before I became a tomato ranchin’ bum, I used to produce a feature for a newspaper food section called Literary Luncheon. It consisted of an eating-related excerpt from a book, followed by an antique recipe roughly contemporary with the book’s publication.
I thought I’d give it a try again today. I might even do it more than once.
This passage is from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (1903).
Mrs. Robinson had company only once or twice a year, and was generally much prostrated for several days afterward, the struggle between pride and parsimony being quite too great a strain upon her. It was necessary, in order to maintain her standing in the community, to furnish a good "set out," yet the extravagance of the proceeding goaded her from the first moment she began to stir the marble cake to the moment when the feast appeared upon the table.
The rooster had been boiling steadily over a slow fire since morning, but such was his power of resistance that his shape was as firm and handsome in the pot as on the first moment when he was lowered into it.
"He ain't goin' to give up!" said Alice, peering nervously under the cover, "and he looks like a scarecrow."
"We'll see whether he gives up or not when I take a sharp knife to him," her mother answered; "and as to his looks, a platter full o' gravy makes a sight o' difference with old roosters, and I'll put dumplings round the aidge; they're turrible fillin', though they don't belong with boiled chicken."
The rooster did indeed make an impressive showing, lying in his border of dumplings, and the dish was much complimented when it was borne in by Alice. This was fortunate, as the chorus of admiration ceased abruptly when the ladies began to eat the fowl.

Chicken with Baked Dumplings
From the Washington Women’s Cook Book, published by the Washington Equal Suffrage Association, compiled by Linda Deziah Jennings (1909)
Cut the chicken into pieces and stew until tender, when done put into a deep baking pan. If there is not enough liquor to nearly cover the chicken, add water and thicken to make a nice gravy, having previously seasoned well. Make a rich baking powder biscuit dough, cut out the biscuits and place on top of the chicken. Bake just long enough to cook the biscuits nicely. By many this is much preferred to boiled dumplings.

18 comments:

LisaSD said...

CC--Are you conspiring with Cooking Light and the memory of my grandmother to make me yearn for chicken and dumplings? Or am I just reading something into this? Huh? Huh?!

I don't have many memories of my grandma, really, but one I do have is of helping her make C&D...

vanessa said...

I love this idea. I think it would be a fun blogging event-to take a passage from a favorite book and post a recipe corresponding with it. i came across a cookbook that covers various literary titles and recipes. an interesting read!

Greg said...

Prostrated for a few days? Thats gotta hurt ;)

cookiecrumb said...

Lisa: My mom's favorite food memory is chicken and dumplings. Mm.
Vanessa: You must tell me the name of the cookbook! Fun.
Greg: Yeah. No bicycle riding.

b'gina said...

Here it is, time to cook dinner, and I'm now regretting that I don't have a boiler in my fridge. You're making me hungry, but I also think it would be a fun thing to do, the literature and recipe thing, if I could think of the appropriate literature. Mind like a sieve.

mrs d said...

Hey, this must be "Literary day" in the food blog world! :-)

KathyR said...

Confession: I have never eaten a dumpling as in "chicken and dumplings." Never.

My grandmother made biscuits & would never have thrown them into the soup.

vanessa said...

cookiecrumb, it's called The Book Lover's Cookbook. a fun read. I think there's also a Book Club Cookbook, haven't really checked it out, though. Enjoy!

Paz said...

I love this idea!

Paz

cookiecrumb said...

KathyR: I actually made chicken and dumplings once, and it was great!
Mrs. D: I know. Great minds...
Thanks vanessa, and thanks paz!
b'gina: Hah. Me too. Thank goodness for the Internets.

Rozanne said...

What a fantastically clever idea! Make it a regular feature.

I had no idea Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm had such a satirical undercurrent to it. Now I want to read it.

I triple dog dare you to try this stunt with Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell.

cookiecrumb said...

Rozanne: Hah, what a dare! I, um, well, I... Well, see, I'm only excerpting from books that are out of copyright, for legal reasons.
(Whew! Got out of that one!)
:D

mrs d said...

If I can snag a few more live authors for my literary series, then we'll have both bases covered: public domain and under copyright.

Though of course, the authors I know haven't quite reached Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm fame yet. :-)

johng said...

We had various grandmas, aunts, and um.. housekeepers making chicken and dumplings when I was a kid, and besides being good, that can't help but make it resonate. Dumplings baked on top or boiled in the stock? With baking soda or "slippery"? Milk in the bisquit batter or water? Wars have been fought over disputes of lesser import.

Dagny said...

Baking the dumplings? Hmmmm. That just never would have happened in my grandmother's house. My aunt once tried to make C&D. Her brothers quickly told her to go back to the drawing board.

It seems to be an artform much like making the perfect poundcake or gumbo. Don't even get me started on sweet potato pie.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: See KathyR's comment above! I think baked "dumplings" is essentially biscuits.
(I had no idea there could be controversies over sweet potato pie. Outside my repertoire, I guess.)

Anonymous said...

Always milk in your dumplings

cookiecrumb said...

Anonymous: Why, that's just poetry! Thanks, and what are you doing up so late? :-)