I’m certain that many people have at least once in their lives fantasized about what the inside of the fabled turn-of-the-century bordellos looked like.
But how many have ever been curious about what gustatory delights were prepared and served by these expert purveyors of sensory pleasure?
Two gutsy conspirators, Jo Foxworth and Jeanne Bauer, have done much to satisfy historical and culinary curiosity in their engaging new book, “The Bordello Cookbook” (Moyer Bell).
I first met Jo Foxworth when she was lecturing to a group of women about her first book, “Boss Lady,” which described the joys and unique challenges of women in top-level positions in the work force. I was awed by her intelligence, wisdom and undaunted pioneering spirit.
Foxworth herself is the consummate “boss lady.” Owner of a New York advertising agency, she has been named Advertising Woman of the Year by five professional organizations.
The “Bordello Cookbook” came about as a logical extension of her interest in women of intelligence, wit and determination and how some surmounted the limitations of an era of repression - a time when men ran all legitimate businesses and “decent women” were expected to stay home with the children or, at most, become teachers, nurses or librarians.
Jeanne Bauer, who researched and developed the recipes for the book, is a top New York food marketer and publicist. Many of the recipes in this book come from her own family archives. All are updated, however, to reflect modern-day equipment and taste.
The recipes (as well as the stories about the “madams” of the houses) represent many regions around the country. The stories of the infamous madams are cleverly written and intriguing; the recipes, particularly the titles, add delightful spice.
As Foxworth writes: “The early madams knew that although the way to a man’s heart isn’t necessarily through his stomach, it helps to feed him well in the rest stops …”
In researching the recipes, Bauer discovered that aside from the availability of luxurious or exotic ingredients, bordello cuisine did not differ so much in content from regional recipes prepared at home. The big difference was in the flair of their presentation.
Take the classic dessert recipe for Lemon Pudding Cake. Baked in a water bath, it forms a luscious pudding on the bottom and a sponge cake on top. Retitled to reflect the deliciousness of the dessert, and to be more in harmony with the theme, it appears in the book as Lemon Lust.
Shakespeare would have us believe the oft-quoted truism, “Even a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” But, honestly, which title do you find more stimulating to your taste buds?
Lemon Pudding Cake (Lemon Lust)
Adapted from “The Bordello Cookbook,” by Jo Foxworth and Jeanne Bauer (Moyer Bell, 1997.)
3 large eggs, separated
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional
1 cup sugar
2 lemons, zested, juiced and strained, about 6 tablespoons juice (see note)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla, optional
Beat egg whites in medium mixing bowl until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form when beater is lifted. Set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, without washing beaters, beat egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest about 5 minutes or until very thick and pale yellow. Gradually beat in milk, flour and lemon juice until incorporated.
Fold in beaten whites. Scrape into a 1-1/2-quart souffle dish or casserole. Set dish in slightly larger pan. Pour hot water halfway up sides of souffle dish.
Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour or until golden brown and cake pulls away slightly from sides. Remove from water bath to rack. Cool to room temperature. Spoon into serving bowl. Serve with whipped cream.
Yield: 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 334 calories, 17 grams fat (46 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrate, 145 milligrams cholesterol, 63 milligrams sodium.
Note: Use only yellow portion of peel, as white pith beneath is bitter.
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