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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 22, 1929, Image 83

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1929-12-22/ed-1/seq-83/

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Christmas Dinners in the Old Dominion
Game Hunting During the Christmas Holidays in Old Virginia and the Hunt Dinners y
Prepared With Amazing Skill by Colonial Housewives, Were High Spots in the Days
of the Cavaliers—Here Are Some of the Famous Recipes Culled From the Old
Family Cook Books—A Delightful Commentary of the Time. 1
BY NANCY FOREMAN MUNCE.
ONE of the traditional pictures which
one associates with old “merrie Eng
land” is that of the hunt. We read
over and over again of the famous
stag and boar hunts, and almost In
variably associated with the early English
Christmas is the picture of the boar’s head be
ing brought in on the great silver salver as part
of the Christmas festivities. Falconing, stag
hunting, fox hunting and grouse hunting, all
have played conspicuous parts in English coun
try life, and even today affairs of state and
business are laid aside while the English gen
tleman adjourns to the moors for his annual
“shoot” in the “season.” To the English mind
the traditional hunt did not mean just the mere
capture and slaughter of game, but always at
tendant with the hunt were the festivities of
the parties, great dinners and balls, at which
epicurean dishes of game were served, so that
the season of the hunt in reality marked one
of the high spots in the English social year.
When the English pioneers came to this
country, game was their meat supply, and we
read in the recounting of their experiences the
important part that the large supply of available
game played in the establishment of the early
Colonies. Howe, one of the first historians of
Virginia, wrote, “The morasses were alive with
water fowl, the forests were nimble with game,
the woods rustled with covies of quails and
wild turkeys, while they sung with the merry
notes of the singing birds. It was ‘the best
poor man’s country In the world,’ ” so in reality
the meat supply was not as difficult to obtain
as the growing of grain for cereals, and the
providing of the other necessities of life. As
the Colmiy grew there came to Virginia the
Cavaliers. English gentlemen, who brought with
them the traditions of the English hunt, and
faced with the Colonial necessity of a meat sup
ply, drew on the apparently limitless supply of
game for both necessity and pleasure. Bear,
deer, quail, pheasant and pigeons were every
where in the high land; in the tidewaters wild
duck and wild geese and terrapin abounded.
THF. SUNDAY STAR, WASHINGTON. O. C.. DECEMBER 22. I'W.
and from these great natural resources there
were drawn into the everyday life of Colonial
Virginia the famous game dishes which are
today but traditions.
The fame of certain hunting grounds is im
mortal-r-the bear and deer of the Dismal Swamp,
and the deer runs of Piedmont; the canvas
backs, Mallard and red heads of Back Bay, the
Chlcahominy ond the Potomac; and the dia
mond-back terrapin of the Eastern Bhore, all
have been immortalized in tradition and' story;
but as time has gone on and Virginia changed
from Colony to State, and the population grew,
the game has gone, until today only by the grace
of conservation laws is there any game left of
what was once an apparently unlimited supply,
and indeed some of it has gone beyond recall.
The wild pigeon is no more, and our deer and
bear population is rapidly going the same way.
In this day when our meat supply comes prac
tically entirely from domestio animals, it is per
fectly natural that the greatest delicaoies of
today should be drawn from these sources, but
in the generations gone, when the meat supply
was game, the epicures of that day evolved
those traditional dishes which are savory mem
ories to a fortunate few, and practically un
known to a vast majority. Today, to the aver
age man, game is a rare treat, and yet some of
the most famous dishes of Colonial times were
evolved by the epicures of that day from ter
rapin, canvasback, partridges and deer; many
of these famous dishes being those which orig
inated in England, modified or supplemented
by garnitures or side dishes peculiar to the New
World.
{'''HRIBTMAS has always been a great holiday
time in Virginia, and while the evenings
were given to sumptuous dinners, balls and
parties, it was but natural that the men should
give the early mornings and middays over to
hunting and other sports. The Christmas hunts
were always the outstanding ones of the year,
with dogs well broken from the earlier season’s
handling, markmanship raised to the highest
pitch through the seasons experience, and
neighbor vying with neighbor and friend with
friend for the lion’s share of the hunt bag. And
then the hunt dinners that followed, where each
lady put before her guests the booty from her
Nimrod’s bag, developed by her a maxing skill
into the piece de resistance of the Lucullan
feast, were high spots in the Colonial life.
If there is any truth in the epigram, “Tell
me what you eat and I will tell you what you
are,” then those famous treasure troves of *
domestic economy, the family recipe books,
which have come down from generation to gen
eration, are the most delightful and poignant
commentaries on the life in Colonial Virginia,
for it is from these that one obtains the picture
of the preparation of the dishes which made
those dinners so famous.
From here and there among these old recipe
books, I have taken some of the famous game
plates to pass on to you, for though you may
never be fortunate enough to have fulfilled the
first essential of the true huntsman’s game
plate, and that is, that it be from your own bag,
you may appreciate and enjoy the visualisation
of some of these famous old dishes.
gKAR meat apparently was never considered
a great delicacy, and was usually cooked
as one handles pork, but venison or deer meat
was always considered the most delectable of
all of the game animals. Os special recipes
for preparing venison there seems to be an un
limited number, but I will only give you one or
two which I know are most savory and en
joyable.
TO ROAST A HAUNCH OF
VENISON.
“Venison Is finest in Autumn or early Win
ter, and keeps longer than any other fresh
meat, no other care being necessary for keep
ing it from three to four weeks than to hang
it up in a cool, dry place.
“The haunch is the handsomest joint to set
before a large company. A fine one weighs
from 20 to 25 pounds, and when cooked in a
stove requires as much as five hours for its
thorougn roasting. To keep In the Juices aag
protect the fat cover the Joint with a greased
paper first, and over that lay a paste made Os
flour and water. Baste frequently with lard
and butter, and remove the envelope whenready
to serve. ««•
“To dress the haunch for the table, fold Up
double two sheets of letter paper, cut, crimp and
turn them over, so as to form a broad rufila
around the hock end, and send it to the table
on a large flat dish, ungamished, but with the
accompaniment of a glass of Jelly."
DEVILED VENISON.
"Cut thick slices from rare-roasted venison,
make slanting incision and fill them with mixed
mustard and salad oil. Brush the slices with
melted butter and dredge them with flour.
Broil over clear coals till a good brown and
serve with butter."
One of the peculiar garnishments that always
seemed to be served with game was the green
walnut pickle, Its savory twang being a fitting
complement to the delicate "gamey” flavor, and -
while game may be scarce, green walnuts still
are plentiful, and dne will And this recipe a de«'
lightful garniture for some of our modern meat
dishes.
WALNUT PICKLE.
"The walnuts (black) should be gathered in
May when they are tender enough to pass a
needle through. Pour boiling water and salt
over them every other day for nine days, leaving
them in the salt and water. At the end of that
time remove them from the brine and expose
them to the air on dishes, turning them occ*»
sionaUy; put them in a Jar alternately with lay*
ers of black pepper and cloves, ground, and a
little garlic, mustard seed and ground horse*
radish; cover with cold vinegar.”
It is probable that there is no more desirable
dish in the world than what many chefs would
choose to call “terrapin a la Maryland." If
some of our forebears could see the travesties
that are often perpetrated on the unknowing
Continued on Thirteenth Page <
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