Reading is one of my passions, and just about anything makes my list. Cookbooks make my list, because even if you don’t use any of the recipes, each recipe and how the book is presented tells a lot about history, society, and contemporary tastes.
There is a website, Internet Archive, where a slew of books are stored. “The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. . . . [it was] founded in 1996 . . .”
There is where I found “The Southern Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes.” It was first published in 1935 by the Culinary Arts Press, Reading, Pennsylvania. There are 49 pages of Southern style recipes, and many of the pages are illustrated with scenes from the Old South, accompanied by little ditties.
Some of the recipes are familiar: corned beef hash, crab croquettes, creamed peas, corn bread, pigs in a blanket, and strawberry shortcake. Then there are the unfamiliar, the unusual. and the exotic: Kentucky burgoo, Diamond Back terrapin stew, plantation soup, pigeon pie, fried peaches, creole goulash, Zazarac cocktail, and North Carolina syllabub (“A Builder-Upper”).
As mentioned, the pages are peppered with illustrations. Though stereotypical – such as, a Black shoeless servant lounging against a rock in tattered overalls, his tattered straw hat over his eyes – they do present the general thoughts of how the Old South was perceived at the time of this publication. There is the Old Colonel, bearded and raising a toast with a julep glass, while waving his cane in the other hand. Fat aproned Black women with their heads wrapped in kerchiefs, are either cooking, carrying overflowing platters, or scolding their youngsters.
In the introduction, I found it interesting that the editors spoke to New Orleans creole dishes having “nothing to do with racial origin but rather indicates the use of red and green peppers, onions and garlic.” It almost sounds apologetic.
The ditties are short and poetic as these two examples show:
“Cindy went to meetin’
She shouted and she squeeled [sic];
She got so much religion
She broke her stockin’ heel.”
And . . .
“Ah got corn, squash and yams!
Ah got chicken, squirrel, sugar cured hams!”
I found this book fascinating and enjoyable to read, for several reasons: for the culinary aspects, the professional illustrations, and the stereotypical views. Rather than looking at it with a slanted eye, it presented a view of thought from over eighty years ago, where “. . . people [thought] of the Southland as the place where the sun shines brighter, the breezes are gentler, the birds sing sweeter and the flowers are fairer.”
I recommend “The Southern Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes” for the recipes, for the simple enjoyment of reading, and the artwork.
The Southern Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes
Publication date: 1935
Edited by Lillie S. Lustin, S. Claire Sondheim, Sarah Rensel
Illustrated by H. Charles Kellum
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November 5, 2016.
©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.