Biscuits and Dried Beef: A Panacea

In his “bright little skit” (as one reviewer called it) Biscuits and Dried Beef: A Panacea (1894), Lindon H. Morehouse shares the adventures of a poor rector who decides “never to incur Indebtedness.” But this resolution proves difficult; the rector’s vestry are unapologetically tightfisted, often even neglecting to render the rector his due pittance of $800.00 per annum. To shame the vestry, the rector sends them invitations to what they suppose will be a lavish dinner. Expectant of toothsome morsels, they are instead greeted with the contents of the rector’s larder — biscuits and dried beef. Having learned their lesson, the vestry pay the rector’s stipend in full the next day.

During lean times, the rector and his wife subsist on roast beef, the virtues of which the rector wryly extols:

It seemed that in the early days of their housekeeping, Mrs. Forest had ordered, and cooked, an eight-pound roast of beef, and as a natural result, roast beef played an important part in their bill of fare for many days after. It had been a source of amusement, but it was one of that kind of “funny episodes” which lose much of their humor if referred to too often, and so a truce had been declared, and the subject was not to be again mentioned.

Roast beef played an important roles in many bills of fare throughout the the work week. The Sunday roast was an economical way to ensure meat figured in more weekday meals than not. A contributor to a 1902 edition of Good Housekeeping shares her recipes for weekday meals that incorporate Sunday roast leftovers. “The meat cakes for dinner [Monday] night were made from a part of the Sunday roast,” she writes, and “Tuesday being ironing day, I saved what was left of my roast for a browned stew on Wednesday.” What became of the roast on Thursday, Friday and Saturday is left to the reader’s imagination.

What Shall I Eat? A Housewife’s Manual (1892) offers a “very delicious” recipe for roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. The author suggests having a roast ready for Saturday, but Sunday will do just as well.

Roast Beef

Have your meat ready for roasting on Saturday, always. Roast upon a grating of several clean sticks (not pine) laid over the dripping-pan. Dash a cup of boiling water over the beef when it goes into the oven ; baste often, and see that the fat does not scorch. About three-quarters of an hour before it is done, mix the pudding.

Yorkshire Pudding.—One pint of milk, four eggs, white and yolks beaten separately; two cups of flour—prepared flour is best; one teaspoonful of salt. Use less flour if the batter grows too stiff.

Mix quickly; pour off the fat from the top of the gravy in the dripping-pan, leaving just enough to prevent the pudding from sticking to the bottom. Pour in the batter and continue to roast the beef, letting the dripping fall upon the pudding below. The oven should be brisk by this time. Baste the meat with the gravy you have taken out to make room for the batter. In serving, cut the pudding into squares and lay about the meat in the dish. It is very delicious.

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