Today is National Vol-Au-Vent Day. Or, to translate into Creole, Pattie Shell Day. Made in sizes from that of a thimble to that of a coffee mug, vol-au-vents are made of two layers of puff pastry cut into circles. The top layer has a hole cut in the center. When stacked and then baked, they become cups to contain concoctions that typically run to the rich and saucy. The name translates “fly on the wind,” which suggests the ideal lightness of these puff pastry cups.
Unlike the smaller patty shells, vol-au-vents are usually made with a cap of pastry to cover the contents to keep them from cooling. The cap is always tilted off center, so the contents inside the vol-au-vent can be seen. Larousse Gastronomique says that vol-au-vents were invented and named by Marie-Antoine Careme, famous French chef and author of the nineteenth century.
In New Orleans, vol-au-vents are most often made into a dish called oyster patties–little vol-au-vents filled with oysters in thick sauce, baked a little more to make them crusty. Nine out of ten of these are terrible, usually because the the sauce is too thick. In the hands of a skillful chef, however, vol-au-vents can be fantastic. The best I ever had was a sweetbreads and mushroom dish made by Chef Denis Rety at the short-lived but brilliant Le Chateau in Gretna. The vol-au-vent was about five inches across and three inches deep, and was delicious enough to compete with the goodness of the creamy sauce and rich sweetbreads. You’d never know it was a close cousin to the gross little oyster patties forced upon you at wedding receptions.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If you have a delicious dish whose consistency registers as glop to some diners, and if it doesn’t seem right to serve over rice or pasta, bake it in a vol-au-vent. Everyone will find it very fancy.
Steakman Branch is a little mountain creek in the forested, coal-mining westernmost finger of the state, 159 miles west of Roanoke. It’s the kind of isolated countryside where one might well encounter a guy making moonshine behind his cabin. The branch pours into streams that wind up at the Clinch River, a major tributary of the Tennessee River. “Branch water” is supposed to be the best thing to mix with Kentucky bourbon, because it’s clean and clear. This one just might be. The nearest restaurant is six miles east in Raven: Ralph’s Country Club.
cap bread, n.–A unique loaf of bread in the light, thin-crusted style of New Orleans French bread. It’s shaped like a pillow, about six inches long, four inches wide, and two inches thick. A narrow appendage coming off one of the ends wraps back on top. It makes the loaf look like a gigantic chrysalis. Cap bread was a tradition for a number of older restaurants, notably Tujague’s, Arnaud’s, and the Peppermill, but it did not come back strong after the hurricane. Originally, cap bread was much larger (it was usually served as a half-loaf, and then sliced). It also had a coarser texture and a much darker crust.
Annals Of Candy
Walter E. Diemer, the inventor of bubble gum, was born today in 1905. (He also died on this date, in 1998.) Diemer was working for the Fleer Chewing Gum Company as a bookkeeper, but his interest in the product was fervent enough that he often fooled around in the test kitchen. He made a five-pound sample of pink gum that was both softer and more stretchable than standard gum base. It was tested in a store in Philadelphia, and became an immediate hit. Diemer not only created the gum but the technique for blowing gum bubbles, which he had to teach to his salesmen. He said that the most amazing thing about his gum was not its popularity but the fact that most of it is still pink, as if that were part of its essence. Fleer still makes Dubble Bubble.
Food At Sea
Today in 2004, the RMS Queen Mary 2 was christened by Queen Elizabeth II, the granddaughter of Queen Mary. At the time, it was the largest cruise ship in the world, and hailed as the peak of luxury. The Eat Club took its first voyage on the QM2 in April, 2009, New York to London. We did not dine as well as we expected, but still found the ship the most luxurious in our experience.
Music To Eat Banana Sandwiches By
Today is Elvis Presley’s birthday, in 1935. About twenty years ago a line of wines bearing Elvis’s name and likeness appeared. “Was this Elvis’s favorite wine?” I asked the distributor. “Elvis didn’t drink wine,” he said. “But if he had, this is the wine he would have liked.”
This is the feast day of Saint Erhard of Regensburg, who lived in Bavaria in the 600s. He is one of many patron saints of bakers.
Politics And Food
Tonight in 1992, the first President Bush, attending a state dinner in Tokyo, became nauseous and lost his lunch in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister. The White House explanation was that Bush had stomach flu, a euphemism for food poisoning. Make up your own sushi joke.
Soupy Sales, a deliciously wacko comedian who was on TV a lot in the 1960s–frequently with a pie flying in the direction of someone’s face–was born today in 1926. . Bill Graham, the leading impresario of rock music in San Francisco in the Summer of Love (1967), began his trip today in 1931.
Words To Eat By
“All knives and forks were working away at a rate that was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to eat his utmost, in self-defense, as if a famine were expected to set in before breakfast time tomorrow morning, and it had become high time to assert the first law of nature.”–Charles Dickens, referring to the way we eat in America.
Words To Drink By
“Americans may be drinking fewer alcoholic beverages, but they are certainly eating more of them than ever before. Wittingly or un.”–Marian Burros, food writer for the New York Times.
The Pavlova: the story.
Today, January 31st …
[update: February 7th, see the entry for 1933]
The Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova was born on this day in 1885, so there is no difficulty guessing our topic today – ‘the pavlova, the sweet dessert’. There has been a longstanding battle between Australia and New Zealand as to who 'invented' the pavlova, with tempers getting quite nasty at times. This is my contribution to the war.
For those of you who need the clarification, a pavlova as defined by the OED is “a dessert consisting of a soft-centred meringue base or shell filled with whipped cream and fruit.” I would like it put on notice here that the OED, which should be absolutely non-partisan, has clearly allied itself with the “soft-centred like marshmallow” school of thought, in complete disregard for the very vocal opposition school that maintains a pavlova should be thoroughly dried and crisp throughout.
We have established then, that a pavlova is a form of meringue. Neither Australia nor New Zealand invented the meringue, because the meringue was invented before they were. As for meringue, it was not, repeat NOT ‘invented in 1720 by a Swiss pastry-cook called Gasparini, who practised his art in Mehrinyghen [hence ‘meringue’], a small town in the State of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.’ Even the venerable Larousse perpetrates this myth, in complete disregard for the fact that confections made from sweetened, stiffly-beaten egg whites appear in cookbooks printed well before that date. The earliest I can find appears in the recipe collection of Lady Elinor Fettiplace, which is dated 1604, which she calls White Bisket Bread.
To make White Bisket Bread.
Take a pound & a half of sugar, & an handful of fine white flower [flour], the whites of twelve eggs, beaten verie finelie, and a little annisseed brused, temper all this together, till it be no thicker than pap, make coffins with paper, and put it into the oven, after the manchet [bread] is drawn.
Note: this is clearly what we would call ‘meringue’, but Lady Elinor does not use the name. The first use that I am aware of (and I stand willing to be corrected) is in the cookbook of François Massialot, the first chef of Louis XIV (1638 - 1715). His book was published in 1692, and contained a chapter on “Meringues and Macaroons”. This is one of the recipes from the English translation of 1702.
Having caus’d the Whites of four new-laid Eggs to be whipt, as before, till they rise up to a Snow, let four Spoonfuls of very dry Powder-sugar be put into it, and well-temper’d with a Spoon: Then let all be set over a gentle Fire, to be dried a little at two several times, and add some Pistachoes, that are pounded and dried a little in the Stove. Afterwards, they are to be dress’d as other, and bak’d in the Oven somewhat leisurely, with a little Fire underneath, and more on the top When they are sufficiently done, and very dry, let them be taken out, and cut off with a Knife: Lastly, as soon as they are somewhat cold, let them be laid upon Paper, and set into the Stove to be kept dry.
So, should M.Massialot get the credit for ‘inventing’ the meringue, as the evidence is that he used the name first? Or, until an earlier manuscript turns up, should it go to Lady Elinor, on the principle that the concept is the thing, not the name?
Australia and New Zealand, we have established, did not invent the bisket-bread/meringue style confection itself. Did either of them actually invent the particular iteration which both now call the pavlova, or did one of them steal the name an apply it to a similar, but quintessentially different variation? Here we have the nub of the dispute. It is all in the name.
It is not my job here to take sides (although as I have pointed out elsewhere, NZ is the country that re-named the Chinese Gooseberry the Kiwi Fruit, in what was clearly an attempt to give it origin status), so I hereby give you the known facts/factoids in chronological order for you to make up your own minds.
1926: A cookbook printed in NZ called Cookery for New Zealand, by E. Futter contained a recipe ‘Meringue with Fruit Filling’. It was not, however, called Pavlova.
1927: The OED cites the first use of the word ‘pavlova’ in ‘Davis Dainty Dishes’, published by Davis Gelatine in NZ. It was ‘composed of coloured layers of jelly made in a mould resembling a ballerina's tutu’. Pavlova, as coloured jelly – I don’t think so!
1927: A group of Congregational Church ladies produced a cookbook called Terrace Tested Recipes, in Wellington NZ in 1927. One recipe was for ‘Meringue Cake’, which was made in two tins, the resulting two cakes being sandwiched together with cream and fruit, or serves as two cakes. Not called pavlova. Structure similar? Not the two layer one, certainly.
1929: Yet another NZ cookbook, Mrs. McKay’s Practical Home Cookery, had a recipe for ‘Pavlova Cakes’, the plural representing the three dozen little confections made from the mixture. This is hardly the same thing as a pavlova with the traditional filling/topping, now is it?
1933: Bron at Bron Marshall Classic & Creative Cuisine sends this correction on Feb 7th:
The recipe was submitted by a Laurina Stevens for the Rangiora Mother’s Union Cookery Book, it was called “Pavlova” - the correct name, the recipe was for one large cake and contained the correct ingredients, egg white, sugar, cornflour, and vinegar, and it had the correct method for cooking. This has been proven thanks to the research of Professor Helen Leach, of the University of Otago’s anthropology department. Prof Leach also uncovered a 1929 pavlova recipe in a New Zealand rural magazine which had the correct ingredients and correct method of cooking, however it was unfortunately published under a pseudonym.
1935: The family of Herbert Sachse of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia have maintained a vigorous claim that he invented the dish to be served at afternoon tea, and commented (or someone did) that “It is as light as Pavlova”, and hence the name Sachse claimed in a magazine interview that he ‘improved’ a recipe for Meringue Cake he found in the Women’s Mirror Magazine on April 2, 1935 (which had been submitted by a NZ resident.
I guess the only way this dispute will get resolved is if we can come to a consensus as to what defines a pavlova, as distinct from a meringue or a meringue cake or a pavlova cake(s).
I reckon the passionfruit is crucial.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Pepys’ Pease Porridge.
A Previous Story for this Day …
We had a story about monkeys and bananas on this day last year.
Quotation for the Day …
Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold. Judith Olney.
Readers' Best Recipes and the Stories Behind Them
For years, you&rsquove told us that you get your recipes from family and friends, so we invited Almanac readers to share their best recipes&mdashthe favorites served at family gatherings, potlucks, parties, and supper tables, the ones that keep folks coming back for more. You&rsquoll love the heartwarming, humorous, and true stories that these cooks tell, too!
Get the recipes that folks rave about! Be the first to own and use this collection! These exclusive recipes include Momma&rsquos Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars, Aunt Barb&rsquos Special Meatball Sauce, Gra&rsquos Barbecue Chicken, Phil&rsquos Chocolate Sauce, and so many more!
Chapters: Breakfast Appetizers Sides & Salads Soups, Chowders, & Chilis Main Dishes Breads and Desserts
- Almanac editors tell how to prepare, store, and substitute key ingredients
- Charts ensure proper cooking times, pan sizes, and measurements
- Helpful tips and testers&rsquo comments
193 Recipes | 8.5&rdquo x 9&rdquo | Softcover | 272 Full-Color Pages | Printed in the USA | Published in 2016
8 Violations for School in Wake of Lab Fire
Fire Department investigators have cited Beacon High School in Manhattan for eight violations, finding that dangerous chemicals were being stored unsafely and that safety equipment and practices were lacking in at least three rooms. One was the makeshift lab where two students were engulfed in flames last week when a chemistry demonstration went horribly awry.
The department gave the school, which is on the Upper West Side, 10 days to correct some of the violations of fire and building codes, and 30 days for others. But it did not issue a “cease and desist” order, which could have closed the teaching labs, James Long, a Fire Department spokesman, said on Wednesday.
The state Labor Department is also investigating the accident and its context, state officials said, because regulations require safety equipment like chemical fume hoods when teachers handle potentially explosive flammable liquids and toxic chemicals in the workplace. There was none in Room 317, a “science demo room,” where Alonzo Yanes, 16, was badly burned when fumes from the methanol used by a teacher to burn different substances ignited. Alonzo remained in critical condition on Wednesday in the burn unit of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The other student suffered relatively minor burns.
The Fire Department violations, issued to the principal, Ruth Lacey, also focused on the chemical storage room, Room 331 the school was ordered to immediately reduce the supply of hazardous chemicals to the amounts allowed by law, including no more than 15 gallons of flammable liquids and no more than five pounds of toxic substances. In a formal science laboratory, Room 321, the school was ordered to provide a safety shower and eye wash for decontamination, and to show that a chemical fume hood there was being tested annually for safe ventilation of dangerous fumes.
Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the city Education Department, said it was working closely with the Fire Department to correct the violations as soon as possible.
Science safety experts say that the deficiencies found at Beacon are widespread in American schools, and that accidents that have maimed teachers and students keep happening because of systemic shortcomings.
“I’ve inspected hundreds of thousands of school laboratories and there are problems everywhere with them,” said James A. Kaufman, founder and president of the Laboratory Safety Institute, a national nonprofit educational organization, who has served as an expert witness in personal injury suits in which schools have had to pay millions of dollars for similar accidents. “The kinds of problems that the Fire Department found at the Beacon school are the tip of the iceberg.”
Like all but seven states, he noted, New York does not make lab safety education part of the written requirements for science teacher certification, so many teachers are not even aware of the hazards or the safety regulations. Though surveys find that lab accident rates are 10 to 100 times higher in schools than in industry, the scope of the problem has been obscured, he said, because there is no requirement that lab injuries or even fatalities be reported to a central database.
Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Education Department, which certifies science teachers, said safety information was most likely already included in science teachers’ coursework. By state law, local districts have sole responsibility for school curriculum, including science experiments, he said.
A federal chemical safety agency last month issued a video warning of the dangers of the same popular demonstration, known as the rainbow or the flame test, that injured the Beacon students. But Mr. Burman said the state’s science education officials were not among the 60,000 subscribers who received the warning from the agency, the United States Chemical Safety Board. Asked whether the department had recommendations to make in light of the fire code violations, he wrote:
“We would remind teachers that experiments which utilize flammable or explosive gasses should always be conducted under appropriate fume hoods. We would also remind them of the need to comply with all building and fire codes.”