“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!

Just Noggin’ Around

This week, with some holidays looming, rather than feature a single item, I thought it might be more fun to do something I’ve done before (though without explicitly pointing it out)–feature variations on a single recipe. Putting aside my own reservations about this seasonal favorite, this week is all about EGGNOG! There are as many variations as there are people who make it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a short, historical tour of this culinary and cocktail treat.

As a side note, there’s actually a whole family of what we might consider eggnog drinks or “nogs” as they are sometimes referred to, which also includes things like the “Tom and Jerry,” the egg/ale flip, and zabaglione (aka zabajone aka sabayon aka zabaione, which can be either an egg-based dessert or an egg-based drink), but for the sake of simplicity, I’m sticking with the classic concept. Even with the classic, there’s plenty of ambiguity and one struggles to define what the classic recipe is. Some people describe eggnog as a milk punch (not to be confused with the more appropriately termed “milk punch” that doesn’t contain eggs) or an egg milk punch (which is accurate in this case)! Okay, before this gets any thicker than eggnog itself, let’s look at some examples…

Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas' How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant's companion (1862)
Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas’ How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant’s companion (1862)
Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas' How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant's companion (1862)
Egg Nogg variations from Jerry Thomas’ How to mix drinks, or, The bon-vivant’s companion (1862)

Jerry Thomas is something of my cocktail hero and, if I had lived in his era, I would like to think we would have been cocktail buddies. I would definitely have enjoyed his spirit (and spirits!), stories, and personality! He had a handful of eggnog (or as he calls them “egg nogg”) recipes published in 1862. What they have in common is eggs (or some part thereof) and sugar. But he offers nog(g)s spiked with sherry, cider, brandy, rum, madeira, or some combination of several. Some include milk or water and while most are cold, he does include a hot variation, which we’ll see come up again shortly. If the first bartender’s manual published is this complicated about eggnog, drawing on the existing history, it’s easy to see how everyone has a version…

Egg nog recipe from Harriet De Salis' Drinks à la mode (1891)
Egg nog recipe from Harriet De Salis’ Drinks à la mode (1891)

Harriet Anne De Salis‘ recipe includes brown sugar (not white) and ginger and cinnamon (along with nutmeg). There’s no milk, and it’s spirituous base is a combination of rum and hot beer. Hers is a hot drink. (This is a bit closer to the partial origin of eggnog–the egg flip–which also appears in her book. While I’m really not going to get into that comparison, the egg flip/ale flip is a really fascinating drink. You can read about it’s process and see it being made by food blogger and author Sarah Lohman. It involved a fire poker–seriously!)

Egg nog recipe from Dexter Mason's The art of drinking (1930)
Egg nog recipe from Dexter Mason’s The art of drinking (1930)

In 1930, with Prohibition in full swing, it may seem surprising that cocktail manuals were being published in the U. S. But believe me, they were very popular (a topic I’ve covered elsewhere on the blog before). Dexter Mason’s book features a single egg nog recipe intended to serve 50 people. Mason includes the trending eggs, sugar, and nutmeg, as well as milk AND double cream. His choice of spirits: rum and whiskey. Talk about rich!

In 1952, David Embury published The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. It was popular in its one time and is still at least a well-known title to cocktail historians today. Embury not only gives us recipes, but also sage advice on the topic of nogs…

Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)

Embury’s “Individual Egg Nog” can be made with virtually any spirit (he adds port, applejack, gin, and cognac to the growing list). Like Jerry Thomas, he also has a “Baltimore Egg Nog,” but his includes cognac, rum and peach brandy (rather than brandy or rum and Madeira, as Thomas suggests). Embury also add milk and cream and uses both egg yolks AND whites. It appears to skip the nutmeg, but it’s actually listed as part of his advice for all eggnogs above–don’t skip it! He also gives us both hot and cold options.

Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury's The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)
Pages on nogs from David A. Embury’s The fine art of mixing drinks (1952)

Embury gives us five versions of eggnog and while the similarities are clear, the variations are just as telling. (And yes, I let a version of the Tom and Jerry sneak in for the curious.) There’s no one way to make eggnog, no matter what one might think. Best not to argue–just enjoy!

Even corporate sponsored pamphlets can get in on the eggnog action…

Eggnog from The Bacardi party book : recipes for drinks, punches, snacks, hors d'oeuvres, entr'ees (1973)
Eggnog from The Bacardi party book : recipes for drinks, punches, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, entr’ees (1973)

This variation is from the Bacardi corporation, so we should only be surprised if the base is anything BUT rum. However, by the the 1970s, we also see the use of pre-made eggnog, rather than homemade, as in the party version above. Or, other creative substitutions like ice cream. The Eggnog for one uses ice, which doesn’t appear in any of the previous variations (Embury is explicitly against it and while Thomas and De Salis would have had some access to ice, both avoids this addition). Even without eggs as an individual ingredient, Bacardi does include nutmeg….I’m beginning to suspect true eggnog is really just a vehicle for nutmeg consumption…

Our last examples bring us into the modern age of cocktails. These variations are from The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book (2009).

Eggnogs from The Kentucky bourbon cocktail book (2009)
Eggnogs from The Kentucky bourbon cocktail book (2009)

The eggnog recipes here are mixed in with some other bourbon-filled holiday treats, but the general idea is clear and it reflects some more modern craft cocktails/bartending experimentation. In the days of the appletini, chocolate martini, the cosmopolitan, and a variety of other “martinis” (don’t get me started!), it’s not surprising to see some new eggnogs, too. In this case, it’s chocolate and pistachio (as well as candy cane, pumpkin, and traditional versions on other pages). All five rely on ready-to-drink eggnog, dressed up with bourbon and some other items, but all five are also topped with nutmeg (and candy canes and whipped cream).

While I specifically went hunting through cocktail manuals of the last 150+ years, it’s also important to point out that, of course, your eggnog need not be alcoholic. The early homemade recipes published by Thomas, De Salis, Mason, and Embury can be made non-alcoholic and if you’re looking for ready-to-use, these days, it even comes dairy-free. My point with all this meandering through eggnog history is that no matter what your preferences and tastes, there’s probably an eggnog for you out there somewhere–or in your very own kitchen, waiting to be invented. Plus, it’s just really, really fun to follow the historical path of a drink with such a long history (dating back to the 1770s, at least) through time. It’s a good reminder that the contents of every glass have a story to tell and that not every path has a clear, straight evolution. Eggnog recipes are more like branches and twigs of a tree, shooting out in all directions, in variations and themes. And, like every recipe, every branch and twig ends with a nutmeg seed.

Cheers!

Putting the “Umble” in “Humble Pie?”

To conclude, and that I may not trespass too far on your Patience and good Nature, or take up too much of your Time from the more important Affairs of your Families, I hereby ingenuously acknowledge, that I have exerted all the Art and Industry I can boast of, in compleating this Pocket-Book, complied for your Service, and intended as your daily Remembrancer; and that I an not conscious to myself of having omitted one Article of any real Importance to be further known…

This morning, I had a plan.  A really good plan for today’s post and the idea to also prep one for next week (and see if I can get back on a weekly posting schedule after a busy last few months). While scanning materials for the second post, I discovered some new culinary history tidbits that were too good not to share today. So next week, I’ll tell you about our new agricultural ephemera collection. This week, we’re going back to the mid-18th century, to Sarah Harrison’s The house-keeper’s pocket-book, and compleat family cook : containing above twelve hundred curious and uncommon receipts in cookery, pastry, preserving, pickling, candying, collaring, &c., with plain and easy instructions for preparing and dressing every thing suitable for an elegant entertainment, from two dishes to five or ten, &c., and directions for ranging them in their proper order. First published somewhere in the late 1730s (probably, our recently acquired copy is the later 7th edition from 1760. The quote at the above comes from Harrison’s own introduction to the book.

tx705h37_1760_tp

Yes, another one of those books with a lengthy title that takes a whole page. (I”ll stick with The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book for the sake of my typing skills today.) Mrs. Harrison manages to pack of lot of information into 215 pages (plus another 36 for the added Every One Their Own Physician by Mary Morris).

tx705h37_1760_contents1 tx705h37_1760_contents2

Primarily, she provides recipes and suggested menus (bills of fare) for a year. Then, toward the end, we get a some of the more “housekeeping” or “household recipe” side of things: directions for removing stains, cleaning dishes, managing animals and livestock, and even a bit of distilling/brewing. Much in the British style, there is a significant section in the book on pies (not just the sweet, but the savory). And as chance would have it, I stumbled on to page 60 and the word “umbles.”

tx705h37_1760_60

While working this this culinary history materials here has provided this archivist quite an education, I, too, get stumped on occasion. For those of you who already know the word, kudos! For those of you bit less acquainted with the term, “umbles” refers to the organ meats of deer (and comes from the French “noumbles”). In this case, we have a recipe for “Umble Pie.” This recipe for “umble pie,” with its humble ingredients of deer innards, very likely led to the phrase “humble pie.” From dinner recipe to idiomatic expression in a single bound!

The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book also includes a few illustrations, like these plans for placing parts of a dinner course:

tx705h37_1760_110 (The small “L2” at the bottom of the page was used to help construct the book, whose pages would have been printed in large sheets, then folded, cut, and sewn together.)

It wouldn’t be culinary history if we didn’t talk about one of our favorite topics: pickling. In 1760 (and when the earlier editions of the book were written), this was a main method of preservation. So, you could (and would!) pickle just about everything. Below is one of the page spreads on the subject and includes some items we recognize today, as well as a couple of ingredients (or at least terms) that are a bit less so. tx705h37_1760_178“Codlins” (also codlings) refers to a family of apples with a particular shape, usually use for cooking. “Samphire” is a plant that grows on rocks near the sea. Its leaves were often used pickling.

Sarah Harrison’s book would go on to have several other editions after this 7th one, but eventually, it was a cookbook that became more rare or unique to collectors and collections. We were lucky and happy to acquire this copy several months ago and we hope some one of you take the opportunity to come use it, too! Sadly, it hasn’t been scanned in its entirety for public viewing, but that may be a future task for us to undertake. In the meantime, you can always send us your (h)umble queries on Mrs. Harrison’s work.

Selection, Preparation, & a Physicians’ Ready Reference for the Non-Professional

Last week I taught three instruction sessions relating to Special Collections in three days (which is a lot for me, who usually averages maybe three such sessions over the course of a single semester). Two of those had to do with aspects of food history and elements of the third touched on the topic as well. Add that to the guest lecture in another course about food history in late September, and the students from those classes who have followed up with me or the department to do research, and, when I can spare a few moments, improving and/or creating some new resources guides on some food and drink topics, it’s safe to say this is turning out to be a food history-full semester. You’d think all of that would make it easy to find something to blog about this week, but with so many items in hand lately, well, choosing is never easy. But, since I pulled several volumes by this woman and mentioned her in another writing project, I thought we’re revisit an author and educator we last featured back in 2014: Sarah Tyson Rorer. More specifically, her Mrs. Rorer’s Diet for the Sick: Dietetic Treating of Diseases of the Body, What to Eat and What to Avoid in Each Case, Menus and the Proper Selection and Preparation of Recipes, Together with a Physicians’ Ready Reference, 1914 (available online: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/HFDBooks/RM219.R7_1914). Below are the cover, title page, and two sample pages from the table of contents.

pages-from-rm219-r7_1914 pages-from-rm219-r7_1914-2 pages-from-rm219-r7_1914-3 pages-from-rm219-r7_1914-4

Mrs. Rorer was, over the course of her lifetime, was an author, educator, lecturer, columnist, and radio program host. She took all of these roles seriously and this book highlights that. Many recipes books/cookbooks dating back to the early publishing of such books in America included content on diets for the sick or invalid. The same is true of household management guides. Though these sections, as they often appeared as separate chapters or topics in books,  largely consisted of recipes for beef teas, milk toast, and other simple dishes, they were a key skill for household managers. Some of Sarah Rorer’s other books include such chapters, too. But in Mrs. Rorer’s Diet for the Sick…, we find a far more specific, detailed book, as indicated in the forward (along with some beef teas and gruels, of course):

      This book has been written especially for the sick. The foods here recommended for special diseases are not suited to the well…Simple, easily digested foods recommended for the sick are not necessarily good for even children or invalids; in fact, foods for the well and foods for the sick are not interchangeable.

My sole desire in writing this book has been to assist those persons who must care for their sick  at home, and the doctor and the nurse, without trespassing on the domain of either. In disease each case requires special attention, and the knowledge that comes from observation cannot be supplanted by any dictated rules. Book directions are valueless unless modified by common sense.

The fact of the matter is that, in this volume, Sarah Rorer has packed in the information. At well over 500 pages, there are suggested and restricted foods for a range of diseases and hundreds of recipes.

There are a lot of things that make this book different. It isn’t usual for a non-medical professional to study up and impart this degree of food and medical knowledge in a book of the time period. Plus, with all the expected recipes, we find a wide variety of the unexpected: directions for vegetable dishes like cardoons; the use of “Edible Weeds” (common and uncommon herbs); surprisingly “luxury” foods like coconut or oysters (depending on where on lived); and even some remedies whose roots are more on the “home” than professional side, like “Irish Moss Water.” In short, Mrs. Rorer’s Diet for the Sick… is one diverse household manual, designed to prepare anyone providing home care to an ill family member.

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).

simmons_page_1_1796
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.

A Lesson in English (Receipts)

Exciting news! Thanks to the hard work (and on-going efforts) of our staff and students, a handful of the handwritten recipes books among our collections have gone online! As a group, you can find these items on our online platform, Special Collections Online. We will have more of them going up in the future, as we continue to scan and acquire new collections, but this feels like a great start! As with many of the Civil War diaries we have digitized, we are also working on transcripts of these manuscript receipt (and recipe!) books which we will add to the site as they are completed. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the Hertford Receipt Book (Ms2008-027). You can view the whole item online, but we haven’t transcribed it just yet. Here’s the front cover:

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There is a finding aid for this item, but it is, to use a recipe term, a bit scant. Many manuscript receipt books, when separated from original owners for whatever reason, lose context, and leave archivists and researchers with very little provenance (the archival field’s word for “[i’]nformation regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection”). In this case, there are multiple handwritings and a variety of attributed recipes, but no clue as to who collected them or wrote them on the pages. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t learn from it.

This is a soft, marbled cover notebook, and from what we know, it dates from about 1800 to 1833. If you’re expecting recipes for food, you won’t be disappointed, but hopefully you’re open to a bit more. You see, the Hertford Receipt Book is mostly home remedies. Many of them. Have a cough? Toothache? Boots need blackening? Need white paint? Have a rat problem? Worms (there are at least three cures for that one!)? This item can help!

That being said, in true English style, you’ll also find puddings, tarts, and cakes among the pages, along with wines, “devil’s pot” and other pickling options, jams, and the intriguing “to pot pigeons like lampreys.”

One of the things I really like about this receipt book is that it has an index. While not all the ones on our shelves do, I’m surprised at how often there’s a guide at the front or back to what’s in the pages. I shouldn’t be shocked by the organizational skills of these generations of savvy women, but they certainly should get extra credit for hand-indexing! If I had to guess, in this case, it was probably done by one owner (it’s all in the same hand) and probably at a point where new recipes weren’t being added. Still, a lovely, tasty, toxic, strange, and functional labor of love.

As football fever continues around Blacksburg (and elsewhere), keep an eye out for some posts to help with those tailgating days. (Though, as someone who enjoys a number of VT sports, I’m thinking we might need to start volleyball, soccer, or basketball tailgating trends, too.) And as fall has arrived, you can probably also expect some autumnal foods in the future, too!

Cheers (To the Designers of These Great Cocktail Artifacts)!

Artifact (in an archival context): a man-made, physical object

While Special Collections isn’t artifact-driven–that is, we don’t go out of our way specifically to find artifacts–that doesn’t mean they don’t find us. Between a Civil War-era rifled musket, Corps of Cadet sabers, a football trophy, and more recently, a snare drum from a student who attended VPI in the 1940s, we do have a range of museum-type items. If we’re talking food history, we even have a 19th century stove here! Most of the food-related artifacts are on the smaller size: toys sets to teach nutrition to children, an old cast iron kettle, or, for the Hokie-spirited, an empty bottle from a Hokie-branded beer (probably from an event several decades ago). Last week’s post, though, alluded to some new cocktail artifacts and let’s face it, I couldn’t wait to share them. In the last month or so, we’ve acquired a handful of unique early and mid-20th century cocktail artifacts. Here are a couple of them…

This vintage faux cocktail shaker is about 5 1/4 inches tall. It’s chrome on the outside and the rotary on the inside features early Bakelite panels (Bakelite was created in the late 1910s) and is probably just pre-Prohibition era in terms of its date.

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Each of the remaining 23 panels contains a cocktail recipe:

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Basically, there’s a mini-rolodex inside and twisting the knob drops a new panel into view until it cycles through and starts again. Of course, the panels are small, so there are no directions, other than the list of ingredients. But, for the most part, these are traditionally shaken cocktails: Pour all the ingredients over ice, shake, strain, and enjoy!

The second item dates from about 1940:

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This is a long scroll on two spindles. You can turn either knob to “scroll” forward and backward. In it’s original case and box, this is leather over a case of metal and plastic. “Baron Fougner’s Bar Guide: Standard Recipes for Cocktails, Mixed Drinks, Canapes” came with two choice of colors: walnut or mahogany (ours is the latter). “Baron Fougner” was actually G. Selmer Fougner (1885-1941), a journalist and columnist. From 1933 to 1941, he wrote a daily column for the New York Sun called “Along the Wine Trail” that covered wine, food, and even recipes. He also wrote several books including New York City restaurant guides and a history of his role in several “dining societies.”

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The panel on the back contains an index to the sections and kinds of drinks and food included. (Unfortunately, it didn’t photograph too well through the textured and slightly wrinkly surface.)

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Our bar guide came with a pamphlet pointing out its use, efficiency in the home bar (look, it’s spill-proof, unlike those pesky books!), and what it includes. And it’s in the original 1940s box.

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So, “cool” factor aside, there really is research value to items like these. They can clue us into popular cocktails of a time period, show us who the “authorities” in the cocktail world were, what kinds of quirky items people were collecting, and, in the case of these items, how the “home bartenders” were learning their skills. In addition to these items, we’ve also recently acquired a retractable tape measure with inches on one side and cocktail recipes on the other; a key-chain with cocktail recipes on small cards inside a metal case; a glass tube with recipes on long narrow cards (which are protected from spills by the glass); and an Art Deco era cocktail betting game (more on that one another day). It turns out collecting and researching cocktail history is even more fun than you might have guessed! If you’d like to learn more, you’re always welcome to drop by and check these items out in person–we’ll be here!