A Casserole for the March Family

Book Lovers Cook Book

Oh, a Literary Foods challenge, foods and or meals mentioned in books, now that was one during the last round of Historic Food Fortnightly that by-passed because I just can’t remember what people eat in books.. Since then, a friend gave me The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Wenger and Janet Jensen. This book is full of “recipes inspired by celebrated works of literature and the passages that featured them” and suddenly this challenge became much easier.

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (writing as T. Tupman of “The Pickwick Portfolio”) wrote

Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed in his garden, and after a while it sprouted and became a vine, and bore many squashes. One day in October, when they were ripe, he picked one and took it to market. A grocerman bought and put it in his shop. That same morning, a little girl, in her brown hat and blue dress, with round face and snub nose, went and bought it for her mother. She lugged it home, cut it up, and boiled in in the big pot; mashed some of it with salt and butter for dinner; and the rest shed added a pint to of milk, two eggs, four spoons of sugar, nutmeg, and some crackers; put it in a deep dish, and baked it till it was brown and nice; and next day it was eaten by a family named March.

Choose a squash recipe because we had a couple of butternut squashes stored in our basement from last year.

From this quote, we turned to New York Historic Newspapers for our recipe. Found many recipes similar to what Alcott wrote but also found a tasty variation of the squash casserole with pineapple from the Plattsburgh Daily Republican, January 5, 1935. Plattsburgh is a small city in northeastern New York, near the Canadian border, Lake Champlain, and Fort Ticonderoga.

News of the day featured President Roosevelt’s continued efforts to bring the US out of the Great Depression, the latest from the trial of Bernard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of Charles and Anne Lindbergh’s eldest child Charles Jr., and a profile of women school teachers who were unable to marry fellow male teachers due to a court order.

On page nine, Home Features of Timely Interest, we find an article about trains of musicale gowns and a joke about which ship women are really waiting for. Also featured on page nine was the Squash and Pineapple in Casserole recipe.

Started by removing the skin and seeds from the squashes, cutting them in large chunks, and boiling them for about an hour. Then strained off the water, mashed the squash, and added the pineapple (mistakenly bought chunks not crushed pineapple so chopped up the chucks in the food processor), butter, nutmeg, orange peel and, mistakenly, bread crumbs to the squash and mixed it up. Upon realizing that the bread crumbs were supposed to go on top (it does help to READ the recipe sometimes) we made more bread crumbs with bread slices in the oven heated at a low temperature, added softened butter to the bread crumbs to make buttered bread crumbs, sprinkled the bread crumbs on top of the casserole, then baked the casserole for 45 minutes at 350o F.

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Time: about 4 hours (due to the need to make more bread crumbs)

Cost: about $4

Successful: Yes, a tasty addition to our squash recipes

Accurate: Fairly accurate except adding bread crumbs to the squash mix.

Sources:

NY Historic Newspapers, Plattsburgh Daily Republican, January 5, 1935

Wenger, Shaunda  and Janet Jensen, The book lover’s cookbook : recipes inspired by celebrated works of literature and the passages that feature them, New York : Ballantine Books, ©2005, ©2003.

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