Sarah Chrisman shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe just in time for baking season! These “coasting cookies” bring to mind the cold-cheeked fun of sledding in the chilly air of winter.
This holiday season, we’re celebrating all things Victorian with our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. She and her husband Gabriel live like it’s 1889–and have become first-hand experts on Victorian life.
Here, Sarah shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe for “coasting cookies” and the story behind it.
The original recipe appears below, edited to a modern recipe format, along with Sarah’s notes (in parentheses) on adapting the recipe for modern cooking.
Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)
8 oz butter (1 cup, softened)
1/2 pint molasses (1 cup)
1 Tbsp (baking) soda, beaten very hard in the molasses
1 Tbsp coriander seed, pounded in a mortar
(crushing whole seeds retains more flavor)
1 Tbsp (whole) carraway [sic], pounded in a mortar
(yields about 1 3/4 Tbsp when crushed)
ginger to taste (1 Tbsp powdered ginger)
1. Soften the butter.
2. Stir in the molasses, ginger, seeds, and flour.
3. Roll thin and cut.
4. Bake in a quick oven.
Sarah’s updated Coasting Cookies instructions:
1. Crush the caraway and coriander together, add the ginger and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the molasses and baking soda 2-3 minutes; it will turn a very pretty pale caramel color as the alkaline soda reacts with the acid in the molasses.
3. Add the butter and flour and mix well.
4. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.
The Original recipe appears in In the Kitchen by Elizabeth S. Miller. (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875), p. 365.
Ladies’ Toboggan Race, Kiandra, c. 1884–1917. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with citation.
Below, Sarah explains the story behind “coasting cookies”:
Gabriel was attracted to this recipe because the word ‘coasting’ in the name put him in mind of bicycles. However, it turned out to be a sledding reference, as seen in this excerpt from an 1877 short story:
“‘Coasting’ and snow-balling were the bloom and glow of those long, icy months; and the very thought of my youthful exploits in these cold Vermont days makes the blood tingle in my veins… [T]here were lots of ‘fellers,’ small boys, so utterly extinguished beneath their big caps and mufflers, that, to the uninitiated, it would seem necessary to dig them out, like potatoes out of a hill, before they could be recognizable.
Well, these ‘fellers’… had glorious times together, and considered it the great business of life in winter to coast, and skate, and fire snow-balls, being somewhat apt to resent such interruptions as going to school, doing ‘chores,’ or eating regular meals.”—Church, Ella Rodman.
“A Story of “Doughnuts,” Petersen’s Magazine, July, 1877, p. 65.
Although they were originally named for the sport of sledding, Gabriel and I found them to be equally delicious after cycling expeditions. Consequently, in my Tales of Chetzemoka cycling club series, these cookies are special favorites with the club members.
Victorian bicycles like the “Ordinary” high-wheel and the woman’s racing tricycle were anything but ordinary! Check out this video footage of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman and her husband Gabriel on their high-wheels–and Gabriel’s demonstrations of how to ride a high-wheel Victorian bicycle.
Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live like it’s Victorian times. Their dress, home life, household appliances, daily technology use (except for communicating with the rest of the world as needed) and even their daily transportation choices are all driven by what would have been done in the 1880s and 1890s.
Victorian Bicycles About Town
Check out this footage (below) of the couple “about town” on their Victorian bicycles. Gabriel launches himself onto a high-wheel “Ordinary” style bicycle. He rides a modern replica of an 1885 Victor with a 52″ wheel (the bicycle is sized to his leg length, like a man’s trousers) and an 1887 Singer Challenge. Sarah trails along on a modern re-creation inspired by a Coventry Rudge Rotary tricycle from the 1880s. They talk about what they do and why–and the message they hope others will take away from their unusual lifestyle.
Victorian Bicycles vs. Present Day Cycling
Gabriel has over 20-years’ experience working in a bike shop (a modern one), and enjoys comparing past and present cycling models. In an interview at Bicycling.com, he explains: “I’m a long-time cyclist with lower back issues—I can sit on this bike and be perfectly vertical and upright, which is wonderful for comfort, and you get a better view. One of the things I always used road riding for is meditation, and riding a high-wheel bike is an excellent bike for that—it’s just a magical experience gliding along and feeling the rhythm of everything.”
Below, Gabriel demonstrates how to mount his 1887 Singer Challenge high-wheel bicycle:
And here he shows off just a little, riding with one leg (we’re impressed):
Victorian Bicylces for the Ladies
Victorian Bicycles: A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.
Sarah’s tricycle was originally made to accommodate ladies’ fashions of the day: long, full skirts that would have gotten caught in the spokes of an Ordinary and pantalet drawers with open crotches that would have revealed more than a lady would prefer if she were seated on a taller Ordinary. A “bicycle built for two” quadracycle version was also made, shown here.
“There were a number of different styles of tricycles in the nineteenth-century,” Sarah explains on the couple’s website. “On many models the rider sat between two large wheels and a third, smaller wheel was seen out front or behind the rider. However finely they were made though, all the metal and solid rubber on those large wheels adds up to a lot of weight, so an asymmetrical model was developed. The Rudge Rotary (which inspired mine) was known for its lightness and speed and gained a reputation as a racing trike. The right-hand grip turns the two smaller wheels in tandem with each other: They steer it. The big wheel drives the machine: It gets turned when the treadles go ’round.”
This Victorian Life at Genealogy Gems
Learn more about Sarah and Gabriel’s unusual lifestyle in Sarah’s memoir, This Victorian Life. She will discuss that book and Victorian life in general in an upcoming Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with host Lisa Louise Cooke. You can catch highlights from that conversation in our free December epiosde of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the exclusive full length interview on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (episode 142). Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more about Premium membership benefits–not least of which is access to unique conversations such as this one!
Bonus Genealogy Gems Book Club recommendations: Sarah has also written other books about Victorian life, including a “Cycling Club Romance” series inspired by their own experience with the Victorian-era cycling craze. Click on the book covers below to learn more about them. (And if you choose to purchase, thanks for doing so using these links, which support more free content like this.)
The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 193 is ready for listening! It’s packed with genealogy news you can use; inspiring tips from listeners and experts and the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club pick.
Ready to tune in the newest episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast? Episode 193 offers a true “variety show” of news, listener comments and expert insights. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard weighs in with a key principle for genetic genealogy: helping you understand the not-quite-so-simple relationship between your genetic family tree and your genealogical family tree.
Speaking of the Book Club, this episode also announces a brand new featured book. It’s another novel about love and war by a British author. But it’s a different war, a different kind of love story and a VERY different way of telling the story! Click to the podcast episode for the “big reveal.” I will tell you this: Gems audio editor Vienna Thomas just remixed our upcoming interview with the author and she LOVED it! She said now she can’t wait to read the book.
The FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast has been entertaining audiences on the “internet airwaves” for years! Nominated last year for the first-ever Academy of Podcasters awards, the show has had more than 1.75 million downloads worldwide. Host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke is loved for her warm conversational style, inspiring family history stories and the expert genealogy tips she threads into each episode–especially the tech tips we all need to keep up with the fast-paced and exciting world of genealogy.
Family history memoirs are a beautiful and personal way to write your family history. Here are 10 family history memoirs we love.
Memoirs these days aren’t the stodgy, only-written-by-the-famous tomes of the past. Anyone who has a story to tell can write a memoir. Well, genealogists often have fantastic stories to tell. Some stories call on their own memories. Some stories come from research discoveries and the ways these discoveries have changed them. Many genealogists have a combination of both kinds of stories to tell. These are the kinds of stories you find written up as family history memoirs.
Here are some of our favorite family history memoirs from the Genealogy Gems Book Club, our no-commitment online book club with exclusive interviews with the authors:
Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secretby Steve Luxenberg. One of Lisa Louise Cooke’s all-time favorite interviews was a chat with the author about this book. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading Annie’s Ghosts,” says Lisa. “This book inspired me, gave me concrete ideas for pursuing my own family history research, AND kept me on the edge of my chair. What could be better? Steve is such a riveting writer and speaker, and it’s fascinating to hear how someone who is not a genealogist–but rather a journalist–approached his family history search in an effort to find the answers to mysteries in his families.” Listen to the interviews in Genealogy Gems podcast episodes 120 and 121. This book and interview planted the seed for the Genealogy Gems Book Club!
Family by Ian Frazier. In this tale of a genealogical journey, the best-selling author explores his small-town, middle-class roots in the U.S. He explains a purpose that arose from loss: “I wanted my parents’ lives to have meant something. I hunted all over for meanings of any kind….I believed bigger meanings hid behind little ones, that maybe I could follow them to a source back tens or hundreds of years ago. I didn’t care if the meanings were far-flung or vague or even trivial. I wanted to pursue them. I hoped maybe I would find a meaning that would defeat death.”
Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family Historyby Helene Stapinski. An unforgettable personal narrative! The author tells her family history within the criminal and blighted culture of Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. She interweaves the stories of more infamous personalities from her hometown with those of her grandfather and other relatives. She seamlessly weaves her own memories with her research and shares how she has come to terms (or not) with her “crooked family history.”
The Journey Takersby Leslie Albrecht Huber. Here’s another book Lisa profiled on the podcast awhile back. Leslie is a professional genealogist who spent thousands of hours researching the stories she tells about ancestors who left homes in Germany, England and Sweden for new lives in the United States. She writes about their experiences but also her feelings about it, in a book about both a family’s history and the effect it has on the present. Check out Lisa’s interview with Leslie in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode Episode 98.
Out of the Shoebox: An Autobiographical Mystery by Yaron Reshef. In this memoir, Yaron gets a phone call about property his father purchased in Israel years ago. He and his sister can inherit it, but only if they can prove that man was their father. He goes on an international paper chase into the era of World War II, the Holocaust and the making of Israel. A forgotten bank account surfaces and more surprises happen during Yaron’s two-year quest to understand the tragedies of his family’s past and recover some of its treasures.
She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Meby Emma Brockes. An award-winning journalist tells the story of her discovery of her mother’s tragic childhood in South Africa. This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. But it’s so much more than that! It’s also about learning the past from living relatives. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done. Listen a meaty excerpt of our interview with Emma Brockes on the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 174 and the full-length interview in Premium episode 118.
Three Slovak Women, Second Edition by Lisa Alzo. You may know Lisa as a popular speaker on Eastern European genealogy at national conferences. This is her nonfiction account of three generations of Slovak women in the steel-producing town of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, and the love and sense of family binding them together. It will inspire your own family history writing projects! Click here to hear Lisa in the free Family History Made Easy podcast talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned along the way, including in her travels in Eastern Europe.
The Worst Country in the World by Patsy Trench. This is a first-person narrative about her Australian ancestors, who were among the first European settlers in that fascinating country. Patsy actually quit her job and traveled from London to Australia several times to research the story of her fourth great-grandmother and other relatives. She describes the book she wrote as “a hybrid: part family history, part memoir, part novel.”