It can be fascinating to look at famous historical figures' favorite food. Some of the best food throughout history is representative of the culture of that time. Other dishes, however, come from recipes that may appear a little odd to modern diners. The real question is not what people were preparing in a particular era, but whether or not it would still be considered appetizing today.
Some recipes, like figs and Devonshire cream, are undoubtedly delicious decades later; but Jimmy Carter's cheese ring - through it sounds pretty okay on the surface - contains a suspicious amount of mayonnaise that might make you think twice before giving it a go. Part of the fun of cooking is venturing into unknown territory, and some of the best foods in the world have proved to be the most surprising. Who first thought of ice cream? And who was the first brave soul to eat a plate of sushi with wasabi? Variety is the spice of life, after all.
From Sir Francis Drake's mojito to Emily Dickinson's coconut cake, there's no shortage of recipes from history that offer a taste of life before the 21st century.
It's hard to imagine a more English dish than mystery author Agatha Christie's scone and cream mix. Christie loved her clotted cream made the old-fashioned way, "scalded and taken off the milk in layers." While later in life, she would have her butler cook for her, there is little doubt that she made these scones and cream herself, the passionate foodie that she was.
Agatha Christie's Fig And Orange Scones With Devonshire Cream
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup fresh figs, chopped into half-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, and orange zest.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or rub together with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add chopped figs and toss lightly until spread throughout. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir until the mixture clumps together, being careful not to overmix.
On a floured countertop, gather mixture into a ball and knead once or twice to combine. Pat into a half-inch-thick circle. Cut into eight slices, like a pie, or into circles using a biscuit cutter. Place on lined baking sheet.
Bake 13 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove to cooling rack, and eat warm with an “enormous amount” of cream.379250Will you try this?
- Photo: Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. Naval Photographic Center / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Whatever your opinion of his politics, Jimmy Carter is not a flashy individual. The former US president's career after his time serving as the head of state is marked with the same kind of down-to-earth simplicity that he's displayed his entire life, especially when it comes to his cooking.
Jimmy Carter's Plains special cheese ring - named for the town of Plains, GA, Carter's birthplace - is a tasty treat that couldn't be easier to throw together for a casual gathering.
Jimmy Carter's Plains Special Cheese Ring
1 lb. grated sharp cheese
1 cup finely chopped nuts
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small finely grated onion
Dash of cayenne
Mix all of the ingredients, then mold with your hands into the desired shape. Place in the refrigerator until chilled.316303Will you try this?
Ernest Hemingway was a master of simplicity. His prose is sparing and evocative, dealing with themes of masculinity, repression, and resilience. It would be logical to assume his hamburger recipe would reflect his spartan aesthetic. This is not the case, however, as it turns out Hemingway's burger recipe is as complicated as he is.
Ernest Hemingway's Favorite Burger
1 lb. ground lean beef
2 cloves, minced garlic
2 little green onions, finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon, India relish
2 tablespoons, capers
1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands sage
½ teaspoon Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning
½ teaspoon Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder
1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork
About ⅓ cup dry red or white wine
1 tablespoon cooking oil
Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion, and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers. Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for 10 or 15 minutes while you set the table and make the salad.
Add the relish, capers, everything else, including wine, and let the meat sit, quietly marinating for another 10 minutes if possible. Now make your fat, juicy patties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick and soft in texture, but not runny.
Have the oil in your frying pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties, and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again.
Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown, and the middle pink and juicy.292292Will you try this?
Thomas Jefferson was an inventor, a man of science, and an architect, as well as a writer, politician, and diplomat. One of his easily forgotten achievements is the creation of the first-known ice cream recipe by an American.
Thomas Jefferson's Ice Cream
2 bottles of good cream
6 yolks of eggs
½ lb. sugar
Mix the yolks and sugar. Put the cream on a fire in a casserole... When near boiling, take it off and pour it gently into the mixture of eggs and sugar. Stir it well. Put it on the fire, again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent its sticking to the casserole.
When near boiling, take it off and strain it through a towel. Put it in the Sabottiere (an early ice cream maker). Then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. Put into the ice a handful of salt. Put salt on the cover lid of the Sabottiere and cover the whole thing with ice. Leave it still half a quarter of an hour.
Then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes. Open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabottiere. Shut it and replace it in the ice.
Open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides. When well taken, stir it well with the spatula. Put it in molds, justling it well down on the knee. Then put the mold into the same bucket of ice. Leave it there to the moment of serving it.
To withdraw it, immerse the mold in warm water, turning it well until it will come out and turn it into a plate.
For a simpler, more modern version adapted by historian Marie Kimball, check Monticello.org.164253Will you try this?