Women’s History Month, Part 24: “Doris’s” Manuscript Cookbook

This week, I thought we’d look at a manuscript cookbook. At the moment, this particular item is considered unprocessed, but by the time this blog post is over, I’ll probably have done half of the work of describing the collection. So, there may even be a finding aid by the end of the day!

Officially, this manuscript cookbook doesn’t have a title yet. It’s owner/creator, as we can tell from the inscription at the front, was someone named “Doris.” The cookbook was a gift from her mother in 1925. However, we don’t have many other clues as to the identity of Doris. Which, of course, can be the case with manuscript cookbooks. But more on that in a moment.

Front cover of “Doris’s” manuscript cookbook, c.1925
Inside the front cover

One of the first things you might notice about this item is the cover. It’s not the original. Rather, a blank notebook (with nice marbled end papers) has been covered with what seems to be wallpaper. It was hand stitched in at the front and back, probably to protect from food debris.

The cookbook has an index of recipes, which is always a fun trick. One never knows how many pages you might need for recipes of a certain type, so there are often blank segments or spaces. Or recipes for like items don’t end up together, when more get tacked on to the end!

If you’ve spent anytime looking at handwritten recipe books, trends and recipe themes emerge: There is often a preponderance of cakes, cookies, puddings (or, “pudgings” as it appears here), and preserves.

Because some of the pages are already loose and I didn’t want to stress the binding by placing it flat on a scanner, I decided to photograph the pages in today’s post. So, apologies for the addition of fingers and in some cases, less than perfect quality.

Recipes for rhubarb conserve, plum conserve, and orange marmalade

Despite my blurry photo, conserves, it seems, are quite easy to make. Case in point:

Rhubarb Conserve

2 Qts cut up rhubard

1 Large Pineapple

2 oranges

2 lbs sugar

boil until thick

One of our only clues about Doris also comes from a folded up sheet of paper stuck inside the cookbook. On one page, there is a recipe for the every-popular moulded salmon or tuna salad. In addition, there are some recipes from a 1964 Randolph Macon Alumnae Association luncheon.

The cheese strata is attributed to Doris Rogers. While I don’t like to make assumptions, it’s possible this is the same owner of the cookbook. Although the cookbook does have a section of cheese recipes, it doesn’t contain a cheese strata (I was hoping to find a match!). Still, this could be a clue I’ll need to follow up on, if I can find some Randolph-Macon history!

After page 165, the rest of this notebook is blank, which also isn’t uncommon when it comes to manuscript receipt books. Sometimes people lose interest, sometimes they begin collecting recipes in another way, sometimes it gets passed on to someone else (who may or may not continue to add to it). It seems that this particular cookbook did get use–there are loose pages from lots of turning and there are definitely some stains suggesting it spent time open in an active kitchen.

The other reason I chose to highlight this item during my 2018 Women’s History Month series is to play against the posts I’ve already done this month. We started with Betty Crocker who, while not an actual person, is an icon. Last week, we looked at some women’s contributions to cocktail history, some of which were obvious, others a little less so. This week was an opportunity to point out that contributions to culinary history do not have to be identified, attributed, or famous. Rather, anyone can create a piece of culinary history that might just have a longer legacy that you expect. We have no reason to believe that Doris was keeping this cookbook for us to be able to share, but now, 93 years later, we have the option to make her recipes once again.


Women’s History Month, Part 23: Women & Cocktail Books (1893-1928)

This week, rather than profile a single woman, I pulled some of the earliest cocktail books/books with cocktail recipes that we have in our collection that were written by women. In one of these cases, we didn’t originally even know the author’s name, but all three of these books give us a little insight into women and cocktails before the end of Prohibition.

First up, it’s Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends/by one who knows, published in 1893. We’re not sure who this woman–that it IS a woman–but the anonymity suggests it was likely. These days, however, the book is at the very least attributed to a woman, Mrs. Alexander Orr Bradley. So, we’ll run with it for now…

Mrs. Bradley’s book is relatively short, only covering some basic communal drinks (aka punches) and a few “well-knowns.” It’s only a couple of years after Harriet de Salis’ 1891 Drinks a la Mode, and it doesn’t have quite that variety, but drinks of course, were not Mrs. Bradley’s only goal. Hers was more a book on entertaining groups of men, and as a result, she relies more heavily on the classics or things easy to produce en masse, as it were. Still, it does have a fin-de-siécle (Or “turn of the century”) flair, as the half title page above suggests. “Fin-de-siécle” was also a term that referred the closing of the century in Victorian culture, a time in which the “New Woman” feminist movement emerged. This new feminism influence social, literary and cultural, and political history into the 20th century. Given the time period, we might wonder if there was a little of the “New Woman” in Mrs. Bradley, as she bravely entered the largely-male-dominated field of cocktails and boldly declared her audience of like-minded ladies.

In 1904, May E. Southworth complied a book called One Hundred & One Beverages. Our copy, below, is the 1906 revised edition. She collected popular cocktail and cocktail-adjacent recipes of the time, largely with an eye toward summer, though there are some hot drinks, too.

Compiled, of course, is a key word here. Southworth didn’t, in as far as we know, make up any of these drinks, but she did bring them to a new audience of readers and tasters. Many of her choices are drinks we don’t hear about today (the Beaufort or the Barbed Wire, for example), but if you ask me, some of them might just need a revival. Southworth is surprisingly brand-specific, even when talking about ginger ale, cider, or carbonated water, which isn’t something that was very common yet. Whether it’s commitment or actual corporate sponsorship, we can’t know for sure, but it was a growing practice in the cocktail and cookbook world.

Lastly, we’ll take a quick hop across the pond. Prohibition is one of my favorite periods in cocktail culture history. It didn’t do what it intended and it definitely had some unexpected consequences, including a lot of publishing about cocktails abroad. Mary Woodman’s 1928 Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks: How to Make Them is quite an eclectic title. With the contents to match.

Diversity of cocktails was another consequence of Prohibition. After about the 1890s, cocktails may still be talked about in terms of classifications (cups, flips, fizzes, etc.), but they are also becoming individual and Woodman’s book gives us a laundry list of named drinks. In America, Prohibition was leading to cocktails that began to feature soda or juices or homemade syrups to cover up the taste of poor quality base spirits. Which we see in the punches or sugared drinks of the”American Drinks, Etc.” section. Overseas, where production was legal, spirits were being make into new combinations and concoctions like the “Coronation Cocktail” or the “Deep Sea Cocktail” (the latter of which, happily, does not contain seafood, which I half-expected). Woodman, though, ties all of this together into a sort of decadent volume reflecting cocktails and sweets of the time. You need syrups for cocktails, but you can also add them to ice cream. Some ices are a short trip to frappes or later frozen drinks. In other words, Woodman reminds us just how close dessert can be to a cocktail, if you need something sweet. Or sour. 🙂

Even if it wasn’t obvious, women were helping spread the word of cocktails from early on. They knew, as well as anyone, that cocktail were finding a place by the plate at a party or a quiet night at home, and they took on the challenge of incorporating them into their cookbook or tackling them on separately. And I know I can raise my glass to that. Cheers!

Women’s History Month, Part 22: Betty Crocker (1921-present)

For the start of Women’s History Month (or, as we call it on the Virginia Tech campus, Women’s Month), I thought we would, oddly enough, talk about the woman who didn’t exist: Betty Crocker. The idea of Betty Crocker was (and remains) influential. And yet, she doesn’t (and didn’t) exist as a person–Crocker is an identity and a brand. On the one hand, we could argue that perhaps a fictional identity isn’t the way to sell products or best way to represent women. On the other hand, the fact is, it worked. Really, really well. Which is why it seems fair to take a look at just what this character did for culinary history.

We’ve highlighted a couple of specific publications “by” Crocker in the past: Betty Crocker & Salads  and Betty Crocker & Outdoor Entertaining. This week, we’ll add some more to the mix. Special Collections houses 21 books and publications attributed to Betty Crocker, including my beloved Betty Crocker card libraries. If you add in books housed in the circulating collection, that total doubles. You can view a list of the publications online. And that barely scratches the surface of materials attributed to this identity and image. There are books, card libraries, pamphlets (we have those in some manuscript collections, too), flyers/single-page instruction sheets, individual recipes cards, advertisements, and more.

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So, who was Betty Crocker, then? The idea behind her creation in 1921 was to have a female persona/representation for Washburn Crosby (by the end of the decade, the company would merge with others to form General Mills). The company’s advertising department was all male, but their intended audience was, of course, women. They needed an image to sell that. However, this is not to say that there weren’t women involved in helping to build the persona. When “Betty Crocker” got a radio show in 1924, she was voiced by a home economist on staff, Blanche Ingersoll. The publications that began to flow out to the public written by Betty were really the work of Marjorie Child Husted and a team of home economists who created, tested, and marketed the recipes. Husted worked on getting the persona of Betty Crocker to engage with real people for items like “Let the Stars Show You How to Take a Trick a Day with Bisquick” from 1935. The first portrait of Betty Crocker appeared on materials in 1936, giving further credence to the identity.

During decades of change, Betty Crocker’s work was adapted to meet needs of women around the nation: Publications focused on how to stretch foods during the Great Depression and how to cook under rationing conditions in World War II. While all of these things could have also been provided by a single author, radio host, home economist, etc. (or a series of them over time), as we’ve seen with other companies, we might also consider there is something to be said for the consistent image that we’ve seen now for more than 90 years. The idea of Betty Crocker as a constant companion in the kitchen, one who rises to the challenges of changing times and even reflects back some of what is going on for women during that turmoil. (*see note at the end of the post)

If you’d like to know more about the history and evolution of Betty Crocker, there are some resources at your fingertips (and beyond). I discovered the MNopedia article on Crocker, which helped me write this post. There’s a chapter in The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has a brief article that contains images of Crocker of time. And Laura Shapiro’s book, Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950’s America, includes at least part of a chapter on Betty Crocker.

*On a side note, I didn’t know much about Marjorie Child Husted before I started this post, though I had seen the name. It was interesting to learn that in addition to her work with this persona, “during the war, Husted worried that women were not being honored for their work in the home. She developed the Betty Crocker American Home Legion in 1944 to recognize women for their contributions. Husted championed the rights of women in the workplace, criticizing General Mills and other companies for discriminating against their female employees.” (http://www.mnopedia.org/person/betty-crocker) It seems that much of what she did was tied to Betty Crocker, which gives us another perspective on both Husted and what she intended Crocker to be.

Women’s History Month 2018

Women’s History Month is only a few days away and again this year, Special Collections and the University Libraries, in conjunction with some friends around campus, have some plans a-foot!

“Coeds: The History of Women Students at Virginia Tech” (sponsored by University Libraries and Virginia Tech Alumni Association). Virginia Tech first admitted women as students in 1921, but it was a long road to acceptance. Women had to create their own yearbook and unofficial sports teams in the beginning, and it took decades to achieve important student leadership positions in student organizations. Additional barriers prevented women students of color from reaching the same status as white women students for years and sometimes decades, as with the first Black women who didn’t matriculate until 1966, a full 45 years after the first white women and 13 years after the first Black man. This exhibit highlights the many women who overcame these obstacles in order to obtain a quality education and to open doors for others to join the Hokie Nation. Wednesday, February 14th through Friday, March 30th, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm at the Alumni Museum in Holtzman Alumni Center.

“Courage, Resistance, and Leadership: Women in American History” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries).  Special Collections and Newman Library will be collaborating on two exhibits in two spaces on the first floor of Newman Library. Special Collections will have items from our collections on display in the Reading Room, along with a digital slideshow of additional materials, trivia, and fun facts. In a nearby location on the first floor of the library, there will be a display of posters highlighting women represented in Special Collections holdings, as well as from the Women’s History Month website, which contextualize their roles in American history. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Posters will be on display on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120; the Special Collections reading room is on the first floor near the cafe. 

“Together | We: Troubling the Field in 20th Century Architecture” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries). The Special Collections Department at Newman Library will have an interactive digital exhibition on display focused on materials from the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA).  The exhibit will highlight a number of women working primarily in the 20th century who were practitioners and often pioneers in the field. In addition to their architectural work they often had to overcome significant barriers to entry into the field, including access to the resources and networks of professional organizations. Several of these women became avid organizers and advocates, highlighting the contributions of other women to the profession and working to rectify the disparities in representation across daily practice and professional associations. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Display will be on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120.

For the sixth year running, our What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?! blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! (You can view the posts to date online.)  New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. So far, we’re planning to look at Martha Lee Anderson (pamphlet author for Church & Dwight, aka Arm & Hammer), the legend of Betty Crocker, and a manuscript cookbook from an alumnae of Randolph Macon College from the 1920s.  And you may see some women’s history-themed posts on our Special Collections at Virginia Tech blog, as well as on our social media channels (@VT_SCUA on Twitter and through our contributions the University Libraries’ Instagram account, @vtlibraries).

We are also involved in a set of individual events in March:

  • Wikimedia Share-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Come help enhance the visual record ahead of the next two events in this Wikipedia intervention series (see below). The workshop will start with an introduction to Wikimedia Commons and then dive into sharing photos on the platform. As Wikimedia Commons only accepts freely licensed images, there will also be an overview of Creative Commons Licensing. Tuesday, March 20 from 2-3:30pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • “FlowGround Session Wikipedia Editing Workshop” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in for an informal session to chat with colleagues about intersections between fields that could generate a push to make Wikipedia articles a more complex—yet still accessible—resource for the general public. Set up an account, learn about editing, talk with people from a wide range of disciplines about intervening in social spaces, and just generally share ideas that transcend specific disciplines, technology, tools, and processes. Wednesday, March 21st from 11:30am-1pm in the Newman Library Athenaeum (room 124).
  • “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in any time to help edit Wikipedia—or just learn about the process and purpose. Tutorial sessions, online modules, assistance in setting up accounts, and other resources will be provided throughout the day for new editors or anyone who wants a refresher. Share ideas, update articles in your area of interest, work with others to enhance existing materials, and enjoy the experience of coming together to make a difference. Wednesday, March 28 from 11am-8pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • 2018 International Archive of Women in Architecture Symposium(sponsored by College of Architecture and Urban Studies Diversity Committee and the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA)).  For centuries, women in architecture have been involved in pushing the boundaries of architecture and architectural practice. Whether as registered architects, members and leaders of architectural firms, academics and scholars, or in any of the less conventional capacities, women have helped transform the discipline of architecture and the related design fields shaping the built environment. Wednesday, March 28th: 7pm; Thursday, March 29th and Friday, March 30th: 9:30am-4:30pm

There will be about 45 events going on during March all over campus to celebrate women’s history month and we encourage you to check out the calendar (which will be posted online this week) and get involved where you can!

Women’s History Month, Part 21: Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (1884-1921)

Earlier this month, I had one book from our profiled woman this week on display. It was part of Women’s History Month exhibit and was placed, strategically, with the works of three other women: Fannie Merritt Farmer, Maria Parloa, and Janet McKenzie Hill. Like those three, Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln (aka Mrs. D. A. Lincoln) was connected to the Boston Cooking School, which is where we’ll start this week.

Founded by the Women’s Education Association of Boston in 1879, the Boston Cooking School (which I will happily abbreviate as BCS to save my fingers a bit of typing) was developed to “offer instruction in cooking to those who wished to earn their livelihood as cooks, or who would make practical use of such information in their families.” Inspired by similar schools overseas, in America, the Boston Cooking School, and others like it, signified a shift in domestic culture. Previously, both women cooking for their families and those making a profession from cooking, learned their skills at home and/or from their own community of women. The BCS was among the first formal education options for women of any age to improve their skills. During its tenure, a variety of culinary educators, authors, and lecturers worked there. In 1902, the BCS was incorporated in Boston’s Simmons College.

As to Mary…She was born in Massachusetts in 1844. Shortly after she graduated from the Wheaton Female Seminary, she married David A. Lincoln in 1865. About a decade into their marriage, with David’s health failing, Mary began cooking in the homes of others. In 1879, she was invited to teach at the new BCS, but she declined, as she had no teaching experience. After taking a few courses at the school, however, that soon changed. She started teaching at the BCS in 1879 and was the first principal, a position she held until 1885, during which time she began programs like free courses for immigrant girls in Boston’s North End to special instruction in “sick-room cookery” for nurses from area hospitals. During this time, she wrote the Boston School Kitchen Text-Book: Lessons in Cooking for the Use of Classes in Public and Industrial Schools, which would go through numerous editions. It represents a small portion of Lincoln’s work in establishing a textbook for cooking school education. Over the course of her career, which continued another 36 years after she left the BCS, she would author cookbooks and columns, continue to help establish the field of domestic science, provide endorsements, and teach at public and industrial schools. She died in 1921.

Mrs. Lincoln was, like many of the other women we’ve profiled, a household name. Her recipes were taken from her own sources and incorporated into generations of other published cookbooks, pamphlets, and community cookbooks, and shared among communities of women. By tying her name to products, like Janet McKenzie Hill, Marion Harris Neil, and others, she gained a certain level notoriety and fame in the culinary world. She authored or co-authored more than 30 individual titles, 10 of which we have in Special Collections (plus other editions of three of those). We have included those items in bold, as well as a sampling of some of her other works. On an interesting side note, from her first publication in 1884 until the time of David’s death in 1894, she published as Mrs. D. A. Lincoln. After his death, she published as Mary J. Lincoln.

  • The “Quick Meal” Cook Book, 1892 (Ringen Stove Company)
  • Cornstarch Cookery: A Collection of Recipes for Dainty Dishes in which Kingsford Oswego Corn Starch is a Principal Ingredient, 1893
  • Boston School Kitchen Text-Book: Lessons in Cooking for the Use of Classes in Public and Industrial Schools, c.1887. Also 1909 edition. 1901 edition available online through Special Collections.
  • Twenty Lessons in Cookery: Compiled from the Boston School Kitchen Text-Book, 1888
  • Frosty Fancies, c.1898. Available online through Special Collections.
  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking, 1898. Also 1901 edition. 
  • A Cookbook for a Month at a Time, 1899
  • Frozen Dainties: Fifty Choice Receipts for Ice-Creams, Frozen Puddings, Frozen Fruits, Frozen Beverages, Sherbets, and Water Ices, 1899. Available online through Special Collections.
  • Dainty Recipes for the Use of Boston Crystal Gelatine, late 1800s
  • The Peerless Cook-Book: Valuable Receipts for Cooking, Compact and Practical, 1901
  • The Home Science Cook Book, with Anna Barrows, 1902. Available online through Special Collections
  • What to Have for Luncheon, 1904
  • Carving and Serving, 1910
  • Home Helps, a Pure Food Cook Book: A Useful Collection of Up-to-Date, Practical Recipes by Five of the Leading Culinary Experts in the United States: Mrs. Mary J. Lincoln, Lida Ames Willis, Mrs. Sarah Tyson Rorer, Mrs. Helen Armstrong [and] Marion Harland, c.1910
  • Sixteen Dainty Desserts, with Mrs. C. M. Dearborn and Miss Anna Barrows, before 1930?

In addition to our digitized editions of her works, the Internet Archive has a large selection, many in various editions, available online. Mary was an early adopter of standardized measurements, as well as a proponent of teaching food chemistry and domestic science, and one of the first to push for a structure and organizational model for cookbooks that would be easy to use and easy to follow. If you spend a little time with early 20th century culinary history, you’re bound to come across her original works and her influences.

Women’s History Month, Part 20: Ellen H. (Henrietta) Swallow Richards (1842-1911)

Ellen Henrietta Swallow (later Richards) was born in 1842. In 1870, she graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelors of Science–she focused her studies largely in astronomy. In 1871, far from completed with her own education, she applied to, and was accepted, to MIT. She was the first woman to attend the school, graduating from there with a second Bachelors of Science, this time in Chemistry. The same year, she received a Master of Arts from Vassar.  In 1875, she married Robert Richards, a professor. From 1873 to 1884, she taught MIT and worked as an assistant to professors and researchers, without a title for many of those first years. She was the driving force behind development of the “Women’s Laboratory,” which, in turn, expanded the education opportunities in the sciences for women at MIT until it closed and the school began offering regular undergraduate opportunities for women. During this time, she also began working for the Board of Health in Massachusetts (which would lead to some of her later efforts). Much of her work efforts overlapped: she taught at MIT while working for the Board of Health, and for about a decade in there, also worked for Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance Co., and would later consult for companies, too. The history of her employment at MIT is complex, but between 1873 and 1911, she taught in chemistry, biology, and mineralogy, at the very least. We know that in 1879, she was an assistant professor in chemical analysis, industrial chemistry, mineralogy, and applied biology, but may not have been receiving a salary. By 1884, she was known as an instructor in sanitary chemistry. Shortly before she died, in 1910, Smith College presented her with an honorary degree Doctor of Science in light of her life-long efforts. She passed away in 1911, leaving a legacy of education, public health, and as a pioneer for women in science.

Some of her work in chemistry focused on issues of public health and other parts on issues of food and its chemistry. While she isn’t the traditional culinary history writer we often talk about on the blog, her contributions to aspects of the field, and related ones, were ground-breaking. In fact, there wasn’t much of the traditional about Ellen Richards, which is probably a wonderful thing for both her students and those that followed her. Her work and some of her 15 books would feed into the development household management and domestic science/education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Which is probably an indication that we should look at some examples!

The work of hers that we’ve actually talked about before is The Dietary Computer, Explanatory Pamphlet; the Pamphlet Containing Tables of Food Composition, Lists of Prices, Weights, and Measures, Selected Recipes for the Slips, Directions for using the Same. I won’t rewrite the post, but if you haven’t followed us since 2012, or if you’ve forgotten, it’s well worth a look.

Her work often appeared within the books of others, since her research led to essays, charts, and even the hand calculated and hand drawn tables included in The Science of Nutrition from 1896:

One of the stand-outs for me is the way in which Richards brought chemistry into the home, using her books as a way to education women who may not have the opportunities to study in a formal setting. She reinforced the importance of knowledge for women and the benefits of understand what she refers to–quite perfectly, I think–as the “Chemistry of Common Life.” The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning: A Manual for Housekeepers covers aspects of food science, the chemistry behind cooking techniques and ingredients, the chemistry and public heath values of cleanliness, and even contains research into the addition or adulteration of cleaning products (see page 113 below)!

Richards was an extremely prolific author and co-author for many years. Here in Special Collections five of her books (titles in bold below) and there are another two available through the University Libraries. Many of her works went through multiple editions, too! In addition to the titles we have, she wrote on other aspects of chemistry, food cost studies, public health, education in schools, and contributed to other pamphlets from corporations.

  • The Rumford Kitchen: The Exhibit of The New England Kitchen at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 (included content by Richards)
  • Atkinson, Edward. The Science of Nutrition. Treatise upon the Science of Nutrition…The Aladdin Oven, invented by Edward Atkinson. What It Is. What It Does. How It Does It. Dietaries Carefully Computed, under the Direction of Mrs. Ellen H. Richards. Tests of the Slow Methods of Cooking in the Aladdin Oven, by Mrs. Mary H. Abel and Miss Maria Daniell, with Instructions and Recipes. Nutritive Values of Food Materials,
    Collated from the Writings of Prof. W. O. Atwater. Appendix: Letters and Reports
    , 1896 (available online)
  • The Dietary Computer, Explanatory Pamphlet; the Pamphlet Containing Tables of Food Composition, Lists of Prices, Weights, and Measures, Selected Recipes for the Slips, Directions for using the Same, 1902 (With Louise Harding Williams)
  • First Lessons in Food and Diet, c.1904
  • The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning: A Manual for Housekeepers, 1907 (available online)
  • The Cost of Cleanness, 1908
  • The Art of Living Right, 1915

On a citation note, I’m indebted to two really great (and compact) biographies of Richards for the information I’m sharing this week, one from the MIT Libraries and the other from the American Chemical Society.  The MIT site also includes the link to the digitized version of Richards’ thesis for her Chemistry degree! I recommend both, since what I’ve presented here is an even shorter version.

Women’s History Month, Part 19: M. L. Tyson

This week’s Women’s History Month profile is going to a little different. Anyone who has followed this blog (or our general Special Collections blog) for a while knows that we deal with mysteries a lot. Sometimes, despite all the digging, people, places, events, and even ingredients can remain shrouded in secrets. And that’s okay. Frustrating (believe me, I know!), but okay. It doesn’t mean they can’t leave a legacy. Which is how we get to Miss M. L. Tyson, the “Queen of the Kitchen,” and her 1,007 recipes.

Published in 1886, The Queen of the Kitchen: A Collection of Southern Cooking Receipts Containing over One Thousand Southern Receipts in Practical Cookery is an anthology of recipes, recipes, and more recipes, along with a few sets of household management instructions thrown in for good measure (because how else will you get rid of that vermin problem?). Our mysterious Miss Tyson doesn’t take credit for writing everything, but she does claim compilation of generations of family receipt books and, as we’ll see from a Marylander, plenty of seafood. (I am deliberately not getting into geographical disputes about whether Maryland is southern enough, especially since we’ll see plenty of southern influence.)

On the “table of contents” surface, The Queen of the Kitchen has the same categories and general topics/subjects we expect in a work of this sort from this time. So, in that sense, it’s not entirely unique. At the same time, it brings together traditionally southern cooking and techniques with a strong Mid-Atlantic coastal influence. First, some recipes:

I started out with breakfast, since I had pancakes on the brain when I launched into this blog post. Whatever you to want to call them–pancakes, cakes, johnny cakes, cream cakes, saleratus cakes, clabber cakes, mush cakes, Washington breakfast cakes, etc.–Miss Tyson has a LOT of them. There’s plenty of seafood in this book, and in my typical style, I found a page with some more…interesting recipes, but for good reason! When we’ve looked at some early American cookery on the blog in the past, we’ve talked a fair bit about the British influence. Eventually, much that started to go away (though not all of it) as America found it’s vast and varied culinary culture. Miss Tyson’s ancestors, it seems, didn’t lose as much of that–suggested by the eel and cod. Cod tongues on its own is a striking recipe. Cod sounds, for those of you not up on your fish biology, are swim bladders. The recipe is a bit more common in British cooking, as is eel, but it also points to an important trend in 19th century American cookery–economy!

I skipped ahead to dessert after that, where we once again see the British influence in the section on custards and jellies. Blanc mange itself was common in the 19th century, but the idea of a “Yellow” one, which seems to be based on the resulting colo(u?)r, rather than the contents, was rather intriguing. I also like the idea of arrow root as a thickener, which has a long history as such. Since we can never escape food preservation technologies in the American culinary history, neither could Miss Tyson. Among her many recipes are TWO for cucumber catsup. We’ve certainly looked a catsup before on the blog, and the fact that it took a long time to get to the tomato kind we know today. I sort of expected cucumber catsup to more like a chow-chow or relish of some sort. In this case, it is kind of a cross between a relish and a pickle and was probably a condiment/accompaniment of some sort.

And lastly, because we’re in Virginia, it only seemed right to end a recipe that would have some weight here: ham! The recipes above are immediately preceded by “To Cure 1000 Pounds of Pork” and succeeded by “Westphalia Mode of Curing Hams,” after the book goes on to the topic of meat. The Westphalia recipe, while referring to a region of Germany, explicitly states that “[t]his receipt was brought from England by a gentleman who used it with great success.” So while Miss Tyson herself seems to be a self-proclaimed American “Queen of the Kitchen,” it’s important to note her somewhat world-wide and nation-wide influences.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to go on in terms of identifying our Miss Tyson. “Queen of the Kitchen,” sadly, does not appear on any census records. I wasn’t able to come up with a first name and the initials alone aren’t really enough to narrow down a search. This is also, it appears, Miss Tyson’s only work–a sort of opus, it seems. The Queen of the Kitchen is available online from Virginia Tech, if you’d like to delve further into its 428 pages and 1,007 recipes. There’s plenty of learn about jellies, ice creams, seafood, meet, and more! There was a previous edition in 1882, but, as far as WorldCat indicates, nothing before that.

On a related note, there’s a fun new hashtag out there on Twitter and other forms of social media: #FoodFriday. If you’re a social media user, especially on Twitter, you should keep an eye on it. Since I’ve been posting on Fridays a lot lately and because of this trend, I am tentatively looking at moving my posting schedule toward Fridays. Or at the very least, tweeting about blog posts on Fridays–and maybe some other things! If you are on Twitter and aren’t following us yet, you can find us @VT_SCUA, where we talk about Special Collections generally, as well as our many collecting areas, including culinary history.