"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Recipe Worth Keeping

When I owned my book store, I tried to feature rare collectibles and old classics.  Somewhere along the way, I came across an old cook book that I decided to keep for my own. I displayed it on my shelf, but labeled it “Not For Sale”.

It is a 1902 edition titled Mother’s Cook Book containing “Recipes For Every Day In The Week.” It was published in Chicago, by Homewood Publishing Company. The title page informs us that it contains “Chapters on the Preparation of Soups and the Cooking of Fish, Meats, Poultry, Game and Vegetables, the Making of Bread, Cake, Pie, Pudding, Pickles, Sauces, Preserves, and Special Dishes." Glancing through the index, one will find it also includes recipes on "Drinks" such as "Green Tea", "Lemonade", "Eggnog" and "Fine Milk Punch". It includes a chapter on "Invalid Cookery" with great recipes that are helpful when your family is ill; and a chapter entitled “Cosmetiques” with information on “Complexion Wash”; “How to Clear a Tanned Skin”; and “Wrinkles in the Skin”.

The highlight for me is the way in which the recipes are written. I absolutely love the simplicity; but also that we can learn a bit of history and understand the way things once were by what is written in something as simple as a recipe. I thought it would be fun to share some examples:
Larded Grouse

Clean and wash the grouse. Lard the breast and legs. Put a small skewer into the legs and through the tail. Tie firmly with twine. Dredge with salt, and rub the breast with soft butter; then dredge thickly with flour. Put into a quick oven. If to be very rare, cook twenty minutes; if wished better done, thirty minutes. The former time, as a general thing, suits gentlemen better, but thirty minutes is preferred by ladies. If the birds are cooked in a tin-kitchen, it should be for thirty or thirty-five minutes. When done, place on a hot dish, on which has been spread bread-sauce. Sprinkle fried crumbs over both grouse and sauce. Garnish with parsley. The grouse may, instead, be served on a hot dish, with the parsley garnish, and the sauce and crumbs served in separate dishes. The first method is the better, however, as you get in the sauce all the gravy that comes from the birds.
Yum! And how about this one!
Potato Soup

Potato soup is suitable for a cold day. Make it in the following manner: Get as many beef or ham bones as you can, and smash them into fragments. Add a little bit of lean ham to give flavor. Boil the bone and ham for two hours and a half at least. The bone of a roast beef is excellent. Strain off the liquor carefully, empty the bones and debris of the ham, restore the liquor to the pot, and place again on the fire. Having selected, washed, and pared some nice potatoes, cut them into small pieces and boil them in the stock till they melt away. An onion or two may also be boiled among the bones to help the flavor. I do not like thick potato soup, and I usually strain it through a hair sieve, after doing so placing it again on the fire, seasoning it with pepper and salt to taste. A stick of celery boiled with the bones is an improvement. Make only the quantity required for the day, as potato soup is best when it is newly made.
Mother’s Cook Book also includes little pieces of advice such as this:
Coal Fire                                                                                                          If your coal fire is low, throw on a tablespoon of salt, and it will help it very much.
Ok; just one more; rather two:
Pearl Water For The Face
Put half a pound best Windsor soap scraped fine into half a gallon of boiling water; stir it well until it cools, add a pint of spirits of wine and half an ounce of oil of rosemary; stir well. This is a good cosmetique, and will remove freckles.
Wrinkles In The Skin
White wax, one ounce; strained honey, two ounces; juice of lily-bulbs, two ounces. The foregoing melted and stirred together will remove wrinkles.
I think I should try that one! This is a book I intend to hold on to for a long time. It is simply a joy to read and offers a taste of history to keep. Oh, also at the back of the pages is a chapter entitled "Miscellaneous". This chapter includes a wealth of information Mother might want to offer to others, including: "Sunlit Rooms"; "Pleasant Homes"; "How to be Handsome; and Laughter".
...Laugh heartily, laugh often girls; not boisterously, but let the gladness of your hearts bubble up once in a while, and overflow in a glad, mirthful laugh.
"Sunlit Rooms" - Without which I feel like I could not live!  Therefore a favorite of mine from this book.
...The importance of admitting the light of the sun freely to all parts of our dwellings cannot be too highly estimated.  Indeed, perfect health is nearly as much dependent on pure sunlight as it is on pure air...It is a well established fact that people who live much in the sun are usually stronger and more healthy than those whose occupations deprive them of sunlight.  And certainly there is nothing strange in the result since the same law applies with nearly equal force to every animate thing in nature.
Ah, how I love the sun!  Finally in "Items worth Remembering":
A poor book had best be burned to give place to a better, or even to an empty shelf, for the fire destroys its poison, and puts it out of the way of doing harm.  Better economize in the purchasing of furniture or carpets than scrimp in buying good books or papers.Our sitting-rooms need never be empty of guests or our libraries of society, if the company of good books is admitted to them.
Well, there you have it. I hope you have enjoyed my sampling from a book that offers a taste of history that I intend to keep.


  1. I love it! I can see why you want to keep it. I also enjoy old etiquette books, too. These old books can be quite humorous without intending to.

    Lyle and I were commenting on how much we liked all your windows when we were at your house a couple weeks ago. That's one of the first things that drew me to our house, too. Lots of windows! (Well, at least on the east and west sides, and that's where the light comes in, so that's the main thing.)

  2. What an absolutely charming book! I can see why you kept it.
    I love that they included laughter in the Miscellaneous section!
    I think I shall have to procure a copy of this book for myself:)


  3. Reading those recipes puts me in a nostalgic time from a Jane Austin novel. Love that you kept that book! Remind me to look at it someday.

  4. I love old cookbooks. They are so interesting and fun.