Title page

Getting Out of Our Shells: Shellfish Cooking by an African-American Chef in 1901

Some recent research has led me to a little bit of the history of oyster availability in the early 20th century. I was fascinated to learn that landlocked (or at least landlocked from the eastern seaboard) locations like Kentucky and Tennessee would have train cars loaded with ice and oysters brought inland for purchase and consumption. In those, and other regions, it would be a bit of a status symbol to be able to afford and share this shellfish delicacy. And the cookbooks of the time reflected this: regional cookbooks from areas inland began to include recipes for clams, oysters, and other items that would continue to become easier to obtain. So, with shellfish in mind, and in honor on of Black History Month, I thought I would share a relatively recent publication by an African-American chef we were able to acquire last summer: 300 Ways to Cook and Serve Shellfish: Terrapin, Green Turtle, Snapper, Oysters, Oyster Crabs, Lobsters, Clams, Crabs and Shrimp. Written by H. (Harry) Franklyn Hall, it was published in Philadelphia in 1901.

Front cover
Front cover
Title page
Title page

Fair warning: Historically speaking, this cookbook has more turtle, terrapin, and snapper recipes than I’ve ever encountered in a single cookbook–37 of them. It is also filled to the gills (seafood pun intended, of course), with oyster recipes–a whopping 101 of them, to be exact!

Interestingly, this book has several introductions. There’s a true intro before the table of contents by Hall, pointing out the economy and purpose of the book (with recipes made “plain and simple, so that not only the lady of the house can understand them, but to save her annoyance, the butler, housekeeper or cook, not only the proprietor, steward or chef, but the side cook, all of whom hope to become chef some day as well”). In other words, Hall has multiple audiences in the home and professional sphere. The second “introduction” is about Hall himself, which we’ll come back to shortly. After the table of contents, though, I found the “Caution,” which includes some of Hall’s advice–follow directions and don’t cut corners!

 Most persons think that it is not necessary to follow instructions exactly as given in preparing, cooking or serving an article of food. The same is a common but serious mistake. For instance, if you think it does not matter whether you bleed a green turtle five minutes or an hour, you will simply make the mistake that will keep you from ever making the kind of clear green turtle soup containing clear bottle green meat with the soft, smooth, peculiar flavor, which is procured in houses whose cuisine department is under the management of Chefs, who take on chances on hit-or-miss cooking

Even scanning through this book was a huge education for me. I grew up eating seafood and I still adore it (though it took me a long time to come back around to raw oysters). I would rather cook and eat shrimp or fish before I would dig into a steak or a pork chop. Now, if you asked me to filet a fish, it wouldn’t be pretty–I’m no professional, but I could do it and make it tasty. Turtles and terrapins, on the other hand, are way out of my wheelhouse. Hall’s book, however, offers step-by-step, enlightening instructions:

Snapper [snapping turtle] recipes
Snapper [snapping turtle] recipes
Green turtle recipes
Green turtle recipes

While turtles, terrapins, and oysters do seem the larger focus, I decided to share a few pages from the more underrepresented shellfish: clams, lobster, and crab. Opposite the start of chapter on crab, there’s also an advertisement. Apparently Hall was in the self-promotion business, too, like any good chef, and at least some of his recipes could be acquired already prepared! There’s a fair bit of overlap with the lobster, crab, and shrimp. You often see a recipes that says something to the effect of “prepare as you would for lobster xx, but use crab instead.” Once you nailed the technique, the protein could be swapped.

The book tells us a bit about where Hall worked over his 29+ year career, in hotels and restaurants in Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (with the 15 years leading up to the book at the Chef Boothby Hotel Company in Philadelphia, which “contain[s] the generally acknowledged largest and finest oyster and shell fish department in the world”). A little genealogical research turned up that he was born in Washington, DC, in 1853. Around 1874, he was married and his wife, Georgia, was also born in 1853 in DC. According to the 1900 census, where he is listed as “Harry F. Hall,” they never had any children. Unfortunately, I can’t find a record of either of them after 1900 (or rather, after 1901 when the book was published), so I’m not sure they died before the 1910 census, if somehow they were recorded under something that isn’t coming up in a search, or if they just slipped through the records somehow. But the 1900 census certainly gave me more than I had first thing this morning. 🙂

300 Ways to Cook and Serve Shellfish is available online in its entirety, for all your turtle, crab, shrimp, lobster, clams, and oyster needs, too! It was Harry Franklyn Hall’s only book, despite his obviously long career in the cooking world, but I think it says a great deal about work, his expertise, and his efforts to bring shellfish to home cook. In other words, it’s worth a look–you might just find something to make today!

ms2011-002_7up

New Pamphlet Round-Up #5!

I feel like the new pamphlet round-up should be a quarterly-esque type event. And since it’s been about 5 months since the last one, here we go again! (Side note: These are all brand new items. They haven’t been added to the Culinary Pamphlet Collection yet, but they will be soon!)

This Price Flavoring Extract Co. pamphlet, “Delicious Desserts and Candies,” is from 1928, when the company had already been in the extract business for over 75 years! It includes recipes from a number of famous culinary names at the time (including women we have talked about on the blog before!), pulled from a variety of resources. It also features the “Price’s ‘Tropikid,'” their mascot, throughout.

ms2011-002_pricesvanilla

The Standard Rice Company, Inc., had a lot of products, which included a line of “White House Cereals.” “Cereals” is being used in the sense of grains, so this booklet is full of recipes using rice, flour, and actual breakfast-style cereals (corn and rice flakes). Whether authorized or no, the use of the iconic White House would have been something people would have recognized in the early 20th century.

ms2011-002_whitehouse

Continuing the “grain” theme, we also have a pamphlet for Armour’s Oats. (And, like the previous one, it’s shaped to reflect the product packaging, too!) This comes from Armour Grain Company (based in Chicago), which was owned by the same family as the Armour & Company (think Armour meats).

ms2011-002_armouroats

Eatmor Cranberries and the American Cranberry Exchange are companies we’ve seen on the blog before, when we spent some time talking about those tart, red berries. Here, they are also touted as a “tonic fruit” and there’s an emphasis on the health benefits of them.

ms2011-002_eatmore

Lastly, a little something bubbly: 7-Up, that is! This 1969 pamphlet has some intriguing and colorful ideas for including 7-Up in any part of your meal from cheese dip to pie crust. Of course, it features many drink recipes, too, from eggnogg to punches to the “Tomato Sparkle Cocktail” one of our students discovered while looking at this item (think “Bloody Mary” with lemon-lime soda instead of alcohol?).

ms2011-002_7up

While you might want to skip on that last drink, there’s plenty to do with the other ingredients here, alone or in combination. So, if you’re feeling culinar-ily creative these days, here’s a challenge: consider what can you do with cranberries, vanilla, and corn flakes…

Helpful (and Healthful) Hints!

There’s been a big influx of culinary materials lately, which, as always, makes me want to write about everything. However, most of those items are still making their way to the shelves. So, instead I went an a stroll through the “R” call numbers. While most of your traditional cooking and cocktail materials are in the TX section, RJ includes Pediatrics and RM includes Therapeutics/Pharmacology. RJ is usually a good place to start if you’re looking for something non-traditional that relates to children’s nutrition–like this week’s feature!

This is about 1/2 half of the pamphlet, plus a couple of the final pages–it’s the section that deals with caring for infants. The other pages parallel the caring for infants in style, but are full of advice for caring for invalids. The end of pamphlet includes a reproduction of a hand-written product endorsement AND ads for the product that actually sponsored it. Unlike many other product pamphlets we’ve looked at before, this one isn’t laden with ads or not-so-subtle placement. It sneaks up on you at the end, instead, leaving us a final taste (pun intended, of course), of just the product that will help you properly feed both the infants and the sick or aged in your family. It’s a different approach from the “ads on every page/in your face” placement of some pamphlets from the era, but probably just as effective–Ridge’s Food may be the last thing you remember, showing up on the bright pink page, when you put the pamphlet down!

Since this item is particularly fragile, short, and out of copyright, I went ahead and scanned it all this afternoon. I’ve added it to our collection of other culinary-related books online, where you can read it in its entirety: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/items/show/5540.


On a completely unrelated note, I’ve updated a bit of out-of-date content on the informational pages of the blog. I’ve also included links to all the resources guides I currently have posted on the University Libraries pages that can help you locate materials relating to food, drink, & foodways! They are a great place to get started if you’re interested in doing research here at Special Collections!

Frontispiece and title page, The Gentleman's Companion, Vol. 2, 1946

The Gentleman’s Companion: Culinary Adventuring in the Early 20th Century

Charles H. Baker, Jr. (1895-1987),  was a salesman turned writer and magazine publisher turned columnist. After spending many years traveling the globe, writing columns for a variety of magazines, including Esquire, Town & Country, and Gourmet, he compiled items from his on-going column, “Here’s How,” as well as other writings, into The Gentleman’s Companion, first published in 1939.  It included two volumes, which are the same two we have in our 1946 edition: Volume I Being an Exotic Cookery Book, or Around the World with a Knife Fork and Spoon and Volume II Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask.

Dedication [Volume I]

Contrary to current routine this volume is not dedicated to Publisher, Wife, Friend, Mistress or Patron, but to our own handsome digestive tract without which it never could have seen light of day.

Although it may be difficult to trace and explore, I might be tempted to give Baker some credit for the boom of American interest in what was considered ethnic and/or exotic cuisine in the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, there are many, MANY factors for this interest (including World War II and woman’s magazines, to name a couple), but Baker definitely brought a new perspective on world cuisine to American audiences.

A Soup of plump & gentle fowls of discreet age, and red ripe bananas, á Santiago

Proceed as in the Grecian dish, and when broth is done and you have a qt proceed as follows: Reserve breast and trim into shreds the size of matchsticks, cutting with the grain. To the rich broth add 2 red bananas, stood in sun until well ripened; simmer 10 minutes slowly, and rub through sieve or put in The Blender. Serve hot with a pinch of nutmeg on top.

This number was collected during a visit to Santiago and subsequent to an afternoon’s visit to the factory of Bacardi, being escorted thither by a late member of that illustrious family. It was, all in all, a memorable day. For several reasons.

While availability of ingredients in the United States might still be limited at this time–red bananas being a prime example–there are contemporary pamphlets and publications from the organizations like the United Fruit Company which were bringing some surprising and unique banana dishes into kitchens everywhere. And, Baker was doing much the same for cocktails in the second volume.

Dedication [Volume II]

To all that Company of Friends, from Pine to Palm, with whom we have So Happily Raised the Glass.

It’s worth noting here that Baker does something that you see more commonly before the 1930s/40s and much less so in cocktail book after the 1940s: commentary. Sometimes it’s a single sentence explanation of (like the Turf Cocktail No. III’s “from the Havana Country Club, Winter of 1930”) and other times, as with “The Hallelujah Cocktail” from Panama, the comments before and after the recipe are nearly a page long. Not every cocktail has an explanation, the majority have something–largely, I suspect, because so many of these recipes were not found in American bars just yet. His cocktails really are global, and while the recipes are an important part, Baker is clearly a story-teller, too. As a Florida native, he managed to cross paths with Southern writers fond of a good libation and he doesn’t hesitate to share:

A Farewell to Hemingway, being a sort of Kirch Collins we invented the night we say Hemingway & bull-fighter Sidney Franklin off on the plane for New York, & Loyalist Spain

There is no reason to this drink. It just happened because Ernest prefers kirschwasser, and it was a muggy, half-breathless sort of night. The cherry syrup sweet, of course, can be varied to taste…Take 1 1/2 jiggers of kirsch, 1/4 pony of cherry syrup–again the drug store kind–and the juice of 1 big green lime. Shake this mixture with 4 ice cubes, turn ice and all into a collins glass of at least 14 oz capacity, drop in a spiral peel of green lime, and fill glass not quite full with good chilled club soda….We’ve later found out that raspberry syrup is very decent, too.

Hemingway did really have a taste for cherry liqueurs, by the way. The “Hemingway Daiquiri” (also called the “Papa Doble”) drops the usual sugar or simple syrup present in most daiquiris, but adds grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. (“Papa” Hemingway’s recipe is my go-to daiquiri in the summer.)

Neither the 1939, nor the 1946 editions deterred Baker from his travels or writings and in 1951, Baker published both The South American Gentleman’s Companion: Vol. 1, Being an Exotic Cookery Book or, Up and Down the Andes with Knife, Fork and Spoon and The South American Gentleman’s Companion: Vol. 2, Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Up and Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. (Sadly, we don’t currently have this set in our collection.) Not to be outdone–or perhaps to outdo himself–in 1959, he wrote The Esquire Culinary Companion, Being an Exotic Cookery Book; or, Around Europe with Knife, Fork, and Spoon (although there isn’t a copy in Special Collections, the library has one you can request). This last book was only a single volume, but is anyone else sensing a theme among his titles?

Baker did write a single novel in 1946 (Blood of the Lamb), but it wasn’t nearly as well-received as his cocktail and culinary musings, which remain of interest to collectors and collections today (and hopefully, to some scholars, too!). You can acquire modern reprints these days, too. Due to its more “recent” publication dates, all Baker’s versions of The Gentleman’s Companion are still under copyright, so you won’t likely find them online in their entirety. But, you’re always welcome to come and view ours.

Wooden cheese boxes, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

Photographing Appalachia–And Its Foodways!

I’m hard a work on a new resource guide for students (one that is about Appalachian resources, and will include content on food & foodways!). I am hoping to have mostly finished during the start of classes next week, so it’s been my focus for the last day or so. I’m including in it one of my favorite pictures from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025):

Women cooking apple butter, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Women cooking apple butter, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

When I sat down to write a blog post this morning, I though, “huh, why not Earl Palmer?” It’s not strictly food. To be honest, it’s not even primarily about food, but it’s a significant collection when it comes to Appalachia and there are some connections to be made.

Earl Palmer was born in Kentucky in 1905. He received his first camera at age 7, which launched a life-long love of photography. By the time he was 19, his images were already appearing in local papers and travel magazines. In 1945, he moved to Cambria (now part of Christiansburg) and his photos were in national magazines. Billing himself the “Blue Ridge Mountains’ Roamin’ Camera Man”, Palmer concentrated on the people and places of Appalachia, particularly the region’s traditional culture. Though based in southwestern Virginia, Palmer traveled the mountain regions of Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia in search of subjects. From 1954 to 1964 (when Cambria merged with Christiansburg), Palmer was Cambria’s mayor. In 1972, he retired from the grocery business to devote more time to photography. During his many trips, Palmer also collected a number of artifacts associated with traditional mountain life, including wagon wheels, handicrafts, a moonshine still and tools. He died in 1996.

The Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025) contains about 750 photographs taken by Palmer, as well as a small group of printed materials relating to his photography, and a large selection of artifacts. A full description of the collection is online. But first, a few more photographs!

Peaks of Otter
Peaks of Otter, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Corn shucks in a field, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Corn shucks in a field, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Newton Hylton whittling a miniature ox-yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Newton Hylton whittling a miniature ox-yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

The photograph portion of the collection has been digitized and is available online. You can search within the folio by keyword (for example, “apple butter” or “landscape”) or you can simply browse. While it’s broad in scope and captures many aspects of Appalachia, you will find image relating to food, agriculture/farming, social customs, and handicrafts, all of which can be tied to food and drink history in various ways

In addition to the photos, there is a series of artifacts, which includes items collected by Palmer, that are associated with traditional Appalachian folk culture. The series includes such items as a moonshine still, wagon wheels, ox yokes and hand-made brooms, as well as items associated with coal mining and railroading and small collection of cameras and photography equipment. Special Collections is not a museum and while we have some artifacts, the size and scope of the number in this collection made them difficult to manage. With the exception of a few small items, the majority of the artifacts reside permanently with the Appalachian Studies program at Virginia Tech and are on display at Solitude, like these:

Large wooden yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Large wooden yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Wooden cheese boxes, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Wooden cheese boxes, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

There’s a complete list of artifacts in the “Contents List” of the finding aid. As you can see, there are cornstalk carvings, farming equipment, household items, kitchenware, and even a moonshine still!

Photographs aren’t necessarily an obvious connection to food and drink history, but the fact of the matter is that images like these, captured by Earl Palmer and other photographers have as much of a story to tell as a handwritten receipt book or a community cookbook. Whether they capture a how an ingredient got started on the farm, how it was cooked, or what people used to store it, photographs can be a key element to studying culinary practices.

A Quick Link (#1): Victorian Cookbooks Were Stuffed with Costumed Roosters and Sphinx Cakes

Just a quick link to share, in an effort to get back to sharing news, recipes, or fun food stories on Mondays. It’s a short article, but includes some amazing, elaborate illustrations of cakes from mid-19th century British cookbooks and cooking encyclopediae: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/victorian-cookbooks-were-stuffed-with-costumed-roosters-and-sphinx-cakes. The images come from the New York Academy of Medicine collection and reveal just how decorative you can get with “tinted fat”…