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RI Archives: Food

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Gilded Age Holiday Entertaining: From Soup to Nutmeg

By Francine Segan

I love collecting postcards with Berkshire turn-of-the-century winter scenes like horse-drawn carriages dashing through glistening snow and candles glowing on Christmas trees. I also collect the interesting objects they used in daily life back then that are now, for better or worse, obsolete. Things like these, which include dance cards, glove stretchers, and silver tea balls.

Want to know which is which? Then I hope you’ll join me on Saturday, December 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Theater for my talk on Gilded Age Entertainments in the Berkshires.

It’s a fun and lively talk where you’ll 

discover the sorts of foods, elaborate etiquette, and enchanting entertainments enjoyed then. The vivid descriptions of formal dinner parties and elegant balls will transport you back in time. 

Learn the 19th-century meanings of giving a lady a tulip instead of a rose; discover the most popular toasts of the 1890s; and when it was proper to remove your gloves or tip your hat.

The talk includes a trivia contest on the uses of dozens of unique but now obsolete objects from the era, and tastings of popular Gilded Age recipes like this delicious soup that smells like Christmas cookies! Fun note: There is an interesting obsolete object in the photo of the soup. It’s a personal nutmeg grater. Nutmeg was such a popular spice back then that gentlemen and ladies carried small silver cases holding a whole nutmeg with an attached grater so they could add the aromatic spice to foods while away from home. Can you spot it in the picture below?

Holiday Soup with Nutmeg and Cinnamon 
From: Opera Lover’s Cookbook (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by Francine Segan
Serves 4

Don’t underestimate this marvelous recipe just because it’s simple to prepare. Yes, it has only a few ingredients and yes, it takes only minutes to make, but your guests won’t know that.

This velvety smooth soup is infused with the irresistible aroma of sweet Marsala wine, nutmeg and cinnamon, scents we nowadays associate more with dessert than savory dishes. But you’ll love this Gilded Age classic, which brings to mind cozy fireplaces and times past.

4 egg yolks
2 cups best quality chicken stock
3 tablespoons Marsala wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt & black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan whisk the yolks, stock, and Marsala until creamy smooth.

Simmer the mixture, whisking constantly, until warm. Do not bring the soup to a boil or the yolks will curdle.

Once the soup has reached the desired serving temperature, whisk in the butter, cinnamon, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/25/13 at 09:40 AM • Permalink