Feeding America – The Historic American Cookbook Project

Feeding America – the Historic American Cookbook Project is a joint project of Michigan State University and Michigan State Museum to not only collect influential American cookbooks but to make them available in either pdf format or as searchable text. The cookbooks range in date from 1798 (Amelia Simmons) to 1922.

Who can resist Breakfast, Lunch and Tea by Marion Harland (actually Mary Virginia Terhune) printed in 1875. See her recipe for Ambushed Trifle and she writes at length about beating eggs, etc.

I have another 1876 book, Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving by Mary Henderson which is filled with fairly sophisticated recipes, simple six course luncheons for ladies and grand dinners. The ladies drank very well and lunch included Chateau d’Yquem. I certainly paid less than $20 for it and it is highly recommended.

In addition to the individual pages, or the entire scanned book as a pdf, you can also seach for recipes by name and ingredient, browse the books by date, author or categories. A great project and fun to look through.

Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine

The 25th anniversary edition of Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine is out. This book, by Norma Jean and Carole Darden is what started my interest in collecting old family recipes, etc. It chronicles the Darden family roots from slavery with lots of old photos and great recipes from both the north and the south.

The sisters opened restaurants in Harlem and near Columbia University which I would like to try sometime – see Spoonbread Inc.

It was hard to choose among the recipes for sweet potatoes and I will need to revisit Sweet Potato Bread and Sweet Potato Biscuits. But this looked good:

Sweet Potato Spoon Custard
1 cup mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
2 small bananas, mashed
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons seedless raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degress. Combine mashed sweet potatoes and bananas. Add milk and blend. Pour into a well-greased 1-quart casserole. Bake for 45 minutes, until custard is firm and golden brown. Wonderful served with lamb or pork. (6 to 8 servings).

Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One Arm Cookery

Among my old cookbooks is “Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One Arm Cookery“, which if Mom reads this, will probably want back. Published in 1946 with terrific “Decorations” by George Price, it is written by Mary Lasswell who had written “Suds in Your Eyes“. Mrs. Rasmussen was the cook in that book. Mom said she and Daddy loved it.

The recipes are very simple with a surprising number of Mexican ones using Mexene which I think means chili powder. I liked this one for Corn Bread though I don’t think there is any modern source for Clabber.

Corn Bread

1 cup clabber; if not available, use buttermilk
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups yellow water-ground cornmeal

Beat the clabber, eggs, salt and soda together in a bowl using a rotary egg-beater. Pour into a pre-heated pan, well greased with any unsalted fat. Let the pan get smoking hot. This forms a crisp brown crust on the outside of the cornmeal and leaves a moist middle. Put the fat in the pan and swish it around to cover the sides. Let it heat in the oven. Have the oven hot.

Amazon still carries the book and you can “look inside” to get the index and some recipes.

Gastronomica – Julia Child Issue

Gastronomica – Summer 05

If you can find a copy of this magazine it is well worth reading. The entire issue is devoted to Julia Child and is mostly wonderful with exception of one young cook who wants cookbooks with shorter recipes and pictures. The younger generation may not get it. But Mommy, Jane, Barbara and I will. There are several articles that can be downloaded on the website.