The Pennsylvania Railroad
The Pennsylvania Railroad was an American Class I railroad that was established in 1846. One can imagine the experience of dining on The Pennsylvania Railroad. In the 1800s, eating on board of a moving train was an exciting and unique experience. Delicious food, constant changing of scenery, and good company were all components for the attraction of trains during this time. For a lot of trains in this time, dining cars were expensive to create, therefore, big name trains were usually the ones with dining available. The staff for a dining car was most likely limited to a couple of cooks and a waiter. For the cooks, it was difficult to cook while constantly moving and being in a small space. However, like I stated above, dining on a train was fascinating, as well as, popular. If it were not for these chefs and their ability to cook in an environment unlike a restaurant, the history of dining on trains, like the Pennsylvania Railroad, would be dramatically different.
The menu begins by stating that it is a “personally conducted tour through Mexico and California”. This menu also seems to be strictly lunch. It contains a variety of culturally different ingredients. Instead of going through the self-explanatory ingredients, I want to share the ingredients we do not see often on menus in todays society, as well as, explain the signifigance of the individual dishes and the cultural importance behind it.
- Cold Meats
One can usually find cold meats when going to a nice wine bar that serves fine cheeses and charcuterie. Besides that, it is rare to run across a section of cold meats on a menu. When looking at the items categorized under cold meats, tongue, boneless sardines, and pickled lambs tongue are the most intriguing. Eating tongue can seem disgusting, but back then, eating offal was not uncommon. When doing research for menus throughout this time, hundreds of them offer tongue. It is hard to explain where and how tongue became a popular dish on the menus in America in the 1900s. However, we do know that during the great wars and the great depression, people on the home-front were encouraged to consume different foods, like offal, in order to survive, save money, and because a majority of foods were being sent to soldiers fighting over seas. Boneless Sardines are in the same boat. Sardines were extremely popular in the 1900s and their were big cannery’s throughout the nation. One of the biggest resided in San Fransisco, California. However, after the wars and the great depression, people did not want to consume this “survival” food anymore. As society developed, these foods were thrown on the back burner and viewed as “gross”. Now a days, you see the same meat and fish everywhere you go. Pork chops, chicken breasts, prime rib, etc. I believe that, because those foods were so desired, but usually unobtainable and/or expensive, they built up a popularity among society.
2. Golden Gate Fruits
The Pennsylvania Railroad was a trip to California. At first, I thought that “Golden Gate Fruits” must be something related directly to California. After doing much research, I could not find anything about this item. In my opinion, “Golden Gate Fruits” must have either been a fruit company from California or a dish of fruits that were indigenous to California.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Menu claims to be a tour through Mexico and California, yet does not offer any Mexican-inspired dishes. The lunch menu features buillon, a vegetable or meat-based stock that is used in French cuisine. For lunch, the restaurant offers Boston Baked Beans with brown bread – this would be the perfect opportunity to include beans and a carb from Mexico, yet the restaurant sticks with American flavors. The list of vegetables on the Pennsylvania Railroad menu does not include any vegetables that are indigenous to California, only vegetables that originate from South America and Europe (lima beans from Peru and brussel sprouts from Belgium). The dessert items include some of the least discernable and most ambiguous menu items. The assorted cakes are not specified, nor are the ‘Golden Gate fruits.’ One can assume that these are fruits grown in California, yet it is not explicitly stated what these fruits are. The menu offers ‘Canadian and Edam cheese,’ with Bent’s water crackers. Edam cheese comes from the Netherlands, and it’s place on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s menu is extremely practical – the cheese travels well as it does not go bad.
The ingredients featured on this menu come from a variety of regions, including Europe, South America, and Canada. Despite the menu’s promise that it is a tour through Mexico and California, the list of food items does not offer any Mexican Cuisine. It is important to note the date of the menu, 1900, and how California was a newly-acquired American territory. It is possible that the Pennsylvania Railroad wanted to make the clear distinction that it’s menu would not feature any Mexican inspired dishes, for political reasons.
The menu was written around the time that railroads started to connect California to the rest of the country. The transcontinental rail lines allowed California to receive vegetables and ingredients from other parts of the country, creating a more diverse and well-rounded variety of dishes.
Cooking In The Kitchen: A Chef G. Experience
I decided to pick out the dish I found most interesting on the menu and prepare it myself. The dish I chose to create was the tongue. Enjoy!
- 3 lbs beef tongue
- 1 stalk on celery (leaves on)
- 1 half yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 clove of garlic
- pepper corn and salt as needed for flavor
- 6 cups of water
- The first step is to chop up the celery, onion, and carrots.
- Then clean the beef tongue and cut off all of the unwanted fat. Beef tongue is 75% fat, so any excess fat is not needed. Clean again.
- Have your water in a pot over medium heat. When it begins to boil add beef tongue, and the rest of the ingredients.
- Boil for 2-3 hours. Regularly mix the pot, as well as, check to see if the tongue is tender.
- Stick a knife or other utensil into the tongue. When it enters into the tongue with ease, take the tongue out, let it cool, and cut off thin slices.
- Serve tongue cold on a bed of parsley. Add pickled carrots and lemon for additional flavor.