Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Post: Christine Blevins & Giveaway

I am so happy to welcome Christine Blevins, author of THE TURNING OF ANNE MERRICK to Booking Mama. THE TURNING OF ANNE MERRICK is a historical fiction book set during the Revolutionary War. I haven't had a chance to read this novel yet, but I think it sounds terrific.

Ms. Blevins has taken time from her busy touring schedule to write a fantastic guest post about the food aspects of her novel. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the types of food they ate during the 1700s, but I am fascinated by the amount of research Ms. Blevins conducted to write her novel.

The Taste of Revolution

Because I find so much pleasure in cooking and eating, I tend to feature period comestibles and cooking techniques in my novels. These types of delicious historical tidbits are among the most fun to research, and it is always such a delight to try and weave the tastiest of them into the story.

While writing THE TURNING OF ANNE MERRICK I would easily get lost learning about Iroquoian techniques for cooking indigenous woodland ingredients, like the snack “chips” made from the innerbark of a white pine the Oneidan scout Neddy made for Jack Hampton. It was fascinating to find out how soldiers like Titus Gilmore prepared standard but ingenious Army rations like Pocket Soup – compared to the elaborate meals prepared in the “French Style” and served in the highest quality silver, china and crystal by British General Burgoyne in the middle of a wilderness warzone.

Though most goodwives might write down and keep a collection of her receipts, published cookbooks of the period were few and far between. One of the best sources I used is considered the first American cookbook. With the ponderous title of AMERICAN COOKERY, or THE ART OF DRESSING VIANDS, FISH, POULTRY AND VEGETABLES, and THE BEST MODES OF MAKING PASTES, PUFFS, PIES, TARTS, PUDDINGS, CUSTARDS and PRESERVES, and ALL KINDS OF CAKES, FROM THE IMPERIAL PLUMB TO PLAIN CAKES. ADAPTED TO THIS COUNTRY, AND ALL GRADES OF LIFE by Amelia Simmons, it was first published in 1796.

When I read these recipes, not only can the ingredients and preparations seem odd (and sometimes gross) the recipe “prose” quite often brings a smile to my face. I am always struck by the quaint and descriptive terminology used – a stew is “simmered softly”, and one should “milk your cow directly into” the syllabub. Without standardized measurement 18th century cooks relied on “handfuls” and “pinches”, or very often, the recipe didn’t even bother with exact amounts.

The founders would have a hard time recognizing most of the food and drink we 21st century Americans consume. Here is a sampling of what you might find to eat and drink once you climbed out of your time travel machine in 1777:

Start your evening with a nice rum punch – the mother of all cocktails!
Take five to eight ounces of dark rum or Brandy, as you wish, and put it to twenty-four ounces of fresh cool water, add to it the juice of 1/2 lemon and two or three tablespoons of the best refined sugar. (If you are close to the West Indies, Muscavado or Havana brown sugar can be used) If you please, grate in some nutmeg. This makes about a quart of a most delicate, fine, pleasant & wholesome liquor.

Who can resist a recipe that begins with the words “Take a large rattlesnake…”?

Snake Stew
Take a large rattlesnake— skin, gut, and wash it until clean; cut into pieces no longer than the two joints on your finger. Set meat into a clean pot and put to them a gallon of water. Season well with a handful of salt, a blade or two of mace, whole pepper black and white, a whole onion stuck with six or seven cloves, a bundle of sweet herbs, and a nutmeg. Cover the pot and let all stew softly until the meat is tender, but not too much done. Pick the meat out onto a dish. Strain the pot liquor through a coarse sieve. Return the meat; cut carrots into coins and add with peeled Irish potatoes. Take a piece of butter as big as a walnut and roll in flour. Put into pot with one cupful each of catchup, and sack; Stew till thick and smooth and send to the table speckled with minced parsley.

Got cow? Then you got dessert!
To make a fine Syllabub from the Cow
Sweeten a quart of cider with double refined sugar, grate nutmeg into it, then milk your cow into your liquor, when you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint or more, in proportion to the quantity of syllabub you make, of the sweetest cream you can get all over it.

After much research, the Liberty Tea and Snake Stew recipes were written by Christine Blevins. The Snake Stew recipe appears in THE TURNING OF ANNE MERRICK as a device for hiding the a secret message sent from Anne Merrick to Jack Hampton, and written between the lines in invisible ink.

Author Christine Blevins writes what she loves to read – historical adventure stories. THE TURNING OF ANNE MERRICK is the second in a 3-book series set during the American Revolution, and the companion book to THE TORY WIDOW. A native Chicagoan, Christine lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, along with her husband Brian, and The Dude, a very silly golden-doodle. She is at work finishing the third novel inspired by a lifelong fascination with the foundations of American history and the revolutionary spirit.

Christine’s website

Giveaway alert: Bayberry Candle Bundle – pleasant smelling, these are the perfect candles to light your table. A bayberry candle burned to the socket bring Lucks in the home, food in the larder, and Gold to the pocket.

To enter to win the Bayberry Candle Bundle and a copy of THE TURNING OF ANNE MERRICK, just fill out the form below before Wednesday, February 19th at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!


Marg said...

I very nearly shared the passage about snake stew as a Weekend Cooking post, but ended up resisting that idea!

bermudaonion said...

When we lived in lower Alabama, there was a town near us that hosted a "rattlesnake roundup" every year. It was quite an event. Carl tasted rattlesnake there one year and he thought it tasted okay. There's no way I'd knowingly eat that!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think I'd skip the snake stew!

Beth F said...

Ha!!! I hear snake is not bad to eat. I have no personal experience. I love that milking your cow directly into the dish.