Going Vegan Day Two: Marmite and Grape Juice Stew

Semolina Soup.  I know; it doesn’t look like much.  It left it on the stove for my boyfriend to warm up at lunch, and he threw it away because he thought it had gone bad.  Nope, that’s just the way it looks.

My day began simply with leftover apple bread and hot tea with almond milk.  Almond milk, by the way, has been around a long time: there are recipes for it in medieval manuscripts.

I had to go to work, so I made my lunch in advance: Semolina Soup.

Semolina Soup– 4 oz. semolina, 2 chopped onions, 1 tablespoonful gravy essence, 2 quarts water or vegetable stock

I don’t know what initially drew me to this recipe; perhaps the odd, porridge like use of Semolina, a high gluten flour normally used for pastas.  Or the reference to “gravy essence,” which had a helpful footnote:

There are several brands of wholly vegetable gravy essence now on the market. The best known are ‘Vegeton,’ ‘Marmite,’ ‘Carnos,’ and Pitman’s ‘Vigar Gravy Essence.’

Although “Vigar Gravy Essence” seems to have fallen by the wayside, I knew Marmite was still around (What is Marmite? Read up here).  I had given it a whirl a few years ago when handed a sandwich from a friend who has a penchant for such things.  I’ll try anything once, and after the first bite, I found it inexplicably enjoyable.  I was curious how it would taste as a soup flavoring.
It turned out quite good, so let me give you the expanded version of this recipe:
Semolina Soup (Recipe halved, serves 2)
2 oz. Semolina flour
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoons gravy essence
2 cups vegetable broth (canned)
2 cups water.
1. In a saucepan, sautee the onions in olive oil until brown.  Add pepper and a little salt.  Add broth and water, bring to a low boil.  The liquid should be just bubbling.
2. Slowly add the semolina flour, stirring constantly. I like to use a sifter to ensure a soft, steady stream of flour, which will prevent gummy lumps from forming.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the porridge has thickened to your taste.
And that’s all! It was ready in about 20 minutes.  But it smelled really unappealing while I was cooking it.  Perhaps it was too early in the morning? Perhaps the order was mingling with my freshly toothpasted mouth?  I packed it in a thermos and took it to work.
At lunchtime, I busted it out, still warm in my thermos.  And it was delicious!  It was so good, I made my coworker drink some, and she liked it too!  The Marmite tasted meaty, as though the soup had been made with a beef broth.  It was remarkably like french onion soup:  warm, filling, comforting; it made me think of fall days.  I’m planning a vegan dinner party for Saturday, and I’m thinking of serving this as the first course, perhaps with some greens stewed up in it, and a crunchy crouton made with apple bread.
Dinner was Mexican Stew:
Mexican Stew — 1 cupful brown beans, 2 onions, 2 potatoes, 4 tomatoes, 1 oz. sugar, 1 cupful red grape-juice, rind of 1 lemon, water.  Soak beans overnight; chop vegetables in chunks; boil all ingredients together 1 hour.
Mexican Stew.
Again, I was attracted by the unique flavor: grape juice as a soup base?  And what does that have to do with Mexico?  The final verdict from both my boyfriend and I was that it “tasted like soup.”  Good, but unremarkable.  The grape juice flavor wasn’t prominent, but it had a concord grape aftertaste I found unappealing.
Tomorrow, Veganism 1940’s style.

Going Vegan: Day 1, Lunch & Dinner

My first foray in to vegan cookery: Tomato, kale, and spinach soup with toasted pine nuts and raw radishes.

After a mid-morning snack of almond butter with maple syrup on whole wheat bread, I got started on my first vegan lunch.  I was very apprehensive of my first two days of veganism; No Animal Food, while presenting some very convincing points, also presents some truly horrendous recipes.  For example, my lunch of Spinach Soup No. 1

Spinach Soup No. 1 lb. spinach, 1 lb. can tomatoes, 1 tablespoonful nut-milk (Mapleton’s), 1½ pints water. Dissolve nut-milk in little water, cook all ingredients together in double-boiler for 1½ hours, strain and serve.

Most of the recipes in the book are equally plain.  At the risk of sounding sexist, this book was written by a man.  In 1910.  Who was a vegan.  He’s not the first person I would turn to for culinary advice; his collection of recipes are more like instructions on how to make something to eat than recipes for a meal.
I wrestled with how much I would allow myself to alter the recipes without losing their historic nature.  In the end, here’s what I I did:  I added kale in addition to the spinach and two teaspoons of fresh herbs as well as pepper and salt.  I don’t know what “Mapleton’s Nut Milk” is, I think some powder to mix with water, so I used about 1/4 cup of almond milk.  I did cook this in a slap-dash double boiler, a glass bowl set in a stock pot, and in 90 minutes it was tender and soup like.  To add some texture, I toasted pine nuts and added a few slices of fresh radishes.  I feel like maybe I diverged from the initial recipe too much, although I used ingredients that would have been on hand in the average 1910 vegan household.
In the end, it tasted ok.  My boyfriend and I ate big bowls with slices of toast, and it was fine.  Not bad; not great either.
I wanted to make dinner a little more special: I halved a large acorn squash, and covered it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and sage and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour.  This turned out delicious.  I also decided to bake a bit of bread:

Apple Bread 2 lbs. entire wheat meal doughed with 1 lb. apples, cooked in water to a pulp…prepared as follows: Mix ingredients with water into stiff dough; knead well, mould, place in bread tins, and bake in slack oven for from 1½ to 2½ hours (or weigh off dough into ½ lb. pieces, mould into flat loaves, place on flat tin, cut across diagonally with sharp knife and bake about 1½ hours).

These instructions aren’t as clear as they could be, so here are my proportions (quantities halved):

Apple Bread

2 large apples cooked soft with a little water
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole wheat meal
A loaf pan sprayed with non stick cooking spray

1. Pare and core the apples; cube.  Put into a pot with a little water, and cook over medium heat until soft enough to mush to a pulp.  Feel free to use different types of baking apples, some that stay solid and some that fall apart into sauce, to add different textures.

2. Add almond milk to hot apples and stir.  Sift together whole wheat flour and baking powder, add to apple mixture.  Press into a loaf pan and bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees, or until done.


The bread was a little gummy, a little dense, but somehow really good.  It complimented both the squash, and my main dish, a nut roast:

Nut Roast No. 1 1 lb. pine kernels (flaked), 4 tablespoonfuls pure olive oil, 2 breakfastcupfuls breadcrumbs, ½ lb. tomatoes (peeled and mashed).  Mix ingredients together, place in pie-dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and bake until well browned.

I coarsely chopped pine nuts which added a nice texture; I didn’t have plain bread crumbs, so I used “Italian Spice” bread crumbs, which were delicious.  The tomatoes, which I mashed until chunky, were nice bright spots of acidity.  Basically, I threw all three of the above dishes into a 375-400 degree oven at various times, and an hour later, I had dinner.

Dinner: Brown!  Roasted squash, nut roast, and apple bread.
My boyfriend, a voracious carnivore, dug into dinner with enthusiasm.  “This is delicious! It tastes like fall!  Being vegan is great!” Those are actual, direct quotes.  And I’d have to agree: dinner was really, really good, and very satisfying.  For dessert, we had baked bananas.  Weird looking, and tasted about how you’d imagine: like a hot soft banana.
Baked Bananas- Prepare the desired number by washing and cutting off stalk, but do not peel. Bake in oven 20 minutes, then serve.
It’s not until after dinner, when I was cleaning up, that I thought to double check the ingredients on the “Italian Bread Crumbs.” I was horrified to discover it contained honey, skim milk, and buttermilk.  Crap.  So I messed up day one of veganism; but overall, the food was not bad at all.

Pretty weird…Baked banana.

Going Vegan: Day 1, Vegans vs. Swill Milk


Cereal with Almond Milk and Banana


Spinach Soup no. 2


Nut Roast
Roasted Squash
Apple Bread
Baked Banana

To begin the day, we took it easy with a choice of two cereals: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (invented 1906), and Post Grape-Nuts (developed 1897).  My boyfriend has decided to join me on this adventure, as long as I started the coffee pot every morning.

After breakfast, I cracked the pages of the No Animal Food, from 1910.

NAF, which is available in its entirety on Project Gutenberg here, begins with a manifesto.  The author presents the reasoning behind vegetarianism: “Briefly, the pleas usually advanced on behalf of the vegetable regimen are as follows: It is claimed to be healthier than the customary flesh diet; it is claimed for various reasons to be more pleasant; it is claimed to be more economical; it is claimed to be less trouble; it is claimed tobe more humane.”  He goes on to say that above all, this book is written for the purposes of health, pointing at the proliferation of patent medicines and the high rate of tuberculosis as a sign that we on the whole are malnourished.  The following chapters offer Science to support vegetarianism, as well as a list of notable vegetarians (Tesla!), and then a brief essay to support his other “pleas.”  Some of the writing is quite modern in sentiment.

A 19th century milk man distributing "Swill Milk."

Then he begins a chapter on why a non-dairy diet should be accepted.  I was shocked by the contents of this chapter, as it provides an extremely insightful look into the origins of veganism, which were rooted in a very real health concern of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Read on:

“It seems to be quite generally acknowledged by the medical profession that raw milk is a dangerous food on account of the fact that it is liable from various causes, sometimes inevitable, to contain impurities. Dr. Kellogg writes: ‘Typhoid fever, cholera infantum, tuberculosis and tubercular consumption—three of the most deadly diseases known; it is very probable also, that diphtheria, scarlet fever and several other maladies are communicated through the medium of milk….’

The germs of tuberculosis seem to be the most dangerous in milk, for they thrive and retain their vitality for many weeks, even in butter and cheese. An eminent German authority, Hirschberger, is said to have found 10 per cent of the cows in the vicinity of large cities to be affected by tuberculosis…Excreta, clinging to the hairs of the udder, are frequently rubbed off into the pail by the action of the hand whilst milking. Under the most careful sanitary precautions it is impossible to obtain milk free from manure, from the ordinary germs of putrefaction to the most deadly microbes known to science. There is little doubt but that milk is one of the uncleanest and impurest of all foods.”

The impurity of milk, particularly in cities, was an absolutely unavoidable truth at this time.  Pasteurization was not required by law until 1912, and large cities like New York had ongoing problems with “Swill Milk“: milk infected by disease, milk from diseased cows, spoiled milk, watered down milk, doctored milk;  you name it.  Unpasteurized milk was responsible for an infant mortality rate as high as 25% on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The author goes on to give a few other reasons for a dairy-free diet, but this is the most powerful.

So how did my first day of vegan eating go?   Recipes in the next post.

Travelogue: My Philly Dream Vacation

I had the most amazing day trip to Philadelphia.  Eleven hours of non-stop history nerd fun.  Let me tell you about it:

Philadelphians love orange cheese.

First, my beau and I went to the Muetter Museum.   It’s an incredible medical history museum that includes everything from a cast of Chang and Eng‘s body to the world’s largest colon.  The colon is huge, and upon its acquisition (when the owner of said colon died on the toilet), “2 and a half pailfuls of feces” were removed from it’s interior.  How much feces is 2 and a half pailfuls?  Well, one giant colon full, of course.

For the rest of this trip, I let Charles Dickens be my tour guide.  I have an ongoing obsession with his book American Notes, the tale of his 1842 visit to America.  He paints a  fascinating image of us as a young, rowdy country, and I’m continually seeking out places that Dickens visited that still exist: like Eastern State Penitentiary.

Opened in1829, Eastern State is the oldest Penitentiary in the world.  Dickens admired the Quaker founders’ new approach to decriminalization: prisoners were put into solitary confinement and taught a trade, like wood working, to while away their hours and to give them a skill once they were released.  A prisoner had plenty of quiet time to think about what they had done and to make their peace with god.  It also occasionally drove people CRAZY.

Later on, the prison went communal, using solitary confinement as punishment for bad behavior.

The prison was in use for a remarkable 141 years; it was abandoned in 1971, and reopened in 1994 for public tours.  Originally “Visitors are required to wear hard hats and sign liability waivers.”  Today, the prison is stabilized but is in a state of beautiful decay.  Restored areas show how it would have looked originally: very pristine and Baptist church-like.  We took  a guided, hour-long tour of the building and stopped in at a special short tour of the kitchens and dining facilities.

A cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary.

The dining hall at Eastern State Penitentiary

Down in The Hole, and underground facility for solitary confinement. It was flooded from the rain; dark, and miserable.

Next we headed to the Water Works, built in the 18teens , it’s (one of?) the oldest water treatment plant in the States. It’s a restaurant now, but Dickens stopped here when it was functioning to marvel at the modern technology.  It’s a lovely piece of architecture.  On account of the pouring rain on the day we went, the surrounding river was crazy flooded, making for a very interesting visit.

The Waterworks, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Philly sklyine in the background.

The rest of the day was spent in consumption: first, we stopped by Reading Terminal Market, a unique collection of food purveyors including Bassett’s Ice Cream.  Bassett’s is America’s oldest ice cream company, founded in 1861.  I had the Cookies N’ Cream, a  favorite of mine from childhood, and my boyfriend had dark chocolate chip and a scoop of pumpkin.  Really excellent, extremely satisfying ice cream.

I had already devoured most of it before i remembered to take a photo…

Then we walked over to McGillin’s, the oldest bar in Philly, for a beer.  I had the McGillin 1860 IPA; it tasted similar to the house brew at Pete’s Tavern.  We sat at the bar and sipped our beers; the crowd was a little sports bar/ college-ee, but I’ve noticed that’s how these ancient bars seem to be able to stay in business.  Take, for example, McSorely’s: a NYC institution since 1858, it’s still going strong as a NYU hot spot.  Bully for them, I say.

Oldest bar in Philly.

From there, dinner reservations at a restaurant that no history nerd should miss:  The City Tavern.  The original City Tavern (est. 1773) was an immensely popular and fashionable restaurant in the 18th and 19th centuries, attended not only Dickens, but by most of our founding fathers.  The current building is a recreation, with food researched and prepared by chef Walter Staib, who has his own hearth cooking show on PBS.

I was immediately horrified by the attire of the waiters: black 18th-century olde timey outfits.  They appeared to be made from polyester and I think they were wearing sport socks.  From the neck up, they were entirely modern.  I don’t want to be a snob, but I would have rather had my waiters in normal server blacks; I felt the corniness of their dress took away from all the things that were cool about the dining experience.

The menu was fairly typical of restaurants that  serve “historical” fair: unchallenging dishes that could have been served in the colonial era, but are prepared in a modern way.  Having said that, my boyfriend got a pork chop with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut that was THE SINGLE BEST PORKCHOP I’VE EVER HAD.  It was the size of half a pig; had a rich, ham-like flavor from being applewood smoked; and was soo tender it was like meat butter.

Oldhe thymeness

I picked my way through the menu and compiled a historical plate of food.  First, I ordered up a sampling of four historic beers–so cool!

Four historic beers.

On the far left was “George Washington’s Tavern Porter: Brewed from a genuine recipe on file in the Rare Manuscripts Room of the New York Public Library.”  I found it to be reminiscent of the molasses-based beers Brouwerij Lane brewed for last fall’s Bread & Beer event.  I was stoked to try it since I had missed Coney Island Brewing Company’s recreation for the Library’s 100th anniversary.  Next was “Thomas Jefferson’s 1774 Tavern Ale: Thomas Jefferson made beer twice a year.  Our version of this ale is made following Jefferson’s original recipe…” I found it to be floral and pleasant, my second favorite of the four.  The next was “Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce: Based on Benjamin Franklin’s recipe, written while he was an ambassador to France.”  This beer was better than any attempts I’ve made with spruce based beers, but it was still too dark a beer for my taste.  The last beer was my favorite, “Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale: In the style of the common man’s ale…” It was excellent and tasted almost exactly like the Common Ale Pete made over the summer.

I ordered a bowl of Pepperpot Soup, a Revolutionary War-era favorite imported from the Caribbean.  The menu said it was made with “beef;” but actually it’s beef tripe.  I’ve had some bad experiences with tripe in the past, but the soup was delicious, although very, very peppery.

And for my main course, I chose the only entree that included a historical note:  “Fried Tofu – In a 1770 letter to Philadelphia’s John Bartram, Benjamin Franklin included instructions on how to make tofu. Sally Lunn breaded fried tofu, spinach, seasonal vegetables, sauteed tomatoes & herbs, linguine.”  No shit!  Here’s Franklin:

“…Chinese Garavances, with Father Navarretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them, in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused inquiry to be made of Mr. Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made; and I send you his answer. I have since learnt, that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet) is put into water, when the meal is in it, to turn to curds.”

And the recipes he procured:

1st Process

The method the Chinese convert Callivances into Towfu. They first steep the Grain in warm water ten or twelve Hours to soften a little, that it may grind easily. It is a stone Mill with a hole in the top to receive a small drain of warm water which passes between the two Stones the time of grinding to carry off the flower from between & keeps draining into a Tub which has a Sieve or Cloth at the top to stop the gross parts from mixing with the flower.

2d Process

Then they stir up the flower & put the Water over the Fire just for it to simmer, keeping stirring till it thickens & then taken out & put into a frame that has a Cloth which will hold the Substance, & press the Water from it, & when the Water is gone off the Frame with the Contents with a Weight on it must be put over the Steam of boiling Water for half an hour to harden or something longer. The pressing & boiling over the Steam brings it into the Form you see it carried about at Canton. This is the process as I always understood.

(Thanks to Lord Whimsy for printing this text, originally found in the 1849 printing of Bartram’s letters.)

Colonial "Towfu"!

Afterwards, we stopped by the Franklin Fountain, another of the the new-breed of old-school soda fountains.  I eat a lot of ice cream, but this place has the best sundaes I’ve ever had.  If I lived in Philly, I would go here all. the. time.

My favorite sundae ever! Rocky road ice cream, peanut butter sauce, and pretzels! AAAAAAH SO GOOOOOD!


Interior of Franklin Fountain.

House-made syrups for handmade sodas.

Such a wonderful day.  More photos on flickr.

History Dinner: Poor Man’s Potage and Tomato Soup Cake

Tomato Soup Cake.  You’d never guess the secret ingredient. (it’s love!)

Last summer, I spent a week dining on recipes from MFK Fisher’s book How to Cook a Wolf. After I finished the project, there were two recipes I still wanted to try: Quick Potato Soup and Tomato Soup cake.  So I invited over a few friends and we dined.

Soup was first, served with buttered, fresh-baked bread:

Modern technology has made this recipe easier: instead of hand-grating a million potatoes, I used an immersion blender.  I softened then onions first, simmering them slowly in a whole stick of butter.  Delicious.  Then I added the potatoes, cubed but unpeeled, and about a quart of water.  I brought them to a boil and cooked the mixture until the potatoes were fork tender.  I heated a quart of whole milk on the stove while I used my blender to puree the soup.  I left it a little chunky, ’cause that’s how I roll.  I tasted the soup and added a generous quantity of salt and some pepper.

I used about 3/4 the amount of liquid that Fisher recommends; when I initially added the milk, the soup looked too thin.  But I let it bubble away on a low heat for about 30 minutes and it thickened up to a pleasant consistency.  This morning, the leftovers were souper thick, which is how I like it.

I served the soup topped with what I thought was flat leaf parsley, but was actually cilantro.  It didn’t matter, it was really tasty.  I also sprinkled parmesan cheese over top, which put a nice finish on the soup.  Simple ingredients, simple preparation, and simply delicious: the qualities that Fisher’s recipes are known for.

Potato and Onion Soup– one of the most perfect foods.

Dessert was Tomato Soup Cake:

The “soda” is baking soda and can be whisked in with the flour and spices.  I left out the clove, which I find to be an overpowering flavor, and used a very satisfactory blend of 1 tsp cinnamon, and a 1/2 tsp each nutmeg and ginger.  My “what you will” was one fuji apple and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts.  And yes: I added one can of Campbell’s “Soup at Hand” Classic Tomato Soup.

I didn’t make the frosting of “cream cheese and powdered sugar and a little rum” that Fisher recommends, although it sounds awesome.  I made a glaze with confectioner’s sugar and the juice and zest of a lemon.  Although the cake is great without frosting, too.

“This is a pleasant cake,” Fisher says, “which keeps well and puzzles people who ask what kind it is.”  I let my guests venture guesses as to the surprise ingredient.  They were nearly finished with their cake slices when someone finally said “Tomatoes?”  Initially, everyone dropped their cake in horror.  Then they found peace with the idea and wolfed the remainder down.

The cake was incredibly moist–shockingly most–without being heavy.  The spice blend was perfect.  Maybe you could taste tomatoes, but I’m not sure: I think it just added richness and depth to the other flavors.  And since the soup replaces milk and eggs, the cake is also vegan (as long as you use shortening, not butter).

I would absolutely, without a doubt make this cake again.

Protose Takes the World by Storm!!

Ok, not really. But reader Lorenzo gave Kellogg’s famous meat substitute a shot; you can find the results here. He used fresh sage, and found the flavor to be quite satisfactory.

Additionally, Ellen (of Ellen’s Kitchen, one of the websites I consulted to concoct my version of the recipe) suggests using powdered seitan as opposed to fresh. Her original recipe also includes yeast flakes, soy flakes and tapioca, which I omitted from my attempt.

If any one else out there is trying Protose, or any of the other recipes that appear on this blog, please let me know! I’d love to hear about it.

The Battle Creek Diet: Wrap Up

While researching this project, I came across an article on Saveur.com listing the “20th century’s most original and essential vegetarian cookbooks.” Here’s what that had to say about The New Cookery, the Kellogg directed cookbook that was the backbone for this experiment:

“In 1913, Lenna Frances Cooper—head dietitian at Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium—let the world know what was wrong with vegetarian food: it didn’t taste good. The New Cookery, her corrective text, aims for palatability as well as wholesomeness. The temperance advocated by 19th-century health reformers comes through in many of the recipes here—the alcohol-free “Mint Julep”, the coffee-free “Cereal Coffee”—but Cooper’s book will surprise anyone who thinks that Kellogg’s was all cornflakes. The New Cookery is shot through with sugar and drenched with eggs and cream (sometimes all at once, as with “Baked Eggs in Cream”).

History buffs will enjoy the antecedents to today’s mock meats: Protose—a canned Kellogg product of mashed beans, peanut butter, and onion water—is central to the “Meat Substitutes” chapter, with nut meat loaf calling for a full pound of it (to say nothing of Broiled Protose, Protose Cutlets, or Chipped Protose in Cream). Austere black-and-white photographs depict a lablike, sterile kitchen of precise measurements and methods, and scientific explanations of common kitchen activities—”Stirring is accomplished by a rotary motion of the arm”—ensure that even the greenest cook can proceed.”

This is a good summation of my experiences with this book, and this diet. The food was good, rich, and every meal was well-balanced. Cooper took popular French cuisine, and melded it with Kellogg’s teachings. True to Kellogg’s dictum, my bowels celebrated by leading me to the bathroom with incredibly regularity–two to three times a day.

My only complaint: I found many of the recipes to be terribly under-seasoned, depending only on a few tablespoons of grated onion, a pinch of salt, or a drizzle of cream to add essential flavours. Regardless, I am PUMPED for my upcoming dinner party, and after this week, I am confident that even though the there won’t be a speck of meat to be found, the food will still go over well.

And now every time I sit down to a bowl of corn flakes or a slice of tofurkey, I’ll think of Kellogg, and the foundation he laid for not just the modern vegetarian diet, but the modern American diet as well.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 5

Breakfast: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Baked Apples, Whole Wheat Gem.

I figured there was no more appropriate way to end my week of Kellogg’s food than with a bowl brimming full of Corn Flakes. Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, are the ones who the invented the technique for crisping rice and corn into Breakfast cereal, and thereby creating a whole new industry.

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I pared and cored two apples and then, because I wasn’t paying careful attention to the directions, sliced them up as well. They should be baked whole. I put the slices in a baking dish and squeezed a little lemon over top. I used brown sugar in my syrup.

I baked the apples at 450 for about 30 minutes, let them cool, then scooped them out into a bowl. I drizzled them with cream and ate them up, although I think this dish could have been greatly improved with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Dinner: Corn Roast and Baked Sweet Potato.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have lunch today. I out and about in the middle of the day and well, it just didn’t happen. So I had an early dinner instead.

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The corn roast was quite good, I would say the best dinner entree I’ve had all week. I halved this recipe and used frozen corn; it was moist and tender when it came out of the oven, so I decided not to serve it with a sauce. It was similar to corn pudding, and I easily devoured the whole dish. However, I don’t think I’ll be serving it at my final dinner party: although i liked this dish the best, Rice a la Carolina was the most interesting, and the most appropriate to the time period.

The baked sweet potato was also an A+.

Corn Roast. It looked exactly the same several hours later.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 4

Rice a la Carolina

Breakfast: Potato Cakes, Banana, Whole Wheat Gem.

For this recipe, you are just supposed to form mashed potatoes into patties and fry them in butter. I used left over mashed sweet potatoes from the night before. They didn’t turn out very well, I think my potatoes were not firm enough to make a satisfactory cake. They came out like regular mashed potatoes, with some burned parts.

Lunch: Egg Sandwich

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This recipe is pretty straight forward; I added some fresh cracked pepper. I also used the whole egg–why let it go to waste? It was an enjoyable lunch, the lemon juice lended a nice, fresh flavor to the eggs. It’s been awhile since I’ve had and egg salad sandwich.

Dinner: Rice a la Carolina and Asparagus

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I wanted to attempt Rice a la Caroline because it is mentioned frequently in the book, The Road to Wellville, so I can only assume it was a San favorite. It’s a layered dish, and one of the layers is supposed to be a layer of Protose. But, considering my experiences with homemade Protose, I decided to do what a housewife a 100 years ago would do: I went to the store and picked up a manufactured meat substitute.

I don’t spend much time in the faux-meat department, so I shopped around a bit, looking for something that had ingredients and a flavour profile similar to Protose. Many modern vegetarian meats are made with similar ingredients: soy, wheat gluten, nuts. On a package of “chicken” tenders contained “ancient grains.” oooo. In the end, I settled on a baggie called Smart BBQ, with shredded vegetable protein in a BBQ sauce. The chile sauce I made the other day was similar to a BBQ, and I thought the shredded veggie protein would be easy to spread.

I cut the potatoes into thin slices, like scalloped potatoes, and pre-cooked them for 2 minutes on high in the microwave. I added the onions, butter, and I was out of sage so I used l’herbs du provence. I then spread the layer of Smart BBQ. The rice I cooked in the microwave, and mixed with about a tablespoon of tomato paste. I didn’t have hard boiled eggs, I ate the last of them for lunch, so instead I sprinkled the surface with breadcrumbs. I topped to whole thing off with a drizzle of heavy cream, and baked it at 475 for 15 minutes.

This really didn’t taste bad–I ate the whole thing. The top got very creamy, almost cheese like, and the potato-onion bottom layer was especially good. I also liked that it was an individual portion as opposed to a casserole. It seemed daintier, more refined, and it didn’t look like someone puked on my plate. This is a serious contender for the main course of my dinner party, but I also have high hopes for the Corn Roast I’m cooking Friday.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 3

(Image: vintage Rice Krispie boxes from the Michigan Historical Museum.)

Breakfast: Toasted Rice Flakes, Grapefruit.
In the modern parlance, Toasted Rice Flakes are in fact Rice Krispies. Oddly enough, sitting down to my Snap, Crackle, and Pop, it was the first time during this experiment that I felt like connected to history. With every crunchy bite of this continually popular modern cereal made me think of the fashionable patients of The San, and the subsequent breakfast cereal craze that swept the nation. Thanks, Kellogg. Your cereals are delicious.

Lunch: Green Lima Bean Toast, Banana.

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I wasn’t crazy about my Lima Bean Toast. It was like complicated adult baby food. I used frozen beans that I cooked in the microwave, then made a paste by whirling it in my food processor. I made the “white sauce,” which is just a bechamel, and mixed the whole mess together. I spread it on some dry toast and ate it. I was unimpressed–maybe this is some Victorian mode of eating that is better left in the past.
Dinner: Macaroni Au Gratin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Fresh Spinach and The Queen of Puddings.

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Well, it’s Wednesday, and Wednesday means Lost and Top Chef. So tonight turned into an impromptu debut dinner party with the arrival of my boyfriend and two friends. And it went well–very well.

Everything in the meal was devoured. DEVOURED. The Macaroni I made essentially to the recipe; I threw some red pepper flakes into the water that macaroni boiled in (a trick from half a century earlier). I also added a cup of cottage cheese to the sauce, because I worried it wouldn’t be cheesy enough for my guests. I sprinkled a bit of additional melted cheese on top, and sprinkled with some lightly seasoned bread crumbs. It turned out very, very well; and the entire casserole was stuffed into tummys.. But you really can’t go wrong with mac and cheese.

The mashed sweet potatoes I prepared as one does a regular potatoes, with about a quarter stick of butter and a healthy helping of cream. They were amazing. I’ve been thinking for awhile now that sweet potatoes need to be a bigger part of my life. The spinach was simple, fresh spinach from bag, with a dressing made of vinegar, oil, and brown mustard.
But then, my crowing achievement: The Queen of Puddings.

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This is a recipe I was testing to go on the Dinner menu next month, and it turned out wonderfully. I made it more like a bread pudding–instead of using bread crumbs, I cubed some slightly stale bread and soaked it in the milk (and a little cream for good measure). Next I mixed in the eggs, sugar, and vanilla (a little cinnamon would not hurt, either). I put it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.
In the meantime, I decided to make a fruit sauce from scratch. I sliced up some left over pineapple, and put it in a skillet with sugar, water, and a dab of water. I let it simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the pineapple was soft and the liquid had reduced.
The bread pudding came out of the over, and I poured the pineapple over top. Now for the crown!! I whipped three egg whites in my mixer until stiff peaks formed, then stirred in three tablespoons of super fine sugar. I used a spatula to spread the meringue on top of the bread pudding, and put it back into the oven at 325 degrees for 20-30. It came out IMPRESSIVE. I served it warm, contrary to the recipe’s suggestion.


This entire dish of the Queens of Puddings was eaten, and I was showered with compliments about my culinary abilities. My non-history-nerd friends sincerely enjoyed this meal. It gave me great hope for the upcoming dinner party in March. I was worried about Kellogg’s “health food” being unappealing to a larger audience; but I also imagined there must have been a reason it so sought after a century ago.

P.S.–due to a busy schedule this week, I’ve had to write these posts fairly late at night. It has occurred to me that they may be sheer nonsense; the ramblings of a woman in a heavy cream drenched delirium. Just bare with me for two more days.