I was supposed to go to a potluck BBQ at a friend’s farm tonight and planned to bring the ingredients for making something from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I decided to make Elizabeth Wuest’s French Salad since I had nice ripe tomatoes, some celery, older eggs to boil, and even the necessary cream and vinegar. For a number of reasons, including a broken tooth, getting lost, and rain, I didn’t make it to the party. Instead I made a much smaller bowl of French Salad to sample at home.
I cut up one tomato into small pieces and put them in the bottom of a clear glass bowl. I chopped two stalks of celery and lay the pieces on top of the tomatoes. I had hard-boiled some eggs earlier so I peeled one, chopped it up, and put the pieces on the top of the salad. Very fresh eggs are extremely hard to peel after hard boiling. It is much better to use older eggs that have a bigger air pocket.
I sprinkled salt and pepper on top of the salad before mixing the dressing. I put two teaspoons of cream and 1 teaspoon of vinegar in a small dish, stirred until it was no longer curdled, and sampled. That proportion suited me but you might want to add more or less vinegar. I found that this amount of dressing was enough for the small bowl of salad. It was time to taste.
I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that 21-year-old Lisabeth Wuest in the 1901 census is the same person as Elizabeth Wuest contributor to the Berlin Cook Book. She lives with her 45-year-old widowed mother, younger sister (20), younger brother (15) and a 70-year-old widowed woman who is listed as a roomer. The spelling of the word roomer as rumer helps confirm the likelihood of Lisabeth and Elizabeth as the same person. Everyone in the household is of German ancestry and Lutheran religion. Again the census taker uses some creative spelling but I think the two young women work in a button factory and the young man works in a cigar factory.
It is hard to picture the life of this family. I don’t know when Mrs. Wuest became a widow but even it was recently her world must have turned upside down. I have some friends who became widows in their 30s and had to continue to care for their small children while dealing with grief and financial worries. Did you notice that the boy working in a cigar factory is only 15. I’ve seen some photos of a local cigar factory showing the young boy workers. I can’t remember the source at the moment but will add it later.
I’d been waiting to make this recipe until there were people to sample it since I don’t like eggs or tomatoes. However, I forced myself to taste. It looked very pretty with the layer of red tomatoes, then green celery and finally yellow and white egg. Additional layers as suggested in the recipe would look very attractive especially in a clear bowl. Considering that I don’t like two of the three main ingredients, I think the combination is good. However, the dressing is not good at least not to me. I’d opt for another of the dressings in the book — either an oil and vinegar or one of the cooked dressings. This is a very nice looking salad so modern cooks could experiment with seasonings and dressings to make Elizabeth Wuest’s French Salad company ready.
Cut up 1 layer of ripe tomatoes in small pieces, also one layer celery in 3/4 inch pieces, and one layer hard boiled eggs in small pieces, season with pepper and alt. Make two or three layers like this then put vinegar and cream over the top to suit the taste.