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The bulgarzoon and the zoolak

The bulgarzoon and the zoolak
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  • The bulgarzoon and the zoolak

    Post #1 - March 28th, 2008, 11:23 pm
    Post #1 - March 28th, 2008, 11:23 pm Post #1 - March 28th, 2008, 11:23 pm
    So I am reading some early stories from the always delightful P.G. Wodehouse, and I come across this passage in "My Battle with Drink." The drinks involved in this satirical piece are dispensed by soda fountains.

      Doctor," I said, covering my face with my hands, "I am a confirmed soda-fiend."

      He gave me a long lecture and a longer list of instructions. I must take air and exercise and I must become a total abstainer from sundaes of all descriptions. I must avoid limeade like the plague, and if anybody offered me a Bulgarzoon I was to knock him down and shout for the nearest policeman.

      I learned then for the first time what a bitterly hard thing it is for a man in a large and wicked city to keep from soda when once he has got the habit. Everything was against me. The old convivial circle began to shun me. I could not join in their revels and they began to look on me as a grouch. In the end, I fell, and in one wild orgy undid all the good of a month's abstinence. I was desperate then. I felt that nothing could save me, and I might as well give up the struggle. I drank two pin-ap-o-lades, three grapefruit-olas and an egg-zoolak, before pausing to take breath.

    Whither the bulgarzoon?
    Bulgaria? Kalamazoo? Mattoon?
    Why vanished the zoolak, lackaday?
    I do not see these offered at
    the soda fountains of today.

    For that matter, what the heck were they?

    How to Live: Rules for Healthful Living Based on Modern Science, published in 1916 by the Life Extension Institute (the Hon. William Howard Taft, chairman of the board), tells us that a bulgarzoon has 131.57 calories and costs 5 cents at a "'Quick Lunch' Restaurant," but offers no other details. ("How to Live" also advises, "It would, of course, be a great mistake to regulate the diet solely with regard to fuel value. Digestibility, as well as protein, mineral and vitamin requirements, must also be considered. Nevertheless, the main requirement is for fuel, and this, as the table shows, can be secured at a surprizingly {sic} low cost.")

    Further search tells us that "Bulgarzoon Scientifically Fermented Milk" was popular enough that Childs restaurant in New York advertised it on the cover of its 1940 menu. A 1915 New York agricultural report confirms its milkiness, and introduces yet another zooly libation: "We cannot understand fully, for example, the fundamental chemical facts involved in the process of cheese-making and cheese-ripening, the chemical changes taking place in its constituents when milk sours or when it is made into fermented beverages such as kumyss, imitation buttermilks, matzoon, zoolak, bulgarzoon, etc."

    The matzoon we can trace. It is Armenian, according to the 1908 Bacteria in Relation to Country Life by Jacob G.L. Lipman, A.M., Ph.D., a New Jersey "Boil Chemist and Bacteriologist," who provides wonderfully wiggly illustrations. And a 1900 advertisement for Dr. Dadirrian's Zoolak ("To avoid imitations always specify ZOOLAK") tells us that this product is equivalent to matzoon and, moreover, "One bottle of ZOOLAK is equal to two bottles of Kumyss in nourishment."

    Ah, and here we have a recipe, from Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes Containing Ten Thousand Selected Household and Workshop Formulas, Recipes, Processes and Moneymaking Methods for the Practical Use of Manufacturers, Mechanics, Housekeepers and Home Workers (1914):


      Add 2 tablespoonfuls of bakers' yeast to 1 pint of rich milk, which has been slightly warmed, stirring well together and setting aside in a warm room in a pitcher covered with a wet cloth for a time varying from 6 to 12 hours, according to the season or temperature of the room. Take from this, when curdled, 6 tablespoonfuls, add to another pint of milk, and again ferment as before, and continue for five successive fermentations in all, when the product will have become free from the taste of the yeast. As soon as the milk thickens, which is finally to be kept for use, it should be stirred again and then put into a refrigerator to prevent further fermentation. It should be smooth, of the consistence of thick cream, and of a slightly acid taste.

      The milk should be prepared fresh every day, and the new supply is made by adding 6 tablespoonfuls of the previous day's lot to a pint of milk and proceeding as before.

      The curd is to be eaten with a spoon, not drunk, and preferably with some bread broken into it. It is also sometimes eaten with sugar, which is said not to impair its digestibility.

    The final instruction makes me think that Henley and Dr. Dadirrian might disagree.

    However, I believe I'm fairly safe in saying that if you seek the modern-day equivalent of these early-20th-century beverages, it'll be something like this.
    Last edited by LAZ on May 27th, 2008, 10:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  • Post #2 - March 29th, 2008, 7:39 am
    Post #2 - March 29th, 2008, 7:39 am Post #2 - March 29th, 2008, 7:39 am
    Absolutely fascinating! Thanks for the post.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)