Today is the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the worst industrial accident in New York City's history; 146 very young women and men lost their lives when flames engulfed their workspace. (Read more about it in Richard Chesnoff's excellent article in the Huffington Post.)
Hundreds of events to commemorate the tragedy were scheduled throughout the country and my place of employ, Henry Street Settlement, hosted a tea and reception last Sunday to honor the victims and to celebrate the progressive reforms (worker's rights, workplace safety, and more) that emerged from the fire's ashes.
The Triangle Tea and Reception featured talks by historian Joyce Mendelsohn and Vivian Sorenson, granddaughter of a Triangle employee; Liz Magnes on the piano, playing period music; and (since I was involved) a spread of refreshments all typical of 1911 and curated by historic gastronomist Sarah Lohman.
In 1911, Henry Street was18 years old, and the very population (southern and eastern European immigrants) that perished in the fire were the agency's first clients. We wanted to honor that history, in part, by recreating some of what existed in 1911, including serving the type of food eaten in the Settlement's dining rooms and in the tenement apartments of the new immigrants.
We served two savory dishes, deviled eggs and cheese & anchovy sandwiches, and two desserts, bundt kuchen and brownies with coffee frosting. All were made from recipes in the c. 1915 edition of the Settlement Cook Book, originally published by a settlement house in Milwaukee in 1901.
The bundt kuchen, flavored with lemon and nutmeg, was delicious and typical of the time -- short on sugar and butter, and raised with yeast.
|The yeast mixture, ready to add to the batter.|
|The batter barely fills the pan when it's first put in.|
|After an hour or more of rising, it's ready to bake.|
|The cut cake, beautifully plated by Sarah Lohman.|
Because I made so many, I found it much more efficient to use a pasty bag to pipe the batter into the pans. They baked in about 9 or 10 minutes.
|Guests enjoy the spread in Henry Street's historic dining room.|