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Slaving Over a Hot Oven All Day
October 6, 2010 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Chris Kimball prepares a 12-course meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 cookbook. Using only a coal stove and other authentic Victorian-era kitchen staples, the chef, who lives in Fannie Farmer's former home, recreated a classic holiday Victorian meal from her iconic 1896 cookbook.

The twelve courses included: "rissoles (filled and fried puff pastry), mock turtle soup with fried brain balls, lobster à l’Américaine, roast goose with chestnut stuffing and jus, wood-grilled salmon, roast saddle of venison, Canton punch, three molded Victorian jellies and a spectacular French-inspired Mandarin cake."

Chris Kimball is the creator of public television's America's Test Kitchen) and Cook's Illustrated. Naturally, he chronicled the experience in a book, aptly titled, Fannie's Last Supper. In it, he offers some moden adaptations of Fannie Farmer's recipes. A film depicting the difficulties of authentically re-creating the meal airs this Fall.
posted by misha (45 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fried brain balls?
posted by silentpundit at 4:25 PM on October 6, 2010


What, you'd prefer them steamed?
posted by maryr at 4:28 PM on October 6, 2010 [15 favorites]


Only hoping they were mock brain balls like the mock turtle. Or maybe not, this may be a feast fit for a zombie,
posted by mermayd at 4:32 PM on October 6, 2010


Occasionally, I recall that Mrs. Beeton -- the original tome author, the one whose book went through so many posthumous editions -- died at 28. After having written her giant Victorian cookbook and household guide. Prior to which she had four kids to a useless husband, and had to practice all them Victorian household arts pretty much by herself.

I'm a few years older than that, and I can't be fucked to make a fresh pot of rice in the evenings most days because I don't have a dishwasher anymore and I can't face having to actually wash the dish by hand.

When men spout off about how there simply aren't very many female geniuses, great artists and architects and so forth, I tend to think of Mrs. Beeton.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:36 PM on October 6, 2010 [51 favorites]


I'm making America's Test Kitchen's recipe for fried chicken tonight. Their loose-leaf cookbook (reminiscent of Betty Crocker's familiar red-and-white plaid volume) has some of the most fool-proof recipes ever for so many things. It's given me a confidence in the kitchen I never had before, and I've been cooking for decades.

I look forward to see what he does with the Fanny Farmer recipes. I've had a copy of that book for ages, but have never been brave enough to try any of the recipes.
posted by hippybear at 4:39 PM on October 6, 2010


I still use my mom's 1950-something edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

The brownie recipe is the ur-brownie, afaic. Shiny and crisp on top, gooey in the middle, crumbly all the way through. Perfect.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:43 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize Chris Kimball had a blog! And what comedic treasures it holds, too.

Those photos of the jellies look completely delectable. I wish they'd come back in fashion, but with the advent of that fancy shmancy jello shot blog from a couple days ago, maybe they are!

As for the brain balls, brains are delicious, and anyone who says otherwise is the same sort of person who thinks tripe has no place in pho, which is patently wrong.
posted by Mizu at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


In a similar vein, and slightly more upscale in the food, PBS did a "reality" television series based on an Eduardian household called Manor House set at the turn of the 20th century (just a few years later than Chris Kimball's efforts).

One of the more interesting personalities/people was Chef de Cuisine Denis Dubiard, who was responsible for preparing the feasts the house ate. Wood stove, all traditional equipment, and inexperienced staff.
Some of the food he made: Treats. Some of these look to cross-pollinate the Fannie Farmer recipies/ideas.

It is pretty amazing people made fine food, albeit slightly less palatable by modern standards, long before many of the amenities of a modern kitchen, but to their benefit (and/or testament), pretty much every task done in a modern kitchen was done before electricity too.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What, you'd prefer them steamed?


No. That's really more of an Albany thing.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:00 PM on October 6, 2010 [5 favorites]




Fannie Farmer taught me to cook. And could kick Michael Pollan's ass six ways from Sunday.
posted by Ouisch at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2010


Perhaps I'm dense (many easy arguments could be made for this) but I cant seem to find the rest of it. Just the Jellied stuff link. And since the date on that is July of 2009, there have to be more pages yes?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:08 PM on October 6, 2010


I don't deny that brains may be delicious. I am more concerned with the various invasive self-replicated proteins that may live in side them and such. Prions = frigging scary.
posted by maryr at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2010


First, gently mock the turtle until it loses the will to live.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2010 [19 favorites]


When men spout off about how there simply aren't very many female geniuses, great artists and architects and so forth, I tend to think of Mrs. Beeton.

I heard a mathematician talk about (perhaps in a movie, I don't recall) overhearing some college ladies circa 1950s talking about something that sounded remarkably like complex math, but he couldn't figure out what it was. He listened a bit longer and realized they were talking about knitting.

A lot of the "household sciences" are more complex and impressive than they sound. In Jr. High, the Home Econ class was considered to be a fluff class, but that was because the teacher was soft on grading. Most of what was covered in the class was pretty foreign to us kids, and not as intuitive as it would seem, and everything we did was on a really basic level.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw a TV program where a team of master chefs tried to recreate the GREATEST FEAST EVARR which, I think, took place ~500 years ago. I'm a bit light on the specifics so haven't had much luck finding it via Google.

This might be it?

Dishes on offer include frog blancmange, bone marrow rice pudding and an edible mythical monster - inspired by one ordered by Henry VIII to impress the king of France - with the head of a pig, the body of a lamb and the tail-end of a goose.

Many other amazing feats listed on that site.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:19 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


When men spout off about how there simply aren't very many female geniuses, great artists and architects and so forth, I tend to think of Mrs. Beeton.

Spout off? You named one female who you "tend to think" is a genius. So I guess the men are correct? Also, you forgot serial killers. ;)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


My FF Cookbook is covered in stains and dog eared eight ways to Sunday. The book is the first place I go when I am cooking. Cooks Illustrated is my favorite magazine.
posted by sundrop at 5:33 PM on October 6, 2010


"I heard a mathematician talk about (perhaps in a movie, I don't recall) overhearing some college ladies circa 1950s talking about something that sounded remarkably like complex math, but he couldn't figure out what it was. He listened a bit longer and realized they were talking about knitting."

If I'm remembering correctly, I think that was Richard Feynman.
posted by tdismukes at 5:43 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Spout off? You named one female who you "tend to think" is a genius. So I guess the men are correct?
Um, I don't think Countess Elena is saying that Mrs. Beeton is a genius; rather the lack of apparent female geniuses might in part or whole be explained by the enormous amounts of housework women were expected to do in the past, as exemplified by Mrs. Beeton's life.
posted by peacheater at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sorry if I'm stupid and missing something, but where is the link that points to the post about the 12 course meal? All I see in the link above is a short post about fancy jello moulds.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:29 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have conflicting feelings about Christopher Kimball. I like the idea of America's Test Kitchen, but often it feels like the oft-invoked "panel of tasters" can only drive the recipes into hopeless mediocrity. This is pretty awesome, though.

For more hopelessly dated cookery see Kisch & Classics. He's got a particular soft spot for anything en croute or in aspic.
posted by clockwork at 6:29 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


silentpundit: Fried brain balls?

The idea, when (especially protein) resources were scarce or at least involved a lot of effort to acquire, was that one did one's utmost to utilize "everything but the moo/squeal/baa". Modern zombie pop culture aside, brains have traditionally had an honored place in many of the world's high cuisines and low. I believe it's only (in this century? recent decades? too lazy to go look it up) that bad/greedy business decisions and poor animal-husbandry practices have made consuming brains a sketchy prospect.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:42 PM on October 6, 2010


Perhaps I'm dense (many easy arguments could be made for this) but I cant seem to find the rest of it. Just the Jellied stuff link. And since the date on that is July of 2009, there have to be more pages yes?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:08 PM on October 6


Sorry if I'm stupid and missing something, but where is the link that points to the post about the 12 course meal? All I see in the link above is a short post about fancy jello moulds.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:29 PM on October 6 [+] [!]

Ahem ... not the best presentation, I agree. It's here.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:50 PM on October 6, 2010


Having found the content, here are my takeaways about this kind of commercial exercise ...

Not that you would necessarily want to actually replicate this entire meal unless you, like Kimball, had a book deal, a kitchen crew and a special program (to be aired in November) on PBS. This meal is a lot of work. Remember that a kitchen staff and dining room help were on hand when this meal was first prepared and served.

and

In the interest of food safety and sanity, Kimball and his crew did use refrigerators, freezers, hot water taps for clean up and, for the baking of cakes, mixers, food processors and an electric oven. All other cooking was done on a wood stove.

A mildly authentic attempt at re-creating what an ultra-privileged Victorian housewife might have accomplished, given enough money, servants, and resources.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:57 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kimball is the very epitome of "Liberal Elite" that gets the right wingers into a froth, so I like him, and he's pretty much the only one of his kind.

My wife and I were watching an episode of the very good "America's Test Kitchen" the other night, and noticed that he had black leather buckled suspenders. I know he was going for a retro-upper-middle-class look, with the bow-tie and the white-collared blue oxford shirt, but it seemed, well, kinky.

We tried to figure out what his fetish was, and we decided he was a sadist into submissive women meekly and demurely filling out insurance forms in triplicate, by hand. He would then go over them very carefully, and with a stern word, point out a minor spelling error, and force her to fill them all out again!

And on tuesdays, they play "Defend your thesis, that you forgot to study for, in front of your academic advisor." He taps his long, manicured fingers ominously on two incompatible style and grammar guides...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2010 [17 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy:Ahem ... not the best presentation, I agree. It's here.

Oh, thanks. I saw that news article link about the book, but I assumed that the first link (to Christopher Kimball's blog) would point to an actual blog entry about the 12-course meal, complete with pictures. Guess I was wrong :-S
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:00 PM on October 6, 2010


My Mac & Cheese is basically the Fannie Farmer standard (other than the selection of cheeses and the liberal application of white truffle oil at a key moment).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:43 PM on October 6, 2010


I believe it's only (in this century? recent decades? too lazy to go look it up) that bad/greedy business decisions and poor animal-husbandry practices have made consuming brains a sketchy prospect.

Lambs' brains are fairly popular in my family. They squick me out now, but apparently I loved them as a child. My parents still do.
posted by pompomtom at 8:46 PM on October 6, 2010


And monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington D.C.!
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on October 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


Slap*Happy, when I linked this to my friend earlier today, he exclaimed "I'll never understand your crush on Chris Kimball!" and I couldn't really explain it, either. I said it was something about the bowtie.

But now I understand, and can explain.
posted by Mizu at 9:52 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, I don't think Countess Elena is saying that Mrs. Beeton is a genius

Wow, talk about me missing the point. Thanks.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:55 PM on October 6, 2010


For more hopelessly dated cookery see Kisch & Classics. He's got a particular soft spot for anything en croute or in aspic.

Oh man, thank you so much for that link. I love a man with a fish kettle*.



* Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has TWO.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:21 PM on October 6, 2010


mock turtle soup

These days we're so wasteful. We use the mock turtlenecks, and throw away the rest of the mock turtles!

But seriously. Can we talk about how great the Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated are?
posted by schmod at 10:28 PM on October 6, 2010


You know, I love, love, love Cook's Illustrated magazine, have several of their books, and will confidently prepare one of the CI recipes for the first time when I'm expecting guests (the culinary equivalent of walking the tightrope without a net), but Christopher Kimball is a wanker. It's gotten to the point now where I studiously avoid reading his essay at the beginning of the magazine, for fear that it will disrupt my digestion. His whole shtick, the everything-was-better-in-the-past/look-at-the-simple-but-honest-country-folk thing, is really, really tiresome.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:36 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hear, hear, WorkingMyWayHome. Can you imagine him meeting with Garrison Keillor? There'd be faux folksiness all over the damned place.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:33 AM on October 7, 2010


Surely the bigger news is that he's a closet Deadhead guitarist?

Color me flabbergasted.
posted by ssmug at 5:57 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely the bigger news is that he's a closet Deadhead guitarist?

We are everywhere.
posted by alms at 6:11 AM on October 7, 2010


hippybear: And monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington D.C.!

Oh, they're there, all right - but the Congresspersons and Senators are still using them!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:55 AM on October 7, 2010


Nanukthedog: I loved that PBS "Manor House" series. There was a big fuss over the food, too - the chef was all excited at the idea of making period-authentic food, but when that resulted in a roasted pig's head being brought to the dining room table, the family cast as the aristocrats freaked and insisted he start cooking modern food instead.
posted by dnash at 1:23 PM on October 7, 2010


...mock turtle soup with fried brain balls...

I have cortexticles?
posted by Splunge at 4:31 PM on October 7, 2010


America's Test Kitchen is probably the best cooking show being produced today, and Chris's magazine, Cook's Illustrated is both classy and incredibly informative.

Very interesting guy, and good post!
posted by cman at 9:09 PM on October 7, 2010


point to an actual blog entry about the 12-course meal, complete with pictures.

Is this what you are looking for? The courses, the recipes all on one page, photos of the food being prepared, photos of the food as served, wine notes.
posted by Houstonian at 10:38 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


YES! Thank you, Houstonian!
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:49 PM on October 9, 2010


You also might like the video preview clip. PBS will broadcast the show in November and December.
posted by Houstonian at 3:07 PM on October 9, 2010


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