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.

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Resolving to Dissolve and Reform?: Festive Salads & Molds; Plus, Looking Ahead to 2016 on “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!”

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into 2016! It’s the time of year when everyone starts putting their resolutions into practice. Me, I’m not much of a “resolution-at-New-Year’s” kind of woman. I just have an on-going resolution to keep at least some part of the surface of my desk visible under the notes, paperwork, and new acquisitions at all times. In early January, before our student employees come back and before classes start up again, my goal is usually to create MORE of the that visible space for a couple of weeks so everyone else can cover it up by February. This week had been relatively successful until yesterday when a bunch of new items arrived (with paperwork), I talked to two potential donors (scribbling notes as I went), and I found a spreadsheet inventory of some architectural drawings from a collection I’m trying to do some processing work on (that I had to print out and start marking up). In other words, I’m back to my usual organized chaos (yes, I firmly believe it CAN exist). And I’m okay with that.

More important for our context, my goal is to continue to blog and tweet professionally (and personally) when it comes to our favorite shared topics: food, cocktails, agriculture, nutrition, etc., and all the history that goes along with those subjects, as well as in some other relevant areas for Special Collections. So, while I start thinking ahead (and backward), here are some Festive Salads & Molds for your post-holiday/getting back to normal entertaining. 🙂

Festive Salads & Molds, 1966
Festive Salads & Molds, 1966

In case the title doesn’t give it all away, Festive Salads & Molds is a focused recipe book. It was compiled by Evelyn Loeb  and decorated (not “illustrated”) by Maggie Jarvis. More than that, the publication capitalizes on the diet AND entertaining trends of the time. The preface includes a whole paragraph about salads as the “boon to the diet-conscious!” While there is some variety of recipes, the book is only 61 pages long. P.S. It was published in 1966, so I hope you’re ready for some gelatin…


With it only being Week One of 2016, we’ve got at least 51 more blog posts in this year’s future! Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have typed that–it’s an intimidating number now that I see it. On the other hand, with 297 posts behind us, 51 is only 17% of that-so, it should be easy, right? Anyway, I have a series of posts planned for Women’s History Month this March and I may try to come up with a few more themed series as we go. I also have a running list of topics or items for posts. However, this is also a great opportunity for YOU to tell US what you’d like to learn more about or how we can help inspire you. “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” has been running for more than 4 years and we have a small (but growing) group of followers, between WordPress, Twitter, email, and RSS feeds.

So, do you know about a particular item or collection we have but want to know more? Are you curious about a food-related topic and wondering if we have any relevant books or manuscripts? Love a particular recipe, cookbook author, educator, culinary figure, food trend, or even agricultural process? Do you have a favorite food or drink you’d just like to see us share something about? Let us know (today or whenever the mood strikes you)! You can comment on this post, tweet at @VT_SCUA, or use any of the options on the Contacting Special Collection page of the blog–We’ll be here!

Frosted Sandwich, Part 4: Return of the Son of Frosted Sandwich

I know. It’s the post you’ve been waiting months for…or dreading for just as long, wondering when I might find MORE frosted sandwich recipes to share. The long wait is over! (By the way, if you haven’t seen the previous posts in this series, you may want to check out #1, #2, and #3.)

Our first two recipes come from Sandwiches for Every Occasion, a booklet sponsored by Town Talk Bread. One looks like our traditional frosted loaf sandwich and includes recommendations for two ham loaf and egg-olive fillings. In the past, we’ve seen frosted sandwiches with one, two, or three layers and one of two “frostings”: cream cheese or mayonnaise. Here, we have a new frosting: cottage cheese. (I started considering whether cottage cheese would have the strength to stay on sides, or if it would sort of start to slide off. Then I stopped myself–some things are best left un-pondered.)

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Our second example from this booklet is a holiday-themed frosted sandwich! And a timely one, at that. I mean, what 4th of July celebration would be complete without cucumbers, tomatoes, and mayo rounds with a cream cheese shell, right? (It’s all very…round.) The best part is, these can be adapted to other parties and holidays. Just swap the flag on a toothpick for a piped heart-shape colored red or a baby shower decoration…

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After considering alternative decorations, I started thinking about color. If you really wanted to get into a theme, you could color your “frosting.” It turns out, despite the fact that we haven’t seen it in previous posts, I wasn’t the first to think of this idea.

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This party loaf from the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library is frosted with yellow-tinted cream cheese (thinned with light cream). It has three layers that caused a few of my coworkers to give it strange looks. I toyed with launching a new guessing game called, “Name That Filling!,” but thought better of it. If you’d like to guess, you’re welcome to do so. I’ll list the fillings at the bottom of the post. 🙂

Next up isn’t a frosted sandwich exactly. It’s a bonus frosted item–an appetizer I found while looking for the party loaf above. That’s deviled ham, rolled into logs, and frosted with cream cheese. It seems close enough. Put it between to crackers and voila!

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Our next frosted item comes from another pamphlet, “Sandwich Secrets,” sponsored by Dreikorn’s Orange Wrap Bread. I scanned the whole page, since I thought any of the “sandwich pastes” at the top could also be potential fillings. We’re back to black-and-white images, which leaves much to the imagination, for better or worse. I did notice this version seems to have a far larger bread-to-filling ratio. And, it seems to have less frosting than many other variations. Perhaps that for the best?

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The last image in this week’s fascinating/terrifying post isn’t a sandwich, either. I’ve bombarded you with enough of those for the moment. It’s more…something to think about. The frosted sandwich isn’t something you’ll see on tables these days (no doubt we can guess why). But it seems there should have been more recipes during the height of its popularity. Besides the use of food coloring, “frostings” could have been adulterated in all kinds of way, including the addition of other flavors. So, this week, I’m leaving you with a selection of flavored mayonnaise recipes from Best Foods, Inc. (and the picture of a salmon salad mold that you could mistake for a frosted sandwich, unfortunately–I did at first).

BestFoodsPamphlet_a

Just imagine the possibilities for your next party! Got olives in a filling? Use an olive mayo. Try a chili sauce mayo on that ham and chicken salad filled sandwich. Using (gulp) fish/seafood fillings? Maybe it needs sour cream mayo. There’s even the potential for a sweet(er) frosted sandwich, coated in fruit juice mayonnaise!

All my making fun of frosted sandwiches aside, I think they make a great example of a past culinary trend that materials in our collections can help you learn more about. There are foods that come and go, some once and some in waves. Other trends survive decades or even centuries. Researching culinary history is fascinating, fun, and a great way to come up with some strange facts to share with friends and colleagues. Whether you’re curious, scholarly, or both, you’re always welcome to visit us in search of recipes.



*Fillings (from top to bottom) in the Betty Crocker Party Loaf: “Golden Cheese Spread” (shredded cheddar and cream cheese with seasonings); chicken and olive; salmon salad

Salads: “A Necessary Luxury?”

As is often the case when things are busy (like at the end of the semester), and your loyal archivist/blogger Kira is, well, less likely to plan her blog posts in advance, the best option is wandering the shelves. With more than 4,400 books and nearly 100 manuscript collections, there’s a lot I don’t know about and always something new to discover. I’m getting into the habit of training myself not to look only at eye level, which led me to today’s feature item: How to Make Salads from 1894.

I was intrigued by the title on the small envelope that houses this 121-year-old publication. I mean, in general, how difficult can be it? Put ingredients in bowl. Mix. Serve. Then again, I have gotten used to finding directions for the seemingly obvious (Lettuce sandwiches or hot cocoa, for example). Then, I took it out of the envelope and saw this:

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“A Necessary Luxury” Salads? “By all means, let’s see where this goes,” said the little voice in my head. It went here:

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Quotes by Sidney Smith and Shakespeare, a collection of elves, and what can only be described as a chicken, a lobster, and a bottle of salad dressing dancing in a circle? How…interesting.

All kidding aside, this is a rather neat little pamphlet. It’s easy to joke, but these 16 pages are full of practical recipes. There isn’t much variation of the secondary ingredients (celery, salt, pepper, vinegar, and the occasional other vegetable or garnish) and of course all the recipes include Royal Salad Dressing (the booklet’s sponsor). And there is a surprising range of primary ingredients from classics like chicken, lobster, cabbage, egg, or potato to the more exotic/unexpected ones like oyster, frog legs, sweet potato, or cauliflower. So, no matter what your salad needs, there’s something here for you.

According to WorldCat, Virginia Tech is one of only four academic or public libraries with copies of this, and it doesn’t appear to be digitized, which suggests it is relatively rare. I’m hoping to get the entire item scanned and online in the not-too-distant future.

Ring Out 2014–Culinary Arts Institute Style!

2015 is around the corner, which means it’s time for me to dig out the holiday cookbooks. I thought about a post full of candy, but it’s important to remember this time of year isn’t ALL about sweets. That being said, our feature item this week still has its fair share of holiday dessert classics. Let’s take a look at The Holiday Cookbook from the Culinary Arts Institute. It was issued and re-issued repeatedly, but ours is from 1957.


This title actually covers nine different holidays, but I don’t want to spoil some of others just yet. This title could reappear in 2015. 🙂 We’re focused on Christmas, full of classics like roast goose and fruitcake, and New Year’s, with its savory canapes, rich main dishes, and holiday-ingredient-inspired pies. There’s a mix here of the expected for Christmas: a “light” fruitcake that looks anything but light (plus, you can make them in a range of sizes!); roast goose; candied yams; and candies and hard sauces. But you’ll also find 5 dishes with persimmons in the 6 pages of Christmas recipes and a creamy, yet chunky looking “Creamed Oysters with Turkey.”

The New Year’s recipes include a lot of seafood canapes (“Crab Nippies,” herring in sour cream, and shrimp cocktail), as well as heavy meat dishes like Yorkshire Pudding and rib roast. There’s stuffed or curried birds (“Curried Chicken with Broiled Bananas?”), an Eggnogg Pie, and three different eggnogg recipes, for those of you who can never get enough of the ‘nog. Apparently, one should ring in the new year with a rich diet!

No matter what holiday you’re celebrating this time of year, who you’re with, and on what you’re dining, Special Collections wishes you the best! We’re looking forward to our holidays full of goodies (we’ve all been busy making our usual–and not so usual–treats for each other around here) and we hope you are, too!

Happy Holidays and we’ll meet you back here in 2015!

Mrs. Scott’s Seasonal Summer Cooking

Since summer is in full swing, this week we’re again featuring, well, summer recipes. This time, from Mrs. Scott’s North American Seasonal Cook Book: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Guide to Economy and Ease in Good Food, 1921. (Perhaps we’ll revisit other portions of the cookbook later in the year, too!)

Front cover
Front cover

From the introduction:

This is the first cook book ever planned to help the housewife take advantage of Nature’s changing supply of foodstuffs from season to season, tho such timeliness is the chief determining factor in the economy, palatability and healthfulness of many articles of diet…The average woman who never thought of the matter in this light will be astonished at the usefulness of this Seasonal Cook Book. It will enable her to make timely use of what is in market, and by so doing will help not only to reduce the cost of living, but at the same time increase the pleasure of the table.

The summer recipes include recipes for hot and cold soups; fish and clams; beef, lamb and combination dishes; egg dishes; cheese receipts; vegetables; salads and dressings; fruit desserts; puddings; frozen dishes; seasonable cakes; jams; home flavors; breads; beverages; jellies; canning; and sandwiches. Personally, I got stuck in the sandwich section at the end, surprised at how many different things one can combine with cream cheese to make a filling, especially when it comes to olives…

Mrs. Scott’s point, though, is that you can do a great deal with what is on hand during a given season. Good advice for any age where cooks may be seeking economy, simplicity, and efficiency. And there are at least some options for those hot days when turning on an oven might be the last thing on your mind!

Frozen Desserts and Virginia Dishes–Just in Time for July 4th!

While hunting for either a) July 4th themed recipes or b) summery desserts for the holiday, I stumbled upon Frozen Desserts: A Little Book Containing Recipes for Ice Cream. Water Ices, Frozen Desserts Together with Sundry “Famous Old Virginia Dishes,” by Mrs. Clement Carrington McPhail. (Quite a long title for 16 pages!) It probably dates to the early part of the 20th century. What’s more intriguing, though, is the combination…

Front cover
Front cover

It’s hard not to look at this more like two 8 page publications by one author that were sort of stuck together. There isn’t a real connection between, say, Frozen Banana Bisque and Old Virginia Hoecake, but what cook doesn’t have a diverse knowledge of foods. I suppose Mrs. McPhail was just sharing what she knew.

So, whether your three day weekend needs some tutti frutti, pineapple ice, apple dumplings, or wild duck, take a little inspiration from Virginia past. (Though you may want to skip the frozen mayonnaise, whether you’re picnicking or not!)

Happy July 4th!