Tomato soup

Today we turn to the delightfully named cookbook “The Way to a Man’s Heart”, also know as “The Settlement Cook Book”, compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander and Mrs. Henry Schoenfeld in Milwaukee, Wisconsin back in 1903.

Now, let’s open this information up a bit. The Settlement Movement was a social reform movement popular around the last two decades of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th. The general idea seems to have been to set up settlement houses for poor people to live in where middle-class benefactors would visit regularly to give lessons in literacy, hygiene, cooking and whatnot. In the US settlement houses would usually house immigrants to help them integrate. The Milwaukee settlement house, where this book comes from, was founded by established German-American Jews for Jewish immigrants who’d arrived recently, mainly from Eastern Europe.

Elizabeth Black Kander was president of the Milwaukee settlement house, and she also taught cooking and nutritional diet to immigrant girls. To raise funds for the organization Kander compiled this cookbook, teaching its target audience about American food, setting the table properly, and the nutritional value of food. The book became so popular the settlement was able to build a new house for their work when the old one grew too small. The Settlement Cook Book went through dozens of revised editions, most of which were overseen by Kander.

The identity of Mrs. Henry Schoenfeld is more of a mystery. I did find one Henry Schoenfeld, a Milwaukee-born composer whose age fits in with the narrative and so this could be his wife, but I’m not a bit sure of it. I could see Kander going to her wealthy friends for patronage when she was trying to get the book published – much of it was funded by ads which are still in my reprinted edition.

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Just what I need!

Anyway, enough historical exposition and speculation and onwards with the tomato soup.

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The recipe says to use a can of tomatos, so I felt like it wasn’t much of a cheat to get some crushed tomatos from the shop. A quart is about one liter.

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I forgot to put the book in the picture.

Into the pot went about a kilo of crushed tomato, with some water, cloves, salt, sugar and a slice of onion.

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A slice? Seriously? That’s all?

I thought straining the soup was a bit superfluous, but did it anyway because I was told to. I’m an obedient cook.

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I have no filter that would make this look less suspicious.

In with the soda and butter. I was wondering what the point of the baking soda was. A bit of research suggests it’s something people do to counteract the acidity of tomatos – although this recipe also has sugar to mellow the taste so it might be unnecessary. At least the baking soda fizzed in an amusing manner when I poured it in. It turns out straining the soup wasn’t a bad idea after all, because the strained liquid was easier to thicken with flour than chunky soup would have been. I whisked the flour in, but you can also mix the flour with a little bit of water and then pour it in. Add chunks, serve.

The end result was a creamy soup that could have had more cloves in it for my taste. My picky older daughter deemed it “pretty good”, while my omnivorous younger daughter refused to have more than one spoonful.

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“Pretty good.”

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2 thoughts on “Tomato soup

  1. For some reason this didn’t pop up on my “blogs I follow” page, but I will be making this later in the week. I’m a big fan of tomato soup, although The Wife isn’t. However this is going to be wonderful after a day of skiing over the Easter holiday.

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  2. It was really very nice. I commented that it was very close to the taste of Campbell’s soup, probably because their recipe is similarly ancient.

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