Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Brookline Biscuits" for Thanksgiving

Care to add a little local flavor to your Thanksgiving meal this year?  Try adding Brookline Biscuits to your holiday table as recommended by the Boston Cooking-School a century ago.
Brookline Biscuits as shown in the November 1907 Boston Cooking-School Magazine
Brookline Biscuits as shown in the Boston Cooking-School Magazine in 1907

The November 1907 issue of the Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics provided Thanskgiving menus for five different settings.  "Brookline Biscuit" was included in two of the five: the "City Home" and "Country Home" Thanksgiving meals.
1907 Thanksgiving Menus with Brookline Biscuit
1907 Thanksgiving Menus (Click for larger view)

Most of the recipes for the menus were provided by the magazine's long-time editor Janet McKenzie Hill.  But the recipe for Brookline Biscuit was attributed to "C.J." This was most likely Charlotte J. Clark (née Wills), a teacher at the Boston Cooking-School and the former assistant to Fannie Farmer when Farmer was the school's principal. (Farmer had left to open her own school in 1902.)

It's not clear what, if any, connection Clark—or the biscuits—had to Brookline.  The recipe (uncredited to Clark) was used again in Janet McKenzie Hill's 1916 Nyal Cook Book ("Practical recipes that have been tested in actual use") published by the Detroit-based Nyal drugstore chain.

Nyal Cook Book cover

Here's the  recipe for Brookline Biscuit, as it appeared in 1907 and again nine years later. Give it a try, and let me know how it works out.

Have a pint of sifted flour in a bowl; into this rub two level tablespoonfuls of butter. Scald one cup of milk and when lukewarm add one-fourth a cake of compressed yeast, dissolved in one-fourth a cup of lukewarm water.  Stir this into the flour and set to rise overnight.

In the morning work in sufficient flour to make a dough and knead it until it is elastic and does not stick to the fingers. Let rise until very light, then take from the bowl to the bread board, without working, and roll out into a rectangular sheet longer than it is wide, and half an inch thick. Spread softened butter upon this and fold the dough evenly, to have three layers.

With a sharp knife, dipped in flour, cut the dough into strips three-fourths an inch wide. Take hold of a strip at the ends, pull gently to lengthen it, then twist the ends in opposite directions and form the shape of the figure eight, joining the two ends underneath. 

Place the biscuits in buttered pans so that they will not touch, and when light bake in a rather hot oven to a delicate brown.  The recipe makes two dozen biscuit.


From "Feeding America" The Historic American Cookbook Project" at Michigan State University

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brookline and the Invention of the Safety Razor

King C. Gillette
King C. Gillette as he appeared in
John William Denehy's bicentennial
history of Brookline (1906)
On this date (November 15th) in 1904, King C. Gillette of Brookline was awarded a patent for a disposable safety razor. He had applied for the patent three years earlier, and first came up with the idea six years before that while shaving in his Brookline home.

Here's how Gillette recalled it in a February 1918 article in the company magazine The Gillette Blade:

I was living in Brookline at No. 2 Marion Terrace at the time [1895], and as I said before I was consumed with the thought of inventing something that people would use and throw away and buy again. On one particular morning when I started to shave I found my razor dull, and it was not only dull but it was beyond the point of successful stropping and it needed honing, for which it must be taken to a barber or to a cutler. As I stood there with the razor in my hand, my eyes resting on it as lightly as a bird settling down on its nest--the Gillette razor was born.

Years of experimentation failed to solve the technical difficulties involved in producing the kind of razor Gillette had in mind.  MIT-trained engineer William Nickerson came to the rescue, joining Gillette in 1901 and perfecting the manufacturing process.  (In the December 1918 issue of The Gillette Blade Nickerson described seeing an early version of Gillette's razor for the first time in the home of Henry Sachs on University Road in Brookline.)

Drawing of Razor for Patent Awarded to Gillette in 1904
Drawing for Patent 775,134 awarded to King C. Gillette in 1904

Sales took off in 1904, the year the patent was awarded, with 90,000 razors sold through the end of the year (according to the Dictionary of American Biography).  With the continued success of the Gillette Safety Razor Company, Gillette and his family moved in 1907 to a large home at 1566 Beacon Street, near Lancaster Terrace.  They lived there for only six years before moving to California in 1913.  King C. Gillette died in Los Angeles in 1932.
Gillette home at 1566 Beacon Street
This house at 1566 Beacon Street was the home of the King C. Gillette family from 1907 to 1913.  It was torn down in 1944.

Further Reading