Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Are These Cookies Called Chinaman Chews?


On Sunday, DH and I went on a "three hour tour" aboard a tugboat in New York Harbor.  And in the spirit of Gilligan's Island, this lasted a *bit* longer than anticipated.  Once home (after a lovely and oh-so-welcome glass of wine at Acqua, an excellent Seaport restaurant), I couldn't wait to turn on the oven, for it was cold and windy aboard the tug near the end.


I found an intriguing recipe called, I thought, Cinnamon Chews, in a recipe box I got recently in Akron.  These are very unusual: the batter is baked in one piece, cut into squares and then those squares are rolled into balls.  Quite a bit of geometry going on in one baked good.

The batter with dates and nuts incorporated.
Sometime during the making of these, I realized that there wasn't any cinnamon in them and took a closer look at the handwritten recipe.  The recipe's author, Ethyle (note the exotic spelling!) called them Chinaman Chews and I can't figure out why.  A Google search turned up not one clue. (I typically find some information on Google, like when I made Strawberry Rival Pie, my search revealed that rival is another term from crumb topping.)  If anyone out there can illuminate the origins of Chinaman Chews, please let me know.

The baked bar, which was cut into squares and each square was rolled into a ball, steps I forgot to photograph.
In any event, these unique cookies are delicious, easy and fun to make (you get to play with your food). They were a VERY big hit at work, though they are quite sweet. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

4 comments:

  1. Try "Chinese Chews" for your search and you'll find lots of hits. My theory: "Chinamen" is a
    retro term that no one uses anymore in the pc era. I'd guesstimate that
    recipe was written in the 1930s or 40s (note the boast of the CNB being a
    member of the FDIC at the bottom opf the stationery).

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  2. Anonymous: Thanks so much! You're right -- found many hits for Chinese Chews, including the following on Barry Popik's website:

    "Chinese Chews” appeared in the June 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping, and the recipe was widely reprinted in newspapers. The main ingredients were dates and English walnuts, along with flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, and salt. The popularity of “Chinese Chews” has dropped, but modern versions contain coconut and chocolate chips.

    The origin of the name “Chinese Chews” for a snack with dates and English walnuts is a mystery that has not been explained.

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  3. This is a stretch but is CHEW a last namein China?

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  4. Im no expert but judging by the typeset on that paper i would think this recipe to have been written in the 70s or 80s with myself leaning towards 80s

    ReplyDelete