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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Picnics For Motorists

What was suppose to be a simple post about National Picnic Month, became an all day scavenger hunt on the author of the book Picnics For Motorist. The culprit (author) Mrs. C. F. Leyel. Here's the reason why. It has been my experience to have the most difficult time researching cookbook authors with obscure names or those that only contain initials. For instance, take the The National Cook Book by a Lady of Philadelphia. At first glance, one would not know the author to be Hannah Mary Bouvier Peterson. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Mrs. C. F. Leyel was actually Hilda Winifred Ivy. (aka Mrs C. F. Leyel) Not only was she the author of Picnics For Motorists, she was also a renowned herbalist who amongst many accomplishments in books and society edited the Modern Herbal in 1931. I find this to be most exciting as I have always held the science of herbs close to my heart. I can hardly wait to get back to PA to dig out my copy of The Magic of Herbs which was also written by her. I am in awe of this amazing lady and have made a note to celebrate her birth in December. In case you can't wait until then, I've provided a link below @ wikipedia.

July is National Picnic Month

Is there a better month to gather friends and family and head out to play? There is in my book. Any month, any day, anywhere is a fine day to have a picnic. But, I must admit, the month of July and picnics just seems to be the perfect picnic "marriage". I LOVE picnics! No, I don't like bugs in my food, and I'm not really keen on sitting on the ground on some old picnic blanket and yet, I still adore picnics. I suppose it's because I really never went on picnics as a child. Actually, my very first picnic was work related. The newspaper I once worked for had an employee picnic every year and they were just the BEST! Of course, there was no need to worry about food, drinks or entertainment, the company took care of that. Before the drinking and driving rules got as tuff as they are now, the company had a huge truck that overflowed with beer the entire day. There was halves of barbecued chicken, corn on the cob, hamburgers & franks, sausage and...suffice to say, it was quite a food bash! And games, there were fields of games going on. Kids and adults playing like carefree children. It was wonderful with a touch of sadness. How could it be I had never experienced a picnic before? I had to change that and I did. Picnics to me seem so incredibly alive! Now, I wouldn't say I'm much of an outdoors kind of girl although, I have been known to hunt and fish. But, I have been accused of being a bit to organized which is a good skill for many things including picnics. I know, I know, picnics should be/can be impromptu and still be fun. I just think it is better to have these kinds of things planned especially when it comes to safety and food. Spoiled summer food can be dangerously sickening in more ways then one. I found a few tips gathered from various websites to help you organize a safe and fun picnicking experience. And, remember, picnics can not only be anytime, they can be any where also. They can have a theme, a purpose (cleaning up the beach or park) or a family reunion. The limits are few. All you need to do is cook up some picnic treats and pack them up, along with your picnic supplies; sun screen, bug spray, etc. and off you go!

Picnic Tips & Tricks

  • Make a menu check list ahead of time and put it on the fridge. Include everything you need for everything you're going to serve. That means condiments, napkins, utensils, cooking gear (if grilling) everything! You don't want your picnic tainted by the lack of cooking and eating supplies.
  • Just before you're ready to hit the road, check off the items on the list as you prepare your picnic basket and totes. It's best to save picnic packing for last. It's also a good idea to pack food in reverse order. The foods that you will most likely use first should wind up on top. (so you don't have to unpack everything to get to what you need at the bottom) Anything that can stay frozen is best packed frozen (ie) meat, poultry, desserts, etc.
  • Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler can be opened often while the food cooler stays closed.
  • I have found it worth my while (tummy wise:) to check with other picnic guests to compare what they're bringing. This is especially helpful for kids snack and treats. Everyone can bring something different for more variety.
  • If you have a choice in picnic areas, choose carefully. The best spot may not be the crème de la crème. A stream or a lake can be a perfect "seaside" picnic. Perhaps, you like to fish or collects rocks but, remember, the bugs and it could be a bit chilly. (put sweatshirt on your list:)
  • Selecting a picnic area in a park can be stimulating. There's nearby playgrounds, ball fields and green open "pastures" for frisbees, kite flying, volley ball (remember the net and rackets:) or just plain 'ol running through the grass; barefoot!
  • Other toys to bring include jump ropes, bubbles, (my personal favorite are the Gazillion bubble makers; they have a show now playing in NYC)
  • Don't forget sunscreen and a couple of whistles. The whistles are a great idea in case someone should get lost.
  • Don't like to sit on a blanket? Bring a couple of folding chairs. Your "butt" will thank you:) One last thing, I always bring a first-aid kit. Put it right at the top of the list!

Of course, you can always make your own bubble recipe, I found the best bubble site ever which also had the history of bubbles. Simply amazing what you can find on the world wide web of the universe. The source link is also the recipe link.

Bubbles, being a phenomenon of nature, have always been around, but the sport of playing with bubbles didn't really exist before soap. The Pear Soap Company, in England, was responsible for the 19th century popularization of both soap and bubble blowing. Bubble toys were largely limited to bubble pipes until the middle of the 20th century. source

Picnics For Motorists

Picnics For Motorists was written by the founder of the British Herbal Society, as well as a chain of herbalist stores called the "Culpeper Shops," Hilda Leyel. First published in 1936, (the recipes below are from that edition) by George Routledge & Sons L.T.D. it is a fairly small red cloth book with a total of 118 pages. This book has special meaning to me. I purchased it and many many others cookbooks at an auction in Pennsylvania back in 1995. The auction for was for a woman by the name of Mrs. Arthur Knorr. Unfortunately, I don't know much about Ruth Knorr except for what has been subtly revealed within the pages of the cookbooks I bought at her estate auction. Books have a way of telling stories in more ways than one. I may do a post on her some day but today is not the day. I will say she had quite a vast library and people from all over the country were at the auction. As a matter of fact, ZZ Top was there eyeing the vintage cars that were part of the auction. I don't know about the other items or even the other books for that matter but the cookbooks and cooking collection of items were mint. I spoke to a relative at the auction and he told me she had them all at the Mayflower Hotel in New York City. The auction purchases were not only for my personal library, it was also for a cook book store I created in PA the same year.

The cookbook store was a life long dream of mine that truly came true. The theme was a village of houses that sold wares from their door steps. The houses were created with fabric and trimmings and surrounded by white picket fences. Every "homeowner" had their own mail box which we used for bookkeeping purposes. The customers strolled down the "carpeted" lawn while chatting about the wares for sale. There was everything from dolls to furniture. Some houses sold antiques, others sold baseball cards. An elderly lady from nearby sold the most beautiful pressed flowers. She was quite popular with the local Bed & Breakfast Inns. Beanie Babies were popular then and we had them. It was a sight to see when a new Beanie hit the market. You would never think there were so many people in such a small town that collected Beanies. Many of them lined up to the corner drug store. I think the woman who sold soap, candles and herbal scents "lived in" the prettiest house. Although plastic, she had flowers leading up to her door. Her yard looked "lived in" with the tiny wagon and the vintage soap molds. Whenever she was "opened" for business, she sprayed just a hint of floral fragrance. At the end of the carpet were specially designed shelves (I wanted the covers of the books to shine in all their glory) displaying over 2,000 cookbooks. There were settees for resting and blue skies, with a few clouds, to block the suns rays. In the heat of August, the ice vendor stood behind an antique ice box and made snow cones. The popcorn was always fresh and free. The children of the town came in after school, dropped their books by the front door, and sped up to the popcorn machine. You can just imagine the aroma that filled the store. They called me "The Popcorn Lady" which was absolutely adorable considering I'm usually called the "cookbook lady." There was also a huge candy display they enjoyed visiting. Some of the candy was home made by a local Pennsylvania candy artisan who loved to surprise the kids with special treats. We had a honey lady who "opened" only on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the local people came to the town court house to purchase local vegetables. Saturdays were especially fragrant because Amish women and children made home made pretzels. Jams, jellies and baked goods were also usually there for the buying. Yes, welcome visitors, I really did have the most wonderful store:) if I remember, I'll scan a picture next time I'm in PA.

The Recipes

"Then from his knapsack very calmly and contently he takes cold chicken and golden encrusted rolls, packed for him perchance by loving hands, and lays conveniently by the wedge of Gruyere or Roquefort which is to be his whole dessert."
Brillat Savarin
(as found in Picnics For Motorists)

From the first page:

This little book was inspired by a picnic near Itchenor, given in the summer of 1935 by the owner of a white Peke to the owner of a white Alsatian

A taste of the Preface:

There are many people with cars who make a regular habit of spending Saturday or Sunday in the country, with a hamper of food they are independent of hotels and can eat their meals in any part of the country they chosen...Today wide mouthed thermos flasks make it possible to arrange picnic food that is really delicious because not only hot or iced soups can have a place in the menu, but even curries, ragouts, and other casseroled dishes can be served steaming hot; or the meal can end with an iced sweet of some sort...Pies are as a rule much nicer cold than hot, but they must be made with plenty of jelly (the author also wrote jelly books)...It is better and more economical to buy the pastry for the pies from a good baker...Hard boiled eggs if they are to be eaten plain should be shelled beforehand and packed in a wide mouthed screw jar...A glass jar such as French plums are sold in the best container for salad and many other things...The expensively ready fitted baskets are not by any means the most useful and it is much more fun choosing the colored cups and saucers and plates that please one's own fancy...the more practical plates for meals are the white cardboard ones with waxed papers to fit, fluted at the edges so that they are heavy enough to stay on the plates which never get stained so that they can be used several times...No one is too young or too old to delight in such a simple pleasure as a picnic in lovely surroundings and there is no more perfect way of spending a hot day...
As usual, it isn't easy trying to choose a recipe to share from this book. For some reason, a recipe for a picnic is even harder to choose. I know the book is titled Picnics For Motorists but, quite honestly, some of these recipes just don't seem "picnic like" to me. I'm guessing it's because most of the recipes are British recipes and my picnic taste is more Americanized. Take for instance, the recipe for Cold Boiled Bacon. I recall seeing cold boiled bacon in a cookbook before. I think it may have been Mrs. Beeton's cookbook. Anyway, I'm going to include it here as I did discover a wonderful British Breakfast's foods website filled with British recipes and a bit of historic lore. It's below. I also found a recipe that calls for cold boiled bacon as an ingredient. The recipe is for Kromeskies; croquettes made into the forms of corks wrapped in thin shavings of cold boiled bacon. The recipe must be around for a while as I also found Kromeskies in The Steward's Handbook & Guide to Party Catering by Jessup Whitehead (1903) First, I'll share the recipe from the book and then the Kromeskies' recipe.

Cold Boiled Bacon
Choose a nice piece of bacon (the back), half lean and half fat. Cook it very slowly in boiling water with the lid on, allowing half an hour to each pound.

Add a cupful of vinegar and six cloves to the water in which it is boiled, and when the cooking is over leave the bacon in it all night to absorb the flavour. The bacon should be so well cooked that it melts in the mouth. The next day brush the top with egg and spread breadcrumbs over it.

It may not look so nice as it would if less well cooked, but the taste is infinitely better.

Let the bacon boil quickly for the first ten minutes of the cooking and afterwards very slowly.
Kromeskies
Russian croquettes. Croquette mixture of any material, meat, fish, chopped oysters, chicken or anything, rolled up into shape of bottle corks, then rolled up in the thinnest possible shavings of cold boiled bacon, dipped into batter, fried like fritters in hot lard. Served with fried parsley or caper or other sauce.

A dish right out of Dickens, the next recipe I have chosen from Picnics For Motorists is called Cold Devilled Mutton. Devilled Mutton is grilled bite size pieces of marinated lamb (mutton) tossed and cooked with lots of spices, pepper corn, red onion and mixed bell pepper. Hilda's recipe suggests serving the mutton on a cold bed of watercress, with nasturtium sauce. (don't you love nasturtiums, mine are just blooming in PA:)

Cold Devilled Mutton
Cut as many slices as required from an under-done shoulder or leg of mutton (lamb), cutting them about half an inch thick. Then spread them with the following mixture made into a paste.

Take a tablespoonful of dry mustard, a tablespoonful of chutney, a tablespoonful of salad oil, a quarter of a teaspoonful of sugar, a few drops of Lea & Perrin's Worcester Sauce and pepper to taste.
Then cook them in a tin in the oven for seven to eight minutes. Serve cold on a bed of watercress, with nasturtium sauce.
Nasturtium Sauce: Melt six tablespoons of butter and add the same of flour, mixing into a paste. Season with salt and pepper and, when smooth, add one and a half cups of water and cook until thick, stirring all the time. Then add gradually another three tablespoonfuls of butter and the same of nasturtium seeds, pickled or fresh.

There are so many interesting recipes in this book, I could go on and on. But, alas, it's time to go. I was going to include a page which had a recipe for Peach Salad but then I found a blog based in Toronto which had a Peach Salad recipe which was pretty much the same as the book's. How about (drum roll:) Caramel Nut Ice which IMHO should be called Caramel Nut Ice Cream. Hey! it's also National Ice Cream Month!

Caramel Nut Ice (cream) Scald one pint of milk and add slowly to three well beaten eggs and go on stirring till the custard coats the spoon, and then add the caramel made by boiling a cup of sugar in half a cup of water and stirring it till it is a golden brown. After adding the caramel to the custard, add a quarter of a pound of nuts in toffee crushed with a rolling pin. When the ice mixture is quite cold, stir in a half pint of stiffed whipped cream and freeze. Ed. Note I can definitely see a little Kaluha added to this:)
Resources

1. Hilda Leyel @ wikipedia
2. Practical Picnic Pointers
3. Picnic Activities for Children
4. Gazilliom Bubble Show
5. Herbal Picnic Recipes (I had to include this link in honor of the author)
6. Star Chef Picnic Recipes
7. The Great British Breakfast

4 comments:

  1. It's interesting, isn't it, the subtle stories a collection of cookbooks can tell about the person. I've noticed the same thing can be found in collections of recipe clippings or from recipe card boxes. I'm always hesitant to break up the original collections of clippings and cards--for some reason I like to leave them all together, just like I found them. This, however, makes for messy storage. Someday I'll have to deal with them in a better way, but for now I leave them be.

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  2. Hi Kathy,
    I had to chuckle when I read your comment. I too have a difficult time breaking up the clippings and notations I frequently find in collections of cookbooks. If it weren't that I worried about them discoloring the pages, I too would leave them in tact. Now, what I do is slip the clippings and such in page protectors and still leave them in the book. Yes, it gets a bit messy and I too will have to deal with it someday but, not today:)

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  3. Great post - they still have Culpeper's stores in the UK, I went past one years ago an wanted to go in but had 2 small children who did not want to. So I didn't. Next time, maybe...

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  4. Hi Lidian,

    Thank you...
    What a lucky girl you are to actually have stood in front of Culpeper's. Please go in next time and...think of me.

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none returned to late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise