Recently I came across a tag for a radio discussion on “jam trends.” I was a bit surprised, as I consider myself a reasonably well informed cook, but I had no idea that there were trends in jam making. I had to give this some thought. Of course there are “food trends,” usually inspired by some sort of technological innovation like refrigeration provided us with refrigerator cakes and ice box cookies, K-rations in WWII led to freeze dried innovations such as instant coffee and the because of the microwave oven we have Pizza Pockets. Not all innovations have guaranteed culinary delights.
I am tired of a winter that never seems like it will end and I am really tired of brown food. While deciding what forgotten food to cook this week and after thinking a bit about food trends, I came across this recipe from the Pierre and Janet Berton’s Canadian Food Guide published in 1974. The voice is that of the dutiful housewife Janet, and Pierre appears as the consuming Gourmand, but no matter, the book is an interesting read and the recipes at the back speak to an upper middle class in the early 1970’s who drink martinis before and eat their steak rare…as it is the height of fashion at the time or trend.
In 1974, Janet writes; “Curiously enough, this familiar old recipe is difficult to find in modern recipe books. There are it seems, fashions in food as well as in dress and in hairstyle, and snow pudding is, inexplicably, out of fashion. yet it ranks among the lightest and most refreshing of all desserts.” She goes on to give her recipe, written in narrative fashion for snow pudding. “Boil two cups of water and add the salt and all the sugar except for two tablespoons. Dilute the cornstarch with the rest of the water and combine the two mixtures. Bring to the boiling point, stirring constantly and boil for five minutes. Beat the egg whites stiff with the sugar, lemon juice and rind, and add to the mixture. Turn into a mold, first dipped in cold water, and chill. Unmould and serve, if desired with custard sauce.”
I have been able to find similar recipes for Snow Pudding, in the New Galt Cook Book, I have the revised 1898 ed. the recipe is written as follows; “One large package gelatine, one and one-half cupfuls of sugar, one cupful boiling water, whites of four eggs, juice of one lemon. Pour one cupful of cold water over the gelatine, then add sugar, then one cupful of boiling water, juice of one lemon and the whites of eggs well beaten. Beat all together until very light, pour in a dish to cook. Make a boiled custard and pour it over when dishing for the table.”
In a 1932 ed. of A Guide to Cooking, Compiled by the Makers of Five Roses Flour, the recipe is called “Lemon Snow, also known as Delhi Pudding,” the recipe is written like the cook book in our more recognized standard format as;
2 cups boiling water 4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 egg whites
Add the finely-grated lemon rind to the boiling water. Make pudding same as Cornstarch Pudding. When cooked, remove from fire, add lemon juice and fold in the stiffly-whipped egg-whites. Pour into cold wet moulds. Unmould when firm, and serve with vanilla-flavoured Custard Sauce. For the Custard Sauce, use the left-over egg-yolks.
Lemon Snow is not a uniquely Canadian dessert, in a 1922 ed. of The Boston Cooking-School, Cook Book by Fannie Farmer, there are two recipes given for Snow Pudding, both using “gelatine,” as the thickener.
And then, just as Janet Berton had noted, Snow Pudding disappears from contemporary cookbooks. Perhaps too simple, too unsophisticated and not French at all, as for the upper classes, French Food starts to take over regional palettes in the 1960’s, due in part to the success of Julia Child.
So, I am wrong, there are trends in food, like there are trends in all things. I hope that the trend in food towards local, seasonal and home made is one that continues, as it’s not so much a trend but a re-discovering of things lost; techniques, ingredients and flavours, and recipes. I followed Janet Berton’s recipe, I was a bit dubious, but in the end it was easy, quick and delicious, I will make it again, probably in the summer when plump, ruby red raspberries are in season and when the thought of snow is a very distant memory.
Ingredients for Janet’s Snow Pudding
2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. cornstarch
2 egg whites
1/3 cup lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
(Follow the directions above, it does work. I would recommend chilling at least six hours before serving.)