Monday Sept 6th Hannah & Catharine washed
and I had to be about house most of the
forenoon made floating island &c &c Mr
Plymton & another man here from Walpole
to dine Sewed some on shirts Called
with Mrs S Ames & Mrs Stevens on Abby &
Hannah. Called on Mrs Wales Sampson Holmes &c
“Oeufs a la Neige” is the French name for this lovely dessert, but Americans took their floating island from its Italian name, “Ile flottante.” Whatever one might call it, the basic recipe for the soft custard filled with floating ovals of poached meringue requires milk or cream and eggs. It would have been a special occasion for Evelina to serve it, which suggests that she wanted to impress the gentlemen from Walpole who came to dinner. It also tells us that she had eggs to spare in her kitchen, which was unusual.
Recipes for this dish are varied, as one might expect. One 19th century “receipt,” printed in the 1870’s in Godey’s Lady’s Book of Receipts and Household Hints*, tells us that making the dish was quite time consuming, especially when we remember that all that beating, stirring and frothing was done by hand.
Take six eggs, separate them; beat the yolks, and stir into a quart of milk; sweeten to taste; flavor with lemon or nutmeg. Put this mixture in a pan. Put some water in a saucepan, and set it on fire. When boiling, put in your pan, which ought to be half immersed. Keep stirring it until the custard gets thick, which will be in about thirty minutes. Whip the whites of the eggs to a strong froth. When the custard is done, put into a deep dish, and heap the frothed eggs upon it. Serve cold.*
No doubt Evelina’s dessert was a success at the dinner table. She could spend the afternoon in peace of mind, sewing and socializing. She, her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, and her guest, Mrs. Stevens, made a number of calls.
* Godey’s Lady’s Book of Receipts and Household Hints, 1870s, Recorded by Sarah Annie Frost, p. 237