A good friend of ours recently loaned us a copy of A Taste of Old Madison. The cookbook was first published in 1974 and is a delightful who’s who of notable figures in Madison history. Our friend brought us the cookbook because it features a photograph of the William T. Leitch house, the landmark designated name of The Livingston Inn. Along with the photo, there is a recipe provided by Marie Minor (Mrs. Bertran) Doyon. Marie Doyon was the daughter-in-law of Moses Doyon, Madison mayor from 1888-90 and owner of the house from 1881-1902.
Ms. Doyon’s recipe for “Chartreuse of Chicken” is more practical than I expected (see photo-click to enlarge). I perceived a turn of the 20th century recipe would demand archaic ingredients and impractical cooking techniques that wouldn’t match our modern-day kitchens. But this recipe is accessible on both fronts. Its ingredient list is short and simple, and it offers a simple baking technique — “steam three-quarters of an hour”.
At the same time, this recipe and others made me appreciate once again the talents of Chef Dan Fox and his Century Dinner at The Livingston Inn back in February. Chef Dan presented his guests an eight-course dinner paired with wine and craft cocktails featuring cuisine going back 100 years. His team brought incredible flavor and creativity to every dish. The event was a big success here and we are hoping to host it again. (You can get on Dan Fox’s mailing list at email@example.com. Feel free to suggest another dinner here!)
Sometimes I think our generation is more obsessed with food than in previous eras. Food seems to have become a marketable item with cable channels, food movements, and the proliferation of restaurants and kitchen stores. Yet food – more appropriately, a meal – has been a cultural force for generations. There’s something about sitting around a table and breaking bread together that taps into our human condition. Indeed, in Ms. Doyon’s time, there were not many restaurants to speak of, so a dinner in someone’s home was a significant social event.
By the way, I’ve searched for A Taste of Old Madison both through the Madison Public Library and UW Library systems. Just a couple of libraries have copies. So, I will hand it back to our friend with care as it appears to be a rare gem (his purchase price of $.50 compared to the $5.95 retail price was quite a find). If anyone local to Madison, or otherwise, would know a source for this book, I would greatly welcome any tips. And more importantly, if you make Chartreuse of Chicken, I would love to hear how it turns out!