Category Archives: COOKBOOK AUTHORS FROM LONG AGO

CROSS CREEK COOKERY

THE FOLLOWING WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED IN 2011:

“Cross Creek Cookery” is, in my opinion (after collecting cookbooks for 45 years) the quintessential regional American cookbook. In 1965, when I began collecting cookbooks, I focused primarily on club-and-church cookbooks because they so often presented a regional slice of Americana depending on the part of the USA they came from—from Boston you’d get New England clam chowder, while from Cincinnati you’d get Cincinnati Chili…but as time went by, the country has become more and more homogenized-you can go to a Denny’s or a McDonald’s in any state in the country and order anything on the menu…it will be the same menu in every part of the country. But collect cookbooks from years ago and you will get a far better sense of what regional cooking is all about.

After the publication and huge success of “The Yearling” in 1938, Marjorie’s publishers suggested a book about life in the Florida scrub. Marjorie’s thoughts were already running along the same lines; she didn’t have to fret over a title—the book named itself: “Cross Creek”. It was first published in 1942.

“Cross Creek was chosen for a Book of the Month selection, along with John Steinbeck’s “The Moon is Down”. “Cross Creek” received immediate critical acclaim with some reviewers calling her “a female Thoreau.”

“Cross Creek” rose to the top of the best seller lists and remained there for many months. The armed forces published a special edition of “Cross Creek” which led, in turn, to Marjorie being inundated with mail from servicemen…bearing in mind this was 1942 and the USA was deeply embroiled in World War II. Marjorie attempted to answer all of their letters. I think the charm and quietness, the native humor and Marjorie’s love of the earth endeared her to the world during this difficult period in American history.
“Cross Creek Cookery” grew out of the popularity of a chapter in “Cross Creek”, titled “Our Daily Bread” so when Marjorie suggested to her editors at Scribner’s that she compile a cookbook, they quickly agreed. Of her cooking, Marjorie wrote (in “Cross Creek”) “Cookery is my one vanity and I am a slave to any guest who praises my culinary art. This is my Achilles heel…” (I smiled, reading those lines; I could have written them myself).

She also said that it didn’t take much urging to get her to write a cookbook. “Scratch a cook” she wrote, “and you’ll get a recipe.”

“Cross Creek Cookery,” Marjorie wrote, “was a book of pure pleasure except for the heat of the kitchen” as “Marjorie tested recipes and the extra pounds she put on. Her husband Norton helped, writing down measurements and cooking time for the recipes. Elsewhere she wrote, “There are cooks who guard secret and precious recipes with their lives. This seems to me ungenerous in practitioners of an art…”

I have admired the work of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings most of my adult life but without really knowing who she was or the depth and range of her writing ability. She was not without fault, this Ms. Rawlings. She smoked too much (as many as five packs a day of unfiltered Lucky Strikes) and enjoyed alcohol to excess, and (as is evident if you have a copy of Cross Creek Cookery) relished good food, too, cooking recipes replete with Dora’s butter and cream (Dora was her cow). Marjorie’s health was often precarious as she fought repeated battles with chronic diverticulitis, for which, in the 1930s, there was not much treatment.

Marjorie said that her recognition of cookery as one of the great arts was not an original discovery, that her mother and grandmother had been famous cooks.

“When I read Della Lutes’ ‘A Country Kitchen’” writes Marjorie, “I wept in nostalgia for my Michigan grandmother’s dinner table…” (She goes on to explain that good cooking was not, as she expected it to be, a genetic talent, but after one memorable –inedible- meal, her mother in law sent her a copy of Fanny Farmer’s “Boston Cook Book” and “Lo and behold, my memories of my mother’s dishes suddenly fitted in with the new exactness and I could duplicate her secret recipes, her heart-melting egg croquettes, her chicken in aspic, her potato puffs, her white almond cake…”

Marjorie thought that, if she were destitute, she could have made a living as a cook, but only if it were in a place where the cream and butter and cooking sherry were in ample supply, for “Life at the Creek with Jersey cows has unfitted me for skimmed milk and margarine. And I should buy cooking sherry with my last dollar…”

“Our Daily Bread” told the story of cooking and eating in the Florida scrub—often prefaced with the catching of the entrée, whether it was alligator tail—which Marjorie considered fine eating when properly prepared—to raccoon, which Marjorie once prepared before she learned that the raccoon has a musk-sack which has to be removed before cooking. Her first attempt at cooking raccoon was a total failure.

Marjorie drew a line between eating rattlesnake (I guess!) and alligator, but conceded that “drawing a line between dangerous rattlers and harmless alligators is as though a cannibal said he would eat a friend but would not eat an enemy.”

“Cross Creek Cookery” was published in 1942 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Many of the recipes were her mother’s or grandmother’s. Many are recipes she created, or learned, living in the Florida scrub, using native ingredients.

The chapters range from soup (of which Marjorie says “I associate soup with either poverty or formal elegance”) to desserts (the longest section of all) including Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie and Marjorie’s Mother’s Almond cake with almond paste filling and boiled frosting.

Of the cake, Marjorie wrote that it made its appearance “spectacularly” on her birthday when she was allowed to choose her own dinner menu. It took a day to make, for the almonds had to be shelled, soaked in boiling water, the skins removed, the meats dried and blanched, then chopped fine. “The cake,” she wrote, “was as white as a virgin’s breast, as tender as a mother’s heart, and was made in four layers.”

Included in the chapter for hot breads were her mother and Idella’s biscuits, several kinds of cornbreads, hush puppies and an ice box roll recipe.

The Florida sea food section provides ten crab recipes, six for shrimp and others for Florida lobster, crawfish, and frogs’ legs.

Marjorie was also proud of her marmalades and included some recipes for them.

As you and I know, not too many cookbooks fall into a realm of which you can say “I can read it over and over!” – it’s like your favorite novel, something so special that every time you read it, you get something different from it. “Cross Creek Cookery” is like that.

It’s interesting to note that, as soon as Marjorie and her editor, Max, had worked through the galley and page proofs of “Cross Creek Cookery”, she took off on a trip to fulfill another writing obligation, traveling thousands of miles through southern forests to gather material for an article on American forests; however she was never able to satisfy the editors of Post and refused their suggestions for revisions. The article was eventually published in 1943 in Collier’s Magazine and titled “Trees for Tomorrow”—although this is not cookbook related, I point this out because Marjorie was a conservationist long before others became alarmed or it was fashionable to be concerned. She was invariably ahead of her time.

Her article explained that American forests were not infinite, the impact of the devastation of our forests on the countryside affected our towns and people. She combined interviews with lumber experts and simple people whose livelihood had disappeared with the disappearance of the forests in their environment. (See “Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Sojourner at Cross Creek” by Elizabeth Silverthorne.)

On the night of December 12, 1953, Marjorie complained of feeling ill but thought it was her troublesome diverticulitis acting up again. Later that evening when she was unable to walk, Norton took her to the hospital.

Doctors told him that Marjorie had a ruptured aneurism, that a blood vessel had ruptured at the base of her brain. As Elizabeth Silverthorne explains, “Life and time had loaded the dice against Marjorie. She was betrayed by her genes (both of her parents died young), by her own personal habits (heavy smoking and drinking), by her love of good foods that led to excessive weight, and by her personality (high-strung and tense). The next day another blood vessel burst and she died. She was 57 years old.

THE MINUTES TICK SO SLOWLY THE YEARS SO FAST A LONG TIME NOW, MINUTES UNBEARABLE SLOW MINUTES, UNTIL YOU COME.
BUT THE YEARS WHEN YOU WERE GONE (WERE) ONLY AN INSTANT, A BREATH OF AIR ACROSS THE OLEANDERS, A BUTTERFLY ON THE ONE-DAY HIBISCUS BLOSSOMS.
SO, IT IS LIFE AND LOVE ARE SLOW, AND DEATH IS FAST (QUICK).

(Found among Marjorie’s papers after her death).

Most of Marjorie’s property was bequeathed to the University of Florida Endowment Corporation in Trust. She left her property at Cross Creek to the University of Florida. For a long time, the property became rundown and unkempt, until the University turned the property over to the Florida Department of Natural Resources, which now operates it as the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Historic Site.

In 1983, Sally Morrison wrote “Cross Creek Kitchens”. Sally was a ranger who worked at the Rawlings home for many years.

For a copy of “Cross Creek Cookery” you need only to go to any online book site—Amazon or Barnes & Noble – they all have copies at many different price ranges.

I made a most delightful discovery when I typed in Marjorie’s name on Amazon.com–there are titles I don’t remember seeing before, and new authors writing about Marjorie and the Florida Crackers. I will try to provide you with a more comprehensive list of titles in a future post.

–Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook Collecting!

Sandra Lee Smith

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COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS–IN SEARCH OF BETTY WASON

“COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS – IN SEARCH OF BETTY WASON”

She first came to my attention with the acquisition of her book, “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS,” published in 1962. I was writing “PEEK INTO THE PAST” at the time for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.

“This is the first and only book,” claim Doubleday, the publishers, “which traces the history of cookery from the days of primitive man up to the present day of the Four Seasons Restaurant and gourmet supermarkets…”

Since I now have nearly two bookcases full of books on the history of food – I wondered – is it true? Was Betty Wason first to explore, in depth, this fascinating subject? I’ve been going through my collection, checking publication dates – and so far haven’t found any that precede 1962. Interesting! (I’d venture to guess that, since Betty Wason’s book was published, many other food history books have been published—I have quite a few of my own.)

“COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS” is packed with culinary history. It opens with a description of feasts in ancient Greece – inspired, no doubt, by Betty’s visit there during World War II. She covers the subject of cookery in the Far and Near East, all of Europe, and the New World. The last four chapters of this book are devoted to the United States—from Thomas Jefferson to the Harvey Girls and Betty Crocker. (It seems to me that almost all American food historians have had something to say about Betty Crocker!).

But “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS” is only one of more than two dozen books written by Elizabeth Wason Hall, whose pen name was Betty Wason. Her writing versatility stretched from cookbooks to a book about the Greek resistance during World War II, to a book published in 1999 about macular degeneration. If my calculations are correct, Betty Wason has been publishing books for 56 years!

Betty Wason was born and grew up in Delphi, Indiana, in 1912 where she studied classical violin and painting. She eventually enrolled in Purdue University hoping to become a dress designer. Wason graduated from Purdue in 1933 with the Great Depression in full swing. Work was not easy to come by and she settled on a job selling yard goods in the basement of Ayres Department Store in Indianapolis. giving cooking lessons for a utility company, and then working as an itinerant cooking teacher throughout Kentucky towns. Later, her first experience broadcasting was gained conducting a radio program for women in Lexington, Kentucky. Eventually, she moved to New York, where she became an assistant food editor at McCall’s Magazine.

“I was young and wanted to see the world. I had no money, so I decided I would become a journalist,” she said in a 1997 interview

“Long before I was old enough to handle saucepans,” Betty writes in “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, “I used to stand around in fascination watching Mother tossing up delectable dishes and begged to be allowed to try my hand at the game. My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating. And so my quest became one of finding new and exotic blends of flavor, and on bright Sunday afternoons when other girls were probably playing with paper dolls, I plunged into old cook books and read of strange combinations of foods, and revelled (sic) in imagined taste thrills.”

Betty’s first trip to Europe was as a free-lance journalist with credentials from Transradio Press; her first connection with Columbia Broadcasting System, at the time of the Nazi invasion of Norway, was as its staff correspondent in Stockholm. Later, she became correspondent as well to NEWSWEEK.

Between trips to Europe, Betty joined the research staff of the New York Newspaper PM, which was then in organization, and she planned the paper’s food page. Returning to Europe in the winter of 1939, she abandoned cooking and recipes to cover a long series of War fronts, from Finland and Norway down to the Balkans. “Betty Wason first became known to many Americans as the CBS correspondent, who always managed to be on the spot when headlines were being made in World War II,” claims one of her publishers.

Between the summers of 1938 and 1941, Betty Wason covered virtually every country in Europe, managing to be on hand where ever major journalistic events “broke”: Czechoslovakia during the Munich crisis and after, Vienna for the first post Munich conference; Hungary during the occupation of Slovakia; Rumania at the time of Codreanu’s execution; Yugoslavia during its Orthodox Christmas celebrations; Rome during Chamberlain’s visit to Mussolini; Paris during the end of the Spanish Civil War; Italy during the early part of the Second World War…..and the list goes on and on. (from the dust jacket of “Miracle In Hellas”). Betty Wason was on her way to Norway after the Nazi invasion began. Her cross into Norway was anything but routine. She eluded border guards and hitched a ride in a truck across the mountainous terrain where she hid in the woods to wait out an air raid. She interviewed numerous wounded British soldiers and found out just how poorly the Allied defense had gone. She returned to Stockholm and her broadcast by hitching rides and walking. But none of that mattered to the bosses at CBS. Despite her daring hard work they still asked her to find a man to read her copy. She left Sweden in the spring of 1940 in search of the next big story (and) she soon ended up in Greece after short stops in the Balkans and Istanbul. With an expected Italian invasion of Greece on the horizon, CBS again hired Wason. She also started stringing for Newsweek during this time. In October, 1940, when Italian forces began to move into Greece, a cable came from CBS: “Find male American broadcast 4U.”

Though CBS saw her gender as an impediment Wason strove on. During her six months in Greece her voice on the radio, Phil Brown, a secretary at the American embassy, introduced each broadcast with, “This is Phil Brown in Athens, speaking for Betty Wason.” Wason remained in Athens through the winter of 1940 and refused to leave the next spring. In April 1941, German air attacks ramped up in Greece’s capital. When the Nazis took Athens, Wason was stuck in the city for several weeks. Though America still remained “neutral” in the war Wason was kept, along with several other reporters, by the Germans who refused to allow anyone to broadcast.

Eventually Wason left Athens on a Lufthansa plane bound for Vienna. Also on the plane were Wes Gallagher of the Associated Press and George Weller of the Chicago Daily News. Once in Vienna the Gestapo detained the entire group under suspected espionage. Soon the male reporters were released but Wason was kept another week for, according to her, “reasons never divulged except that the police wanted to know more about me.”

When a CBS executive intervened, the Gestapo released her. She had married a Mr. Hall by 1943. On her return to the United States, Wason was inundated with interview requests, lecture requests and press attention. She recalled, “Everyone made a fuss over me but CBS,”

Wason wrote. “When I went to see (news director) Paul White, he dismissed me with, “You were never one of our regular news staff”

“then what, she wondered, had I been doing for CBS all that time in Greece?”

Wason authored 24 books after leaving CBS, mostly about one of her long time favorite hobbies, cooking, though her most successful book was her 1942 story “Miracle in Hellas: The Greeks Fight On”. She wrote that the book “was a resounding success. But the tough struggle to make it as a woman correspondent, ending with the cruel rebuff by CBS, cooled my desire for more overseas war reporting.”

In 1998, at age 86, Wason wrote about macular degeneration, an affliction which stole most of her eyesight and rendered her legally blind. Macular Degeneration: Living Positively with Vision Loss was written, in part, with a grant from the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind.

In the Introduction to “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, published by
Smith & Durrell, Inc., in 1943, she explains, in part, “This recipe book has been prepared in the hope that it will inspire the artists in the kitchen to turn their skills to the creation of new and savory dishes, not only overriding the bugaboo of wartime shortages, but perhaps even paving the way for a new era in American cuisine.

Many of the recipes,” she continues, “listed in the pages which follow have been adopted from peasant dishes of various European countries—recipes learned during the course of travels during the years 1938-1941, in countries either on the precipice of war, or already plunged into conflict, where rationing was often far more severe than any this country has yet to suffer.

In occupied Greece, where I was forced to remain during the first two months of German occupation we had to pound our own salt out of rock crystals, substitute grape dextrose for sugar (when we could get grape dextrose), dried chick peas for coffee, and a bricklike hunk of what tasted like gravy sawdust for bread. Our only fats were inferior olive oil, rationed to approximately eight ounces a month, and occasionally, white ‘sheep’s butter’ – mutton fat. There was virtually no meat. Yet we had meals, and some of them were surprisingly good….”

If the title, “COOKING WITHOUT CANS” piques your curiosity, it should be noted that the American food industry had worked diligently, prior to World War II, to convince American housewives that the easiest way to prepare anything began with opening up a can. You want soup “just like mama used to make?” open a can of condensed soup and add water—voila, ‘homemade’ soup. As a matter of fact, I think my own mother was one of those completely brainwashed by the food industry. The only fresh vegetables or fruit we ever had were potatoes, carrots, celery, and in the summertime, an occasional watermelon or cantaloupe. Everything else came out of a can. So, along came the War – and the tin used by the food industry for tin cans was, like almost everything else, needed for the War effort. Tin cans were melted down and cast into solid metal “pigs” for re-using in the war industry. (James Trager, author of “The Food Chronology” notes, in 1943, “U.S. housewives wash and flatten tins for recycling: one less tin can per week per family will save enough tin and steel to build 5,000 tanks or 38 Liberty Ships…”). On a personal level, I remember how we rinsed out the cans, removed the labels, opened both ends of the tin can, and then flattened it. It’s one of the very few things I actually do remember about the War years. I was a baby when World War II began.

Consequently, canned goods were restricted, although home-canned fruits and vegetables were not. (During peak war years, an estimated 20 million Victory gardens were growing in the USA, producing over a third of the vegetables available in this country). For the duration of the War, American women would have to learn “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, which was, I believe, Betty Wason’s first cookbook.

“DINNERS THAT WAIT”, published in 1954, may have been Betty Wason’s second cookbook. I happened to find a paperback copy of “DINNERS THAT WAIT” in a used book store some time ago. Not only was I delighted to find something else written by Ms. Wason – it only cost a dollar! This little book is aimed at “every hostess who feels that her guests, as well as her meal, should be enjoyed…” The solution, offered in “DINNERS THAT WAIT” was a collection of main dishes that were delay proof, that could be prepared hours or days in advance. Again, the author draws on her European exposure, offering recipes such as Moussaka, that she learned to make from Greek friends, Smorgasbord, and – everybody’s favorite, Kidneys with Mustard sauce. “It’s too bad,” notes the author, “kidneys are so little appreciated in this country. When properly prepared, they are superb, worthy of the most discriminating palate….”

One of the best features of this little book is that it provides step by step directions—literally—right down to Step 5: Set table. Put water and coffee in pot. Get dressed. This would be a great cookbook, even today, for young women who are unaccustomed to entertaining. (I think I will try Intoxicated Pork or the Chicken Tetrazzini the next time it’s my turn to host a dinner party at my house).

In 1963, Doubleday & Company would publish “THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING” by Betty Wason. She notes, “I thought I knew so much about Spain that I could, if I wished, write a book about Spanish cooking, based simply on the many Spanish cookbooks in my own library. Fortunately, a little nagging worry beset me. I should really visit Spain before writing about the country. So, I did. I made a speedy eight hour flight to Madrid on a TWA jet, and I traveled over as much of the country as I could cover in a month’s time, eating, eating, eating, wherever I went….” Betty’s nine-year-old daughter, Ellen, accompanied her mother to Spain, offering her candid view of Spanish food. The Introduction to “THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING” provides a capsulized history of the history of Spanish food that I think you would find interesting. I was particularly intrigued with what she had to say about olives, olive oil, and sherry.

“Sherry,” writes Betty, “is a mysterious and unique wine. Its history goes back to antiquity. The Phoenicians brought the first grapevines to the area where all the world’s supply of true sherry is still produced, and they named the city Xera…Whether the wine produced in Roman times was the same as the sherry of today no one knows; however, after the vineyards had been destroyed by the phylloxera disease in 1894, new disease resistant vines were brought from the United States to be planted in Jerez, and lo and behold the wine was the same as ever….”

The entire book is written in this style, recipes and history stirred together to create a banquet of Spanish cooking. It is exactly the kind of book that cookbook readers enjoy.

In 1966, Galahad Books published Betty Wason’s “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE & CHEESE COOKERY”, which is presented as her 11th book. The publishers note, “She has written extensively about travel and world affairs, and served as a CBS correspondent in Greece during the German occupation in 1941. Her articles have appeared in VOGUE, HOUSE & GARDEN, HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, ATLANTIC MONTHLY and AMERICAN HOME”. At the time “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE” was published, Betty was also a consultant to the Spanish Oil Institute and other firms.”

“THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE” is divided, (similarly to The Everything Cookbook that would come a few years later), into four parts. Part I – the Wonders of Cheese, offers an armchair history of cheese, while Part II is a Glossary of the World’s Cheeses. Part III explains how to serve cheese (there is a Cheese Etiquette, in case you didn’t know), and Part IV – Cheese in the Kitchen – presents us with recipes that range from cheese soups to cheesecakes.

“All my life I have been a cheese lover,” writes Betty, “but until I did the research for this book, I had no idea cheese was such a complex and fascinating subject…but the only way for anyone to really learn about cheese is to taste it….”

Once again, it becomes evident that Betty’s prior exposure to other places and other things provided some of the inspiration for yet another book. She explains, “My passionate interest in archaeology provided to be a further help in delving into the early history of cheese-making, for in several museums in Spain I saw tools of cheese-making dating from the Bronze Age, and in archaeology books, in my library plus translations of the classic Greek and Roman writers, I came across many interesting anecdotes about cheese in ancient times…”
Curiously, “A SALUTE TO CHEESE”, published the same year but by Hawthorn Books, is identical to “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE & CHEESE COOKERY”! I was so pleased when I found a copy of the former in a used bookstore, complete with dust jacket, for only $6.00. It was only after I got home and began leafing through the pages that I realized it was the same book, recipe for recipe, page by page. Both books were also published in 1966. (One can only guess at the reason why the same book was published by two different publishers at the same time. Perhaps one of the two cost less than the other?)

In 1967, Doubleday & Company published “THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” by Betty Wason. Again, she visited the country. “Like most Americans today,” she writes, “I chose to fly to Germany in order to spend all my available time in the country itself, using the speedy transatlantic services of Trans World Airlines between New York and Frankfurt. Later, taking a cruise on the North German Lloyd’s luxurious new motor ship Europa, I realized how lovely it would be to have the leisure once again to cross the Atlantic by ship. At least, during the Caribbean cruise, I was able to talk with Chef Herbert Burmeister several times and to get from him recipes for some of the superb German specialties served on the Europa….” Betty describes the Germany she visited in the mid-1960s, but recalls, “It was in the late thirties, on the eve of World War II, when I visited Germany the first time as a journalist.

During the Hitler era, elegance was frowned upon, at least for the people as a whole. The women were not permitted to use make-up and their clothes looked as if they had been designed to make every woman as dowdy and shapeless as possible…I was in German twice during the war years, before Pearl Harbor, and again in 1950 I visited Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart when those cities still had the rubble of aerial bombardments cluttering their streets and most shops offered only the barest necessities of life. To visit the richly prosperous, gay West Germany of today (1960s) is almost like seeing another country altogether. One is staggered by the change…”

She notes that for her, the most revealing things about people are found in little things. She says she always loved wandering through markets looking at the foods on display as a way of learning what kinds of foods go into home cooking. She also explains that one of the most difficult things about studying German cuisine was the language. “I once had the naïve idea that Germans all spoke the same language” she writes. She goes on to explain the differences—which reminded me of a conversation I once had with my German grandmother. Many different German foods and recipes are called by different names, depending on the region. Betty explains many of these differences. In this book, she presents a cross-section of recipes from the German cuisine of today (that is, in the 1960s) with new specialties born of today’s prosperity and old favorites which reflect the customs and traditions of another age.

“THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” offers a great deal of history, along with recipes. I decided to quote Betty on the subject of sauerkraut, since this particular topic was discussed at my cousin Dan’s 4th of July cookout one holiday. (I make sauerkraut every few years*, and can it. My cousin loves it so I keep him and his wife supplied. My cousin’s brother in law informed us that he learned how to cook sauerkraut while in Berlin and so knows the best way. I said oh, I just cook it with bratwurst. (I cook it pretty much the same way my mother did. We always have mashed potatoes and creamed peas along with it). (*my sauerkraut making days ended after moving to the Antelope Valley in 2008 and losing my big heavy special crock)

Betty writes, “After my recent gastronomic tour of West Germany, I concluded that one cannot dismiss sauerkraut simply as a vegetable. It is part of the German way of life.

Yet until the Mongol (or Tartar) hordes swept into Eastern Europe in the 13th century, sauerkraut was unknown in Germany. According to legend, at least, it was the Chinese who invented the dish, during the building of the Great Wall when the coolies were fed from barrels of cabbage preserved in sour rice wine. Salt was too precious to use then; wine (or vinegar) was cheaper. The Mongols learned about the sour cabbage when they conquered China, and brought it with them to Hungary. From Hungary it traveled to Austria, and from Austria to Germany. Which just goes to show,” Betty concludes, “how history plays strange tricks on people’s food habits..”

She goes on to explain that the ways of preparing sauerkraut in Germany are many. Along with regional differences they are differences in personal preferences. While some people like it cooked long and slow until very soft (which is how I cook ours), other people like it very sour and crunchy. Betty says that every region in Germany has at least one favorite sauerkraut dish. She also offers a recipe for making your own sauerkraut. “THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” offers a great deal more than recipes for sauerkraut, however. If you ever happen to find a copy, this book, like all of Wason’s cookbooks, makes for enjoyable reading.

Another formidable undertaking would be “THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK” published in 1970. This is a nice thick cookbook containing more than two thousand recipes!

“THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK”, published by Hawthorn Books, is described by the publishers as five books in one: Book One is the “ABC’s of FOOD PREPARATION”. Book Two contains “MENU PLANNING AND WEIGHT CONTROL”, while Book Three offers “RECIPES”. Book Four is a “GUIDE TO ENTERTAINING” and Book Five “ALL ABOUT WINES AND SPIRITS”. This is a big thick cookbook that would compare favorably to almost any new comprehensive cookbook being published today.

In the course of her career, Betty Wason has worked as a food specialist and consultant. She was an associate food editor of WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION and editor at General Foods Kitchens. In addition, she wrote articles for HOUSE AND GARDEN, VOGUE, AMERICAN HOME, WOMAN’S DAY and other leading magazines. At one time, she was the woman’s editor for THE VOICE OF AMERICA.

At some point in her career, Betty Wason married and became Betty Wason Hall, and the mother of at least one daughter, Ellen. Ellen undoubtedly provided the inspiration for “COOKING TO PLEASE FINIKY KIDS” and “ELLEN: A MOTHER’S STORY OF HER RUNAWAY DAUGHTER”.

Betty moved to Pleasantville, New York along with a large collection of new and old cookbooks. Hunter Books, publishers of Macular Degeneration, indicate that as of 1998, Betty Wason was living in Seattle. Betty did not limit herself to writing cookbooks—she has, apparently, over the years written books about a variety of subjects.

The talented young lady who started out teaching cooking lessons traveled far and wide and experienced a versatile career that most of us can only dream about. She was, quite obviously, interested in a wide range of subjects, from archaeology to macular degeneration. And imagine this—her book on macular degeneration was published when Betty was 86 years old! Luckily for us, who love cookbooks, she wrote about those too.

Before closing, I want to make another comment about one of Betty Wason’s non-cookbook book accomplishments. In particular, I want to mention “MIRACLE AT HELLAS” which took some intensive searching to find, but was worth the search and the price.

I can only recommend that, since so many of Betty Wason’s books are out of print, you search diligently in your used book stores or internet websites such as Amazon.com for anything with her name on it.

Betty Wason is an author whose work has spanned six decades. I think you will be as impressed as I am over the quality and timelessness of her work.

Betty Wason passed away in February 2001 at the age of 88.

BOOKS BY BETTY WASON

• COOKING WITHOUT CANS, 1943, SMITH & DURRELL, INC. PUBLISHERS
• DINNERS THAT WAIT, 1954/DOLPHIN BOOKS (PAPERBACK EDITION)
• COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS, 1962/DOUBLEDAY
• THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING, 1963, DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY
• BRIDE IN THE KITCHEN, 1964 (publisher?)
• TRAVEL FAIR; HOWARD JOHNSON’S TIPS FOR TRIPS FOR FAMILIES ON THE GO, 1965 (publisher?)
• ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE COOKERY, 1966, GALAHAD BOOKS
• A SALUTE TO CHEESE, 1966, HAWTHORN BOOKS
• THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING 1967/DOUBLEDAY
• IT TAKES “JACK” TO BUILD A HOUSE; A DOWN-TO-EARTH GUIDE TO BUILDING AND REMODELING BY BETTY WASON, ILLUSTRATED BY B. STEPHEN SALTSBERG, 1968 (publisher?)
• THE LANGUAGE OF COOKERY, 1968 (publisher?)
• COOKING TO PLEASE FINIKY KIDS, 1969, ASSOCIATED PRESS
• BETTY WASON’S GREEK COOKBOOK, 1969/MACMILLAN
• HAIR TODAY & GONE TOMORROW, 1969 (publisher?)
• ART OF VEGETARIAN COOKERY, 1969 (publisher?)
• THE MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK, 1770 (publisher?)
• THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK. 1970/HAWTHORNE BOOKS
• MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK, 1973 (publisher?)
• GIVING A CHEESE & WINE TASTING PARTY, 1975 (publisher?)
• IMPROVING YOUR HOME FOR PLEASURE & PROFIT, 1975 (publisher?)
• ELLEN, A MOTHER’S STORY ABOUT A RUNAWAY DAUGHTER, 1976 (publisher?)
• SOUP TO DESSERT HIGH FIBER COOKBOOK 1976 (publisher?)
• MACULAR DEGENERATION, 1999 (publisher?)

–review by Sandra Lee Smith
Updated March, 2017

THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK

THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK, BY ALICE DEVINE LOEBEL is yet another cookbook on my soup/stews shelf that caught my eyes as I was looking over my personal collection of soups/stews, or one pot dishes. First published in 1969 with one repeat in 1974, it happens to be one of the books I found at the Burbank Friends of the Library Sales before I moved to the Antelope Valley in November of 2008. (I have fond memories of attending the Burbank Friends sales with girlfriends Connie and Mandy).

I have since found many great cookbooks at the Lancaster (California) Friends of the Library book sales. At their most recent Friends sale, I managed to buy FIFTY ONE preowned or Library discards for a total of $21.50! (I will be happy to write more about the Friends of the Library sales if anyone is interested in learning more about them). I have to confess – I don’t read all of the books I find and buy right away—I’m good but not that good. First I split them up into categories. At the recent sale, I found a dozen children’s books to give to a couple of my grandkids.

I wish I had spent more time going over the children’s books which are in so many different levels – from first readers to pre-teens; the latter is where my granddaughter, Jewls, is right now. Abby is a early reader, at the age of seven. I think she enjoys more being READ to, though.

But getting back to the recent Friends’ sale at Lancaster, Library—I found over a dozen cookbooks, some in like-new condition. I found about a dozen books of fiction that I am looking forward to reading. I found a few books I sent aside for my nieces, or my penpal, Lisa, in New York, who loves the books I send to her—I have managed to thin out the ranks of my book collection by sending a lot of them to Lisa.

(it was the only way I could find shelf space for new purchases!) – I’m embarrassed to admit this—but when Bob and I moved to the Antelope Valley, we went from about 3,000 square feet of space, including the guest house which Bob outfitted with a lot of bookshelves and a guest room for my brother, Jim, when he visited. The Arleta house had plenty of space for bookshelves throughout most of the house and we made the most of it in our nineteen years in the Arleta house on Arleta Avenue.

In 2010 now in the Antelope Valley, Bob created a garage library utilizing some of our bookcases from Arleta, but creating other bookshelves, a wondrous creation when you consider the garage library only takes up half of the space in the garage – my car is in the other half along with Rubbermaid cupboards along one side of the garage half—those shelves are packed with all my cooking equipment that wouldn’t fit in the kitchen. It pretty much has to be seen to be believed.

And I donated boxes and boxes of books to the Lancaster Library in 2009 and 2010.
Well, my shelf of soups, stews, one dish meals – is at my eye level if I am sitting on the edge of my bed and looking over books that might be suitable for posting on my blog. And the catchy title of THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK caught my attention—it even has the original dust jacket which is especially desirable if you want to write about a particular cookbook.

(*I remember years ago, writing about the Browns and their cookbooks when the only information available was what you found on the dust jackets and that was scant—ditto two other favorite cookbook authors, Myra Waldo and Meta Given. Back then the publishers didn’t provide much background information about the authors. (was it to protect their privacy? I don’t know). The Internet changed all that! I have since discovered much biographical information about my favorite cookbook authors with the advent of the World Wide Web—I have even received emails on my blog from descendants of my favorite cookbook authors. It opens another whole dimension to what a writer can write about favorite authors and I am so thrilled and delighted when someone who was related to, or personally knew, one of my favorite authors writes to me!

Much along these same lines, the dust jacket to THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK is almost entirely devoted to enticing the reader into buying and reading (or borrow from the library) this cookbook. At the end of the jacket blurb, is a short message—kind of an after-thought “Alice Devine Loebel lives in New York City and in Connecticut. Her husband, Herbert Loebel, took the photographs for this book”. (a scant few, I might add)

But, a while ago, I discovered, on the back of the dust jacket, a comment written by none other than M.F.K. Fisher, who wrote, “who as a food writer and critic sees most of today’s cookbooks and approves of few, writes: “a good book in a morass of shoddy stuff..honest and sensible and well written, a rare combination in current culinary texts. It is also persuasive and tempting, so that no reader may well resist its intelligent approach to the pots and pans, prime weapons in our art of living.”

This being said, why should you look for THE SIMERING POT COOKBOOK? For one thing, Alice devotes a fair amount of information, “the basic technique of the magical stockpot, regarded as an essential by classic French cookbooks, together with the steamer method which preserves nutrition, flavor and the appearances of foods, form the theme of this high quality cookbook…” –

Alice pays close attention to kitchen ecology followed by The Stockpot. Writes the author, “the stockpot is the oldest, most tried and true method of recycling food. The basic requirements to produce a rich and toothsome stock exist in every contemporary kitchen.”
The chapter dedicated to the Stockpot starts with a quote from Escoffier “Stock is everything in cooking…without it, nothing can be done. If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy. If, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result.” Escoffier knew what he was writing about. And so did Alice Loebel.

She tells us “the desire to serve forth from our modern kitchens the wholesomeness and delicious foods of our grandmother’s era is a universal wish. Despite the over-packaged and refined foods in today’s market, it can be done…she says “convenience foods such as TV dinners and commercial frozen entrees are costly, low in nutrition and their wrappings are pollutants”…elsewhere, she writes “During the era of large wood and coal burning kitchen stoves, whether in a palace or in a pioneer’s shack, the stockpot stood permanently and majestically on the back of every stove. It simmered continuously and the savory leftovers of meals and cooking scraps were always being added”…elsewhere she writes “the stockpot is the oldest and most tried and true method of recycling food..”

Reading this about stockpots reminded me of one of my grandmother’s soups that we all loved and enjoyed with a freshly baked homemade salt bread. Her soup was a broth, undoubtedly chicken broth, in which she added tiny little dumplings called Rivels. (we pronounced it as ‘rivel-lies)

Another family favorite was ham and bean soup, made with a ham bone and some ham scraps—to which everyone in the family added about a tablespoon or two of vinegar directly into your bowl of soup. This soup is still one of my favorites.

Alice provides stock recipes for classic chicken stock, classic beef stock, classic brown stock and classic ham stock- and one not to be overlooked, classic fish stock.
There are a variety of consommé recipes which gave me pause – I don’t recall ever seeing anything except a beef consommé – and recipes for making your own bouillon—that one did make me sit up and take notice. I have to confess, the only bouillon I had ever made are the little foil-wrapped chicken, vegetable and beef bouillon cubes-which, admittedly, are almost always very salty.

The rest of Alice’s cookbook is filled with mouth-watering recipes you will surely want to try—imagine Potato and Bacon Soup, or Potato and Spinach Soup, Avocado Soup, a delicate creamy cauliflower soup, or how about a cream of pea and mushroom soup? And I was thrilled to find a Hungarian Goulash Soup—a sister-in-law of the author was raised in Vienna and this was her family’s recipe. Additionally, there are an assortment of chowder recipes, providing a Scallop Chowder and a Fish Chowder that I know I will have to try. There is even a recipe for Pot Roast which just happens to be what I have been cooking this afternoon, using up left over pot roast from a Sunday Dinner for my youngest son and daughter-in-law.

I haven’t counted all the recipes in Alice Loebel’s cookbook, “The Simmering Pot Cookbook”—just want to say there are quite a lot of recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere.
I went onto Amazon.com to see if they have copies of pre-owned copies of the Simmering Pot Cookbook—they do and there are quite a few. I’ve been thinking, getting some extra copies would be great Christmas or birthday presents for my like-minded friends. There are eighteen pre-owned books, starting at $3.55. Remember that whenever you purchase a pre-owned book on Amazon.com, there is a $3.99 shipping & handling charge. I find that the pre-owned books are shipped quickly and are well wrapped.

Alice Loebel was also the author of “The Stockpot and Steamer Cookbook”, published in 1969, and may have the inspiration for “The Simmering Pot Cookbook”. I didn’t find any other cookbooks by this author.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE…LET THEM EAT SOUP (PART 2)

PART 2

President Taft (from my hometown of Cincinnati!) the biggest and heaviest of all American Presidents, was also partial to turtle soup.

Terrapin soup was one of President Taft’s favorite luncheon recipes, but when it was served at State’s dinners, a special cook was hired for the $5.00 charge to cook just the soup—given what I now know about killing and cooking turtle, I’m willing to bet that the reason a special cook was hired to cook the terrapin wasn’t so much the cooking end of the job as it was –first kill one turtle.

Mrs. Taft was a great one for invading the White House kitchens to peek into the pots and pans and undoubtedly did so even when the special cook was in attendance. Mrs. Taft kept three cooks in the kitchen but seems to have “gone through” them one after another, possibly due to her habit of invading the White House kitchen to taste what was in the pots! **

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s family LOVED soups. Throughout the many years of the Roosevelt administration, soup pots and kettles were kept simmering on the White House stoves. One of the President’s favorite was pepper pot soup, while Cream of Almond was one of Eleanor’s favorite soups. They also favored fish chowder and something called Mongole Soup (made with yellow split peas and tomato juice) which was an inaugural day favorite. Poppy Cannon tells us that Mongole Soup was also a hearty midnight snack for the Roosevelts house guests.

TO MAKE PRESIDENT (FDR) ROOSEVELT’S MONGOLE SOUP you will need
Yellow split peas
Tomato juice
Onions
Salt & pepper

Soak ½ cup of yellow split peas overnight. In the morning, drain the peas and set over low heat with 2 cups tomato juice. Simmer several hours or until the peas disintegrate. Seasons with 1 tsp grated onion and salt & pepper to taste. Serves 6.
**
However, a favorite Roosevelt soup story involves turtle! Like so many of his predecessors, the president loved turtle and terrapin soup. Shortly after his inauguration, some terrapin were sent to him as a gift. The creatures roamed around the White House cellars, terrorizing Mrs. Nesbitt, the housekeeper.

When she ruined the first terrapin after it was cooked, the President was furious so that the next time terrapin arrived at the White House, the president hired someone from the Metropolitan Club to prepare it!

(it should be noted there is a RITUAL to killing and cooking turtles. (I will spare you the details…trust me, you don’t want to know!)

“In the end,” writes the History Channel on Google, “turtle soup became the victim of its own overwhelming popularity. It migrated from presidential dinners down to railway dining cars, and finally to the red and white Campbell’s can in the 1920s. by World War II, harried cooks had long tired of dressing their own turtles, and cheaper and tastier canned options to turtle became available. Newfangled convenience products like TV dinners and Spam were the final strikes against the increasingly unfashionable turtle soup and by the 1960s, it had gone the way of the pepper pot, served only in certain regions of America…” (from The rise and Fall of Turtle Soup on Google)

The Roosevelt Family enjoyed Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup, Chicken Soup Amandine, and Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Fish Chowder (Sara was FDR’s mother) as well as Green Gumbo, a luncheon favorite of FDR’s along with Crab Gumbo.

Moving on to the Trumans administration—Mrs. Truman was a very private person and resisted any attempts to divulge favorite recipes. That said, Mrs. Truman made herself popular with all the staff in the White House. She knew what she wanted, she knew how things should be done, and how to give orders in a pleasant way. A household employee who said “this is not how the Roosevelts did this” was quickly replaced.

Poppy Cannon doesn’t name names in the Presidents Cookbook and it has been eons ago, so I think it’s safe to say that the person who made that remark was undoubtedly Mrs. Nesbitt, who was hired by Mrs. Roosevelt and came to the White House with them from Hyde Park. (During Mrs. Nesbitt’s reign, it was undoubtedly her way or the highway).

The Truman ways were not the Roosevelt ways. Mrs. Truman took the household bookkeeping in hand and ran it herself. She ruled out breakfast for the daily sleep-out employees, to cut the huge food bills. Every day she sat at her desk and tried to run the White House like a business.

Mr. Truman was a senator prior to becoming Vice President going into FDRs fourth administration and enjoyed Senate Bean Soup, a recipe that has appeared in numerous cookbooks but I discovered that the recipe in Poppy Cannon’s cookbook is made with CANNED SOUP – so I am a bit nonplussed where I found the canned bean soup recipe—the following is an authentic copy of Senate Bean Soup:

TO MAKE SENATE BEAN SOUP

2 CUPS DRY NAVY BEANS
3 QUARTS WATER
1 MEATY HAM BONE
½ CUP MASHED COOKED POTATOES
3 ONIONS, MINCE
4-5 STALKS CELERY, MINCED
2 CLOVER GARLICS, MINCED
¼ CUP MINCED PARSLEY
SALT & PEPPER
LEMON SLICES* OPTIONAL

SOAK BEANS OVERNIGHT IN WATER. ADD HAM BONE AND SIMMER 1 HOUR OR UNTIL BEANS START TO GET TENDER. ADD MASHED POTATOES AND MIX UNTIL SMOOTH. ADD ONIONS, CELERY GARLIC AND PARSLEY AN DSIMMON 1 HOUR LONGER OR UNTIL BEANS ARE SOFT. REMOVE THE HAM BONE, THEN DICE MEAT AND RETURN MEAT TO SOUPL THIN WITH HOT WATER IF NECESSARY. (SOUP SHOULD BE THICK) SEASON WITH SALT AND PEPPER. GARNISH WITH LEMON SLICES. SERVICES 10-12.

*I made this soup exactly as directed and decided it needed more color; so I added a small can of tomato sauce and a couple carrots, diced or sliced, to the soup. Back where I come from, we don’t add lemon slices; we DO add a tablespoon of Apple Cider vinegar to our individual bowls of bean soup, just before eating. Yum!

The Eisenhowers were partial to soup, too. Oxtail soup, cream of almond and cream of celery were a few favorites, along with Stone Crab Bisque, and cream of Artichoke soup.

It was well known that one of President Eisenhower’s own specialties which he prepared himself, was a vegetable beef soup. President Eisenhower was an amateur chef and enjoyed thumbing through cookbooks and experimenting with recipes. The President prided himself on his homemade soups but this detailed recipe for a plain vegetable soup was more than two pages in length! He began with some practical instructions for preparing chicken broth but ended with a rather unusual suggestion for garnishing the soup:

“The best time to make…soup is a day or so after you have had fried chicken and out of which you have saved the necks, ribs, backs, etc.—uncooked. As a final touch, in the springtime when the nasturtiums are green and tender, cut them up in small pieces; boil them separately and add them to your soup. (I have never seen nasturtiums mentioned in a recipe before!

According to Poppy Cannon in THE PRESIDENT’S COOKBOOK, President Eisenhower enjoyed making an old fashioned beef stew for sixty, with directions calling for 20 pounds of beef in 3 gallons of beef stock–You may not want to make a beef stew for sixty people (does anyone have a soup pot big enough?) but you might enjoy experimenting with President Eisenhower’s beef stew scaled down to feed six—-so to make President Eisenhower’s Beef Stew:

Beef for stew (1-2 pounds)
Butter or other shortening
Canned bouillon (or packaged beef bouillon cubes—1 beef bouillon cube with 1 cup of water equals one cup of beef stock)
Water
Bouquet Garni*
Small Irish potatoes
Carrots
White onions
Tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour

Brown 2 lbs beef cubes in 2 TBSP shortening, then add 2 cans bouillon and 1 can water. Simmer, covered, until meat is nearly tender. Add bouquet garni* and 12 potatoes, halved, 1 bunch carrots, cut in 1” lengths, 12 small white onions, 2 large tomatoes, cut in eighths, salt & pepper. Remove bouquet garni and drain off liquid. Return gravy to pot and cook over low heat until well thickened.

(Watch for sales on any cut of beef, such as 7-Bone or round bone roast. Cut the meat into cubes—its much easier than buying beef that has already been cut into cubes. Cook the bone-in in a pot of water to make your own beef stock.

*To make a bouquet garni (not Eisenhower’s instructions—these are my own—sls) I consulted the Grand Dame of cookbooks, Irma Rombauer who advises in JOY OF COOKING that a Bouquet Garni can vary in makeup but usually includes a bay leaf, thyme and parsley, basil, sweet marjoram, summer savory, celery or chervil. Tie the fresh or dried herbs in a bouquet made with 4” squares of cheesecloth. Tie the ends together and bind securely. Bouquets of dried herbs can be made in advance and kept in a tight fitting container, preferably one that is light-proof. You never use a bouquet garni more than once and add it only in the last half hour of cooking. Don’t be afraid to experiment and use herbs that your family enjoys.

Another similar bouquet garni is Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook calls for:

3 sprigs parsley
1 sprig celery or small stalk celery
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
9 peppercorns
2 whole cloves
**
The Kennedys were also soup eaters and one of their famous favorites was Hyannisport Fish Chowder which all of the Kennedys were said to enjoy. According to Francois Rysavy, who was the French Chef to the Kennedys, “The President was a ‘soup, sandwich and fruit’ man for lunch. His luncheon was almost bound to be soup.

To make President Kennedy’s Favorite New England Clam Chowder, South of Boston Style:

4 dozen medium hard-shelled clams
5 cups cold water
1 2-inch cube salt pork, diced*
1 large onion, chopped very fine
4 medium potatoes, diced
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups milk, hot
1 ½ cups heavy cream, hot

Wash clams thoroughly. Place them in a deep pan with the cold water, covering the clams. Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes or until shells open. Strain the broth thoroughly through cheesecloth and reserve. Remove clams from their shells; clean and chop. Combine salt pork and onion in a saucepan. Cook gently over low heat, about 3 minutes, do not brown. Add broth and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are render. Add clams. Remove from heat and slowly add milk and cream which has been heated. Serve immediately.

One of the recipes frequently mentioned in connection with Mrs. Kennedy was Boula Boula soup which contained (surprise!) turtle. Mrs. Kennedy’s Boula Boula soup was served at the White House on United Nations Day. (However, the days of 300 pound turtles being presented to the White House are a thing of a past. White House Chef Rene Verdon provided a recipe for making Mrs. Kennedy’s Boula Boula soup substituting peas along with 2 cups canned green turtle soup but I don’t think you can find turtle ANY where anymore–Fresh, frozen or otherwise. Most turtles are an endangered species. In my own family, mock turtle soup—at one time (many years ago!) was made with the head of a cow—back in the days when the head of a cow was something you could order from the butcher; at some point in time, ground beef was substituted for the head of a cow.

To make President Kennedy’s favorite onion soup you will need:

3 medium onions, finely sliced
4 tbsp butter
1 TBSP flour
2 ½ pints beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste
French bread
Shredded Swiss cheese
Additional butter

Cook the onions and butter in a heavy pot. When they are browned or translucent, sprinkle with flour. Allow to brown a little longer, then add the beef stock, salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes. Slice the bread ¼” thick. Butter lightly and then brown in oven. Put the onion soup in casserole or serving dishes.

There are numerous published books written by the employees who worked in the White House; in the 1960s, I began collecting White House BOOKS, specifically memoirs by white house employees—not just those compiled by the White House chefs. One of the first that I found was Henrietta Nesbitt’s “The Presidential Cookbook”, published in 1951. Many of these books have a tendency to overlap with other White House cookbooks (sort of shades of which came first—the chicken or the egg).

That being said, the Martha Washington Cook Book does NOT contain a recipe for her Crab Bisque although Henrietta Nesbitt’s Presidential Cookbook contains a recipe titled Martha Washington’s Crab Soup (1951) repeated by Poppy Cannon, in The Presidents’ Cookbook (1968), repeated again by John R. Hanny in his Secrets from the White House Kitchens in 2001.

Henrietta Nesbitt was invited by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to go with them from Hyde Park to the White House as their housekeeper. Mrs. Nesbitt was at that time was well into her fifties and she would remain housekeeper for the next 13 years for the Roosevelts and one year with the Trumans.

I started searching for books by White House employees after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—there were numerous memoirs by JFK’s friends and employees close to him, as well as those who worked for Mrs. Kennedy (despite by being required by Mrs. Kennedy to sign an agreement NOT to write any memoirs about them.

Then once I really got underway in my search for White House memoirs, I discovered numerous published works by those employed by FDR or those who were personal friends of FDR and/or Eleanor.

Recently, I began to notice re-writes of those early books—presumably the copywrites have expired on those early memoirs. I purchased, from Amazon.com, a reprint of “White House Diary” by Henrietta Nesbitt, originally published by the author in 1948. I had an original edition of White House Diary and lost it somehow, so recently I ordered another copy from Amazon.com for my home library. I also ordered President Jimmy Carter’s “White House Diary” to supplement my original White House library. **

Poppy Cannon’s “the Presidents Cookbook” ends with the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was vice president at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. As vice president, LBJ was sworn in while on Air Force One flying back to Washington DC. No soup recipes are in Cannon’s final segment of presidents.

At the completion of the one term Johnson fulfilled as president, he announced he would not be seeking another term as president; he and Ladybird returned to Texas. Perhaps he felt those shoes of Kennedy’s were too big for him to fill.

My reference material is taken from books in my own library. Some years ago (1990s) I wrote a 4-part article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange on the White House, primarily by White House Employees. When it was complete and had been printed in four issues of the CCE, I then had the idea of compiling an article based on soup recipes favored by presidents and their wives.

Reference:

THE MARTHA WASHINGTON COOK BOOK (Recipes from the personal cookbook of Thomas Jefferson, by Marie Kimball, originally printed 1940

THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK, feeding the Roosevelts and their guests, copyright 1951 by Henrietta Nesbitt

THE MOUNT VERNON COOKBOOK compiled by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association copyright 1984

THE PRESIDENTS’ COOKBOOK, by Poppy Cannon, copyright 1968, covers presidents from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson.

SECRETS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHENS, by John R. Hanny copyright 2001

THE CARTER FAMILY FAVORITES COOKBOOK, COPYRIGHT 1976 BY Ceil Dyer

THE WHITE HOUSE CHEF COOKBOOK, copyright 1967 by Rene Verdon, over 500 recipes and menus by the man who was White House chef during the Kennedy years

–Sandra Lee Smith

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPORABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE & BOB — COOKBOOK AUTHORS

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPORABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE & BOB — COOKBOOK AUTHORS
(previously posted 9/2012)

Back in 1965, when I first began collecting cookbooks, one of my first cookbook penpals was a woman in Michigan, Betsy, who has remained my friend to this day. I have been the happy recipient of many of her cookbooks as she began to downsize.

Betsy was the person who “introduced” me to the Browns – Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, authors of over a dozen really fantastic, outstanding cookbooks. Betsy had some duplicates of the Browns’ cookbooks and sent them to me. Well, I was quickly hooked. And it was the Browns’ “America Cooks” (published 1940 by Halcyon House), that really turned me onto church-and-club community cookbooks. (I was stunned to see “America Cooks” listed at $300 by an antiquarian book dealer. I bought an extra copy for $5.00 some time ago and gave it to someone who didn’t have a copy!)

Everyone of you who reads cookbooks like novels (and thinks you are the only person in the world who does this) would find “America Cooks” a most readable cookbook. Since “America Cooks” was published in 1940, others have followed in the Browns’ footsteps with dozens of cookbooks with “America” in the titles. None can compare with The Browns’ “America Cooks”.

In the foreword, the Browns wr0te, “We put in twenty years of culinary adventuring in as many countries and wrote a dozen books about it before finding out that we might as well have stayed at home and specialized in the regional dishes of our own forty-eight states. For America cooks and devours a greater variety of viands than any other country. We’re the world’s richest stewpot and there’s scarcely a notable foreign dish or drink that can’t be had to perfection in one or another section of our country….”

“For many years we Browns have been collecting regional American cooking lore, gathering characteristic recipes from each of the forty-eight states (Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become states in 1940) with colorful notes on regional culinary customs. Our collection is complete and savory. It has been our aim to make this America’s culinary source book, a means whereby each state and city may interchange its fine foods and dishes with every other, from coast to coast and from border to border. Here are forty-eight different cookbooks merged into one handy volume—a guide to the best in food and drink that this bounteous country offers. Obviously, no one person nor three, can cover every kitchen, even with such enthusiastic help as we have had from several hundred local authorities. But we believe this is our best food book, and in order to build it bigger and better in later editions, we should like to swap regional recipes and gustatory lore with all who are interested…”

And seventy something years later, I think “America Cooks” remains the Browns’ best food book. However, that being said, I found the most elusive cookbook of the Browns to be “THE VEGETABLE COOK BOOK”, subtitled “FROM TROWEL TO TABLE” by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown. Published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1939—I only recently obtained a copy through Alibris.com and paid a whopping $25.00 for a copy. (I justified it by it having the original dust jacket and being a first edition—although to tell the truth, I rarely spend that much on a book. And it seems that other copies are going for much higher prices.

Cora Brown, Robert’s mother, was born in Charlotte, Michigan, graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of music, married and brought up a family. She took up writing fiction and in 1920 went to Brazil to become co-publisher with her son and daughter in law, Rose. Cora lived with Bob and Rose in Japan, China, France, Germany, etc, becoming familiar with foreign customs and kitchens and collecting recipes with Rose. Cora is the author of “The Guide to Rio de Janerio” and co-authored ten cookbooks with Bob and Rose.

Rose Brown was born in Middletown, Ohio (not far from my hometown of Cincinnati), and graduated from Barnard College and Teachers College. She was a teacher, interior decorator, and journalist, contributing articles on cooking to Colliers, Vogue, This Week and other magazines. Rose was co-author with Cora and Bob on most of their cookbooks. One cookbook that does not list Cora is “Look Before You Cook” which shows Rose and Bob as authors. One cookbook authored solely by Bob Brown is “The Complete Book of Cheese.” “Culinary Americana” was written by Eleanor Parker and Bob Brown—Eleanor becoming Bob’s wife after Rose’s death.

According to Lippincott, the initiation of Rose into the mysteries of cooking was over a camp fire with game and instruction by her father. During World War I, she worked as a writer for the Committee of Public Information in Santiago, Chile. In Buenos Aires, Mrs. Brown became co publisher with Bob Brown of weekly magazines in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and London. Rose Brown had her own kitchen in a dozen countries and traveled all over the world, always pursuing her hobbies of collecting recipes and cooking lore—and going fishing with her husband. Rose Brown passed away in 1952.

Bob brown was born in Chicago and was graduated from Oak Park High School and the University of Wisconsin. He arrived in New York in 1908 to enter the writing lists, contributing verse and fiction to practically all the periodicals of the time. One of his first books, written after the end of Prohibition, was called “Let There Be Beer!” He then collaborated with his mother and wife Rose on “The Wine Cookbook,” first published in 1934 and reprinted many times. A 1960 edition was re-named “Cooking with Wine” .

Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) was a writer, editor, publisher, and traveler. From 1908 to 1917, he wrote poetry and prose for numerous magazines and newspapers in New York City, publishing two pulp novels, “What Happened to Mary” and “The Remarkable Adventures of Christopher Poe” (1913), and one volume of poetry, “My Marjonary” (1916).

In 1918, Bob Brown traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America, writing for the U.S. Committee of Public Information in Santiago de Chile. In 1919, he moved with his wife, Rose Brown, to Rio de Janeiro, where they founded Brazilian American, a weekly magazine that ran until 1929. With Brown’s mother, Cora, the Browns also established magazines in Mexico City and London: Mexican American (1924-1929) and British American (1926-1929).

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Browns retired from publishing and traveled through Asia and Europe, settling in France from 1929-1933. Brown became involved in the expatriate literary community in Paris, publishing several volumes of poetry, including” Globe Gliding” (1930), “Gems” (1931), “Words” (1931), and “Demonics” (1931), as well as “1450-1950” (1929), a book of visual poetry. While in France, Brown also made plans toward, and wrote a manifesto for, the development of a “reading machine” involving the magnified projection of miniaturized type printed on movable spools of tape. Arguing that such a device would enable literature to compete with cinema in a visual age, Brown published a book of “Readies”—poems by Gertrude Stein, Fillipo Marinetti, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and others, typeset in a manner appropriate to operation of his projected reading machine. Although Brown’s reading machine was never developed, his papers include letters and papers pertaining to its projected design and technical specifications, as well as a collection of his own published and unpublished visual and conceptual writing. (Bob Brown was way ahead of his time – today, we have the Kindle and Nook. I can’t help but wonder if someone came across his manifesto and ran with it).

In 1933, Brown returned to New York. In the 1930s, he wrote a series of international cookbooks in collaboration with Rose and Cora Brown. He also lived in cooperative colonies in Arkansas and Louisiana, visited the USSR, and wrote a book, “Can We Co-Operate” (1940), regarding the parameters of a viable American socialism. In 1941, he and Rose returned to South America. While traveling down the Amazon they amassed a substantial collection of art and cultural artifacts and collaborated on a book, “Amazing Amazon” (1942). The Browns eventually reestablished residence in Rio de Janeiro, where they lived until Rose Brown’s death in 1952.

After thirty years of living in many foreign countries, and following the deaths of Cora and Rose, Bob Brown closed their mountain home in Petropolis, Brazil, and returned to New York, where he married Eleanor Parker in 1953. Brown continued to write and ran a shop called Bob Brown’s Books in Greenwich Village and ran a mail order business until his death in 1959. Shortly after Brown’s death, a new edition of “1450-1950” was published by Jonathan Williams’s Jargon/Corinth Press.
During his lifetime, Bob Brown authored more than a thousand short stories and thirty full length books.
The Browns appear to have used a number of different publishers for their cookbooks. While “Soups, Sauces and Gravies,” “Fish and Sea Food Cookbook,” Salad and Herbs” were published by Lippincott, “The Complete Book of Cheese” was published by Gramercy Publishing Company. “America Cooks” and “10,000 Snacks” were published by Halcyon House and “The European Cook Book” by Prentice-Hall, Inc. A few were published by companies I am unfamiliar with; “The Country Cookbook” by A.S. Barnes and Company, and “Most for Your Money Cookbook” by Modern Age Books. “Culinary Americana”, co-authored by Brown Brown and Eleanor Parker Brown, was published by Roving Eye Press (Bob Brown’s own publication name). For whatever reason, the Browns appear to have shopped around whenever they had a book ready for publication. (Or did they copyright them all first, and then shop for publishers?)
Recently, I began to rediscover the fabulous cookbooks written the Browns. Some unexpected surprises turned up—for instance, as I was browsing through the pages of “Most for Your Money” I found a chapter titled “Mulligans Slugullions, Lobscouses and Burgoos”—while I am unfamiliar with mulligans and lobscouses, I’ve written about slumgullion stew in sandychatter and have received messages from readers from time to time, sharing their stories about slumgullion stews of their childhoods. It starts out “Jack London’s recipe for slumgullion is both simple and appetizing…” providing some enlightenment about the history of slumgullion. (some other time, perhaps we can explore the obscure and mostly forgotten names of recipes).

And – synchronicity – I had just finished writing about sauces for my blog when I rediscovered, on my bookshelves, the Browns “Soups Sauces and Gravies” which simply reaffirmed my belief that the best cookbooks on sauces will be found in older cookbooks. This cookbook by the Browns was published in 1939.
The most complete list I have of the Browns’ cookbooks is as follows:
The Wine Cookbook, by Cora, Rose & Bob Brown, originally published in 1934, revised edition 1944, Little Brown & Company. In 1960 Bob Brown published a reprint of The Wine Cookbook with the title “Cooking With Wine” and under his Roving Eye Press logo.

The European Cook Book/The European Cookbook for American Homes is apparently the same book with slightly different titles. Subtitled The Four in One book of continental cookery, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France. I saw and nearly purchased on the internet an English version of the same book from a dealer in England. I already have three copies, don’t need a fourth! However, it should be noted that the original European Cook Book for American Homes was published in 1936 by Farrar & Rinehart. The 1951 edition with a shortened title was published by Prentice-Hall.
The Country Cook Book by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1937 by A.S. Barnes and Company.
Most for your Money CookBook, by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by Modern Age Books
Salads and Herbs, By Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by J.B. Lippincott
The South American Cookbook (what I have is a Dover Publication reprint first published in 1971. The original was published by Doubleday, Doran & Company in 1939 – Cora, Rose and Bob Brown
Soups, Sauces and Gravies by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott Company
The Vegetable Cookbook by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott
America Cooks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 by Halcyon House.
Outdoor Cooking by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 The Greystone Press (*notes that parts of this book appeared in Collier’s and Esquire magazines)
Fish and Seafood Cook Book by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, published 1940 by J.B. Lippincott Company
Look Before you Cook by Rose and Bob Brown, published 1941 by Consumers Union of the United States, Inc.
10,000 Snacks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1948 by Halcyon House—the format and chatty style of 10,000 snacks is quite similar to “America Cooks”.
The Complete Book of Cheese, by Bob Brown, published 1955 by Gramercy Publishing
Culinary Americana by Eleanor Parker Brown and Bob Brown is a bibliography of cookbooks published in the cities and towns of the United States during the years from 1860 through 1960. It is believed that the first fund-raiser cookbook was compiled and published during the Civil War, by women to raised money for the Sanitation Commission. Culinary American focuses primarily on “regional” cookbooks, and notes that, “Certainly, it was after the War (i.e., the Civil War) that we find them printed in many states of the union,” writes Eleanor Parker Brown in the Introduction to Culinary Americana, “A survey of 200 cookbooks of our own collection, published at various times during this last century in Massachusetts showed that they came from seventy-four different cities and villages. In the case of many of the smaller places, these titles constitute the only books ever printed in these localities, which makes them important landmarks in the history of bookmaking in the state.
The regional cookbooks are a treasure trove of original recipes, as well as a record of old ‘receipts,’ reflecting the nationality background of the settlers of the community. Thus you will expect, and find, German foods in the old books of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Scandinavian receipts in the pamphlets of the Midwest, and Spanish dishes in the booklets published in the southwest…the little books, some in the handwriting of the contributor, often with signed recipes, gives us a glimpse of the gallant women who proudly cooked these meals and generously gave up their secrets ‘for the benefit of…others…”
Eleanor Parker Brown also shares with us, in the introduction, “Bob Brown first got together a cookbook collection for reference when he began to write about cooking. He had 1500 volumes which were purchased promptly by a grocery chain store as nucleus for their research library. It was then necessary for him to start a new collection. This was the origin of an interest in cookery books which lasted, and grew, to the end of this life. Bob saw cook books as social and cultural history in America; particularly, those regional books which were so close to the heart of the country…”
Eleanor says that after Bob’s sudden death, she continued work o this bibliography.” Culinary Americana includes listings of all the regional cookbooks we could either locate or obtain information about. It runs the gamut from ‘fifteen cent dinners for families of six’ to the extravagant and elaborate collations of Oscar of the Waldorf….”
“Culinary Americana” is the kind of book that cookbook collectors simply drool over.
As an aside, I find it curious that the Browns flooded the cookbook market within the span of a few years; from “The Wine Cookbook”, published in 1934, to “Look Before You Cook” published in 1941, the Browns published eleven cookbooks. Then they appear to have gone on hiatus until 10,000 snacks was published in 1948. However, given the extent of their travels and living in countries all over the world – it crossed my mind that perhaps all of these cookbooks were “in the works” while they lived abroad—and perhaps came home to get their cookbooks published. I’m speculating, of course. The first time I wrote about the Browns (for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1994) – information was scarce. Almost everything I wrote about was gleaned from the books or their dust jackets. Today, thanks to the internet, there is more biographical information available but not enough to satisfy my greedy soul. Of all the authors I have collected in the past 45 years, those by The Browns remain my all time favorites. I was stunned to discover Bob Brown had a bookstore and that he wrote over a thousand short stories and 30 full length books. Yowza – this trio did it all.
Another update! Some months ago I was stunned to receive a message on my blog from Rory Brown—Bob Brown was his great grandfather; Cora Brown was his great-great-grandmother. It isn’t the first time (and hopefully won’t be the last) that a descendant of someone I have written about on Sandychatter has written to me. It was with Rory’s assistance that I located a copy of the Browns’ Vegetable Cookbook. I’m not sure why this particular cookbook has been so elusive—possibly because it was never reprinted like some of the other cookbooks have been? The Brown descendants have mentioned the possibility of having the books reprinted—wouldn’t that be nice?
Meantime, here’s a bit to chew on from The Vegetable Cookbook – it starts out “Speaking of Spinach” and introduces us to Cora’s great-granddaughter, Sylvie—then age 4—at a Thanksgiving dinner of the whole Brown family “Last Thanksgiving” which I assume to have taken place in 1938, since the book was published in 1939. The Browns noted that “She possessed herself in patience until the napkin was knotted in place and the plate set before her. Surveying the many good things, she made a quick choice, jabbed her fork into the beans with a forthright gesture, appraised the mouthful, wiped a buttery trickle from her chin, beamed around at everybody and gave a little squeal of delight—‘Oh, I just love string beans, don’t you, Bob?’” and the authors take it from there.
Well, I love Spinach and home-grown cooked green beans (aka string beans) and the Browns write that “Greens are only an appetizing nibble at our subject, for in Florida alone, the State Department of Agriculture lists more than sixty local favorites” which they go on to list. The Browns stated they had, for years, been ardent readers of seed catalogs and had gardens of their own whenever they had the chance. It was from growing their own that they had the idea of writing The Vegetable Cook Book – from Trowel to Table”. They wrote of being fed up with “woody turnips, wilted spinach, limp beans and peas that would give you some bruises on the gullet, frayed heads of cauliflower, broccoli and iceberg lettuce past their prime, as well as those terrible lopsided little scallions that are sold for spring onions by grocers nowadays, we got a head start with a compost bed and survey of half a hundred catalogs…”
I wonder what the Browns would think if they could observe the produce department in many supermarkets more than seventy years later—the array is, admittedly, dazzling—but I find too often that whatever I buy fresh needs to be used almost immediately. A few days later, most lettuce and other greens has to be thrown out.
But returning to The Vegetable Cook Book – I was entertained (and reminded of personal experiences) as they wrote of their first vegetable gardens, forgetting what was planted where when the little sticks identifying various veggies would be lost or blown away and other hit-or-miss experiences…everyone who has had similar experiences will relate. For almost 25 years, I had a house-mate also named Bob, who tended our compost and planted the veggie gardens at our home in the San Fernando Valley, until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008 and discovered the need to re-learn gardening in the desert.
But getting back to my favorite cookbook authors, following their introduction and induction into vegetable gardening, the Browns move forward, alphabetically from Artichokes and Asparagus to Avocados (with a side-trip into the variables of vegetables that are a fruit, or fruits that are a vegetable, such as tomatoes and avocados). There are chapters on cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery and chives, Kohlrabi and parsley, parsnips, peas – and many more…all the way down to Yams. I suspect that possibly one reason why The Vegetable Cook Book is so difficult to find is that it’s a dictionary of sorts, listing all the vegetables available to the Browns—with ways to cook them—maybe it belongs with my reference books rather than the cookbooks!

“The Vegetable Cook Book, From Trowel to Table” may pose a challenge for sandychatter readers to find a copy—but it’s sure to become a favorite reference cookbook if and when you do. (Cookbook collectors love the challenge of searching for a particular book).

—Sandra Lee Smith

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS

CHERYL AND BILL JAMISON are names you should recognize if you have been following my cookbook reviews for any length of time—I am unable to find my history on this couple at the present time—possibly because I lost a lot of material when I bought a new computer—and that came about after being seriously HACKED although I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would be interested in hacking MY files – inasmuch as everything I have written about cooking and cookbook authors can be found on my Blog. Well, let me get to the point—I was unpacking a box of cookbooks to put on the shelves in the garage library (I think someone must have given them to me) and I found a cookbook by the Jamisons that I was totally unfamiliar with!

And it was published not so very long ago, in 2008 (for me, that’s recent); the title is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, with the intriguing subtitle “50,000 MILES, 10 COUNTRIES, 800 DISHES AND 1 ROGUE MONKEY” This book is in pristine condition with a spotless dust jacket that I wish I knew how to copy and post with this article. Published by Harper Collins, the dust jacket offers a charming photograph of the Jamisons, with the notation “Cheryl and Bill Jamison are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides. They appear regularly on television, and are frequent contributors to publications, including COOKING LIGHT and BON APPETIT. They live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.” I have to confess, my bafflement has just increased—I subscribe to both Cooking Light and Bon Appetit and don’t recall seeing any of their articles. (which means I will get out stacks of the latter magazine, which I keep, to search for the Jamisons)

Well, the first thing on MY mind, maybe yours too, was “Where did the Jamisons go? Per the dustjacket, “After years of writing award-winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready for a break. So in the fall of 2005 they packed their bags, locked up their house in Santa Fe, and set off on a three-month-long visit to ten countries—all on frequent flyer miles. Among their stops were

Bali

Australia

New Caledonia

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

Brazil

–and don’t forget France

I have to add that this book reminds me so much of the foreign countries one of my favorite authors, Myra Waldo visited and wrote about decades before the Jamisons. I can’t help but wonder if the Jamisons knew about Myra Waldo or were inspired by her.

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS” is as much prose (their adventures) as it is poetry (the recipes). Now, there have been many cookbooks written about food in other countries (perhaps more so after WW2 than prior to it, when our soldiers returned home with new recipes and in many instances, brides as well—but anything that the Jamisons write is sure to be interesting and transporting the reader to another country.

And while “Around the World in 80 Dinners” may take you on charming visits to these countries, I have to tell you there are only actually ten recipes in the book itself (yes, I counted) – so you will have to read the book for the ADVENTURES more than the recipes—although there is one made with your Wok, Charred Long Beans with Black Olives, that I have already earmarked to try.

If you yearn for a cookbook providing more recipes, may I suggest another Jamison favorite, AMERICAN HOME COOKING, which contains over 300 recipes.

I really enjoy the Jamisons’ style of writing—whether recipes or travel adventures; you feel like you know them and are a part of their circle of friends.

 

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A PEEK INTO THE PAST–ANTIQUARIAN COOKBOOKS

A PEEK INTO THE PAST….ANTIQUE COOKBOOKS
AN UPDATE IN 2016 (originally posted 5/29/11
Say “antiquarian cookbooks” and most people imagine that anything they consider old—cookbooks over 30 years old, for instance–to be “antiques”. Strictly speaking, a thirty year old cookbook isn’t an antique; however, many cookbooks published in fairly recent decades may be extremely valuable to a collector. If, for instance, you have a first edition copy of “Joy of Cooking” – the very first copies, the true first editions, were self published by the author in 1931, making one of those 80 years old. It has been in print continuously since 1936 with more than 18 million copies sold. In 1936, Bobs-Merrill began publishing “Joy”. A first edition of “Joy” was listed recently by ABE books for $3,000.00.

Many cookbook dealers call themselves antiquarian book dealers while most of the cookbooks they are offering for sale are not truly antiquarian…but may be merely out of print or scarce. And remember the #1 golden rule of cookbook collecting or trying to sell some of your books—a cookbook is only worth $3,000.00 (or even $100.00) if someone will PAY that price. As a collector you have to decide for yourself whether the asking price of a book is worth that much. (Heck, I would love to complete my collection of The Browns cookbooks but am missing their Vegetable cookbook—I have seen it listed by antiquarian dealers for $90.00 – and to MY mind, $90.00 is too steep. I think even $50.00 would be too much –Tag it at $25.00 and I would probably start writing a check. (After originally posting this article, someone from the Browns’ family found a copy of the Vegetable Cookbook and I was able to purchase it for $25.00!)

Personally, I think most dealer prices are too pricey; I find most of my treasures in thrift stores and other out-of-the-way places where the prices are often more reasonable. On the other hand, I HAVE paid rather high prices for cookbooks I have coveted too much not to own them. And in recent years, I have been doing a lot of my searching on Amazon.com.

So, you ask, what IS an antiquarian cookbook? To be truly an antique, it should be over one hundred years old.

We are fortunate that cookbooks, over the centuries, have enjoyed a high enough status to have been collected and preserved.

The earliest cookbooks were handwritten manuscripts, prior to the invention of the printing press in 1455. All books were handwritten manuscripts. The Gutenberg Bible, as we know, was the first book printed on the printing press, but cookbooks also played an important role in the development of printed books.

Per Esther Aresty in her 1964 “The Delectable Past” (Simon & Schuster), the first cookbook printed on the printing press originated in Italy. It was written by a Vatican librarian named Bartolomeo de’ Sacchi and was titled “DE HONESTA VOLUPTATE” which loosely translates to mean “Permissible Pleasures.”
England’s first printed cookbook, “The Boke of Cokery” (sic) was published in 1500; “The Good House-Wive Treasure” (sic) was printed in 1588; “The English House-wife” (sic) by Gervase Markham was printed in 1615, and along with other cookbooks being published during those periods of time, were all written by men – women were not thought to be competent enough to write cookbooks!
Also, these books were owned only by the wealthy or royalty—bearing in mind, it really was a man’s world; most women in medieval times did not have the luxury of an education.

From Betty Confidential I learned that the very first female cookbook writer is believed to be Sabina Welserin of Augsburg, Germany. Her Kochbuch of 1553, however, remained in manuscript form until modern times.

Also from Betty Confidential, “Anna Weckerin’s Ein Köstlich new Kochbuch (A Delicious New Cookbook) of 1598 is the first cookbook published by a woman. It went through many editions up through the 17th century. She was the wife of a prominent professor of medicine, Johann Jacob Wecker, and not surprisingly, was health conscious. Her recipes include a roast salmon with a sour sauce, an eel pie, as well as more familiar German dishes like Bratwurst and Lebkuchen.” Betty Confidential also refers to “One of the most delightful and least known of antique cookbooks is ‘Rare and Excellent Receipts’ by Mary Tillinghast published in 1690. (This is the first I have ever heard of Mary Tillinghast’s cookbook).

In my original article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1993, I noted that “Possibly the first English cookbook with a woman’s by-line appeared in London in 1681 and was titled “The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet” by Hannah Wooley. While searching on Google to re-verify my 1993 notes, I came across the earlier references to Sabina Welserin and Anna Weckerin.
Another of the earliest female cookbook authors was Mary Kettilby who, in 1714, published “A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery; For the Use of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers and Careful Nurses.” But one woman writer who was to greatly influence English cookbooks and to prove that women were just as capable as men when it came to compiling cookbooks was Hannah Glasse, whose book “The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy” was published in 1747.

These early cookbooks were scarcely JUST cookbooks—they contained everything from household hints to directions for making up one’s own medicines, instructions for managing the household servants and proper etiquette, to directions for concocting perfumes, wines, cordials, soap, yeast – just about everything.

Early cookbooks began with the premise that first you had to KILL the animal that was to be eaten, and provide gory details for dismembering and preparing meat. I remember one old cookbook’s directions for cooking calf’s head—first you had to hold it by an ear and dip the head in boiling water! Still think it was so great back in the good old days? Calf’s head jelly was a forerunner of Jello gelatin—but Calf’s head was also cooked to make “mock turtle soup” – when you didn’t have a turtle but did have a calf’s head laying around. Ew, ew. Directions for killing a turtle to make authentic turtle soup are so gruesome that I, for one, am grateful for mock turtle soup. More recent versions of mock turtle soup are made with…ground beef.

Many seventeenth and eighteenth century cookbooks found their way across the ocean—ALL cookbooks first available in this country came from Europe. Not that it mattered very much; pioneer Americans were learning to adapt to a wide variety of new foods and one can suppose that even if the lady of the house COULD read and write, much of the discourse on managing servants would have been useless to early pioneer women.

The first American cookbook was printed in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, and reprinted there in 1752. According to “The Delectable Past”, however, this book was American by imprint only for it was actually Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife” (sic) which, at the time, was the most popular cookbook in England. The same book was reprinted in New York in 1764. (There was a lot of plagiarism ‘back in the day’ and apparently, it was done with impunity.)
In 1772, a cookbook was published in Boston, Susannah Carter’s “The Frugal Housewife,” followed in 1792 by Richard Briggs’ cookbook “The New Art of Cookery”. However, these first “American” cookbooks were actually English cookbooks; none contained recipes using Native American foods. Cookbooks were not in great demand in this country. In the south (and in the homes of some of the well-to-do) hostesses kept manuscript recipe journals and guarded their treasured recipes carefully, while in pioneer households across the land, young girls learned to cook by watching and helping their mothers in the kitchen.

The first cookbook written by an American woman was Amelia Simmon’s “American Cookery” which appeared in print in 1796. Amelia, according to cooklore, was an orphan and is credited with also being the first American cookbook writer to use American recipes with American ingredients. Her book was enormously successful—so much so that many of her recipes turned up later in Susannah Carter’s book “The Frugal Housewife” which in turn was plagiarized later in a reprint edition of Hannah Glasse’s book for American readers! But as noted earlier, these aren’t the first instances of plagiarism—stealing other cookbook authors’ works was a common practice that goes back hundreds of years.

Even Alexander Dumas, famous for having written “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” was guilty of plagiarizing when he was compiling his “Le Grand Dictionaire de Cuisine”. This was such a common practice, one can only assume that in the absence of laws protecting writers, authors had no compunctions against lifting material from other writers’ works.
The publishing market was replete, throughout the 1800s, with cookbooks written by women (bearing in mind, it was one of the few things a respectable “lady” could pursue as a source of income).

One written by a man was “The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined: comprising ample directions for preparing every article requisite for furnishing the tables of the nobleman, gentleman and tradesman, by John Mollard. (Presumably, in Mr. Mollard’s world there were no women in the kitchen).

From the previously mentioned Susannah Carter, in 1803, was “The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts” (Has anyone ever wondered how those long titles ever fit on the cover of a book?)

Sometimes the author of a cookbook, if a woman, would write anonymously to preserve her dignity and reputation. “A New System of Domestic Cookery, published in 1807 “by a Lady” was later identified when the book was reprinted.
And, in 1808 Lucy Emerson is credited with “The New-England Cookery, Or The Art of Dressing All Kinds of Flesh, Fish, and Vegetables—etc etc” and if it sounds familiar, it’s because Lucy plagiarized the 1798 cookbook by Amelia Simmons.

I was curious about copyright laws and when they went into effect, so – digressing and sidetracking, which I am known to do, I Googled a number of websites. I learned this:

The world’s first copyright law was the Queen Anne Statute, or “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”. It was passed by the English Parliament on 10 April 1710.

The purpose of this was to protect work of authors, but copyright laws have now extended to all forms of media. The Queen Anne Statute was the origin of all modern copyright laws.

In the USA, the basis for both copyright and patent law is established in Article 1, section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution (adopted 17 September 1787).

The first actual US copyright legislation was passed by the Congress on 25 May 1790 and signed into law by then President George Washington on 31 May 1790. While Benjamin Franklin is rumored to have birthed the idea of copyrights, it can be seen that it was present in the UK well before then.

Well, despite the existence of copyright laws, would-be authors went right on plagiarizing, or pirating, other authors’ works.

In 1815, Priscilla Homespun published “The Universal Receipt Book” (do you think that was really her surname?) and in 1819, The New Family Receipt Book was published by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, who published a number of other cookbooks in her time.

In 1820, Rundell published “The New Family Receipt Book” while (same year) Mrs. Frazer published “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, Preserving…”

There was in 1830, “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats” by “A Lady of Philadelphia”—in 1832, reprint identified the Lady of Philadelphia as Miss Leslie of Philadelphia.

One of the first of these that I actually recognize and remember reading about elsewhere is “The Virginia Housewife, Or, Methodical cook”, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph….I could spend hours typing up all the references to cookbooks published in the 1800s, but you get the picture.

From Feeding America, we learn that “by 1860 more and more cookbooks were being printed, and American cookbooks had become an integral part of the publishing business. The upheaval of the Civil War caused a decline in the publication of all books, including cookbooks. Then, in the 1870s, three major cookbooks explosions occurred, the effects of which are still with us. The first was a Civil War legacy: cookbooks compiled by women’s charitable organizations to raise funds to aid victims of the War – orphans, widows, wounded, veterans. When the Civil War ended, these organizations turned their charitable attentions to other causes. The trickle of these early books published in the 1860s and 1870s has become a flood today, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charitable cookbooks to benefit every conceivable cause are published in the United States each year…(another) important development was the growth of the cooking school movement. It began with the cooking schools started in New York City by Pierre Blot and Juliet Corson and intensified with the great cooking schools and their teachers – Mrs. Rorer in Philadelphia and Mrs. Lincoln and Fannie Farmer in Boston. These schools dominated American cookbook publishing for the remainder of the nineteenth century and early into the twentieth”.

So, fast forward a little bit – to the latter 1800s, when along came Fannie – Fannie Farmer. Fannie was born in Medford, Massachusetts in March, 1857, the oldest of four daughters, born into a family that highly valued education and expected Fannie to go to college. However, when she was just sixteen years old, she suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to continue her education. For several years she couldn’t walk and remained at home with her parents. During this period of time. Fannie took up cooking, eventually turning her mother’s home into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals they served. At the age of 30, Fannie – now walking with a limp – enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. Fannie trained at the school until 1889 learning what were then considered the most important elements of cooking, nutrition, diet for convalescents, cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. Fannie was one of the school’s top students. She was kept on as assistant to the director, and in 1891 took on the job of school principal. Fannie published her best-known work, “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book”, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement.

“The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” was actually a follow-up to an earlier version called “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book”, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884 under Fannie Farmer’s direction. Fannie Farmer’s cookbook eventually contained 1,849 recipes. Fannie also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning, and drying fruits and vegetables, and providing nutritional information. The book’s publisher (Little, Brown & Company) didn’t expect good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author’s expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer cookbook”, and it is still available in print over 100 years later. (Yes, Virginia, a first edition of the 1896 cookbook would be worth some bucks especially since only 3000 copies were published).

Fannie Farmer’s book listed ingredients separately from directions, presented readers with accurate, level measurements. Earlier cookbooks would instruct the cook to “use butter the size of an egg”. (What size egg? Small? Medium? Jumbo?) or to “heat the oven until you can only hold your hand inside for 15 seconds, (or until you have a second degree burn?) or might call for “a teacup of flour” (what size teacup?).

Actually, Ms. Farmer wasn’t the FIRST to list ingredients separately from directions; Sarah Tyson Rorer had done that some years before, in her book “Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cookbook” (where Mrs. Rorer had a cooking school of HER own), but the concept of level, accurate, standardized measurements brought science into the kitchen.

Why are these old cookbooks so fascinating to read? Certainly they often lack usefulness in today’s kitchen; the recipes are generally vague about directions and quantities needed. However, they provide us with a stunning glimpse into the past, in an area (the kitchen) that most of us are familiar with. We see – perhaps better than most historians – just how time consuming and difficult a housewife’s role was a hundred or two hundred years ago. With the vast amount of work required in the kitchen, it’s a wonder that the lady of the house managed to accomplish so many other things as well. I have been reminded that families were often large and it was not uncommon for a maiden aunt or a grandmother or other extended family members to live in the house and thereby providing extra helping hands (confirming the axiom that many hands make light work).

Middle to upper class homes one hundred years ago might easily have had a maid or two, or a housekeeper or cook as well. I think we can safely assume that not ALL households had extra aunties or grandmothers, nor did all families have maids and cooks. Meals alone were a full time task that began at sunrise. If the lady of the house had a wood-burning stove, it meant laying the wood for the fire, keeping it hot, baking breads (which started with making one’s own yeast and sometimes getting the yeast starter going the night before) and then preparing meals for the entire family. Although wood stoves were commonly used, gas and oil stoves and ranges were available from the late 1800s. Miss Parloa, the author of a cookbook titled “Miss Parloa’s Every Day Cooking and Marketing Guide”, copyrighted in 1880 and published by Estes and Lauriat, judiciously expounds on the virtues of gas and oil stoves and ranges; she writes that the two products were so near perfection that it was difficult to imagine how they could be improved upon.

Miss Parloa deplored, however, the commonly used refrigerators of her time. She claimed that the food developed a peculiar odor due to the wood used in the construction of refrigerator’s interior and shelves. As most of us know, these “refrigerators” were actually “ice boxes” which contained blocks of ice (which you purchased from an ice man). The food was stored, literally, on ice. A few years later, a “better” ice box came along. The ice was stored in a separate compartment with vents on either side to allow air n either side to flow freely through the upper compartment, where the food was kept. What would Miss Parloa think if she could see our modern refrigerator/freezers with automatic ice cube and cold water dispensers on the doors?

Another of Maria Parloa’s cookbooks was “The Original Appledore Cook Book/Practical Receipts for Plain and Rich Cooking” published in 1872 and reprinted in 1881. My copy is in a truly battered, tattered, condition with the binding falling away from the contents, but what is intriguing are the last dozen pages or so, all covered with handwritten recipes that are so faded, it’s almost impossible to decipher the script. (When I began collecting cookbooks, I’d buy anything in any condition—just to have the books.)

And then there were the Beechers. Father Lyman was a Presbyterian minister. Daughter Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, published in 1852.

“Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book: Designed as a Supplement to her Treatise on Domestic economy” was published in 1850 by Harriet’s sister, Catharine Esther Beecher. But there is an intriguing story behind the Domestic Receipt book—as told in Cookbooks-A-La-Carte:

“Catharine Beecher invited to tea one afternoon in 1846—twenty years after their graduation from the Hartford Female Seminary—two dozen of her former students. They listened with interest and sympathy as she described how the year before, promising to write a new cookbook, she had taken an advance from Harper & Brothers to send her gravely ill younger sister Harriet to the Brattleboro Spa in Vermont and of how, now, with only the first of over twenty projected chapters written, the deadline was fast approaching—which, if not met, would result in a severe financial penalty.

There was a solution . . . if each of those present would write a chapter, with a sufficient number of receipts—recipes—for the projected book, the whole book could be completed in a week! Never doubting their wholehearted support, she had the titles for the chapters ready on little slips of paper in her hand–meat, fish, vegetables, soups, pies, bread, breakfast and tea cakes, cakes, preserves and jellies, pickles, food for the sick . . .

The completed assignments were quickly assembled into Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, which soon became one of the nineteenth century’s most successful cook-books. Far ahead of its time, it warned about the dangers of animal fats and excessive sugar. Today there is, perhaps, no more detailed picture of what Americans were eating a hundred and fifty years ago and how it was cooked. In helping organize the kitchen and its work properly, Miss Beecher intended to enable women to lead longer, happier lives…”

In 1874 there was Marian Harland’s “Common Sense in the Household: a Manual of Practical Housewifery.” My copy is literally falling apart and is one of the oldest cookbooks in my collection. Marion Harland’s life was so interesting, it would be worth a post just about her. After writing 15 novels, starting at the age of 16, Marion wrote her first cookbook, “Common Sense in the Household” and continued writing many more books before her death at age 91.

There was also “English Bread-Book for Domestic Us, Adapted to Families of Every Grade” by Eliza Acton in 1857 and in 1877, “Buckeye Cookery, and Practical Housekeeping: Compiled from Original Recipes” – which has been reproduced in a facsimile edition.

Buckeye Cookery was the great mid-American cookbook of its day. It began life as a charity cookbook when, in 1876, the women of the First Congregational Church in Marysville, Ohio, published a cookbook to raise money to build a parsonage. They named it The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book, in honor of America’s Centennial.

The author, Estelle Woods Wilcox, who grew up in Marysville had moved with her husband to Minneapolis, where he managed the Minneapolis Daily Tribune. From Minneapolis, Mrs. Wilcox edited the contributions of the Marysville women and wrote the introductory essays to each section. The book was published in Minneapolis and the ladies of Marysville accomplished their goal by raising two thousand dollars for the parsonage.

Throughout the last years of the century, cookbooks continued to be published—more of Miss Parloa’s, some of Marion Harland’s, the White House cookbook by F. L. Gillette which led to numerous reprints over several decades (and is worthy of a post all its own), right up to 1899’s Catering For Two; Comfort and Economy for Small Households by Alice James, and Marion Harland’s “Bits of common Sense Series”.

And then there were all the cookbooks published in the 1900s….but, as you know, except for those published between 1900 and 1911, the rest don’t qualify as antiquarian cookbooks. However, that being said – there were cookbooks like the Settlement Cook book, Sarah Rorer’s New Cookbook, a Manual of Housekeeping published in 1902, Fannie Farmer’s “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent” published in 1904, Maria’s Parloa’s “Canned Fruit, Preserves, and Jellies: Household Methods of Preparation” also published in 1904, The Blue Grass Cookbook, by Minerva Fox, was also published in 1904, as was German National Cookery for American Kitchens, by Henriette Davids. The Times Cookbook by California Women was the result of a series of recipe contests in the Los Angeles Times and published by the Los Angeles Times in 1905, while the Good Housekeeping Family Cookbook was published in 1906- and the list goes on and on.

Collecting cookbooks is such a fascinating hobby—and it can be a valuable one, too. I bought a #1 Pillsbury Bake Off book at a flea market in Palm Springs one year, for $1.00. I almost didn’t buy it—the box of booklets on a table had a sign “books, 50c each” but when I held it up to the vendor, she said “Oh, I need a dollar for that one”. Grumbling, I paid her a dollar. It wasn’t until we were back in the car that I realized what I had—I had never before seen a picture of the first bake off book. They’re scarce and worth about $50.00 give or take a little depending on condition.

It’s an addictive kind of hobby as other collectors will testify. A few months ago, I began writing the current price of some of my old cookbooks on post-its to stick on the flyleaf, when I came across some of the going prices. The idea was for my family to have some kind of idea what some of the books are worth.

Did you know that Laura Bush collects vintage cookbooks? So do many top chefs including the Food Network’s Cat Cora. Booksellers throughout the country say that vintage cookbooks are in constant demand. A first edition of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons may be worth as much as ten thousand dollars—but I don’t think it’s the value of a book that attracts a true collector, as much as just HAVING a particular book. My having the #1 bake off booklet makes my collection of the Bake Off books complete even though they’re nowhere near being vintage cookbooks. Neither is the Vincent Price cookbook (which I do have)–one in good condition can be worth up to $200.00.

(Cookbooks written by the rich and famous is another whole ball of wax. I have several shelves-full of these books, dating back about 50 years. One of these days I will write about those).

Collecting cookbooks can pretty much take over your life, if you let it. (We have wall to wall bookshelves filled with cookbooks, inside the house. Bob had to convert half of our garage into a library to house all of our other books).

And when you aren’t reading antiquarian cookbooks, you can do as I do—WRITE about them!

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!
Sandy