Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pages from Kitchens Past

  • Until the 1700s, it was mostly the wealthy who used cookbooks.
  • Most of their servants had not been taught to read, so the lady of the household read the directions as the servant prepared the meal.  
  • In 1796, Amelia Simmons, an American orphan, was the first woman to self-publish a cookbook, called "American Cookery."
  • Simmons gathered her information through first-hand domestic experience.  She advises, when choosing meats, "their smell denotes their goodness."
  • It was in Simmons' cookbook that the word 'cookie' made its first published appearance.
  • Simmons recommended the use of pearlash (the forerunner of baking powder) to lighten dough and told how to make Indian slapjacks, brew spruce beer and dress a turtle.
  • Simmons' book is online at  It's really cool.
  • Early cookbooks gave directions like the 'pinch,' and the 'dash.'
  • Fanny Farmer (1857-1915) brought the scientific method of measuring ingredients to cooking, and we're still using them today .
  • Cookbooks of the 1800s introduced household tips for the housewife, like, how to use a bone button to clean a saucepan.  
  • One-pot meals (which happen to be my favorites) were the most basic in colonial cooking.  Those with more common backgrounds did not use slaves, and meals were made with whatever meat was available, if any at all.
What labels me as 'old fashioned' is my sadness that modern-day families don't eat their meals at a common table.  Maybe the kids won't miss what they've never had, but the family meal was the pivot point of childhood for us baby boomers.  We bowed our heads before meals.  We thanked for what was set before us, because it was the result of hard work.  Whether it was a plate of pancakes or a platter of fried chicken, we knew it was a blessing.

Keyboard gadgets don't teach respect, and never will.  If technology eliminates our respect for one another, well, then maybe it's not the best human advancement.  I don't know.  I'm beyond the age of having a valued opinion.  I live in the past....when we were called in for supper.....and we ran full speed to get there.  We washed our hands, we said our prayers, and mom passed the food around the table.  If there was something we didn't like, we were told to at least take a small portion, and try it.  Rules were rules, and they were enforced.  Our wrongs were given consequences.  We learned right from wrong.  

There's one recipe that needs be kept in our cupboards today, and that is..........

Gramma's Recipe for a Loving Family

4 cups of love 
2 cups of loyalty
3 cups of forgiveness
1 cup of friendship
5 tablespoons of hope
2 tablespoons of tenderness
4 quarts of faith
1 barrel of laughter

Take love and loyalty, mix it thoroughly with faith.
  Blend it with tenderness, kindness and understanding.
  Add friendship and hope.
  Sprinkle abundantly with laughter. 
 Bake it in sunshine.
  Serve daily with generous helpings.
  Serves one entire home forever.