Thursday, March 31, 2011


I love food, which may explain my fascination for one of my favorite research books--"Plantation Life at Rose Hill: The Diaries of Martha Ogle Foreman, 1814-1845." Catchy, eh? But really, it is a great book in that Martha Foreman wrote an entry almost every day of her married life giving us a fascinating glimpse into what she and her contemporaries ate, how they prepared it, how they preserved it, and the quantities of food they put up each year. Amazing! Eating required hard work, and lots of it. Really stop and think about the effort required to have a jar of jam on hand, or the bread to slather it upon. Think about a nice breakfast and imagine the time and prep involved in preparing such favorite menu items as sausage, bacon, biscuits, ham, pastries. No wonder eggs, bread and oatmeal often topped the list. I was really fascinated by the quantities of food a plantation had to produce to feed everyone. Rose Hill was run using slave labor, albeit well-treated slave-labor, if such a thing can be said. When they slaughtered hogs they were talking thirty-nine in a day from which she reports rendering 78 hams, 24 pieces of middling (salt pork), 12 jowls and 10 chins, along with what we must assume was bacon, and a host of by-products. A few days later she discusses making the sausage. Every day was a critical food prep day. Canning was still relatively new for households, so everything was salted, pickled, dried or smoked. An entry that discusses oysters talks about pickling them in large batches of twenty pounds or more. Imagine then rendering the lard, churning butter, and storing the fruit and root vegetables in the root cellar. Or digging up the yams and potatoes with a shovel, or catching, killing, plucking and preparing a chicken for supper. I think I would have been eating a lot of bread. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say we have it easy today. So when you open a can, defrost a pizza, or toss some dried noodles into a pot of boiling water heated over a stove you didn't have to chop wood for, give thanks! Martha Ogle lived along a tributary that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, so seafood of all varities, including the famous Maryland Blue Crab, was part of her diet. Here's a crab cake recipe from one of my favorite food sites, Kitchen Daily. It uses a local seasoning that's practically its own food group here in Maryland--Old Bay Seasoning. Enjoy! BAKED CRAB CAKES with LEMON MUSTARD SAUCE FOR CRAB CAKES: 1/3 cup mayonnaise (preferably flavored with olive oil) 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard Zest of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves 2 scallions, finely chopped 1 large egg 1 pound lump crabmeat Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 cup bread crumbs FOR LEMON MUSTARD SAUCE: 1/2 cup mayonnaise Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley Directions: Gather the following tools: cutting board, chef's knife, dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, small and large mixing bowls, rubber spatula, spoons, sheet pan, offset spatula Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, Old Bay, parsley, scallions, and egg. Add crab meat, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Form crab cakes into a ball using about 1/4 cup of crab mixture for each cake. Dip the cakes into the breadcrumbs, flatten to about 1 inch high, and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes. While the crab cakes are baking, prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the crab cakes with Lemon Mustard Sauce. Read more:

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