March 4, 2012

Everything Mark Twain wanted to eat...

... when he arrived home in the United States of America after traveling around in France and Italy in 1870:
Radishes. Baked apples, with cream Fried oysters; stewed oysters. Frogs. American coffee, with real cream. American butter. Fried chicken, Southern style. Porter-house steak. Saratoga potatoes. Broiled chicken, American style. Hot biscuits, Southern style. Hot wheat-bread, Southern style. Hot buckwheat cakes. American toast. Clear maple syrup. Virginia bacon, broiled. Blue points, on the half shell. Cherry-stone clams. San Francisco mussels, steamed. Oyster soup. Clam Soup. Philadelphia Terapin soup. Oysters roasted in shell-Northern style. Soft-shell crabs. Connecticut shad. Baltimore perch. Brook trout, from Sierra Nevadas. Lake trout, from Tahoe. Sheep-head and croakers, from New Orleans. Black bass from the Mississippi. American roast beef. Roast turkey, Thanksgiving style. Cranberry sauce. Celery. Roast wild turkey. Woodcock. Canvas-back-duck, from Baltimore. Prairie hens, from Illinois. Missouri partridges, broiled. 'Possum. Coon. Boston bacon and beans. Bacon and greens, Southern style. Hominy. Boiled onions. Turnips. Pumpkin. Squash. Asparagus. Butter beans. Sweet potatoes. Lettuce. Succotash. String beans. Mashed potatoes. Catsup. Boiled potatoes, in their skins. New potatoes, minus the skins. Early rose potatoes, roasted in the ashes, Southern style, served hot. Sliced tomatoes, with sugar or vinegar. Stewed tomatoes. Green corn, cut from the ear and served with butter and pepper. Green corn, on the ear. Hot corn-pone, with chitlings, Southern style. Hot hoe-cake, Southern style. Hot egg-bread, Southern style. Hot light-bread, Southern style. Buttermilk. Iced sweet milk. Apple dumplings, with real cream. Apple pie. Apple fritters. Apple puffs, Southern style. Peach cobbler, Southern style Peach pie. American mince pie. Pumpkin pie. Squash pie. All sorts of American pastry.

Fresh American fruits of all sorts, including strawberries which are not to be doled out as if they were jewelry, but in a more liberal way. Ice-water--not prepared in the ineffectual goblet, but in the sincere and capable refrigerator.
Funny about the frogs! I thought that's what they ate in France that we think is yucky.

(Via Eve Tushnet.)

ADDED: I've redone the text so it looks the way it appears in my Kindle version of 300 works of Mark Twain. It's not written in list/poem form. It still, however, says "Prairie liens, from Illinois," which Nichevo, in the comments, surmises is a misscanned Prairie hens, from Illinois. Ah, yes, here's an article about "The 'Prairie Hens' of Illinois" with the subtitle "Mark Twain’s favorite birds ... to eat." I'm going to correct the text above.

48 comments:

Bill said...

Whew. Mouth's watering.

Good thing I'm headed to a rural parish sausage supper this afternoon.

phx said...

"When you got to the table you couldn’t go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck her head down and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn’t really anything the matter with them – that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better."
Huck

Bob said...

Canvasback Duck and Diamondback Terrapin were common restaurant foods in Twain's time, and are rarely seen any more. Even in the late 20's when Robert Ruark wrote The Old Man and the Boy you could find them. Twain may have had the opportunity to dine on Passenger Pigeon, but it's not on your list (would have been called "squab," probably).

Paddy O said...

Well, sure, until he ate so much he had to go to the appetite cure.

rcommal said...

And to think the man lived until almost 84-1/2.

Carol_Herman said...

Saratoga Potatoes. Invented in 1904. By a Black American Chef working at a hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY. Originally, very thinly sliced potatoes were cooked in lard. You could buy them out of a barrel. Waxed paper bags didn't come into use until the 1920's, or 1930's. And, olive oil was substituted for the lard.

The word "Saratoga" dropped off, and was replaced by the word "chip."

Until I looked it up at Google, I thought the french had "invented" the chip ... because a customer at a bistro kept sending his fried potatoes back. He wanted thinner slices.

rcommal said...

So, does the "Prairie liens from Illinois" refer to groundhogs, woodchucks or prairie dogs (the latter of which I think can carry nasty diseases)? Damned if I can pin it down. Any search string with "liens" gets me into depressing business on the Internet.

edutcher said...

Such fare was typical of his time. I read a description of the menu in a San Francisco restaurant at the height of the Gold Rush that read like that.

Ann Althouse said...

Funny about the frogs! I thought that's what they ate in France that we think is yucky.

In France, they eat frogs. In his part of the country, they eat frawgs.

Obviously lost in translation.

WV "eflab" What you get from too much time in front of the iPad.

fleetusa said...

Yummy list for sure.

Actually the French don't eat frogs legs (not whole frogs) too much anymore. Rarely if ever seen on menus and in grocery stores not often found. In fact, in several local US groceries I've seen them in the frozen food department. They are a bit like small chicken wings and sauted in garlic butter sauce. Yummy too.

Bob said...

The French liking for frog legs is probably why the generic Frenchman was referred to as "Jean Crapaud." (a similar slur on the generic Englishman was "John Bull.")

Petunia said...

American butter over French (particularly Normandy) butter? Sacre bleu!

The Crack Emcee said...

I felt the same way:

But I most enjoyed being back where there's an FDA,...

virgil xenophon said...

The list reminds me of Twain's views on heaven--a place he was in no hurry to go as it lacked (I para) "all the things that make life pleasurable (or was it "tolerable?") on Earth--sex, food, liquor. and cigars."

Spaceman said...

Though the French are occasionally referred to as "pork-eating frogs", which further adds to the confusion regarding of their relationship to the consumption of frog legs.

Nichevo said...

This is all stuff they didn't have in Italy and France, home of good eating? Wow/lol, esp on the strawberry and icewater cracks.

This puts me in mind of Rex Stout's early (1930s IIRC) Nero Wolfe story, Too Many Cooks (go ahead and amazon-linkify that, professor, make a coupla bucks), where Wolfe defends America's contributions to haute cuisine.

Since 'terrapin' was misspelled-who knows where that happened, maybe in the scanning-I would guess it was 'prairie hens' not 'liens'.

Ann Althouse said...

"Since 'terrapin' was misspelled-who knows where that happened, maybe in the scanning-I would guess it was 'prairie hens' not 'liens'."

Ha ha. I was wondering!

I'll check my Mark Twain collection.

Bob said...

Prairie Chicken (Wikipedia).

Probably the bird Twain was referring to.

SGT Ted said...

Frogs have a long redneck tradition.

mariner said...

For a guy who chose to live his later life in the Northeast, there's a lot of "Southern style" food on that list.

Maybe Twain was only a darn Yankee.

jimbino said...

How about Peanut Butter, Trail Mix, Margaritas?

I think sheep-head should be sheepshead.

Jennifer said...

He has much better taste than I. Having been out of the US for two years now, what I miss the most is:

Really good Mexican food.
Bad Mexican food, like Taco Time.
Burgerville milkshakes.
Excellent steak, cooked by somebody else.
American breakfast, cooked by somebody else.
Good fried chicken, cooked by somebody else.
Good korean food.
Bad korean food, like Yummy's.
Real kim chee.
Saimin.
Mustard cabbage, so I can make tsukemono.

I'm just going to have to stop before I gnaw my own arm off.

Jennifer said...

I see he wrote that list once he was already back home and had access to all the foods. No wonder he could wallow in it for so long.

edutcher said...

mariner said...

For a guy who chose to live his later life in the Northeast, there's a lot of "Southern style" food on that list.

Maybe Twain was only a darn Yankee.


He was from one of the two "captive" states of the Confederacy.

Nichevo said...

I have my own Althouse tag! Now I can die. Soon as I see Naples...

Pushing my luck, professor, who is right on 'Terapin'? Of course over time usages change so we won't assume Twain botched it, but by the modern standard the 'r' is doubled. Just curious.

Also, I bet you will sell a copy of the Rex Stout book if you link it:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/179-9432126-3896822?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=rex+stout+too+many+cooks&x=0&y=0

Nichevo said...

(Please feel free to delete or edit that link to suit your own purposes.)

Jennifer said...

Well, now I need to redo my list.

The Crack Emcee said...

Jennifer,

He has much better taste than I. Having been out of the US for two years now, what I miss the most is:

Really good Mexican food.
Bad Mexican food, like Taco Time.


Two things:

1) Mexican food in Yurp is barbaric - just don't do it.

2) I've had to ween myself away from Taco Time. It was like crack! I thought, when I'd found Del Taco, I had hit fast food nirvana, but Taco Time? Girl Friend, I knew I was in trouble then,...

rcommal said...

Thanks, many thanks, Nichevo and Althouse!

It was driving me crazy that I had never heard of "prairie liens" as a food before AND could not find any such thing from an Internet search of reasonable (given the import of the topic) length.

rcommal said...

(I can sometimes get a tad obsessed over bits of unresolved info. LOL--->me)

traditionalguy said...

Twain was a Scots-Irish, Missouri born, Mississippi Riverboat man. That great River, starting in Wisconsin/Minnesota, finally finishes its course in New Orleans where French cuisine adapted to available swamp species was served when the steamboats that Twain was piloting docked.

Why he listed no German brats or Norwegian rakfisk is the question. I believe Twain usually piloted to and from Cincinnati on the northern leg.

Kevin said...

Refrigerator? In 1870?

I'm going to have to look that up now, because it sounds like he's using the term in a different way than we do.

Fritz said...

That's about the time the Long Island oysters all got fished out, and the watermen had to move from New York to the Chesapeake Bay, where they proceeded to do much the same.

Jennifer said...

Lol, Crack. Yes, we have learned about number 1. We went out for Mexican once in Berlin. This was a bad idea on many levels, but my daughter (who loooves all things bland) proclaimed it the best Mexican food EVER! So, that about sums that up.

And, yes Taco Time is hard to resist. I don't care how weird it is to stuff cream cheese in something, deep fry it and call it Mexican. It's frickin' good.

Synova said...

I had the worst cravings for El Pollo Loco when I was pregnant in the Philippines.

I liked the local food very well, but Thanksgiving was horrible... and this is with the commissary, too.

I made pumpkin pie, but there was no whippable cream. None. The next year I bought Dream Whip sometime around July and stuck it in my freezer.

Hagar said...

French "haute cuisine" got that way because during the 100 Years War the Brits confiscated and ate all the good stuff.

Jane said...

Yes, the "refrigerator" is odd -- I suppose he means icebox, but I would have thought that, size-wise, using it to cool water would have been a luxury.

Peter said...

Dunno about the opossum. I've heard it's very oily.

Indigo Red said...

"Ice box" was the common tern for the early refrigerators the first practical model invented by an American, Jacob Perkins in 1834 which he described as a "vapor-compression refrigeration system" that used ether in a vapor compression cycle and based on the earlier work of William Cullen, a Scottish physician who was trying to keep his patients cool. Although Perkins did not call his machine a refrigerator, the term had been first used by Thomas Moore in 1800. It is entirely probable that Sam Clemons, the wealthy Mark Twain and avid first adopter of technology, would have had a 'modern' refrigerator in his home.

rsbsail said...

No southern-style fried catfish? Unbelievable!

Chip Ahoy said...

About frogs. French are not maligned as frogs because somewhere they became known for eating frogs, it's because sometimes they sound like frogs. The men do. To some ears. Bullfrogs. It's in the pauses. Make your voice deep as it will go and say, "uh" really stretched out so that it becomes "uhuhuhuhuhuh" it vibrates like the vocal fry our lovely hostess pointed out earlier. It is deep-throated hesitant vocal fry that some French men do that sound like frogs to some Americans who derided all French as frogs. It happen most when deep voiced French men search for English words and use that vocal fill for the time needed to stitch together a sentence. All that makes it hard to pay attention to content. Here is the supreme example Chirac's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Bernard Raimond, skip ahead 20 seconds to hear him be a frog.

Chip Ahoy said...

Apologies, the best example is Dominique Villepin, I think, when he's speaking English but not when he's speaking French. Now there's a real frog sound.

Penny said...

Ha ha, Chip!

That was some mighty impressive "translating" right there.

Penny said...

Hell, I forgot what we were talking about.

Can't seem to get Billy Bob Thornton in "Sling Blade" out of my mind.

Penny said...

So to speak...

Or hear...

Or something... like that.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

If you eat liens, you are in the top 1% and I for 1 solute you for it.

There is, however, the ideal of fiduciary responsibility. This is where your Judgment is key.

Are you paid to minimize your risk (or effort in that you risk opportunity loss of potentially devastating consequences), or do what's best for your paying client?

This is an either/or proposition in more cases than I believe is commonly understood, worthy of discussion, and unBuckley.

kilo papa said...

"I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's"--Mark Twain

Christianity certainly sounds like it came from a slightly more intelligent than average monkey.

Carnifex said...

Opposum and racoon are best eaten when young.(apologies to Pogo). When they get older(read almost adult) the are almost unpalatable. Same with groundhog. Get 'em as pups. Very gamy and greasy. You can grind them up into a decent andouille.

That's a mighty impressive list there, one I might have made, only not as long.

The frog legs you get at the stores are generally from some third world hell hole (cough*pollution*cough) and their skin is very permiable to it. Best to hunt your own frogs here.(not at the septic pond though).

We use gallery bullets. The wax bullets from a shooting gallery. Great expansion, little mass. Otherwise your bullets pass right through. You can use snake shot but it is not as reliable, nor has the range of a gallery bullet.(I know too much about frog hunting...I should be an extra on "Swamp People")

Ps. I still got this white stuff on my lawn. When are ya'll comin' down to clean up this Yankee mess?(I think this is an Obama plot to distract from Joe Arpaio)

Rusty said...

Carnifex.
Crow, mud hens, and resident Canada geese are best if marinated overnight in whole milk and the lightly sauteed until done.
Any wild duck except for mergansers are best if cooked medium rare.