Category Archives: THE KITCHEN POETS



A lot of people have never made a loaf of bread
(discounting something frozen that you just pop
into the oven).

My mother made two large loaves of bread twice a week,
in roasting pans, when we were all young children.
I don’t think we ever tasted store-bought bread
and sometimes I was envious of the children
who brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
made from Wonder Bread while we—poor things!
—ate sandwiches made from homemade bread.

I am reminded of the words to a song
…“You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…”
– my mother has been gone eleven years
but her mind was gone long before that.
Her loaves of homemade bread –
when an end crust cut off while it was hot,
and slathered with butter, was a special treat
if you happened to be the child in the kitchen
at the time—
are simply a memory
in the minds of her children.

I make homemade bread, too—
and not just with a bread machine.
I love the smell of a homemade loaf of
bread baking in the oven.

–Sandra Lee Smith



When I first began composing the Kitchen Poets series, I thought there would be enough for ten parts. Then when I finished Part Nine, I thought I was finished.

However, shortly after that, my penpal Betsy, who lives in Michigan and finds wonderful cookbooks for me all the time, sent me a new batch of cookbooks that were especially intriguing because of all the kitchen poetry they contained! So, here I am again with Part 10 and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

One of the best books that Betsy found is titled “FLAVORS OF CAPE COD” with recipes from the Friends of the Thornton W. Burgess society. I’ve never been to Massachusetts so I am especially intrigued not only with the poetry but the historical photographs as well. One of the very first poems in the very beginning of the book is titled Cape Kitchen.

I sing of the sturdy old black iron stove
With its trimming of bright nickel metal,
The wooden-armed clothes drier hanging above,
The bright colored braided rug grandmother wove
And the hum of the simmering kettle.
The smell of the baking of brown crusty bread
And the pies as they cooled on the sill.
The plate in the corner where pussy was fed,
The chair with its cushions of gay turkey red
And the cookie jar Gram use to fill.
The potted geraniums always in bloom,
The red checkered cloth spread for tea,
The crisp white curtains, the sunshiny room,
The glass spoon holder, the old corn broom
And the special treats Gram saved for me.
–Joyce Tomlinson

What I love most about this poem is the vivid way it recalls a time long ago. Also in “Flavors of Cape Cod” is a poem about pie! I have written extensively about pie in the Kitchen Poets; it seems to bring the poet out in all of us. The author of this one is unknown but the book notes that it was found in an old handwritten recipe book. You will love


A small boy sat on the top of the fence,
And thought he was quite a bright fellow,
For he counted the days ‘til Thanksgiving time,
And he counted the pumpkins yellow.

And he said as he sat in royal state
On top of the fence so high,
“A pumpkin pie most highly I rate”
and he mused on the pleasures of by and by.

And now near at hand was Thanksgiving Day,
And the kitchen was all in a whirl,
And his mother was busy as busy could be,
Likewise his aunt and the servant girl.

To take a pie this small boy intended,
For what was one pie more or less?
No doubt his mother would be offended,
But who the culprit she’d never guess.

His chance came soon for a neighbor came in
To ask for the loan of the rolling pin;
And when one were looking or standing by,
This dreadful boy ran off with a pie.

The pie was hot and burned him so
And running so fast he stubbed his toe.
That over he fell, hot pie and all
And loudly did for his mother call.

She sadly looked at her pride and joy,
And separated pie from boy.
He cried very hard at having done wrong,
But he knew he’d cry more before very long.

Next day at dinner all wondered why,
His small boy was debarred from pie.
But his mother and he alone knew the reason,
And he thought their remarks quite out of season.


No author is given for the following, titled “The Egg” which also appears in “Favors of Cape Cod”:

I sing the praise of the versatile egg,
Clean and pure in its germ proof shell,
Easy to come by and cheap to use,
It has more uses than I can tell.

Boiled or fried, or poached or scrambled,
Main dish or extra, on the side,
Sponge cake light, and pleasingly high,
Its many uses can’t be denied.

Mile high meringue on a fine lemon pie,
Custards or icing on cake,
Omelets light as fleecy white cloud,
It’s wonderful what eggs can make.

Brown ones or white ones, what matters the shade
The treasure is what the shells hold,
The white can be whipped to a snowy white peak,
The yolks are a beautiful gold.

Queen of the barnyard, my hat’s off to you,
Never stop laying, I beg!
Meals would be duller, and life would be drear.
Without the magnificent egg!

Another kitchen poems from “Flavors of Cape Cod” is titled


Cooking is comforting, and so
When everything goes awry
It’s wise to stop our worrying
And make an apple pie.
When unexpected sorrow comes
To make our poor hearts ache,
There’s nothing helps us more than work
So bake a luscious cake.
For, as the body wants good food
To keep it strong and whole,
Perhaps it’s work the spirit needs
To make a healthy soul.
A simple task can calm our mind,
And consolation bring;
A job well done allays our grief—
Cooking IS comforting.

(This is something I really relate to.)

Another short poem from the same cookbook:


Ready on my pantry shelves
Are cans both great and small,
Just to help me fix a lunch,
When friends make me a call.

In the corners of my heart
I store the joys I’ve had,
To cheer me up with memories
When else I might grow sad.

And this sweet poem about the herbs was found under “miscellaneous” in “Flavors of Cape Cod”:

Parsley and thyme and mint and sage,
Tarragon, chives and rue,
Basil and borage and bay and dill
All had their work to do.
Different powers in different herbs,
Everyone knew were hiding,
So Grandma put rosemary in her shoe
When Grandpa took her riding.
What was the magical spell it cast
To bind two lives together.
Tight in a love that should live and last
Through cloudy and sunny weather!
Grandma, of course, was supposed to be shy
And wait, till he spoke of his fancies,
But Grandma put rosemary in her shoe.
She wasn’t taking chances.
–author unknown
Prefacing a chapter on cookies, “An Apple A Day” cookbook of vegetarian cookery by doctors’ wives offered this:

“Roll them, drop them,
Press them in the pan,
Put them in the oven to
Bake to golden tan.
Warm cookies from the oven,
There’s nothing else to match,
Alas! Tomorrow you’ll have
To bake another batch.”

And from the same cookbook, under the heading for pies, comes this short and cute poem:

“Let’s be merry, let’s be mad,
Let’s be daring, let’s be bad,
Let’s be crazy and not curb it.
Let’s order pie instead of sherbet!”

Quite risqué, those doctors’ wives.

Another great cookbook find of my Michigan penpal Betsy—who finds the cookbooks, copies what she wants out of them—and then ships them to me in California—is a really wonderful book titled “Savoring the Seasons on Puget’s Sound/Summer, with the subtitle “A Readers Cookbook by Dorothy Neil & Lee Brainard”, is one of a set of four (Summer, Spring, Winter & Autumn) and really is a cookbook for you to read like other people read novels. Published in 1966, it’s the first time I have ever seen one of this series. It’s written in a folksy, chatty style…and in the Introduction, Dorothy wrote:

“Food lightens the burden of weary paths,
And brightens the future’s view,
Provides the impetus to get things done,
And makes the well-worn new;
Food, my friend, be it cookies or cake,
Though the journey is tough, you will find,
That all is forgotten, forgiven and bright
Because (please believe it) you’ve dined.”

Elsewhere I found a poem but there is no indication who wrote it:


“There’s one thing I would like to know,
How Grandma could relax,
Without a single modern thing
That saves our feet and backs.
Electric gadgets cook for me;
My sweeper cleans my rugs;
I call the pest control man
To rid my house of bugs.
The butcher cuts my chickens up;
The baker bakes my pies;
I just grab the pacifier
Whenever baby cries.
I’ve thrown away the recipes
Of grandma’s home-cooked food
And now I buy the frozen kind
To feed my hungry brood.
And when the meal has been consumed,
The dishes wash themselves;
Someone folds the TV tables
And stacks them on the shelves.
My grandma danced the minuet;
Had time to read and write;
But housework’s such an awful job
I’m much too tired at night!”

Elsewhere in “Savoring the Seasons on Puget Sound”, along with pie recipes, I found yet another tribute to pie – but this one is only four lines.

What a lovely thing is a pie!
Berries encased in a crust,
For a top-flight American dinner,
A fresh-baked pie is a must!

And near the end of this cookbook I came across the following—which I think I have seen before, maybe with a few different lines…but it’s cute and worthy of sharing:


“I didn’t have potatoes
So I substituted rice.
I didn’t have paprika,
So I used another spice.
I didn’t have tomato sauce,
So I used tomato paste.
A whole can, not a half can,
I don’t believe in waste.
A friend gave me the recipe,
She said you couldn’t beat it.
There must be something wrong
With her
I couldn’t even EAT it!”

Another cookbook that Betsy sent to me is titled Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church Centennial Cookbook 1903-203/Feeding Our Flock (which in itself is a mouthful);
This cookbook was compiled by the congregation in Vilas County, Wisconsin. In it I found the following:


Her cookies were the best ones made;
No one can match her lemonade,
She cures the best of country ham,
And makes delicious berry jam.

A better pie no one can make,
Or even touch her chocolate cake.
Her pickles are so crisp and nice;
Her peaches are just right with spice.

And when I ask her recipe;
She shakes her head and smiles at me.
“Oh, I just guess at it, my dear.”
And now it seems to me quite clear,
One thing that’s used, all else above,
Her main ingredient is love.
—Esther L. Dauber

The following short verse, dated 1890, was found in Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens, compiled by the Idaho Historical Auxiliary of Boise, Idaho in 1967:

“Eggs beat with a knife will cause sorrow and strife;
Beat with a spoon will make heavy soon;
Beat with a fork will make light as a cork,”

Another short verse from the Historical Auxiliary heads the chapter on soup:

One morning in the garden bed
The onion and the carrot said
Unto the parsnip group;
“Oh! When shall we three meet again
in thunder, lightning, hail or rain?”
“Alas,” replied in tones of pain,
The parsley, “In the soup.”
–Mrs. Dan Ryan

I made a curious discovery in “Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens”! If you have been reading each chapter of Kitchen Poets, you may recall (or maybe not!) in Part three I shared with you a recipe for buckwheat griddle cakes, found in Massie’s “Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake”, published in 1990 – however, Massie noted that the recipe for buckwheat cakes came from an Ann Arbor cookbook published in 1884.
Well, much to my surprise, I found a rhymed recipe for buckwheat griddle cakes in Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens—basically, the ingredients are the same, and the rhymed recipe starts out the same – but then the contributor changed some of the lines. The last lines to Massie’s Buckwheat griddle cakes read:

When baking make of generous size
Your cakes; and if they’d take the prize
They must be light and nicely browned,
Then by your husband you’ll be crowned
Queen of the kitchen; but you’ll bake,
And he will, man-like, “take the cake”.

The last lines to Buckwheat Griddle Cakes in the Historical Treasures from Idaho Kitchens read:

When baking make of generous size
And if they are to take a prize,
They must be light and nicely browned
So Queen of the Kitchen you can be crowned!”

The latter also notes that if a cupful is left each morning in the mixing bowl or crock, the [above] ingredients can again be added at night and left to rise for the next morning’s breakfast. This, says the contributor, has been pursued successfully at least 10 days in a row.
This concludes Part 10 of the Kitchen Poets—unless I find myself with a glut of new poems sometime in the future—so I’ll leave you with this short verse from “Savoring The Seasons”:

Cooking at my
Outdoor grill
Is fraught with
Risk and tedium.
I usually get my
Steaks quite
My hands and
Fingers medium

Happy Cooking!



The following recipe for making candy came to me by a circuitous route –
From Louise, who now has several blogs of her own, to Becky Mercuri who used to write for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and now has had several cookbooks published—and who, in turn, sent the email with the recipe to me. We were all subscribers and/or writers for the CCE, back in the day. The following recipe, Louise said, was from a fundraiser cookbook titled “POLISH TOWN FAIR & FESTIVAL, 1984”


When it is Christmas candy time
Or any time of year,
This peanut brittle recipe
Becomes especially dear.

You add to one large cooking pan
A cup of each of these —
White syrup, sugar, water too
And blend with gentle ease.

A teaspoonful of table salt,
When it is added too,
Will mean that you have reached the point
When you must cook the brew.

So cook it to the soft ball stage
And then it’s time to add
A tablespoon of butter
And the peanuts to your pan.

It takes one pound of peanuts
That you’ve purchased in the shell,
And shucked yourself ahead of time
To make this turn out well.

With all ingredients in the pan
You cook until it’s brown,
And take your pan from off the stove
Your candy’s almost done.

Stir in one teaspoon soda,
Pour on a buttered sheet,
And let it harden as it will,
Then break in chunks your treat

The rest comes very naturally
Just eat to suit your will,
And have a happy holiday
That’s peanut brittle filled.

From Hasbrouck Heights Cookbook, New Jersey, 1948:


First you take and warm your teapot,
For some minutes two or three;
‘Tis a most important secret,
But you do not spare the tea.
Pour some water in to draw it,
Let the water boiling be;
Then fill up and shake and pour it.
This is from a page someone sent to me about Watershed Books:


Sugar, butter, flour spice.
Plus this little rhyme,
Lots of love, a smile or two.
For sure success each time.
3 teaspoons make 1 tablespoon;
4 tablespoons – 1 quarter cup;
3/8 cup with 6 tablespoons,
8 fills it halfway up.
1 cup is 16 tablespoons,
And 2 cups, as you know,
Make 1 full pint; 2 pints – 1 quart
All ready? Get set – go!

I thought I wrote the following when I was compiling “Eve’s Pudding” for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange – but here’s a newsflash…I was typing from the original copy of this rhymed recipe, which I recognize has having been typed on a typewriter that I had in the 1960s – and turning the paper over, I found the header for Cory Coffee Service—my ex-husband, Jim, worked for Cory Coffee in the mid 1960s. He made a career change when I was expecting Chris, who was born in 1968. So, I was curious about rhymed recipes many years before ever writing about them for the CCE. Amazing!


For a dish delicious
And really made to order,
The best you’ll find on
This side of the border,
Rice Mexicana will really
Help you score—
With your family
Just watch them ask for more!
Take one cup of rice and wash
And sauté with a little
Minced garlic and one onion,
As fine as you can whittle,
Brown in hot fat,
Add half of a green pepper,
With two teaspoons of salt
And oh! But never, never
Forget the chili powder—
Two teaspoons will quite do.
With one cup of canned tomatoes
Then you’ll find that you
Need only add two cups of
Beef stock
(Bouillon broth is fine),
Cover, simmer, thirty minutes
But in your haste to dine
Don’t forget to take the lid off
For the last five minutes,
After that you’ll proudly serve
And you’ll say that it is
Quite delightful
To your palate
Not too hard to fix—
P.s. in case you’re wondering
This dish will serve just six.
— Sandra Lee Smith

Earlier in Kitchen Poets, I mentioned researching Tartelettes Amandines on Google. The original, I believe, was in French and it may have lost a little in the translation but it’s still a pretty little rhymed recipe, which is taken from Edmond Rostand’s play about Cyrano de Bergerac. According to Google, there really was a Cyrano de Bergerac but the play was very dissimilar from the life of the real Cyrano:

Edmond Rostand

Beat your eggs, the yolk and the white,
Very light,
Mingle with their creamy fluff
Drops of lime juice, cool and green;
]then pour in
Milk of almonds, just enough,
Dainty patty pans, embrace
In puff paste—
Have these ready within reach;
With your thumb and finger, pinch
Half an inch
Up around the edge of each-
Into these, a score or more,
Slowly pour
All your store of custard; so
Take them, bake them golden brown—
Now sit down!….
Almond tartlets, Raguneau!
–Cyrano de Bergerac

And for now, that’s all of the rhymed recipes I have available to share with you—but there are plenty of food-related poems from the kitchen poets; The first of these is one about cakes, that appeared in the Rio Brave Farm Home Department Cook Book.


And though you can’t such trifles as fair, face and form impart,
It is ever in your power to mold the character and heart;
For those who cannot, gracefully, a kindly moral take,
I embody also in the tale a recipe for cake.


Said the butter to the sugar, “Will you dance tonight with me
At the cake-walk to be given in the Yellow Bowl? ‘Twill be
The smoothest thing you e’er were in before the evening’s end,
And the swellest, for the Eggs and Rumford Baking Powder will attend
Spring Wheat Flour will come also, and the Sweet Milk too, will be there—
She’s the cream of all the gathering and as rich as she is fair
And both Nutmeg and Vanilla may come as a special favor;
I hope they will—their presence to the whole thing will add flavor,
Tall Granite spoon will lead us through the dance’s mystic maze,
He will take us ‘round and ‘round in a sort of polonaise,
It’s sure to be exclusive, and a very fine affair,
For only the most proper of ingredients will be there,
Yet it’s whispered low that later, after the cake-walk turn,
The party all together to the Oven will adjourn;
And if that’s true I’ll wager a dollar to a dime,
The whole affair will wind up with a very hot old time!
–Carolina Mischka Roberts in “Good Housekeeping”
One of the first poems I ever found, about pies, was originally published in the Cincinnati, Ohio Sunday Enquirer, November 10, 1907. Author unknown and I no longer remember where or how I found it, only that I copied it to keep.


In spring men sigh
For cherry pie
To soothe their taste capricious,
‘tis with delight
they surely bite
and say that it’s delicious.

But later on
‘ere spring is gone,
they want a change from cherries,
and then they cry
for fragrant pie
that’s stuffed with luscious berries.

In summer days
The same old craze
For pie a new trick teaches,
With strong desire
Men then inquire
For pastry filled with peaches.

In chilly fall
For pie they call
But this time it is noted,
They want the kind
In which they find
Sweet pumpkin thickly coated.

In winter drear
They persevere
For pie they still are scheming
But when it’s brought
They want it hot
And packed with mincemeat steaming.

Thus all year ‘round
Can pie be found
And men are quick to grab it—
Advice they spurn
For pie they yearn,
And won’t give up the habit.
No idea where or when I acquired the following Kitchen Poem – but it’s sure cute!


I thought I’d make a lemon pie;
The cookbook told me how,
I gathered it was just a cinch—
But I am wiser now.

I sifted flour, but though I brushed
My handsome tweed suit off,
I still am looking far more like
A snowman than a Prof!

I rolled the pastry just as thin
As any human can
And neatly and with special care
I placed it in the pan.

I baked it like the cookbook said,
Alas! To my surprise,
When it was done, that hateful crust
Had drawn up cookie size!

In wrath I mixed the filling next,
There must have been a trick,
It sounded easy as could be
To “cook till it was thick.”

I stewed the stuff a mortal hour;
It still was pale and thin,
At last I took that silly crust
And poured the filling in.

Well, next I tackled the meringue,
And after seven tries,
I segregated whites from yolks—
But spoiled two good neckties.

And from those egg whites then I beat
The living daylights out;
I added sugar, flavoring—
My masterpiece, no doubt.

In mountain peaks, quite lavishly;
I spread it on the pie,
And placed it on the oven shelf
Beneath a watchful eye.

It did not fall! It did not scorch!
It didn’t let me down!
I took it from that oven shelf
A gooey-golden brown!

Oh, yes! The filling and the crust,
They were not worth a hang;
But folks, I’ll have you know
That I’m
A ringer for meringue!




My file contains several copies of a rhymed recipe for clam soup. My notes indicate that one was found in “America Cooks” by the Browns
who credited W. A. Croffut with the date of 1877. Another—same poem—was sent to me by a Cookbook Collectors Exchange subscriber named Helen, who wrote that she found it in the Centennial Cookbook by the Women’s Division, Omaha (Neb) Chamber of Commerce and they in turn also had credited W. A. Croffut in the New Buckeye Cookbook, 1904 for the rhymed recipe. The title Buckeye Cookbook rang a bell so I searched through my Ohio cookbooks and voila! It isn’t much but Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping not only attributes the rhyme to W.A. Croffut but also noted that he was the editor of “Daily Graphic”, New York. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping was reprinted in 1988 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press:


First catch your clams—along the ebbing edges
Of saline coves you’ll find the precious wedges,
With backs up, lurking in the sandy bottom;
Pull in your iron rake, and lo! You’ve got em!
Take thirty large ones, put in a basin under.
And cleave with knife, their stony jaws asunder:
Add water—(three quarts) to the native liquor
Bring to a boil, (and, by the way, the quicker
It boils the better, if you do it cutely!
Now add the clams, chopped up and minced minutely.
Allow a longer boil of just three minutes.
And while it bubbles, quickly stir within its
Tumultuous depths where still the mollusks mutter,
Four tablespoons of flour and four of butter,
A pint of milk, some pepper to your notion,
And clams need salting, although born of ocean,
Remove from fire: (if much boiled they will suffer—
You’ll find that India-rubber isn’t tougher.)
After ‘tis off, add three fresh eggs, well beaten,
Stir once more, and it’s ready to be eaten.
Fruit of the wave! O dainty and delicious!
Food for the gods! Ambrosia for Apicius!
Worthy to thrill the soul of sea-born Venus,
Or titillate the palate of Silenus
Another for clams but this one titled Clam Chowder was created by Ed Henry of Coos Bay, Oregon—I have no idea where I originally found this rhymed recipe, however, or when it was written:


In case you consider a chowder called clam;
It’s a cinch to create, more exotic than ham.
So if it’s chowder you’re cooking, you’d best listen up:
The first thing you’ll need is clams, ‘bout a cup.
Chop them up fine in grinder or blender—
Big chunks detract from its elegant splendor.)
Water is needed; in amount about a quart,
Or more if desired; don’t cut yourself short.
Take two strips of bacon I add to the lot,
But chop it up fine ‘fore it goes in the pot.
Also, brown it up crisp in a pan over heat.
When added to chowder it makes flavor complete.
Now, an onion is added: your taste tells the size,
For in cooking of chowder, the tongue never lies.
Potatoes are added, cubed up rather small,
Don’t slight preparation, but give it your all.
Seasoning is next with pepper and salt,
Making chowder complete which no one can fault.
Cook until onions and spuds are tender;
Take half a cup and run through the blender,
Ad pour it back in with some milk and some butter,
And let it blend for a moment while you clean up your clutter.
Then serve it while hot to family or guest,
And act humble as they say, “Your chowder’s the best!”
One of the earliest references I have been able to find for an entire booklet of rhymed recipes may be Imogen Clark’s “RHYMED RECEIPTS” published in 1912. All I had for the longest time was an author’s name and a title – but while surfing on Google, I found a neat website called LibraryThing. ( Lo and behold, there is a photograph of Imogen Clark’s Rhymed Receipts cookbook on this site. The best I can do, for now, is share a recipe from Rhymed Receipts:

Take oranges of medium size,
The peel remove, I pray,
From each a round, cut from one end,
And scoop the seeds away.
Fill up the little cups thus formed,
With strawberry preserve,
The flavor mixed with orange juice
Is more than most deserve.
The following is from a Milford, New Hampshire church cookbook—title, date, and author unknown. It was featured in the Browns’ “AMERICA COOKS”:


If you would fry tomatoes right,
Select large fresh ones, clean and bright:
slice them as thick as are your thumbs,
And roll them well in cracker crumbs;
Add salt and pepper to the taste.
A little sugar too in haste,
Then with a fire hot and bright,
Heat well your pant and do not slight
The lard and butter, lest it burn,
When brown on one side, over-turn;
And when at last, both sides are done,
Hot from the spider* give us one.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: A spider, you may have guessed wads a kind of cast iron skillet back in the day.

Rhymed recipes turn up, sometimes, in the most unexpected places. I was going through my collection of Congressional Club cookbooks recently, trying to determine which ones I have and which ones I’m missing, when I found the following rhymed recipe for


If the right amount you take,
This will just seven cocktails make.
In each glass three raw oysters toss
And stand aside till you make your sauce.
Take of catsup one-half cup,
Same of vinegar and stir up,
One tablespoon of Worcestershire,
It must be hot and burn like fire.
Ten drops of good Tabasco add,
Of course this last is just a fad,
And if it is not on your shelf
To red pepper help yourself.
Now over each glass of oysters pour
Just three teaspoons and no more,
Serve as first course to your dinner
It will please both saint and sinner.

The contributor was a Mrs. M.I. Garber, Wife of Representative Garber of Oklahoma. This is from one of my earliest Congressional Club Cookbooks.
Recently, after I had posted “Those battered, tattered, stained church cookbooks” on my blog, my penpal, Betsy, who lives in Michigan, surprised me with a boxful of old battered, tattered, stained church cookbooks. One of these is a really battered “Twentieth Century Cook Book, A Feast of Good Things” compiled by the Ladies Aid Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Montgomery, PA, in 1913. I thought this afternoon to begin searching through these for rhymed recipes – and what was the very first one I found? A rhymed recipe for making bread!

When a well-bred girl expects to wed,
‘Tis well to remember that men like bread,
We’re going to show the steps to take
So she may learn good bread to make.

First, mix a lukewarm quart, my daughter,
One-half of milk and one-half of water;
To this please add two cakes of yeast,
Or the liquid kind if preferred in the least.

Next, stir in a teaspoonful of nice clear salt,
If this bread isn’t good, it won’t be our fault,
Now add the sugar, tablespoonfuls three,
Mix well together, for dissolved they must be.

Pour the whole mixture into an earthen bowl,
A pan’s just as good if it hasn’t a hole.
It’s the cook and the flour, not the bowl or the pan,
That “makes the bread that makes the man.”

Some people like a little shortening power,
If this is your choice, just add to the flour
Two tablespoonfuls of lard and jumble it about,
‘Till the flour and lard are mixed without doubt.

Next stir the flour into the mixture that’s stood
Waiting to play its part to make the bread good,
Mix it up thoroughly, but not too thick;
Some flours make bread that’s more like a brick.

Now grease well a bowl and put the dough in,
Don’t fill the bowl full, that would be a sin;
For the dough is all right and it’s going to rise,
‘Till you will declare that it’s twice the old size.

Brush the dough with melted butter, as the recipes say;
Cover with a bread towel, set in a warm place to stay
Two hours or more, to rise until light,
When you see it grow, you’ll know it’s all right.

As soon as it’s light, place again on the board;
Knead it well this time. Here is knowledge to hoard
Now back in the bowl once more it must go.
And set again to rise for an hour or so.

Form the dough gently into loaves when light,
And place it in bread pans, greased just right.
Shape each loaf you make to half fill the pan,
This bread till be good enough for any young man.

Next let it rise to the level of pans—no more,
Have the temperature right—don’t set near a door.
We must be careful about draughts, it isn’t made to freeze,
Keep the room good and warm—say seventy-two degrees.

Now put I the oven; it’s ready to bake;
Keep uniform fire, great results are at stake.
One hour more of waiting, and you’ll be repaid,
By bread that is worthy a “well-bred maid.”
One more for this chapter and it’s a recipe for fruitcake. Years ago—when I still had an old typewriter and hadn’t yet switched to a computer—I challenged myself to write some rhymed recipes. The following is my own rhymed recipe for fruitcake:

For a good many years, a cook has been proud
Of the fame for her fruitcakes, and now has allowed
Us to print this receipt of Old English Tradition—
But before you begin, keep in mind this condition—
A fruitcake is best if its properly made,
And all the ingredients before you are laid.
be precise with amounts—for a pinch or a lot,
May have satisfied grandmother—you it will not.
SIFT five cups of flour and for nice compliments,
Carefully ADD to it these condiments:
One-teaspoon soda, a half-teaspoon salt,
And now ADD these spices to prevent flavor-fault;
One half teaspoon cloves and lest it taste hollow,
ADD the amount of the spices that follow:
ONE teaspoon cinnamon, HALF teaspoon mace,
(Be assured that each spice has well earned its place!)
Now thoroughly CREAM one FULL pound of butter—
In a separate bowl—but don’t splash or splutter!
Gradually add sugar—and make it ONE POUND
But NEVER the white—for THIS should be brown.
Take well beaten eggs—and there should be eight
Of medium size and medium weight…
Combine the eggs with the sugar and butter,
But don’t be a slowpoke—make haste and don’t putter!
Now ADD to this mixture the following things:
(As much to the cake as the song a bird sings)
A HALF pound of cherries, candied and sliced,
A HALF pound of citron (to make it taste nice)
A HALF pound of orange and a HALF pound of lemon peel
All carefully sliced – and then you may fee
That a FULL pound of raisins (seedless will do)
Its part to enhance the full flavor for you!
Add ONE POUND of currants, washed and then dried—
Now don’t skip directions—you’d be mortified!
Add ONE POUND of almonds, blanched and then shredded,
Whatever you do now, please don’t forget it.
Add a HALF CUP of jelly (currant is best)
With THREE FOURTHS CUP of honey—now ADD the zest
Of yummy molasses, and make it ONE CUP
Then roll up your shirtsleeves and beat it all up!
Now ADD the flour mixture and with each addition
Mix well, keep in mind that this English tradition
States that the flour must be poured GRADUALLY
To insure you a fruitcake that’s really tasty!
Two pans you must grease – TUBE pans are correct
To give your fruitcakes a special effect,
Preheat the oven—two-fifty is your
Properly tested and tried temperature.
To present rapid browning of these delicate cakes,
Put brown paper over them to shield, while they bake.
Now you must wait—three and one half hours—
(Do up the dishes or water your flowers!)
Let cakes cool in pans and you’ll find that you
Can wrap in wax paper to keep flavors true,
Store fruitcakes in tins for superb excellence,
And upon yourself please compel abstinence—
For a fruitcake that’s aged most truly will be
A QUITE special treat to serve with your tea!
— Sandra Lee Smith
p.s. And it’s not as easy as it looks–either making a fruitcake or writing a rhymed recipe about it.



Amongst my notes I found a short rhymed recipe for something called TOGUS BREAD. Togus bread takes its name from the word Togue, a Canadian French word of Indian origin. This bread is supposedly as native to Maine as Brown Bread is to Boston:

Three cups of sweet milk, one cup of sour,
Three cups of Indian meal, one cup of flour,
Of soda sufficient a teaspoon to fill;
The same of salt will season it well;
A cup of molasses will make it quite sweet,
And a very good dish for a Yankee to eat.

Interest in rhymed recipes appears to wax and wane; the recipes appeared in quite a lot of community cookbooks a hundred years ago, less frequently throughout the second half of the 1990s – but seem to be enjoying a new kind of popularity in recent years. While trying to track down more information about a recipe called Tartelettes Amandines on Google, I found an article about Morrisons supermarket in the United kingdom hosting a rhymed recipe competition of sorts in 2009. Some “real” poets (as opposed to us amateurs) were invited to write rhymed recipes for Morrisons which they planned to have read over loudspeakers in Morrisons 415 shops around the U.K. They also challenged customers to create their own rhymed recipes. And I would have liked copying some of these to share with you but there must be a block on them on Google because I was unable to copy/paste anything other than 2 pages. That being said, at least we know the rhymed recipe is alive and well – in England, at least.

While exploring rhymed recipes on the other side of the pond, I came across a page copied from “The Raj At Table” (a Culinary History of the British in India) by David Burton. What is interesting about the following rhymed recipe is that Burton attributes the rhyme to Alexander Pope. I have several other copies of the poem, none providing authorship. One copy for Sack-Posset (that I had to explore Google to learn what it was) claims to be from The New York Gazette, February 13, 1744, found in Early American Beverages by John Hull Brown, in 1966.

David Burton writes, “East India Company merchants introduced punch to England where, early in the eighteenth century, milk punch became all the rage. This was the successor to the old English posset, and a verse-recipe for “East Indian style posset” is attributed to Alexander Pope”:

From far Barbadoes on the Western main
Fetch sugar, ounces four, fetch sac from Spain,
One pint, and from the East Indian coast,
Nutmeg, the glory of the Northern Toast,
On flaming coals let them together heat,
Till the all-conquering sac dissolve the sweet,
On such another fire put eggs, just ten,
(New-born from tread of cock and rump of hen),
stir them with steady hand, and conscience pricking
to see the end of ten fine chicken,
from shining shelf, take down the brazen skillet,
a quart of milk from gentle cow and fill it
when boiled and cold, put milk to sac and eggs,
unite them firmly, like the triple league,
and on the fire let them together dwell.

Sandy’s Cooknote: The copy of this that someone else sent to me is slightly different and uses twenty eggs instead of ten and the last four lines have been changed. The same revised rhymed recipe appears in “History of Alcohol in America” and notes that Sack is a special strong dry wine of the sherry family. Also, in Bill Bryson’s “MADE IN AMERICA, An Informal History of the English Language in the United States” he writes that Puritans were in the habit of imbibing an alcoholic concoction known as ‘sack posset’. He writes that the drink was consumed in large quantities at social gatherings such as weddings, christenings, and funerals. Author Jason Earls comments that (after his research on sack-posset) that it seems highly similar to a typical egg nog drink with brandy and sherry added.
While we are visiting the other side of the pond, the following is a rhymed recipe for Twelfth Cake as it appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Dec. 1857 & 1859:

To two pounds of flour—well sifted—united
Of loaf sugar; ounces sixteen;
Two pounds of fresh butter, with eighteen fine eggs,
And four pounds of currants washed clean;
Eight ounces of almonds, well blanched and cut small,
The same weight of citron sliced;
Of orange and lemon-peel, candied, one pound,
And a gill of pale brandy, united.
A large nutmeg grated; exact half an ounce
Of allspice, but only a quarter
Of mace, coriander, and ginger well ground,
Or pounded to dust in a mortar.
An important addition is cinnamon – which
Is better increased than diminished –
The fourth of an ounce is sufficient. Now this
May be baked four good hours till finished.

Sandy’s Cooknote: This recipe for Twelfth Cake reflects a time when sugar was bought in a “loaf” and you had to grate it yourself. Nutmegs were also purchased whole and you’d have a tiny little grater to grate you own nutmeg (actually – I have a nutmeg grater). Twelfth night, which in England is also called Epiphany or Old Christmas, falls on January 5th. In medieval times, Twelfth night was a huge celebration. According to Dorothy Gladys Spicer’s “FEAST DAYS FROM MANY LANDS” there were revels, feasting, and all kinds of merrymaking on Twelfth night. Most important was the Twelfth cake. Inside the cake were a bean and a pea. The first man to find the bean in his portion was acclaimed King of the Revle, and the first woman to find the pea became Queen. Then a mock court was established. Twelfth night revels dwindled in popularity after the calendar change in 1752. By the time of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Twelfth cake had actually become more of a fruitcake. Currents, back then, might not be altogether clean and had to be washed, while a gill was a measure for wine equal to ¼ of a pint.

Also English is an “Old English Remedy” reputed to be 6 centuries old:

Put your feet in hot water
As high as your hose,
With a number four dip
Well tallow your nose;
Take a quart of rum’d gruel
When in bed, as a dose.

Back on this side of the pond is a recipe for making cake from the
personal collection of Sarah Edmond Booth, collected in a small notebook over 150 years ago. Now in print, it’s helping to support the Cornelius H. Booth Library in Newton, Connecticut.

It was Caroline Stoke, curator of the Newtown library who discovered Sarah’s notebook, hidden among Hawley family memorabilia preserved in a library vault, and saw in it help for the present day library.

Carolyn Greene, a local caterer and the cookbook editor and Michele Grillo, an avid Newtown baker, undertook the monumental task of converting the 150 year old recipes into modern workable recipes.

The Sarah Booth Cookbook was published in 1995.


If there’s a lady in this learned land
Upon her teaboard wishes something grand
Let her take this advice;
Here’s a cake, whose flavor’s past dispute—
The most fastidious palate needs must suit;
Try it-‘tis very nice.
Two pounds of flour from freshly gathered wheat
One half a pound of butter that is sweet
White sugar of the same weight
A pint of milk three eggs a little yeast
Such as is fresh ‘tis said is always best
A relish to create.
Part of the flour and milk and yeast mix well
And let it stand till it doth plainly tell
Tis as the other-light
The butter then the eggs and sugar stir
Together nicely – as you would prefer
Pound cake on bridal night.
The last along with balance of your flour
To the first mixture you should gently pour
And let them once more stand
That the grand compound may become as light
The merest glance assures you it is right
Then put it in the pan.
To rise your cakes fit for a courtier’s table
Requires I judge as near as I am able
Five hours or thereabouts
Then you will have or I’m no judge I ween
As wholesome comfits as were ever seen
For lives or for roule
P.S. A lady at my elbow hints
That as a stitch improves a rent in chintz
Salt makes the dough less tough
Use it or not I deem it little matter
Since cakes like capons never need the better
When they are good enough.
Sandy’s Cooknote: Normally, I wouldn’t load you down with so much background information – but I have a copy of The Sarah Booth Cookbook (although I can’t say how it came into my possession) and the background story of how this little book became published is pretty interesting, I think.

Remember the Bishop Williams who composed the Boston Baked Beans recipe that didn’t have any molasses in it? The Browns included a second rhymed recipe of Bishop Williams’ in “AMERICA COOKS”. Here is Bishop Williams’ rhymed recipe for


A forgetful old bishop,
All broken to pieces,
Neglected to dish up
For one of his nieces
A receipt for ‘corn pone’
The best ever known;
So he hastens to repair his sin of omission,
And hopes that, in view of his shattered condition,
His suit for forgiveness he humbly may urge:
So here’s the receipt, and it comes from Lake George:

Take a cup of cornmeal
(And the meal should be yellow);
Add a cup of wheat flour
For to make the corn mellow;
Of sugar a cup, white or brown, at your pleasure,
(The color is nothing, the point is the measure).
And now comes a troublesome thing to indite,
For the rhyme and the reason they trouble me quite;
For after the sugar, the flour, and the meal,
Comes a cup of sour cream: but unless you should steal
From your neighbors, I fear you will never be able
This item to put upon your cook’s table;
For, ‘sure and indeed,’ in all towns I remember
Sour cream is as scarce as June bugs in December
So here is an alternative nicely contrived
Is suggested, your mind to relieve,
And showing you without stealing at all
The ground that seemed lost may retrieve.
Instead of sour cream take one cup of milk—
“Sweet milk”—what a sweet phrase to utter! –
and to make it creamlike, put into the cup
just three tablespoons of butter.
Cream of tartar, one teaspoonful—rules dietetic!
How nearly I wrote it down ‘tartar emetic’!
But no, cream of tartar it is, without doubt,
And so the alternative makes itself out,
Of soda the half of a teaspoonful add,
Or else your poor corn cake will go to the bad.
Two eggs must be broken without being beat;
Then of salt a teaspoonful your work will complete.
Twenty minutes of baking are needful to bring
To the point of perfection this ‘awful good thing.’

To eat at the best this remarkable cake,
You should fish all day long on the royal-named lake,
With the bright water glancing in glorious light,
And beauties unnumbered bewildering your sight
On mountain and lake, in water and sky;
And then, when the shadows fall down from on high,
Seek Sabbath Day Point as light fades away,]
And end with this feast the angler’s long day,
Then, then you will find without any question
That an appetite honest waits on digestion.




A few rhymed recipes turned up in Massie’s ‘WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” published in 1990 (an excellent book, by the way), chronicling the history of Michigan church and club cookbooks). One of these recipes, Buckwheat Griddle Cakes, in rhyme, was taken from an Ann Arbor cookbook published in 1884, and like a rhymed recipe for doughnuts has often turned up in other cookbooks. To make Buckwheat Griddle cakes (or to recite the recipe for them:

If you fine buckwheat cakes would make
One quart of buckwheat flour take;
Four table-spoonfuls then of yeast;
Of salt one-tea-spoonsful at least; (sic)
One handful of Indian meal and two
Good table-spoonfuls of real New
Orleans molasses, then enough
Warm water to make of the stuff
A batter thin. Beat very well;
Set it to rise where warmth do dwell.
If in the morning it should be
The least bit sour, stir in free
A little soda that
Is first dissolved in water hot,
Mix in an earthen crock and leave
Each morn a cupful in to give
A sponge for the next night, so you
Need not to get fresh yeast to renew.

In weather cold this plan may be
Pursued ten days successfully,
Providing you add every night
Flour, salt, molasses, meal in right
Proportions, beating as before
And setting it to rise once more.
When baking make of generous size
Your cakes; and if they’d take the prize
They must be light and nicely browned,
Then by your husband you’ll be crowned
Queen of the kitchen; but you’ll bake,
And he will, man-like, “take the cake”.

Also from “Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake”:

By Miss Howard Weeden, from Bandana Ballads

Of course I’ll gladly give de rule
I meks beat biscuit by,
Dough I ain’t sure that you will mek
Dat bread de same as I.

‘Case cooking’s like religion is—
Some’s ‘lected an’ some ain’t,
An’ rules don’t know more mek a cook
Dan sermons mek a saint.

Well, ‘bout de ‘grediances required
I needn’t mention dem;
Of course you knows of flour an’ things
How much to put, an’ when;

But soon as you is got dat dough
Mixed up all smoove an’ neat,
Den’s when youh genius gwine to show
To get dem biscuit beat!

Two hundred licks is what I gives
For home-folks, never fewer,
An’ if I’m ‘spectin’ company in,
I gives five hundred sure!

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Definitely not politically correct in today’s world! I would love to find a copy of Bandana Ballads though! Spellcheck almost had a nervous breakdown over this!
Another from Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake. Contributor was a Mrs. Josie Morris, Berrien Springs, and is dated 1923:

(Perhaps named after a spouse?)

Bill Cookies—and rightly they are named,
If they are gone in a jiffy, no one can be blamed.
Take one cup of sugar, a half cup of lard;
Cream these together, add 2 eggs and beat hard.
One scant teaspoon of soda, now put in a cup,
Add a mite of hot water, and now ‘twill foam up;
Sift 3 cups of flour and place in a bowl,
Mix smoothly and swiftly, and then neatly roll;
If dough is too soft, a little flour add,
I’ll assure better cookies your husband ne’er had.

Also found in Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake:


No name but dedicated to the Rev. W. H. Osborn and dated Battle Creek, 1903:

Take a knuckle of veal;
You may buy it, not steal;
In a few pieces cut it
In a stewing pan put it;
Salt, pepper, and mace
Must season this knuckle;
Then what’s joined to a place—
With other herbs muckle,
And lettuce and beets
With marigold meet.
Put not water at all
In a boiling hot kettle
And there let it be,
(Mark the doctrine I teach)
About—let me see—
Thrice as long as you preach.
So, skimming the fat off,
Say grace with your hat off.
Oh, then with what rapture
Will it fill Dean and Chapter!

Sandy’s Cooknote: I have never seen a knuckle of veal, much less cooked one—and aren’t the ingredients of lettuce and marigold interesting? Old cookbooks have far more recipes for veal that one encounters today. And, I am old enough to remember a time when the butcher would give a housewife soup bones—free of charge. My mother often made a thin soup with soup bones; afterwards my father and brother ate the marrow on crackers.

Larry and Priscilla Massie, authors of Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake, comment that Joseph Bert Smiley was one of Michigan’s most eccentric rhymesters and he offered his poetic opinion of onions in his first book “MEDITATIONS OF SAMWELL WILKINS” published in his home town of Kalamazoo in 1886;


There is no perfume that I love so well
As onions, fragrant onions.
Creation’s most odoriferous smell
Is onions, fragrant onions.
Nature is beautiful, calm, and bright.
From fruitful valley to lofty height.
She would show good sense if she’d only blight
These onions, fragrant onions.

Sometimes when walking the street you say,
“Onions, fragrant onions!
Somebody’s cooking for dinner to-day
Onions fragrant onions.”
No flower’s pure essence as sweet as they.
No fifty-cent odor could longer stay.
You can smell ‘em a couple of blocks away.
Onions, fragrant onions.

I wonder how Providence came to invent
Onions, fragrant onions.
On what dire mission hath nature sent
Onions, fragrant onions?
It seems too bad that an earth so fair
Should nourish and foster with so much care
A plant with a smell that will raise your hair—
Onions, fragrant onions.
I can’t resist the temptation to insert, next, a poem that I wrote about onions quite a few years ago:

Waste not your tears in weeping over
The onion–that hyprocrite!
It mealy-mouths its way around
Begging us to pity it!
It spends its whole life
In sham tears and strife
Begging for some consolation…
Because of the lily, the onion you see,
Is merely a dirt-poor relation.
The onion’s behavior is simply uncalled for
Actually, I think
It’s really quite silly..
Because, after all,
Who’d go to a restaurant
And order steak smothered
With lily?
–Sandra Lee Smith

Onions appear, also, in a short verse that has appeared in many community cookbooks, generally in an introductory page for vegetables:

The onion strong, the parsnip sweet,
The twining bean, the ruddy beet-
Yes, all the garden brings to light
Speaks of a landscape of delight.
(Author unknown)

But while I am on the subject of vegetables including onions, someone had this to say in the Fortnightly Cook Book, Winchester, Mass, in 1922:

I would I had time to the merits rehearse
Of squashes and corn, which I find not in verse,
I wish I could give the potato its due,
In the finest of rhymes and the most tuneful lays.
Cucumbers and cabbage, I also would praise
Or sing of tomatoes, served hot in a stew.
But onions! Oh, onions! Dear me, I suppose,
They should not be mentioned except in dry prose.
(You’ll excuse me for putting my hand to my nose).
While as for that homely old family of beans,
There’s nothing much lower, unless it is greens.
I’ll except that patrician branch from Lima
Than which, in succotash, what could be finer?
Others there are, but we must go on to receipts
If it were not for that, I’d at least speak of beets,
But space is precious, so no more will I write,
Merely wishing you health, and a good appetite.

Also from the Fortnightly Cook Book, pages of which were sent to me by someone back in the 1990s, was a poem about PIES—specifically OLD Virginia Mince Pies, written by a Mrs. Roger Pryor:


Our much respected Uncle Sam
Loves pies—of pumpkin, fruit or jam;
Potato, apple, lemon, cherry,
Peach, plum, and every kind of berry.
These are but courtiers to the prince
Of pies—the “Old Virginia Mince.”
There is but one right way to make it,
Ere in its flaky crust you bake it;
Use neither tongue nor other meat
(As some cooks do), but boil the feet
of calf or pig, then softly press
through colander the pearly mess.
Of this fill cup with dainty touch,
To mix with fruit and spice and such.
A cup of raisins, stoned, prepare;
A cup of currants then wash with care
(for things that grow in foreign lands
may have been packed by germy hands)
a cup of apple chopped—no rind;
a cup of sugar—heaping, mind!
A cup of finely shredded suet,
A dash of pepper from the cruet;
A pinch of salt, of nutmeg, mace,
Of cloves—to give a zest and grace;
One lemon, orange, juice and rind
(only the yellow grated fine).
Some citron shavings, crisp and thin;
Then pour a glass of brandy in.
Glass large or small, no matter which,
Enough to make all moist and rich.
(Should Uncle Sam object, thus meet it:
”He isn’t asked to drink, but eat it.”)
Line a deep dish with pastry, light
As feathers, soft and creamy white.
Cover as simply as you will
For worth and beauty need no frill.
Five minutes slowly bake, then heat
Your oven three hundred Fahrenheit.
Watching, you rest upon your chair,
And festive odors fill the air!
You almost see the mistletoe!
You almost hear the fiddle-bow!
The rhythmic tap of little feet,
The rippling laughter, low and sweet;
As perfumed incense rises high
From Old Virginia’s own mince pie.
The old-time Randolphs made these pies
For Christmas dinners. They were wise.
They made other things, they tell
Tobacco, laws and made them well.
Our Independence Declaration,
The prop and bulwark of our nation
Standing today, as then it stood
Was writ by one of Randolph blood.
That Democratic son of yore–
Ate a mince pie—the day before.

From “A BOOK OF PRACTICAL RECIPES” compiled in 1907 by the Ladies of the South Side Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh:


Six Boston crackers split and dried,
And buttered well upon one side,
One pound of cheese, be sure it’s nice—
Cut first in slices, then in dice,
One pint of milk, if fresh use cold,
But scald if it’s a little old.
A baking dish to hold a quart
One of the round and shallow sort.
Now first put in some bits of cheese,
Then crumble cracker over these,
Then cheese, then cracker,
And when you stop
Be sure the cracker comes on top.
With salt and pepper season lightly,
Also with cayenne very slightly.
The milk add last, bake half an hour,
And serve it hot, if in you power.

The following is from Favorite New England Recipes , but I don’t have a date or any additional information as someone copied the page and sent it to me a long time ago:


1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of milk;
two eggs, beaten fine a silk;
salt and nutmeg (lemon will do)
of baking powder teaspoons two.
Stir enough of flour in
To roll on pie board, not too thin;
Cut in diamonds, twists or rings,
Drop with care the doughy things
Into the fat that swiftly swells
Evenly the spongy cells.
Watch with care the time for turning,
Fry them brown, just short of burning.
Roll in sugar, serve when cool,
This is the never failing rule.

The following recipe is from a community cookbook published in either 1912-1913 in Poughkeepsie New York—the cover and front pages to the cookbook were missing. Author is listed as a Mrs. L.V. Strong:


Two cups Indian, one cup wheat,
One cup sour milk, one cup sweet,
One good egg that you well beat,
Half cup molasses, too,
Half cup sugar, and thereto,
With one spoon of butter, new.
Salt and soda each a spoon,
Mix up quick and bake it soon,
Then you’ll have corn bread complete
Best of all corn bread you meet,
It will make your boy’s eyes shine,
If he is like that boy of mine.
If you have a dozen boys
Double then the rule I should
And you’ll have two corn cakes good.
And a short recipe for Saturday Night Boston Brown Bread (which I love!) appeared in Jane & Michael Stern’s “Coast to Coast Cookbook – Real American Food” published in 1986 b Alfred A. Knopf:

Three cups of corn meal,
One of rye flour;
Three cups of sweet milk,
One cup of sour;
A cup of molasses
To render it sweet,
Two teaspoons of soda
Will make it complete.

The Sterns note that brown bread goes back three centuries to when it wasa brick oven recipe cooked on a bed of oak leaves and called ‘ryanijun’. A contraction of rye (flour) and Indian (cornmeal). Graham (whole wheat) was a later addition that became an essential element in the dark moist loaf we all know as Brown Bread. The Sterns also noted that the non-brick oven method required a pudding mold – but the mother of my high school girlfriend, Mary, baked brown bread in tomato soup cans.




As for Bishop Williams, the Browns referred to him as “that New York Rhymster” without providing any additional background information.
The recipe that appeared in their “America Cooks”, originally published in 1940, states that the Boston Baked Beans rhymed recipe was from “Moore’s ‘Rural New Yorker’” which presumably meant something to readers in 1940 but doesn’t enlighten this 2010 writer.

Google searches, while providing newer websites and Blogs referring to rhymed recipes failed to provide any other information about the elusive Bishop Williams. So, unless someone reads this and knows something about the Bishop Williams who wrote the rhymed recipe “Boston Baked Beans” – we may never know.

While searching on Google for more rhymed recipes, I came across a website called The Old Foodie, written by a woman in Australia who immigrated there from England. It reminded me of my two penpals in Australia, also from England, so I wrote to the Old Foodie & she wrote back to me. In one of her Blogs she offered a rhymed recipe from an 1886 “The Woman Suffrage Cook Book…” by Hattie A. Burr and it was one I didn’t have—so here it is:


Cut smoothly from a wheaten loaf
Ten slices, good and true,
And brown them nicely, o’er the coals,
As you for toast would do.

Prepare a pint of thickened milk,
Some cod-fish shredded small;
And have on hand six hard-boiled eggs
Just right to slice withal.

Moisten two pieces of the bread,
And lay them in a dish,
Upon them slice a hard-boiled egg
Then scatter o’er with fish

And for a seasoning you will need
Of pepper just one shake,
Then spread above the milky juice,
And this one layer make.

And thus, five times, bread, fish and egg,
Or bread and egg and fish,
Then place one egg upon the top,
To crown this breakfast dish.
When I was originally collecting and writing about rhymed recipes in the late 1990s, a fellow subscriber of the CCE found the following for chowder in a book titled ‘SAVORY SUPPERS AND FASHIONABLE FEASTS” by Susan Williams, published in 1985. Louise sent it to Becky Mercuri, another CCE columnist, who in turn sent it to me.


To make a good chowder and have it quite nice,
Dispense with sweet marjoram parsley and spice;
Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone.
To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,
Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;
Some say you must turn it, some say you must not;
When it is brown, take it out of the fat,
And add it again when you add this and that.
A layer of potatoes, sliced quarter inch thick,
Should be placed in the bottom to make it eat slick;
A layer of onion now over this place,
Then season with pepper and salt and some mace.
Split open your crackers and give them a soak.
In eating you’ll find this the cream of the joke.
On top of all this, now comply with my wish,
And put, in large chunks, all your pieces of fish;
Then put on the pieces of pork you have fried-
I mean those from which all the fat has been tried.
In seasoning I pray you, don’t spare the cayenne;
‘Tis this makes it fit to be eaten by men.
After adding these things in their reg’lar rotation,
You’ll have a dish fit for the best of the nation.

Jessup Whitehead
The Stewards Handbook, 1899
Rhymed recipes—and kitchen poems– would turn up unexpectedly in my searches, most often in old church and club cookbooks. My inclination in the early days of collecting cookbooks, which I started in earnest in 1965, was to purchase any kind of cookbook in any kind of condition, which led to acquiring many in truly battered and tattered and stained conditions, sometimes sans covers. It was in such a little cookbook, titled Rio Bravo Farm Home Department Cookbook that I discovered a wealth of kitchen poetry. The book is undated but the ads, from Bakersfield California, offer telephone numbers of just three digits. The cookbook’s previous owner spilled and spattered, especially throughout the pages devoted to cakes and cookies, and a child apparently scribbled on some of the pages. No matter.

In the introduction, the ladies of Rio Bravo wrote:

The world is always praising
All the great folks of the time –
The poets and musicians and
The ministers sublime;
But to earth’s greatest heroine
They never cast a look;
I’ll tell you who she is at once—
The blessed household cook.

Commenting on bread, the Rio Bravo ladies had this to say:

A slice of bread with butter on it
May feed a king;
A biscuit with a crust upon it
Is comforting.
The every day necessities, no doubt,
Are those which none of us can do without.

My favorite kitchen poem, from the Rio Bravo cookbook, is titled COOKIES and it goes like this:
When Cinda bakes, what odors as from isles
Of clove and citron float upon the air
And in the pantry. Oh! What witching piles
Of crusty rolls and frosted tarts are there;]
A dream of far off eastern light and warmth.
In some strange wise, she mingles in her cakes;
With subtle atmosphere the kitchen fills
When Cinda bakes.

I’ve digressed a bit – as the last three are kitchen poems and not rhymed recipes. I don’t intend to present them separately – I think of all of them as kitchen related, whether kitchen-theme poems or rhymed recipes. Someone loved their kitchen enough to want to wax poetic about it. That’s good enough for me. But for now I’ll return to rhymed recipes.

In a Maryland Home Economics Association cookbook published in 1948, I found the following rhymed recipe for corn pone which the author stated had been used in her family for 65 years. (And my original notes are from 1994, so makes it about 80 years ago).


Two cu of Indian
One cup of wheat.
One cup of sour milk
One cup of sweet.
One good egg
Which you must beat.
One-half cup of sugar
And thereto
One tablespoon of butter, new.
Salt and soda
Each a teaspoon,
Mix it quick
And bake it soon.
Then you’ll have
Cornbread complete
Best of all cornbread
You meet
Good enough for any king
Which your husband
Home may bring.
One of my earliest cookbook acquisitions, “THE EGG BASKET COOKBOOK” compiled by the Petaluma High School PTA in 1927, contains the following recipe (and this may be one of the first rhymed recipe I found, years ago):


If you would choose the Angel cake
One full cup of EGG whites take,
Beat them lightly, beat them long
To the merry tune of your favorite song.
Put one cup of flour, sugar one and a quarter,
One level teaspoon of cream of tartar
Into your sifter and sift them thru,
(six or seven times will do).
One teaspoon of flavoring, (any kind you choose)
Now not a moment you must lose
But fold all together, don’t beat it a lot
And bake in an oven that’s not too hot
For forty-five minutes, then I’m sure you’ll say
It’s fit for an angel most any day.

But if you choose to eat the devil,
Let your measurements be on the level,
Cream one cup of sugar, Crisco one third,
Two EGGS with a cp of sour milk whipped and stirred,
One teaspoon of soda, of cocoa four
With two cups of flour sifted five times or more.
Now to Crisco and sugar add the mixture of flour
Alternating with EGGS and milk that is sour.
Beat it hard and beat it long
To the rag time tune of a rag time song.
Two teaspoons of baking powder, add
And you’ll get a cake that’ll make you glad.
Bake in an oven that’s moderately slow
Put together with icing white as snow.

An anonymous cook-poet submitted the following rhymed recipe to an 1897 cookbook compiled by the Ladies Aid Society of Sewickley, Pennsylvania:

Stand on your legs
And beat four eggs,
One cup of sugar,
And beat like a booger*
One cup of flour,
And bake half an hour.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: I’m not sure what we just created—pancakes? A small cake? A booger, by the way, is a variation from dialectal “boggart” or a hobgoblin. Words no longer a part of our vocabulary.

The following recipe for curry, author also unknown, was published in 1810—and unfortunately, my notes don’t indicate where I found the recipe. It may have been sent to me by one of the many friends who searched for these recipes on my behalf. The author sounds like a doting husband and because of the reference to Epping Butter, is most likely of English origin:

Three pounds of veal, my darling girl prepares
And chops it nicely into little squares,
Five onions next prepared the little minx,
The biggest are the best her Samuel thinks,
And Epping* butter nearly half a pound
And stews them in a pan until they’re browned.
What next my dexterous little girl will do?
She pops the meat into the savory stew
With curry powder, tablespoons three,
And milk a pint, the richest that may be.
And when the dish has stewed for half an hour,
A lemon’s ready juice she’ll o’er it pour.
Then bless her–then she gives the luscious pot
A very gentle boil, and serves quite hot.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: I had no idea what Epping butter was when I first included this poem in my article “Eve’s Pudding and other Rhymed Recipes” in 1994, but back then we didn’t have Google! Thanks to Google I discovered that Epping is a small market town in the county of Essex, England that retains its weekly market and dates back to 1253. The once-famous Epping Butter was highly sought after in the 18th and 19th centuries but is no longer made. (I love being able to tie up loose ends!)
The following, written by Ruth Van Ness Blair of Clearwater, Florida, is from a book titled RECIPES IN RHYME:


Take a can of artichokes,
And squash them to a mush,
Add two cups of mayonnaise,
Then sprinkle in the slush
Itaian style Good Season’s mix
One packet is just right.
Then set it in the fridge to blend
Its flavors overnight.

At party time, serve up with chips,
Or crackers, if you wish,
But don’t leave ANYONE alone
With this delicious dish.
For all alone, a reveler,
Might easily go through
A dish of dip you meant to serve
A crowd of twenty-two.
The following rhymed-recipe for a kind of rice pudding was another of the first rhymed recipes I ever came across. The author is unknown and I haven’t any idea where I originally found this, but I love the sentiment (it sounds like something I would do—use up a bunch of eggs and things to save a piece of bread! )

I found a little crust of bread
That must not go to waste
So by a famous recipe,
I seasoned it to taste.
I used 6 eggs, a pint of cream,
Some citron and some spice—
Two lemons, dates, raisins, and
A brimming cup of rice.
It took a lot of things, I know,
That’s how the cook book read—
And no one cares for it, but OH!
I saved that crust of bread!