Women’s History Month Profiles, Part 4: Janet McKenzie Hill (1852-1933)

The last week of March has arrived, leaving us time to meet one more lady of influence from the late 19th and early 20th century–Janet McKenzie Hill.

Born in Massachusetts in 1852, Janet McKenzie finished her education and began working as an assistant teacher. She married Benjamin Hill in 1873. She later attended the Boston Cooking School (yes, another BCS graduate this week–but to be fair, it was the place for a culinary education at the close of the 19th century), graduating in 1892. Four years later, she founded and served as the first editor of the Boston Cooking School Magazine (later American Cookery from 1914-1946).  Over the course of her long career as an author, editor, demonstrator, and lecturer, she wrote more than 15 books, not including pamphlets, promotional brochures, and articles. She died in 1933.

The images below contain scans from publications by Hill available in Special Collections ranging from cookbooks, product/brand specific pamphlets, and posthumous revised editions of her works. Over time, her books reflected the changing times, whether an improvement to an available technology, a country at war (World War I), or defining a new kind of relationship between author/educator and product/producer.

A complete list of Janet McKenzie Hill’s publications in the library’s catalog can be found here. The Culinary Pamphlet Collection at Special Collections includes two more of her brand-related pamphlets. Six of her books are available through the library’s digital rare book collection here.

Incidentally, Janet McKenzie Hill was also known for popularizing the baked bean sandwich. So if you’re looking for something to try that isn’t creamed fish between slabs of aspic or prunes on toast, or won’t require special skills in food construction, a nice fruit salad or baked bean sandwich might be a safe choice.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our profiles of some culinary leading ladies this month (at least as much as archivist/blogger Kira has enjoyed researching and learning about them)! There are plenty more where they came from if you want to pay us a visit and ask. Next week, April is upon us, and there are all kinds of spring surprises in our History of Food & Drink Collection, waiting to be discovered and shared…

Veggie Goodness, Part II: On Vegetarian Loaves and Alternatives to Fishes

“Do not regard cooking from a standpoint of taste only. Endeavor to use the various food materials to the best possible advantage–carefully preserving their nourishing qualities and maintaining their true value.”

This week, we’re featuring the Vegetarian Cook Book published by the City of David in 1934. Full of vegetable, egg, cheese, and meat substitute dishes, there are a few surprises as well…

Whether theosophical vegetarians or religious vegetarians, we’ve clearly made every attempt to represent the “loaf” in the past couple of weeks. This title also includes a good deal of “mocking,” too: Mock Veal (Cutlets), Mock Turkey (Croquettes AND Dressing),  Mock Steak (or Salmon or Sausage or Crabs), and even a Mock Cherry Pie (made with cranberries and raisins).

Mary’s City of David, the religious organization behind this publication, was based in Michigan. Their dietary choices were religious-based and as the preface states, they were focused on their own supplies of vegetables, fruits, poultry (for eggs), and dairy products. The resulting recipes are quite different from the Vegetarian Cook Book from last week (despite the duplicate title). Rather than relying on a protein substitute (the Protose made by the Battle Creek Food Company), this group found all sorts of creative alternatives in the section on Meat Substitutes: peanut butter, other ground nuts, beans, cracker crumbs, and even tomato pulp (see “Mock Salmon”).

Another oddity we see in this cookbook is the  number and variety of actual vegetable recipes. There are classic veggies: potatoes, corn, tomatoes, beans, carrots, and peas, but also asparagus, beets, dandelion greens, “egg plant,” salsify, and pumpkin. And while there’s some repetition (you can cream just about anything, for example), there is not shortage of veggies and veggie-based dishes.

The other big surprise here is the significant number of desserts. After the sections on salads and dressings, the book jumps straight into pastries. Nearly 50 of the publication’s 140+ pages share recipes for pies, tarts, cakes, cookies, puddings, fritters, dumplings, custards, and candies. However, like many cookbooks, we cannot reach the end without several pages devoted to canning and preserving! Once again, neither fruit nor vegetable is ignored. There are instructions for quince jelly, plum conserve, spiced crabapples, pickled tomatoes, homemade catsup, and even pickled beets to get you through any season.

On a side note (and since I made a passing reference last week), the Mary’s City of David did have a baseball team. It has a long and interesting history (the team, for example, played in the first ever night game in 1930). While not the topic of our post today, you can read more about the team here: http://www.maryscityofdavid.org/html/baseball.html.

And who knows, lima bean croquettes and cabbage salad may have been just what the team needed!

The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book, or the Delights of Electric Refrigeration

For some reason, The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book sounds like it could double as a horror movie title. Good for us, it isn’t! Published by the Electric Refrigeration Department of the General Electric Company in 1931, this little book is “arranged to assist you in making the greatest use of your General Electric Refrigerator.”

With hints on organizing, using, cleaning and cooking with your fridge, this is one helpful pamphlet! Kitchen appliances have a long history, but you can almost always (at least partially) chalk their invention and improvement up to efficiency. Whether less time in the kitchen for women in the 1930s meant more time with children, more time outside the home, or more time working, the idea was simplification and better use of time.

About half of this volume contains recipes and meal planning, some of which is shown in the gallery above.  In general, there’s a lack of particularly unsettling recipes, despite the overabundance of gelatin dishes (stuffed eggs in gelatin mayonnaise and ham mousse, for example). Instead, the focus is on relatively easy-to-prepare/store dishes, and somewhat flexible meal planning. A little preparation and it’s simple to go from an informal family dinner to feeding unexpected company with a few ingredients that you can, of course, store in your electric refrigerator.

The other half of the publication is more on the “household hints” side of things.  Unsure how to arrange food in your fridge? Want to defrost it? Lack the proper storage for foods in your fridge? Have leftovers in need of a makeover? The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book can help with pictures, diagrams, advertisements for containers, and leftover meat and vegetable uses.

There was at least one more addition of this pamphlet produced, but the 1931 is the most common among libraries. Check it out when you’re planning your next Washington’s Birthday Dinner! (Yes, there is a suggested menu for this event, complete with hatchet-shaped bread and butter sandwiches…) Happy chilling!

Farm and Rural Cooking: The Orange Judd Cookbook

The Orange Judd Cook Book , published in 1914, has a subtitle that describes it rather succinctly:  “A Practical Collection of Tested Recipes for Practical Housekeepers.” Beyond that, it was largely intended for rural and farm homes and housekeepers.

Given its early 20th century publication date, the lack of color images isn’t surprising. Still, each picture does present a perfectly created and plated dish, even if some of it is *gulp* jellied. (I know I have serious doubts I could cheese cakes that nice looking on the first try–pastry crusts and I, for example, are old enemies.) And it makes the important point that plating and presentation have always been a factor in serving and eating.

Adeline O. Goessling, the author, wrote a number of related books between 1901 and 1919, including Making the Farm Kitchen PayFarm and Home Cook Book and Housekeeper’s Assistant, and The Farm and Home Cook Book: A Practical Collection of Tested Recipes for Practical Housekeepers. It seems safe to say, when it came to authoring cookbooks, Ms. Goessling found her niche and an effective way to package and repackage titles and recipes!

With the emphasis on rural and farm life, the cookbook isn’t without a few recipes that might make a modern reader look twice. We’ve looked before at recipes for various mock and real sea creatures, organ meats, and alternative sources of meat (squirrel, for example). The Orange Judd Cook Book is the first recipes we’ve seen in our collection for raccoon (baked, of course!). Not only are there directions for preparing it, but a rationale as to why raccoon would be good for eating and how to not waste the fat you don’t want to bake it with–by making soap. This lead to more than one discussion in the library about what raccoon would actually taste like and exactly how strong a scent you would need in that soap to not smell like a gamey animal. (Why yes, we librarians and archivists are a fun bunch!) The fact that “Baked Coon” is immediately followed by “Possum and Sweet ‘Taters'” led to discussions of how different the environments we were raised in can be.

Which brings our post this week to a close with this thought: cookbooks can spark cultural conversation and education in any environment, even if its only the shared experience of wonder at a new food or recipe.

Oh, and while Special Collections at Virginia Tech does not have any of Adeline Goessling’s other publications, you can The Orange Judd Cook Book and several others online via the Internet Archive.

Recipes with a Dash of Hospitality

This week’s post includes a lot of recipes with canned or jarred goods, interesting color images, and a smattering of history. From Curtice Brothers Co. in Rochester, NY, the 1916 A Pictorial History of Hospitality with a Few Suggestions for Recipes contains illustrations of hospitality from different cultures throughout history.

There is a forward to the cookbook (not pictured) that includes a few statements worth sharing:

One always finds a fascination in history, be it the tale of a folk or the story of a food. In the world of foods Curtice Brothers Co., has a definite place…

…this booklet…will be found useful by helping to make the housewife’s daily routine less burdensome.

Pictorially portraying as it does by dainty illustrations (which are historically correct),–the history of, and changes in Hospitality,–this book will no doubt prove of added interest.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just as the pamphlet does: our food has a story. Every ingredient and every recipe. They aren’t always the most exciting stories, but stories nonetheless. A Pictorial History of Hospitality with a Few Suggestions for Recipes reminds us that related aspects of food culture all have stories, too.

One of the emerging themes of the History of Food & Drink Collection is the idea of efficiency and ease of food preparation. Along with the recipes, you’ll see meal planning hints and menu suggestions. The very fact that the company produced primarily canned and preserved food was one step in that process.

Lastly, this small publication introduces a topic that we have not spent much time talking about just yet: hospitality. We’ve talked about meal planning for dinners from the simple to the formal, table settings and decor, entertaining, and cocktails and canapes, but the concept of hospitality is closely tied to all these things. It is a motivating factor behind much of cooking and baking, as well as authoring household manuals and cookbooks. It’s the common social act of offering something to a guest who drops by or having something ready when you know company is coming. And it’s an easy excuse to splurge on the good wine and cheese.

As the illustrations above remind us, stereotypical as they may be, hospitality has roots at least as deep as our food’s history…so expect to see more about it in the future.

From London to Williamsburg: The Evolution of an American Cookbook


For the sake of convenience, we’ll be using the short title of this book in today’s posting about The Williamsburg Art of Cookery, though it IS worth sharing the title from the title page one:

The Williamsburg Art of Cookery: or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion: Being a Collection of Upwards of Five Hundred of the Most Ancient & Approv’d Recipes in Virginia Cookery…and also a Table of Favorite Williamsburg Garden Herbs. To which is Added, an Account of Virginia Hospitality; Treatises on Various Branches of Cookery; an Account of Health Drinking; some Considerations on the Observation of Christmas in Virginia, with traditional Recipes for this Season; with the Author’s Explanation of the Method of Collecting & Adapting these Choice Recipes; and an alphabetical INDEX to the Whole. (And that leaves out the list of categories of included recipes printed on the title page!)

The story behind The Williamsburg Art of Cookery begins in 1727 when Eliza Smith wrote a cookbook and household guide for women in London, The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion. (Be warned, the full title for this work would also take another 5 or 6 lines, too.) Special Collections has a copy of the 6th edition of Eliza Smith’s work from 1734 printed in London. In 1742, a printer in Williamsburg, Virginia, named William Parks decided to adapt the 5th edition of Smith’s book for American audiences. Although he kept the same title and most of the same content, he removed ingredients unavailable in this country, producing what is considered to be the first American cookbook.

In 1938, Helen Duprey Bullock took everything one step further. Working with Parks’ version of The Compleat Housewife, she added new content, including the sections on herbs and Christmas in Virginia, as well as recipes for other Virginia sources. The Culinary History Collection includes 5 editions of this title from a first edition published in 1938 to a 1961 reprint. The images the post are from the a copy of the 4th edition printed in 1947.

Before this simple blog post turns into a much-too-long essay on the history of these two cookbooks/household manuals, let’s turn to the text instead. The majority of the recipes fit into categories familiar to cookbook fans: soups & sauces, meat & fish, breads, vegetables, pastries and other baked goods, and pickles & preserves.

There are a some more unique elements, too. The book contains a reprint from a 1780s British magazine, “A Moral and Physical Thermometer: or, A Scale of Progress of Temperance and Intemperance–Liquors, with their Effects in their usual Order.” The consequences of imbibing beyond strong beer once in a while range from vices like idleness or swindling to  severe punishments like transportation (“Botany Bay”) or the gallows. And this page, of course, is immediately followed by recipes for cordials and shurbs. Oops? The sections on Virginia hospitality, herbs, and the holiday season are a nice addition and a way to insert local/regional feel to a text that is both historic and modern.

On a related note, as another example of how a book or manuscript itself can have a story independent of the actual content…This edition was printed by August Dietz (1867-1963) in Richmond, Virginia. August Dietz was a well-known printer (in Virginia, at least) and Civil War philatelist (he wrote several books on the topic). In 2010, a small collection of his Civil War memorabilia was donated to Special Collections. This unique collection includes individual newspapers, manuscript materials, a woodcut and block, Confederate playing cards, and, of course, several stamps. A finding aid with more information is available online.

Thanks for bearing with a long post this week, but this is a great text with so much history!  You can find editions of The Compleat Housewife online, since it’s long out of copyright, but you’ll have to visit Special Collections (or another library) to check out The Williamsburg Art of Cookery–and you should!

The Palmer House: A Hotel and A Cookbook

The Palmer House Cook Book: 1044 Original Recipes for Home Use is a new acquisition to Special Collections. Our copy is signed by the author and makes for an interesting addition to the collection, for more reasons than that. As it turns out, the hotel at which the author/chef worked has an exciting past. Built in 1871, The Palmer opened on September 26th. It burned down down it the Great Chicago Fire 13 days later. Potter Palmer, not to be deterred, rebuilt it. The Palmer House Hotel was completed in 1875.  Between 1923 and 1925, it was rebuilt on the same site to increase the size. More recently, between 2007 and 2009, it was completed renovated again.

Published in 1940, when Amiet had already spent 15 years at the famous hotel, the book offers a large range of recipes. Amiet adapted traditional American and European recipes for home use. Presentation figures heavily, as some of the above photographs suggest. Sample pages include some rather eye-catching photographs and the recipes that go along with them. There are plenty to choose from, but since The Palmer House Cook Book itself is structured around recipes and meals, we’ve tried to share something from each course. As it turns out, we aren’t the only blog to talk about this book recently, though! If you’d like to see a few more images and another perspective, check out this Cookbook of the Day post from January.

The Palmer House Cook Book is a good reminder about why we’re collecting culinary history in Special Collections. The book and the recipes it contains contribute to the larger picture of cooking. The idea of bring professional and restaurant quality dishes into the home in 1940 wasn’t brand new. The concept would become increasingly influential after World War II, however, as entertaining became a new focus of home dining. The unique history of the hotel that inspired the cookbook, too, plays a role. The Culinary History Collection isn’t just about recipes–it’s about how customs and social history changed over time and the role food has played (and continues to play) in those changes. Every cook book in our collection tells another little part of that story.

…Plus, sometimes you just come across a recipe and image demanding to be shared. “Peaches Forest King,” anyone?