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.

Photographing Appalachia–And Its Foodways!

I’m hard a work on a new resource guide for students (one that is about Appalachian resources, and will include content on food & foodways!). I am hoping to have mostly finished during the start of classes next week, so it’s been my focus for the last day or so. I’m including in it one of my favorite pictures from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025):

Women cooking apple butter, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Women cooking apple butter, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

When I sat down to write a blog post this morning, I though, “huh, why not Earl Palmer?” It’s not strictly food. To be honest, it’s not even primarily about food, but it’s a significant collection when it comes to Appalachia and there are some connections to be made.

Earl Palmer was born in Kentucky in 1905. He received his first camera at age 7, which launched a life-long love of photography. By the time he was 19, his images were already appearing in local papers and travel magazines. In 1945, he moved to Cambria (now part of Christiansburg) and his photos were in national magazines. Billing himself the “Blue Ridge Mountains’ Roamin’ Camera Man”, Palmer concentrated on the people and places of Appalachia, particularly the region’s traditional culture. Though based in southwestern Virginia, Palmer traveled the mountain regions of Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia in search of subjects. From 1954 to 1964 (when Cambria merged with Christiansburg), Palmer was Cambria’s mayor. In 1972, he retired from the grocery business to devote more time to photography. During his many trips, Palmer also collected a number of artifacts associated with traditional mountain life, including wagon wheels, handicrafts, a moonshine still and tools. He died in 1996.

The Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025) contains about 750 photographs taken by Palmer, as well as a small group of printed materials relating to his photography, and a large selection of artifacts. A full description of the collection is online. But first, a few more photographs!

Peaks of Otter
Peaks of Otter, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Corn shucks in a field, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Corn shucks in a field, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Newton Hylton whittling a miniature ox-yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Newton Hylton whittling a miniature ox-yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

The photograph portion of the collection has been digitized and is available online. You can search within the folio by keyword (for example, “apple butter” or “landscape”) or you can simply browse. While it’s broad in scope and captures many aspects of Appalachia, you will find image relating to food, agriculture/farming, social customs, and handicrafts, all of which can be tied to food and drink history in various ways

In addition to the photos, there is a series of artifacts, which includes items collected by Palmer, that are associated with traditional Appalachian folk culture. The series includes such items as a moonshine still, wagon wheels, ox yokes and hand-made brooms, as well as items associated with coal mining and railroading and small collection of cameras and photography equipment. Special Collections is not a museum and while we have some artifacts, the size and scope of the number in this collection made them difficult to manage. With the exception of a few small items, the majority of the artifacts reside permanently with the Appalachian Studies program at Virginia Tech and are on display at Solitude, like these:

Large wooden yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Large wooden yoke, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Wooden cheese boxes, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)
Wooden cheese boxes, Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection (Ms1989-025)

There’s a complete list of artifacts in the “Contents List” of the finding aid. As you can see, there are cornstalk carvings, farming equipment, household items, kitchenware, and even a moonshine still!

Photographs aren’t necessarily an obvious connection to food and drink history, but the fact of the matter is that images like these, captured by Earl Palmer and other photographers have as much of a story to tell as a handwritten receipt book or a community cookbook. Whether they capture a how an ingredient got started on the farm, how it was cooked, or what people used to store it, photographs can be a key element to studying culinary practices.

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 2: Canning and Preserving

Picking up on the theme from earlier this month, I thought it might be fun to continue some cooking school lessons over the summer. So, this week, we’re looking at Ola Powell’s Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, published in 1917.

Each chapter includes a LOT of informational content, but each is also punctuated by photographs and illustrations throughout. Since the book is really designed to be a lesson book, though not exactly a text book, it does come complete with built-in quizzes. The end of every chapter includes a list of questions about the content, so you can make sure that learning has really soaked in and been preserved (pun intended, of course). The chapters cover the foods you would expect: fruits, veggies, pickles and relishes, jellies, preserves/conserves/marmalades, and fruit juices. But it also includes chapters on the history and safety of canning and preserving, techniques, drying foods for preservation, canning as a business, and teaching canning.

The diversity of this content is an important reflection on the significance of canning and food preservation. It was a necessity for feeding a family, but it was also a social activity, a profit-making opportunity, and clearly integrated into many aspects of domestic and home life, whether rural or urban.

Ola Powell was an extension agent by training and that surely shows. In addition to the many editions of Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, between the mid 1910s- and the early 1940s, she also authored or co-authored works on a variety of other topics, including making and caring for mattresses and bedding, sewing, plants and plant diseases, home demonstration work, and farm and garden management.

You can find Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use in its entirely among the scanned books from Special Collections online. You know, in case you’re looking for a good mushroom ketchup recipe or a few trivia questions on the advantages of canning in tin versus glass.

Until our next summer school lesson, stay cool and enjoy something tasty…

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.

Beyond English Language Books

While the majority of materials in the History of Food and Drink Collection are in English, that’s not the rule. Over time, we’ve acquired a handful or two of items (mostly books, but at least one manuscript cookbook, too) in other languages. More recently, this is included a two German, two Spanish, and one French cocktail manuals. But that wasn’t where it started. As it turns out, you can find publications on culinary topics in a variety of languages. Today, we’re featuring Die Österreichisches Hausfrau: Ein Handbuch für Frauen und Mädchen aller Stände; Praktische Anleitung fur Führung der Hauswirtschaft by Anna Bauer. Published in Vienna in 1892, this household management guide isn’t all that different from the same kinds of books you would find in America at the time. (And yes, you’re all being subjected to a German language book because that’s the European language your usual archivist/blogger, Kira, can read best…)

In English, we might call Die Österreichisches Hausfrau: Ein Handbuch für Frauen und Mädchen aller Stände; Praktische Anleitung fur Führung der Hauswirtschaft something like “The Austrian Housewife: A Handbook for Women and Girls of all (Social) Classes; Practical Instruction for Managers of Domestic Economy (or Home Economics),” if we translated it close to literally. But really, we could just call it “How to be an Austrian Housewife in 1892.”

Like the majority of household management guides from the period, there aren’t many (or, in this case, ANY) colors and only one image–that of a proper account book to be kept by the household manager. Of course, with this book, there’s the added challenge of a Fraktur (gothic) font. And, like English language books from the period, this is one jam-packed (pun intended) guide for women. It contains a general introduction and sections on: organizing and cleaning rooms/spaces; handling and preserving meat; preparation and storage of sausages (an entire CHAPTER on that subject); storage of vegetables and fruits; drying fruits; storing of juicy fruits in pickles, wines, and mustard; preserving fruits with sugar; serving meals and carving; caring for and feeding the sick; hygiene; childcare; gardening; and the management of livestock, including dairy products. All crammed into 410 pages!

You can’t find this title online, so if you’re curious, you’ll have to pay us a visit. You’ll find more than few foreign language titles on our shelves relating to a variety of subjects, so feel free to drop by!

Tschüß bis nächste Woche! (Bye until next week!)

Peterson’s Pickled Peppers?

It’s been a while since we talked about canning and food preservation. Although we have lots of earlier publications that deal with different aspects of food preservation, this week, we’re looking at the oldest manual dedicated to the subject in our collection (at least for now): Peterson’s Preserving, Pickling & Canning Fruit Manual: Containing A Choice Collection of Receipts for Preserving, Pickling and Canning Fruits, Many of Them Being Original from Housewives of Experience, written in 1869 by Mrs. M. E. P[eterson]. If you weren’t sure what this book was about by the title, the subtitle sure clears it up! I think it also serves as an interesting marketing technique. It emphasizes the idea that this is a book written for housewives by housewives.

And yes, as the blog title suggests, there are recipes for a variety of pickled peppers, too! Throughout the book we can also find “recipes” that are more like household hints: how to dry herbs, remove fruits stains, or make a sealant for canning jars, for example.

In many cases, Mrs. M. E. P. has attributed the recipe to the author, but she is no more specific than “Mrs. C’s.” We don’t really have a way to trace these recipes. Still, I can’t help but wonder if they might be ladies whose names we’ve seen elsewhere. Whatever the case may be, clearly, Mrs. P. knows her stuff. The best part about this manual is its timelessness. The technology may have changed, but the ingredients haven’t. So next time you’re thinking marmalade or pickles, maybe we can help. 🙂

Celebrating the Smith-Lever Act (& Cooperative Extension!), Part II

We’re one week closer to the anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, so I wanted to share some more Extension materials. This week, I raided Ms2012-040, State/Regional Home and Agricultural Publications. Three folders of this collection contain a range of publications from Virginia Cooperative Extension, published between the 1930s and the 1970s. You can see the folder list, complete with a bibliography of publications, online

Continue reading “Celebrating the Smith-Lever Act (& Cooperative Extension!), Part II”