Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Portable Soup That May Be Carried in the Pocket Without Inconvenience

Actually, I do read things a little weightier than David Sedaris. Why, for the past two months I’ve been reading a biography of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame). I do admit, however, that it is taking me donkey's years to get through it. I’m easily seduced by less taxing literature. (See yesterday’s post.)

It was Lewis’ job to outfit the Corps of Discovery, taking more or less wild guesses about the amounts of whiskey, small white beads (to appease Indians), and Dr. Rush's "Thunderclapper" pills the corps should take with them on their quest to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. He blew a huge chunk of his budget on something called “portable soup,” spending more on it than he spent on weapons (blunderbusses), ammo, or navigational instruments. What could be in this stuff, I wondered, that Lewis was willing to potentially compromise the crew’s safety for soup? The book is infuriatingly vague about its components.

I Googled “portable soup,” secretly hoping I would find a recipe and be able to re-create this highly prized historical soup. I found the following 1753 recipe from the “Ladies Companion” on this soup site. I reproduce it here, as surely there can be no question that something this old is in the public domain. I’ve highlighted the most stomach-churning aspects in queasy green.

To make a Veal Glue, or Cake Soup to be carried in the Pocket Take a Leg of Veal, strip it of the Skin and the Fat, then take all the muscular or fleshy Parts from the Bones; boil this Flesh gently in such a Quantity of Water, and so long a Time, till the Liquor will make a strong Jelly when it is cold: This you may try by taking out a small Spoonful now and then, and letting it cool. Here it is to be supposed, that though it will jelly presently in small Quantities, yet all the Juice of the Meat may not be extracted; however, when you find it very strong, strain the Liquor through a Sieve, and let it settle; then provide a large Stew-pan, with Water, and some China Cups, or glazed Earthenware; fill these Cups with Jelly taken clear from the Settling, and set them in a Stew-pan of Water, and let the Water boil gently till the Jelly becomes as thick as Glue; after which, let them stand to cool, and then turn out the Glue upon a piece of new Flannel, which will draw out the Moisture; turn them once in six or eight Hours, and put them upon a fresh Flannel, and so continue to do till they are quite dry, and keep it in a dry warm Place: This will harden so much, that it will be stiff and hard as Glue in a little Time, and may be carried in the Pocket without Inconvenience.

Now I have no idea if this is the very same portable gloop Lewis paid a dollar a pound for (in 1804 dollars, mind you), but if it is, he definitely got ripped off.


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