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

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

Front cover
Front cover
Title page
Title page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

 

Digitized Cookbooks at the Folger

As you know, Special Collections at Virginia Tech isn’t the only special collections and archives to be digitizing its rare and unique content to share on the web! Over the weekend, the Folger Shakespeare Library some new material to its online platform. The best part? It’s almost all historic receipt books and cookbooks! You can see the list of recent additions online, complete with links to the items themselves. I also recommend you browse by category and check out “Cookbooks” and “Recipes” for other items.

New Blog Post from NPR

I’m working on a feature post for this week, but in the meantime, The Salt, NPR’s food-related blog, posted a story yesterday that touches on some of the themes I talked about last week: the Civil War, food supplies, and coffee. It also talks about cookbooks published during the Civil War (or lack thereof). You might want to check out “Slavery, Famine And The Politics Of Pie: What Civil War Recipes Reveal” while you’re waiting on me.

The Garland Cook Book (Ovens, not Decorations, of course!)

Waaaaaaay back in 2011, when “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” was born, I talked about how our collection included materials relating to food technology. More specifically, we have historical books, publications, and ephemera which depict changes in food technology over time. This week, I tracked down a cookbook on our shelves that comes from a corporation. Rather than pushing a food product, like some other titles I’ve blogged about before, this one is pushing what we might call a food technology product: oven heat control.

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The Garland Oven Cook Book isn’t quite what I expected. I imagined this was a company that made ovens. I was sort of correct. In fact, it’s a cookbook designed around/for a specific oven part: heat control. The full title is actually The Garland Cook Book: Containing Tested Recipes for Cooking by Controlled Heat and Instructions for Operating the Garland Oven Heat Control. In other words, it’s a cookbook designed for process, based on a product. The introduction has a lot to say on this:

The subject of cooking by controlled heat is one that is engaging the attention of the best cooks and domestic science experts everywhere, and the verdict is unanimous that it not only makes much lighter the task of preparing the daily meals, but gives even the experienced cook a certainty of good results for cooking any particular dish desired…

The control automatically holds the flame of the oven steady at this desired temperature. It is not necessary to watch it, or even think about it, for the control keeps the heat constant and steady, without your having to touch the gas cock, or even go near the oven until the time is up to take the food from the oven.

I don’t know much about The Garland Cook Book. In fact, the only copy that shows up cataloged for public or academic libraries in WorldCat is ours, so it seems to be pretty scarce. There’s no clear date, but the cookbook was probably created by the Detroit-Michigan Stove Company, which produced Garland stoves. Lucky for us, the Detroit Historical Society knows more than I do, and there’s a short article on the Garland stove online. The stove dates back to the 1860s and the company to 1872. This item doesn’t have date, but is possibly from the very late 19th century, but more likely the early part of the 20th century.

However, probably the most important thing about this cookbook is the mechanism behind it. In terms of gas stoves, even temperature control was a huge leap forward in technology, kitchen efficiency, and home cooking. It meant less time being tied to the kitchen, less guesswork, and less need to keep a constant eye on the food.  I know we have some more publications in the collection (and some ephemera, too) dealing with stoves, ovens, and their changes over time. So, if you’re interested, you should pay us a visit and we’ll do some digging. You never know what we might uncover!

Corn: The War Edition

I realized that while I’ve written a bit about World War II and food/food substitutions for victory, I haven’t really shared as much about World War I and food. I did post about bread and World War I earlier this year, but this unobtrusive little volume struck me this morning (not literally, of course, though falling books can sometimes be a danger in this job). It’s The Corn Cook Book [War Edition] written by Elizabeth O. Hiller and published in 1918.

TX809M2H61918_0

I image you can guess what kinds of recipes this book has. (If you said anything but “corn,” I’d be shocked.) It’s primarily corn meal, but there are a few items that use actual corn kernels, too. I’ve included the preface, along with some sample pages, since it gives a nice introduction to this particular edition and to the cause it supports.

One of the things I like about this item is the advice at the bottom of each page. It starts at the bottom of the introduction, which features specific directions on how to do things like mix, stir, beat, cut and fold, as well as notes on how to measure. This note reads: “IMPORTANT–The foregoing instructions must be carefully followed; the ingredients called for in the recipes must be used, to insure success in the finished product. Each recipe in this Corn Cook Book has been carefully tested by an expect–a graduated teacher in household economics.” The rest of the book contains the same advice about skim milk and butter substitute. I wish there was a little bit of something else, but we can’t say Hiller wasn’t consistent.

I’ve done a little research and it actually appears this might have been the only edition of The Corn Cook Book–in other words, there doesn’t seem to have been a non-war edition. Hiller wrote a number of books in the first 20 years of the 20th century, primarily calendar or 365-day type meal planning cookbooks.

If you’d like to see the full version our feature text this week, you can check it out on the Internet Archive. Today is graduation, so our summer is about to kick off. Special Collections may not have as many students in the reading room, but we’ll be here and we’ll have plenty of visitors. We encourage you to be one of them!

Women’s History Month, Part 11: Malinda Russell (b. abt. 1822?)

This week, I want to talk a little bit about Malinda Russell. I say “a little bit” quite intentionally, as that’s about all anyone knows. In May of 1866, Malinda Russell self-published a cookbook in Paw Paw, Michigan, the first known cookbook by an African-American. In fact, most of what we know of her comes from the introduction to A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, which includes “A Short History of the Author.” She was born free in Tennessee, possibly around 1820 or 1822. From her account, we can surmise that she lived a challenging life:

My mother being born after the emancipation of my grandmother, her children are by law free…At the age of nineteen, I set out for Liberia; but being robbed by some member of the party with whom I was traveling, I was obliged to stop at Lynchburg, Virginia…Anderson Vaughan, my husband, lived only four years…I am still a widow, with one child, a son, who is crippled…I kept a pastry shop for about six years, and, by hard labor and economy, saved a considerable sum of money for the support of myself and my son, which was taken from me on the 16th of January, 1864, by a guerilla party…Hearing that Michigan was the Garden of the West, I resolved to make that my home…This is one reason why I publish my Cook Book, hoping to receive enough from the sale of it to enable me to return home [Greenville, TN]…

From what else we do know, she worked as a cook, a nurse, and a wash-woman in Virginia and Tennessee. She owned a boarding-house, then a pastry shop before moving to Michigan, where she seems to have been a cook again at the time the book was published.

The original A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen was published in 1866. It was a 29 page pamphlet and very few copies still seem to exist. The one most well-known (if not the only one) is in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan Special Collections. In 2007, they printed a small run of facsimiles, a copy of which we acquired not long after. Although the original item is out of copyright, the 2007 facsimile is not. As a result, I’m not posting images from the item itself, though I have included the front and back covers, and I’ll share some quotes below.

A Domestic Cook Book: containing a careful selection of receipts for the kitchen by Mrs. Malinda Russell, an experience cook published by the author, 1866
A Domestic Cook Book, 1866 (facsimile), front cover
A Domestic Cook Book by Malinda Russell a free woman of color, Paw Paw, Michgan 1866. A facsimile of the first known cook book by an african american with an introduction by Janice Bluestein Longone from the unique copy in the William L. Clements Library, 2007
A Domestic Cook Book, 1866 (facsimile), back cover

I first saw Malinda Russell’s name in 2013 while researching African-American culinary history for a talk I gave in our library. I was amazed at her story and excited to find our facsimile, which I quickly pulled from the shelf. After her brief autobiography is another introductory section, “Rules and Regulations of the Kitchen,” in which Russell provides an explanation of her culinary background. The last sentence of this page reads “I cook after the plan of the ‘Virginia Housewife.'” It seems, at times, we can’t escape Mary Randolph on the blog, can we? 🙂

Russell’s book doesn’t have a table of contents or index and, aside from loosely grouping like receipts, a structure, but for all its 30 pages, she shares plenty of receipts. You’ll find cakes, cordials, pies, cookies, gelatin desserts, pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables, breads/rolls, and custards/puddings. On the whole, there is an emphasis on sweet dishes and baked goods, but she finished with savory meat and poultry dishes, two fish recipes, and several handfuls of home remedies. Not one recipe has directions longer than about eight sentences (calf’s head soup and cream puffs are among the more complex, and all are written in paragraph form without a list of ingredients (characteristic of the era). Most are summed up in as little as 3-4 sentences (or less!), like Sally Lun:

Three tablespoons yeast, two do. butter, two do. sugar, two eggs, flour to make thick as cake. Let it rise six hours; bake quick.

Or “Baked Peach Cobbler”:

Scald and rub the peaches; stew until done; season with sugar to your taste. Paste your pans, put in the fruit, dropping small pieces of butter over it; cover with paste and bake. When done, float the pie with the syrup from the fruit.

Or “Fricaseed Catfish”:

Boil in water with a little salt until done, then drain off the water, and turn over the fish rich cream, butter, pepper, and a little flour, and simmer slowly.

I’m trying to keep my post from being too lengthy (too late, I know!), but for a women with only one publication there was a LOT to say for this week’s profile. Still, I do want to add a final side note or two. First, despite the dearth of information about Malinda Russell, she is no secret in the culinary world. You’ll find her and her book as the subject of news articles, blog posts, and culinary research, if you take a moment to search for her. Second, to date, A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, is the first known cookbook by an African-American, woman or man, in the United States. Robert Roberts’ The House Servant’s Directory is the first book published by an African-American in 1827 and in 1848, Tunis Campbell published Hotel Keepers, Head Waiters and Housekeepers’ Guide. Malinda Russell’s book remains in good company, when it comes to African-American publishing history. And, perhaps more importantly,  she helped paved the way for the the next 149 years of African-American cookbook authors.

Join us again next week for our final Women’s History Month profile of 2015. We’ll look at some of the works of food author M. F. K. Fisher.