Sunday, January 25, 2015

Turtle Soup!

I found an interesting recipe for Mock Turtle Soup in Grandma VandenBergh's old Dutch cookbook. I haven't tried this one out yet, but when I do, I'll post a photo:

Nagemaakte Schildpadsoep  (Mock Turtle Soup)

250 gr. (1/4 lb.) beef for soup (You can use ground beef, and roll it into small meatballs.)
1 liter (about 1 quart) beef bouillon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
a pinch of red pepper
1 onion
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1/2 cup grated carrot
30 grams (1/4 cup) flour
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

- Add the seasonings to the bouillon and simmer.
- Fry the  onion in a bit of butter, with the flour, taking care that it does not turn too dark.
- Stir the bouillon into the butter and flour mixture and simmer for ten minutes with the meatballs.
- Season with the Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.
- Remove the bay leaf before serving.

A copy of Volume 5 of Joel Munsell's Annals of Albany, published in 1854, recently came into my possession. There is an interesting anecdote about turtle soup recounted on pages 276-277. Munsell indicates that the source is "a newspaper scrap, on which there was nothing by which to identify the title of the paper from which it was cut."  Below is a slightly abridged version of the story:

"Turtle Soup in Olden Times":

The early history of the first attempt at tickling the palates of Albany eipcures with that delectable chaos of flavors, known as turtle soup, was made, we believe, by the celebrated Andrew Jackson Allen, better known as Dummy Allen [. . . ]. At the time we speak of, he kept a restaurant in the vicinity of the old Green Street Theater [ . . . ], and was a prime favorite among the bloods of the day, who made his place a customary resort. Albany was then, as now, a very nice village, but still, there were some things in Dummy Allen's cookery book not dreamed of in our philosophy. He therefore resolved to afford our ancient epicures a taste of bliss in a guise hitherto unknown to them, to wit: turtle soup. [ . . . ] For a few days before the acceptable time, a sizeable green turtle was allowed to promenade at the end of a long string, upon the sidewalk in front of Allen's establishment. In due time the repast came off, and proved a complete triumph of kitchen art. The new and delicious gift to appetite became the town talk, and showered upon the immortal Dummy vast reputation and much gold. 

Once more, and while the mouths of epicures were still watering with memories of recent bliss, the potent announcement was reiterated; once more a decent-looking turtle, very like the other, divulged his ample neck on Andrew Allen's premises, to the great admiration of beholders; once more fastidious palates enjoyed select morsels of Paradise from Allen's marvelous boilers. 

Turtle soup became all the rage, and week after week it was eagerly devoured. At length, some sharp and perhaps envious observers thought they remarked a striking similarity in all of Dummy Allen's turtles. One very suspicious individual, struck with their strong coincidence of aspect, quietly took the trouble of putting his sign manual on the back of one announced for that day's slaughter. The ill-fated criminal duly disappeared, and was commented upon that day, in the form of soup, as unusually excellent. But, amazement! when next week's customary announcement of turtle soup was made, [. . . ] that same turtle, the identical, supposed-to-be-slaughtered victim of the week before, bearing the deeply cut private mark of our suspicious friend, turned up, and resumed its sidewalk promenade, apparently in capital condition for a defunct animal. The secret was out. The game was up. Dummy Allen was done for. With a regular, cheap supply of calves' heads, and one specimen turtle, Allen had been doing the Albanian epicures for a whole season. At little or no expense and with the sole aid of their imaginative powers, he had regaled them with unheard-of delicacies, and at the same time put a golden lining in his pocket. 

Source: Annals of Albany, Volume 5. Joel Munsell, 1854. 

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