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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lobster a l'United States

The recipe for Lobster à l'United States in The Captain's Table : 18 recipes for famous dishes served aboard the S.S. United States and S.S. America is preceded by a portrait of a happy couple with the following caption:

'Months after a recent trip abroad, we were still savoring the memory of Lobster à l'United States served on board the S.S. United States. On our next crossing, we asked the Maitre d' for the recipe. Here it is--just the way M. de la Motte wrote it out for us.' Colonel and Mrs. Leon Mandel, well-known Chicago financier and woman's world shotgun champion, respectively, have made 20 crossings on United States Lines.

Here is that recipe:

Lobster à l'United States

Crack the claws and cut the tails of two 1-1/2 pound live lobsters into thick slices. Reserve the rest of the lobsters for another use. In a flame-proof casserole sauté 1 carrot, 1 leek, 1 stalk of celery and 2 shallots, all finely chopped in 2 tablespoons clarified butter for 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the lobster pieces and add grated lemon rind, paprika, cayenne and salt to taste. Cover the casserole and bake the mixture in a very hot oven (450° F) for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and put it over high heat to reduce the remaining liquid. Pour 3 tablespoons heated brandy over the lobster and ignite the spirit. When the flames die dust the lobster with 3 tablespoons flour and stir in 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Add 4 cups chicken stock, bring it to a boil, and cook the mixture, covered, over very low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup heated heavy cream. Remove the casserole from the heat and sprinkle it with chopped truffles and fines herbes. Stir 1/4 cup sherry and serve the lobster with saffron rissoto (rice) or croutons. Serves 4.

And you can see the March 2, 1954 menu from the S.S. United States when this dish was served, along with kangaroo tail soup, at the New York Public Library's What's on the Menu collection.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012



Every ship under steam, and indeed, under sail,
Overtaking another is never to fail
To alter her course in order to steer
Quite clear of the other when drawing too near.

Another instructive rhyme from Nautical Nursery Rhymes, by Billy Ringbolt, which resides in the Peterson, Peter H. (Capt.) Papers, (SAFR 18665, HDC 571).

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

From dandyfunk to cracker jack?

Among the treasures in the Library's Krummes Collection of Steamship Fiction are selected issues of rare pulp magazines such as Adventure, containing maritime stories and poetry. Not all of these stories are fiction; some are memoirs by sailors-turned-authors, and in cataloging them, I'm learning a lot. (Since many of these stories are written by noted authors and never reprinted, we decided to create individual cataloging records for each maritime story, poem, or article, so they would be easier to locate, and so far I've created cataloging records for the issues we hold of Adventure magazine from 1919 through mid-1930.) One such memoir is Norman Springer's "Dandyfunk," which describes fondly the "lost and forgotten art" of how Old Donald made dandyfunk at sea. He is careful to delineate the proper steps in making dandyfunk, and to distinguish it from cracker hash, which anyone could make. The ingredients are listed in great detail:

  • hardtack placed in a dandyfunk bag which was laid on the iron anchor stock and beaten with a blub, oaken belaying pin, or heavy sheet pin, and emptied onto a plate
  • water, "not too much and not too little" added to the heap of crumbs and carefully stirred
  • and other ingredients added, "everything a hungry man could lay hands upon that looked edible."

Although sugar and molasses are mentioned, and he calls it a "candy-sweet, greasy, lead-heavy sailors' delight," Springer doesn't state just what in fact it is--a pudding? A cake? A casserole? A big cookie?

Basil Lubbock in Round the Horn Before the Mast says that dandyfunk is a mixture between a cake and a pudding, and in Warren Harper's article, "Housekeeping on the High Seas" (in the Boston Cooking-School Magazine vol. 8, no. 10, May 1904), we learn on p. 483 that dandyfunk a kind of deep-sea gingerbread. Sounds tasty! But in Saltwater foodways : New Englanders and their food, at sea and ashore, in the nineteenth century, Sandra Oliver introduces her recipe on p. 116-117 by saying, "I don't know why you would want to make this, but here is an adapted recipe in case you do." The ingredients she lists are simply 1 piece of hardtack, 1 tablespoon of shortening, and 2 tablespoons molasses.

This version does not sound as appetizing, and doesn't sound like a "sailors' delight." Clearly, somewhere between "everything a hungry man could lay hands upon that looked edible" and the simplicity of Oliver's recipe is what Springer says "was something to remember and dream over." So how can we capture the taste of a dandyfunk today?

If you contact us, we can get a copy of Oliver's recipe to you as a starting point (as well as a hardtack recipe). Many sailors' snacks took advantage of hardtack and molasses, including midshipman's nuts, which is described in the Encyclopedia of Nautical Knowledge as made of broken up sea-biscuit and raisins, so maybe your dandyfunk would benefit from raisins. How about peanuts? Robert McKenna's Dictionary of Nautical Literacy does not have an entry for dandyfunk, but tells us in the entry for Cracker Jack, "The combination of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts is believed to have been inspired by a number of sea dishes, including 'crackerjack,' a combination of preserved meat and broken biscuits, and 'dandyfunk,' a mixture of broken biscuits and molasses."

Could a taste of Cracker Jack hint at the dandyfunk of yesteryear? I have to say, I'm not sure. McKenna does not cite any sources for his assertion, and the Oxford English Dictionary says that the term "cracker jack" as a culinary term (definition 2) dates in print to only 1902 when it was mentioned in the Sears catalog. (And the OED does not mention any link between dandyfunk and cracker jack in its entry for dandyfunk.)

What do you think? Have you made dandyfunk? Would you like to? We'd like to hear from you if you do! And if you come across any more information on dandyfunk, please let me know.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Digging for Gold at the Library: Howard Pease

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

In a research library such as ours, fiction books are sometimes overlooked. Of course fiction is often mined for academic and research purposes (a quick check of WorldCat shows over 1,000 books about Moby Dick alone--that's a whole lotta whale), but let's not forget the pleasure of simply just reading for readings sake a good rousing tale of mystery or adventure. One of the most beloved fiction authors in our library is Howard Pease. Anyone who reads a Howard Pease book usually ends up reading two, then three and well, so on and so forth. I like to call it "The Policy of Apeasment", but only quietly to myself lest I face the moans of a bad pun. Pease wrote his books mainly for a juvenile audience, but his sense of narrative and powers of description appeal to adults as well. Titles such as Jinx Ship, The Tattooed Man, and the Ship Without a Crew speak to his ability to pull a reader into the story. Who wouldn't want to read a book entitled Shipwreck; the strange adventures of Renny Mitchum, mess boy of the trading schooner "Samarang."


Cover of The Tattooed Man

Cover of book Heart of Danger

Our library has over 20 Howard Pease books, including one in Danish, so there is enough here to keep you going for a while. Howard Pease fan extraordinaire Dan Glines has compiled a list of all of Pease's book with descriptions of the plots to make it easier to pick one to start, Books by author Howard Pease reviewed, which is available in the Library, as is the thesis A study of the creative genesis of the twenty-two published children's novels by Howard Pease.

Start your descent into Peasemania today!

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