Community Cooking in (and Beyond) the Bluegrass State

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass: A New and Practical Cook Book Containing Nearly a Thousand Recipes was originally published in 1875. The copy is one of the 10th “new and enlarged” edition, first issued in 1879, but our actual copy is from 1881. Compiled and edited by the Ladies of the Presbyterian Church in Paris, Kentucky, these 206 pages are packed with recipes from women (and a few men) from mostly Kentucky, but also Virginia, Arkansas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Our edition includes the original 1875 preface, which we can’t NOT quote a bit of for you:

The “Blue Grass” region of Kentucky, as is well know, is considered the garden spot of the State. It is celebrated for the fertility of its soil, the beauty of its pastures, its flocks and blooded stock, and last, but not least, for the hospitality of its people and their table luxuries.

It is useless to enlarge upon the last feature, especially to those who have attended Bourbon Fairs [that’s the county, not the whiskey], and made visits in this and the adjoining counties. We only refer to it, by way of introducing our book to the appreciation of the public.

The 1879 also had a preface of its own, which states, in part:

…Nine thousand copies have been sold, and its praises have been sung by many of the best housekeepers of the land.

In sending forth this new edition, we have corrected some errors, supplied defects, and added many valuable recipes, which will be found at the close of each section and in the Miscellaneous department.

The entire profits of this work have been, and will continue to be, devoted to religious charity.

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass was, at its core, a community cookbook, designed to raise funds for a cause. But the fact that it went on into at least 10 editions and over 9,000 copies sold says a lot for this little volume. (There was at least one more edition in 1905 AND it has been reprinted  at least once in the last 10 years.) It clearly appealed to a wide audience (not just Kentuckians!) in its originality. (The preface also states that “Many of our recipes are entirely original with our own famed cooks; others have been gathered from the most reliable sources; not one, so far as we know, has been copied from books.”) So, what are these amazing recipes?

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass has elements we see in many other cookbooks of the time: sections for home remedies, home cleaning/upkeep, and cooking for invalids, in addition to all the other recipes. Of course, it also reflects a different era of cooking. The majority of the recipes have a list of ingredients in non-standard amounts (standardized measurements, courtesy of Fannie Farmer, were still several years in the future in 1881) and, in some cases, additional directions, but there was still an assumption that a reader would know what to do with those ingredients. Or, they would at least understand the basics of producing a pudding, a white sauce, or a pastry dough as a component. Compared to many modern cookbooks, there was a different set of expectations on home cooks in the late 19th century! Some of the basics may be covered in the book (Housekeeping in the Blue Grass has recipes for pie crust that you could use throughout, for example), but there’s no guarantee.

Community cookbooks were aptly named, especially in their early days–they weren’t just something produced by a community group (often of women). They were produced by a community of cooks, for a community of new and experienced cooks, and to help build community between those who had the knowledge and those who might have needed some culinary and domestic education. That’s a whole other topic we don’t have space for here today, but it is food for thought (at least it has been for me lately).

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass is available online, as it was scanned by Special Collections staff some years ago. So, if our amuse-bouche (I love that word!) of a blog post isn’t enough for you, you can delve further into the book and find recipes for deviled turkey, Sally Lunn, or fish pie…

“Method is the Soul of Management:” The Many Editions of Mary Randolph

Way back in the days of March 2012, when the blog was just a wee babe of 7 months old, I wrote a post about Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, America’s first regional cookbook. While I don’t plan to re-hash the post exactly, it seemed like time to revisit it. That post (found here) focused primarily on the 1846 edition of the book in our collection, though it made passing mention of the other two in our possession: the 1824 (first edition) and the 1855 (which we had only recently acquired). I’m pleased to say that these days, Special Collections includes SEVEN different editions of Mary Randolph on our shelves! (All told, this is just scratching the surface–there are more like 40 editions in print if you count different years of publication , publishers, and later reprints!) Let’s take a look, shall we?

Front cover. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1824
Front cover. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1824
Title page. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1824
Title page. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1824

Publication year: 1824 (sometimes cataloged or described as 1820 or [1820?])

Publisher: Hurst & Company, New York

Number of pages in the text: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes (this edition also contains several pages of advertisements in the back).

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 4

Fun fact about this edition: “Arlington Edition” doesn’t denote the location of publication, but more likely where it was written (Mary and her husband David moved to the Washington, DC area in 1819, five years before this first edition was published.)

Bonus fact about this copy: Our 1824 is in particularly fragile shape. At some point in its history, it sustained water damage and has been nibbled on by insects. We provide a safe and stable home for this copy, so if you come to see it in person, we’ll have to help you look at it.

Title page. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1836
Title page. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1836

Publication year: 1836

Publisher: John Plaskitt, Baltimore

Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes.

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 24

Fun fact about this edition: In 1828, Mary Randolph added a small selection of recipes to 3rd edition of The Virginia Housewife. Our 1836 is our earliest copy to contain these additional recipes, which include items like “Mock Turtle Soup of Calf’s Head,” “Fried Chickens,” and “To Make Yellow Pickle.”

Title page. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1846
Title page. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1846

Publication year: 1846

Publisher: E. H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia

Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes.

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 14

Fun fact about this particular copy: Our 1846 edition was rebound in a new binding with new end-papers sometime in the latter half of the 20th century. However, the original front and back covers were retained (despite their damage) and applied to the new binding. This was a well-used copy with blotches and stains, suggesting it saw plenty of time in a kitchen!

Title page. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1855
Title page. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1855

Publication year: 1855

Publisher: E. H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia

Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes (this edition also contains several pages of advertisements in the back).

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 3

Fun fact about this edition: Like some other earlier additions, this one features several pages of advertisements in the back. In this case, there are 12 pages of ads for textbooks and educational volumes printed by the same publishers (E. H. Butler & Co. of Philadelphia).

Front cover. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1970 (1860)
Front cover. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1970 (1860)
Title page. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1970 (1860)
Title page. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1970 (1860)

Publication year: 1970 (reprint of 1860)

Publisher: Avenel Books, Richmond (1970); E. H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia (original 1860)

Number of pages: 180 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes (this edition also contains several pages of advertisements in the back which were part of the 1860).

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 30

Fun fact about this edition: Although printed in 1970, this edition is actually a page for page reprint of the 1860 version! The book is a little larger than the original would have been, which makes the text a bit bigger and easier to read, but once you get past the modern cover, this edition takes you back 110 years.

Frontispiece and title page. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1984
Frontispiece and title page. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 1984

Publication year: 1984 (reprint of 1824, plus pages from the 1825, and additional recipes which first appeared in 1828)

Publisher: University of South Carolina Press (1984); Davis and Force, Washington, DC (1824) (American Antiquarian Society copy); Way & Gideon, Washington, DC (1825 & 1828) (American Antiquarian Society copy)

Number of pages: 370 including preface, introduction, table of contents, and recipes, and extensive notes, commentaries, and appendices by author Karen Hess.

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 186

Fun fact about this edition: Unlike any of the 19th century editions or the later reprints, this 1984 edition contains a frontispiece with a picture of Mary Randolph (it would be common practice later in the 19th century to include author’s pictures or some sort of image opposite the title page). Karen Hess did extensive work comparing early editions and the result is this version which includes the original 1824 text plus recipes that were added to the 1825 and 1828 editions and a historical glossary. The 1825 edition also included Mary Randolph’s designs for a home refrigerator and tub, but these designs were removed from all subsequent editions–these pages are also included in this 1984 volume.

Front cover. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 2013
Front cover. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook, 2013

Publication year: 2013

Publisher:  Andrews McNeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City (2013); Way & Gideon, Washington, DC (1828) (American Antiquarian Society copy)

Number of pages: 240 including preface, introduction, table of contents, recipes, and additional introduction by Nathalie Dupree.

Number of copies in public or academic libraries (incl. Virginia Tech): 30

Fun fact about this edition: This edition is part of a series of reproduced American cookbooks and culinary-related works that, to date, contains around 65 publications. It includes the works of people we’ve talked about on the blog before like William Alcott, Catherine Beecher, Lydia Maria Child, Eliza Leslie, Jerry Thomas, and Susannah Carter, as well as some community cookbooks, early translations of French cookbooks, and many more authors!

I’ve been wanting to do this little comparison for some time now. I know we didn’t get into the details of these volumes, but that would have made for an exceptionally long post. If you’re interested in seeing the volumes for yourself, you’re always welcome to visit us and do some comparing of your own. You can also find a few different editions of The Virginia Housewife, or; Methodical Cook online in digital and/or transcribed forms: Project Gutenberg has the 1860 editionMichigan State University’s “Feeding America” project has the 1838 editionthe Internet Archive, via the University of California Libraries, has the 1836 edition. In other words, Mary Randolph’s influence–or at least her recipes–are still available today for the curious culinary historian! And remember: “Method is the Soul of Management”–for Mary, it wasn’t just about what you cook, but how you cook it!

Cake and Politics/Politics and Cake

Lately I’ve been thinking about how to write a post about political food without, well, getting into politics. Since food is so much a part of our lives, it’s hardly surprising that it would play a part in our political lives, too. For you dairy fans, there are two strange examples of food gifts to politicians: the 1,400 lb “Jackson Cheese,” gifted to the President Jackson in 1837 (with additional 700 lb cheeses given to Van Buren and four others for politicians/political organizations of the time) and the 1,234 lb “Cheshire Mammoth Cheese,” gifted to then-president Thomas Jefferson in 1802. Both are interesting stories (after all, what does one do with a half ton or more of cheese??) and worth reading about. But I was looking for something a bit more accessible–we have no recipe for giant cheese that I’m aware of in the collection. What we do have, though, are recipes for “Election Cake.” (I know, I know, it’s not November yet–but I’m sharing this in advance, in case anyone want to make it for Election Day!)

I’ve got four variations of “Election Cake” to share today, though there are some definite similarities between the three versions from the 18th and 19th centuries. (The origin of American “Election Cake” is actually in the 17th century, so it’s been around a while!) The latest of the bunch is from 1914 and is also the most distinct, reflecting not a change in politics or views, but a change in kitchen and baking technologies (we’ll come back to that in a moment).

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Amelia Simmons’ “Election Cake,” c. 1796, in American Cookery
simmons_page_2
Amelia Simmons’ “Election Cake,” c. 1796, in American Cookery. She also has other “political” recipes like “Independence Cake” and “Federal Pan Cake.”

The amount of ingredients in Simmons’ recipe, as you may notice, are quite large. This gets the origins of “Election Cake,” which was often commissioned by local officials in celebration of elections (and may have also been a way to entice voters to the polls). So, rather than a cake for a family or a small party, 18th century “Election Cakes” were designed to feed large crowds. Through the 19th century, such cakes were also time consuming. One had to make a mixture that would sit for hours (and even overnight) before it could be finished and baked.

Lydia Maria Child's recipe for "Election Cake," 1844, in The American Frugal Housewife
Lydia Maria Child’s recipe for “Election Cake,” 1844, in The American Frugal Housewife

Lydia Maria Child’s recipe is of a more manageable size, designed for the small/home baker. Her recipe first appeared in print in an earlier edition of The American Frugal Housewife from 1833. Like Simmons, though, her recipe relies on time and effort. This “single-loaf” version, as we might call it, occurs commonly in the time period. The first American version of Mackenzie’s Five Thousand Receipts, published in Philadelphia in 1831, includes an “Election Cake” with the following directions:

Take 5 lbs flour, 2 lbs sugar, 3/4 lbs butter, 5 eggs, yeast, 1 pint of milk, and spice as you please.

Hopefully, a good baker would know what to do from there? At any rate, the recipe’s history in America goes back to at least, the late 18th century, and cakes of the same or similar ingredients or techniques can be found in the British tradition as early as the mid-17th century (though with different monikers). Two other American variations sometimes appear in books as “Hartford Election Cake” or “Old Hartford Election Cake.” There is a story behind that, too. Alternatively, because in some places in New England Election Day was also “Muster Day” or “Training Day,” you might also find recipes for “Muster Cake” or “Training Cake” that seem remarkably familiar.

hannah_mid19thc
Handwritten “Election Cake” recipe from the Elvira Jane Hanna Receipt Book (Ms2013-052)

Elvira Jane Hanna’s receipt book of recipes also features “Election Cake.” The instructions she recorded are less detailed than Child’s and more so than Mackenzie’s, but it’s easy to see that the published version was making the household rounds. Although we don’t have exact dates for Hanna’s manuscript cookbook, we believe it dates to about the mid-19th century, certainly during the time that Child, Mackenzie, and others were sharing the cake. Skipping ahead a bit, one can still find “Election Cake” published in the 20th century.

"Election Cake" from Fannie Farmer's The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1914
“Election Cake” from Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1914

The first edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book was published in 1896 and “Election Cake” was among the recipes. However, our earliest edition of this title is from 1914. “Election Cake” was a staple in the Fannie Farmer classic cookbook in all its later editions, too. But, it has slightly different approach: it includes bread dough as an ingredient (which, one would have have to make or have on hand), adds more fruit and spices, incorporates baking soda as a leavening agent, and it even gets frosting! Most notable, perhaps, though, is the middle item on that list. We begin to see a modernization of this recipe that relies on new ingredients that can speed up the once-overnight process. Farmer’s book tells us one need only let the mixture rise for 1 1/4 hours, not overnight, or even the 3 hours suggested by Child in warm weather.

Of course, I’ve cherry picked some variations, but there are plenty more out there–and on our shelves, too! So, whether you’re looking to celebrate the election or drown your sorrows in delicious, cake-y goodness, you might want to think about an “Election Cake.” Regardless of the politics, cake will most certainly make you a winner among your constituency.

New Pamphlet Round-Up #4

So, earlier this week I finally sat down and updated the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002). Over the last several months, I had been collecting new additions and since the 0.5 cu. ft. box in my office where I store items had reached capacity, it seemed a good time. I added 19 new folders for food or appliance companies and added items to about 30 existing folders–it was quite a haul! Here are a few highlights:

“The Presto Recipe Book for Little Girls and Their Mothers” comes from the Heckler Products Corporation and is dated 1937. It’s primarily baking recipes like the cakes below.
Ms2011-002_B5FF43_presto1 Ms2011-002_B5FF43_presto2

“Recipes that Pep-Up Meals with Wise Potato Chips” put chips in and on everything. Seriously…everything. Published in 1957, it features chips with dips, in meatloaf, on coffee cake, in candies like fudge, and even under creamed seafood!
Ms2011-002_B5F_wise1 Ms2011-002_B5F37_wise2

This unique little advertisement from Libby, McNeill, & Libby is actually also a scissor-sharpener! The front side talk about available products and the back has directions for use of the sharpener. Functional advertising is useful–and creative–approach to “getting your product out there!”

Ms2011-002_B5FF46_Libby1 Ms2011-002_B5FF46_Libby2

Last up (for now), here are a few pages from a fold out pamphlet by the William G. Bell Company, maker of Bell’s Seasonings. (We’ve talked about Bell’s once before, in a Thanksgiving post during the first year of the blog.) For only 8 small pages (4 shown below), this item is packed full of company history, recipes, and suggestions.

Ms2011-002_B5FF50_Bells1 Ms2011-002_B5FF50_Bells2 Ms2011-002_B5FF50_Bells3 Ms2011-002_B5FF50_Bells4

In addition the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, I also updated the Cocktail Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-027) last week, adding new pamphlets (for wine, spirits AND temperance!), bottle labels, and some neat artifacts. I’ll save that for another post, since we just received three MORE new artifacts I need to add and these items are prime “feature” content. Next up, I hope to add the small folder of ephemera I have waiting to go into the Culinary Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-028), which includes a series of collectible trade cards, among other things.

In other words, there are PLENTY of great new items and publications coming into the collection and you’re always welcome to stop by! The blog barely scratches the surface of our shelves.

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 6: British Baking at Home, Abroad, and in the Trade

This week, many of our staff are at the Society of American Archivists annual conference. This includes me, your usual archivist/blogger Kira who is, quite excitedly, presenting on a panel this year. “What panel?” you ask. Why, one about food collections and outreach! So, while I’m off definitely learning from others and hopefully inspiring a few colleagues, too, we’ve got another culinary lesson here on the blog. Despite the high temps in Blacksburg the last couple of weeks, I went a little crazy and was baking last week. For the library’s annual summer picnic, I whipped up a couple of cobblers (thanks to a very simple, 6 ingredient recipe!): blackberry peach and strawberry blueberry. While it may not have been the smartest move, turning on the oven and all, the summer smacks of cobbler to me and I hadn’t made one in a long time. Which also has me thinking about baking. I respect the fact that  baking is a precise and scientific art, but I’ve never been good at that in the kitchen. And, I’ve gone this long with any major baking disasters in my life (we’ll save tales of cooking and candy-making disasters for another day). Still, there’s plenty to learn from our historic resources, like The Pastrycook and Confectioner’s Guide for Hotels, Restaurants, and the Trade in General, Adapted Also for Family Use, Including a Large Variety of Modern Recipes. The title actually goes on, but we’ll take a break there. (You can see the rest of it on the title page below.)

Written by Robert Wells in 1889, this is a short, but detailed, British guide to baking, confectionery (including sugar-work), meat pies, ornamental butter, and more. Since this is a British book, you’ll notice a few differences, but nothing that can’t be overcome in the historic or modern American kitchen. Castor (aka caster) sugar, for example, isn’t that common in the U.S. These days, though, it can found in some stores, most definitely online, and, with modern kitchen technology (a coffee/spice grinder or a food processor), you can make it yourself!

While, at first glance, this book may seem like a strange conglomerate of recipes–I can see including meat pies in a book on pastry–there is a theme here. The sections on cooking meat and poultry may seem a bit out of place, but if you can’t cook them properly, they aren’t going to make for a good meat pie. The one thing that is really lacking, especially since this is designed to be a manual not only for other professionals, but for the home cook, was pictures. I, for one, would love to see #294: To Ornament a Tongue as a Dolphin. This seems like the kind of manual that would benefit from a bit more visual content, but perhaps the lack thereof gives the home and professional the freedom to be creative rather than match a certain image.

The entirety of The Pastrycook and Confectioner’s Guide can be found on Special Collections Online, our digital platform: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/HFDBooks/TX773.W4457_1889. You can read it online or download the pdf for later if you’re interested. Take a moment to learn something new about culinary history this week, even it’s just a little fact. I know I’m looking forward to finding out what my colleagues are doing with food history collection and outreach. I might even have some tidbits to share when I get back! Until then, good eating (though if your summer is as hot as our in Blacksburg, you might want to take a word of advice from me and skip the baking for now)!

 

 

Women’s History Month, Part 16: Hannah Glasse (1708-1770)

In 1747, the first edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy was published in London. By 1800, it had been issued in more than 20 editions and it was a staple cookbook and household manual into the 1840s. Since the 1970s, it has also been republished with new introductions and in different formats. Our copy in Special Collections is the 6th edition, “with very large editions,” published in 1758. (You can see a scanned version of the 1747 edition online.) Hannah’s lofty title aside, she did include some unique recipes (turnip wine), techniques, and opinions (she seems to have been quite against French influence in English cooking).

The other edition we have of the book in Special Collections is a 1976 reprint of the 1796 edition. This reprint appears in 10 separate volumes, housed in a single box. So, the major chapters of the early print editions here become individual volumes.

Hannah had an interesting life filled with alternating successes and failures. Between some contradicting details, it’s a bit unclear if she was born to her father’s wife or to another woman with whom he may have had a relationship. Regardless, she was born in 1708. In 1724, she married an Irish soldier named John Glasse. They had 11 children, 5 of whom survived to adulthood. He died in 1747, the same year The Art of Cookery was published. It appears, despite the book’s success, Glasse spent several months in debtors’ prison during 1757, but she published her third book before the end of that year. Little is known about the final years of her life, but she died in London in 1770, leaving a legacy of recipes, common sense advice, and economical cooking behind.

Bibliography of Hannah Glasse publications at the University Libraries (items in Special Collections are in bold):

  • The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the Kind Yet Published…To Which are Added, by way of an Appendix, One Hundred and Fifty New and Useful Receipts, and a Copious Index to This and All the Octavo Editions. London : Printed for the Author …, 1758. 6th. ed., with very large additions.
  • The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. With a new introduction by Fanny Cradock. Hamden, Conn., Archon Books, 1971.
  • The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Richmond, Va. : Randolph Carter Williams, c1976.

Of course, The Art of Cookery wasn’t the only household book that Glasse wrote. She also authored titles like The Compleat Confectioner; or, The Whole Art of Confectionary Made Plain and Easy (1755) and The Servants Directory: or, House-Keepers Companion (1757). While Hannah Glasse wasn’t the most prolific of the many cookbook authors we talk about on the blog, she was extremely influential during in England and her threads run through the culinary culture that was developing in America during her time and into the decades that followed.

Our final Women’s History Month profile of 2016 is coming up next week (already??), where we’ll look at Susannah Carter and The Frugal Housewife. Until then, take a note from Hannah and remember: It doesn’t take 6 lbs of butter to fry 12 eggs. You can do it with 1/2 lb just as easily.

A Monday Morning Recipe (#3)

Happy Monday! For this Monday Morning Recipe post, I found something interesting (perhaps more so for what it is, rather than the contents itself, but still…). There are many ways to think of cookbooks: as a tool, as a family memoir, or as an artifact. Some books, like Aunt Caroline’s Dixieland Recipes by Emma and William McKinney (1922), can be all three. This cookbook included blank pages for people to add their own recipes, as this former owner did, recording a recipe for “Hot Milk Cake.” It’s a gray, bordering on rainy (or soon to be rainy) morning in Blacksburg and this actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all!

Picture1