Friday, November 12, 2010

Bible Cake

While researching the history of food during World War Two (for a Culinary Historians of Atlanta event), my friend Chef Christy Seelye-King ran across a 1947 recipe for Bible Cake. It’s really more of a puzzle than a recipe. Each ingredient must be gleaned from Biblical verses. The recipe was published in the “Olio” Cookery Book in England. It’s easy to imagine a scene in one of those stark black and white English movies of the 1940’s. An English housewife, who always wears an apron, is trying to figure out the recipe for Bible Cake, printed in the Sunday newspaper. Her husband is away at war, and she is single-handedly keeping her household going. The Bible Cake recipe-puzzle serves as a comforting distraction.

I wondered about Bible Cakes. Was this idea invented during World War Two, or did it go back a-ways? Turns out I didn’t have to look very far. The answer is in the fine blog, Hushpuppy Nation, written by the food journalist, Rick McDaniel. The earliest Bible Cake recipes are to be found in cookery books published in England during the late 1700’s. The war between England and its American colonies didn’t dampen the enthusiasm that women had for Bible Cakes. None other than Dolly Madison was said to be a fan. Here is a link, with recipe, to the article about Scripture Cake in Hushpuppy Nation.

And here, for your amusement, is the recipe for Bible Cake, published in 1947, in the Olio Cookery Book. Good luck with it!

Bible Cake 
 Look up the references and work out what’s required.  It won’t taste too good if you get it wrong!
1.     225g (1/2 lb.) Judges V, verse 25 (last clause)
2.     225g (1/2 lb.) Jeremiah VI, 20
3.     15ml (1 tbsp) I Samuel XIV, 25
4.     3 of Jeremiah XVII, II
5.     225g (1/2 lb.) I Samuel XXX, 12
6.     225g (1/2 lb.) Nahum III, 12 (chopped)
7.     50g (2 oz) Numbers XVII, 8 (blanched and chopped)
8.     450g (1 lb.) I Kings IV, 22
9.     Season to taste with II Chronicles IX, 9
10.  a pinch of Leviticus II, 13
11.  5ml (1 tsp) Amos IV, 5
12.  45ml (3 tbsp) Judges IV, 19

(Hint: ‘leaven’ means ‘baking powder’ and you may need to add some Exodus III, 14 to moisten the mixture)

Beat 1, 2, and 3 to a cream; add 4, one at a time, still beating; then 5, 6, and 7, and beat again.  Add 8, 9, 10 and 11 having previously mixed them, and lastly 12.  Bake in a slow oven for 1 ½ hours.  

Ps - If you want a recipe that comes with the answers, click here. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be the Ultimate Locavore: Eat Forgotten Foods

Chickweed - new gourmet darling -- and free, too!

Do you ever stand in the produce section of your local supermarket, feeling tired of the same old green beans, squash, and lettuce? Are those gourmet fruits and vegetables just too expensive? Are you trying to do a better job of eating locally-grown foods?

Here's an idea - start eating the forgotten foods that are growing all around you. There are hundreds of plants that people have eaten for thousands of years that go begging every day. These are fruits and vegetables that are tasty and nutritious. They were popular foods before people started farming, and even after most people turned to agriculture they enjoyed these wonderful plants that shared our habitats. The only problem is that people stopped eating them. And the reasons people stopped eating them had more to do with demographic and economic changes in society -- it had nothing to do with flavor or usefulness.

Nowadays, we call them weeds. We waste money on harmful herbicides to kill perfectly delicious and nutritious foods that are growing in our own gardens, yards, and window boxes. Our problem is that we just don't know about them.

Well, I've been eating edible wild plants for 40 years now, and I'm here to tell you they are some of the most interesting foods around. I've even been hoping that the current economic downturn will serve as a source of encouragement for adventurous cooks to venture forth into their yards and learn to eat their weeds. Not all weeds are edible, but many more of the weeds in the average suburban yard are edible than are the ornamental plants, many of which are deadly poison. If you only learn -- and use -- five edible wild plants on a regular basis, then you, too, could save money and reduce your environmental footprint substantially.

A few evenings ago, I was invited to give a presentation on edible weeds to the local Master Gardener's group in my home county. Click on the link to see my PowerPoint presentation.

Please, dear readers, let me know if you would like more information on this topic. In fact, to encourage you to comment,  starting this month I will hold a free giveaway to one lucky person who posts a comment to this blog. The winner will be chosen at random, so comment early and often.