Friday Aug 6th
1852 Sewed but very little this forenoon picked
some peas currants &c Lavinia came to
dinner Edwin & wife to tea Lavinia & I
called to Augustus’ to see their babe who
is quite sick with the disentary He looked
quite bright Mrs Witherell & A L Ames
called a few moments
There were fresh peas at the Ames dinner table today. We readers might not have enjoyed them, however, as the recipes of the time called for cooking peas – and other vegetables – much longer than our modern preferences allow. Domestic doyenne and editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, declared that peas are “a most delicious vegetable,” but cautioned that “[i]t takes from half an hour to an hour to boil them.”* That seems overcooked to us, but, nevertheless, the Ames’s peas were fresh, untarnished by pesticides, and indisputably local.
With her niece Lavinia Gilmore, Evelina went to visit her nephew (and Lavinia’s half-brother) Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had lately been ill. He was now well, but his one-year old son, Willie, had become “quite sick” with dysentery. Had the child caught something from his father? Or was he suffering a condition not uncommon in children in the heat of the summer? His bright red face suggests fever and dehydration. Augustus and his wife, Hannah, would have been worried about the little boy.
*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 75
6 thoughts on “August 6, 1852”
Cook for an hour!!! Yuk…
Not much more than a minute in already boiling water is more like it.
It seems late in the season for peas. My sugar snaps have completely passed and I am now pulling out their vines. I wonder if Evelina could imagine a pea where you could eat the pea and pod completely uncooked? Possibly the older varieties lasted longer into the season, but still, August 6 seems very late for peas in North Easton. I suppose thatif you are boiling them to death anyway, you can use the peas out of very “weathered” pods. 😉
I read somewhere that Yankee housewives in the 19th century either cooked their meals themselves or had Irish servants to cook. Either way, they followed the English cooking practices, which included boiling the vegetables to death, as you point out. In the South, on the contrary, the influx of African slaves in the kitchens introduced a bit more spice and variety into the cooking. They weren’t afraid to add taste!
Peas can be planted very early, as early as March, before the last frost. Many times there were multiple plantings of hardy early vegetables several months apart to continue the supply throughout the summer.
I thought it was late for peas, too, but you raise a good point, Frank. Multiple plantings were certainly possible, especially under the purview of Oliver Ames.
And they were probably better at late spring plantings than we are and may well have planted a second pea crop in May/June, but the peas that I know don’t like the summer temperatures. On the other hand, I can get some summer lettuce, if I time my planting right. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. I have rarely tried a fall pea crop, but if I did, I suppose that I should be planting it right now! 😉
I grow as a serious hobby, while they did it as their basic food source. I know that the corn I will be eating within the week will be a lot sweeter than anything they could grow, but then, I don’t recall Old Oliver ever noting any corn harvest; potatoes, for sure, but I don’t recall corn.