Thursday, September 24, 2009

torn asunder

I follow a blog called The Old Foodie, which gives you, once every weekday, a bit of food history and a recipe, sometimes an old menu, and always neat musings by the blog author (blogthor?). Beyond my fascination with history-through-food, I also get a great kick out of the lovely twists of old language I get to read in her snips of nineteenth century cookbooks, eighteenth century food-writings and the like.

She's in my blog follow list, but you can check her out here.

Today's topic is an Irish potato cake called boxty (or boxtie), and I thought the explanation she included from the Dublin University Magazine of 1854 contained some fabulous bits of old language. I've bolded (emboldened?) my favorite parts...

"In the formation of potato starch the fibrous portion of the tuber, when separated and squeezed from the watery part, was mixed with coarse flour or oatmeal, and by the addition of a little kitchen stuff or butter formed into a cake popularly known in the vest as boxtie, and in the south denominated “buck bread”, “Scotchy”, or “stampy”. This was so much admired, that the children in country parts used to make a grater out of the side of an old tin can, by punching it with an awl in order to rasp lumpers for a feast of boxtie. If we have reserved to the last, the potato-cake, made by bruising with the bottom of a tin porringer, two cold well-boiled potatoes, and mixing therewith a pound of the finest flour, the yolk of a fresh egg, a print of butter, and a sup of new-milk, the whole being well kneaded then pounded with a rolling pin, made into a cake five eighths of an inch thick, cut into squares and diamonds, baked on a griddle, and when properly browned and mottled, each piece torn asunder like a muffin, and a bit of butter slipt in to melt in the interior, and then eaten at tea or breakfast but particularly at the former, it is because it was the most widely disseminated, and universally admired form of potato-eating known to all tea-drinkers and cup-tossers from Cape Clear to the Causeway."

Of course, it's just my own modern conception of the language, but I love how an unassuming little potato cake can be torn asunder. As if the poor thing was rent limb from limb by an angry mob of cup-tossers.


  1. I love "a little kitchen stuff" and "cup tossers".. I TOTALLY love "cup tossers"!!! Must start following The Olde Foodie forthwith!!!!!!

  2. Oh my god, I forgot about "a little kitchen stuff" - I have to bold that now too!