May 24, 2017
Here’s another great old Seattle cookbook in the tradition of women-run aid societies. Choice Recipes by Seattle Women was written in 1924 as a fund-raiser to support the Fruit and Flower Mission.
It has a lovely dedication:
To those whose burden the Fruit and Flower Mission has assumed, to those it has been privileged to serve, to those receiving its ministrations that have brought health to their bodies, peace to their minds, and comfort to their souls.
The recipes themselves skew towards the fruits. (Less so the flowers, which were delivered to sick patients and the mentally ill.)
There’s an entire worldview in these brief recipes:
Some nice old ads for stalls in Pike Place, today still one of this country’s great markets:
May 16, 2017
Last week’s plucky Portland cookbooks left me eager for more from the Pacific Northwest. So here’s the first of several books, published between 1896 and 1944, that offer a small taste of early Seattle. Keep in mind that when Clever Cooking was first published in 1896, white settlements were less than 50 years old.
Old cookbooks often show traces of their former owners. But I’ve rarely seen a cookbook as personal as this copy of Clever Cooking, which Mary Packard has written all over.
Here’s a sweet, economically-minded detail:
This rice pudding cream pie (of sorts) looks delicious:
And then the book itself. Here’s a beautiful omelette recipe:
Chop 4 dozen truffles.. Perhaps to be serve alongside the definitively titled…
I find Mrs. Bone’s Kentucky Roll so confusing I almost have to try it:
And last, the original vegan gelatin: sea moss farine was made of the seaweed known as Irish moss or carrageenen.
May 10, 2017
This little book, published in England in 1925, is one of my all-time favorites. It’s filled with a number of astonishingly good recipes, a reminder that the English middle class and aristocracy ate very well before wars and rationing destroyed their national cuisine.
The vegetable recipes are especially interesting. Here, for example, are some great recipes for the English peas which are starting to show up in markets now.
And here some excellent ideas for spinach. I’m particularly intrigued by this Italian (obviously Venetian) recipe.
And finally, these rather mad recipes from the chapter called “Dishes from the Arabian Nights.” Can’t wait to try those eggs; will they really have “the flavour of chestnuts”?
May 8, 2017
Here’s another cookbook from Portland, Oregon, a 1973 reprint of a 1913 cookbook published by the Portland Woman’s Exchange. As James Beard reminds us in the introduction (Beard was born and raised in Portland), the Woman’s Exchange was a national movement dedicated to providing otherwise unemployed people with a market for their crafts. (When Beard wrote the introduction, the New York Woman’s exchange still existed).
Of the Portland Woman’s exchange, where the pictures below were taken, Beard writes:
I remember it as an old residence on Fifth Street, where it ran a small restaurant and sold excellent food, such as English crumpets and muffins, wonderful cakes, beautiful candies, and other items that could be ordered specially.
This rich (and perplexing) scene features a table-side chaffing dish:
A lovely teaching environment: Many of the book’s recipes have a distinct West Coast flair. I wonder how easy it was to get coconuts in 1913 Portland:
Here’s a mulligatawny-inspired approach to eggs: Mashed potato in cakes:
And this astonishing recipe for bitters gives you a glimpse of an era when sugar was still sold in huge loafs, and housewives mixed up herbal tonics. (The closest thing I can find to Buchn is the “buchu” plant native to South Africa.) In all the early 20th century cookbooks I’ve perused, I’ve never encountered anything quite like this:
Curious about mandrake? This Matt Simon article, about the hallowed root is worth a read. Medieval Europeans believed that mandrake uttered a blistering scream when it was uprooted. (See below.)
And for fun, here’s an old sugarloaf, which fell out of production in the United States in the late 19th century with the rise of granulated sugar. The nips next to it were used to cut it:
May 7, 2017
It’s ramp season – and it won’t last long. Looking for new ways to use the pungent leaves – I’m kind of tired of the ubiquitous ramp pesto – I went to one of my favorite old cookbooks.
Published in 1984 in fairly funky black and white, this is an American classic, filled with real recipes by real people. They offer a number of ways to use ramps.
If you’re planning on foraging for ramps, read this first: