My research for the next book continues (it will for a while yet), but I don't mind at all. A historian by training, I know what I'm doing and where to look for what I need. Also, the treasures I find keep it interesting! As a novelist, and not a social historian, I know that a lot of the things I find during my research will never appear in the book. No one wants to pick up a novel and read three pages about how to shear sheep, or make candles from beef tallow, or all the ways to tell if eggs are fresh. And that's okay. But some of the things are so amazing to me, that I need to give them an outlet. So once a week, or thereabouts, I'll be sharing a treasure I've found.
This week: an old recipe I found in a book called (get ready for a deep breath, this is a long title...) AMERICAN COOKERY, OR THE ART OF DRESSING VIANDS, FISH, POULTRY and VEGETABLES, AND THE BEST MODES OF MAKING PASTES, PUFFS, PIES, TARTS, PUDDINGS, CUSTARDS AND PRESERVES, AND ALL KINDS OF CAKES, FROM THE IMPERIAL PLUMB TO PLAIN CAKE. ADAPTED TO THIS COUNTRY, AND ALL GRADES OF LIFE. by Amelia Simmons, an American Orphan. I love that orphan bit. Is it a pity-ploy to get people to buy? A justification of why she's writing and not sitting around in an easy chair embroidering something? A guarantee that she knows her way around a kitchen? Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow could put this on her next cookbook?
Anyway, here is what I wanted to share. Oh, and you might want to put down your sandwich. This gets a little gross.
To Dress a Turtle.
Well, Amelia. I think I'll pass on this recipe. I don't know if it's how I must break the gall, the slime you mention, or the boiling blood, but contrary to what you say at the end, I don't think this turtle repas will ever be sufficiently done for me.
The rest of American Cookery is quite fascinating, too, a lesson in how to use everything and how to cook without any of the modern conveniences. An interesting read, if you're writing a late 18th century novel or not.
Erin Bedford, writer.