Mary Whitcher Strikes Again
Eat hearty and decent, and clear out our plate.
Posted in the Visitor’s Dining Rooms of Shaker villages were verses, two of which proclaim:
We’re willing to state-
Eat hearty and decent,
And clear out our plate –
Be thankful to heaven –
For what we receive,
And not make a mixture
or compound to leave.
We find of those bounties
Which heaven doth give,
That some live to eat,
And, that some eat to live -
That some think of nothing
But pleasing the taste,
And care very little
How much they do waste.
Today was a mini “clean out the freezer day” and that usually means a pot of soup. What I was looking for, and found, in the freezer were bags of vegetable trimmings, chicken bones, mushroom stems, and the sort. I also had, in the fridge, a quart of stock I made a couple of days ago. Waste not, want not.
My favorite soup to make from such gifts from the freezer is Mary Whitcher’s Herb Dumpling Soup. Mary was a member of the Shaker community at Canterbury, New Hampshire and in 1882 published Shaker House-keeper, the only printed cookbook in the early Shaker literature. In the preface, Mary wrote “The Shakers recognize the fact that good food properly cooked and well digested is the basis of good health” – a rather modern sentiment.
Jeanne and I have used this recipe throughout out married life. It’s simple, tasty and we like it.
Of course, I can’t leave any recipe “unimproved”. So here is my version.
Mary Whitcher’s Herb Dumplings a la Curt
Adapted from The Best of Shaker Cooking, ed.Amy Bess Williams Miller and Persis Wellington Fuller, The Macmillan Company, 1970
1 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/8 C milk (about)
1 Tbs melted butter
1/4 C mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, parsley, dill, tarragon, oregano) or about half that amount if using dried herbs. Use at least 3 different herbs.
NOTE: This is where Mary and I diverge. She was just too timid with her herbs. Her original recipe calls for only 1/2 Tbs of fresh herbs (or just half that much if using dried herbs). My version ups the ante eight-fold. It works and is not to “herby” but rather seems just right, especially if you use fresh herbs.
6 C rich stock or brothy soup (I added 1 C cooked chicken, 1/2 C each chopped carrots and celery to my stock and cooked for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables were cooked but not mushy)
Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and herbs.
Break the egg into a mixing cup and add enough milk to total 1/2 C.
Add the melted butter and mix well and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well.
Heat your stock or soup base to boiling and add the dumpling dough in large tablespoons full, reduce heat to simmer and cover. After 2 minutes turn the dumplings and cook 2 minutes longer.
Serves 2 for a hearty supper with a little left over.