My file contains several copies of a rhymed recipe for clam soup. My notes indicate that one was found in “America Cooks” by the Browns
who credited W. A. Croffut with the date of 1877. Another—same poem—was sent to me by a Cookbook Collectors Exchange subscriber named Helen, who wrote that she found it in the Centennial Cookbook by the Women’s Division, Omaha (Neb) Chamber of Commerce and they in turn also had credited W. A. Croffut in the New Buckeye Cookbook, 1904 for the rhymed recipe. The title Buckeye Cookbook rang a bell so I searched through my Ohio cookbooks and voila! It isn’t much but Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping not only attributes the rhyme to W.A. Croffut but also noted that he was the editor of “Daily Graphic”, New York. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping was reprinted in 1988 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press:
First catch your clams—along the ebbing edges
Of saline coves you’ll find the precious wedges,
With backs up, lurking in the sandy bottom;
Pull in your iron rake, and lo! You’ve got em!
Take thirty large ones, put in a basin under.
And cleave with knife, their stony jaws asunder:
Add water—(three quarts) to the native liquor
Bring to a boil, (and, by the way, the quicker
It boils the better, if you do it cutely!
Now add the clams, chopped up and minced minutely.
Allow a longer boil of just three minutes.
And while it bubbles, quickly stir within its
Tumultuous depths where still the mollusks mutter,
Four tablespoons of flour and four of butter,
A pint of milk, some pepper to your notion,
And clams need salting, although born of ocean,
Remove from fire: (if much boiled they will suffer—
You’ll find that India-rubber isn’t tougher.)
After ‘tis off, add three fresh eggs, well beaten,
Stir once more, and it’s ready to be eaten.
Fruit of the wave! O dainty and delicious!
Food for the gods! Ambrosia for Apicius!
Worthy to thrill the soul of sea-born Venus,
Or titillate the palate of Silenus
Another for clams but this one titled Clam Chowder was created by Ed Henry of Coos Bay, Oregon—I have no idea where I originally found this rhymed recipe, however, or when it was written:
In case you consider a chowder called clam;
It’s a cinch to create, more exotic than ham.
So if it’s chowder you’re cooking, you’d best listen up:
The first thing you’ll need is clams, ‘bout a cup.
Chop them up fine in grinder or blender—
Big chunks detract from its elegant splendor.)
Water is needed; in amount about a quart,
Or more if desired; don’t cut yourself short.
Take two strips of bacon I add to the lot,
But chop it up fine ‘fore it goes in the pot.
Also, brown it up crisp in a pan over heat.
When added to chowder it makes flavor complete.
Now, an onion is added: your taste tells the size,
For in cooking of chowder, the tongue never lies.
Potatoes are added, cubed up rather small,
Don’t slight preparation, but give it your all.
Seasoning is next with pepper and salt,
Making chowder complete which no one can fault.
Cook until onions and spuds are tender;
Take half a cup and run through the blender,
Ad pour it back in with some milk and some butter,
And let it blend for a moment while you clean up your clutter.
Then serve it while hot to family or guest,
And act humble as they say, “Your chowder’s the best!”
One of the earliest references I have been able to find for an entire booklet of rhymed recipes may be Imogen Clark’s “RHYMED RECEIPTS” published in 1912. All I had for the longest time was an author’s name and a title – but while surfing on Google, I found a neat website called LibraryThing. (www.LibraryThing.com). Lo and behold, there is a photograph of Imogen Clark’s Rhymed Receipts cookbook on this site. The best I can do, for now, is share a recipe from Rhymed Receipts:
Take oranges of medium size,
The peel remove, I pray,
From each a round, cut from one end,
And scoop the seeds away.
Fill up the little cups thus formed,
With strawberry preserve,
The flavor mixed with orange juice
Is more than most deserve.
The following is from a Milford, New Hampshire church cookbook—title, date, and author unknown. It was featured in the Browns’ “AMERICA COOKS”:
If you would fry tomatoes right,
Select large fresh ones, clean and bright:
slice them as thick as are your thumbs,
And roll them well in cracker crumbs;
Add salt and pepper to the taste.
A little sugar too in haste,
Then with a fire hot and bright,
Heat well your pant and do not slight
The lard and butter, lest it burn,
When brown on one side, over-turn;
And when at last, both sides are done,
Hot from the spider* give us one.
*Sandy’s Cooknote: A spider, you may have guessed wads a kind of cast iron skillet back in the day.
Rhymed recipes turn up, sometimes, in the most unexpected places. I was going through my collection of Congressional Club cookbooks recently, trying to determine which ones I have and which ones I’m missing, when I found the following rhymed recipe for
If the right amount you take,
This will just seven cocktails make.
In each glass three raw oysters toss
And stand aside till you make your sauce.
Take of catsup one-half cup,
Same of vinegar and stir up,
One tablespoon of Worcestershire,
It must be hot and burn like fire.
Ten drops of good Tabasco add,
Of course this last is just a fad,
And if it is not on your shelf
To red pepper help yourself.
Now over each glass of oysters pour
Just three teaspoons and no more,
Serve as first course to your dinner
It will please both saint and sinner.
The contributor was a Mrs. M.I. Garber, Wife of Representative Garber of Oklahoma. This is from one of my earliest Congressional Club Cookbooks.
Recently, after I had posted “Those battered, tattered, stained church cookbooks” on my blog, my penpal, Betsy, who lives in Michigan, surprised me with a boxful of old battered, tattered, stained church cookbooks. One of these is a really battered “Twentieth Century Cook Book, A Feast of Good Things” compiled by the Ladies Aid Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Montgomery, PA, in 1913. I thought this afternoon to begin searching through these for rhymed recipes – and what was the very first one I found? A rhymed recipe for making bread!
When a well-bred girl expects to wed,
‘Tis well to remember that men like bread,
We’re going to show the steps to take
So she may learn good bread to make.
First, mix a lukewarm quart, my daughter,
One-half of milk and one-half of water;
To this please add two cakes of yeast,
Or the liquid kind if preferred in the least.
Next, stir in a teaspoonful of nice clear salt,
If this bread isn’t good, it won’t be our fault,
Now add the sugar, tablespoonfuls three,
Mix well together, for dissolved they must be.
Pour the whole mixture into an earthen bowl,
A pan’s just as good if it hasn’t a hole.
It’s the cook and the flour, not the bowl or the pan,
That “makes the bread that makes the man.”
Some people like a little shortening power,
If this is your choice, just add to the flour
Two tablespoonfuls of lard and jumble it about,
‘Till the flour and lard are mixed without doubt.
Next stir the flour into the mixture that’s stood
Waiting to play its part to make the bread good,
Mix it up thoroughly, but not too thick;
Some flours make bread that’s more like a brick.
Now grease well a bowl and put the dough in,
Don’t fill the bowl full, that would be a sin;
For the dough is all right and it’s going to rise,
‘Till you will declare that it’s twice the old size.
Brush the dough with melted butter, as the recipes say;
Cover with a bread towel, set in a warm place to stay
Two hours or more, to rise until light,
When you see it grow, you’ll know it’s all right.
As soon as it’s light, place again on the board;
Knead it well this time. Here is knowledge to hoard
Now back in the bowl once more it must go.
And set again to rise for an hour or so.
Form the dough gently into loaves when light,
And place it in bread pans, greased just right.
Shape each loaf you make to half fill the pan,
This bread till be good enough for any young man.
Next let it rise to the level of pans—no more,
Have the temperature right—don’t set near a door.
We must be careful about draughts, it isn’t made to freeze,
Keep the room good and warm—say seventy-two degrees.
Now put I the oven; it’s ready to bake;
Keep uniform fire, great results are at stake.
One hour more of waiting, and you’ll be repaid,
By bread that is worthy a “well-bred maid.”
One more for this chapter and it’s a recipe for fruitcake. Years ago—when I still had an old typewriter and hadn’t yet switched to a computer—I challenged myself to write some rhymed recipes. The following is my own rhymed recipe for fruitcake:
For a good many years, a cook has been proud
Of the fame for her fruitcakes, and now has allowed
Us to print this receipt of Old English Tradition—
But before you begin, keep in mind this condition—
A fruitcake is best if its properly made,
And all the ingredients before you are laid.
be precise with amounts—for a pinch or a lot,
May have satisfied grandmother—you it will not.
SIFT five cups of flour and for nice compliments,
Carefully ADD to it these condiments:
One-teaspoon soda, a half-teaspoon salt,
And now ADD these spices to prevent flavor-fault;
One half teaspoon cloves and lest it taste hollow,
ADD the amount of the spices that follow:
ONE teaspoon cinnamon, HALF teaspoon mace,
(Be assured that each spice has well earned its place!)
Now thoroughly CREAM one FULL pound of butter—
In a separate bowl—but don’t splash or splutter!
Gradually add sugar—and make it ONE POUND
But NEVER the white—for THIS should be brown.
Take well beaten eggs—and there should be eight
Of medium size and medium weight…
Combine the eggs with the sugar and butter,
But don’t be a slowpoke—make haste and don’t putter!
Now ADD to this mixture the following things:
(As much to the cake as the song a bird sings)
A HALF pound of cherries, candied and sliced,
A HALF pound of citron (to make it taste nice)
A HALF pound of orange and a HALF pound of lemon peel
All carefully sliced – and then you may fee
That a FULL pound of raisins (seedless will do)
Its part to enhance the full flavor for you!
Add ONE POUND of currants, washed and then dried—
Now don’t skip directions—you’d be mortified!
Add ONE POUND of almonds, blanched and then shredded,
Whatever you do now, please don’t forget it.
Add a HALF CUP of jelly (currant is best)
With THREE FOURTHS CUP of honey—now ADD the zest
Of yummy molasses, and make it ONE CUP
Then roll up your shirtsleeves and beat it all up!
Now ADD the flour mixture and with each addition
Mix well, keep in mind that this English tradition
States that the flour must be poured GRADUALLY
To insure you a fruitcake that’s really tasty!
Two pans you must grease – TUBE pans are correct
To give your fruitcakes a special effect,
Preheat the oven—two-fifty is your
Properly tested and tried temperature.
To present rapid browning of these delicate cakes,
Put brown paper over them to shield, while they bake.
Now you must wait—three and one half hours—
(Do up the dishes or water your flowers!)
Let cakes cool in pans and you’ll find that you
Can wrap in wax paper to keep flavors true,
Store fruitcakes in tins for superb excellence,
And upon yourself please compel abstinence—
For a fruitcake that’s aged most truly will be
A QUITE special treat to serve with your tea!
— Sandra Lee Smith
p.s. And it’s not as easy as it looks–either making a fruitcake or writing a rhymed recipe about it.