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Green Granny’s Leftovers

Bread Pudding

A nice pudding may be made of bits of bread.  They should be crumbled and soaked in milk over night.  In the morning, beat up three eggs with it, add a little salt, tie it up in a bag, or in a pan that will exclude every drop of water, and boil it little more than an hour.  No pudding should be put into the pot, till the water boils.  Bread prepared int he same way makes good plum-puddings.  Milk enough to make it quite soft; four eggs; a little cinnamon; a spoonfu of rose-water, or lemon-brandy, if you have it; a tea-cupful of molasses, or sugar to your taste, if you prefer it; a few dry, clean raisins, sprinkled in, and stirred up thoroughly, is all that is necessary.  It should bake or boil two hours. 

--The American Frugal Housewife

Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy

By Mrs. Child,

Twelfth edition, Boston, 1833


Frugality is the buzz word these days.  So I’m sharing a recipe from my favorite frugal housewife of all time, Lydia Maria Child.  (For modernized version of this recipe, follow the jump.) She was a novelist and abolitionist, but she wrote cookbooks to pay the bills.  She came to her power during the “New Republic,” when Americans believed they’d need to be thrifty and virtuous to survive as a new nation.  Lydia offers ideas for using up heart and lungs of cow, pigsfeet, tripe, and all the rest of those budget cuts.  To pull off these dishes required some skillful cooking, good techniques, and often the use of herbs from the garden or wine.  Lydia was also a fabulous gardener, pickle-er, and philosopher.  She believed women should be educated.  But she didn’t want them to let good food go to waste.  What’s interesting is that her real passion was the abolition of slavery.  And when she wrote about it, she was blacklisted and fired from her magazine job.  Society at that time was more interested in its women being frugal--fussing with leftover scraps--than being vocal about issues like equality. 

Well all those battles were long ago fought.  And the ideas of frugality were ultimately swept aside and then brought back again--during wars and depressions--as needed--times such as now.

In the food world of recent years, the basic M.O. of our cooking “teachers,” —and by this I mean celeb chefs, food writers, and food show hosts—has been to tell us we must use the VERY best quality ingredients we can possibly find--whether imported porcini from Italy or the sweetest grass fed lamb.  In this way, doing good shopping (say at the farmer’s market or Whole Foods) sure enough leads to a delicious dish.  The only problem is that sometimes I think this is not really cooking, but shopping.  Consider the simplest meal--wild salmon at seventeen bucks a pound, and, say, organic greens steamed and tossed with sea salt and expensive olive oil… roasted yukon gold potatoes with rosemary....  You don’t need to do much to these ingredients to create a good meal for four.  You just need to plunk down about $27 bucks at Whole Foods.  This adds up for a family. 

But most people have limited and merely average ingredients. You need a lot more skill to turn ordinary materials into a good meal.  Herein are the TRUE COOKS, in my opinion.  And all the more if you can pull it off 6 or 7 nights a week.  But of course this sort of ordinary cooking has been less interesting during the last couple decades when we simply buy instead.

These days, I find it a little funny to watch

everyone from Martha Stewart to the New York Times Dining In/Dining Out frantically retool for the recession with cost-cutting recipes after a decade of shop-your-way-to-gastronomy approach.  Okay, perhaps I’m exagerating a bit to make my point.  But I think you get it. 

Bread Pudding, Modern Version

6 to 8 ounces of a dense stale bread, cubed or crumbled, (quantity depends on density of your bread)
enough milk to cover
2 to 3 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar depending on your preference
1 cinnamon or rosewater or ginger or any other spice mixture that goes with the bread or “additions” you might choose.

Possible additions:  1 cup chopped apples or pears (reduce bread slightly), or 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or 1/2 cup raisins

1) Butter a deep dish pie plate or other appropriate baking dish.  Preheat oven to 350.
2) Soak bread in milk until soft but not disintegrated.  (A dense bread can sit overnight.)
3) Beat eggs and sugar until well blended.  Add and any “additions” if you are using them.  Combine all well and pour into the buttered pie plate.
4) Bake 1/2 hour or until golden and the center is ever so slightly jiggly (overcooking with dry it). 


If you want to see someone actually make a bread pudding,, Oxfam has obviously teamed up with this interesting woman named Barbara who put out videos to “help people save money and live better.” Here she demonstrates.  Can’t say it looks that brilliant when you see it done.  But on the other hand, if you’ve got the the skill to use spice and know how to handle a pudding so that it doesn’t dry out or curdle, well then it could be quite good. 

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You make a good point about shopping to culinary success.  My sister and I misspent a few years in our early 20s singing together in bars.  She and her partner had a deal.  They both put the same amount of food money in the food jar the weeks she worked. The weeks she didn’t work only he put his money in and she did a careful shop of cheaper ingredients that required special cooking. A lot of barley stew with root veggies and very cheap cuts of meat.

    –  (February 20 2009 at 10:33)

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