[Ads-l] Swiss steak

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 15 06:35:33 UTC 2018

There is suggestive evidence that there may be a connection to early Swiss immigrants to southern Indiana along the Ohio River.

The earliest reference to "Swiss steak" I could find is from 1892 in southern Indiana.
Mrs. Nuding's Cooking School. The school of hygienic cooking, under direction of Mrs. Nuding, yesterday considered the preparation of meats for the table.  Swiss steak, baked mutton chop, roast beaf and pan-broiled steak were prepared.

The Indianapolis News, April 2, 1892, page 8.
The second earliest reference, and earliest recipe, I could find is from 1895 in southern Indiana.

Swiss Steak. Time, 1 1/4 hours.  Select the best cut of round steak one inch thick. Oil a skillet and heat hot enough to sear the meat, without scorching.  Rub the steak with flour, flatten as smooth as possible in the skillet, cook quickly, and turn until browned on both sided.  Set it back, cover closely, and simmer slowly but constantly for an hour, or until the meat is tender, adding a little hot water from time to time.  Salt when half done, and turn occasionally.  Place the steak upon a hot platter.  Add more water to the skillet for gravy, and thicken with flour made smooth in water.

Rachel Swain, Swain Cookery, New York, Fowler & Wells, 1895, pages 177-178.

In her preface, Dr. Swain dedicates the book to her "friends and patrons of my Sanitary Home in Indianapolis . . . ."

A history of immigration to Indiana mentions that, "The first substantial group of overseas immigrants to enter Indiana  were Swiss, who settled in Switzerland County, along the Ohio River in  the extreme southeast part of the state. Swiss surveyors arrived in  1796, and a colony was founded at Vevay in 1803. Vevay still held a  Swiss wine festival as late as 2008."

Consistent with the immigration data, nearly one quarter of the hits for searches of "swiss steak" on newspapers.com come from Indiana and Ohio - MANY more hits for each of those states than for any other individual state.  Limiting the search to before 1930 results in even higher percentages of hits being from Indiana and Ohio.  This suggests that the dish may be a regional favorite, perhaps influenced by the early Swiss settlers along the Ohio River.

Curiously, the early recipe recommends the best cut of beef, does not mention pounding, and finishes with a brown gravy, not tomato sauce. Reading between the lines, the "Swiss" method of cooking appears to refer to the covering with flour and slow simmering in water.

"Swiss steak" appears in a number of cookbooks in the early 1900s, and many of the early recipes do mention pounding and some of them use tomatoes.

Pete Reitan

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2018 11:35 PM
Subject: Re: Swiss steak

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
Subject:      Re: Swiss steak

(missent to Garson alone)

> On Jul 13, 2018, at 11:19 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrot=
> a puzzle in etymology, with a lot of food and cooking in it:
> 7/13/18: Swiss steak:
> https://arnoldzwicky.org/2018/07/13/swiss-steak/

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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