Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Fingers to Finger Bowls

I had the pleasure of finding a copy of a rare book, From Fingers to Finger Bowls, written by Helen Walker Linsenmeyer, for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1972. The book is a "Sprightly History of California Cooking" and begins with Native American days and ends in the 1900's. Helen Linsenmeyer researched the book while living in Orange County in the 1960's and 1970s, pouring over diaries, personal journals, histories, autobiographies, cookbooks, and newspapers dealing with California's past.

The book contains full color plates by W.H.D. Koerner. Koerner, primarily an illustrator for various magazines of his day such as Harper's, Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and others, later painted Western and Native American subjects. The book also contains copies or woodcuts of original drawings by many illustrators of the day picturing people in their daily lives and many local scenes.

Linsenmeyer has compiled an impressive collection of typical and authentic recipes and methods of food preparation of each era of early California history. Methods and recipes of Native Americans included how acorns were prepared and "Piñon Nut Soup". Soap and candle making by the Padre's of the California Missions and "Bear Tongue" and "Rabbit Fricassee" recipes were detailed. Early Rancho recipes of "Barbequed Beef" and "Flan" and many others are listed. Gold Seeker recipes include "Boiled Bear Paws", "Chinese Roast Duck" and "Miner's Baked Beans".

One of the stagecoach travel commandments listed is, "Abstinence from liquor is requested. If you must drink, share your bottle; otherwise you will appear to be selfish and unneighborly". "Scripture Cake" and "Gooseberry Fool" are two recipes included during the time when cities and cuisines were being established in California. After the gold rush, California eventually became known for its mild climate and agricultural riches. Wine making, citrus and olive growing are discussed as well how many herbs came to be used and recipes to utilize for those who were ill.

From Fingers to Finger Bowls was recommended to me by a used book store proprietor. Sometimes it pays to take some time to peruse used book store shelves and query store proprietors about your interests. I am glad I purchased this book. The book not only satisfies my search for Native American recipes and cooking with herbs, but gives an historical perspective not often found in cookbooks.