It's easy to understand why good recipes can stand the test of time - why they're passed on from generation to generation. It's also easy to see how many modern recipes take their roots and influences from older recipes.
When I went to participate in my Colonial Dinner at Old Sturbridge Village last week I was amazed by how how similar today's families are to those of the past. While nearly 200 years have past, traditions have remained traditions. Family meals are not all that different, and what and how we eat is uncannily similar as well. While our ancestors didn't have the modern technologies and conveniences that we have today, our lives are really not all that dissimilar. No place is this most apparent than in the kitchen at at the table.
As we sat to eat our fabulous Colonially prepared dinner, it struck me that the only difference was not the food itself, or even the flavors, but the way in which food is prepared. Our measurements are different, but we still use heat to cook, salt and pepper and other spices to season. While we have large mixers to whip up whipped cream instead of twigs, even the absence of ice and refrigeration went largely unnoticed to me.
As a part of our meal we were served a salad with a wonderfully flavored dressing. It reminded me of a cross between something you'd have at a steakhouse and a Caesar dressing without the cheese. I decided to try my hand at the recipe and made it for dinner last night. It tasted a bit different - perhaps I had thinned it out a bit more, but it was flavorful, aromatic and subtly piquant nonetheless.
Recipe for A Most Delicious Salad Sauce:
"Take the yolks of 4 hard boiled eggs, rub them through a sieve, and add them to one teaspoon of salt, mix well and then add 2 tablespoonfuls of handmade mustard, stir well up, then add by one spoonful each time 6 spoonfuls of salad oil; mix this well together until it becomes as smooth as mustard, then put in one teaspoonful of anchovy sauce and one gill of cream or new milk and stir well together; and last of all put in by degrees some good vinegar; I don't state the quantity of this, as some is much stronger than others, this must lay in your own taste. Should you make it too sharp with vinegar, add one tablespoon of fine white sugar in powder, this will soften it, and give it an excellent flavour. Bottle it for use. This will keep in any length of time, in the hottest of weather, and is excellent with any kind of salad or boiled slaw. Shake it well up before you put it on the salad."
The Servant's Directory, 1828
My adaptation: (Feel free to create your own)
4 egg yolks, hard boiled, mashed with a fork
1 stp salt (I used sea salt)
2 tbs Dijon mustard
6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs apple cider vinegar
Several good shakes of Worcestershire sauce - mimics the anchovy flavor
Scant 4 oz milk or less
Optional, 1 tbs white sugar
Freshly ground pepper to taste.
In a medium sized bowl mash the egg yolk with the salt, then slowly pour in the olive oil while incorporating the egg yolk. You'll should end up with a smooth paste. Add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. I would add half the milk, and taste before deciding to add the rest. Much depends on how tart you want your dressing to be. I added all 4 ounces of milk. The egg yolk acts as a natural emulsifier giving this dressing a nice full body. Transfer to a salad jar if desired and shake well. We used about half of the recipe for 4 people.
For more on my visit to Old Sturbridge Village, visit here.