Friday, January 22, 2010

An omelet fit for a bachelor

The illness is over although I didn't have to bleed anything or apply turpentine to my face or break out the leeches. And it may be in part to the improving weather. It seems the mild English winter finally decided to show up, creating a still wet yet warmer environment in which I can walk with jacketed abandon.

I decided that I had been neglecting Beeton's recipes, and resolved to make a delicious breakfast dish. But the book is pretty light on breakfast items, so I was wondering about baking a trout souffle until I saw the omelet recipes. Nestled in the dessert section. In fact, most of the omelets contained a fair amount of sugar and jam. I am an American and I eat my omelets savoury! Finally I settled on a recipe called the Bachelor's Omelet. I assume it is for bachelors because it doesn't require the standard six eggs that the other ones do; it also has a lot of milk as a filler so I suppose it is cheaper to make.

Here is the recipe:

1462. INGREDIENTS - 2 or 3 eggs, 2 oz. of butter, 1 teaspoonful of flour, 1/2 teacupful of milk.

Mode.—Make a thin cream of the flour and milk; then beat up the eggs, mix all together, and add a pinch of salt and a few grains of cayenne. Melt the butter in a small frying-pan, and, when very hot, pour in the batter. Let the pan remain for a few minutes over a clear fire; then sprinkle upon the omelet some chopped herbs and a few shreds of onion; double the omelet dexterously, and shake it out of the pan on to a hot dish. A simple sweet omelet can be made by the same process, substituting sugar or preserve for the chopped herbs.

Time.—2 minutes.

Average cost, 6d.

Sufficient for 2 persons.

I like how it's a bachelor's omelet but she says it's sufficient for two persons. I picture some consummately single young man reading these instructions and shedding a tear. "I wish I had another persons to share this with."

I have never before made cream in my life. I mixed the milk and flour and stirred for ages; when I tasted the result, it was...floury milk. Hmm. Maybe it would work out in the cooking process.

Only eggs from foraging hens are acceptable.

When I added the eggs and 'beat them up,' it ended up looking like this:

You may notice the yellow swirls. This is butter. You see, I misinterpreted the directions and when it said "pour in the batter," I poured the butter in the batter rather than the batter in the pan. I just assumed it was part of Mrs. Beeton's crazy Victorian butter fetish. Instead, I got something that looked and smelled like it belonged on my popcorn at the movie theatre.

Caution, the following pictures are graphic:

Attractive, isn't it? I guess an omelet full of butter and fake cream doesn't flip too well. It looked like something that I cleaned out of the bottom of the sink. With the addition of those onions and some Tabasco sauce, it ended up being edible though still too sweet for my liking.

I would say Mrs. Beeton won this round, but I effectively smothered her in habanero sauce, so we can consider it a draw.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Paging Dr. Beeton

So apparently the answer to the question of "what now?" is "get sick." Or rather, stay sick. Never fully recovering from my flu bout over Christmas, I am sore-throated and stuffed up. Which freezing temperatures and lack of any physical activity don't seem to help. Luckily, Mrs. Beeton has an entire health section in her book, which may be of some limited help.

All I know is this cold is seriously putting a cramp in my housewifing style (who wants to brew with butter sauce or rend a fish into paste when they're ill?) Let's see what the Victorian doctor ordered.

To oppose cholera, there seems no surer or better means than cleanliness, sobriety, and judicious ventilation. Where there is dirt, that is the place for cholera; where windows and doors are kept most jealously shut, there cholera will find easiest entrance; and people who indulge in intemperate diet during the hot days of autumn are actually courting death.

Ok, so I don't have cholera. Which is actually caused by infected food and water. But sound advice indeed. I have been sober, partially clean, and without much ventilation. But I don't exactly want to fling open a window in January. So how else may I heal myself?

TO CURE A COLD.—Put a large teacupful of linseed, with 1/4 lb. of sun raisins and 2 oz. of stick liquorice, into 2 quarts of soft water, and let it simmer over a slow fire till reduced to one quart; add to it 1/4 lb. of pounded sugar-candy, a tablespoonful of old rum, and a tablespoonful of the best white-wine vinegar, or lemon-juice. The dose is half a pint, made warm, on going to bed; and a little may be taken whenever the cough is troublesome. The worst cold is generally cured by this remedy in two or three days; and, if taken in time, is considered infallible.

1. Aren't most coughs gone in two or three days? 2. More rum please.
Not wanting to drink melted candy, vinegar and raisins, as appetizing as that sounds, I could go for another proven (?) Beeton cure:

COLD ON THE CHEST.—A flannel dipped in boiling water, and sprinkled with turpentine, laid on the chest as quickly as possible, will relieve the most severe cold or hoarseness.

So I'm supposed to make my best flannel shirt and myself flammable? Maybe I would be better off just opening a window. Or claiming "hysteria."
"Yep, here's the seem to have a vagina where your penis should be."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas is what?

After experiencing everything England had to offer this Christmas (including mince pies, crackers, flaming puds, and a mild strain of flu), I am left in this flat wondering what now?

It has snowed about five inches, which is a very exciting topic for a lot of people and sparks numerous news reports, school closures and travel delays, and entire conversations. Apparently I happen to be in England during the Winter Of Our Discontent. Epic weather that they make TV movies out of.

Really the effect it has had is: it is too cold for me to give a damn about going outside, I am wearing my wellies more often, I want soup. Lots of canned soup. I have been scanning Beeton for some good winter recipes and will probably give a try soon. As for now, a can of clam chowder is good enough for me.

So Mrs. Beeton, what must one do when feeling stalemated by the cold and snow? Here is her domestic advice for last month:

In December, the principal household duty lies in preparing for the creature comforts of those near and dear to us, so as to meet old Christmas with a happy face, a contented mind, and a full larder; and in stoning the plums, washing the currants, cutting the citron, beating the eggs, and MIXING THE PUDDING, a housewife is not unworthily greeting the genial season of all good things.

Hmm. Ok. First of all, I didn't do any of that in December. Secondly, I don't know why MIXING THE PUDDING is in all caps, but I will guess that it is extremely important and to hammer this home, Mrs. Beeton is shouting at us.

But the important thing is: what now?

Beeton makes no mention of winter activities, except that servants will be making a lot of fires. And I should probably be enjoying all of the preserves and pickles I prepared this summer.

I guess it's time to get to cookin'. I don't have any preserves or pickles anyway.