Sunday, April 19, 2015

Are Media Outlets Writing More about Insects as Food (Entomophagy)?

As I follow the news on insects as food (entomophagy), I have been wondering if the pace of articles has been increasing because it seems that every time I turn around there is another article about cricket flour or a new book about eating bugs.  To answer my question, I visited the U.C. Berkeley library to use the Lexis/Nexis news databases to run some searches*.

I ran three searches spanning from 1999 through 2014 in U.S. news sources (note: the "w/" means "within five words"):
  • (eat OR eating) w/5 bug
  • (eat OR eating) w/5 insect
  • entomophagy

For each search, I removed the non-U.S. articles that got through the U.S.-only filter, removed irrelevant articles (the w/5 insect search got a lot of hits about bats eating insects) and pulled out calendar listings (items like "Community calendar....Jane Doe reads from her new book 'Eating Bugs' at Midtown Books"). After all of the filtering, I was left with 60 articles for entomophagy, 45 for "(eat OR eating) w/5 bug", and 32 for "(eat OR eating) w/5 insect."  The number of articles in each year are shown in the chart below.
Chart of number of articles about insects as food (entomophagy)

For entomophagy (blue bars), there was a bit of activity between 2006-2008, then a quiet period, with much more activity in the last three years.   The other two searches (red and green bars) had little activity through 2011, but many more articles in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  And so, it looks like my sense that there is more coverage of insects as food in the last few years is correct.

As 2015 goes on, I hope to do a follow-up to see how insects as food has been trending in the media this year.  A search on "cricket flour" might also be worthwhile, since this ingredient is gaining in popularity.

* If you know of best practice guides for this kind of search -- perhaps from a school of journalism or media studies -- please let me know in the comments.

Random link from the archive:  "Yoga is the latest diversion of New York society," claims major newspaper

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ketchup has Crushed Catsup Since 1980

Preface: For various reasons, the images in this post (which are 'embeds' from Google's Ngram Viewer) are not going to look quite right -- there will be spillover across the right boundary and spacing will be quirky. To see higher quality versions of the charts, click on the chart and it will appear all by itself. If I could figure out how to download the results of an Ngram search, the charts and spacing would be less unruly, but I only see links about downloading Ngram data sets.

Close readers of my last post might have noticed the use of both catsup and ketchup in official and commercial contexts: for example, a key federal regulation is called "catsup", and early Heinz labels used both ketchup and catsup. Perhaps someday I'll look for linguistic studies that explain the evolution and prominence of the two spellings, but for now I thought it would be fun to run the terms through the Ngram Viewer tool at Google Books to see how the frequency of occurrence in books has changed over time.

Ngram Viewer shows the frequency of use for one or more words or phrases in the Google Books collection. Various filters are available, including limits on what is searched (e.g., look only at books published in the U.S., or only at books published in Great Britain), and various operations are available for the search results (e.g., subtracting one from another).

Let's start with a simple comparison: catsup vs. ketchup in the complete Google Books library.  Between 1800 and 1890, the most popular spelling flips between the two. From 1890 to about 1960, catsup is more frequent. In the 1970s, the two terms have nearly identical frequency. In about 1980, however, ketchup really took off and writers soured on the use of catsup. Of course, a big caveat is needed: these charts are generated from books in the Google library, and I'm not exactly sure what that library contains. (Is it every book that can be purchased or downloaded from the Google Play store? Or only what can be seen in free books, snippet view books or books with preview? I haven't found a clear description in the docs.) (Link to chart on the Google Ngram page)

Ngrams' math tools provide a less noisy chart: the next figure shows the fraction of ketchup and catsup incidences that are ketchup (i.e., ketchup / (ketchup + catsup) ). Except for a few decades in the early 1800s, catsup is used more frequently than ketchup until the early 1970s, and there is a good bit of variation. From 1940 to the present the ketchup fraction has been rising, with the sharpest increases after 1980. (Link to chart on the Google Ngram page)

Finally, let's take a side trip to the broader history of ketchup, decline of non-tomato varieties and the dominance of tomatoes as the primary ingredient. Before 1900, there were a sizable fraction of mushroom and walnut ketchup/catsup references, but eventually they dropped to a low level.  in the 20th century, tomato ketchup/catsup spike and become dominant.  Of course, in the 20th century and beyond, when an author writes ketchup or catsup without modification, it is probably assumed that the word refers to the tomato-based condiment.   (Link to chart on the Google Ngram page)

Random link from the archive: Cracking the Coconut (Oil) for Pie Crust

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A theory that explains a seemingly unnecessary word on ketchup labels

The other day, I noticed something odd on a bottle of ketchup. Because of my eating habits at home and at restaurants, I don't see a lot of ketchup bottles, and so when I bought a bottle of Safeway brand ketchup so that I could make the delicious “Spicy Chipotle Toltec Barbeque Glaze” from Mark Miller's Coyote's Pantry (Ten Speed Press), I was surprised to see that the label said "Tomato Ketchup."  Not just “Ketchup”, but “Tomato Ketchup.”  This seemed strange to me, because in this time and place, is there any other kind of ketchup?

When I looked into this again at various grocery stores, I saw that "Tomato Ketchup" isn’t uncommon: the two biggest ketchup brands (Heinz and Hunt’s) also are labeled “Tomato Ketchup.”

A Regulatory Requirement?
At first I thought the “tomato ketchup” label might be a regulatory issue, and so I looked into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) using the highly useable eCFR tool from the U.S. Government Publishing Office.  Fortunately, a search for "ketchup" across the thousands of pages of the CFR results in just a few hits (and, interestingly, the top hit is “catsup” ).

Title 21, §155.194* is called "Catsup", and specifies that tomatoes are a required ingredient:
(1) Definition. Catsup, ketchup, or catchup is the food prepared from one or any combination of two or more of the following optional tomato ingredients:
   (i) Tomato concentrate as defined in §155.191(a)(1), except that lemon juice, concentrated lemon juice, or safe and suitable organic acids may be used in quantities no greater than necessary to adjust the pH, and in compliance with §155.191(b).
   (ii) The liquid derived from mature tomatoes of the red or reddish varieties Lycopersicum esculentum P. Mill.
   (iii) The liquid obtained from the residue from preparing such tomatoes for canning, consisting of peelings and cores with or without such tomatoes or pieces thereof.
   (iv) The liquid obtained from the residue from partial extraction of juice from such tomatoes.
However, there is no requirement that the word tomato appear on the label, as §155.194(a)(3)(i) indicates: 
(3) Labeling. (i) The name of the food is “Catsup,” “Ketchup,” or “Catchup.”
Today’s Labels
I made a quick survey of labels at Amazon – where a search on “ketchup” brings forth over 1,000 results, many of which are other condiments – and found that the majority of tomato-based ketchup products do not call themselves “tomato ketchup.”  These include many fairly recent reformulations from health-food-type brands (e.g., organic, unsweetened, HFCS-free), small-batch artisanal brands, and some low price varieties.  And, not surprisingly, there are some daring products in the Amazon catalog, like "Tru-POP ketchup popcorn seasoning", and "Tracklements Sweet Mustard Ketchup" (which would be a blasphemous product at some hot dog stands, where the idea of blending mustard and ketchup is unthinkable).

Historical Origins
My theory about the word “tomato” on the big-brand ketchup labels is that it originates from the time when there was a variety of ketchup flavors, and so "tomato" was an important indicator.  Before the 20th century, there were many kinds of ketchup because the term (and its spelling variations) referred to a savory, usually fermented, sauce that could be made from many bases. Some of the popular bases were mushrooms, walnuts, oysters, grapes, and of course, tomatoes**. In the United States those non-tomato flavors are completely gone. Factors such as high tariffs on British imports, decreases in domestic tomato prices, and lower manufacturing costs drove away the other ketchups.

Andrew F. Smith’s Pure Ketchup*** recounts some of Heinz’s long history.  Heinz’s first tomato ketchup was introduced in 1876 and was labeled “catsup” (PDF) without a tomato modifier but with a picture of a tomato on the label.  An offering from 1883 (see illustration below) was similar.  In 1890, the company introduced the famous keystone label, neck band, screw cap, and octagonal bottle shape for their tomato ketchup.  In that era, they offered a few different tomato ketchups (in order of quality): "Keystone or Octagon Ketchup", "standard brand", "Duquesne brand tomato catsup," and one called "Home made catsup." Smith writes that the price difference was significant: Keystone was about $0.60 per gallon, while Duquesne was about $0.25 per gallon.  That the top and bottom brands don't have tomato in the product name somewhat contradicts my conjecture here, but I haven’t seen the full labels – for example, was it "standard brand ketchup" or "standard brand tomato ketchup"? Or was the word tomato prominently displayed somewhere on the label?

1883 Heinz "Catsup" label, from Our Archives

1890 Keystone Ketchup, from the Heinz History Center (a museum about Western PA history and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution)
A selection of historical ketchup/catsup bottles at the Heinz History Center. Photo from Grace Piper's Flickr collection.

When store shelves were stocked with commercial ketchups that were not tomato-based, Heinz might have wanted to be clear about their product's flavor base.  But even though the other varieties have disappeared, Heinz labels their premier ketchup as "tomato ketchup."  I was unable to find a chronological collection of Heinz ketchup labels, so I don't know exactly when they switched to the current tomato-based labeling.

Thanks to the internet, it's not hard to find mushroom ketchup. One example is from Geo Watkins at Amazon, which “was the secret success of many Victorian cooks with steak and kidney pies and puddings, roast meats, sauces and soups.” The sauce might also make an appearance on the shelves of stores that specialize in foods from the British Isles, and I wouldn't be too surprised if ultra-British pubs in the U.S. also stock the sauce for use on chips, pies, and so on.

* The full hierarchy of the regulation:  Title 21: Food and Drugs, PART 155—CANNED VEGETABLES, Subpart B—Requirements for Specific Standardized Canned Vegetables, §155.194   Catsup.  Deep in the archives of government, there might be an interesting story behind the use of "catsup" in the regulation.
** A plenitude of 19th-century recipes can be found on Google Books, like a Mushroom ketchup recipe from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (1893), or a variety of recipes in the The Household Encyclopedia or Family Dictionary, or Everything Connected with Housekeeping and Domestic Medicine (1859, London)  
*** Smith's book is a scholarly study of the history of ketchup and touches on such subjects as early recipes for ketchup/catsup, the pure food movement of the early 20th century, brand development, and much more.


Image Credits

Random link from the archives: Spiders doing a mating dance in the garden

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Micro-round-up on news about insects as food (entomophagy)

One of my favorite posts at Mental Masala looks at the history and psychology of "insects as food" in European and closely-related cultures and U.S., Canada, and Australia. (A quick summary:  These cultures have a long history of associating insects with disease and filth, which makes them unappetizing.  In addition, not many large insects that are good for eating are endemic to the temperate climates.)

Though Americans in general aren't too excited about eating insects (entomophagy), people who write and talk about food -- journalists, bloggers, radio show producers -- are certainly excited by the idea and so quite a bit of writing about insects as foods appears across the media landscape.  Generally, the pieces are enthusiastic and forward looking, and I have spotted three basic themes:  1) an entrepreneur has a new insect-containing product (like protein bars made containing cricket flour), 2) insects can feed the world (sustainable, easy to raise, nutritious, etc.), 3)  attempts to make insects more palatable to Western eaters. (Note that I wrote one piece about the attraction of insects to editors and writers in 2012.)

I have been haphazardly keeping a collection of articles for many months now, and thought a round up and commentary would be worthwhile (if for no other purpose than to help me organize them).

"Lovely Grub: Are Insects the Future of Food?" by Emily Anthes is one of the best overviews of recent developments and future prospects for insects as food that I have seen. She covers the areas of sustainability and eater psychology, of course, but then takes the article into the often ignored areas of food safety and regulatory approval.  mosaic (10/14/14)

New Products that Contain Insects (and Related Initiatives)
A short profile of two companies that are using crickets in their products: Bitty Foods and Exo.  Crickets have an relatively high level of protein, about 13 grams of protein per 100 grams of crickets vs. 25 grams of protein per 100 grams of chicken or beef, but can be farmed on less land with lower greenhouse gas emissions.  Bitty sells baking blends that contain cricket meal, as well as cookies that use the insect-fortified flour.  Exo uses cricket flour as way to stand out in the crowded energy bar field.  A bar has about 300 calories and contains the equivalent of 40 crickets.  The Salt at NPR (8/15/14)

The airline JetBlue and the food company incubator AccelFoods formed a partnership to offer some edgy snacks on certain flights, including cricket protein bars, at Quartz (10/9/14)

Designers from Sweden's Belatchew Arkitekter propose insect farms called "Buzz Buildings" for major intersections to provide sustainable protein production. CITYLAB at The Atlantic.  (6/13/14)

Massachusetts' contribution to the United States of Sustainable Food is an insects as food company.  Six Foods is producing "Chirps," chips that include cricket flour for a protein and sustainability boost. The company is also connected to the cricket farm in Ohio that is the subject of the New Yorker’s “Big Cricket” (see below).  Grist.   (9/8/14)

The Insect Economy
Big Cricket Farms, a new venture in the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio is trying to figure out how to raise crickets on a large scale so they can used in foods for people.  The 'mini-livestock' doesn't need much:  80-90 F ambient temperature, about 90% relative humidity, water, and a diet based on grain and vegetables.  At the time of the article, Big Cricket Farms was raising almost six million crickets, with a potential population of twenty-million (which would provide about six tons of protein powder each month).  The New Yorker (9/16/14)

After taking a bite, contributor Elettra Wiedemann discovered that some of the delicious cookies she sampled at a food conference contained crickets (from Bitty Foods). Her curiosity takes over and she digs into the subject.  One of her resources is Kevin Bachhuber of Big Cricket Farms. Bachhuber says that aversion to insects as food is part of the "depersonalization of our food supply," and most of the meat we buy doesn't look at all like an animal. [ed. note: This is true to some extent, but countered by the prevalence of cricket flour as a leading ingredient.  Another counter might be the popularity of ribs and chicken wings, which have plenty of bone and clearly comes from an animal.]  Munchies at Vice (8/14/14)

Demand for insects for human consumption in Thailand has created a boom for the insect farmers.  Over 20,000 farms are registered with the government, primarily small family farms, with combined revenues in the multimillion-dollar range.  Some farmers are finding crickets less risky than rice farming: rice provides just one harvest a year while crickets provide six, and cricket farming is less reliant on the weather. Insect farmers share with and learn from a local  cooperative and experts from Khon Kaen University.  Exports to Europe and North America are starting to grow, mostly for cricket powder, though the best sellers are novelty items.  AP at Huffington Post (8/25/14)

Raising Insects to be Animal Feed
Ed. note:  This sector of the insect innovation industry has a lot of sustainability potential. Fish farming isn’t going away, so imagine if instead of draining the oceans of forage fish so they can be ground into fish meal for aquaculture, we could supply fish farms with some sort of insect-based food, with the insects raised in a sustainable way. (One of my pieces at Ethicurean has more details about forage fish and aquaculture.)

EnviroFlight is trying to raise black soldier fly as a sustainable source of animal feed (especially for aquaculture).  The fly larvae increase in weight by a factor of 5,000 in a few weeks, and they can be fed "pre-consumer" waste, e.g., cast-offs from food manufacturing facilities like chicken-nugget breading or spent brewing grains.   I first discovered this on KQED's Quest TV program, but unfortunately I haven't found the video on-line, only a short write-up of the piece at QUEST. And that's too bad, because the section showing the mating house with Barry White playing to set the mood was amusing. (04/1/14)

The PROteINSECT project is a team of researchers from around the world that is investigating whether fly larvae could be a suitable component of pig, poultry and fish feed. Larvae are high in protein and can be grown on waste products like food scraps or animal manure. The project is looking at methods of raising insects, their nutritional characteristics, and safety (e.g., heavy-metal residues, veterinary medicine residue, allergenicity).    Munchies at Vice. (9/15/14)

Raising black soldier fly larvae on fruit and vegetable scraps as a source of animal feed. The Regina Leader-Post (12/3/14)

Behavior Modification
SexyFood makes eating weird edible bugs, like rhino beetles and black scorpions, a desirable luxury "experience."  Co.Exist (11/3/14)

Insects as the Food of the Future
Stephen Colbert on a United Nations report about insects as food (warning: autoplay on some browsers) (5/15/13)

Grist on the same U.N. report (5/15/13)

Random link from the archive: Recipe: Ersatz South Indian rice with yogurt

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A War Bread in a Modern Cookbook: Oat Bread

WW1 poster: Little Americans. Do your bit.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been baking a "war bread" for quite a while.  My long-time favorite one-day bread is the oat bread in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The original recipe is simple, delicious and nutritious, being a single-day bread that is enriched with rolled oats and oat bran.  By weight, the dry ingredients are 53% white flour, 20% whole wheat flour, 26% rolled oats and oat bran, a composition that would probably be considered "war bread." 

Polishing the Recipe with a Poolish
For a while, I used the recipe in Madison's book as written, and although it usually resulted in a decent loaf, it could be undesirably crumbly and dense (characteristics not uncommon for simple breads containing whole grains).  To reduce the brick factor, I added a trick from Emily Buehler's Bread Science book:  beginning with a "preferment," a mixture of flour, water and yeast called a poolish (its relatives include the sponge and the biga).  This mixture rests at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, building flavor and structure.

As the poolish rests, good things happen:  the flour starts to hydrate, flavor-producing fermentation begins, gluten starts to develop (even as the poolish sits still), enzymes called proteases start breaking down the proteins in the flour, and the acidity level increases (this makes mixing easier). More details on these effects are in the Preferments chapter in Bread Science.  

Ad for Lincoln Oat.Buehler says that a basic dough recipe that doesn't have a pre-ferment can be modified to start with a poolish using the following formula:  combine one-third of the recipe's flour, an equal weight of water (not volume), and a small amount of yeast (~1/8 t.) in a bowl and mix thoroughly (I usually use the mixing bowl from my KitchenAid stand mixer to reduce the number of dirty dishes by one).  It will be quite wet, a little thicker than pancake batter.  Cover the bowl and set aside for 8-24 hours. After this fermentation, the poolish will be bubbly and fragrant. Then, when mixing the dough, reduce the water and flour to account for the amount in the poolish and also use 2/3 the amount of yeast.  For example, the original oat bread recipe had 125 g whole wheat flour, 325 g white flour and 365 g water, so the poolish should consist of 42 g whole wheat flour (1/3 * 125), 108 g white flour (1/3 * 325), and 150 g water (42 + 108).  During the final mix, you add 83 g whole wheat flour (= 125 - 42), 217 g white flour (= 325 - 108) and 215 g water (= 365 - 150). 

Recipe:  Oat Bread
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison, with help from Bread Science by Emily Buehler.


110 g Whole-wheat flour
90 g bread or all-purpose white flour
200 g room temperature water
1/8 t. yeast

Poolish (recipe above)
300 g warm water
2 1/4 t yeast
60 g honey
33 g soft butter or oil
2 t salt
60 g Whole-wheat flour
130 g rolled oats
80 g oat or wheat bran
340 g bread or all-purpose white flour (plus a little more if needed)
Optional:  about 100 g pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

Makes two standard loaves

Make the poolish:  combine the ingredients in the mixing bowl you will use for the dough  (e.g., a KitchenAid bowl) and mix with a spoon until thoroughly combined.  Cover and let sit for 12-24 hours.

Make the dough:  If you are using instant yeast (the kind that doesn't need to be dissolved in liquid), you will add it with the first batch of dry ingredients.  If you are using regular active dry yeast, you will mix it into the wet ingredients at the beginning.

To the fermented poolish, add the water, honey, butter or oil, and salt (and non-instant yeast).  Stir to combine.

Add the whole-wheat flour, rolled oats, and bran (and instant yeast).  Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.

Add the white flour, and knead for 4 to 5 minutes (using medium setting on a stand mixer).  The dough should be a little sticky, but hold together as a mass.  Add a little more flour if it is really sticking to the walls of the bowl. If adding pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, add them to the dough and knead for until combined.

Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover.  Let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled.

Grease two standard loaf pans (5" x 9").

Punch down the dough and shape into two loaves.  Place them in the prepared loaf pans.  Cover and let rise for 45-60 minutes.  Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven.  During the last 30 minutes (45 minutes if using a pizza stone or bricks), preheat the oven to 375 F.

Make 2-3 cross-slashes or one longitudinal slash on the loaf just before baking.

Place the loaf pan on the rack.  If using a pizza stone or brick, place the loaf pan directly on the stone.  Bake for about 45 minutes, rotating the pans half-way through.

Image Credits:  Little Americans poster from the U.S. National Archives in the Flickr Commons, ca. 1918, public domain;  Lincoln Oat advertisement from "Garden flower and field seeds 1902" viaInternet Archive Book Images in the Flickr Commons, public domain.

Random link from the archive:  Coffee Storage:  Which Method is Best?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

World War 1 Cookbooks that Supported Efforts on the Homefront

WW1 poster: Defeat the Kaiser and His U-Boats
U.S. War Administration poster
One of the items on the special whale meat luncheon from 1918 was "Delmonico War Bread." It was not defined in the newspaper article because most readers in 1918 were quite familiar with the concept of "war bread."  The massive destruction in lands of the United States' allies — the Triple Entente of France, Russia and the United Kingdom — created major agricultural shortfalls, and so the U.S. made it a national priority to export more grain, which meant eating less wheat at home.

While working on the whale meat post I happened upon a few cookbooks from the era that show food and cooking attitudes of the time.  Two of the books were produced by commercial enterprises (coincidentally helping the war effort and possibly improving their bottom line) and a third was written by a local service organization. Each book lays out the goals of the war effort and presents recipes that can fulfill those goals. The category of "war bread" receives a lot of attention, as home bread baking was much more popular in those days.  

Cover of Forty-Four Ways to Win the War: Marshall Field & CompanyA Department Store Shows 44 Ways (and Products that Can Help)
Chicago's legendary (but now gone) Marshall Field and Company produced Forty-Four Ways to Win the War (full text at the Hathi Trust) to help the domestic war effort.  They also had an office on the third floor of the main store in Chicago that was called "Our War Service Bureau."  In this office, staff would help those who wished to offer civilian service to their country, basically connecting enthusiastic people with organizations that needed help (I wonder if they also had a similar office during World War 2?).

Each page of the book is headed by recommendation and some relevant facts, The middle of the page has one or more recipes, and bottom of the page has a product available at Marshall Field that can help, like a bread mixer, toaster, or waffle maker ("For those Sunday morning waffles, deliciously crisp and golden, made from truly patriotic barley flour").  Here are few that I liked or thought relevant to today's situation (these are direct quotes, with quotation marks omitted for clarity):
  • Have one wheatless meal each day — Our normal export of 88,000,000 bushels of wheat must be increased to 220,000,000 bushels. It can only be done in one way: economizing and substituting.
  • Mix other grains with wheat in bread — we have play of corn, but only Italy has corn mills and corn meal can't be shipped as well as wheat
  • Use less fried foods and save fats — Fats have become very scarce. The importation of oils from Africa, South America and Asia has almost entirely ceased
  • Local Foods Avoid Transportation — We must export more
  • Study New Dishes from Plentiful Foods — If we will save one ounce of meat per person per day we can send our Allies and our own Army what they need 
  • Use Tact in Suggesting Table Changes — Daily service in 20,000,000 kitchens, multiplied by 100,000,000 individuals will save that total quantity necessary
  • Preach the 'Gospel of the Clean Plate' — Patriotism and food! Winning a world war by eating corn and chicken instead of wheat and beef!
I'm certainly not the only one to see the relevance of WW1 posters in today's food system.  Two recent posts with the same idea are one from Lloyd Alter at Treehugger (especially posters 3, 21 and 24) and another from the Grist staff at Grist.

Detail from Forty-Four Ways to Win the War
Detail from Forty-Four Ways to Win the War
Many pages in the book call out cookware that would be useful in the recipes in the book — like the image to the right — and, of course, mention that it can be found at Marshall Field  Being someone who believes in "scale power" in the kitchen, I'm particularly taken by the connection between waste reduction and weighing:  "Never have we so much needed weights and measures in the kitchen as in these thrifty war days, when an ounce of waste equals a pound of sacrifice..."

Civilians with War Breads and Meat Replacements
The "Win the War" Cook Book was a collaborative effort by a civilian group, the St. Louis county unit, Woman's Committee, of the Council of National Defense (1918, full text at Hathi Trust).  It has some interesting ideas and notes.

Detail from the "Win the War" Cook Book, St. Louis County Council of National Defense
Detail from the "Win the War" Cook Book
The book has a few war breads:  
  • A barley bread with 33% substitution (by volume):  2 1/3 cups white flour and 1 1/6 cups barley flour
  • A buckwheat bread with 62.5% substitution: 1 1/2 cups white and 2 1/2 cups buckwheat flour.  On a whim, I tried this and was not happy with the results.  It was an exceptionally wet dough — almost like a cake batter — and turned out to be quite dense and with an unpleasant bitterness
  • A corn meal yeast bread with 22% substitution:  2 1/2 cups white flour and 2/3 cup corn meal
  • An oatmeal bread with somewhat more than 26%:  7 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup corn meal, and "3 cups hot oatmeal mush" 
Many of the bread recipes are written for home bakers with solid grasp of bread baking technique because they don't have wheat flour in the ingredient list, but instead specify "whole wheat flour to make a soft dough," "enough flour to make a sponge," "flour to make dough."  In other words, if you are using this recipe, you should know what a proper bread dough looks like.  Although that might be useful advice for your peace-time bread that contains solely white flour, a dough made with that contains steamed squash might behave quite differently, so the instruction might not be sufficient.  

After the baked goods section, the book focuses on reducing meat consumption (note that meat = beef, mutton and pork), with a progression through legumes, nuts, dairy, fish and fish, finally ending up with recipes that stretch meat or use scraps.The recipe collection includes some items that seem quite more modern than 1918 — more like 1968 — such as soy bean croquettes (soy beans, cooked rice, onions, pickle, egg), soy bean souffle (soy beans, milk, egg yolks, stiff egg whites), peanut loaf (bean pulp, tomato, eggs, peanuts, bread crumbs), and mock chickens (mashed beans alternated with a "stuffing of bread crumbs, melted fat, sage and seasoning"), and a "horticultural loaf" (beans with pimentos, bread crumbs, tomato puree, egg yolks, stiffly beaten egg whites, baked in a bread tin).

A Baking Powder Company Offers Recipes
In How to Use Corn Meal, Oat Meal, Barley, Buckwheat, Potatoes, Rice, etc., and Save Wheat Flour:  Best War Time Recipes (full text at the Hathi Trust), the Royal Baking Powder Company wanted to showcase recipes for quick breads that have reduced levels of white flour, and of course, baking powder as the leavening agent.  There are only a few recipes called "bread," with the most normal-looking recipes using white flour to make up only 1/4 or 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  For example, the Oatmeal Bread has 1 cup white flour, 1 1/2 cups corn meal, and 1 1/2 cups cooked rolled oats as the main dry ingredients.  There are a few breads that don't look very promising to me, like a Prune Bread with 2 1/2 cups wheat, rye or barley flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 1 cup prunes (rehydrated and chopped fine), 1 tablespoon shortening, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 teaspoons baking powder (Royal brand, of course).  I'm guessing that it's very dense.

A War Bread in a Modern Cookbook
It turns out that one of my favorite one-day breads from a modern cookbook could be called a war bread, as it has a substitution rate of more than 25% (by weight) through use of rolled oats, oat bran, and whole wheat flour (the Oat Bread in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.  In a future post, I'll provide my current recipe, which has some improvements over the original.

WW1 Education through Audio
If you want an in-depth explanation of what was happening in the royal palaces, in parliaments, and on the battlefield and during World War 1, I highly recommend Dan Carlin's Hardcore History series "Blueprint for Armageddon."  It's detailed, delivered with enthusiasm, and very informative.  Parts I through IV have been released and reach up to late 1916 (the Battle of the Somme), with a running time of 3 - 4 hours per episode.  BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle has a collection of short programs (~6 minutes each) about the home front in the UK and Ireland that are available from iTunes and other podcast services. 

Image credits
First:  "Defeat the Kaiser..." poster, United States Food Administration, ca. 1914-1918, public domain.  Downloaded from the University of North Texas Digital Library.  Second:  cover of Forty-Four Ways to Win the War, Marshall Field & Co., ca. 1918, public domain, downloaded from Hathi Trust.  Third:  detail from bottom of page 9 of Forty-Four Ways to Win the War.  Fourth:  page 6 from "Win the War" Cook Book, St. Louis county unit, Woman's Committee, Council of National Defense, Missouri division, 1918, public domain, downloaded from Hathi Trust.

Random link from the archive:   Introducing the depluminator

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A “Conservation Luncheon” in 1918 featured whale meat

If you follow the restaurant scene and food events in your area, you will frequently see menus or special dinners concentrating on sustainable seafood, like local salmon, sardines, "trash fish", or the new harvest of dungeness crab.  Or, if you read recent Clover-Stornetta milk cartons, you'll see that the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions event is happening this weekend, and one of the main themes will be how our dining choices can help or harm ocean life.

You won't see a menu like the one that appeared in February 1918, during World War One.  If you were part of the right crowd in New York City that year, you might have gotten an invitation to a "conservation luncheon" at the American Museum of Natural History, with cooking by the head chef of the legendary Delmonico’s Restaurant.  The featured ingredient:  whale meat.  Yes, whale meat, a food that is a “‘delicious a morsel’ as the most aesthetic or sophisticated palate could possibly yearn for,” according to Federal Food Administrator Arthur William, as reported in an article in the February 9, 1918 New York Times. (The full text of the article is included after the break.)

The luncheon menu featured whale meat prepared using several different methods, as well as the dishes of the day:
Hors d'Oeuvre -- Whale.
Whale pot au feu.
Celery. Olives. Radishes.
Corn pone. Nut butter. Delmonico war bread.
Boiled skate. Mustard sauce.
Parsley potatoes.
Planked whale steak, a la Vancouver.
Border of sanip. Onion sauce.
Vegetable salad.
Ice cream. Bisque of black bread,
a la Delmonico.
Ginger bread with raw sugar.  Coffee.

The guests were impressed, saying that it tasted like venison or beef pot roast.

(I’m a little intrigued by the bisque of black bread, a la Delmonico, which might be a sweet item since it is listed next to ice cream, possibly some kind of bread pudding?  Perhaps there is a Delmonico’s cookbook with the recipe somewhere...)

The 1918 Context for “Conservation”
It’s important to note that the word “conservation” doesn’t have the same meaning as it would today – the organizers weren’t so interested in conserving the wild population of whales, but rather in reducing the quantity of food needed in wartime America so that exports to Europe could be maximized.  To illustrate this point, the same page contained four short articles about the food saving:
  1. A member of the U.S. Food Administration “asks the rich to set an example in saving” because food production had dropped by 45-50% in England and by 60% in France.
  2. Senator Smoot (R-UT) suggested that all Americans observe a “fast day” during which two meals are skipped. Smoot said, “We have in our own country a food administration asking our people to observe meatless days, wheatless days, porkless days, and to stop the waste of all kinds of food…If every American citizen would abstain from eating two meals upon that fast day the health of one hundred million Americans would be benefited and, further, we would have more of the necessaries of life to send to the people of Europe, now compelled to live on the shortest of rations.”
  3. The Food Administration will be sending experts on tours to teach bakers and grain millers about “Victory Bread,” a family of loaves that use less wheat than a standard loaf via substitution of oats and other grains.  (Note the presence of "Delmonico war bread" in the menu above. has a recipe for War Bread that might fit into this category since it has plenty of oats.)
  4. Food Administrator (and future president) Herbert Hoover decrees that American soldiers en route by ship to the battlefields in France will need to comply with regulations that specify wheatless, meatless and porkless days.
The Food Administration was a government agency in charge of the national effort to save food and produced many booklets and posters, like the poster above, a poster calling on Americans to “Be patriotic – sign your country’s pledge to save food” and a list of six short rules for eating that are quite relevant to today’s food discussions (more on this poster at Vox and in links provided in the Twitterverse).

The Praises of Whale Meat
In the next day's edition, the Times published a rather skeptical review of the whale meat luncheon (full text is below the break). Sure, they write, these worldly and adventurous diners will rave about whale meat at a special luncheon prepared by an expert chef, but what about the average home cook (who they call Bridget -- perhaps this name had a meaning to readers)? And anyway, this wasn't anything really new: "There was the Ichthyaphagus Club, a generation ago, formed to promote the eating of inedible fishes. The Bureau of Fisheries began to boom whale last Summer, and it seems to be a fact that whale meat has been sold in the fish markets of Seattle and Portland." They conclude, "A little whale will probably go a long way until its merits are appreciated."

Another Meaning of "Conservation"
One major omission from both the article and the editorial was any consideration that popularizing whale meat might decimate their populations.  By the year 1918, whaling ships were mechanized, with powerful engines that enabled hunting of the fastest whales and extra-deadly explosive-tipped harpoons. With the rapid pace of technological development that was occurring between the wars -- bigger ships, more powerful engines, on-board refrigeration, to name a few -- whales wouldn't have had a chance if there was major market demand.  By 1931, the whalers were so numerous and effective that in that year alone, "the modern industry killed more than 10 percent as many whales as the American industry had destroyed in the entire nineteenth century. Well over 1,000,000 whales were captured between 1904 and 1978, compared with something over 350,000 during the nineteenth century." (quote from In Pursuit of Leviathan: Technology, Institutions, Productivity, and Profits in American Whaling, 1816-1906, chapter 15. Full text available from the National Bureau of Economic Research)

I haven't investigated how much additional effort the Food Administration put into their whale project, but whatever they tried it didn't make whale meat a mass-market food, as this quip from the July 22, 1918 "Pen Points" column in the Los Angeles Times hints:

What finally became of that scheme for everybody to eat whale meat?

I first read about the whale luncheon in Eric Jay Dolin’s Leviathan: The History of Whaling In America, a fascinating book about an industry that was critical to the United States becoming an industrial power. The chapters about the golden age of whaling are especially compelling.

Image credit:  United States Food Administration poster, 1918, public domain.  Downloaded from the University of North Texas Digital Library.

Random link from the archive: Introducing the depluminator