Jack London, an American writer and social activist, was among the first American authors who were able to make a lot of money by writing. One way he did this, in part, was to go to places and do things that other writers were afraid of, like going back and forth to remote Alaskan gold fields. He took part in the Klondike Gold Rush and wrote about it. His health got worse because of the hardships he had to deal with there. To Build a Fire is one of his stories that shows how he couldn’t get shelter, food, or medicine. The bad food and lack of scurvy caused him to lose his upper four front teeth.
“Roughing it” in Alaska and writing about it are two things that are more well-known than how he was able to cook rice in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was very picky about how his rice was cooked. Rice is a staple of the gold fields because it can be stored in bags and will stay fresh for a long time. Jack London was very familiar with rice and had very specific cooking rules when it came to making it.
During the early years of the 20th century, canning and food preservation became more popular. Sarah M. Williamson, a socialite in San Francisco, helped spread the word about canning and food preservation. In 1916, she told a newspaper that she had learned Jack London’s personal recipe for making rice from his second wife, Charmian Kittredge London.
Here is how Sarah Williamson talks about how she found Jack London’s rice recipe:
American housewives don’t cook rice, and they can’t learn how to cook it. At least once a day, Martin had rice on his table. This is what Jack London says in the powerful book that is almost like a memoir. “And this is how Jack London cooks his rice,” wrote Williamson. He wrote: “I have the recipe from Mrs. London, above her husband’s signature.”
“Rice that is cooked the right way is good.” First, the rice must be thoroughly washed. This will remove all of the sticky kernels when the rice is boiled. There should be one to two buckets of cold water.He or she will let this sit for a while before cooking. The fire must be hot when the saucepan is finally put on the stove. The rice must keep boiling until the rice has absorbed all the water and there is no water left on the surface. In that case, move the food where it isn’t so hot and let it cook a little. The cooking time for a pot of rice should be between 50 and an hour for a moderate amount. A fork can be used just before you serve the food to stir it gently and carefully. This makes the mass look light and flaky. There should be a lot of kernels that are light, soft, and separate from each other.
Williamson said that rice was hard to cook because it came in a lot of different grains and sub-species. “The problem isn’t so much with the cook, but with the rice itself,” she said in her letter. “There are about 49 different kinds, and no two are cooked the same.” Some of them come out best when they’re pre-boiled, then drained and started again in cold water. You’d need one recipe that worked every time to get the same kind of rice. The fact that there are so many types of rice out there makes it likely that rice cooking will never be a problem that can be solved.
She also gave us another one of London’s favorite recipes for a rice dish, this one with onions and green peppers, which is another favorite.
A steel pan should have enough lard to fry one cup of rice to a dark brown. Don’t wash the rice with a napkin. To keep the rice from burning, you need to keep stirring it all the time. Drain the rice. Put one or two large peppers that have been seeded and chopped into the lard. Add the juice of one medium-sized onion and mix it all together (grated). One pinch of salt and a little pepper. Two heaping teaspoonfuls of the chili powder, which has been mixed with three cups of mashed tomatoes, In a granite pan, put a cup of hot water and let it cool down a little. Take out the sauce from the frying pan and put it in the saucepan. Then, put the rice in there. Slowly boil the rice until it’s done. Then, put it in the oven and bake it. In a well-cooked dish, each grain is separate and dry.
A few months after Williamson published his rice recipes, Jack London died. He was still only 40 years old at the time, which made him a very young man. Even though he had very specific needs when it came to cooking rice, there’s no doubt that the hardships of the Arctic and the harsh conditions he had to deal with in order to write helped him lose his health and die early.