Of all the work I’ve done on this project so far, this week’s cooking has been the most…interesting.
Next, I moved on to “Apple Pie without Apples” in a “Potato Crust.” Making the cracker “apple” filling was fairly easy once I had tartaric acid (cream of tartar in modern terms). The potato crust on the other hand, was difficult to make the same consistency as actual crust. It was more like spreadable mashed-potatoes, but the finished product looked more or less like apple pie. The consensus on taste was, that though it was not very good, it was surprisingly like apples. The potato chunks in the crust even contributed to an apple-like texture. However, those who had tried mock apple pie before suggested that without the potato crust, it would taste more like traditional pie. As it stood, it was more like odd shepherd’s pie, described by one friend as “three different flavors of mush.”
This is the only cooking session where I ended up with leftovers that needed discarding. Taste-testers said that, if they were in the Civil War, the Apple Pie without Apples would likely be welcome and fortifying, but that they would have to be extremely desperate to make the Jelly worth it. This day of cooking proved to me that food quality is not a forward-progression; it very much depends on circumstance. The recipes of early 1800s peacetime America were much fancier, much more akin to what we would consider good food today. These recipes from the Civil War books were literally the best looking I could find. The desperation, need, and adaptability of people in wartime came across for me stronger in cooking these recipes than ever before. Rarely have I more poignantly felt an appreciation for the ease and comforts of life in modern peacetime America.
Many thanks to my brave taste-testers, assistants, and in this week’s case, photographer- later this week, I’ll post a photo diary from this cooking session.