Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Savannah Cook Book, by Harriet Ross Colquitt: Chatham Artillery Punch

The New Georgia Encyclopedia says this about The Savannah Cook Book, by Harriet Ross Colquitt:
Harriet Ross Colquitt was the author of The Savannah Cookbook, a more colorful and quirky collection of recipes, chock full of such coastal standards as mulatto rice (a composed rice dish with tomatoes) and Chatham Artillery Punch (a kitchen-sink conglomeration of, among other liquors, brandy, gin, rye, and rum). Published in 1933, the book boasts a foreword by poet Ogden Nash wherein he proclaims, "Everybody has the right to think whose food is the most gorgeous / And I nominate Georgia's."
This is accurate. It misses some of what I find to be the defining characteristics of this book, however. It's, well, a product of its time -- 1933 -- and the yearnings of the time, as well. So, here's a glimpse back to the good ol' days, and those who were, in turn, glimpsing back to the good ol' days.

From the Foreword:
But we have had so many requests for receipts for rice dishes, and for shrimp and crab concoctions which are peculiar to our locality, that I have concentrated on those indigenous to our soil, as it were, begging them from housekeepers, and trying to tack our elusive cooks down to some definite idea of what goes into the making of the good dishes they turn out.

But getting directions from colored cooks is rather like trying to write down the music to the spirituals which they sing -- for all good old-timers (and new-timers, too, for that matter) cook "by ear", and it is hard to bring them down to earth when they begin to improvise. They are not only very bad on detail,1 with their vague suggestions of "a little of dis and a little of dat", but they are extremely modest about their accomplishments...

1 "How long do you cook your okra?" I asked a colored cook, to which she replied that she put it on when she did the rice. Knowing that the rice should cook about twenty minutes before steaming, I thought I would find out by this devious method, so inquired "How long do you steam your rice?" "'Til dinner's ready," responded this wizard of the kitchen, and left me just where I was when I started.
...yeah. Let it be said that at least one of the things I find disturbing in that is the placement of the commas after the quotation marks... I am many things, but a grammar girl is one of 'em.

But, let's get back to the more pleasant things in this cookbook... the aforementioned Chatham Artillery punch.
Chatham Artillery Punch

1 1/2 gallons Catawba
1/2 gallon St. Croix rum
1 quart Gordon gin
1 quart Hennessy brandy
1/2 pint Benedictine
1 1/2 quarts rye whiskey
1 1/2 gallons strong tea
2 1/2 pounds brown sugar
juice 1 1/2 dozen oranges
juice 1 1/2 dozen lemons
1 bottle maraschino cherries

Make stock with above from thirty-six to forty-eight hours before time for using. Add one case of champagne when ready to serve.
I assume they mean wine made from Catawba, but they might mean juice... either way, Concord grape wine/juice can stand in.

1 comment:

  1. Made this every year for New Year's Eve parties for about 15 years. It was a REAL hit. Great for big outdoor summer parties too. Warning some guests may need to stay over night, or maybe even weekend.