Bread and Thread: Bull Cook

Opening music

Liz

Hello and welcome to bread and thread, a podcast about food and domestic history. I’m liz.

Hazel

And I’m hazel, we’re two friends who studied archaeology together and love history and DIYing everything we can, what are you up to?

LIZ

Well you know one of the things we have in common is making things difficult for ourselves on purpose?

HAZEL

Yep.

LIZ

And you know how you sent me some very pretty threads for my birthday?

HAZEL

Oh the rainbow ones yeah.

LIZ

I have assigned each digit from 0-9 a colour and am now crossstiching the first 10,000 digits of pi in a big square.

HAZEL

That’s amazing. How big is the square?

LIZ

It’s 100×100 I’m 12 squares in, this is my lockdown 2 project.

HAZEL

Oh so that’s going to be like a filled in square.

Oh my gosh that’s amazing I need to see this.

LIZ

I am sporadically putting updates of it on my instagram.

HAZEL

I love rainbow pi.

LIZ

What are you up to something slightly less ridiculous?

HAZEL

I’m hand sewing an entire shirt so you can be the judge of that.

LIZ

More practical. I’ve seen the pictures it’s a very good shirt.

HAZEL

It’s a flouncy romantical 18th century pirate type shirt I am very excited. I picked that to start with it’s squares and rectangles so you don’t have to worry about trying to make a pattern and I’m just using a tutorial on youtube to put it together but I really like hand sewing. I don’t mind machine sewing but there’s something about hand sewing that’s just like really… Idk you feel that you’re doing the thing that your ancestors did and it’s… You know, all the repetitive actions, it’s calming. I[‘ve been enjoying that.

LIZ

It’s fun trying to do things yourself.

HAZEL

Exactly how much can I do all by myself, it’s very satisfying. So yeah that’s going pretty well I’ve got almost two sleeves just need to put cuffs on the sleeves just need to attach sleeves on the body I’m doing my first gathers, it’s very exciting.

LIZ

I saw it on instagram, the end of the sleeve.

HAZEL

Yeah I also put that one on the twitter as well it’s highly satisfying if you like things being neat.

LIZ

It really buckles my swash.

HAZEL

Why thank you very much. So, this is one of our episodes on food history personalities. Today this is going to be a journey for everyone involved.

LIZ

Yeah given what you’ve told me so far, sticking to our no swearing rule is going to be difficult.

HAZEL

This episode might be a bit pg. Nothing terrible is going to come out, but there’s no other way to deal with this jman and this cookbookl.

LIZ

What is the name of this man and this cookbook?

HAZEL

So this is george leonard herter and his magnum opus the bull cook authentic historical recipes and practices published in 1960. George herter was the owner of a hunting and fishing supply mail order business in minnesota. This was during the 50s and 60s and his business had catalogues that would be sent out and you’d order what you want – these catalogues were really popular they turned the publisher into one of the biggest publishing houses in the state apparently. George herter wrote all the copy for his catalogues. So he started off writing the copy for his catalogues and they were completely – imagine a market stall cryer but on speed or something like they’re really exaggerated, nothing in this catalogue is ordinary. It’s all the famous or the world’s best whatever, you would be teh worst kind of person not to buy this. They’re quite entertainining.

LIZ

You have any examples?

HAZEL

I don’t think I wrote any down specifically but they’re definitely the famous thing product whatever it is, and he iknd of spilled over into writing books cause he had this flair for writing and telling a story and making things sound attention grabbing. One of the best known books is the bull cook and a bull cook is apparently a person in a camp logging camp or whatever is the cook’s assistant and does chores and stuff like a handyman.

LIZ

So he basically called his cookbook the dogsbody which is a bold move but I feel one that would only go down well in the 60s.

HAZEL

It was also aimed at his target audience people who were into hunting and fishing, outdoorsman, rugged individual handyman survivalist thing.

LIZ

He could have gone a lot more toxic masculinity with it, but instead of that he went in a 3rd wilder direction.

HAZEL

What’s interesting is it’s a cookbook aimed at men; part of it is what you can do with the game you hunt and fish and stuff but part of it I mean most of it as you will see isn’t really about that, before we dive into that I just want to tell you the title of his other books, there’s a catalogue that listed all the books. George herter often published in conjunction with his wife bertha who was french I think.

LIZ

Bertha herter.

HAZEL

Bertha herter… I didn’t realise that. So also was the author of such books as herter’s professional course in the science of modern taxidermy, and how to get out of the rat race and live on $10 a month. Which is apparently by moving to alaska and fishing by electricity.

LIZ

By electricity? Like in the simpsons where they just put the bug zapper in the lake?

HAZEL

I think it’s something like that actually I’ve not read this book but it’s that kind of zone. Oh and not forgetting his marriage guide titled how to live with a bitch, of which the second edition informs you that you should never under any circumstances call your wife a bitch.

LIZ

I like it’s the second edition, words were had.

HAZEL

Bertha had some words with george. This is to give you an idea, this guy clearly was just I know some stuff about this, clearly I’m an authority enough to write a book or even I have some opinions on this, and was able to self publish them easily and sell them through his own catalogue. Why not you’ve got your own marketing there, it makes sense.

LIZ

Yeah early vanity publishing isn’t it?

HAZEL

Yeah and I guess it’s a fine tradition one of the ways people got books published in the past if you were an aristocrat or a fashionable person you could just raise a subscription amongst your friends to get you published. So herters inc, outdoor fishing and supplies company, I think it was bought out by another company but some of their products have the herter name. But the herter company went under in 1981, more on that later. So I’m gonna now read you the introduction to the book and it is interesting… So, let me just check if I put that in my document… I did, ok. Bull cook on historical recipes and practices and this is the entire introduction in the lumber camp days and pioneer days the cooks learned from each other and the old world cooks each taught their own countries secrets, out of the mixing came fine food prepared as in nowhere else in the world I am putting down some of these recipes you will not find in cookbooks. Each recipe here is a real secret. I am also publishing here for the first time authentic historical recipes of great importance. For your convenience I will start with meat, fish, eggs, soup and sauces, sandwiches, vegetables, the art of french frying, desserts, how to dress game, how to properly sharpen a knife, how to make wines and beer, how to make french soap, what to do in case of hydrogen or cobalt bomb attack, keeping as much in alphabetical order as possible.

LIZ

One of these things is not like the other. I think what you do in case of a hydrogen bomb attack is die? It’s a short chapter.

HAZEL

A lot of this seems to be this is very 60s america.

LIZ

This is the point where the uk government was saying if you hear an alarm saying there’s a nuclear strike coming, hide in a cupboard and you’ll be fine.

HAZEL

My nan was part of the volunteer ambulance drivers. She volunteered to drive ambulances in case of nuclear attack, the threat was real at the time, it could happen at any time.

LIZ

I’m less the threat was real, we knew the threat was real, but I’m more the governments knew that this would do nothing. Makes you feel better.

HAZEL

Makes you feel like the government is doing something about it. Not much you can do. His advice just in case you wanted to know what the advice is in case of a hydrogen bomb attack in this cookbook – if we have a bomb attack it will be a heavy one with every major city and most of the country wiped out in less than a half hour. Instead of reading the rot put out there about survival put out by people who have no first hand knowledge of what they’re talking about – and george herter does?? – apparently?

LIZ

Very few people did at that point and most of them are dead.

HAZEL

His justification for this is he’s experienced bombing and talked to a lot of people who got bombed during the second world war. Which I’m sure he did but it’s not the same thing as a nuclear bomb.

LIZ

He’s thinking about carpet bombing.

HAZEL

He talks about radiation his advice for what you should do is get in any kind of cave ditch or valley, as far away from buildings as you can and lie face down. If you didn’t get that, he says if at all possible get in a cave.

LIZ

Oh a ditch yes if you lie in a ditch you’ll be safe from the radiation.

HAZEL

It’s ok cause according to this book if you eat a lot of red peppers you’re immune to radiation.

LIZ

Ok that’s where we’re going wrong.

HAZEL

Ok I was just checking what I wrote in case I misremembered but the quote is people who use considerable red pepper in their foods are almost immune to atomic radiation.

LIZ

Wait… This sentence is unclear instructions unclear do we eat red peppers or the seasoning red pepper?

HAZEL

Red bell peppers yeah.

LIZ

See that’s good cause I eat a lot of those, I don’t eat a lot of red pepper.

HAZEL

I looked this up because I was like that’s such a wild claim there must be some kind of truth to it and the only thing I found apart from a website which included it in a diet that’s supposed to reverse the dangers of electromagnetic fields, which there’s no evidence that they’re dangerous in the first place, so… That’s a whole other thing, I looked it up and it’s no. The only thing I found that I guess you could relate to that, is they contain more vitamin c than oranges and lemons, they’re really good for your immune system, recommended for people who are undergoing treatment for that same reason, but they’re not the vitamin c isn’t going to make you immune to radiation.

LIZ

In his defence, radiation poisoning and scurvy have some similar symptoms. That’s as much as I’m giving him.

HAZEL

Wow, maybe it’s not totally his fault. That’s cool I didn’t know that. It’s not cool, but… Yeah, so you’ll be getting a feel for this book is a combination of cookbook, advice guide, survival guide, it also contains these absolutely bizarre historical anecdotes.

LIZ

How historical are we talking?

HAZEL

Historical air quotes. He introduces a lot of the recipes in the book with a little historical note, like this person who invented the recipe or this is how it became a popular and as you might imagine it’s not fantastic. It contains the assertion that johannes kepler an 18th century german astronomer, has largely been forgotten as an astronomer but will be remembered as creator of liverwurst.

LIZ

I think that there are certain astronomers who would disagree, like maybe the ones that named the planet after kepler? Or nasa who had a kepler telescope they might disagree there? Or maybe they just love german sausage.

HAZEL

Idk if this book was made to be entertaining solely or whether he actually – he obviously made this stuff up but idk to what degree he expected people to believe it.

LIZ

It’s 2020 I’m willing to believe anything of anyone at this point.

HAZEL

I’m saving this recipe for last, but let’s have a look at some of the other choice things that are mentioned on here. So first of all corned beef so I’m not sure if I’ve ever had corned beef but corned beef is called that because the process of salting it with large grains of salt that look like corn which is where the name comes from. Herter says corned beef originated in london in 1875 and was invented by a chemist called john wilson. The true secret of producing corned meat is known only to a few people but they guard their secret very carefully. While many food magazines produced recipes for corning meat, these recipes are not even close to the real one. This is the first time the real authentic recipe for corning meat has ever been published.

LIZ

No.

HAZEL

So let’s ignore the fact that during this period ireland was one of the biggest exporters of corned meat, the earliest reference I can find to corned beef was in the 17th century and the technique was thought to be older, I’m not sure what this specific date comes from, but I kind of like the confidence in this paragraph, the sheer confidence that this recipe has never been published before, I am the only one who knows the truth.

LIZ

It does slightly have the vibe of a tumblr post that starts listen up and I appreciate that.

HAZEL

If there’s one word you can use to describe this cookbook it’s ballsy, or perhaps bullsy. It’s great he’s very derogatory about imported beef from south america, presumably he’s trying to encourage people to hunt and process their own meat using stuff from his catalogue but –

LIZ

But not beef, you don’t hunt beef.

HAZEL

He says you can corn venison antelope, moose, bear or beef with this method, I don’t think he’s out there corning bear.

LIZ

Someone a lot braver than me.

HAZEL

How do you corn a bear? Very carefully. This book also contains a recipe for snapping turtles scandinavian style, as far as I’m aware snapping turtles are only foujnd in north america.

LIZ

They’re very much a new world creature but sure.

HAZEL

So yeah, maybe that’s just like the scandinavian method of doing stuff, I don’t even know. I also don’t know-

LIZ

It might be a scandinavian way of doing turtles in general. Though idk if scandinavia even has turtles I’m going to find out.

HAZEL

This is history in real time. I’m not sure if turtle would be tasty-

LIZ

Ok no there are sea turtles. So maybe it’s a way of doing sea turtles I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt cause I love him so much.

HAZEL

Viking turtles. Yeah, we’re also going to talk about the martini.

LIZ

Oh, I have heard of this.

HAZEL

Martini was a very popular cocktail in america at this time and remains today one of the classic cocktails. Have you you’re interested in drinks history even if you don’t drink. Do you know what’s in a martini?

LIZ

Gin and vermouth?

HAZEL

Yeah I think that’s the traditional martini it’s gin and vermouth you can have more or less gin to vermouth in it, you can have an olive in it, you can have a splash of olive water in it which is a dirty martini. According to george herter the martini is strictly german and was invented by jp schwartzendorf, a german music composer who was born in 1741 and he died In 1816, his nickname was martini.

LIZ

A german’s nickname was martini you say.

HAZEL

Yeah he apparently invented this drink and his friends promptly named it after his nickname. He’s very derogatory about the quality of martinis served in america today. Apparently this martini is far superior to the slop called and served as martinis in american bars today. Here it is, a correct and original recipe, and he then goes on to insist that a true martini does not contain vermouth because vermouth is nothing but a cheap spice flavoured white wine that was originally created to sell wine too poor to sell on its own. The idea of using vermouth in martinis was the sole idea of unscrupulous importers of vermouth who were trying to make a sale and would do anything to make money.

LIZ

So I’m glad it’s the martini specifically cause I do know the history of the martini. It’s most likely named after a brand of vermouth named martini. So I would argue it’s the most important ingredient.

HAZEL

Yeah from what I can gather, vermouth has always been involved. I also came across the idea that it had been invented in the gold rush or something but either way it’s definitely an america drink.

LIZ

Definitely american definitely has vermouth those are the two things about martinis.

HAZEL

Yeah Idk what this man has against vermouth, he also says american martinis are just for alcoholics who want a quick jolt regardless of taste. Gosh.

LIZ

I feel like he was probably one of those people who goes oh pour me a glass of gin and show it a bottle of vermouth.

HAZEL

I just read the next paragraph I haven’t read before, schwartzendorf invented another drink, which was named the martini verboten.

LIZ

The forbidden martini?

HAZEL

That’s the name of my next D&D character. That would be a great stage name.

LIZ

Elaborate, what is in the forbidden martini?

HAZEL

So it’s just… The forbidden martini, uh, the forbidden martini, he gives the formula this is brilliant. Two ounces of geneva, or gin, geneva is a historic european spirit that’s a precursor to gin, one ounce of apple cider vinegar and that’s it.

LIZ

Just gin and vinegar. I was going to say I’ll make the forbidden martini a cocktail next time I have a party but I think I’m going to not do that.

HAZEL

Please don’t. This drink tends to calm down a heavy drinker, to get away from the overdry mouth of a heavy drinker and it prevents liver damage to the alcoholic.

LIZ

This is mostly gin and he’s saying it won’t be too dry. Is it just vinegar that makes it not dry? I’ve never downed vinegar.

HAZEL

I don’t know, the martini found its way to america by isolated music lovers apparently we can verify these facts in a french dictionary. Which I’m definitely going to do on twitter.

LIZ

Does he specify which french dictionary?

HAZEL

I’m going to get to the bottom of this. It’s called the nouveau petit larousse.

LIZ

Oh, nick knows about larousse It’s a big important food book. Larousse gastronomique is a big important food book.

HAZEL

I’m going to get to the bottom of this mystery for all of you. Watch the twitter. So there you go the martini was german the whole time.

LIZ

I should’ve guessed from that italian sounding name.

HAZEL

Of course.

LIZ

Threw me off the scent.

HAZEL

So yeah he also includes these apparently historical recipes and they usually tie to a person apparently he has franz liszt’s fruit cocktail recipe which includes the instruction go buy a can of fruit cocktail, which I’m sure was available to frans liszt.

LIZ

When was liszt?

HAZEL

I’m pretty sure liszt was 18th century, wasn’t he?

LIZ

Uh 19th so maybe?

HAZEL

My classical knowledge is not great.

LIZ

I don’t think canned food was much of a thing then, but maybe.

HAZEL

I don’t know how verifiable this is. I like that you’re taking the part of the champion of george herter.

LIZ

Someone has to.

HAZEL

Yeah, um, he also includes apparently hitler’s recipe for omelettes, gengis khan’s favourite duck recipe and he introduces a recipe called toulouse lautrec chicken using toulouse lautrec’s two friends painting which is interesting cause that’s about two people who are definitely having sex.

LIZ

Maybe afterwards they got hungry.

HAZEL

Maybe.

LIZ

The idea that if in the 60s you have one of hitler’s recipes, that’s suspicious.

HAZEL

I think his claim here is that he travelled around and I think he did travel europe and collect recipes, there’s a second volume of this by the way and the second volume is about the restaurants and nightclubs of the world, the second volume has not been reprinted, this book the first volume has, you can go out and get a copy of this and I would recommend it cause it’s hilarious. Apparently according to general opinion does contain some good tasty recipes. Presumably that were contributed by bertha, including the greatest recipe in this book, and this is one of the historical ones which is wilder and wilder, until you get to this one which is spinach mother of christ, which I’m going to read you word for word: the virgin mary mother of christ was very fond of spinach. This is a well known fact in nazareth today as it was 19 centuries ago. Her favourite music was that of the crude bagpipes of the time, and this too is well known. Her recipe for preparing spinach spread with christianity throughout europe; on the eve of christ’s birth in a cave that was called a stable her only meal was spinach.

LIZ

Ok so you know how I’m playing devil’s advocate here? There are some versions of the nativity that feature jesus being born in a cave, spinach was likely domesticated in the middle east and romans did have bagpipes. I’m just putting these three facts out there.

HAZEL

Really? Cause I’m looking this up and found a quote that they didn’t have spinach in the middle east at the time but idk.

LIZ

What I found is it was domesticated in probably persia.

HAZEL

Ok.

LIZ

So maybe?

HAZEL

Ok I’ll give that a hard maybe.

LIZ

Oh yeah I’m in no way saying it’s a true fact I’m just putting some information out there.

HAZEL

I like it it gives a little true crime – not what I’m going for – unsolved mysteries edge. I like that. So yeah this is apparently the virgin mary’s own recipe for spinach.

LIZ

Ok. You’re saying this is the spinach that jesus ate.

HAZEL

I guess.

LIZ

Does it sound good what do you do with the spinach?

HAZEL

Ok um… So it’s really simple it’s just fresh spinach fried with garlic and butter. That’s it.

LIZ

It does sound tasty.

HAZEL

It does sound nice.

LIZ

It’s just wilted spinach with garlic.

HAZEL

It’s not that mindblowing.

LIZ

It was simpler back then you just put garlic on stuff and that was your flavour for the week.

HAZEL

Back in my day we only had one clove of garlic.

LIZ

Tbf, middle eastern food kicked butt it was europe that didn’t know how to do food.

HAZEL

Oh gosh, yeah. It sounds tasty. I’d do it, but I’m not convinced that this recipe was created by the virgin mary herself and has been preserved by followers through the ages.

LIZ

That seems unlikely. But I want it to be true.

HAZEL

I just want to get across the sheer audacity that this man possesses. Yeah. Cause he’s he seems all intents and purposes this guy seems pretty christina. This ends with a random rant about birth control. Has killed more than the atomic bomb, according to george herter.

LIZ

I’d like to know how bertha felt about this.

HAZEL

Yeah. For sure. He has no problem with spinach mother of christ. Um. Yeah. Anyway, I will leave that as another unsolved mysteries esque, and just going to present that recipe and do with it what you will.

LIZ

Send us pictures of your wilted spinach.

HAZEL

I just want a dinner party where everything is from this book.

LIZ

Including the forbidden martini?

HAZEL

Including the forbidden martini.

LIZ

So if you enjoyed that and you want to fund the bull cook dinner party we do have a patreon where you can get access to a patron server, exclusive recipes and at the 10 dollar level we will make a bonus episode just for you, so you can go to patreon.com/breadandthread.

HAZEL

You can also find us on twitter @breadandthread, or if you’d like to submit any ideas or episodes or local larders or want to say hi, breadandthreadpodcast@gmail.com. I’d just like to end with the end of herters in 1981. Herters ended with allegations of lots of unfilled orders and debt, but his name lives on and he’s actually a bit of a resurfacing celebrity today.

LIZ

What you’re saying is we’re on trend.

HAZEL

We’re brand influencers? I guess we’ll see you next time.

LIZ

Bye

HAZEL

Bye

Closing music

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