As for Bishop Williams, the Browns referred to him as “that New York Rhymster” without providing any additional background information.
The recipe that appeared in their “America Cooks”, originally published in 1940, states that the Boston Baked Beans rhymed recipe was from “Moore’s ‘Rural New Yorker’” which presumably meant something to readers in 1940 but doesn’t enlighten this 2010 writer.
Google searches, while providing newer websites and Blogs referring to rhymed recipes failed to provide any other information about the elusive Bishop Williams. So, unless someone reads this and knows something about the Bishop Williams who wrote the rhymed recipe “Boston Baked Beans” – we may never know.
While searching on Google for more rhymed recipes, I came across a website called The Old Foodie, written by a woman in Australia who immigrated there from England. It reminded me of my two penpals in Australia, also from England, so I wrote to the Old Foodie & she wrote back to me. In one of her Blogs she offered a rhymed recipe from an 1886 “The Woman Suffrage Cook Book…” by Hattie A. Burr and it was one I didn’t have—so here it is:
Cut smoothly from a wheaten loaf
Ten slices, good and true,
And brown them nicely, o’er the coals,
As you for toast would do.
Prepare a pint of thickened milk,
Some cod-fish shredded small;
And have on hand six hard-boiled eggs
Just right to slice withal.
Moisten two pieces of the bread,
And lay them in a dish,
Upon them slice a hard-boiled egg
Then scatter o’er with fish
And for a seasoning you will need
Of pepper just one shake,
Then spread above the milky juice,
And this one layer make.
And thus, five times, bread, fish and egg,
Or bread and egg and fish,
Then place one egg upon the top,
To crown this breakfast dish.
When I was originally collecting and writing about rhymed recipes in the late 1990s, a fellow subscriber of the CCE found the following for chowder in a book titled ‘SAVORY SUPPERS AND FASHIONABLE FEASTS” by Susan Williams, published in 1985. Louise sent it to Becky Mercuri, another CCE columnist, who in turn sent it to me.
CHOWDER, AN OLD RECIPE, 1834
To make a good chowder and have it quite nice,
Dispense with sweet marjoram parsley and spice;
Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone.
To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,
Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;
Some say you must turn it, some say you must not;
When it is brown, take it out of the fat,
And add it again when you add this and that.
A layer of potatoes, sliced quarter inch thick,
Should be placed in the bottom to make it eat slick;
A layer of onion now over this place,
Then season with pepper and salt and some mace.
Split open your crackers and give them a soak.
In eating you’ll find this the cream of the joke.
On top of all this, now comply with my wish,
And put, in large chunks, all your pieces of fish;
Then put on the pieces of pork you have fried-
I mean those from which all the fat has been tried.
In seasoning I pray you, don’t spare the cayenne;
‘Tis this makes it fit to be eaten by men.
After adding these things in their reg’lar rotation,
You’ll have a dish fit for the best of the nation.
The Stewards Handbook, 1899
Rhymed recipes—and kitchen poems– would turn up unexpectedly in my searches, most often in old church and club cookbooks. My inclination in the early days of collecting cookbooks, which I started in earnest in 1965, was to purchase any kind of cookbook in any kind of condition, which led to acquiring many in truly battered and tattered and stained conditions, sometimes sans covers. It was in such a little cookbook, titled Rio Bravo Farm Home Department Cookbook that I discovered a wealth of kitchen poetry. The book is undated but the ads, from Bakersfield California, offer telephone numbers of just three digits. The cookbook’s previous owner spilled and spattered, especially throughout the pages devoted to cakes and cookies, and a child apparently scribbled on some of the pages. No matter.
In the introduction, the ladies of Rio Bravo wrote:
The world is always praising
All the great folks of the time –
The poets and musicians and
The ministers sublime;
But to earth’s greatest heroine
They never cast a look;
I’ll tell you who she is at once—
The blessed household cook.
Commenting on bread, the Rio Bravo ladies had this to say:
A slice of bread with butter on it
May feed a king;
A biscuit with a crust upon it
The every day necessities, no doubt,
Are those which none of us can do without.
My favorite kitchen poem, from the Rio Bravo cookbook, is titled COOKIES and it goes like this:
When Cinda bakes, what odors as from isles
Of clove and citron float upon the air
And in the pantry. Oh! What witching piles
Of crusty rolls and frosted tarts are there;]
A dream of far off eastern light and warmth.
In some strange wise, she mingles in her cakes;
With subtle atmosphere the kitchen fills
When Cinda bakes.
I’ve digressed a bit – as the last three are kitchen poems and not rhymed recipes. I don’t intend to present them separately – I think of all of them as kitchen related, whether kitchen-theme poems or rhymed recipes. Someone loved their kitchen enough to want to wax poetic about it. That’s good enough for me. But for now I’ll return to rhymed recipes.
In a Maryland Home Economics Association cookbook published in 1948, I found the following rhymed recipe for corn pone which the author stated had been used in her family for 65 years. (And my original notes are from 1994, so makes it about 80 years ago).
Two cu of Indian
One cup of wheat.
One cup of sour milk
One cup of sweet.
One good egg
Which you must beat.
One-half cup of sugar
One tablespoon of butter, new.
Salt and soda
Each a teaspoon,
Mix it quick
And bake it soon.
Then you’ll have
Best of all cornbread
Good enough for any king
Which your husband
Home may bring.
One of my earliest cookbook acquisitions, “THE EGG BASKET COOKBOOK” compiled by the Petaluma High School PTA in 1927, contains the following recipe (and this may be one of the first rhymed recipe I found, years ago):
ANGEL’S OR DEVIL’S FOOD?
If you would choose the Angel cake
One full cup of EGG whites take,
Beat them lightly, beat them long
To the merry tune of your favorite song.
Put one cup of flour, sugar one and a quarter,
One level teaspoon of cream of tartar
Into your sifter and sift them thru,
(six or seven times will do).
One teaspoon of flavoring, (any kind you choose)
Now not a moment you must lose
But fold all together, don’t beat it a lot
And bake in an oven that’s not too hot
For forty-five minutes, then I’m sure you’ll say
It’s fit for an angel most any day.
But if you choose to eat the devil,
Let your measurements be on the level,
Cream one cup of sugar, Crisco one third,
Two EGGS with a cp of sour milk whipped and stirred,
One teaspoon of soda, of cocoa four
With two cups of flour sifted five times or more.
Now to Crisco and sugar add the mixture of flour
Alternating with EGGS and milk that is sour.
Beat it hard and beat it long
To the rag time tune of a rag time song.
Two teaspoons of baking powder, add
And you’ll get a cake that’ll make you glad.
Bake in an oven that’s moderately slow
Put together with icing white as snow.
An anonymous cook-poet submitted the following rhymed recipe to an 1897 cookbook compiled by the Ladies Aid Society of Sewickley, Pennsylvania:
Stand on your legs
And beat four eggs,
One cup of sugar,
And beat like a booger*
One cup of flour,
And bake half an hour.
*Sandy’s Cooknote: I’m not sure what we just created—pancakes? A small cake? A booger, by the way, is a variation from dialectal “boggart” or a hobgoblin. Words no longer a part of our vocabulary.
The following recipe for curry, author also unknown, was published in 1810—and unfortunately, my notes don’t indicate where I found the recipe. It may have been sent to me by one of the many friends who searched for these recipes on my behalf. The author sounds like a doting husband and because of the reference to Epping Butter, is most likely of English origin:
Three pounds of veal, my darling girl prepares
And chops it nicely into little squares,
Five onions next prepared the little minx,
The biggest are the best her Samuel thinks,
And Epping* butter nearly half a pound
And stews them in a pan until they’re browned.
What next my dexterous little girl will do?
She pops the meat into the savory stew
With curry powder, tablespoons three,
And milk a pint, the richest that may be.
And when the dish has stewed for half an hour,
A lemon’s ready juice she’ll o’er it pour.
Then bless her–then she gives the luscious pot
A very gentle boil, and serves quite hot.
*Sandy’s Cooknote: I had no idea what Epping butter was when I first included this poem in my article “Eve’s Pudding and other Rhymed Recipes” in 1994, but back then we didn’t have Google! Thanks to Google I discovered that Epping is a small market town in the county of Essex, England that retains its weekly market and dates back to 1253. The once-famous Epping Butter was highly sought after in the 18th and 19th centuries but is no longer made. (I love being able to tie up loose ends!)
The following, written by Ruth Van Ness Blair of Clearwater, Florida, is from a book titled RECIPES IN RHYME:
Take a can of artichokes,
And squash them to a mush,
Add two cups of mayonnaise,
Then sprinkle in the slush
Itaian style Good Season’s mix
One packet is just right.
Then set it in the fridge to blend
Its flavors overnight.
At party time, serve up with chips,
Or crackers, if you wish,
But don’t leave ANYONE alone
With this delicious dish.
For all alone, a reveler,
Might easily go through
A dish of dip you meant to serve
A crowd of twenty-two.
The following rhymed-recipe for a kind of rice pudding was another of the first rhymed recipes I ever came across. The author is unknown and I haven’t any idea where I originally found this, but I love the sentiment (it sounds like something I would do—use up a bunch of eggs and things to save a piece of bread! )
I found a little crust of bread
That must not go to waste
So by a famous recipe,
I seasoned it to taste.
I used 6 eggs, a pint of cream,
Some citron and some spice—
Two lemons, dates, raisins, and
A brimming cup of rice.
It took a lot of things, I know,
That’s how the cook book read—
And no one cares for it, but OH!
I saved that crust of bread!