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.

Székely Goulash

On a cold evening in 1846, a county archivist stopped by a local inn in Budapest. He was famished and tried to order one of his favorite dishes. But it was close to closing time at the little inn and there was nothing to be served but pork and some leftover sauerkraut. His hunger spurring him on, the little archivist, who went by the name Jozsef Székely, demanded that the few scraps of food left in the kitchen be thrown together and heated into a stew. He found the resulting dish so delightful that he returned to the inn, with friends in tow, to order this new goulash dish. The poet Sándor Petőfi later christened this new goulash dish Székelygulyás.

Below is a recipe for this delicious and economical meal from Hungary Starts Here, a delightful blog on the fascinating cuisine of Hungary.

Székely Goulash

1/2 kilo meat (pork shoulder/leg or turkey’s leg), 1 kilo sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), 1 medium onion, 1 tbs red paprika powder, water, oil, salt and ground black pepper and marjoram to taste.

Ingredients for the roux: 1 cup sour cream, 1 tbs flour.


1. Make a pörkölt (stew). I mean that heat the oil in a large pot and the sliced onions and sauté until they get a nice golden brown color. Add the meat cube and sauté together until the meat begin to whiten. Sprinkle them with paprika powder and sauté a bit more. Add the salt and ground black pepper and marjoram, pour water enough to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for the meat is half-cooked.
2. Rinse the sauerkraut (so it’s not too sour). Afterwards steam the sauerkraut in oil until it’s half-cooked.
3. Add the steamed sauerkraut to the pörkölt and cooked together until the meat cubes and sauerkraut are also softened.
4. Mix flour with the sour cream in a soup-plate and add one big spoon soup, mixed well. When cool enough the soup carefully add the whole mixed and boil again.
5. Finally if necessary add more spice and a little (just one or two teaspoon) juice of rinsed sauerkraut. This step is the second most important secret.

Economical Ham and Cabbage Soup

According to the 1868 book Gardening for the South, the cabbage was one of the most useful crops in cultivation at the time. “It is a crop that can be put on every bit of otherwise idle ground,” the book advises, “They can be planted between beds and rows of anything and everything else, to be eaten as greens when young, or left to head on the coming off of other crops, and if there should be a superabundance above the wants of the family, nothing is better for the cow and the pig.”

Certainly the cabbage is an economical, nutritional powerhouse. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, and contains significant amounts of glutamine. In folk medicine, it’s used to treat inflammation; a paste of raw cabbage may be placed in a cabbage leaf and wrapped around the affected area to reduce discomfort.

Below is a recipe from a 1945 advertisement for Armor Ham using plenty of cabbage. If you want to make the dish even more economical, use a ham bone instead of the flesh to season the soup.

Armor’s Star Ham and Cabbage Soup

2 tbsps. butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
3 tbsps. flour
3 cups boiling water
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups cooked, cubed Armor star ham
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup thick sour cream
2 tbsps, chopped parsley

Lightly fry onion, celery, green pepper in butter until clear. Remove from heat, stir in flour and slowly add boiling water. Return to heat and add cabbage, Armor’s star ham and seasonings. Cook eight to ten minutes or until cabbage is tender. Remove bay leaf. Add sour cream and parsley. Let heat through. Top each serving with a sprig of parsley, 6 generous servings. (Only fifteen minutes and “soup’s on”)