Vegetables and Roots
Vegetables are at their best when just on the eve of being ripe, in their natural season, and when their growth has neither been retarded, nor forced on by artificial means. The vanity, and it is no better, which spurs on people to load their tables with flavourless, colourless, immature vegetables, is ever punished by the expense and disappointment it occasions. Much, however, has been judiciously done of late years, both to improve the quality and to spread the cultivation of vegetables. Where a turnip, a cabbage, or a leek, was twenty years ago the only vegetable luxury found on a country gentleman’s table, we now see a regular succession of not merely brocoli, cauliflower, and peas, but the more recondite asparagus, sea-kale, endive, and artichoke, with an abundance of small saladings. The vegetable-markets of most towns have within the same period undergone a wonderful improvement. The number and quantity of articles are more than doubled, and the price, except for early vegetables, has diminished at least a half; so that this healthful and harmless luxury is now within the reach of all classes. But vegetables of the more delicate species are still comparatively such recent acquaintances, that, even at tables otherwise elegantly appointed, they are seldom seen perfectly well dressed, at least in so far as regards colour. That homely chemistry, which does not disdain to descend to the kitchen, has indeed considerably assisted the cook of late in this department. A few general observations will, if attended to, supply the place of long or often-repeated directions for dressing vegetables. Unlike animal substances, vegetables can never be dressed too fresh, though some kinds, such as French beans and artichokes, will keep a few days. They must, after being carefully cleared from insects and decayed leaves, or other spoiled parts, be washed in plenty of water; they cannot be too much washed. Let them lie in salt and water, head downwards, till they are put to boil. This simple method will bring out every insect that may lurk in the leaves. To preserve their beauty, they must be boiled alone, in a perfectly clean and well-tinned vessel, and in abundance of soft water. A tea-spoonful of salt of wormwood, or a bit of pearl-ashes or soda of the size of a nutmeg, will not only preserve the green colour, but contribute to the tenderness of cabbage, savoys, &c. Put in all vegetables with soft boiling water and plenty of salt; with hard water the colour will keep better, but the quality will not improve. Make them boil fast, and do not cover the vessel if you desire to preserve their fine colour. In a former section it was recommended to boil several sorts of vegetables and roots with the meat, when salted, with which they are to be served; and this, though it may injure the colour, will certainly improve the quality,—a point of greater importance. All vegetables should be enough boiled. The cook’s rule of having them crisp is as inimical to health as offensive to the palate. If boiled quickly, which they ought to be, vegetables are ready when they begin to sink in the boiling water, and they will spoil ever instant after that. Meat may wait a little, but vegetables will not.
Obs.—Stewed and roasted onions used to be a favourite supper-dish in Scotland, and were reckoned medicinal. The onions were stewed (after boiling) in a butter-sauce, to which cream was put,—the sauce blanche of France.
Introducing Mrs. Barlow
Mrs. Leah Barlow, mother of five lovely daughters herself, has graciously condescended to provide Susana’s Parlour with some of her tasteful advisements on housewifely matters, such as meal planning and the rearing of children, in hopes that our readers will find them informative. Having recently set up a Twitter account where she will be sharing her most treasured household tips, she hopes many of you will follow her: https://twitter.com/lucybarlowsmom
Much of her advice comes from this manual, which she insists should be in every housewife’s possession:
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, Containing the Most approved Modern Receipts for Making Soups, Gravies, Sauces, Regouts, and All Made-dishes; and for Pies, Puddings, Pickles, and Preserves; Also, for Baking Brewing, Making Home-made Wines, Cordials, &c.
Mrs. Margaret Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone), Edinburgh, 1826
About A Twelfth Night Tale
Without dowries or the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. When Lucy, the eldest, attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, she knows she should encourage his attentions, since marriage to a peer will be advantageous to all. The man of her dreams was Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and now he’s betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to accept reality… and Lord Bexley.
Andrew returned from the Peninsular War with a lame arm and emotional scars. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend, “little Lucy”—now a strikingly lovely young woman—who shows him the way out of his melancholy. But with an eligible viscount courting her, Andrew will need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.