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.

Women’s History Month, Part 14: Eliza Leslie (1787-1858)

This week, we’re looking at the life and books of Eliza Leslie (1787-1858). Eliza Leslie was born in Philadelphia and most of her books were published there (or in New England). She spent the first 12 years of her life living abroad in England. After the family returned to the United States, for financial reasons, her mother opened a boarding house (and we can speculate about what influence that may have had on her future written works). She eventually began publishing stories in children’s and women’s magazines. It wasn’t until around the age of 40, however, that she published her first cookbook: Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (1828). She did not publish under her own name. Rather, the title page of Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats reads “By a Lady.” Later editions and at least one publication would use this moniker. Another variation was “By a Lady of Philadelphia.” Eventually, though, she used her own name, often branding her books (as we’ve seen with other authors) by including her name in the title, as with Miss Leslie’s new Cookery Book (1857), Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book: A Guide and Manual for Ladies (1859), and Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt Book (1850). She died in 1858, and she was writing and publishing right up until then (Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book: A Guide and Manual for Ladies appears to be a posthumous guide).

There is a brief, but good, biography of her (to which I am indebted) from the Library Company of Philadelphia that includes a portrait of Eliza. Many editions of her books (culinary, household, gift books, and novels) are available online through projects like the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, HathiTrust Digital Library, and many other sources. I’ve also scanned some pages from a few items in our collection (two are a bit too fragile for the scanners).

Bibliography of Eliza Leslie Publications at the University Libraries (items in bold are in Special Collections; items underlined are in Newman Library):

  • Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston : Munroe & Francis, [1829?].
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833.
  • Laura Lovel: A Sketch, for Ladies Only. Lowell: Franklin Bookstore, 1834.
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835.
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837.
  • Althea Vernon, or, the Embroidered Handkerchief: To Which is added, Henrietta Harrison, or, The Blue Cotton Umbrella. Philadelphia : Lea & Blanchard, 1838.
  • The Violet: A Christmas and New Year’s Gift, or Birth-day Present. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1838.
  • The House Book: or, A Manual of Domestic Economy for Town and Country. Philadelphia : Carey & Hart, 1841.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge: with other Tales, Representing Life as It Is and Intended to Show What It Should Be. Providence : Isaac H. Cady, 1841.
  • Mrs. Washington Potts, and Mr. Smith: Tales. Philadelphia : Lea and Blanchard, 1843.
  • Leonilla Lynmore and Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge, or, A Lesson for Young Wives: Also, Dudley Villiers. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1847.
  • Kitty’s Relations: and Other Pencil Sketches. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1848.
  • Amelia, or, A Young Lady’s Vicissitudes: A Novel. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1848.
  • Directory for Cookery, in Its Various Branches. Philadelphia : Henry Carey Baird, 1851. 40th edition.
  • New Receipts for Cooking: Comprising All the New and Approved Methods for Preparing All Kinds of Soups, Fish, Oysters…with Lists of Articles in Season Suited to Go Together for Breakfasts, Dinners, and Suppers…and Much Useful and Valuable Information on All Subjects Whatever Connected with General Housewifery. Philadelphia : T.B. Peterson, [c1854].
  • The American Family Cook Book: Containing Receipts for Cooking Every Kind of Meat, Fist, and Fowl, and Making Soups, Gravies, and Pastry, Preserves and Essences; with a Complete System of Confectionery, and Rules for Carving; and also Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston : Higgins, Bradley & Dayton, 1858.
  • Directory for Cookery, in Its Various Branches. New York, Arno Press, 1973. (reprint of 1848 edition)
  • Corn Meal Cookery: A Collection of Heirloom Corn Meal Recipes Dating from 1846. Hamilton, Ohio : Lawrence D. Burns, Simon Pure Enterprises, c1998.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single good bibliography of all of Leslie’s works that I was able to locate (there is a partial one on Wikipedia). [Perhaps one of these days I’ll finally get around to doing some Wikipedia edits and tackle the challenge!] But we do know that she wrote a great deal in culinary/household management, in what we might consider children’s literature for girls and young women (in so much as some of her stories were filled with lessons and instruction) and she wrote and edited for a variety of gift books. In other words, she had plenty of good advice to share. Next week, we’ll look at another women who wrote for the home and for children (so, Eliza makes a great transition)–Lydia Maria Childs. See you then!

 

Wondering What’s Good to Eat? Rufus Estes Has Some Answers!

February is Black History Month. If you’re in Blacksburg and have a chance to drop by the library, one my collegues has put together an amazing display of materials in our reading room. The exhibit highlights African-American contributions from many our main collecting areas, as well as to university history. Some of my favorite past posts I’ve written include ones on John B. Goins’ The American WaiterS. Thomas Bivens’ The Southern Cookbook: A Manual of Cooking and List of Menus including Recipes used by Noted Colored Cooks and Prominent Caterers, and the Women’s History Month profile last March on Malinda Russell and A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen. This week, I found something else I’ve never looked at before: Good Things to Eat, as Suggested by Rufus; A Collection of Practical Recipes for Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, etc., written by Rufus Estes and published in 1911.

In a recent instruction session, I was talking with students about the idea of authority and food history materials. There are some really interesting question when it comes to cookbooks: What does “authority” mean? What makes (or doesn’t make) a writer an authority on the recipes they create and write? Does authority (or a lack thereof) affect how a cookbook might have been accepted in its own time? Does authority (or a lack thereof) affect how we look at a historic cookbook today and whether or not we accept is a good source of information? When we’re investigating cookbooks and food history primary sources, does authority even matter? Answering all of these would probably lead to an exceptionally long blog post–and, of course, as we say in the archival world, “it depends.” We might considered different cookbooks in different ways, depending on different factors. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t comment a bit on the concept of authority in conjunction with Good Things to Eat, as Suggested by Rufus. Especially since Rufus Estes very much invites us to do so, by beginning his book with a biographical sketch.

Good Things to Eat, 1911. Author's biography.
Good Things to Eat, 1911. Author’s biography.

Rufus Estes very carefully sets up his authority as a chef in the first few pages of his cookbook. He wants us to know where he comes from, what he has done, and, by default, what may have influenced him. Of course, in theory, this whole biography could be fake and Estes could have just been an identity. The idea of a constructed person to market or sell a book or products isn’t new. But, in this case, there are records and evidence to prove Estes was a real person and held the positions he tells us about (and those he doesn’t). He gives us his background to show his readers that he does, in fact, know a thing or two about being a chef. When we’re talking cookbooks, does one need to be a chef to be an authority? Certainly not. And my saying I accept Estes’ biography as giving him authority as an cookbook writer doesn’t mean we would all agree on that.  It’s just interesting to consider.

It’s also worth pointing out that having a biography is not unique to Estes. Malinda Russell included some information her life, as did Abby Fisher in What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking (a book we’ll talk about a little later this month). Mary Randolph talks about her expertise in The Virginia Housewife. Other authors rely on introductions written by seemingly well-known people in their own time to lend weight to a writer’s authority, reliability, and even like-ability. And we still see this as a common practice in books today, culinary-related or otherwise.

You can read a little more about this book and view the entire item online through the Michigan State University’s “Feeding America” project–which, if you haven’t looked at before, you should take a moment to peruse! And next time you start preparing a recipe from your favorite cookbook (or a new one), you might take a minute to think about who the author is, why they wrote the book, and why their recipes appeal to you. Even when we’re not aware of it, a writer’s “authority” may be at work!

We’re on the Air…and Cooking!

We certainly talk on the blog about how improvements in kitchen technology have changed the way food was (and continues to) prepared, stored, served, and shared. Today, we’re going to look at how another form of technology had an equally interesting effect on cooking and improving one’s culinary skills. Also, there will be talk of Jell-O (briefly, I promise, but not without good cause). Enter General Foods Cooking School of the Air. Which “air” and which technology, you may ask? Radio!

Before we go too far, though, I should point out that the General Foods Cooking School of the Air series should not to be confused with the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air (see the National Women’s History Museum post on Betty Crocker for more on the latter). Same concept, some overlapping years on the radio, but two different companies behind them. (Coincidental titles? I’ll leave that up to you!)

(The images below are all individually captioned, which I haven’t done in a while. To read the full captions, click on the first image to bring up a browse-able gallery!)

General Foods Cooking School of the Air was published for at least 2 years (and probably longer). It’s a set of companion pamphlets to the radio show of the same title, hosted by Frances Lee Barton. Holdings are limited in public/academic libraries, so we’re sure happy to add these to our collection. A little searching revealed five other libraries with some of the pamphlets, but it’s unclear if anyone is lucky enough to have a full run. And, from what I can see, no one has digitized them yet. Ours are on rings with a paper front and back cover, but they could also be ordered with a 3 ring binder for easy organization.

Even with only a limited number, you can get a sense of the range of topics Barton covered: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts; holidays; formal and informal lunch and dinner parties; food service; jams, jellies, and butters; and more. Since we just acquired ours, they are about to go for cataloging–which means they aren’t quite available for use in the reading room, but I hope it won’t be long. In the meantime, as you know, we’ve got plenty of other culinary items for you to check out, if you’re thinking of paying us a visit. We’ll be here!

Meal Planning For Every–Err, Some Occasions!

This week, we’re back a favorite topic around here: meal planning! Today’s feature (or special, if you will) is “More Menus” for Luncheons, Dinners, Etc. from 1933.

book cover with pheasant, boar's head, and lobster on a platter and title More Menus for Luncheons, Dinners, etc.
The image on the cover certainly catches your attention!
 Recipes for asparagus rolls, fresh pear salad, and marshmallow pie
At least two menus in this book have an “Emergency Soup” listed and it’s not the same recipe! Apparently “Emergency Soup” is defined by the meal it’s part of and not a specific recipe!
meal plan and recipes
It can be hard to find all the recipes for a single meal on the same two pages, but this one comes close. The dessert looks to be the most intricate part of this meal.
two meal plans with recipes
Some menus feature classic dishes like pot roast…
meal plan with recipes
Others can include items like “canned green turtle.” While turtle as an ingredient isn’t new on the blog, canned turtle certainly is!
recipes for lobster newburg, tongue aspic with eggs filled with lobster, eggs stuffed wit lobster, oysters and mushrooms, lobster a la king, and molded caviar and egg salad
Clearly, our author wasn’t afraid to show off the diversity of an ingredient, either.

As “More Menus” for Luncheons, Dinners, Etc. suggests, this isn’t the first title by Mrs. Lang. Nor it is the first one about meal planning. In 1929, she wrote Choice Menus for Luncheons and Dinners, and in 1939 published a third book, The Complete Menu Book. Sadly, we don’t have either of these in our collection (I’ll be on the lookout now, though!).

More Menus” for Luncheons, Dinners, Etc. is full of a mixture of dishes and menus. They appear to be a little more on the upscale side, though “Emergency Soup” (either variation) doesn’t have the same ring as “Molded Caviar and Egg Salad.” There’s a recipe for “Green Turtle and Puree of Pea Soup” with the intriguing ingredient of “canned green turtle.” Turtle isn’t new to the blog, but this is the first time we’ve come across canned turtle. One wonders how wide the availability of that might have been in 1933. In general, however, the meals are balanced, each one including main dishes, sides, and desserts. They vary in complexity, both as menus and within menus, but books like this always offer us some great insight into what people were consuming (as diners and buyers of ingredients).

Tune in next week for our next culinary treasure. And in the meantime, we hope you plan some good meals!

The Kellogg Family “Business,” Part III

By the late 1890s, brothers John Harvey (1852-1943) and Will Keith (1860-1951) Kellogg found one more way to get involved in the food and health world: breakfast cereal. While at work on a granola product, they stumbled instead upon a flaked cereal instead. Their first food company, the Sanitas Food Company, began around 1897/1898. The story goes that Will, concerned with the original nature of their new flaked cereal, wanted to keep it a secret and that John, wanting to share this new food, allowed visitors to see the process. One of the visitors to Battle Creek was C. W. Post, whose Post Foods began to manufacture Post Toasties not long after. Will parted business ways with his brother over this and in 1906, founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company (sometimes called the Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company). Today’s post features three different pamphlets from the Kellogg Company (the name of the company after 1922). All three are from a folder in the Culinary Pamphlet Collection.

Not surprisingly, most of the recipes rely on Kellogg Company cereals, some more creatively than others. The recipe card set has almost a dozen recipes, sweet and savory, featuring All-Bran. Twenty-five Favorite Kellogg Recipes is a little more on the sweet side, containing a bunch of cookies and cakes. The Summer Camp Manual is a call-back to the books of the last two weeks, where there’s a a focus on nutrition and healthy meal planning for, well, summer camps.

One thing worth noting here is that the company, while still promoting healthy eating and food, has traveled a bit from the roots of its founder. There’s less (or, in some cases, no) focus on vegetarianism (like his brother, Will Kellogg was also a Seventh Day Adventist and a vegetarian). On the other hand, there was suddenly a much broader audience to cater and appeal to, so this shouldn’t really surprise us. And, as the company grew, they developed a far wider range of products.

We’ve just scratched the surface today, when it comes to corn flakes, the Kellogg family, and the company’s history. There are two more detailed histories of the Kellogg Company online, one in text form and one in interactive timeline form, if you’re interested.

This week we’re finishing up with the Kelloggs (at least for now). Feel free to kick back with a bowl of cereal or two, if we’ve inspired you. And we’ll be back next week with something new on the plate.

Dining on the Rails: Menus from Norfolk & Western

Dining on the railroad can be quite an experience…from a historical perspective, of course. In 2012, Special Collections acquired a collection of Norfolk & Western menus. They range from the full-color, glossy-covered, multi-course meal to the single sheet, ephemeral list of snacks you might find on a shorter journey. And they don’t just cover food. Our collection includes a beverage (with cocktails!) menu that feature drinks, cigarettes, playing cards, AND aspirin. The collection even contains two unused checks for dining car service. Although we can’t date the collection (or the items) specifically, the contents suggest that they start around World War II and may go through the 1960s.

 

 

The finding aid for this collection is available online. The entire collection has been scanned and I hope to have it up on the web soon, but until then, enjoying this sampling. Whether you were in the mood for an omelette, a steak, a salad (the “famous salad bowl,” of course!), or Virginia apple pie (baked on the train!), N&W had you covered. It’s interesting to see how complex some of the meals and meal choices were and one wonders about the challenges of preparing food on the train.

So, until next week, hop on board with the “Nation’s Going-est Railroad” and check out your choices!