Lemon Cake (Finest ever.) (c.1905) ★★★★★

I am alive!
And living in Japan!

It has been quite the adventure so far, especially culinarily. Firstly, I eat kyuushoku, the same school lunch the students eat, every day at work. Kyuushoku is mostly so-so, sometimes awful, sometimes good, and every now and then delicious. The lunches are made by a nutritionist, but they are very high in calories (600-900) and often lack vegetables or much color other than beige. The meals always include rice or bread, whole milk, and some kind of soup. However, I am consuming more fish and seaweed than ever before in my life, which I guess is probably a good thing overall.

One neat thing I love about Japan is their obsession with local food. Each prefecture has its famous foods - mine happens to be famous for Japanese pears, which have become my new obsession.

I've felt bad for neglecting this blog. Mostly I have been too overwhelmed getting used to life in Japan and my first real job. Also, its difficult finding ingredients. A lot of things are difficult to find, especially if they're out of season (absolutely no berries in my grocery store right now!). On top of that, Japanese people don't really use ovens, so we had to purchase one, which is so small that it fits on a countertop!

My current kitchen set-up. That's my oven on the counter! The whole other side opposite the fridge and counter is a giant sink and a stovetop.

Anyway, enough about Japan! I finally feel good about posting a new recipe here! I picked something simple, with ingredients I basically already had on hand (although it took me a while to find cornstarch!).

Original Recipe:

NO. 18. LEMON CAKE. (Finest ever.) Mrs.
Clara Moulton, Loura, Cal,--Take one good
cup sugar, one-half cup butter, three eggs,
(save the yolk of one,) one-half cup milk, two
cups of flour, one tablespoon baking powder,
jelly between layers, one cup cold water, one
cup sugar; the rind and juice of one large
lemon, one tablespoon corn starch, heaping
with the yolk of one egg and a little butter,
and a little water. Put in the corn starch and
yolk when it commences to boil and cool it
before spreading the layers.

The Verdict:

The cake was a bit dense, but very soft and a wonderful texture. There was a bit of a crunchy crust on top of the cake, but I actually kind of like the extra crunch thrown in there. The cake itself was a bit bland, but it wasn't bad. I think it could have benefitted from a bit of vanilla is all.
The curd was lovely and bright. I ended up adding waaaaay more cornstarch, partially due to it not thickening up and partially due to a huge mistake! But it turned out really great and the perfect consistency.
Overall, my whole family loved this cake! We ate it with fresh whipped cream, but its just fine on its own too.

Baking notes: I used cake margarine instead of butter because it was what I had on hand. Also, my measuring cup may be different from North American measurements and I used my weird little convection oven to bake.

Modernized Version:

(Adapted from the Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs (save one yolk)
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
juice and rind of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a cake pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and milk and mix until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder, mix well, and pour into the prepared pan.
3. Bake the cake. It took around an hour for me, but I have a weird oven.
4. Let the cake cool and prepare the filling.
5. In a saucepan, mix the water, sugar, and lemon juice and rind. Bring to a boil.
6. Add the butter, egg yolk, and cornstarch to the filling. Whisk well to combine.
7. When the filling has thickened, remove from heat and let it cool before filling the cake.

Breakfast-in-a-Glass (1959) ★★★★

For a while now I've seen smoothie recipes floating around the internet that include oatmeal in the ingredients. As a self-proclaimed smoothie enthusiast, I found the idea nothing short of heresy. Although I can't deny the fact that oatmeal is a very nutritious food, I just couldn't allow myself add it to my smoothies, which only contained fruit, juice, and yogurt...up until now, I guess.
Since we're now right in the midst of "warm summer mornings," I decided to go for it and make this Breakfast-in-a-Glass recipe from 1959. Okay, okay, so to be fair my original plan was to make Little Y the tester, since she loves smoothies and would be oblivious to the oatmeal secretly lurking within. But I felt up to a challenge today, so I decided to just go for it and see what an oatmeal smoothie is really like for myself. Historical style, of course.

Original Recipe:

For each serving of Breakfast-in-a-Glass put 1 cup milk and 1/3 cup cool, cooked oatmeal in Mixer or other container.
Add 1/3 cup crushed strawberries (fresh or frozen) or other fruit; add sugar to taste and vanilla if desired.
Blend in Mixer or blender...or use electric or hand beater until smooth. Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

The first thing I did was make the oatmeal. I was annoyed by the extra step and too lazy to bother looking up how to properly make oatmeal, so I threw a handful in a bowl, added what looked like enough milk, and zapped it in the microwave for one minute. It came out cooked, so that was a pleasant surprise. I added the cooked oatmeal, milk, and some frozen strawberries to my blender, along with a bit of vanilla and about two teaspoons of sugar. I whizzed that until it looked smooth.
Taste-wise, this was actually not bad. I could definitely taste the oatmeal, but I didn't mind. However, texture-wise this really bothered me. The oatmeal didn't completely blend in, so it was basically strawberry milk with chunks. Not so yummy. That said, Little Y loved it and happily drank the entire glass. I think that if the oatmeal had been completely blended I would drink this again by choice, so I give this recipe four stars on that condition.

Modernized Recipe:

(Adapted from a Quaker Oats advertisement, found at jonwilliamson.com)

The original recipe is good!

Nelson Balls (1881) ★★★★

If you haven't already heard of The Foods of England Project, I really recommend exploring the website. Its a really informative site and its where I found today's recipe for Nelson Balls.

Apparently Nelson Balls may have been named after Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). Nelson was a British officer, recognized for his service during the Napoleonic Wars. He is known for his famous quote, "England expects that every man will do his duty." I'm not sure what this has to do with lemon-flavoured confections, but I suppose its a nice enough legacy for a war hero.

Amusingly, the recipe on The Foods of England Project page came from a book published in the United States. There wasn't much other information, other than the earliest known reference to Nelson Balls was in an 1803 advertisement: "E Russell, Bread and Biscuit-baker ... the greatest variety of biscuits, Nelson's balls, Dutchess of York's biscuits..." So I decided to do a little internet digging. I did a search through Google Books and found a plethora of references to Nelson Balls. Several sources offered definitions of the food:
Salopia Antiqua (London, 1841)
Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words (London, 1855)
The English Dialect Dictionary (1905)

I also found an interesting article about Nelson Balls:
So it appears that the treat was known under several names: Nelson Balls, Nelson's Balls, Waterloo Balls, and Nelson's Bullets. In one case, it appears that some schoolboys decided to refer to the confection as "horseballs." Nelson balls also seem to be a critical ingredient in the recipe for Nelson Puddings:

While there was a huge selection of recipes available for Nelson Pudding, I could only find one other for Nelson Balls:

Massey and Son's Biscuit, Ice, & Compote Book (London, 1866)
By the way, if you're interested in what a biscuit break is, Ivan Day has a great post all about that.

Original Recipe:

NELSON BALLS  3 lbs flour ½ lb butter ½ lb sifted sugar Essence of lemon to flavor.   Mix up very stiff with milk; place in a cloth for a half hour; break smooth with a biscuit break; mould into small balls about the size of a walnut; bake in a rather quick oven, and put in a warm place to dry.

The Verdict:

This recipe looked huge, so I decided to third the amount of ingredients. In the end I got maybe 30 or slightly less balls out of the thirded recipe. There wasn't really a described method, so I ended up mixing the ingredients in order. I put the flour and sugar in a bowl and mixed in the butter with my fingers. Then I added the milk and lemon extract, working it to a stiff dough with my hands. I let it sit for longer than half an hour because I got distracted. I beat the dough with my rolling pin for a while, until it looked nice and smooth. I wasn't sure about "size of a walnut," but since the recipes for Nelson Puddings called for 6 balls or small cakes, I made them about golf ball size. I baked them for about 15 minutes at 380F.

These aren't bad. The are not very sweet at all and I could have used more lemon flavouring (even though the dough smelled strongly, it wasn't enough after they were cooked). Some fresh lemon zest would have been great, actually. Mr. Man loved them (he doesn't like overly sweet things), but we both agreed these would be improved by some icing on top or even lemon curd in the middle, as they're a bit dry and dense. I can really see how making them into a pudding would be a great improvement. They're definitely edible as is, though!

Modernized Recipe*:

(Adapted from The complete bread, cake and cracker baker)

455g FLOUR

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter and combine with your fingers until crumbly.
2. Add in a little milk at a time, mixing until you get a stiff dough. Add the lemon extract to taste. On a flat surface, knead and beat the dough with a rolling pin until it is smooth.
3. Cover the dough with a cloth or plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 380F.
4. After the dough has rested, roll into balls about the size of a golf ball. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops just start to turn light brown. They don't rise or spread much at all, so they can sit close together on the baking sheet.

*Thirded recipe

Victoria Day Food History

1854 Celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday on the grounds of the second Government House of Upper Canada, Toronto.

For Canadians, Victoria Day (or May 24 [pronounced two-four, also slang for a case of 24 beers]) is an important celebration which generally marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Victoria Day occurs on the Monday before May 25th and forms the third day of a long weekend. So although we refer to it as May 24, Victoria Day can actually fall on any date between the 18th and 24th of May. This year we celebrate on the 19th.

However, as the name might suggest, in the beginning Victoria Day wasn't exactly meant to signify the beginning of summer. May 24, 1819 happens to be the birthday of Queen Victoria. Celebrations of the Queen's birthday had occurred in Canada since before it was actually a country. These celebrations were usually on the actual date of May 24th. In 1845 (22 years before Confederation) the parliament of the Province of Canada passed legislation which officially recognized the date of the Queen's birthday as a holiday. By the 1890s Victoria Day had turned into quite the festive occasion, complete with ringing church bells, marching bands, parades, picnics, fireworks, gun salutes, athletic competitions, and bonfires.

Following Victoria's death in 1901, the birthday of her son, Edward VII, was also celebrated on May 24th, despite his being born in November. The next sovereign, George V, had his birthday officially celebrated on June 3rd, which was indeed his real birth date. Though he only ruled for a year, Edward VIII had his birthday celebrated once on the actual date, June 23rd. The next monarch, George VI, officially celebrated his birthday in June as well, despite being born in December. For her first birthday as Queen, Elizabeth II continued the tradition of celebrating her birthday in June, although she was born in April. Meanwhile, Canadians had continued to celebrate Victoria Day in May. Canadians had maintained a fondness for the "Mother of Confederation," who had overseen the rule of Canada as it came to maturity as its own nation. Perhaps this is why, in the second year of her reign (1953), Queen Victoria's birthday was, by proclamation, to be celebrated on Victoria Day. Although Queen Elizabeth II's birthday is still celebrated in June in the United Kingdom, in 1957 Canada officially and permanently appointed Victoria Day as Elizabeth II's birthday as well. To make matters more confusing, in 1898, Empire Day was first celebrated in Canada on the school day before May 24th, thus building upon the celebrations of Victoria Day to glorify Canada's ties to the British Empire. In 1952, Empire Day was moved to the Monday before May 24th, and the year after, Victoria Day was moved to the same date, thus merging the two holidays. However, in 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day and in 1977 it was once again moved, this time to the second Monday in March. This left Victoria Day/Elizabeth II's birthday on the Monday before May 24th, as the statutory holiday we celebrate today.

The Lewiston Daily Sun - May 3, 1901

Today Victoria Day contains many of the same activities - mainly picnics, parades, and fireworks - as well as some more modern additions. The long weekend is when Canadians can open up their dusty cottages after the winter, start gardening, go camping, boating, or maybe even risk a swim (though the water may be quite chilly). The beverage of choice is two-fours of ice cold beer and barbecues will be fired up once again. Many people take advantage of the time off to party. Some people may even still recite the old rhyme, "The Twenty-Fourth of May is the Queen’s Birthday. If we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away!"

So what, then, do Canadians eat on Victoria Day? I tried to answer this question, and here's what I found from newspaper advertisements (mostly from grocers advertising foods for the holiday) and a few cookbooks:
  • "families would char hotdogs or burn hamburgers over an open fire. It was fishing time, too, with sleek pickerel...smelt...and suckers..." Gadsden Times - May 13, 1975
  • Creole Wieners and Oriental Spice Cake with Mocha Icing. Ottawa Citizen - May 17, 1956
  • Sliced cold turkey. Ottawa Citizen - May 18, 1967
  • Potted meats, potted fish, potted game, lunch tongue, boneless chicken, boneless turkey, chipped beef, pate de fois, truffled birds, cottage loaf, ham loaf, beef loaf, fruit wines and ciders, fruit syrups, lime juice. Ottawa Citizen - May 22, 1901
  • Oranges, olives, dates, prunes, butter scotch, Welch's grape juice. The Montreal Gazette - May 21, 1912
  • Sandwiches, salads. The Montreal Gazette - May 23, 1941
  • Domestic ducks, roasting chickens, squabs, broilers, brome lake ducklings. The Montreal Gazette - May 23, 1941
  • Roast ham, boiled ham, corned beef, pressed ham, jellied tongue, jellied veal, jellied hock, english brawn, pickles. Ottawa Citizen - May 22, 1913
  • Asparagus soup, roast lamb, minted peas and carrots, rissole potatoes, relish tray, chutney, rhubarb custard pie. Chatelaine's Adventures in Cooking, 1969
  • Devilled eggs, pan-fried minted brook trout, cheese herb bread with sweet butter, spring salad, Fullarton May cakes with fudge icing, classic butter tarts, chilled dry white wine, cold lager beer. Classic Canadian Cooking, 1974


"Commonwealth Day." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Day>.

Toffoli, Garry. "The Queen’s Birthday in Canada." Canadian Royal Heritage Trust. N.p., 2013. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://crht.ca/the-queens-birthday-in-canada/>.

"Victoria Day." Canadian Heritage. Government of Canada, 2013. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1359139714709/1359139936142>.

"Victoria Day." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Day>.

"Victoria Day in Canada." Time and Date. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/canada/victoria-day>.

"Victoria Day: Responsible Rule and Firecrackers." The Globe and Mail. N.p., 18 June 2012. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/victoria-day-responsible-rule-and-firecrackers/article4197794/>.

"Busy-Day" Lemon Cheesecake (1959) ★★

Today's recipe is actually sort of relevant, as I've been super busy lately! I have been meaning to post something but I just haven't been able to follow through - so sorry! I came across this recipe, which I had pinned a while back, and I thought it would be perfect. Seemed safe enough and also quick and easy.

So what am I so busy with? Well, for starters I finished my undergraduate degree! Which I started back in 2009, ha. I'm pretty proud of myself, though, to be honest. Although a bit nervous to be done school and having to actually start real real life now.