Thursday, April 9, 2015

~The Vintage Vegetarian ~ Macaroni and Eggs (1891)

I love spending time in the kitchen. This probably stems from a love of food, experimenting, and trying new things. I rarely make the same thing twice, and I'm always substituting new ingredients into standard recipes. I've long wanted to try some historical recipes, as they are often vague and seem like a fun challenge. But here's the problem: I'm a vegetarian, who eats very little sugar, and try's to limit processed food as much as possible. The processed food condition isn't too much of a concern since pre-1930's recipes are almost entirely free of processed ingredients. But finding recipes that don't use meat (or meat-products such as suet) and are sugar-free is much more difficult.

But then I had a thought. Vegetarianism has been around a long time (some sources date it back to 6th century BCE) and had a resurgence of popularity during 19th century. There must be some historical vegetarian cookbooks out there! 

I went to to do a bit of research (I seriously love that site. It is a wonderful source for free vintage music, movies, digital books, etc). They actually have a number of vegetarian cookbooks from the 19th century and early 20th century. Yay! 

So I've decided to launch a new series of posts called "The Vintage Vegetarian", where I try out recipes from old cookbooks. I've tried two so far (including the one in this post) and am looking forward to trying some more. If anyone has any requests or suggestions, please feel free to leave me a comment. I really have no idea what to do when it comes to "food blogging" so I will be making it up as I go along. Now after that rather long intro, lets get cooking!

 Macaroni and Eggs  

The original recipe

My initial thoughts
Well this sounds mildly revolting. Macaroni with eggs? No, macaroni goes with cheese or tomato sauce, unless you are making a macaroni salad (which I don't really like anyways). Not sure about how it's going to look either. Ornamenting it with egg yolks? Hmm... Well, we will see how this turns out. 

I flipped through the book and discovered their "recipe" for white sauce contains no list of ingredients and very vague instructions. I'm assuming everyone was expected to know how to make a white sauce at the time. I don't, so I will borrow a simple recipe from my Country Cooking cookbook. 

The Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound of Macaroni (approx 227 grams)
  • 4 Hard-boiled eggs 
  • Parsley (I'm substituting some chopped Kale as our parsley plant didn't survive the winter indoors)
  • White Sauce 
    • 1 cup of milk
    • 2 Tbsp Butter
    • 2 Tbsp Flour

Cooking Instructions
  1. Make the macaroni (easy-peasy)
  2. Make a white sauce using modern recipe of your choice. I did the following:
    1. Melt butter in a small pot on the stovetop
    2. Add flour and cook 3 to 4 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.
    3. Slowly add milk and cook, stirring, until sauce has thickened.
  3. Peel the shells off the eggs, then slice each egg in half. Remove the egg yolk, which may or may not have actually been in the center of the egg. Now you have a bunch of lopsided egg yolk pieces. 
  4. Slice the eggs whites into rings. This is nearly impossible now that the egg yolk has been removed and the eggs have no structural integrity left. 
    Egg "rings"
  5. Drain cooked macaroni and put on your serving platter (I used a regular sized dinner plate which was much too small. I'd recommend some sort of large platter or large shallow bowl). Mix in egg "rings", then top with white sauce. Sprinkle the kale on top and place the egg yolks along the edges. 

The Result


Yes, I know! It actually looks half-decent, much to my surprise. I definitely needed a larger plate though. This makes enough for maybe 6 to 8 people, (assuming you were serving some sort of side-dishes as well). 

The taste? Well a little bland, but not as bad as I expected. It was rich and creamy, and not overly "egg-y". Some curry powder in the sauce would improve it, but it was certainly eatable as-is. 

This would be an easy recipe to make dairy-free. Just swap the white sauce for some sort of coconut-curry sauce. 

For my first attempt at a Victorian recipe, I thought it went rather well. It was really quite easy to make and has me all geared up to try some more challenging recipes! (Or not. I do tend to favor simple recipes...) On the next installment of The Vintage Vegetarian series, we will be making an "invalid custard".

That's All.


  1. This series is so interesting! Can't wait to see what's next.

    1. Thanks :) Glad you enjoyed my first post for the series.

  2. A good job well done maybe you should try adding something sweet into the mix 😉 sounds like an awesome series maybe something chocolate will be in the future!!

    1. Chocolate would be nice, but it might be hard to find one with a low-sugar content. Unless of course you plan on coming over to make it with me, because then we could try something a bit more decadent.

  3. Yay! I feel the same way about vintage recipes! So much meat (and gelatin) :( I look forward to seeing more.

    1. Thanks! One of the books I was looking at had a great list of vegetarian substitutions, including what to use instead of gelatin. I may have to try making a vegetarian "jello" one day.

  4. My mother used to make something very similar to this after Easter to use up all of the hard boiled eggs. She would mix the white sauce into the macaroni though, saving some, put the macaroni in a casserole, top with the eggs, pour the rest of the white sauce on top and bake it until bubbly. Extremely cheap and it stuck to your ribs, which back in the 50's one needed recipes like that to get from paycheck to paycheck.

    1. That sounds really good! I have my mother's old home ec. textbook which includes a bunch of 1950's casseroles. I love their simplicity and have made quite a few of them. Maybe I will make a couple of them for this series as well. :)

  5. Very intriguing new series. I'm already smitten and can hardly wait to see what "invalid custard" is like. It's interesting, isn't it, how that world (invalid) has largely fallen out of use in recent decades, at least outside of a hospital setting.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thanks! Yes, invalid isn't a word you hear too much anymore. I was actually surprised how large a section of the cookbook was dedicated specifically to "invalid" recipes. There is an interesting mix of yummy-sounding, simple dishes, and then dishes that sound like they would taste similar to chunky paste. Maybe a vegetarian diet was considered better for an "invalid's" health at the time?

  6. Kate, as I told you in our email exchange, I'm super excited about this blog series :)


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