At the weekend I travelled back in time over 100 years, thanks to a wonderful culinary journey through a new book called Fannie’s Last Supper. It tells the story – or rather adventure – that Chris Kimball undertook when he decided to recreate a Victorian dinner party using Fannie Farmer’s recipes from 1896.
Fannie Farmer comes across as an early Martha Stewart – a highly successful business woman who took over the Boston Cooking School and rewrote the cookbook of the same name by Mrs Lincoln several times, until finally making it her own and making a fortune thanks to a publishing deal in her favor.
Victorian cooking wasn’t for the faint hearted – apart from the back breaking physical labor in an over heated kitchen there are brains and feet and eyeballs – oh my! Kimball ends Chapter 3 “So our first course, oysters, was simple enough. Our second course, mock turtle soup, would test the limits of our culinary adventurism.” My only reference for Mock Turtle is Alice:
Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, “Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?”
“No,” said Alice. “I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is.”
“It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,” said the Queen
The illustration clearly shows that the mock in the Mock Turtle is a calf’s head, trotters and other such things – all simmered together to create a stock for the soup that tastes like real turtle soup and according to Kimball “substantially more delicious.” The description of the preparation of the Mock Turtle Soup in Fannie’s Last Supper – complete with bullet hole, removing the brains and then eyeballs, plus straw up the nostrils – is downright gruesome.
Being Ladles and Jellyspoons we are most interested in Fannie’s recipe for jelly – obviously. So out came the jelly moulds, the fruit juices and the gelatin – I’m sorry Chris but boiling calves’ feet just wasn’t on the cards. The result was a lot of sticky messy wobbly fun leading up to heavenly melt in the mouth desserts. The Victorians really knew what they were about with their jellies. Mark Bittman – who was one of the esteemed guests said “I would travel 200 miles for the jellies alone.”
Question for Kimball: Did you use Jellyspoons?