I am indebted to a French girl living in our family for the substance of tins chapter. lier parents being obliged to live in a most economical way in St. Louis, still had an uncommonly good table. One resource was a little garden, in which small compass were raised enough onions, tomatoes, carrots, and a few other vegetables, to nearly supply the family. A small bed of four feet square, surrounded by a pretty border of lettuce, was large enough for raising all necessary herbs, such as sage, sum-mer savory, thyme, etc. Little boxes in the kitchen Windows contained growing parsley, ever ready for use.
I give receipts for three of their soups - the onion, vegetable purée, and potato soups being most excellent, and costing not over from five to ten cents each. One of their dinner dishes was a heart (10 cents) stuffed, baked two or three hours, and served with a brown gravy and an onion garnish (see re-ceipt). Still another was a two-pound round-steak (20 cents), spread with a bread and sage stuffing, then rolled, tied, flour-ed, seasoned on top, then baked, basting it often. It was a pretty dish, with tomato sauce around it. Sometimes a cheap fish was eut in slices, egged and bread-crumbed, fried, and gar-nished with fried potatoes. They had always a salad for din ner, prepared from their border of lettuce, some cold potatoes, cold beans, or other vegetable. A fine breakfast dish was of kidneys (5 cents). Few Americans know how to cook kidneys, and butchers often throw them away; yet in France they are considered a great delicacy.
Their répertoire of cheap dishes was large; so there was al ways a change for, at least, each day of the week. A crumb of bread was never wasted. All odd morsels were dried in the oven, pounded, and put away in a tin-box, ready for breading cutlets cut from any pieces of mutton or veal, and for many other purposes.
Any pieces of suet or drippings were clarified and put one side, to be used for frying. Remains of cooked vegetables of any kind were saved for soups and sauces. Not a slice of a tomato nor leaf of a cabbage was thrown away.
If they had butter that was not entirely sweet, they added more salt, a little soda, brought it to a boil on the stove, and then put it away in a little crock. By allowing the settlings to remain at the bottom, the butter became entirely sweet, and not too salt for cooking purposes.
Chickens, cutlets, etc., were larded at this table. Now, just to mention the word "larding" is to overwhelm a common cook; and to require it, is to rivet in the minds of most house-wives the entire impracticability of a whole receipt in which it is an item. Pieces of salt pork or breakfast bacon should al-ways be kept in the house. A pound of it, which is not expensive, may last a long time, as it requires very little for fla-voring many things; then, if one has any idea of sewing, or what it is to push a needle through any thing, one can lard. It only requires a larding - needle, which costs fifteen cents, and which should last a century. By placing little cut strips of pork in the end of the needle, as is explained among "directions," then drawing the needle through parts of the meat, leav-ing the pork midway, this wonderfully difficult operation is ac-complished. It is only a few minutes' pastime to lard turkeys, chickens, birds, cutlets, sweet-breads, etc., which gives to them flavor and style.
Limited in fortune as were this family, they were never with-out stock at hand. Their meat for croquettes, patties, etc., had served a duty to the soup-kettle. If a chicken was to be boiled for the table, it was thrown into the stock-pot while the soup was simmering, and thus it and the chicken were both benefited.
Their meat dishes were often garnished with little potato-balls, cooked à la Parisienne, or simply boiled. This seemed extravagant; but as a French vegetable-cutter only costs twen-ty-five cents, and the balls can be cut very rapidly - all the par-ings boiled and mashed serving another time as potato-cakes -there was nothing wasted, and little time lost.
In short, this household (and it is a sample of nearly all French families of limited means) lived well on little more than many an American family would throw away.
Let me give five bills of fare of their dinners, the second of which is partly prepared from the remains of the first day:
Beef soup (soup bone), 10 cents.
Veal blanquette and boiled potatoes (knuckle of veal), 15 cents.
Salad of sliced tomatoe3, 2 or 3 cents.
Boiled rice, with a border of stewed small pears (green, or of common variety), 10 cents.
Onion or bean soup, 5 cents.
Fish (en matelote), 15 cents.
Croquettes (made of the remains of the cold beef-soup meat, and rice), with a tomato sauce. Salad of cold boiled potatoes.
Potato soup. Round steak, rolled (page 140), with baked, parboiled onions, 25 cents.
Salad of potatoes and parsley.
Mutton ragout, with potatoes, 25 cents.
Noodles and stuffed tomatoes.