Recipes and More


Jean TellerA recent Recipe Box (“Gathering Recipes,” March/April) focused on social cookbooks and the “receipts” included that put the past on the dining table. Our Comfort Foods article for July/August takes a closer look at the handwritten recipe cards found in so many recipe boxes and cherished by family cooks everywhere.

So it was quite interesting when a new book arrived on my desk this week. Pot Roast, Politics, and Ants in the Pantry by Carol and John Fisher is an insider’s look at Missouri’s cookbook heritage, and it’s an interesting read to boot.

The Fishers quickly draw a reader into the world of Missouri cookbooks, and, even with 10 pages of editions listed in the bibliography, I suspect they barely scratch the surface of cookbooks compiled and published in the Show-Me State. Organized by the producers of such tomes, the book begins with a quick look at the history of cookbooks in the state. Earlier books were published, mainly for the European market, with the first known American cookbooks printed in the mid- to late 1700s. In 1796, according to the Fishers, the first cookbook written by an American author for American cooks was published – American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. More American-specific books arrived in the next century, including The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, written by Fannie Farmer who was with the famous Boston Cooking School at the time.

Pot Roast, Politics, and Ants in the Pantry by Carol Fisher and John FisherPot Roast details where Missouri was during this time, and then continues with some of the early publications of cookbooks in the state, including the Julia Clark Household Memoranda Book, which was reported to be written by the wife of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Researchers, however, have concluded that the true author of the cookbook was probably Clark himself.

Full of such tidbits, the first chapter moves quickly into more detailed chapters such as “Community Cookbooks,” “Missouri Cookbooks Record History,” “Company/Product Cookbooks,” and “Kitchen Medicine, Housekeeping Tips, and Cookbook Literature.”

The extremely popular Joy of Cooking is mentioned in the chapter, “Individually Authored and Edited Cookbooks.” First compiled by Irma Rombauer as a self-published project in 1931, the cookbook has become a phenomenon in its own right. The Fishers suggest that Joy of Cooking has been so popular because Rombauer’s personality shines through on each page. There are personal suggestions strewn throughout the book, and cooks are put at ease by Rombauer’s honesty.

Jean Teller_1
4/27/2009 9:20:02 AM

Hi, Cindy, Thanks for the tip! "Wild Women in the Kitchen" sounds great, definitely something I want to read! Thanks! P.S. I've done the read-before-wrapping trick too!

Cindy Murphy
4/25/2009 5:57:35 PM

Hi, Jean. "Pot Roast, Politics, and Ants in the Panty" sounds very intriguing. I might not like to admit being much of a cook, but I love reading about it! If you like cookbooks, like history, and maybe a dash of spice, check out "Wild Women in the Kitchen; 101 Rambuctious Recipes and 99 Tasty Tales". I bought the book as a gift for my sister-in-law who loves, loves, loves to cook a few years ago, and (very carefully so not to bend the pages) ended up reading the whole thing before I wrapped it! Here's a review on Amazon's website: "This is not only a serious cookbook, it's also all about women's history. The Wild Woman Association was started with the publication of Autumn Stephen's Wild Women in 1992, and its primary purpose is to rediscover and rewrite our wild foresisters back into history! Here's a book with Isadora Duncan's asparagus salad, Alice B. Toklas's original fudge, Cleopatra's orgiastic oysters, and more, interspersed by highly entertaining stories about the wild women and their wild, scrumptious recipes!" Happy reading; happy eating!

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