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Translating recipes for Modern America  

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Welcome to ChefTalk Leslie!

The 20th century saw huge changes in the very way the world and especially Americans cook. For thousands of years, we all cooked over live fire. Now, I dare, say, most Americans wouldn't know where to begin with live-fire cooking and baking, other than to grill a steak or burger. So, did you find trying to translate recipes and foods, originally meant for live-fire cooking, to a world of modern stoves and ovens difficult? How did you develop your recipes? First by cooking them as the Corps would have and then translating them into modern methods or were the concepts just developed and then created directly for modern kitchens?
post #2 of 8
Dear Pete,

To my surprise, through my research I found that the late 18th and early 19th centuries saw dramatic changes in the kitchens of America and Europe. The Franklin stove was developed in 1787 by Benjamin Franklin, and was later improved upon with the Rumford oven which was invented by an American in 1789. So prized was this oven in Europe that the inventor was granted an honorary title "Baron Rumford" by the court of Bavaria. This oven, was revolutionary in that by using flues, dampers and metal plates it allowed the heat of the fire within to be contained and then adjusted in temperature. This became the standard after which all following stoves were patterned. Also, the concept of sauteing was developed in France at this time because suddenly there were hot surfaces upon which pans could be placed, surfaces which were flat and which could be controlled in temperature. All at once, the doors to modern cooking methods were suddenly thrown open. Jefferson brought the first waffle iron to the states, and he introduced ice cream baked under meringue (later called Baked Alaska) which became the vogue at the finest tables,

I do have a crane mounted in my open-hearth fireplace, and I have cooked my share of beans and stews on a tripod over smoky open fires, but first and foremost I wanted this book to be accessible to modern cooks who rarely have to battle mosquitos, smoke and wet firewood. We are so lucky now not to have to adjust flues and keep our kindling dry. The recipes in The Lewis and Clark Cookbook were all known to cooks of Jefferson's era.

As much as we all wish we could cook over an open fire to recreate these actual recipes and tastes, I wanted to adapt them to modern kitchens so we can all taste the foods of America in the early 1800's.

post #3 of 8
I am very interested in "antique" recipes and collect cookbooks from the early to mid 1800's. I've never gotten a good equivalent of what a "fast" or "slow" oven is.

Can you help?
post #4 of 8
Dear Nancya,

It can be difficult converting old cryptic recipes to what will work in todays kitchens. Following is for oven temperatures.


Very slow oven below 300 degrees F.
Slow oven 300 degrees F.
Moderately slow oven 325 degrees F.
Moderate oven 350 degrees F.
Moderately hot oven 375 degrees F.
Quick oven 375 - 400 degrees F.
Hot oven 400-425 degrees F.
Very hot oven 450-475 degrees F.
Extremely hot oven 500 degrees F. or more
post #5 of 8
Thanks, Nancy. I have a replica Williamsburg cookbook which uses these terms and others that I could only guess at. For instance, liquid measures are given as sherry glasses, teacups, etc. I suppose nonstandard measures weren't too perplexing for a culture that also had non-standard spelling! (Sorry, that's the teacher in me creeping out....)
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post #6 of 8
Thank you very much Leslie! That helps a lot. It gives me a much better idea of at least where to start.

Yes Mezz, the non-standard measures are a challenge...the unfamiliar ingredients are entertaining also. I am still uncertain about "pounded" sugar.
post #7 of 8
Dear Nancya and Mezzaluna,

Following are a few more measurements that may be helpful. I am not certain but I think that pounded sugar is powdered sugar.


1 wineglass = 1/4 cup
1 jigger = 1.5 fluid ounces
1 gill = 1/2 cup
1 teacup = a scant 3/4 cup
1 coffeecup = a scant cup
1 tumbler = 1 cup
1 saltspoon =1/4 teaspoon
1 kitchen spoon = 1 teaspoon
1 dessert spoon = 2 teaspoons
1 soupspoon = 2 teaspoons
1 spoonful = 1 tablespoon
1 saucer = 1 heaping cup
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
sounds almost as bad as when I right recipes for my cooks!!
1 kitchen spoon
1 soup spoon
1 service spoon
1 souffle cup
1 silver bullet
1 ramekin
:D :D :D
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