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.

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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!

Women’s History Month 2017

This year for Women’s History Month, Special Collections has some special things going on! We will have a display on the second floor of Newman Library near the main entrance. “Remarkable Women Throughout History: Snapshots from Special Collections” is a month-long display (March 1-31) with posters, items in exhibit cases, and a book display from the circulating collection. In addition, we will also have more materials from our collections on display in the exhibit cases in our reading room on the first floor near the cafe. We invite you to visit our exhibits during the month of March and learn about our collections and some of the remarkable women represented in them.  (We’re grateful to our amazing colleagues throughout the library who helped us make this happen, as well as the students who delved into our stacks and boxes to find the stories of these women to share.)

womensmonth_poster_2017feb

For the fifth year running, our “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! You can view the posts to date here: https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/category/feature-items/womens-history-month/. New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. We don’t have all the posts planned out just yet, but we know will be featuring the work of Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall (cookbook author, artist, and activist), Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (author and educator), and Ellen Swallow Richards  (one of the first women to teach at MIT).

And, although we didn’t build a new digital display this year, we do still have our exhibit from 2016 available in case you missed it! You can view it online here: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/exhibits/show/womens-history-2016.

Keep in mind there will be events all over campus in March 2017. The Women’s Center at Virginia Tech has a calendar here: http://womenscenter.vt.edu/Program/womens-month.html. We encourage you to check it out and join in where you can!

Women’s History Month, Prequel #1: Just What Does Mrs. Fisher Know?

It’s hard to believe it, but March is almost here. As a transition post to move us from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, I thought this week, we might talk about Mrs. Fisher. In 1881, the Women’s Co-Operative Printing Office in San Francisco published What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking.

What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, 1995 reprint title page
What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, 1995 reprint title page
What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, 1881 title page
What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, 1881 title page

A couple of weeks ago, while talking about Rufus Estes, I rambled on a bit about the question of authority in cookbooks. Abby Fisher’s book also includes an introduction. It partially addresses her qualifications. And, like Malinda Russell’s A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, also gives us some insight into Mrs. Fisher herself:

The publication of a book on my knowledge and experience of Southern Cooking, Pickle and Jelly Making, has been frequently asked of me by my lady friends and patrons in San Francisco and Oakland, and also by ladies of Sacramento during the State Fair in 1879. Not being able to read or write myself, and my husband also having been with the advantages of education–upon whom would devolve the writing of the book at my dictation–caused me to doubt whether I would be able to present a work that would give perfect satisfaction. But, after due consideration, I concluded to bring forward a book of my knowledge–based on an experience of upwards of thirty-five years–in the art of cooking Soups, Gumbos, Terrapin Stews, Meat Stews, Baked and Roast Meats, Pastries, Pies and Biscuits, making Jellies, Pickles, Sauces, Ice-Creams and Jams, preserving Fruits, etc. The book will be found a complete instructor, so that a child can understand it and learn the art of cooking.

Respectfully,

MRS. ABBY FISHER,

Late of Mobile, Ala.

While the publication location and the introduction itself suggest Mrs. Fisher has, for some time, been located in California, she is careful to continue to align herself with the American South, too, being “Late of Mobile, Ala.” and in which kinds of recipes she extols her expertise, including gumbo, terrapin, and biscuits. If you peruse the table of contents, you’ll see other familiar Southern dishes like fried chicken, Creole soup, corn fritters, and a sea of pickles and relishes. A few of the recipes include commentary (“I have given birth to eleven children and raised them all, and nursed them with this diet” or “This recipe is an old Southern plantation remedy among colored people”) which again remind us of her history and her culinary roots.

But, at the same time, she offers us some items and methods you might not expect, given that we’re talking about recipes that date back to the 1840s at least. Home ice cream makers were decades away in 1846 (though they were on the horizon in 1881), but Mrs. Fisher presents us with techniques for ice cream and sherbet. Her “Coccoanut Pie” requires actual coconut, an ingredient available to in the South as an import from the West Indies. While coconut was available in colonial America, it probably didn’t travel well and was likely more common in the South.  And her recipes tell us a lot about the mid-19th century food timeline. She incorporates Cox gelatin (Snow Pudding, 110), a commercial product from Scotland that the producers began exporting to America only in 1845. (Commercial, granulated gelatin wouldn’t be mass produced in America until the 1890s.) Nor does she shy away from alcohol, offering variations on brandy peaches and blackberry brandy.

Unfortunately for us, we don’t have an 1881 edition of What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking (though it IS on our wishlist), but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy looking at one! The digital collection at Michigan State University has a copy that includes page images, transcripts, and a PDF. Or, you can visit us and view our 1995 reprint, of course. It may not have that “old book” smell, but it most certainly serves as a reminder of Mrs. Fisher’s legacy.

Women’s History Month, Part 12: M. F. K. Fisher (1908-1992)

M. F. K. Fisher (1908-1992). Photograph from book jacket of Here Let Us Feast, A Book of Banquets (1946)
M. F. K. Fisher (1908-1992). Photograph from book jacket of Here Let Us Feast, A Book of Banquets (1946)

This week, we’re circling back to an influential woman of the 20th century: M. F. K. (that’s Mary Frances Kennedy, all spelled out) Fisher. Fisher was born in Michigan in 1908, but grew up in California. Although she would return there to live several times over the course of her life, it was France that seemed to influence her most. Between 1928 and 1932, she and her first husband lived in Dijon. From 1936 to 1939, she lived in Vevey and Bern, Switzerland. For a short year in 1954-1955, she took her two daughters to live in Aix, France, before returning to California. Her final lengthy time living abroad was between 1959 and 1961, again in Switzerland and France, though she would take additional trips to France in the 1970s. She designed and built a house in Glen Ellen, California, in 1971. She named it “Last House,” and it did become her last permanent resident, until the time of her death in 1992.

Fisher had a prolific writing career that included a large number of books, essays, and reviews related to food and food history. During the 1940s alone, she completed six books that blended history, food, and food culture designed for a wide audience. (Her personality and wit jump off of many pages!) However, food wasn’t her only genre. She wrote autobiographical works, novels, and essays, too. Between 1942 and 1944, she was even a writer for Paramount Studios!

We are happy to have five of her books among our collection. One of the things I adore are her book covers. They range from simple drawings to collages of image, but they are always something eye-catching and intriguing.

Bibliography (Titles in bold are among our holdings at Special Collections):

  • Serve it Forth (1937)
  • “The Flaw” (1939) (essay)
  • Consider the Oyster (1941)
  • How to Cook a Wolf (1942)
  • The Gastronomical Me (1943)
  • Here Let Us Feast: A Book of Banquets (1946)
  • Not Now But Now (1947)
  • An Alphabet for Gourmets (1949)
  • The Physiology of Taste, Or Meditations on Transcendal Gastronomy (1949) (Fisher translated this new edition)
  • The Art of Eating (1954) (includes the text of Serve It Forth, Consider The Oyster, How To Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets)
  • A Cordial Water: A Garland of Odd & Old Receipts to Assuage the Ills of Man & Beast (1961)
  • The Story of Wine in California (1962)
  • Map of Another Town: A Memoir of Provence (1964)
  • The Cooking of Provincial France (1968)
  • With Bold Knife and Fork (1969)
  • Among Friends (1970)
  • A Considerable Town (1978)
  • Not a Station but a Place (1979)
  • As They Were (1982)
  • Two Towns in Provence (1983)
  • Sister Age (1984)
  • Spirits of the Valley (1985)
  • The Standing and the Waiting (1985)
  • Fine Preserving: M. F. K. Fisher’s Annotated Edition of Catherine Plagemann’s Cookbook (1986)
  • Dubious Honors (1988)
  • Answer in the Affirmative & The Oldest Living Man (1989)
  • The Boss Dog: A Story of Provence (1990)
  • Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon (1991)
  • To Begin Again: Stories and Memories, 1908-1929 (1992)
  • Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me: Journals and Stories, 1933-1941 (1993)
  • Last House: Reflections, Dreams and Observations, 1943-1991 (1995)
  • From the Journals of M. F. K. Fisher (1999)
  • A Stew or a Story: An Assortment of Short Works by M. F. K. Fisher (2006)

A few titles about Fisher:

  • Conversations with M. F. K. Fisher (1992)
  • A Welcoming Life: The M. F. K. Fisher Scrapbook (1997)
  • A Life in Letters: Correspondence, 1929-1991 (1998)
  • Measure of Her Powers : An M. F. K. Fisher Reader (1999)

The majority of these titles came from a wonderful bibliography of Fisher that is available online. In some cases, it includes brief descriptions of titles. The M. F. K. Fisher Foundation website also include tributes and biographical information–it’s worth a look!

I hope you have enjoyed reading our third year of Women’s History Month profiles as much as I have enjoyed writing them. But, of course, every week is an excuse for me to learn new tidbits from culinary history and to share stories with our audience! We’ll be back next week, perhaps with a little less seriousness and a little more frivolity. Until then, eat well!

Women’s History Month, Part 11: Malinda Russell (b. abt. 1822?)

This week, I want to talk a little bit about Malinda Russell. I say “a little bit” quite intentionally, as that’s about all anyone knows. In May of 1866, Malinda Russell self-published a cookbook in Paw Paw, Michigan, the first known cookbook by an African-American. In fact, most of what we know of her comes from the introduction to A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, which includes “A Short History of the Author.” She was born free in Tennessee, possibly around 1820 or 1822. From her account, we can surmise that she lived a challenging life:

My mother being born after the emancipation of my grandmother, her children are by law free…At the age of nineteen, I set out for Liberia; but being robbed by some member of the party with whom I was traveling, I was obliged to stop at Lynchburg, Virginia…Anderson Vaughan, my husband, lived only four years…I am still a widow, with one child, a son, who is crippled…I kept a pastry shop for about six years, and, by hard labor and economy, saved a considerable sum of money for the support of myself and my son, which was taken from me on the 16th of January, 1864, by a guerilla party…Hearing that Michigan was the Garden of the West, I resolved to make that my home…This is one reason why I publish my Cook Book, hoping to receive enough from the sale of it to enable me to return home [Greenville, TN]…

From what else we do know, she worked as a cook, a nurse, and a wash-woman in Virginia and Tennessee. She owned a boarding-house, then a pastry shop before moving to Michigan, where she seems to have been a cook again at the time the book was published.

The original A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen was published in 1866. It was a 29 page pamphlet and very few copies still seem to exist. The one most well-known (if not the only one) is in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan Special Collections. In 2007, they printed a small run of facsimiles, a copy of which we acquired not long after. Although the original item is out of copyright, the 2007 facsimile is not. As a result, I’m not posting images from the item itself, though I have included the front and back covers, and I’ll share some quotes below.

A Domestic Cook Book: containing a careful selection of receipts for the kitchen by Mrs. Malinda Russell, an experience cook published by the author, 1866
A Domestic Cook Book, 1866 (facsimile), front cover
A Domestic Cook Book by Malinda Russell a free woman of color, Paw Paw, Michgan 1866. A facsimile of the first known cook book by an african american with an introduction by Janice Bluestein Longone from the unique copy in the William L. Clements Library, 2007
A Domestic Cook Book, 1866 (facsimile), back cover

I first saw Malinda Russell’s name in 2013 while researching African-American culinary history for a talk I gave in our library. I was amazed at her story and excited to find our facsimile, which I quickly pulled from the shelf. After her brief autobiography is another introductory section, “Rules and Regulations of the Kitchen,” in which Russell provides an explanation of her culinary background. The last sentence of this page reads “I cook after the plan of the ‘Virginia Housewife.'” It seems, at times, we can’t escape Mary Randolph on the blog, can we? 🙂

Russell’s book doesn’t have a table of contents or index and, aside from loosely grouping like receipts, a structure, but for all its 30 pages, she shares plenty of receipts. You’ll find cakes, cordials, pies, cookies, gelatin desserts, pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables, breads/rolls, and custards/puddings. On the whole, there is an emphasis on sweet dishes and baked goods, but she finished with savory meat and poultry dishes, two fish recipes, and several handfuls of home remedies. Not one recipe has directions longer than about eight sentences (calf’s head soup and cream puffs are among the more complex, and all are written in paragraph form without a list of ingredients (characteristic of the era). Most are summed up in as little as 3-4 sentences (or less!), like Sally Lun:

Three tablespoons yeast, two do. butter, two do. sugar, two eggs, flour to make thick as cake. Let it rise six hours; bake quick.

Or “Baked Peach Cobbler”:

Scald and rub the peaches; stew until done; season with sugar to your taste. Paste your pans, put in the fruit, dropping small pieces of butter over it; cover with paste and bake. When done, float the pie with the syrup from the fruit.

Or “Fricaseed Catfish”:

Boil in water with a little salt until done, then drain off the water, and turn over the fish rich cream, butter, pepper, and a little flour, and simmer slowly.

I’m trying to keep my post from being too lengthy (too late, I know!), but for a women with only one publication there was a LOT to say for this week’s profile. Still, I do want to add a final side note or two. First, despite the dearth of information about Malinda Russell, she is no secret in the culinary world. You’ll find her and her book as the subject of news articles, blog posts, and culinary research, if you take a moment to search for her. Second, to date, A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, is the first known cookbook by an African-American, woman or man, in the United States. Robert Roberts’ The House Servant’s Directory is the first book published by an African-American in 1827 and in 1848, Tunis Campbell published Hotel Keepers, Head Waiters and Housekeepers’ Guide. Malinda Russell’s book remains in good company, when it comes to African-American publishing history. And, perhaps more importantly,  she helped paved the way for the the next 149 years of African-American cookbook authors.

Join us again next week for our final Women’s History Month profile of 2015. We’ll look at some of the works of food author M. F. K. Fisher.