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).


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


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.


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:


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.


Each of the remaining 23 panels contains a cocktail recipe:

20160909_083542 20160909_083520

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:


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.”


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.)


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.


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!

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 7: Here’s How (to Make an End of Summer Cocktail)

The “end” of summer has arrived in Blacksburg. No, it’s still a month till the solstice, but the great event has begun: move-in! Students are coming back (though, if you ask anyone in Special Collections, we don’t know how time passed so fast!) and we’re getting back into a semester way of thinking. But, there’s time for one last hurrah and one last lesson before the real classes begin.🙂


Okay, okay, so the front cover of this small publication doesn’t tell you much. “Curb service,” by the modern definition, is  basically service from a restaurant provided to customers remaining in their parked vehicles. Or, in this cases, on their horses. The reason the cover may look a little odd in the scan is that is actually has a fuzzy fabric texture to it and it’s beginning to show a little wear. Let’s get to the fun part…

TX951H461900z_1 TX951H461900z_2









So, this is Here’s How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources. It dates from some part of the early 20th century (possible the 1930s). The back cover has a stamp from a jeweler in Allentown, PA, so it was likely something given away to promote the business (and a good drink). Some of the recipes between these two covers are drinks you’ve seen on the blog before from other historical manuals, in modern bars, or out in the ether, but sadly, we don’t get any clues as to what “authoritative sources” were actually used. Since this is our last summer cooking school lesson, I’ll be sure to point out the other page I’ve added above: the standards of measure for the recipes that follow. Not that we need follow these kinds of directions exactly–There’s a lot of fun in experimenting with proportions and substitutions…in most cases. As we’ll see below, it’s not recommended you mix vichy water with wine if you’re considering a variation on the “Kir.”

One of the interesting things about this little booklet has to do with the jewelers store information on the back (sort of). If you go looking for other copies of this little work, you will find a few, but with some differences. There are at least 3 other cataloged editions out there in academic or public libraries, but they have different places of publication and publishers–yet all of them appear to be companies or corporations of some sort. So, basically Here’s How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources was a booklet with a set text block that a company could label with its own name as a promotional item. There aren’t any other copies digitized, so we don’t know if the front cover varies by edition. At any rate, it’s just one part of what makes this rare item even more intriguing!

When I sat down this morning to start scanning pages, I made the decision to scan the entire item. After all, it is only about 40 pages, out of copyright, and a quick scan due to its small size. I’m in the process of adding it to our digital collections site, where the entire item will be available for reading (and mixing)! In the meantime, hopefully there’s still something to strike your fancy in the pages above, whatever your tastes! UPDATE: You can view the item online here:!

On a related note, your usual archivist/blogger Kira will be installing a new exhibit in the Special Collections display cases over the next few days. Hopefully it will be done next Monday at the latest. It’s going to feature items in our collection relating to the history of patent medicines and bitters, and will include a bit about their role in the development of the American cocktail. It should be up for the next 4-6 weeks, so if you’re in Blacksburg and want to check it out, you can view our cases on the first floor of the library whenever the building is open!

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 5: All About the Bubbles

This week’s lesson is a sweet (and bubbly) one! If you’re remotely into food history, you’re probably aware that perspectives change, often rapidly. What’s good for us one day is bad the next (and may be good again next week). When it comes to carbonated beverages (aka soda), well, there’s definitely some history there. This week, our post features two pamphlets from American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. Admittedly, they have certain bias, but they also offer a fascinating perspective on a time when soda didn’t have the reputation it might today. First up, there’s “Delightful Recipes with Carbonated Beverages.”

While “Delightful Recipes” isn’t dated, it’s probably from around the same time period as our second pamphlet, “Sparkling Party Recipes,” which comes from 1955.

There are a lot of interesting things to note about both of these pamphlets. We can start with the obvious–the recipes–which go beyond what you might expect. There aren’t just punches. You’ll also find salads (with and without gelatin, our constant friend), desserts, and even a sauce or two. There are also a handful of others recipes that don’t contain carbonated beverages–probably a good thing, since I’m not sure I want to know how one works ginger ale into a frosted sandwich…

There are plenty of party hints and party themes for the hostess looking to impress, too. Bringing bottled drinks on a picnic? Put a dish full of ice at the bottom of the basket to keep them cold. Want to coordinate your food and drink? Try dressing up your sandwiches and drink bottles (though that image of grinning food and beverages is a little creepy)! Want to confuse your taste buds? Freeze cubes of one flavor and pour another flavor over them!

And then there’s the health information, which was my point from the beginning. Both of these pamphlets spend time on the benefits and nutritional value of carbonated beverages. “Sparkling Party Recipes” includes a page about how carbonated drinks are used in hospitals. “Delightful Recipes” notes that:

Carbon dioxide has a peculiar dietetic value. Medical authorities point out that, when taken internally, it acts as a digestive stimulant, increases appetite and promotes absorption of food…The energy in bottled carbonated beverages comes from the pure sugars used.

This pamphlet also offers a list of “noted authorities who have put on record their statements as to the health value of carbonated beverages.” The statements were available by writing to the sponsor, the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. And, no doubt, solicited by them for just this purpose. In any case, this touting of the health benefits seems a bit different from arguments today about the high amounts of sugar and sugar alternatives in modern sodas.

Both of these pamphlets are part of the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002), which we’ve highlighted before. However, it’s an ever-expanding collection and there are always new items to share. With about a month before the students come back, our “Summer Cooking School” lessons will continue for a little longer. Then I’ll have to find some new historic items to share. Until then, remember carbonated beverages aren’t just for the glass. They can be the highlight of any party…or hot weekend (like the one we’re headed for here in Blacksburg).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Monday Morning Recipe (#4)

It’s National Cheese Fondue Day! (Seriously, there’s a food holiday for a lot of things that might surprise you…) As a result, it only seems fair to share a few fondue recipes. These come courtesy of the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library from 1971. There’s actually a whole section of cards on fondue, about 1/3 of which are cheese-related. Here are a couple of highlights:

Beer Me! (After all, it’s National Beer Day!)

Today is National Beer Day–And, for good reason! It’s the 83rd anniversary of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which was enacted on March 21 and signed by FDR on March 22. This 1933 piece of Congressional legislation provided for the sale of beer (or wine!) with an alcohol content of 3.2%. Last year, we talked about the act in a bit more detail, and I won’t go back into it today. The important part is that it signaled a change in the air (and the glasses) throughout the nation. So, this week, I found two pieces of beer-related ephemera. While we aren’t entirely sure when they are from, it’s definitely after 1933, so both of these pamphlets owe their legacy to Mssrs. Cullen and Harrison.

The first is “Carling: The Story of Brewing,” from the Carling Brewing Company in Ohio (not to be confused with the larger, multi-national Carling Brewery), which began in 1934. See, it all comes back to Prohibition–and, in this case, the inability to sell cars during the Depression. The building had been a car manufacturing plant that proved less-than-successful in the early 1930s and the plant was converted to a brewery instead, under the name Brewery Corp. of America. The name changed to the Carling Brewing Company in 1954, suggesting that our pamphlet hails from the mid-1950s or later. It’s a short pamphlet about the process of brewing and is essentially like a modern “FAQ” section on beer.

Our second pamphlet also likely comes from the 1950s, “Food for Entertaining: Better with Beer.” Published by the American Can Company, it includes meal plans that go well with beer and recipes for many of the dishes (some of which are beer-based). The corporate emphasis here is on the can and its design and in fact, the recipes and advice all generically reference using “beer” or “ale,” without a nod to a particular brand or style. As long as you’re buying something, I guess?

While your archivist/blogger is off at a conference next week, presenting and taking in the food/cocktails of a city I’ve never visited before, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a post I’m preparing this week about a newly-acquired piece of advertising ephemera (I must be on an ephemeral roll?) for a very different sort of beverage.

For today, though, don’t forget to raise a glass to the forward-thinking of two men and the beginning of the end of Prohibition. Cheers!

Women’s History Month, Part 17: Susannah Carter (fl.1765)

Since there are FIVE Thursdays in March this year, you’re getting a bonus gift: Another women’s history month profile!

We only have one book at the University Libraries by Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands, with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance, is Explained in Five Hundred Approved Receipts…to Which are Added, Various Bills of Fare, and a Proper Arrangement of Dinners, Two Courses, for Every Month of the Year.  Of course, there’s a good reason we only have one book–it’s the only one she wrote…sort of. On the surface, it’s not as clear as a good broth. The thing about The Frugal Housewife is that is appeared on both sides of the pond with variant titles, most of which have either the same subtitle, or at least part of the same subtitle. Yes, it’s bit confusing, but there’s quite a story to come. But first, the book!!

Oh, and apologies for the use of pictures that includes weights this week. Our 1802 text block is wonderful condition. It was rebound, probably some time in the last 75 years. This will help to continue to preserve the text, but it’s also a very tight binding and using a flat surface (aka a scanner) would be detrimental to the book. I had to get creative.

So, back to the story of this book’s many titles. For example, you might also see The Universal Housewife: or, Complete New Book of Cookery. Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands, with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance, is Explained in Five Hundred Approved New Receipts, … Together with the Best Methods of Potting, Collaring, Preserving, Drying, Candying, and Pickling. To which are Prefixed, Various Bills of Fare, for Dinners and Suppers in Every Month of the Year; and a Copious Index to the Whole (1770), which was the first version of the book. Or, there’s The Experienced Cook, and Housekeeper’s Guide. Giving the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands, with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance, is Explained in Five Hundred Approved New Receipts. With the Best Methods of Potting, Collaring, Preserving, Drying, Candying, Pickling, Making English Wines, and Distilling of Simples, with Twelve New Prints for the Arrangement of Dinners of Two Courses, for Every Month of the Year, etc. (1850).

Let’s take a step back for a moment. The first edition of The Universal Housewife probably appeared around 1765 in London and Dublin. The first appearance of the text in America was in Boston in 1772. This early colonial version included engraving by Paul Revere (how cool is that??). Variations on The Frugal Housewife title began as early as 1772. The only versions of The Experienced Cook and Housekeeper’s Guide variants appear to have been published in 1850. While we know nothing about the life of Susannah Carter, she was probably deceased by then. Assuming that she was at least 20 when the first edition came out in 1765, in 1850, she would have been 105 years old. These variants were not always the same book, as some elements were improved upon or edited for different versions. The year after our 1802, another edition was published in America that contains a whole new appendix of receipts specifically for the “American mode of cooking” (both processes and ingredients). Why all the changes? That’s a hard question to answer, but there were probably a lot of factors. Many hands go into writing, editing, printing, and publishing a volume like this, and many people might have been inclined to take liberties with a text. It may have been an attempt to appeal to different audiences, too.

There’s another reason we’re looking at Susannah Carter’s book this week, too. And it has a lot to do with some of the previous posts in this series. The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook was extremely influential in America. Remember Amelia Simmons and American Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plum to Plain Cake: Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life (1796)? Part of that title might look familiar now. As it turns out, entire passages of American Cookery came from The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook. (Copyright and publishing was a different business in the late 18th century!) The 1803 appendix to the American edition of The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook that I mentioned? That same appendix appears in an 1805 edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery. And it is probably not original to Carter. It appears to have been translated from a Swedish text called Rural Oeconomy. And, to further complicate things, as you may recall, in 1829, Lydia Maria Child authored a cookbook called The Frugal Housewife. Child’s book was published in different editions America and the UK, which, as you might expect, let to even more confusion. In 1832, under pressure, she changed the title to The American Frugal Housewife (though the old title didn’t disappear abroad until after 1834). This book has quite a history to it, right?

You can view the 1803 American edition of The Frugal Housewife at the Michigan State University Libraries’ Feeding America project, complete with the Swedish translated appendix. You can also see an 1823 London edition through the Internet Archive.

We’ll be back with another post next week. In the meantime, though, remember to make your gravies and sauces a priority. They are, after all,the “chief excellence of all Cookery!”

Women’s History Month, Part 16: Hannah Glasse (1708-1770)

In 1747, the first edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy was published in London. By 1800, it had been issued in more than 20 editions and it was a staple cookbook and household manual into the 1840s. Since the 1970s, it has also been republished with new introductions and in different formats. Our copy in Special Collections is the 6th edition, “with very large editions,” published in 1758. (You can see a scanned version of the 1747 edition online.) Hannah’s lofty title aside, she did include some unique recipes (turnip wine), techniques, and opinions (she seems to have been quite against French influence in English cooking).

The other edition we have of the book in Special Collections is a 1976 reprint of the 1796 edition. This reprint appears in 10 separate volumes, housed in a single box. So, the major chapters of the early print editions here become individual volumes.

Hannah had an interesting life filled with alternating successes and failures. Between some contradicting details, it’s a bit unclear if she was born to her father’s wife or to another woman with whom he may have had a relationship. Regardless, she was born in 1708. In 1724, she married an Irish soldier named John Glasse. They had 11 children, 5 of whom survived to adulthood. He died in 1747, the same year The Art of Cookery was published. It appears, despite the book’s success, Glasse spent several months in debtors’ prison during 1757, but she published her third book before the end of that year. Little is known about the final years of her life, but she died in London in 1770, leaving a legacy of recipes, common sense advice, and economical cooking behind.

Bibliography of Hannah Glasse publications at the University Libraries (items in Special Collections are in bold):

  • The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the Kind Yet Published…To Which are Added, by way of an Appendix, One Hundred and Fifty New and Useful Receipts, and a Copious Index to This and All the Octavo Editions. London : Printed for the Author …, 1758. 6th. ed., with very large additions.
  • The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. With a new introduction by Fanny Cradock. Hamden, Conn., Archon Books, 1971.
  • The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Richmond, Va. : Randolph Carter Williams, c1976.

Of course, The Art of Cookery wasn’t the only household book that Glasse wrote. She also authored titles like The Compleat Confectioner; or, The Whole Art of Confectionary Made Plain and Easy (1755) and The Servants Directory: or, House-Keepers Companion (1757). While Hannah Glasse wasn’t the most prolific of the many cookbook authors we talk about on the blog, she was extremely influential during in England and her threads run through the culinary culture that was developing in America during her time and into the decades that followed.

Our final Women’s History Month profile of 2016 is coming up next week (already??), where we’ll look at Susannah Carter and The Frugal Housewife. Until then, take a note from Hannah and remember: It doesn’t take 6 lbs of butter to fry 12 eggs. You can do it with 1/2 lb just as easily.

%d bloggers like this: