If cooking on a 19th century woodstove isn’t your cup of tea, how about adding living alone for three years on an almost uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest? In 1898? Eliza Waite, our hearty protagonist, is largely self sufficient, although she rows (yes, rows) four miles across a strait to another island once a month for supplies.
Eliza’s a baker, first by avocation, and later by vocation. She measures by teacups and uses what she has on hand to create sweet and savory concoctions. All the 33 authentic pioneer recipes imbedded in the novel were gleaned from 19th century newspapers. Good thing I had friends vet them all; errors in six of the recipes rendered them unpalatable.
Here’s what one reader wrote about Eliza’s Johnny Cakes:
I grew up with grandparents who called cornbread "Johnny Cake" and who served it with black-eyed peas, sautéed greens, grits and hominy. This was NOT my grandma's Johnny Cake.
The recipe went together easily though I questioned the exclusion of fat such as lard or butter and thought it seemed a little heavy on the corn meal ratio. I "soured" some milk with lemon and added the mixed ingredients to an oiled cast iron skillet, which went into the stove for 20 minutes.
The result was . . . interesting. My husband called it “Johnny Particle Board.”
It looked nice and rustic in the pan, smelled good in the oven, but was dry as dust in the mouth. The first thing my husband asked was: "Didn't you add yogurt or chilis or creamed corn?" which are ingredients commonly used in our corn bread. I responded (hands on hips): “WOULD ELIZA HAVE HAD THOSE ITEMS IN HER CUPBOARD?!”
In this example, I amended the recipe to use lard, and my, what a difference! Delish. My favs are the Pecan Tarts, Country Apple Pie, and Marionberry Coffee Cake. But I’ll let you off the hook—you can use your gas or electric oven.
Bonus points for using a woodstove!
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Ashley!
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Photo Credit: Karen Mullen Photography