The Sweet Truth About Sweets: Candy-Making at Home

With Halloween around the corner (by which I mean on the other side of the weekend), it seemed like a good time to revisit a sweet topic on the blog:

CANDY!!!

In the days before brightly colored bags of candy in store aisles, candy-making was a home activity. It took a set of tools, a set of skills, and, based on my own limited experience, a great deal of patience. And, since I’m certainly no expert, we’re revisiting an authority on many things in the late 19th/early 20th century, Sarah Tyson Rorer (see previous posts about her here and here).

In 1889, Rorer’s Home Candy Making was published. It wasn’t the first manual of its kind, but it is one of the earliest volumes we have in Special Collections specifically dedicated to candy-making.
Candy in the pre-mass-produced era usually fell into some standard categories which had a lot of variation within them. You’ll commonly see creams, glacés, nougats, caramels, drops (essentially hard candies), and taffy.

Following the table of contents, Rorer’s book has a few general rules for candy-making, which, if you delve into candy-making today, still hold true. Unlike some aspects of cooking and techniques, home candy-making today is pretty much the way is was 100+ years ago and not all that different from candy-making in previous, except maybe for the addition of the candy thermometer later on.
The book includes directions for making colorings at home using ingredients, as Rorer specifically advises against what she calls “colorings of commerce” (in other words, commercially produced ones). Her colors rely on an array of ingredients from just sugar and water to saffron, spinach, and cochineal. On a side note, at some point, someone stored a newspaper clipping in this volume, causing one of the pages to discolor–we see that a lot in Special Collections!
A few sample recipes from the section on cream candies and confections, including those flavored with coffee or tea, and those filled with fruit.
Some recipes from the section on taffy, which also includes candies using molasses and, interestingly, a recipe for cough drops.
In addition to more taffy and some fruit caramels, these pages also include a recipe for “chocolate chips.” These are a far cry from the chocolate chips we so often use for cookies today. Rather, they are a brittle hard candy coated in chocolate or chocolate fondant.
Toward the end of the book, there are about 10 blank pages labeled “Additional Recipes.” The idea, of course, is that home candy-makers would record their own recipes. As Rorer points out in the section on creamed confections: “This class is without limit if one has any inventiveness; one variety seems to suggest another.” But that inventiveness can be applied more broadly to all the categories in the book–once one has practiced and mastered the techniques, of course. Sadly, the previous owner(s) of our copy did not include an original recipes.

Also, because it’s too fun not to share, here’s a bonus recipe from The Tiny Book on Candies (1907):

The Tiny Book of Candies (1907) measures just over 2 inches (5cm) in height (paperclip for scale). It’s surprisingly readable and is part of a series of five “tiny” books, of which Special Collections has almost all.
Among its pages is a recipe for “spun sugar,” which are the thin strands of sugar that can be shaped while still warm. The process isn’t difficult, but it involves the use of some surprising tools: broomsticks, chairs, and wire “dippers.”

Special Collections has close to 50 books in the culinary collection that are devoted to the topic of candy and confections. Beyond that, we have hundreds of recipe books and other materials that touch on the subject to vary degrees. So, whatever you sweet-tooth, we probably have something to satisfy it for this Halloween and every other time of year.

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Community Cooking in (and Beyond) the Bluegrass State

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass: A New and Practical Cook Book Containing Nearly a Thousand Recipes was originally published in 1875. The copy is one of the 10th “new and enlarged” edition, first issued in 1879, but our actual copy is from 1881. Compiled and edited by the Ladies of the Presbyterian Church in Paris, Kentucky, these 206 pages are packed with recipes from women (and a few men) from mostly Kentucky, but also Virginia, Arkansas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Our edition includes the original 1875 preface, which we can’t NOT quote a bit of for you:

The “Blue Grass” region of Kentucky, as is well know, is considered the garden spot of the State. It is celebrated for the fertility of its soil, the beauty of its pastures, its flocks and blooded stock, and last, but not least, for the hospitality of its people and their table luxuries.

It is useless to enlarge upon the last feature, especially to those who have attended Bourbon Fairs [that’s the county, not the whiskey], and made visits in this and the adjoining counties. We only refer to it, by way of introducing our book to the appreciation of the public.

The 1879 also had a preface of its own, which states, in part:

…Nine thousand copies have been sold, and its praises have been sung by many of the best housekeepers of the land.

In sending forth this new edition, we have corrected some errors, supplied defects, and added many valuable recipes, which will be found at the close of each section and in the Miscellaneous department.

The entire profits of this work have been, and will continue to be, devoted to religious charity.

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass was, at its core, a community cookbook, designed to raise funds for a cause. But the fact that it went on into at least 10 editions and over 9,000 copies sold says a lot for this little volume. (There was at least one more edition in 1905 AND it has been reprinted  at least once in the last 10 years.) It clearly appealed to a wide audience (not just Kentuckians!) in its originality. (The preface also states that “Many of our recipes are entirely original with our own famed cooks; others have been gathered from the most reliable sources; not one, so far as we know, has been copied from books.”) So, what are these amazing recipes?

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass has elements we see in many other cookbooks of the time: sections for home remedies, home cleaning/upkeep, and cooking for invalids, in addition to all the other recipes. Of course, it also reflects a different era of cooking. The majority of the recipes have a list of ingredients in non-standard amounts (standardized measurements, courtesy of Fannie Farmer, were still several years in the future in 1881) and, in some cases, additional directions, but there was still an assumption that a reader would know what to do with those ingredients. Or, they would at least understand the basics of producing a pudding, a white sauce, or a pastry dough as a component. Compared to many modern cookbooks, there was a different set of expectations on home cooks in the late 19th century! Some of the basics may be covered in the book (Housekeeping in the Blue Grass has recipes for pie crust that you could use throughout, for example), but there’s no guarantee.

Community cookbooks were aptly named, especially in their early days–they weren’t just something produced by a community group (often of women). They were produced by a community of cooks, for a community of new and experienced cooks, and to help build community between those who had the knowledge and those who might have needed some culinary and domestic education. That’s a whole other topic we don’t have space for here today, but it is food for thought (at least it has been for me lately).

Housekeeping in the Blue Grass is available online, as it was scanned by Special Collections staff some years ago. So, if our amuse-bouche (I love that word!) of a blog post isn’t enough for you, you can delve further into the book and find recipes for deviled turkey, Sally Lunn, or fish pie…

The Science and Celebration of Cheese

So, this past Wednesday was National Grilled Cheese Day. As a cheese fanatic myself, I was happy to celebrate. But the thing about cheese, even in the specific form of melting it between two pieces of bread, is that cannot be contained by a single day. In fact, April is National Grilled Cheese Month, too! Which means it would hardly be appropriate to let that slide without some celebration. So, this week, I’m pairing two items (like a good cheese and cracker, a good cheese and wine, or a good cheese and another good cheese) from the same time that give us some insight into this curdled, crumbly, creamy, sliced, shredded, or sometimes smelly staple.

First up, there’s Cheese and Ways to Serve It (1931):

We’ve actually featured other pages from this little booklet on the blog before–it was part of my first ever post on frosted sandwiches, that oddity that we can’t quite escape, it seems. But this post includes a few more versatile options for the wide range of Kraft-Phenix Cheese Corporation of Chicago. Nowadays, we know it as Kraft, Inc. or the Kraft Foods Group, but the core of the company has a long history of names. It started out as Kraft Cheese Company, but would subsequently be known as Kraft-Phenix Cheese Company, Kraft-Phenix Cheese Corporation, National Dairy Products Corporation, Kraft Cheese Company, the Kraft Foods Company, National Dairy Products Corporation/Kraft Foods Division, Kraftco Corporation/Kraft Foods Division, Kraft, inc., and finally Kraft Foods Group. (Thankfully, I put that history of name changes together a couple of years ago!)

I love this little pamphlet, which is all on small cards cooks could leave intact or tear out and add to a recipe box. It displays the versatility of cheese from appetizers to desserts to midnight snacks. As you can see, even in the 1930s, the company was producing a multitude of flavors and styles, making it a great food for kitchen exploration. 1931 was right about the time Velveeta came out and the booklet features a page long description that reads, in part: “This is Velveeta–Kraft-Phenix’ wonderful new cheese food. Velveeta is digestible as milk itself–and as wholesome. To fine Cheddar cheese are added valuable milk products–milk-sugar, calcium and phosphorus. Velveeta is far richer in these elements than is butter, cheese, or milk itself.” Also, while there were previous cheeses made in the United States that were called “American,” it was Kraft who was mainly responsible for popularizing the processed American Cheese we think of today in the 1910s, though it was being developed in the late 19th century.

Around the same time, Chr[istian] Hansen’s Laboratory, in operation since 1874, was working on its own cheese-related chemistry. (The company was also responsible for junket/rennet tablets, as well as food colorings and other cultures/starters.)

The Story of Cheese was published by the company in 1933. It includes several short essays on cheese productions at home and in the factory, using (of course!) their products: “The Manufacture of American Cheese on the Farm,” “Another Method for Making Cheese on the Farm and in the Home,” and “Cheesemaking on a Factory Basis.” Processed or factory made cheese wasn’t new in the 1930s, but at the same time, cheesemaking was something that was just as commonly done at home.  As an archivist, one of the things I love about this pamphlet is its list of books and bulletins (several of which are already in our collection) on cheese and cheesemaking, which seem to me to suggest a sort of respect for the process. Chr. Hansen’s Laboratory wasn’t trying to take cheesemaking away from farms and homes. Rather, it was getting a jump on the “better living through chemistry” motto that was still 30+ years in the future by developing things to continue to make this a process that could still be done in the home.

Like many things, local cheesemaking is cyclical. (Cheese itself, I believe is NEVER like to go out of fashion.) Making cheese became more and more (though never exclusively) mass-produced as the 20th century progressed, but we are once again seeing the pendulum swing. Farmers’ markets everywhere sell small batches of homemade cheeses and many people are taking up the challenge again in their own kitchens for a taste of that creamy, gooey, buttery-toasted grilled cheese experience at home. I celebrated on Wednesday with sharp cheddar and sauteed mushrooms on slices of Tuscan-style boule, but after writing this post, I’m thinking tonight might just call for another commemoration of one of my favorite foods. I believe I hear some provolone and Dijon mustard calling my name…

Women’s History Month, Part 21: Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (1884-1921)

Earlier this month, I had one book from our profiled woman this week on display. It was part of Women’s History Month exhibit and was placed, strategically, with the works of three other women: Fannie Merritt Farmer, Maria Parloa, and Janet McKenzie Hill. Like those three, Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln (aka Mrs. D. A. Lincoln) was connected to the Boston Cooking School, which is where we’ll start this week.

Founded by the Women’s Education Association of Boston in 1879, the Boston Cooking School (which I will happily abbreviate as BCS to save my fingers a bit of typing) was developed to “offer instruction in cooking to those who wished to earn their livelihood as cooks, or who would make practical use of such information in their families.” Inspired by similar schools overseas, in America, the Boston Cooking School, and others like it, signified a shift in domestic culture. Previously, both women cooking for their families and those making a profession from cooking, learned their skills at home and/or from their own community of women. The BCS was among the first formal education options for women of any age to improve their skills. During its tenure, a variety of culinary educators, authors, and lecturers worked there. In 1902, the BCS was incorporated in Boston’s Simmons College.

As to Mary…She was born in Massachusetts in 1844. Shortly after she graduated from the Wheaton Female Seminary, she married David A. Lincoln in 1865. About a decade into their marriage, with David’s health failing, Mary began cooking in the homes of others. In 1879, she was invited to teach at the new BCS, but she declined, as she had no teaching experience. After taking a few courses at the school, however, that soon changed. She started teaching at the BCS in 1879 and was the first principal, a position she held until 1885, during which time she began programs like free courses for immigrant girls in Boston’s North End to special instruction in “sick-room cookery” for nurses from area hospitals. During this time, she wrote the Boston School Kitchen Text-Book: Lessons in Cooking for the Use of Classes in Public and Industrial Schools, which would go through numerous editions. It represents a small portion of Lincoln’s work in establishing a textbook for cooking school education. Over the course of her career, which continued another 36 years after she left the BCS, she would author cookbooks and columns, continue to help establish the field of domestic science, provide endorsements, and teach at public and industrial schools. She died in 1921.

Mrs. Lincoln was, like many of the other women we’ve profiled, a household name. Her recipes were taken from her own sources and incorporated into generations of other published cookbooks, pamphlets, and community cookbooks, and shared among communities of women. By tying her name to products, like Janet McKenzie Hill, Marion Harris Neil, and others, she gained a certain level notoriety and fame in the culinary world. She authored or co-authored more than 30 individual titles, 10 of which we have in Special Collections (plus other editions of three of those). We have included those items in bold, as well as a sampling of some of her other works. On an interesting side note, from her first publication in 1884 until the time of David’s death in 1894, she published as Mrs. D. A. Lincoln. After his death, she published as Mary J. Lincoln.

  • The “Quick Meal” Cook Book, 1892 (Ringen Stove Company)
  • Cornstarch Cookery: A Collection of Recipes for Dainty Dishes in which Kingsford Oswego Corn Starch is a Principal Ingredient, 1893
  • Boston School Kitchen Text-Book: Lessons in Cooking for the Use of Classes in Public and Industrial Schools, c.1887. Also 1909 edition. 1901 edition available online through Special Collections.
  • Twenty Lessons in Cookery: Compiled from the Boston School Kitchen Text-Book, 1888
  • Frosty Fancies, c.1898. Available online through Special Collections.
  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking, 1898. Also 1901 edition. 
  • A Cookbook for a Month at a Time, 1899
  • Frozen Dainties: Fifty Choice Receipts for Ice-Creams, Frozen Puddings, Frozen Fruits, Frozen Beverages, Sherbets, and Water Ices, 1899. Available online through Special Collections.
  • Dainty Recipes for the Use of Boston Crystal Gelatine, late 1800s
  • The Peerless Cook-Book: Valuable Receipts for Cooking, Compact and Practical, 1901
  • The Home Science Cook Book, with Anna Barrows, 1902. Available online through Special Collections
  • What to Have for Luncheon, 1904
  • Carving and Serving, 1910
  • Home Helps, a Pure Food Cook Book: A Useful Collection of Up-to-Date, Practical Recipes by Five of the Leading Culinary Experts in the United States: Mrs. Mary J. Lincoln, Lida Ames Willis, Mrs. Sarah Tyson Rorer, Mrs. Helen Armstrong [and] Marion Harland, c.1910
  • Sixteen Dainty Desserts, with Mrs. C. M. Dearborn and Miss Anna Barrows, before 1930?

In addition to our digitized editions of her works, the Internet Archive has a large selection, many in various editions, available online. Mary was an early adopter of standardized measurements, as well as a proponent of teaching food chemistry and domestic science, and one of the first to push for a structure and organizational model for cookbooks that would be easy to use and easy to follow. If you spend a little time with early 20th century culinary history, you’re bound to come across her original works and her influences.

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.

Women’s History Month, Part 18: Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall (1805-1878)

In the middle of last year, we acquired a book called The Housekeeper’s Book, published in 1837. [Side note: the full title is The Housekeeper’s book : comprising advice on the conduct of household affairs in general ; and particular directions for the preservation of furniture, bedding, etc. ; and for the laying in and preserving of provisions, with a complete collection of receipts for economical domestic cookery, the whole carefully prepared for the use of American housekeepers and the title in our catalog is The Housekeeper’s book:…with a complete collection of receipts for economical domestic cookery, the whole carefully prepared for the use of American housekeepers. So, actually finding this volume and information about it can be a bit tricky, depending on how it’s referenced.] At the time, I sent it on to cataloging, without too much thought. In October of 2016, it popped up on my radar in conjunction with an instruction session I was putting together on antebellum women & cookery. This time, the “By a lady” on the title page caught my attention and, of course, required investigation. When I found out, I wanted to post about it right away, but decided it would be better saved for Women’s History Month, because this was one interesting lady (more on her in a moment–I have to build some suspense)!

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The Housekeeper’s Guide was, as far as I can tell, was only published in two editions: one in 1837 and another in 1838. These days, about 24 libraries or so have print copies on their shelves (but it has also been digitized here). It is very much what it sounds like from its extensive subtitle–a household management guide and cookbook. From the preface:

The plan of the present work is so fully set forth in the title page that little is left to be said by the author in any way of preface. It may, however, be proper to remark, that the work has been founded on the results of actual experience, and is intended for every day use; that the receipts, directions, and general advice have all been prepared with strict view to utility, and true economy; and that nothing has been omitted which the author deemed subservient to the general design–the promotion of domestic happiness by attention to the constantly recurring and inevitable duties of good housekeeping.

Intended for middle- and upper-class ladies, and, in some ways, probably for those in their employ, the book has a natural progression: household duties, managing servants, cooking techniques, LOTS of recipes (including homemade cordials and cooking for invalids), flowers, preservation of furnishings, washing, and the ever-common miscellany. A bit out of place, though, it ends with directions for “jointing, trussing, and carving” (with intriguing instructions like “Cod’s Head” and “Half a Calf’s Head.” I guess that gets to the economy aspect of cooking–use everything!

So, just who was the lady behind this semi-obscure household guide that didn’t see the success or continued reprinting of some other similar books of the time? Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall. With a name that long, I felt there had to be story here and I wasn’t wrong. First off, The Housekeeper’s Book was never published under her actual name and it was her only domestic-related book…sort of.

She published her other works as Frances H. Green, since she didn’t marry Wiliam C. McDougall until 1860 and most of her writing was done prior to that. But we’re jumping ahead! Frances Harriet Whipple was born in Rhode Island in 1805. By the time she was in her 20s, she was publishing poetry and began her first brief editorial efforts (the Original), which include her own short writings. By 1830, her writing shifted to reformation efforts, as over her life, McDougall would became an activist for/supporter of temperance, labor, abolition, and spiritualism. Her works would be published in newspapers, serials, books, and other projects edited mostly by others, but also by herself.

In 1842, she married her first husband, an artist named Charles Green. After their divorce in 1847, she developed an interest in spiritualism and over the next decade or so, she would write for spiritualism publications and individual tracts. She was also an avid botanist and botany teacher, publishing an illustrated text, The Primary Class-Book of Botany in 1856, which was later expanded and republished with a co-author years later. Around 1860, she moved to California where she met and married William C. McDougall, a California assemblyman-turned-miner and the brother of the state’s second governor, John McDougall. The two remained married until her death in 1878.

Interestingly, there is a published biography of McDougall (O’Dowd, Sarah C. A Rhode Island Original: Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall. University Press of New England. 2004.) and she does have a Wikipedia page, but among the most helpful of resources was a brief biography of her on the web, created by a faculty member at the Community College of Rhode Island (which is where I got most of my information above!)

Although–or perhaps because–her works are so varied, it’s hard to come up with a single bibliography.  Her major works include:

  • The Housekeeper’s Book (1838)
  • Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge (1838)
  • Elleanor’s Second Book (1842), both books were the social conditions of African-Americans in the 19th century
  • Might and Right (1844), in defense of the suffrage movement and political upheavals in Rhode Island
  • The Primary Class-Book of Botany (1856)
  • Shahmah in Pursuit of Freedom: or, The Branded Hand (1858), was an attack on slavery through the narrative of a foreign prince from African visiting the United States
  • Beyond the Veil (1878), published posthumously

Her list of individually published poems, articles, tracts, and other pieces is, of course, much longer, as is her list of editorial roles over the years. While she may not have been particularly influential in the culinary world, it’s clear her influence was felt in other places. And her fascinating life story was one I simply had to share!

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!