Today I spent a good part of the afternoon at the Cambridge Archives so I’m making Soup in Haste from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. It looks like it will be a recipe I can prepare quickly. The cook book contains a few recipes that help use up leftovers and this is one of them. No one has taken credit for the recipe so instead I’ll be talking a bit about what I learned at the archives today.
I had some leftover cooked chicken breast so I weighed it ,and found I had about half a pound, therefore I’ve cut the recipe in half. I chopped the meat and put it in a soup pot along with one ounce (1 tablespoon) of butter. I turned the heat to low on my electric stove and let the butter melt a bit while the kettle boiled. I shook some salt and pepper over the meat and butter, as well as sprinkling 1/2 tablespoon of flour over it all. Then I poured in half a quart (2 cups) of boiling water. I covered the pot and let it simmer away for 30 minutes before straining. I toasted some bread and cut it into triangles — the result of a failed attempt to cut diamonds. I put the bread pieces in the bottom of my bowl and poured the strained soup over it. I was a bit doubtful but prepared myself to taste.
City of Cambridge archivist Lynn Griggs helped me navigate their online catalogue. Today Galt is part of Cambridge so this is the place to find all sorts of material. I discovered they had an 1898 census of children for Galt and that there was a collection of visiting cards at the archives. From the catalogue listing it looked like some of the cards belonged to women connected to The New Galt Cook Book. Lynn found the two documents for me and I began to pore over the children’s census. It was made in connection with regulations about school attendance so it lists children between the ages of 8 and 14 plus their parent/guardian and their street. I wrote down everyone that could be remotely connected to the cook book. I’m hoping that it will help me narrow down the possibilities for common surnames and it helps bring a little more life to some of the contributors.
The visiting cards come from the estate of Stirling Macgregor. A Mrs. Macgregor contributed recipes and so did many of the women who left visiting cards at her home. Some of the cards are printed with the woman’s name while others have been written by hand. Occasionally a special message is included and several cards have black borders which I believe are connected to mourning. Some list a day of the week which usually indicates the day the woman would be “at home” to visitors. Mrs. J. T. Macgregor was at home on Friday while Mrs. Main’s card lists Tuesday. Sometimes an unmarried daughter is accompanying her mother when paying calls so her name is written by hand on her mother’s pre-printed card. Sometimes P. P. C. was written on the lower corner of the card. According to Emily Post’s 1922 etiquette guide, P.P.C. stands for pour prendre congé — to take leave. It is written on the card when left at the door or sent by mail before leaving for the season, or for good. It is hard to describe the feeling I had as I held each card in my hand knowing it had also been held by a woman connected to this cook book or one of her friends. The engraved cards give me a sense of a woman who might have some money. The cards with hand written signatures occasionally gave a glimpse of her personality. Some signatures had lots of flourishes while others were written very carefully. Some had large signatures while others are small. Of course, they are all intended to give a good impression. I suspect that at least ten of the cards belong to women who contributed recipes. Did one of them share Soup in Haste but preferred to remain anonymous?
I don’t like soggy bread so I tasted my soup and bread as soon as possible. It was surprisingly good. I thought the broth would be bland but I had added the right amount of salt and pepper for my taste and there was a pronounced chicken flavour. It seemed wasteful to strain all the meat so after my first few tastes I put it back in the soup. I think my frugal Scots roots are showing. I even liked the bread bits when they were soggy. This is a very simple and quick way to use up some leftover meat . . . and it was especially soothing on a foggy slushy day when my cold decided to reassert itself. A modern cook might want to add some herbs, if you have them on hand, and of course the macaroni would have added some more bulk to the soup. I was too lazy tonight to cook the macaroni so I had the soup plain. As a modern cook you could even add some left over rice or vegetables to the soup. It is well named as it was prepped, cooked and served in about 45 minutes.
SOUP IN HASTE
One pound of cold cooked meat, two ounces of butter, one tablespoonful flour, one quart water and a few slices of browned bread. Chop your meat very fine and put it into the stew-pan with the butter; pepper and salt to taste. Dredge over it a tablespoonful of flour, add a good quart of boiling water, cover it close, set it over a moderate fire for half an hour, strain it, toast some pieces of bread, cut them into squares or diamonds, put them into a tureen and pour the soup over it. Macaroni boiled tender may be put into the soup ten minutes before serving. Time, half hour.