July 22, 2014

Why is it Called an Egg Roll if There is No Egg in it? Chinese Egg Roll 1917: Historical Food Fortnightly, Challenge 4

If you are like me, you might have sat in your favorite Chinese restaurant and ate an egg roll only to ponder why it has such an unusual name. After all, there is no egg in it. I had always assumed they used egg to make the dough and that's why it was called an egg roll. It turns out some recipes use eggs for the wrapper but plenty don't. For those of you new to egg rolls, egg rolls are cabbage and meat filled pockets wrapped in dough and fried. 

Egg Rolls are a strictly Chinese- American meal and no one knows who invented them but two Chinese- Americans have taken credit for popularizing them. There isn't an equivalent dish back in china but modern egg rolls are very much like spring rolls which are meat and vegetables wrapped in a thin rice paper wrapper.

Another possible origin for the misnomer could be a dish called "Dan Gun" or Egg Roll. In 1917, a Chinese American Cookbook was published with a dish that was vegetables and meat literally wrapped up in an egg and sliced. This type of an egg roll was also mentioned in a 1921 issue of Good Health. In 1943 in a pamphlet entitled Two Bells, the 1917 recipe was reprinted as an example of a dish that could be made from produce from a victory garden. Was it possible that the name stuck even though the wrapper didn't? We will probably never know. What we do know is that the dough wrapped version popped up sometime in the 1930s.

So for this Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge, I've made the traditional Dan Gun.

The Challenge: Foreign Foods

The Recipe: 

The Date/Year and Region:
1917, New York

How Did You Make It:


- 3 Eggs
-  Dried reconstituted Mushrooms
- Bean Sprouts
- Thick Slice of Ham
- Piece of Chicken
-Sesame Oil


Slice mushrooms, ham and chicken in long slices. Add sesame seed oil to skillet on medium heat. Fry the bean sprouts, ham, chicken and mushrooms for around 5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the food and cook until the water is gone, make sure to stir once the water is low to prevent burning. Once cooked, set aside to let cool.  Scramble the eggs. Grease a small skillet with the sesame oil and place on low heat. Add a few tablespoons of egg and tilt the pan around until you have a thin layer of egg. Cook until done, remove and let cool. Once cool put a thin layer of bean sprouts and meat on the entire egg and roll up. Cut into slices and add sauce. I used the sauce as a glue for the roll instead of raw egg.  

Time to Complete:
30 Minutes

Total Cost:

How Successful Was It?:
It tasted good but I didn't have any knives sharp enough to cut the rolls perfectly straight. I would eat something similar to this again. I would probably add nappa cabbage and bamboo shoots.

How Accurate Is It?: I don't eat meat, I used a meat substitute. I also used a store bought sauce as I had it on hand. There is a sauce recipe in another part the book.

July 18, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 24

 “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” ― Henry James

June and July are always tough months to post in because everyone is busy. With my computer acting up and numerous storms and power outages, this post is extremely late. Although this post is very late, I'll be breaking it up so there aren't 30 photos in one post. I've been keeping busy.  



Going through an intense cleaning and purging month.


Learning basket weaving. It's a lot of fun.


In the market for some huge light bulbs.


Went for a walk and saw this snake on the road. Maybe an Eastern  Milksnake?


Finally saw the new calf.




Cream from the cow at the farm, being graciously held by Caldecott Honor winning author, Anne Isaacs who flew from California to do research for a new book. She took on the full Colonial experience, wearing the clothing, doing the chores and sleeping in an outbuilding.   


Tiny feast for the work campers.


Went to the Rockwood Ice Cream Festival with Barrel of Makers. 



Geese have good PR. In real life, they are scary, scary birds.


Made this cute little change purse out of Forbes magazine pages.


Crazy, windy storm.


Storm and power outage all night. Sat outside in the rain under the tent in the back yard with my dad and sister. We listened to the Cold Mountain soundtrack and watched the lightning bugs in the rain. It was the best night I've had in a long time.


Took some photos for my sister to showcase the new cosplay costume she is making.

July 5, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge 3: Farina Pudding Recipe, Served to the Wounded after the Battle of Gettysburg

This was a hard challenge to do. I had a feeling everyone was going to pick a Gettysburg food or an Independence Day food so I wanted to do something a little different. I thought of doing something from Vicksburg as it was falling around the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg was occurring in the north. However, as the meals were extremely meager in Vicksburg, I didn't think that a rat or bit of mule would be appetizing in the least or fun to cook.

I was incredibly moved from reading accounts about the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. Many are familiar with the 3 days of battle but what happened next is truly at the heart of the event. Women poured in from different parts of the country to administer aid and what they recorded was horrific. They noted the smell of rotting horses. The screams and cries of the wounded and family members wandering the fields in an attempt to find the bodies or graves of missing loved ones. They wrote of the many men that they met and the ones they cared for one day who were gone the next. There were over 27,000 wounded men after the battle, more than 7,000 killed and 10,000 missing. The magnitude of the battle is hard to fathom, it is harder still to imagine what remained after the armies left.   

Farina was mentioned in many accounts from nurses and ladies of the Sanitary Commission. They were most likely just adding water or milk to the farina and heating it to make a gruel that would feed many, be nourishing and easy to eat and digest for the wounded. I chose to make a farina pudding as plain farina is so simple it doesn't require a recipe. The recipe I used a farina pudding recipe that I found in a hospital manual.

The Challenge: 

Today in History June 29 - July 12
Make a dish based on or inspired by a momentous occasion that took place on the day you made it. Get creative - you would be surprised by all the interesting things that happened every single day!

The Recipe:  

The Date/Year and Region:
1861-1863 Pennsylvania

How Did You Make It:


-1/4 cup Farina (Cream of Wheat)
-3 cups Milk
-Sugar to Taste

Instructions:  Add milk and farina to double boiler. Boil until it clumps together and pour it into a greased mold being careful as it is very hot. Cool the mold off in a large bowl full of ice. Once cool, turn over the mold to release the pudding and top with sugar.   

Time to Complete:
15 Minutes

Total Cost:
About $4.00

How Successful Was It?:The pudding did not turn out as smooth as I thought it would. It might have had a smoother appearance if I boiled it in the mold. It tasted good but a little bland as hospital food is known.

How Accurate Is It?: I forgot to use a double boiler so it only took a few minutes to cook instead of having to boil it for 45 minutes. Even using a double boiler, I don't think it would take 45 minutes to cook.

An Excerpt from a letter to J. Huelings in Moorestown, New Jersey from a Nurse in Gettysburg on July 16, 1863:

"The atmosphere is truly horrible, and camphor and cologne or smelling salts are prime necessaries for most persons, certainly for the ladies. We think that diminutive bags of camphor, say an inch square, would be a great comfort to the soldiers, relieving them in some measure from the ever-present odors.

 We rode in an ambulance to the hospital of the Second Corps. The sights and the sounds beggar description. There is great need of bandages. Almost every man has lost either an arm or a leg. The groans, the cries, the shrieks of anguish, are awful indeed to hear. We heard them all day in the field, and last night I buried my head in my pillow to shut out the sounds which reached us, from a church quite near, where the wounded are lying. 

We could only try to hear as though we heard not, for it requires strong effort to be able to attend to the various calls for aid. The condensed milk is invaluable. The corn-starch, farina, and milk punch are eagerly partaken of, and a cup of chocolate is greatly relished. A poor fellow with a broken jaw seemed to appeal, though mutely, for special attention. I beat up quickly two or three eggs, adding a spoonful of brandy and a cup of scalding hot milk, which he managed to draw through his scarcely opened lips, and at once seemed revived. The Union soldiers and the rebels, so long at variance, are here quite friendly. They have fought their last battle, and vast numbers are going daily to meet the King of Terrors."

June 24, 2014

The Right Way to Cut a Cake

There's been a trend lately where random people on the internet like to tell you've been doing 'X' wrong all of these years and there's some revolutionary trick to it that you've been missing. Some people have dubbed these "life hacks" but I've seen a lot of these and tend to think a better descriptor might be "solutions to problems you didn't even know you had."

 For instance, people on my facebook newsfeed alerted me that I have been cutting cherry tomatoes wrong all of this time. The technique may look fancy, but in reality it would probably take me a lot less time just to cut them by hand, using a smaller knife and it is very unlikely I'd ever use this technique.

But recently I saw a video about Sir Francis Galton's theory on the most efficient way to cut a cake using scientific principles. Apparently this was a personal problem, as he and his niece shared a small cake every few days. It seems like a viable solution in a time before plastic wrap.

Galton is known as one of the fathers of race eugenics but is also responsible for a number of brilliant inventions such as the modern fingerprinting system. He was a half-cousin of Charles Darwin and inspired by his work. I doubt he had any idea that his cake theory would make such a stir 100 years after he published it. 

June 20, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 23

This week has been a little strange for me. We are in between managers at one of my jobs so things have been a little abnormal around here. One fantastic thing is that I had more time off than I normally do. I want to take a moment to thank everyone for all the nice emails I've been receiving due to the Historical Food Fortnightly and other recent posts. It is so fantastic to have such awesome and supportive readers.


My family got a dog named Gibbs. I'm really not used to puppy rambunctiousness.


I have never done a cake like this before but think it turned out nice. I liked their concept.  It was for a bridal shower.


Helped Andy look at cars. He's still trying to replace his car after that accident. We were supposed to take a friend to the airport up there but they ended up taking an earlier flight so we killed some time at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. It's a smaller zoo but has one really neat thing that the zoos around here don't have: American Bison! 

Had a large quantity of of spoiled cream. Turned into nice butter.


Did you all see that national proclamation from the president?  I celebrated the newly formed national day of making by attending "National Day of Making--Afternoon in the Park" with Barrel of Makers.

We drew the scenery, played with some ducks and had a wonderful picnic style dinner.

Another week passed! I can't believe how fast this year has flown. 

June 16, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: 1700s Mushroom Ketchup

I'm very excited for challenge 2 of the Historical Food Fortnightly. It was so much fun seeing all of the delicious dishes from the first challenge. If you haven't seen them, there's an awesome facebook group where all of the photos are posted. 

The Challenge: Soups and Sauces June 15 - June 28
Soups, stews, sauces, gravies! Make a soup or a sauce from a historical recipe.

The Recipe:

Mushroom ketchup was something I've been wanting to make for a long time. I love the fact that this was a common sauce so different from the ketchup we use today. In the early 1700s, ketchup was introduced to English explorers by the people of Singapore and Malaysia. Originally a sauce for fish, ketchup was made out of walnuts, oysters or mushrooms and was similar to soy sauce. The English expanded the use of the sauce and it became popular for fish and meat dishes. 

The Date/Year and Region: 1796 London

How Did You Make It:


- 16 oz Mushrooms, chopped
- Handful of Salt
- 5 Shallots, chopped in large pieces, stuck with cloves
- Small knot of Fresh Ginger, chopped
- 2 Garclic cloves, chopped
- Few pieces of Mace
- Bay Leaf


Clean mushrooms by wiping the tops with a cloth, rinsing them will dilute the ketchup. Place in a stewpan on low heat with the salt until there is a good deal of liquid, be sure to cover the pan. Remove from heat, let cool and strain the mushrooms using a cloth. Squeeze out the remaining juice. Put the juice back on the burner and add the shallots, garlic, mace, bay leaf, ginger  and boil the mixture for a minute and then turn down the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Drain again and bottle.  

Time to Complete: 

About an hour. If I was to do this again I would let the mushrooms steep before cooking for a night or two like some other recipes suggest.  

Total Cost: About $8.00 but would have been much cheaper if I had had time to go to the produce market instead of the grocery store.

How Successful Was It?: This tasted much better than I thought it would. I'm actually confused as to why this went out of style. It's delicious. 

How Accurate Is It?:  Fairly accurate. I ended up just adding all of the ingredients at the beginning and stewed and strained them together. I also covered the pot although the instructions didn't specify so this may be thinner than intended, although when checked with other sources and recipes, it seems that mushroom ketchup was liquidy and mushroom gravy was thicker.

June 13, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 22

This is a very nature oriented post. I spent a lot of time outside, even though we've had a lot of rain. I suggest everyone get out at least a little bit these next few days. I've been trying to get together all of the stuff I need for the next Historical Food Fortnightly challenge.   


It's my birthday so Andy and I took a walk in the park. We only had a few minutes before it was going to be dark and rainy but the clouds were very beautiful.

Some visiting horses came to the farm to plow the fields as one of our horses is to old to plow and the other is just learning.  This was very cool to see.


Under the crab apple trees. Can't wait to try to make crab apple cider in the fall.


Experimenting with my camera.



These storms are starting to become a regular thing.

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