Every April, I like to think of a frugal recipe to mitigate the financial pain of Tax Day. The following economical recipe is a blond version of onion soup that has ties to the Spanish-American War.
If you ask most Americans what they know about the Spanish-American War, some will know that we should “remember the Maine,” and some will call to mind Teddy Roosevelt leading his Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in Cuba.
It takes a history buff to recall that the greatest hero of the war was Commodore George Dewey.
Financial interests and sensational newspaper articles about Spanish atrocities engaged American sympathies for Cubans in their war for independence. As tensions increased, Commodore Dewey was given command of the American Asiatic fleet. On Feb. 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine exploded and sank in Havana Harbor, killing three-quarters of her crew.
Americans blamed Spain for the mysterious explosion. War broke out after Congress passed a resolution demanding that Spain relinquish Cuba and authorizing military force to help the rebels.
Dewey was ordered to engage the enemy. In the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines on May 1, 1898, his squadron captured or sank the entire Spanish Pacific fleet with the loss of only one American life. After that defeat and serious defeats in Cuba, Spain agreed in August to a cease-fire that ended the Spanish-American War.
Dewey’s astonishing victory made him a national hero. The United States emerged as a major naval power in the Pacific and a colonial power, acquiring the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico from Spain. Dewey was later promoted to Admiral of the Navy, a title that was created for him and has never been held by anyone since.
In addition, Manila’s Dewey Boulevard was named after the American admiral. The street boasted many fine restaurants, including the Café de Paris, known for its French onion soup.
The following recipe comes from “The Dewey Cook Book,” which was published as a fundraiser by the Women’s Auxiliary of the YMCA in Montpelier, Vt. The title honors Adm. George Dewey, and the frontispiece shows his birthplace in Montpelier. The cookbook was published in 1899 when Dewey returned home from the Pacific to a succession of celebrations.
Dewey Day was celebrated in lavish fashion in Montpelier on Oct. 12, 1899. The local hero was honored with a parade half a mile long. Red, white and blue light bulbs made an enormous flag on the State House. A tower of wood 69 feet tall was lit for a bonfire behind the State House, and the evening ended with spectacular fireworks.