Day 149 Blanc-mange

It is HOT today and I was outside in costume most of the time at the Waterloo Wellington Children’s Groundwater Festival. I can’t bear to put the oven on tonight to make something from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I decided to make Blanc-mange using Mrs. M. MacGarvin Bricker’s recipe. I’ve never made nor eaten blancmange and yet I’ve heard about it for years. It is one of those things that makes an appearance in classic 18th and 19th century novels and we all say “ah yes blancmange” but really have no idea what the character is eating.

Essentially new milk means fresh milk so I used 4 cups (1 quart) of my fresh from the store 2% milk. I put the milk in a saucepan and turned the heat to medium. Meanwhile I measured and mixed the cornstarch with a little milk and stirred this slowly into the hot milk. Then I added the sugar and salt. I let it boil 5 minutes  and then added some almond flavouring. I kept tasting until the flavour seemed appropriate. I poured the blancmange into a pudding dish and let it cool in the modern version of an icebox.

I was curious about the name –Mrs. M. MacGarvin Bricker. It sounded like her husband had been given a surname as a first name which certainly happened in the past and happens today. However, the real story is even more interesting. The woman contributing todays recipe is Georganna Alberta McGarvin and she is married to Moses M. Bricker. I’m not sure why she is including her maiden name as part of her name. Perhaps it helps distinguish her from the many other Brickers in Berlin and the surrounding area. The Waterloo Generations website provides a few details about the McGarvin-Bricker family which is helpful as the 1911 census simply lists Moses M. and Alberta Bricker and their son Clarkson. Moses has been a merchant, an agent for the Dominion Life Assurance Company and an insurance agent. His father died when he was just 14 years old. Alberta’s father was a doctor. The couple were married in 1885 and are Anglican. In 1911 Alberta (45), Moses (58) and Clarkson (21) live at 68 Queen Street along with 26 year old Agnes Powell their housemaid. They all list their heritage as English although only the maid was born there. Father and son are both insurance agents although Clarkson works at home. Only Moses speaks both English and German.

Be careful boiling the milk. I seem to have boiled it to the “caramel” stage. My blancmange had a slightly burnt flavour along with the almond. Not necessarily terrible but not what I was expecting in an essentially bland dessert. It is sweet and probably would be soothing when ill and appealing to children. No wonder it was so popular long ago. It is quick and easy to make and I’m sure most people didn’t need a recipe once they knew the proportions of the few simple ingredients. I suspect this dessert reflects Mrs. M. MacGarvin Bricker’s English heritage and probably appeared on the family table often — especially in summer.

Today was a good reminder of life in 1912 Berlin in the summer — no air conditioning and most likely no fan. Both men and women are wearing several layers of clothing that covers most of their bodies. There’s no microwave or barbeque for quick cool cooking instead a wood or coal fired stove must be used to cook each meal. Even this blancmange requires the stove but at least it cooks quickly.

1 quart of new milk, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 teacupful of sugar, pinch of salt, wet cornstarch with a little milk, add to the boiling milk the sugar, salt and cornstarch, boil 5 minutes, and when taken from stove add flavoring and turn into mould. Serve with whipped cream.

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