Title page

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!

Frontispiece and title page, The Gentleman's Companion, Vol. 2, 1946

The Gentleman’s Companion: Culinary Adventuring in the Early 20th Century

Charles H. Baker, Jr. (1895-1987),  was a salesman turned writer and magazine publisher turned columnist. After spending many years traveling the globe, writing columns for a variety of magazines, including Esquire, Town & Country, and Gourmet, he compiled items from his on-going column, “Here’s How,” as well as other writings, into The Gentleman’s Companion, first published in 1939.  It included two volumes, which are the same two we have in our 1946 edition: Volume I Being an Exotic Cookery Book, or Around the World with a Knife Fork and Spoon and Volume II Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask.

Dedication [Volume I]

Contrary to current routine this volume is not dedicated to Publisher, Wife, Friend, Mistress or Patron, but to our own handsome digestive tract without which it never could have seen light of day.

Although it may be difficult to trace and explore, I might be tempted to give Baker some credit for the boom of American interest in what was considered ethnic and/or exotic cuisine in the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, there are many, MANY factors for this interest (including World War II and woman’s magazines, to name a couple), but Baker definitely brought a new perspective on world cuisine to American audiences.

A Soup of plump & gentle fowls of discreet age, and red ripe bananas, á Santiago

Proceed as in the Grecian dish, and when broth is done and you have a qt proceed as follows: Reserve breast and trim into shreds the size of matchsticks, cutting with the grain. To the rich broth add 2 red bananas, stood in sun until well ripened; simmer 10 minutes slowly, and rub through sieve or put in The Blender. Serve hot with a pinch of nutmeg on top.

This number was collected during a visit to Santiago and subsequent to an afternoon’s visit to the factory of Bacardi, being escorted thither by a late member of that illustrious family. It was, all in all, a memorable day. For several reasons.

While availability of ingredients in the United States might still be limited at this time–red bananas being a prime example–there are contemporary pamphlets and publications from the organizations like the United Fruit Company which were bringing some surprising and unique banana dishes into kitchens everywhere. And, Baker was doing much the same for cocktails in the second volume.

Dedication [Volume II]

To all that Company of Friends, from Pine to Palm, with whom we have So Happily Raised the Glass.

It’s worth noting here that Baker does something that you see more commonly before the 1930s/40s and much less so in cocktail book after the 1940s: commentary. Sometimes it’s a single sentence explanation of (like the Turf Cocktail No. III’s “from the Havana Country Club, Winter of 1930”) and other times, as with “The Hallelujah Cocktail” from Panama, the comments before and after the recipe are nearly a page long. Not every cocktail has an explanation, the majority have something–largely, I suspect, because so many of these recipes were not found in American bars just yet. His cocktails really are global, and while the recipes are an important part, Baker is clearly a story-teller, too. As a Florida native, he managed to cross paths with Southern writers fond of a good libation and he doesn’t hesitate to share:

A Farewell to Hemingway, being a sort of Kirch Collins we invented the night we say Hemingway & bull-fighter Sidney Franklin off on the plane for New York, & Loyalist Spain

There is no reason to this drink. It just happened because Ernest prefers kirschwasser, and it was a muggy, half-breathless sort of night. The cherry syrup sweet, of course, can be varied to taste…Take 1 1/2 jiggers of kirsch, 1/4 pony of cherry syrup–again the drug store kind–and the juice of 1 big green lime. Shake this mixture with 4 ice cubes, turn ice and all into a collins glass of at least 14 oz capacity, drop in a spiral peel of green lime, and fill glass not quite full with good chilled club soda….We’ve later found out that raspberry syrup is very decent, too.

Hemingway did really have a taste for cherry liqueurs, by the way. The “Hemingway Daiquiri” (also called the “Papa Doble”) drops the usual sugar or simple syrup present in most daiquiris, but adds grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. (“Papa” Hemingway’s recipe is my go-to daiquiri in the summer.)

Neither the 1939, nor the 1946 editions deterred Baker from his travels or writings and in 1951, Baker published both The South American Gentleman’s Companion: Vol. 1, Being an Exotic Cookery Book or, Up and Down the Andes with Knife, Fork and Spoon and The South American Gentleman’s Companion: Vol. 2, Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Up and Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. (Sadly, we don’t currently have this set in our collection.) Not to be outdone–or perhaps to outdo himself–in 1959, he wrote The Esquire Culinary Companion, Being an Exotic Cookery Book; or, Around Europe with Knife, Fork, and Spoon (although there isn’t a copy in Special Collections, the library has one you can request). This last book was only a single volume, but is anyone else sensing a theme among his titles?

Baker did write a single novel in 1946 (Blood of the Lamb), but it wasn’t nearly as well-received as his cocktail and culinary musings, which remain of interest to collectors and collections today (and hopefully, to some scholars, too!). You can acquire modern reprints these days, too. Due to its more “recent” publication dates, all Baker’s versions of The Gentleman’s Companion are still under copyright, so you won’t likely find them online in their entirety. But, you’re always welcome to come and view ours.

“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.

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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).

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Amelia Simmons’ “Election Cake,” c. 1796, in American Cookery
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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.

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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.