Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fun Research

I’ve been working on a chapter about a dinner party in Chicago, in 1899, and have been looking through an online edition of Mrs. Isabella Beeton’s All About Cookery, the 1900 edition, and have become intrigued with many recipes. It’s a British book, so I don’t think my characters would be eating grouse or those odd puddings that Brits seem obsessed with, but I thought I would be safe having my character Lucy serve these potatoes, which sound vaguely similar to our scalloped potatoes. Of course, she has a cook to make them for her, which would really make life a lot easier.

Potatoes a la Maitre d’Hotel

INGREDIENTS—Potatoes, salt and water; to every 6 potatoes allow 1 tablespoon of minced parsley, 2 oz. of butter, pepper and salt to taste, 4 tablespoonsful of gravy, 2 tablespoonsful of lemon-juice.
Wash the potatoes clean, and boil them in salt and water; when they are done, drain them, let them cool; then peel and cut the potatoes into thick slices: if these are too thin, they will break in the sauce. Put the butter into a stewpan with the pepper, salt, gravy and parsley; mix these ingredients well together, put in the potatoes, shake them two or three times, that they may be well covered with the sauce, and when quite hot through, squeeze in the lemon-juice, and serve.

TIME.—1/2 to ¾ hour to boil the potatoes; 10 minutes for them to heat in the sauce.

SEASONABLE all the year.

I do love that the book is online and so accessible—but, oh, how I wish I had a copy to hold and sniff and thumb through (it’s almost 500 pages). Adobe Reader, I love you…but you’ll always be a poor replacement for yellowed, musty, old-book paper.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.