The remarkable thing about the first Olive Green cook book I purchased was its design. I bought it for its content, One Thousand Salads. I was more than persuaded by its comely cover. Blue and white gingham, smart ivory paste-down outlined in green, with its title in red and a beautiful green and red trellised rose vine hugging a red cup of coffee sitting on a red handled service plate. Hummm. It sure was pretty. I had no idea at the time there were nine other cookery titles Ms. Green produced during her very short life. And, that she was a famous romance author. Lavender and Old Lace is the most recognizable today.
Book designer, Margaret Armstrong, known for her highly stylized decorative book covers, outdid herself with this charming set. These are very handsome little books. Gilt top-edged paper, deckled for-edge, small but hefty for their size. Originally they were protected by plain brown paper dust wrappers with a little publisher's blurb on the cover.
There is much to Ms. Green's biography. Olive Green is the pseudonym of Chicagoan Myrtle Reed (1874-1911) who married Irish-Canadian James Sydney McCullough in 1906. At the time of her marriage, she was an established and popular G. P. Putnam writer of "Edwardian chic lit." She produced 17 books, innumerable household columns (under another pseudonym, Katherine LaFarge Norton) and the ten cookery volumes in the Putnam's Homemaker Series during her short 13 year writing career.
Illustration: Lisel Ashlock from Chicago Magazine by Dan Carlinsky 11 September 2007 "Hell in Paradise Flat."
She came from a widely talented family, one whom quipped about Myrtle, "The only instrument she could play was the kitchen range." Paradise Flat was the home she built before her marriage, where the 'keynote of her home was hospitality' and favorite toast was, "May our house always be too small to hold our friends."
Jan Longone of the Clements Library wrote a terrific article about the Putnam Series in the Fall 2003 issue of Gastronomica (both are wonderful food history resources). Unfortunately, Myrtle Reed suffered her whole life with bouts of depression and ultimately committed suicide despite her roaring publishing success. Two beautiful volumes of her collected works, culinary and prose, were published posthumously: The Myrtle Reed Cook Book and The Myrtle Reed Year Book. One of my favorite food-related entries in the Year Book is, "Cooking and love may seem at first glance to be widely separated but no woman can have one without the other."
Each book is crammed with hundreds of recipes, supposedly 1000 per volume, clearly written in an informal paragraph style. She expects some kitchen experience from her readers. These are not cooking school texts. No lists of ingredients. Just a clear thoughtful expression about how the recipe is to be produced in as few words, in as little space, as possible. An example from Everyday Desserts:
Molasses Gingerbread-I. (There are III Gingerbreads)
Melt a tablespoonful of butter, add a cupful of molasses, a pinch of salt, half a cupful of sour milk or cream, and a heaping teaspoonful of ginger. Add a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a little cold water, and a pinch of salt. Sift in two cupfuls of flour and bake in a quick oven in deep buttered tins. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.
The chapter titles within the volumes are quite unique to Ms. Green's style. She veers completely away from conventional categories, using instead Twenty-Eight Blanc Manges, or Twenty-Two Dumplings, and Twenty-Three Gingerbreads. In What to Have for Breakfast, she offers a parody of the popular Omar Khayyam"The Kitchen Rubaiyat." In One Thousand Simple Soups, she pens "The Ballad of the Empty Pantry and the Seven Guests."
The following list are the titles in the cookery series.
VIII. One Thousand Salads
My set of Olive Green cook books comes with a back story as well. The original owner, 15 year old Esther Atwood, known as a fine cook, purchased the set during a shopping trip to Coffyville, Kansas while a celebration was taking place on the anniversary of the demise of the notorious Dalton Gang (October, 1912). Esther married Don Weidman in 1920 and during their marriage the books moved with her from Kansas to Nebraska and Colorado. They finally ended up in Vancouver, Washington with Esther's granddaughter, Lane Weidman, who sold them to me. The set retained most of the dust wrappers, which I had never seen. The books have been well cared for and cherished. And remain so.
In the foreword to The Gourmet's Almanac, Allan Ross Macdougall heaps praises on the enterprising author of these books, How to Cook Shellfish in particular.
It has long been held to be true that the appearance of charitable or community cook books came about as an adjunct to raising funds during the Civil War for veterans, widows and orphans through Sanitary Fairs, the first held in Philadelphia in 1864. The Poetical Cook-Book by Maria J. Moss appeared at their Fair published by The Caxton Press of C. Sherman, Son & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This slim volume was groundbreaking in the history of women, book publishing, and the uniquely American fund-raising tradition.
In America's Charitable Cooks: A Bibliography by Margaret Cook (1971) the author notes in the Pennsylvania entry The Poetical Cook-Book, "Apparently the first cook book published and sold in the United States to benefit a charitable cause."
Under the New York entries, Ms. Cook says of The Economist (1847) by the New-York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, "Apparently not a fund raising book for charity," but instructions to the poor living on limited incomes.
In a 2007 issue of Food History News, there was an article concerning the rarity of Italian Cookery Books published in English before WWII. If I recall correctly, the author, Michelle Falke, was speaking of American publishing history of Italian cooking, not those from England, for example. The enduring English love affair of Italian culture produced a rich lode of kitchen literature. So my list includes any in the English language. If I have the book in my collection, I have linked it to my LibraryThing catalog so you may view it. I made an editorial decision to include a few corporate advertising booklets as it forms an often omitted contribution to energize public knowledge of the culinary genre of Italian heritage in our country.
Indicates references to Falke, not in my collection. Double**after a title indicates those mentioned by her in my collection. Many books Ms. Falke references were without titles, just place names, so could not be listed.
Update May 21 2009: I received a very thorough addendum to this list from Robert W.Brower. Many thanks RWB, for your corrections, and, for your many additions, noted with +. Mille Grazie!
As usual, send an email with any additions and I will attribute your contributions.
The list is ordered according to publishing date, earliest to latest.
Maigre Cookery H.L. Sidney Lear, 1884 London.
Leaves from Our Tuscan Kitchen Janet Ross, 1899 London.
Recipes of Italian Cookery Maria Gironci, 1900 London.
Choice Recipes for Cooking & Serving Marvelli Macaroni Sarah T. Rorer, 1900 Detroit.
The Cook's Decameron Mrs. W.G. Waters, 1901 London.
*Kitchen Wisdom 'italiano' St. Anthony's Girls Brigade [und 1900-1909] Hartford Ct.
A Book of Good Things Mrs. Katharine Vassault, und 1910s San Francisco.
+Italian Recipes for Food Reformers Maria Gironci, 1905 London.
+Some Italian Recipes and Others Romolo, 1906 Wolverhampton.
+Can't Fail Cook Book Isabelle Clark Swezy for John Vittucci Company 1915 Seattle.
Practical Italian Recipes for American Kitchens Julia Lovejoy Cuniberti, 1917 Janesville Wis.**
Economical Italian Cook Book Jack Cusimano, 1917 Los Angeles.**
The Italian Cook Book Maria Gentile, 1919 New York.**
Recipes for G. D. Del Rossi Co. Macaroni undated 1920s Providence RI.
+Tested & Approved Recipes for Red Cross Macaroni Spaghetti & Noodles The John P. Canepa Co. 1923 Chicago.
Polyglot Cookery Book Vol III English-Italian Countess Morphy, 1930 London.
+One Hundred Genuine Italian Recipes Alberto Alfani 1935 San Francisco.
Eating My Way Through Italy Henry Aimes Abot, 1936 San Francisco.
Italian Cook Book Written in English Mary Carmen Riello, 1936 New Haven Conn.
*+Specialita culinarie italiane North Bennet Industrial School, 1936 Boston.
101 Ways to Prepare Macaroni V. LaRosa, 1937 New York.
Good Food From Italy. A Receipt Book Countess Morphy, 1937 London.
Mimi Tells You How to Prepare Your Favorite Italian Dishes at Home 1942 New York.
+A Collection of Genuine Italian Recipes, Easy to Prepare Mattia Locatelli, 1939 New York.
+Herbs for the Kitchen Irma Goodrich Mazza, 1939 Boston.
11 Genuine Italian Spaghetti Sauces Joseph Jerome 1941, Philadelphia.
+Italian Cook Book (adapted from Pellegrino Artusi) Joseph V. Di Cecco, 1940 New York.
11 Genuine Italian Spaghetti Sauces Joseph D.G. Jerome, 1941 Philadelphia.
*Italian Cook Book Italian Ladies' Welfare Society, 1944 Kansas City.
Italian Cook Book Angela Martignoni, 1945 New York.**
Italian Cook Book Pellegrino Artusi & Olga Ragusa, 1945 New York.
Reminiscence and Ravioli Nika Standen, 1946 New York.
Macaroni Manual Crosby Gaige, 1947 New York.
La Rosa 51 Pastina Recipes 1947 Brooklyn New York.
The Art of Italian Cooking Maria Lo Pinto & Milo Miloradovich, 1948 New York.
Cooking Chats With Luigi Trianni Milan V. Petrovic, 1948 New York.**
Famous Italian Dishes Hector Boiardi, und 1940s.**
Talisman Italian Cook Book Ada Boni, 1950 New York.
Ricotta & Mozzarella Recipe Book Albert Pollio, 1950 New York.
In an earlier post I introduced nineteenth century Recipe Holders. Here is a wonderful example of a handmade Holder acquired from an estate in Maine. By examining the contents, the original owner started this little beauty in England. Apparently the household immigrated to Ontario, Canada and ended their journey somewhere in Maine.
The 5.5x7-inch covers are closely woven brown linen (possibly hand-loomed) over cardboard. The fabric might have been red or blue and have faded to this common brown color, caused by oxidation. On the exterior is a sampler of embroidery stitches in green wool. Originally there was a green ribbon to tie the Holder closed. Notice the spine is ample to enfold many recipes through the years.
Inside, the folder boards are inset with black silk. there are five labeled envelopes sewn to the front board which organize the recipes by categories: Puddings, Candies, Cakes, Icings and Miscellaneous. Within these little envelopes are small pieces of paper with recipes written in a youthful hand, possibly a teen project of sorts.
Each time I find an old cook book at a garage or household sale, I feel like a delicious sleuth or voyeur of sorts. I feel that I'm snooping into someone's life, finding telltale signs of what happened in the cook's kitchen while she owned that book. I like to fill in the blanks, inferring details of her life, her likes, what she chose to write and cook. That's a fairly romantic notion. The story of a cook's kitchen is far from ordinary.
At an estate sale in Wisconsin there was a well-loved first edition copy of the popular Rumford Complete Cook Book (c1908 by Lily Haxworth Wallace) sitting amidst a myriad of product pamphlets. There was no spine left to secure the pages to the book . The mottled blue cloth card covers were held together by an ancient rubber band. I gently opened the book and discovered the volume belonged to Mrs. W. M. Dickinson, who had penned her name and the date July 20th 1913. All the loose pages were covered with her recipes, first written in pencil, then snippets pasted to the outer boards. I moseyed over to the checkout counter of the sale with a firm grip on this little gem. I knew there must be a story between those two covers.
Leafing through the pages, there were check marks with comments on tried recipes. A big star * next to Green Tomato Pickle. Big parenthesis around Seed Cookies made with caraway. A note “O.K. makes 9” next to Pecan Sticks. Whole Wheat Biscuit had been rewritten “1 lb. whole wheat flour = 3 cups+" She noted, "additional baking powder, salt, butter and a large egg" to replace 1 small egg called for in the original recipe. To the recipe for Puff Paste, Mrs. D. translates ½ pound pastry flour equals 2 cups. Under each of her entries she uses a flourishie detail, ~~||~~, divulging a touch of her personality.
Recently I bought a little booklet, Kate Sargeant's One Hundred Mushroom Receipts, published in 2006, by Fred Kelso, Hengwrt Publishing Company, Lewisville, Pennsylvania. It is a reprint of the original book, published in 1899 by Charles Orr, Cleveland, Ohio. It is presumably the first English language cookbook dedicated to the little mushroom. In Mr. Kelso's introduction, he mentions "there were no other mushroom cookbooks published until Countess Morphy's 1938 Mushroom Recipes".
So I had a look in the library here at Kitchen Garden Books and came up with some other titles to add to a bibliography. In Lavonne Brady Axford's excellent bibliography, English Language Cookbooks 1600-1973, there is a list of more than two dozen books about mushroom cooking, some more contemporary (not included) and she was so useful in compiling this list.
William Rubel of Santa Cruz, California contacted me recently with several excellent additions, noted by an *asterik. He recommends those marked with the pound sign# as being particularly important. Thank you William!
Many, many years ago when I first discovered the pleasure of reading food history I was entranced by a picture in the 1964 American Heritage Cook Book, Illustrated History (p.286), Volume I. So charming, so colorful, of such essence depicting the painful nostalgia of the American South. Here was a cookbook with a red and white gingham border with a beautiful painting of an African-American woman marketing, a basket draped over her arm and a fish about to be taken home for a family meal. The attribution states it's in the collection of The Shadows, New Iberia, Louisiana. A property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A caption below the photograph says, "Cover of a manuscript cookbook made for a New Orleans family in the early 1900s. It was bound in the colors of their cook's aprons. She was called Zouzoute and she is portrayed on the cover."
Decades later, while reading introductory remarks, "The Creole Heritage" by Shirley Abbott, in Madame Begue & Picayune Creole Cook Book, part of the Antique American Cook Books Series published in 1984, there she was again! Zouzoute as remarkable as ever. The caption said pretty much the same thing except for this poignant comment about the fabric, " a 1900s New Orleans family shows their cook, Zouzoute, from whose apron the cover was made." I could not exactly remember where had I seen her before. And let it rest.
Over the last few decades, I have managed to acquire several relatively scarce pieces of culinary Americana, the Recipe Folder. Before the days of recipe boxes, these special recipe cases, basically a handy oversize "envelope" where the cook collected all her loose slips of paper with hand written receipts. I observed that it seemed to be the custom when sharing a recipe, that they were passed along folded in half. I don't know if there was a standard size of writing paper and envelopes, into which the recipes were mailed. Maybe each company had their own size. They are almost always folded.
Recipe Folders were often made of cloth, sometimes leather and usually quite decorative. The example on the left is 5 inches by 10 inches. The cardboard is covered with cream linen and is hand painted. The illustration is of a medieval man and woman at table, a period when it was customary to toss scraps (orts) onto the floor to feed household pets. Quite a tidy tie-in to the bits and pieces tossed into the folder.
Inside the case there is hand-embroidered edging to the flaps on both sides in which to hold the recipes. On the outside, there are remnants of a linen ribbon sewn midway into the spine to secure the contents.
The Kentucky Housewife. A Collection of Recipes for Cooking by Mrs. Peter A. White, Chicago & New York, Belford Clarke & Co., c1885.
The Blue Grass Cook Book. A Manual of Useful Information for Housewives by Genvieve Long, Chicago, W. B. Conkey Company, c1903.
The Blue Grass Cook Book compiled by Minnie [Minerva] C. Fox, Duffield & Co., New York, c1904.
It took me a long time to find The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Peter A. White c1885. When it arrived a few weeks ago, it sure seemed v e r y familiar. As if, maybe, I already owned this book? Drat! I paid a handsome price for the pleasure of capturing an elusive title. So when I looked through my shelf of Kentucky cookery books, I placed my hands on The Blue Grass Cook Book by Genvieve Long c1903. Well, the resemblance is more than passing. They are the same book! Different titles, different authors, different publishers, ever so slightly different cloth covers. And, the text block is identical, but the index of Blue Grass appears at the beginning of the book, and is at the end in Kentucky Housewife. I just noticed that the header of each page in Long's book says The Kentucky Housewife!
I forgot how much research I did several years ago trying to track down bibliographic information on the Blue Grass volume and Genvieve Long. Then it came to me!
In March 2006 I was inspired by an article from Bethany Ewald Bultman Who Saved Jambalaya? in Petit Propos Culinare, PPC 80 (a venerable publication on culinary history). Ms. Bultman proposed that the recipe for Jambalaya among the Cajun population didn't come into general use until the middle of the 20th century. In my limited, but familiar, knowledge of Louisiana cookery and the literature about regional foods of the Creoles and Cajuns, I just knew that Bethany must not have had enough literature of the kitchen at hand when she came to some of her conclusions. Careening through some two dozen books, I assembled a list of citations forwarded to her via email. She thanked me and that seemed to be it.