February 29, 2016

Weird Leap Year Traditions

It's leap day! Which means bachelors beware!

Leap year has been used historically as a year to reverse gender roles.  In the 1700s and 1800s there were leap year parties where the women we able to forego traditional roles and ask the men to dance. In the 1900s, leap day was an excuse to put women in traditionally male roles for a day, such as fire fighters or politicians, with the end goal of securing a husband by media attention. But by far the most interesting leap year tradition is women being able to propose marriage to men regardless of societal limits.  

The origins of leap year proposals are murky. Lore relates that the tradition goes back to 5th century when St. Brigid complained to St. Patrick that women did not have the option. Another tale states the origin is a Scottish law from 1288 by unmarried Queen Margaret which proposed any man who refused the proposal of a women during leap year would have to pay a fine. Neither of these origins is plausible but the two theories have been printed and reprinted for at least 200 years.

The tradition seems to be all in good fun.

February 25, 2016

Civil War Era Apple Snowballs Recipe

This recipe was cooked for the Historical Food Fortnightly. A yearly challenge that encourages bloggers to cook a historical food every two weeks. This is a fun to make and delicious recipe. Also my first time making boiled rice in pudding cloth. It's a nice early war recipe when rice was prevalent in the Southern states.  

The Challenge: Sweets for the Sweet (February 12 - February 25) It’s sugar, and maybe spice, and definitely everything nice. Test out a historic recipe for sweets, sweetmeats and candies - but don’t let them spoil your appetite!

The Recipe: 


The Date/Year and Region: 1861 England although similar recipes were printed before and throughout the war on both sides of the Atlantic including in Sarah Josepha Hale's Modern Cookery (1845). The The Housekeeper and Gardener (1858) used the alternative name "Carolina Snowballs."
How Did You Make It: 


- 4 small apples, pared and cored
- 2 Cups of uncooked Rice
- 4 Cups Milk
- Cinnamon
- Sugar
- Cloves
- Pudding cloths or pudding bags and twine


Boil the rice in the milk until 3/4 of the way done, strain off extra milk. Set aside and let cool. Mix the cinnamon, sugar and a few cloves and add a small amount of water to make a paste. Fill the apples with the cinnamon and sugar. Lay out a pudding cloth and cover it with 1/2 inch of the cooled rice. Place apple in the center and tie the bag around the top, making sure to press the rice together around one apple. Once all apples are wrapped, boil in a large pot for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are soft. Remove the snowballs from the water by the strings and left to cool on a plate Let cool then remove the pudding cloths and serve.

** Leave the twine long, so you are able to move the snowballs around the pot while boiling.

Time to Complete: Maybe an Hour.

Total Cost: $5.00

How Successful Was It?: Very delicious!

How Accurate Is It?: I followed the recipe as close as I could having never made them before. 

February 11, 2016

History of Caesar Salad or Aviator's Salad 1940s Recipe

This recipe was cooked for the Historical Food Fortnightly. A yearly challenge that encourages bloggers to cook a historical food every two weeks. The inspiration for this recipe came from my grandma who recently went out to eat with some family members. She ordered a Caesar Salad which is one of her favorites but she couldn't say anything favorable about it.

"A Caesar salad used to be a big to do. The chef would bring the ingredients to the table and make it fresh in front of you. This one they just handed it to me and the dressing was from a bottle!"

Which got me wondering why this particular salad was such a big deal and how far away from the my grandma's amazing recipe was from the originals. How old is Caesar Salad anyway? Sounded like the perfect recipe to cook for the history detective challenge!

Like with many foods, various people have claimed to be the inventor of the Caesar salad. One would think the dish has obvious old world origins but it turns out it is an American/Mexican invention. The most likely inventor is Caesar Cardini an Italian-American restaurant owner who took advantage of prohibition by establishing Caesar's Palace in Tijuana which attracted people looking to drink legally.

As the story goes, the 4th of July weekend in 1924 was particularly busy. So busy the restaurant started running out of food. Caesar mixed together left over ingredients and tried to make up for the limited dish with fanfare at the table. The dish was made with full leaves of romaine lettuce so diners could eat pieces with their hands in traditional Italian fashion. 

Caesar's brother Alex, made a similar dish, substituting anchovy paste for Worcestershire sauce, which he called Aviator's Salad. His story is that he served it to pilots from Rockwell Field Air Force for breakfast after they drank too much and missed curfew. Alex being a pilot himself during WWI named the dish in honor of the pilots.  Eventually aviator's Salad became more popular and eventually became known as Caesar Salad. (1)  Julia Child's claimed that she remembered being served the dish at Caesar's restaurant in the 20s but not what was in it and by the 1950s it was a household dish.        

The Challenge: History Detective (January 29 - February 11) For this challenge, you get to be the detective! Either use clues from multiple recipes to make a composite recipe, or choose a very vague recipe and investigate how it was made.

The Date/Year and Region: 1924 invented in Mexico, popularized in the 1940s in the US. 

The Recipe


- 3 cloves Garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- Juice of 1/2 Lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon Dry Mustard
- 1 spoonful of Worcestershire Sauce
-  Anchovy paste, to taste
- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
-  Black Pepper, freshly ground as a garnish 
- Croutons
- 1 lb Lettuce  

*Grandma says some places added a coddled egg but it's not necessary. Strangely this is my grandfather's recipe. It said so on the crumpled up recipe my grandma gave me. She said he liked it so much he convinced a chef friend in Philadelphia to give him the secret recipe.  

Instructions: Squeeze the garlic in a garlic press, straight into the oil. Add the lemon juice, mustard, Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire Sauce. Add the anchovy paste to taste. Wash and dry your lettuce, keeping the leaves full if you want a finger food or chopped if you want to use a fork. Add croutons to thee lettuce and pour on the dressing then top with freshly ground pepper.    

Time to Complete: A few minutes regardless of what Dorothy Kilgallen wrote in the newspaper in 1948 about the popular dish from California " tak[ing] ages to prepare."

Total Cost: A few dollars.

How Successful Was It?: Very successful. This recipe will have you wondering how we can even call that stuff in the bottle Caesar dressing.

How Accurate Is It?: I used the coddled egg but having had it without the coddled egg, it really doesn't need it. The traditional recipe calls for lime juice instead of lemon but it seems almost immediately other restaurants were using lemons instead due to a mistranslation.   

February 3, 2016

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party Post

It's been awhile since I've done a blog party post. The weather has been odd, spring like days mixed with snow storms and I've been keeping busy.

I've been spending a lot of time with the Chester Historical Preservation Committee in trying to preserve the Old Third Presbyterian Church in Chester, PA, which is a beautiful church that pioneered the very first vacation bible school. It's very beautiful on the outside but as it has been abandoned for the last few years and faced demolition, it's in pretty rough shape on the inside. Once finished it will hopefully be the new home of the Chester Historical Preservation Committee and their archives and a center for the performing arts and culture of Chester. 

Some pictures of the church and what I've been up to these last few weeks:

Old Third Presbyterian from the outside just to give you a visual.

The Third Presbyterian Church on the inside. Vandals ripped out all the metal railings, the heating and the plumbing. This leak is from where they ripped out part of the heating and exposed the room to the outside.

So far we have removed over 110 huge contractor bags full of trash from the building but we still have a long way to go. There are tons of rooms in the church and the weather is making cleaning difficult.

This storm was quick and disappeared almost over night. The weird weather is confusing birds and plants. Some trees have already started budding.

My dog generally loves the snow but today he wasn't having it.

My awesome friend Eva took the people from work on a tour of Glenncairn, a crazy house built by a wealthy businessman in the 1920s. I just loved the mosaic tiling.  

Another shot from Glenncairn, many of the rooms feature a mix of real and reproduction medieval stained glass. The family also collected religious artwork and artifacts from around the world. I have to say my new found interest in stained glass windows might have something to do with having to replace a lot of the stained glass in the Third Presbyterian where people threw rocks through. 

We also took a look at Bryn Athyn Cathedral which was built around the same time as Glenncairn.

Bryn Athyn on the inside. We sat and listened to the organist practice.

This was the sunrise of of the blizzard. That old saying "Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailor's warning" is true.



And more snow. At over 30 inches I think people are finally tired of it.

I hope everyone has been having a good winter and would love to hear what everyone is up to!

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.