Archive for the ‘historical lunch’ Category

Historical Failure – Part 2

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

There are probably several places I went wrong: trying to make dinner at the same time I pieced together my pasty, using cheap store brand pie dough, not really measuring or adhearing to a recipe, just randomly using some beef that was cheap and therefore in my budget.

I was feeling pretty good about things until it was time to put the pasty together.  The dough ripped and I have no gift for crimping.  They were ugly, but I was hoping that they would at least taste good.  Also, I had plans for strategic photography so no one would know any better.  I placed the pasties in the oven and crossed my fingers.

While I relaxed and watched more BBC, disaster was happening in the dark recesses of my oven.  Mangled and leaking, I had nothing to do other than hang my head in shamed as I pulled the pasties from the oven and into the cruel harsh light.  I knew that nothing was going to make these bad boys look good.

This is the best one:

At least it tastes good....

This is the worst (it fell apart as soon as I tried to lift it off the silpat):


There is a silver lining, for as terrible as they looked, The Boy loved them.  He ate two in one sitting and begged for more.  I was flabbergasted because all I could taste as I ate them was bitter failure and defeat.  I do plan to try again, perhaps making my own dough, or trying a real recipe.  I suppose the trick would be to take my time and enjoy the process rather than try to beat the clock and prove that I am a master of multitasking. But sill, I think I’m going back to bentos for a bit.

Historical Failure – Part One

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Part one: Our Pal the Pasty

When I told a friend of mine that I was looking into doing a project where I explored the history of packed lunches, the first thing out of her mouth was something like “You gonna make Cornish Pasties?”  I told her yes, but what I was really thinking was “gaaaahhhh paste?”  Yeah, mind like a steel trap and all that.  My thoughts must have been clearly reflected on my face because my friend took pity on me and explained a bit about what a pasty was.

Associated with Cornwall (on the west coast of England), pasties are hand pies filled with mixed veggies and meat that are crimped along the edge.  Basic construction includes adding filler to a round piece of dough and then crimping the opn edges together to seal it up.  The pictures I’ve seen show both putting the filling directly in the middle and folding the two edges to meet in the center, or just adding filling on one side and folding it in half.

According to what I’ve read, pasties were a favorite of miners because they were filling, and could be eaten just by holding the crimped crust.  The crust could then be thrown away after being handled by dirty hands and instead fed to the ghosts that haunted the dark tunnels and shafts.  Also, pasties are traditionally large this way it could be spread over two meals.  Initials of the pasty’s owner were often put on one side of the pasty so that leftovers could easily be identified by the owner.  Some pasties even contained one savory and one sweet end so that you could have both your main meal and a dessert.

Pasties are one of the oldest forms of cook and carry food, so it would seem logical that some form of these would be found in early American packed lunches.  Regardless, I figured that making them would be a fun way to start my project.  Damn, I should really learn to stop listening to myself…

Oh, and for those of you who would like a bit more info on the history of the pasty head over to this article at What’s Cooking America.

Next time – Part Two: “Tastes like Failure”

Time for cooking

Friday, July 10th, 2009

This bento shows what I can do on a weeknight if I take an hour to do some extra cooking. Mind you, this isn’t an hour of cooking, it just takes the meat some time to cook and there are a million other things you could be doing at that time (like chatting with your friend about the new Torchwood). This hour included all prep, cooking, and clean-up. So really, it wasn’t a huge time commitment:

July 9

Italian Potato Salad
Cucumbers with rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes
boneless ribs with spicy and sweet dry rub
Sixlets candy

So the two things that required cooking were the potato salad and the boneless ribs. I hope to post the recipe for the potato salad next week, so I won’t get into too much detail now, but it just requires some chopping and quick boiling. As for the ribs, I made a quick dry rub with granulated brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper, celery salt, and something called Texas Gunpowder (which is just ground jalapeno). This made a nice rub that was salty, sweet, and spicy all at the same time. I then cooked the ribs in my toaster oven so that I wouldn’t have to wait for the larger oven to heat up. Easy as can be.

For those looking for more about my historical lunch project, I was able to find this great little exhibit at the Smithsonian called Taking America to Lunch. This will give you all a brief overview of the kinda things I’ve been looking at. Now I just need to scour ebay for some better boxes and tins.

Lunch of the Limberlost

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Thanks to a recommendation on Bookmooch, I found myself working my way through A Girl of the Limberlost.  I say “working through” because the main character was just so perfect that there were many times I was tempted to through the book into my office’s 4 ft tall industrial shredder.  Problem is that I am one of those people who has a hard time giving up a book once I’ve started reading it.  But rather than get into my lukewarm feelings about the book, I am going to talk about the one part I really liked: the description of Elnora’s lunchbox.  Think of nice leather turn-of-the-century number, with small ceramic containers to hold things like custard and preserved strawberries as well as shaved ham and egg sandwiches.  I was in love.  So in love in fact that I immediately headed off to google to find what I could find.

Half an hour later, and I still had no luck finding a lunchbox like the one inspired in the book, but I did remember the lunch pail that I bought for a doll I had when I was younger.  Though the period for this doll was 20 or so years later than Elnora’s story, at least it was something that I could mimick at home to satisfy me while I did some serious research on the history of packed lunches in America.  Here is what I came up with:

limberlost lunch

And yes, those are watercress tea sandwiches!

My plan is to do more research and produce some more accurate lunches in between my usual bentos.  I hope to bring things a little closer to home with this project because deep down inside, I have a real love of American History.  Also, I have some colonial period recipe books that could use a little love.