sourdough starterPastryJoe, while writing about the history of Irish Sourdough Bread, traced the history of chemical leavening agents, potash –> pearl ash –> saleratus (as opposed to the more ancient technique of only yeast as leavening agent. Photo, right, shows a sourdough yeast at room temperature which is fed twice daily with flour and water.)

Then you can pick up the timeline of chemical leavening agents at History of Baking Powder by Whats Cooking America. Additionally, Rumford Baking Powder was first available in stores in 1859.

Baking powder has been made with different ingredients at different times: now baking powder is made with sodium bicarbonate and monocalcium phosphate, or, sodium bicarbonate and sodium aluminum sulfate, or just calcium acid phosphate. Corn starch is often an ingredient added to postpone activity if the baking powder is in contact with moisture, allowing the baking powder to be active later when it is heated in the oven.

Did you miss this link to “Rise Up!” on our facebook page? Be sure to check it out!

Note from wikipedia: “…In times past, when chemically manufactured baking soda was not available, ash water was used instead, especially in confectionery. Wood ash is also weakly alkaline. To prepare ash water, one used a fistful of ash from the fireplace in a big pot of water. Ash from solid woods, such as the olive tree, is preferred, whereas resinous woods, like pine, cannot be used. The ash water is given a boil, then left overnight to settle. The water is then filtered through a cloth and is ready to use. Many traditional recipes call for ash water instead of baking soda, because of some unique qualities: for example, ash water dripped on hot vegetable oils congeals into a gel-like mixture…”


  • The word potassium is derived from the word potash.
  • When cooks switched from potash, or pearl ash, to saleratus, they could use fewer eggs.

Baking Powder & Corn Starch Booklets

Misty makes homemade butter look easy. God bless Misty with her informative youtube channel.

Oysters were popular in the 1800s. What happened? According to The Independent in the UK, oysters were popular in the 1860s because they were affordable, and bulked up expensive dishes, such as meat pies. By the late 1800s oysters were more expensive and popular. Meat was now the ingredient bulking oyster pies. People consumed oysters that should have been used to re-seed oysters beds, and during war, oyster-beds were neglected.

Because they take on the taste of the water whence they’ve come, oysters are the perfect vehicle for reflecting the ocean quality. Drew Smith wrote a guide to tastes of oysters from different locations in Europe, located at the end of The Independent‘s informative oyster article. And a quick google search pulls up a company who ships fresh oysters overnight.

3 helpful videos to watch before ordering your fresh oysters:

eating-the-past.Listen to Dr Megan Elias talk, “Eating the Past: Why and How to Study Food History” about the history of lunch. She refers to Annie Hauck-lawson’s concept of the Food Voice, which is now a book, The Food Voice Primer.

Highlights of the Lecture

  • American Lunch concept comes from Northern Europe
  • Northern European peasant lunch: pottage, cheese, bread, and fruit, beer.
  • Edam cheese was the most popular cheese in the world for a few hundred years.
  • Ruling class did not have lunch, but had huge breakfast, maybe snacks during day, and a large supper.
  • American field workers food tended to be brought to them and eaten in the field.
  • American craftsmen groups also had their food brought to them, and they ate together, c. 1830s and before.
  • 1820 and beyond: factories necessitated set lunch times; lunch truck; lunch at saloons for men.
  • There were “Tables for Ladies” advertised at some restaurants.
  • Women before 1820s working in kitchen all day with family there. Picked at food, but didn’t have a lunch, per se.
  • After 1820s women are often alone at home during midday, men are at factory, children at school.
  • Late-1800s: Women had free time to shop; department stores created restaurants in stores.
  • Women wore tight corsets so lunched accordingly.
  • Home Economics Movement: Cookbooks designed as Textbooks
  • Pre-sliced bread invented in 1920s, thus more sandwiches
  • 1920s School Lunches
  • Civil Rights Movement included the right to have lunch
  • Fast Food grew with highway travel
  • 1950s the three-martini lunch for knowledge workers
  • Power Lunches: The Four Seasons Restaurant, NYC

Enter the immense yards [in 1898] beneath the plain, massive arch that bears the inscription, “Union Stock Yards, Chartered 1865” and you will readily grasp the meaning and value of the system. It is a region of order and death, but a sight that will stir the most casual onlooker or the deepest philosopher. It is a city in itself–a city of pens and factories, immense and noisy. Wherever the eye wanders, the most intense activity prevails….In 1865 there were 330,301 cattle received and shipped live, and 27,172 cattle and 507,355 hogs packed. — The Chicago Packing Industry


by Rena

A bag of sugar slumps on the cover of the book written by Elizabeth Abbott Sugar: A Bittersweet History or you may prefer to read Peter Macinnis’s earlier book Bittersweet: The Story of Sugar

Here’s a sketch of the adoption of sugar:

1000s+: mostly used in medicines, also sultans, caliphs [New Guinea crop] “A Persian visitor claimed that in 1040, the sultan’s bakers transformed 162,000 pounds of sugar into a life-sized tree and other sweet replicas.” — Sugar: A Bittersweet History

1400s+: Royals, nobles, knights [addition of Mediterranean crop]

1500s+: European merchant class. [addition of New World crop]

1600s+: working classes