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…

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There’s Something about Dairy!

This week, I had it in mind to find something Halloween related. Then I realized, with a busy day today and tomorrow, hunting for Halloween recipes wasn’t on my menu. We haven’t talked about dairy in quite some time, though, and that seemed as good a topic as any. The even better news is that I happened on a “Halloween Pie” recipe in the book I selected. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not look for what you want with the History of Food and Drink Collection. Sometimes what you’re looking for finds you.

Last year, during Women’s History Month (March), I talked a little bit about Ruth Berolzheimer and the Culinary Arts Institute. One of the books mentioned in that post is our feature item this week. What I expected was a 30-50 page soft cover pamphlet, like many other publications in the series from the Culinary Arts Institute. What I got was 256 pages and 750 recipes related to dairy! (I think we’ll get our daily dose of Vitamin D in this post!)

The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Front cover.
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Front cover.
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Table of contents.
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Table of contents.
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce (above)--which also looks a bit Halloween-eqsue--and Potatoes in Savory Sauce (below).
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce (above) (which also looks a bit Halloween-eqsue, if you’re looking for a brain-like item on your menu!) and Potatoes in Savory Sauce (below).
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chicory Crown Salad (top), Frozen Cheese Salad (middle), and Cottage Cheese Ring (bottom). There are a LOT of frozen salads in this section of the book!
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chicory Crown Salad (top), Frozen Cheese Salad (middle), and Cottage Cheese Ring (bottom). There are a LOT of frozen salads in this section of the book!
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Bombes (above) and Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (below).
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Bombes (above) and Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (below).
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chocolate Malted Milk (above) and Banana Milk Shake (below). Also, note the recipe for Halloween Pie, which sadly, isn't pictured anywhere.
The Dairy Cook Book, 1941. Pictures include Chocolate Malted Milk (above) and Banana Milk Shake (below). Also, note the recipe for Halloween Pie, which sadly, isn’t pictured anywhere.

This is a cookbook that’s organized around meal components, not meals themselves. So, if you’re looking for breakfast ideas, for example, you aren’t out of luck. They are in the book, if you know where to go: breads and entrees, specifically. Go into those sections and you’ll find more doughnuts, muffins, and egg dishes than you can manage, but this is really a book that’s focused on the sweet stuff. One look at the table of contents above makes that fairly clear: puddings, cakes AND refrigerator cakes, frozen desserts, pies, cookies, frostings and fillings, and more than half of the sauces and beverages. We might even make a case for a fair number of the salads being desserts! On the flip side, if you’re looking for cheese-based appetizers, this is also the book for you. It’s chock full of cheese balls and snack foods stuff with or rolled in cheese. Seriously, it’s enough to whey anyone down! (Yes, I had to get at least one cheese pun in this week.)

On a last (unintended) note, this book contains a recipe for an old friend of ours that I found while flipping through the pages (serendipity at work!). It’s called “Individual Salad Sandwich Loaves,” but as you may know, a recipe title can be deceiving. There’s no picture, but  when you see a list of ingredients that includes minced meat and eggs, unsliced bread, butter, mayonnaise, cream, cream cheese, a few herbs/spices, and garnishes like watercress and olives, a mid-20th century recipe aficionado’s brain can make the leap before even reaching the end of directions which read “[c]ut loaf into 2-inch slices and cover each with cream cheese.” Call it what you will, but a frosted sandwich is a frosted sandwich, any day of the week. (The previous posts on this topic can be found here and here and here and here–yes there are FOUR! As for future posts, well, you’ll have to wait and see.)

The Dairy Cook Book (1941) isn’t out of copyright, so you won’t find it online, as is the case with most of the Culinary Arts Institute publications, which come from the same era. However, they do seem to overlap a bit, so if you have one (the one on snacks, or one of the dessert pamphlets, for example), you may have seen some of the recipes before. As always, you’re welcome to visit us in search of your next dairy recipe–or any other recipe, of course. You won’t find everything on our shelves, but as I like to point out to researchers, you might find something you didn’t know you were looking for, and it can take you in a whole new direction. I think this rings true for research, but for cooking, too. After all, recipes are just a guideline, right? 😉

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!

Veggie Goodness, Part I

Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.
-George Bernard Shaw

This week’s post is the first in an at least two-part series of vegetarian cookbooks. The two we’ll look at this week and next are associated with philosophical and a religious organization, respectively. First up, it’s the Vegetarian Cook Book, published by the Los Angeles Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1919.

The Theosophical Society was (and still is) oriented around shared values, not any particular religion. Their focus  is on truth and unity. So, unlike the title we’ll look at next week, the choice of vegetarianism isn’t driven by any one reason, but many (ethics, health, culture), and isn’t a requirement of the society.

That being said, there is a great deal of variety and creativity in this publication. Many of the meatless entrees feature a protein substitute called “Protose.” As the introduction tells us, this comes from the mind and work of John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. and the “Kellogg Food Co.” (In actually, by 1919, it would have been a product of the Battle Creek Food Company, the company started by John Kellogg, following the dissolution of a business partnership with his brother, Will.) One could speculate on the ingredients in a “vegetable meat,” but it may better left to the imagination. With its apparently diverse uses and the frequent addition of other heavily flavored ingredients (spices and sauces), we can wonder just as much about the taste…

It is, however, interesting to see how specifically this publication lays out its choice of brands and why. Brand loyalty is something we’re used to seeing in many of the company-based pamphlets we’ve featured on the blog, but not necessarily in a cookbook from a philosophical organization. It may stem from the limited number of vegetarian products available at the time. On the other hand, the back cover of the book contains an advertisement for Crisco.

Meat substitutes aside, many of the sections in the cookbook are not all that surprising. There are a great many soups, vegetable/pasta/rice-based entrees, breads, and desserts you can make without the meat, and the book shares a variety of these goodies. That doesn’t mean, however, there aren’t a few eye-catching recipes. There are an over-abundance of “loaf” recipes (nut, lentil, cheese, vegetable, bean, mock veal, etc.), as well items like “Mexican Cheese Sauce” (likely designated as “Mexican” solely due to the addition of chili powder), “Green Tomato Mincemeat” for pie, and a lone chick pea based dish.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the recipes, you can visit us to see this, and other publications! (Alternatively, the book is out of copyright and available online.) In the mean (meat? or meatless?) time, you may wish to consider a modern alternative to vegetable sausage with mock pork gravy. At least until next week, when we’ll talk about some early 1930s vegetarian dishes you can use to feed your traveling baseball team (yes,  I promise, there IS an explanation).

Kentucky Home Cooking

We featured several pages from the Kentucky Receipt Book a while back, in a post about the variety of lettuce sandwich recipes. However, this is a LOT more to this wonderful publication from 1903 and it’s high-time the cookbook had its moment in the spotlight…

One of the most noticeable things about this cookbook is the lack of a table of contents. The index at the back gives pages numbers for recipes by category (see image above), but if you’re looking for something specific, it takes a little digging. But, if you’re willing to dig, this book is full of surprises. A few examples:

  • the Kentucky Receipt Book is believed to contain one of the earliest printed recipes for banana pudding–however, if you look at the images above, you’ll notice the vital absence of vanilla wafers (although Nabisco was producing a cookie similar to the modern wafer by 1903).
  • there is an entire section devoted to oysters: fried, baked, skewered, curried, griddled, broiled, creamed, deviled, roasted, fricasseed, pickled, raw, in pastry, on toast, in an omelette, as a croquette, in a sauce…the book even contains directions for feeding oysters (keep them in your cellar!).
  • a whole host of unique animals and particular parts appear, including wild grouse, squirrel, terrapin, hog and calf head (for scrapple and mock turtle, respectively), backbone, and sweetbreads.
  • there is a section on beverages with directions for making fruit wines, cordials, beer, vinegar,  punches, and cocktails (gin fizzes, manhattans, and of course, the mint julep!). Several of the tea recipes also include rum.
  • directions on how to pickle everything from cucumbers and peppers to figs, melons, and walnuts
  • household hints and remedies like treating freckles with horseradish, cleaning zinc with kerosene, and curing headaches with lemon slices.

The Kentucky Receipt Book  is available here at Special Collections if you’re in the area and looking for a gelatin salad or pigeon dish for your next party. You can also view it through the Internet Archive, since it is out of copyright.

And remember, you only need to feed those oysters every other day, so take today off and bake a lemon pie, instead. This cookbook has seven variations…

Balanced Recipes, Cooking with Mettle/Metal

Sometimes, a cookbook just looks different, which seems more than enough reason to share. Balanced Recipes is a perfect example. The recipes themselves are on index card sized slips of paper, hole punched, and layered throughout the book by subject, allowing you to easily see and access them. Even more striking is the “binding.” It is hard to miss this shiny, metal-encased wonder on the shelf while browsing.

Balanced Recipes was published by the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company in 1933. In includes classics like brownies, the ever-popular chicken croquettes, candied sweet potatoes, and vegetable soup. And, like any good cookbook, it contains some more innovative dishes: baked bananas, creamed fried onions, and tomato pancakes. The introduction to each section offers advice for the home cook. Given the Great Depression-era timing of Balanced Recipes, the emphasis on not wasting is hardly surprising: “Use every edible bit of food that you purchase.” At the same time, the author shares the following:

[I]t it certainly poor menu psychology to plan an entire meal from left-overs. No matter how delicious each separate dish may be, avoid serving a meal consisting of hash, mixed fruit or vegetable salad and a dessert which has appeared in exactly the same form at a previous meal.

In other words, use your left-overs in a new way, don’t just reheat them. After all, a meal should “provide contrasts in texture, color and flavor.”

Balanced Recipes was the product of Mary Ellis Ames, who wrote at least three other publications for the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company in the 1930s and 1940s: Pillsbury’s Cookery Club (1934), Your Guide to Better Baking (1941), and The Three “R”s of Wartime Baking: Rations, ‘Richment and Recipes (1943).

Until next week, always remember to serve something crunchy with your soups: “celery, radishes, salted nuts…or small pieces of crisp toast or crackers spread with flavored butter or fish paste.” The choice is yours. 🙂