I wanted to make Eliza Leslie’s Indian pound cake partly because it sounded so good — the ingredients include cornmeal, eggs, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brandy — but also because its creator seemed so interesting.
Born in 1787, Leslie was one of five children of a Philadelphia watchmaker. Her father, who was friends with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, died heavily in debt when she was sixteen, and she and her mother ran a boardinghouse to support their family. According to culinary archivist Jan Longone, Leslie set out to become a writer of novels and stories but wrote a cookbook, Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats (1828), because her friends kept asking her for recipes. (She had been a pupil at Mrs. Goodfellow’s cooking school in Philadelphia.) Continue reading
I couldn’t let August go by without writing about corn, a mainstay of the 18th-century Americans’ diet. I’ve posted several cornmeal-based recipes, but wanted to try one with fresh corn — especially the mysterious “green corn” I kept seeing in old recipes.
It turns out that “green corn” just refers to young ears of sweet corn, and also to varieties developed to ripen in early summer. This corn was often roasted by Native Americans and North American colonists, or used in stews. The forerunner of corn pudding was Native American succotash, corn stewed with vegetables like beans. But as Betty Fussell writes in The Story of Corn, whereas Native Americans sometimes added “hickory cream,” made from ground nuts, to thicken their corn stew, the settlers used cow’s milk, and often mixed in a little butter. Continue reading