Culinary Historians
of Washington, D.C.



Calls For Papers


Coming Events






Reading List

Related Sites

To Join

Contact Us



CHoWLine - Back Issues





November 2004

Program:"Marion Harland"

Nancy Carter Crump is a culinary historian specializing in Chesapeake regional foodways. Her first book, Hearthside Cooking, a history of Virginia foodways, is in its second printing; her articles have appeared in a number of journals and magazines; and she is a contributor to Culinary Biographies. A native of tidewater Virginia, she lives in Petersburg.

Important Information about Parking on Campus:
No parking is permitted in the circle in front of the Library or on the Quad. You may park in metered spaces (no charge on Sunday) in the parking lot on the right, inside the W Street entrance, or in the campus metered parking garage off Whitehaven ($1.50/hour). Parking on W Street is not encouraged.

Future Meetings

December 5: Pierre Laszlo, "Citrus"
January 16 or 23: Cooperative dinner - Theme to be announced
February 13: Philip J. Hilts - "Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation"
March 13: Claire Cassidy - "Family Culinary Archaeology"
April 10: Elisabetta Castleman - "Italian Regional Cuisine"
May 1: Shirley Cherkasky - "The Mediterranean's Colorful Contributions to American Confectionery"

Introducing Marion Harland

For nearly seventy years the name, Marion Harland, evoked the same recognition that Julia Child does today. In her lifetime, Marion Harland was world-famous, noted for a body of work that encompassed everything from fiction to biography to domestic arts. In the 21st century, however, Marion Harland is virtually unknown, except perhaps to those of us who "do" food history.

Harland began her writing career as a novelist, first published in 1854. While she continued to write fiction, she also felt the need to publish a cookbook that would help inexperienced brides who were poorly trained to run a household. She felt that "no American woman ... can afford to remain ignorant of practical housewifery," and saw herself as the person best equipped to guide young women along "... a plain path between pitfalls and morasses." Her book, Common Sense in the Household, first published in 1871, was an immediate and long-lasting success. It remained in print for fifty years; was translated into French, German, and Arabic; and ultimately sold over a million copies. Common Sense ... as well as other domestic works that followed, influenced women in this country and abroad for years to come.

Today there is renewed interest in marion Harland, particularly as a subject for scholars writing from a feminist perspective. Nancy Carter Crump will discuss Harland's life and works, especially those in the domestic sphere, works that spoke to 19th and early 20th century women concerned primarily with the household and their roles within it.

Report: October 3 Meeting

Willis Van Devanter, charter CHoW member and collector of early cookbooks, spoke about "The Evolution of the American Cookbook." Click here for the text of Willis'talk. Willis reports that he used this text primarily as a starting point for his talk, and elaborated extensively.

News of Our Members

Kathleen Boswell has moved to Santa Fe, NM, and wrote to say "I will miss the cozy Sunday afternoon gatherings in DC."

Shirley Cherkasky gave a paper at the 15th biannual meeting of the International Commission on Ethnological Food Research in Dubrovnik, September 27 - October 3.

Several CHoW members or subscribers contributed to the recently published Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America: Warren Belasco served as a Senior Editor; and Joe Carlin, as an Associate Editor who also wrote many entries. Others who contributed entries are Shirley Cherkasky, Virginia Jenkins, Eva Jochnowitz, Marty Martindale, Joan Nathan, and Susan mcLellan Plaisted. A number of speakers at CHoW's previous meetings also were included in the List of Contributors.

Culinary History in the News

In the October issue of Cooking Light, CHoW's program by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall in January 2004 is mentioned on page 30 as an example of the type of programs that culinary history groups around the country are sponsoring. The brief article also mentions Sandy Oliver's Food History News and provides an on-line link to her site.

CHoW member L Peat O'Neal, currently living in Texas, reports that Americans at the Table: Reflections on Food and Culture, published in July 2004 by the U.S. State Department, features essays on a Cuban American Thanksgiving, regional sandwich specialties, "ice tea," and more, with an introduction by David Rosengarten. To find a downloadable copy, either google "Americans at the Table" or visit http://usinfo.state.gov/journals.

Family Culinary Archaeology

by Katherine Livingston
As an only daughter and only granddaughter I came into possession of what culinary records my mother had kept from her family - a few printed cookbooks and many hand-written recipes or recipe clippings. A request from my daughter a few years ago for a book of family recipes led me to go through this mostly packed-away material to see what I could glean.

My mother had made for herself a loose-leaf notebook of recipes she and/or the family particularly valued, and subsequently made a similar one for me. These were starting points. But there were older materials, and the real archaeology was tracing the evolution of family cooking through those.

The apparently oldest recipes were attributed to one Aunt Jennie (d. 1900), my mother's great-aunt, who kept house for her mother on what is referred to as a plantation in Tennessee. (I own a sugar chest, from the days when sugar was a valuable commodity that was kept locked up, that was made on this plantation.) An undated newspaper article written by a relative who died in 1948 gives an account of their presumably famous hospitality and of the humiliation Aunt Jennie's mother felt when a substitute cook supplied a meal so scant that only one biscuit was left over. Aunt Jennie's recipe for gingerbread appears over and over in the notebooks and scraps of paper that accumulated through the years, with "cups" being substituted for "teacups" as time passed and butter or lard giving way to Crisco. It is the recipe my grandmother used; in its earliest rendition in her handwriting, headed "Aunt Jennie's recipe for Betsy Hamilton soft gingerbread," she noted that she had used it "with great success." Another of Aunt Jennie's recipes was Woodford pudding, a cakelike dessert (which I myself have made with success) depending on blackberry jam; this I learned more about from an article that appeared in the Washington Post some years ago and more recently via the internet; it owes its name to the county in Kentucky where it purportedly originated in the 1870s.

The oldest actual document I have is a notebook dating from the 1890s. My great grandfather was a Methodist minister and had used to notebook to record marriages, baptisms, and church and/or household expenses, as well as to draft an occasional sermon. Then at some point it seems the women of the family took it over and used it to record recipes. Some are hand-written and others were clipped from newspapers. One bears a copyright date of 1902, and another is attributed to the McKinley White House. I don't know how many of these were actually cooked, but Aunt Jennie's gingerbread as conveyed by my grandmother is there.

(Working out the provenance of this notebook was a problem in itself. My brother and I found it in searching in vain for a family bible a cousin told me another cousin said he had given to my mother. It was inconceivable that such a bible could simply have been lost, given the care with which others had been kept, and I conjecture that what the cousin had actually given my mother was this notebook. My great grandmother lived with his family in her widowhood, and the recipe collectors must have been her and/or my great-aunt; my grandmother wrote members of her family almost daily, and that is probably how the gingerbread recipe found its way into it.)

Coming to more recent times there is a school notebook bearing my mother's maiden name and the name of the high school she attended that contains no school notes but recipes in varioius hands. An inscription "Recipes from friends" inside suggests that this was a prenuptial (1935) project undertaken for my mother; this is supported by the fact that several recipes are in the handwriting of my father who, though he cared a great deal about food, never to my knowledge spontaneously showed any real interest in the details of its preparation. I note that recipes in this book still call simply for a "slow" or "hot" oven, without specifying temperature, but here also appears the first (and almost only) brand name in the collection, Swan's Down. For some reason a heading "Radio recipes" and a suggestion to write the Radio Household Institute in New York are crossed out.

Many of the recipes in the school notebook appear repeatedly in the materials I have. They would have been mainly the recipes of my grandmother and her contemporaries, but many of her own mother's cake and pickle recipes, which I remember her making, are included in the files. The only convincing recipe I have for her very good home-made bread is in a community cookbook to which she contributed it, but I own the actual fluted pans in which she made corn meal muffins. My grandmother was generally a very traditional cook, but at one point around 1950 my grandparents visited Texas and Mexico, and she came home with a recipe and some ingredients for chile. Her note to my mother accompanying the recipe says that it calls for an herb whose name she did not know but that she had sent a pinch to a nephew in Texas for identification; a later version in my mother's hand specifies oregano and attributes the recipe to the "so-called best restaurant in Mexico City."

My mother gleaned her recipes from probably a wider variety of sources. She was venturesome about food, and as new items became available or fashionable she was eager to try them. Her instructions for cooking ham were obtained by contacting the Swift company when "packing-house" hams (I suppose as distinguished from country hams, which needed boiling) first came on the market. She also acquired and often used a recipe for "Italiano" zucchini (this probably from The Ladies Home Journal or McCall's) and several using sour cream when those ingredients were uncommon enough to prompt promotional articles by food writers. One specialty of hers was a crab casserole, which seems to have evolved over the years from using canned crabmeat and cream sauce to using fresh crabmeat and mushroom soup. And among her miscellaneous notes I was pleased to find a recipe she had actually gotten from me.

In spite of this plethora of material some of the dishes I remember especially enjoying when I was growing up were not to be found. Often- cooked dishes such as fried chicken and turnip greens that I remember probably would not have been deemed to require recipes. Over the years I have found equivalents for or managed to reconstruct some others, most notably my grandmother's spoon bread, a vegetable soup I've designated "three-generation style," and my mother's chicken and dumplings, which she made in that now and again faddish appliance: the pressure cooker.

In preparing the notebook for my daughter (which I arranged more or less chronologically) I also included a number of recipes that I myself have found or improvised, generally conveyed in that informal one-cook- to-another style that so mystifies later generations. To many of the recipes I appended notes and reminiscences about how and when the dishes were served. I also included some other material: the newspaper article referred to above; a menu from a dinner attended by my grandfather in France at the end of World War I; a picture of him in his 90s carving a roast suckling pig; a few other photographs with, where possible, something in the actual handwriting of each main cook, and as a capstone my menu from the Julia Child opening at the Smithsonian, complete with wine spill. Some of the material, especially the notes, would be meaningful only to my daughter and me or other close family members, but I compiled them also with an eye to culinary as well as to family history. In my mind the two are closely intertwined.

CHoW's Culinary Collection

The transfer of CHoW's Culinary Collection to the Smithsonian Libraries has not yet been fully completed. More information will be forthcoming.

Boston University's Gastronomy Program

An e-mail received from Kara Nielsen of Lifelong Learning, Metropolitan College of Boston University, states: "As many of you know, our program launch this past September was unsuccessful. Consequently, we are considering our options and assessing the DC market for interest. We hope to try again next September. We would like to offer a course or two, perhaps with a noncredit, lower-cost option as well as a for-credit option. We will contact you with further developments and announcements. Meanwhile, please share this exciting information with fellow gastronomes and have interested people contact our office to join the update list: karan@bu.edu; www.bu.edu/lifelong; Tel: 617-353-9852; Fax: 617-353-4130.

Food in Art

"All's Fare," an exhibit of paintings of food by Harriet Lesser, a SlowFood member, is at the Studio Gallery, 2108 R St., N.W. Washington, D.C., from October 27 - November 21. Gallery hours are Wednesday - Saturday, 11-5 pm; Sunday, 1-5 pm. Dessert in the Gallery: Sunday, Nov. 21, 4-6 pm. For information: 202 232-8734; www.studiogallerydc.com.

On the Bookshelf

Cupboard Love: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities by Mark Morton, the author of the "Orts and Scantlings" column in Gastronomica. The first edition of this food reference work was nominated by the IACP in 1997 for a Julia Child Award in the Technical/Reference category. This second edition, released in September, is updated and expanded, and now explores the origins and histories of more than a thousand food words and culinary terms. For more information (including sample entries, reviews, ordering information, and more, visit: www.wordhistories.com/cupboard.htm.

The Migrant's Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households by Krishnendu Ray, Associate Professor of Liberal Arts and Management, Culinary Institute of America. (Temple University Press, 256 pp., $21.95, paper). Warren Belasco describes: "The Migrant's Table will make a major contribution to our understanding of modernization, globalization, immigration, and neo-ethnicity. We can see how migrants are quintesssentially modern in placing great home in the future while also seeking to anchor their identity in nostalgia for the past. The discussion of how immigrants have adapted to the 4th of July and Thanksgiving is brilliant and eye-opening. Ray is one of the most astute, well-grounded commentators working in the field of food studies today. This is an extremely impressive book."

Asian Food Journal. Published by Trend Pot, the first issue in September of this new TV-Guide-size magazine provides information on Asian foods and restaurants, and offers a number of fusion recipes. It has a restaurant guide and maps and plenty of advertising. Probably focused on the New York area. Subscriptions are free from (800) 535-6863 or info@asianfoodjournal.com.

Flavor and Fortune, "Dedicated to the Art and Science of Chinese Cuisine" is edited by Jacqueline Newman and published by the Institute for the Advancement of the Science and Art of Chinese Cuisine. The Fall 2004 issue includes articles on Uzbek cuisine, Fish Maw, Barbecued and Roasted Meat; Chinese-Indian or Indian-Chinese?, and Chinese Cooking in Mo-town (Detroit). Recommended by Claire Cassidy, who was intrigued by the article on Black Rice. An annual subscription is $19.50. For information: www.flavorandfortune.com.

On The Reading Table

Meeting notices, Culinary Historians of Chicago, October, November 2004.
Meeting notice, Culinary Historians of Boston, October 2004.
Food History News, Vol. XVI, No.2, FHN 62.
Culinary Chronicles, newsletter of the Culinary Historians of Ontario, Autumn 2004, No. 42
Meeting e-notices, Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin, October, November 2004.