Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals

Each year, on the Fourth of July, as the anniversary of the Independence Day of our nation approaches, I begin to think about the way that things were for Americans back in those early days of struggle and daring.

I wonder how they lived, what they wore, what they ate... and so on.

We have paintings to show us what they wore, social history books and restored towns, like Williamsburg, VA, to show us how they lived, and even antique cook books, to show us what they ate.

Those cook books are a revelation.  Not at all what our palates are used to.  For one thing, refined sugar was a luxury, and so was white flour.  We do know that the tax on tea caused a great deal of trouble, but the books don't tell us tea was not so readily available as it is today.  It was imported, and it was expensive.  During the non-importation times, Americans, once a nation of tea drinkers, turned elsewhere for a hot morning drink, and today more of us drink coffee than tea, which is a complete reversal of the 18th century situation.  We also consume, per capita, more milk than other countries.

Even though the 200+ year old recipes might produce meals that would not appeal to almost 21st century tastes, the people of long ago days ate well, if they could afford to, waxed fat, many of them, and a certain number developed gout, from over-indulgence.

When we visited Williamsburg, we dined royally at The King's Arms and also at Christiana Campbell's Tavern.  Campbell's was a favorite eating place for George Washington, and the breakfast that we ate there included enough food to keep six people going for a week.  And it was good.  I remember it well.

Dinner at The King's arms, served by a handsome waiter in knee breeches and buckled shoes, was memorable.

But for the most part, in order to become popular with 21st century vegetarian appetites, these recipes must be updated.

I have modified a few of our favorites for your enjoyment this coming Independence Day.

Eat, enjoy, and take a moment to reflect that those men and women, 223 years ago, gave us a legacy of more than good food.

Happy Birthday, USA, and thank you.

Cucumber Sauce

  • 3 cucumbers
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home made)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons each, fresh dill, chopped parsley, salt, white pepper

Peel cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out  the seeds, and cut into thin slices.  Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let drain 20 minutes.  Rinse and dry.  Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and seasonings, add cucumber slices and chill until ready to serve.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Johnny Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • cold milk

Sift the flour and salt together and cut in the shortening.  Mix with enough very cold milk to make a dough that can be rolled out easily.  Handle the dough as little as possible.  Roll out the dough and gently place it in a 9-inch square baking pan.  Place in a pre-heated 400-degree oven and bake until crisp and a light golden brown.  Cut into squares like corn bread, and serve at once.  The bread, which should be about an inch thick, is split with the fingers and buttered (use margarine) while still hot enough for the margarine to melt.

  • Yields: 9 three-inch squares
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Sally Lunn Bread

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 3 eggs or equivalent substitute
  • 4 cups sifted all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F 10 minutes before the Sally Lunn is ready to be baked.  Grease a 10-inch tube cake pan or a bundt pan. 

Heat milk, shortening, and 3/4 cup of water until very warm-- about 120 degrees F.  The shortening does not need to melt.  Blend 1 1/3 cups of flour with the sugar, salt and dry yeast in a large mixing bowl.

Blend the warm liquids into the flour mixture.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Gradually add the remaining flour and mix well.  The batter will be thick, but not stiff.

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has increased in bulk 1/3 to 1/2 -- about 30 minutes.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Run a knife around the center and outer edges of the bread and turn it onto a plate to cool.

  • Yields: 1 ring cake
  • Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours

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