The third prompt for the Historical Food Fortnightly is “History Detective” and it was quite possibly the one I was most excited for. “For this challenge, you get to be the detective! Either use clues from multiple recipes to make a composite recipe, or choose a very vague recipe and investigate how it was made.”
I live for stuff like this — History? Food? Research? Sign me up!
And I had the perfect cookbook in mind:
Mat i vardagslag kokbok för skola och hem by Birgit Floderus and Ingrid Ljunggren, translated as Food in Everyday Life: Cookbook for School and Home, was published in 1942 in Sweden. The copy I have – bought at a library book sale for 50¢ – was owned by a woman named Edith Thorsell and was obviously very well loved. Pages are falling out, recipes are written/pasted onto blank spaces, and there are stains marking her favorite recipes. I’ve been wanting to translate it for ages now so this project was as good an excuse as any to get started!
I’m not too far in – still on soups – but it’s been a very fun experience so far. I have absolutely no background with the Swedish language or culture (except having a vague idea that my grandma is full Swedish) so I’ve been relying on google translate and online dictionaries. It’s been challenging but I’ve loved exploring a new part of my ancestry.
The recipe I chose to make is called Brynt vitkålssoppa (Browned cabbage soup).
Brynt vitkålssoppa. (Browned cabbage soup)
4 hectograms (=400 grams=14 oz) cabbage
1 ½ tbsp. frying fat
½ tbsp. syrup, 15 g
water or salt broth
3 allspice berries
1 hectogram (=100 grams=3.5 oz) pork sausage
Rinse the cabbage and remove dead leaves and the coarsest parts. Cut it into chunks and sear in hot frying fat. When it has a little color add the syrup and brown further. When finished browning, cool it somewhat then dilute with boiling water or broth and season. When the cabbage has boiled for a while, add the rinsed pork sausage and let the soup cook slowly. When the sausage is cooked, cut it into slices and serve in soup.
It’s a very simple soup and was quick and easy to make. I ended up cutting the cabbage into smaller pieces than in the picture above and didn’t have pork sausage in the fridge to use so I substituted pork chops. I also substituted ground allspice for whole berries.
Another note: I had a hard time interpreting what the recipe meant by syrup so I went with Karo syrup. You can see the progress of the cabbage in the pictures above. The first picture is the cabbage right after it went in the pan, the second is it frying in butter, and the third is where I add the Karo syrup. It really made it brown nicely. The last picture is after the water and the meat are added.
All in all, the soup turned out great. It had a nice, plain flavor that let the cabbage and the pork really stand out. I wouldn’t suggest it if you aren’t a fan of cabbage in the first place (my sister ;D) but I really loved it. I put it next to some homemade french bread and it fed five adults well.
The Challenge: History Detective
The Recipe: Browned Cabbage Soup from “Food in Everyday Life”
The Date/Year and Region: 1942, Sweden
How Did You Make It: Chop cabbage & brown. Add water and then pork.
Time to Complete: Probably about an hour start to finish for the soup.
Total Cost: $2.88 for the pork, about $2 for the cabbage.
How Successful Was It?: Very!
How Accurate Is It?: About 75%? I had to make a few substitutions so…
As a side note: I’d love some feedback on my translating. I feel like I’m doing pretty well but if there are any Swedish speakers out there I would welcome your opinion!