Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 25, 2012


The Woman Suffrage Cookbook (second edition), edited by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr (1890)

This neat book is available online as part of the Historic American Cookbook Project.  Published in Boston, with contributions from 164 persons (mainly women, with a few men) from all walks of life, including doctors, ministers, writers, teachers, and lecturers -- all supporting the suffrage movement.

     Some of the contributions are brief, almost terse:

     Oatmeal or Rice Bread  Two cups cooked oatmeal, or rice, salt to taste, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one cup sweet milk, one-third cup yeast, flour to make it stiff.  S. LOUISE SIMONDS.

     In my mind's eye, I picture Ms. Simonds ruling over a no-nonsense kitchen.  A culinary klutz (me) may wish for a bit more detail, but Ms. Simonds does not brook such nonsense.

     Elizabeth W. Stanton, on the other hand, waxes poetic over breakfast:

     Breakfast Dish.

      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 some 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 time, bread, fish and egg,
          Or bread and egg and fish,
      Then place one egg upon the top,
          To crown this breakfast dish.


     Cooking in the late Nineteenth Century could also be an adventure, as can be seen from the beginning of Anna Ella Carroll's pipece on how To Cook Terrapin:

     "Decidedly the terrapin has to be killed before cooking, and the killing is often no easy matter.  The head must be cut off, and, as the sight is particularly acute, the cook must exercise great ingenuity in concealing the deadly weapon.  I have known half an hour to be consumed in this effort..."

     The recipes make delightful (and often mouth-watering) reading.  There are recipes for piccalilli and for Indian pudding  and for cocoanut [sic] cake -- all great favorites of mine.  But there is so much more in The Woman Sufferage Cookbook,  In the section about the care for invalids, Dr. Vesta D. Miller gives us ten Important Rules, starting off thusly:

     "IST.  Avoid the use of coffee, opium, or tobacco.  Also avoid the use of hot bread, pancakes, dumpling salt meat, pork, ham, sausage, fried eggs, pickles gravy, and rich pastry."

     No pancakes?  I'd never survive.

     No matter, here is a book "Containing Thoroughly Tested and Reliable Recipes for Cooking, Directions for the Care of the Sick, and Practical Suggestions,"  in order that this, "our messenger will go forth a blessing to housekeepers, and an advocate for the elevation and enfranchisement of women."  Can't argue with that.

    Let's have the last  word from a contributor who (perhaps thankfully, perhaps not) did not include a recipe.  Under the miscellaneous entries, there is this:

     "Whatever uncertainties we may recognize in values and in markets, it will always pay for women who have money enough to have leisure, to interest themselves in bettering the condition of their sex.  It has become honorable to-day for women, gentle or simple, to earn money.  This is as it should be, but for us to deduce therefrom the supposition that women should engage in work only as they are paid for it, it would be a laudable mistake.  We must have money to live, and ought to have enough to live well and comfortably; but while life has some supreme interests, money is not one of them.  We must do our devoir, whether it brings us in wages or not."  JULIA WARD HOWE

     It makes me want to hum her anthem.

     Here's the link.  Check it out for yourself.


      Patti Abbott has recuperated enough from her recent oral surgery to collect today's Friday's Forgotten Books links at pattinase.

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