Household Words

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Household Words

Women Write from and for the Kitchen

Introduction to The Esther B. Aresty Rare Book Collection

Introduction to The Esther B. Aresty Rare Book Collection

Esther Bradford Aresty: Her Book

Esther Bradford Aresty: Her Book

A Book of Her Own

A Book of Her Own

"The Delights for Ladies"

"The Delights for Ladies"

The Communal Kitchen

The Communal Kitchen

Social Reform in the United States

Social Reform in the United States

British and American Public Voices and The Culinary Canon

British and American Public Voices and The Culinary Canon

A Curriculum for Ladies

A Curriculum for Ladies

"The Handmaidens of Industry"

"The Handmaidens of Industry"

illustrated sepia tone cover of Household Words book depicting a woman in period dress and bonnet holding a book

An Exhibition from the Esther B. Aresty Collection of Rare Books in the Culinary Arts
Department of Special Collections, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

Curated by Janet Theophano
Department of Folklore and Folklife
Associate Director, College of General Studies 
University of Pennsylvania

Introduction

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the opening reception of the Aresty Collection of Rare Books on the Culinary Arts. It has been my pleasure to curate the exhibition presented to you this evening.

The Aresty Collection is vast, spanning five centuries and representing cultures from nearly every part of the world. The books written by both men and women provide us with material enough for many culinary and social histories from many points of view.

The exhibition presented this evening is only a portion of the entire collection. I have selected from the Aresty's books those which shed light on women's history, work, and lives. The exhibition focuses on women's writing and use of cookery and househ old books. I approached these texts from two vantage points. First, I wanted to learn about how the book was received. I wanted to understand the reader's response to such writings. What did the reader do to "personalize" the texts? How did this sha pe their reading [and culinary] experiences and how did it affect subsequent communities of readers? (Hindman 1991:15) In fact, much current research on the history and impact of printing focuses on these issues. Second, I wanted to understand the motiv ation of the women who wrote the books: Who were they? Why did they write? What else did they do? And how did the author-cook and reader-cook interact with one another through these texts? Were women's lives enhanced by this form of writing and activity? And if so, how?

My own interest in cookbooks--both manuscript and printed--began with a chance discovery several years ago. While browsing in an antique shop, I stumbled across a book of writings. At first glance, the book reminded me of a journal or a volume of poetry. When I looked more closely, I discovered that what I had found was a collection of recipes. What was most intriguing about this handwritten volume with a section of clipped recipes pasted onto the pages of what had once been a telephone directory w as the absence of the writer's name. After I bought the book for a dollar--the shop owner was reluctant even to ask for that much money--I returned home and searched it for a clue to its writer's identity. I found none. I wondered how many women had kept recipe books such as these. And for what purposes did they keep them? What role did such writing play in women's lives? I was struck not only by the recipes, their titles and ingredients but by the other information contained in the book. Letters, poems, loose recipes on used scraps of paper, devotional texts, a list of books and rhymes, and several pages of names and addresses of people unknown to me and in unspecified relationships to the writer. Perhaps it was a church group or members of a choir? What was unsettling to me was that although I could conjecture something about this woman's life--her participation in some religious or church-related activity, her social network, that she had children and a husband. I did not know who she was. I wondered how many books like this were anonymous; how many had been discarded, lost or destroyed because they were considered unimportant; how many were written intended for publication or were they most often to be kept in families and given as lega cies to children; were some of them meant to signal class and rank and act as symbols of wifely and maternal devotion. Were they read? And if so, by whom?

Since that time I have found a few nineteenth and early twentieth century cookery and household books which I have bought but not with a rare book collector's eye or purpose. I wanted to see how the books had been altered and fiddled with, how they had b een marked by the reader's sensibilities? Had the writers, in fact, created "cookbooks" of their own?

When I was asked to curate the Aresty Collection I was given the opportunity to explore these questions and more. These treasures of culinary literature were written by women and men who became prominent through their writings. I was eager to learn more about them. I also wanted to understand the relationships of the famous authors and their influential texts to the societies in which they lived, and the women whose lives they touched.

The exhibition does not begin to answer these questions; rather, it is an invitation to you the audience--the viewer--to find your own set of questions and your own vantage points from which to study these books.

I have been thrilled to work with the Aresty Collection--books I might otherwise never see or touch. And thrilling is the only word to describe it. I am, above all, grateful to the Arestys for their gift to us and to Mrs. Aresty for her thoughtful and brilliant selection of these books. I wish to say thank you the staff of the Department of Special Collections for their guidance and support. I was a newcomer to this task.

I wish also to thank my colleagues in the College of General Studies for giving me the time to work on this project. Many friends listened and read drafts of the texts. Thank you. To the students who worked with me, my deepest gratitude. And to Jeff Shultz--no words possible.

There is much more to learn from these books: political, economic, social, cultural, and linguistic histories are charted and documented in these texts. Needless to say, so too, are at least several histories of food, cooking and other arts of the table.

The books are here now and waiting for you--the next generation of readers, researchers, and cooks.

 

--Janet Theophano

Social Reform in the United States

Hints for Healthy Living from Feeding the Child from Two to Six

In the antebellum period women's culture was held in high esteem. From the platform of "home" and its inextricable connection to religion and morality women were able to mold public opinion (Matthews 1987). Included among these women were a few celebrated cookbook authors of the day who were also reformers, and who, along with other activists, championed movements such as child welfare, temperance, abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, eradication of poverty, and reforms in medicine, labor, and prisons.

The cookbook writers--Catherine Beecher and Marion Harland, among others--and cooking school teachers such as Mary Lincoln and Maria Parloa used women's journals, novels, and household manuals, as well as lecture tours, to broaden their debates on food, diet, and health to encompass larger societal issues. Because women were expected to care for children, the sick, and the poor, and to engage in charitable activity, women's domain was extended beyond "home" to include so-called public affairs. Likewise, the education of young citizens combined concerns about extra-domestic institutions such as schools and churches with women's education, status, and rights.

Cookbook literature, which expressed a range of perspectives--from conservative to progressive--reached millions of homes and offered women support for their opinions and dissenting voices. Its authors argued about women's rights and sought to improve the working and living conditions of women both in and out of the home. Some cookbook authors also founded academic and cooking schools to improve the economic position of working women or to educate ladies. In doing so, they created curricula which were published and disseminated to a wider public. Cooking schools brought women together, and, along with the popular literature of the day, informed them of their duties, obligations, and rights.

Fig. 1: A study emerging from an Indiana orphanage suggests that institutionalized feeding, based on dietetic principles, provides healthier diets for orphans than those fed at home. This book, based on scientific understandings of nutrition without "burdening the mother with theory," is a guide for the preparation of food and the feeding of children. Containing schedules, menus, and recipes, it presents well-balanced, appetizing, and satisfying meals which promote normal growth and development.

"Think of it! The average little orphan healthier than the child with a mother's care!"

The Communal Kitchen

Illustration from Rochester Hadassah Cook Book

The most prevalent themes of local and community cookbooks were nostalgic recreations of a lost heritage--the celebration of regional and national identities and the attempt to stimulate interest in women's craft traditions, primarily cooking. The home has most often been depicted as the place where cultural and individual identities are maintained and protected. Some community cookbooks express an opposite view and provide us with the debates in which women engaged on behalf of change for the individual, the family, the community, and, ultimately, the entire nation. Sometimes they expressed a conservative vision that called for a return to the past. This was also an expression of longing for a time in which women's sphere and work were valued.

Through their recipe books women created and maintained social networks. In their interactions around food, they secured emotional and material assistance for themselves and others. In times of crisis women often shared costs and exchanged labor through these informal supports. They cared for one another through illness, childbirth, and dislocation.

Fig. 1: A work created by several hands, its purpose is to benefit Hadassah, an organization of Jewish women whose social programs aid Israel and the U.S. The book contains a range of recipes considered "Jewish"--from those that follow the laws of kashrut to traditional dishes such as "Carrot Tzimmes" or "Shale's Stuffed Derma." Recipes for so-called standard American fare are also supplied.

Many of the charitable cookbooks utilized cultural and "ethnic" themes to raise funds for their projects and in so doing revitalized and reinvented tradition. Earlier in the century, these household books, guided women in the creation of new forms of culture.

Introduction to The Esther B. Aresty Rare Book Collection

The Esther B. Aresty Rare Book Collection on the Culinary Arts comprises cookery manuscripts and published books of recipes, etiquette and household advice. Spanning an historical period from the earliest printed folios of the fifteenth century to the more recent and familiar volumes of the twentieth century, the books represent cultural and geographical diversity ranging from Europe and the New World to the Far East.

The Aresty Collection's abundance of literature for, by, and about women provides us with an opportunity to explore, reconstruct, and imagine the domestic lives of women. The exhibition celebrates women's accomplishments in these genres: some who achieved prominence and fame and others who did not but who read as well as wrote cookery books and other household manuals. The books, written by authors of diverse backgrounds, were directed toward women whose labor--both paid and unpaid--had consequences for entire households. Thus they learned how to prepare foods, medicines, and other domestic necessities for their families' survival. Engaged in this form of vernacular writing, authors and readers alike became skilled in far more than household tasks, enriching their own and others' lives.

While women in Europe and America have been associated primarily with domestic cookery, by contrast, men have, until recently, predominated as chefs in the public, ceremonial, and professional domains. Thus, cookbooks were initially written by men for professional chefs. However, in the seventeenth century, men--and on occasion, women--began to write for ladies and gentlewomen as well. Starting in the eighteenth century, more books written by women were directed toward the ordinary housewife and household servants. Here was an instance of women entering the professional domain of culinary writing and transforming that domain for domestic life. Some of these successful authors set the stage for aspiring writers; others established models of housewifely decorum to emulate. In America, by the middle of the nineteenth century, books for domestic use were primarily written by women; in fact, women dominated the market of household literature as author, reader, and subject.

The craft associated with cooking provided both married and unmarried women with opportunities for education and development. Through activities connected with food and cookbooks, women worked together for charity and created powerful support networks to benefit each other as well as their neighbors, friends, and communities. In so doing they all contributed to the shaping of family life, and helped create local, regional, and national cultures.

At a more intimate level, manuscript recipe books--also known as "receipt" books--and printed cookbooks also provided women the opportunity to read, write, and reflect, and to engage in reverie and fantasy while working in the kitchen. Every cookbook opens a door to a collective culinary memory; each is also the expression of individual creativity. This literature--of the everyday and of the domestic--obscures the boundaries of private and public, of self and other, of cerebral and corporal. As much recipes for living as formulae for cooking, cookbooks serve as forums for the discussion of the conduct of life. Even the most pragmatic of books alludes both to a moral world and to an aesthetic to be tended. Although their most salient function is to provide instruction in the domestic arts, cookbooks and household manuals have been used in subtle and ingenious ways by women, who, living within the constraints of their respective eras, used these texts to examine and shape their own lives.

Esther Bradford Aresty: Her Book

Esther Bradford Aresty was born March 26, 1908, in Syracuse, New York, the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the small town of Chariton, Iowa, where she and her siblings enjoyed a suburban life surrounded by a family that valued good food. Her mother was not only a talented pianist but a brilliant cook, who prepared delicious meals for family and friends. So enthralled was her mother by the art of cooking that in middle age she attended culinary classes offered locally by the gas and electric companies.

While working for Mandel Brothers Department Store in Chicago, Esther Bradford met and married Jules Aresty. Within a few years they settled in a large house in Trenton, New Jersey, where they worked, raised their two children, Robert and Jane, and entertained a circle of friends.

An admitted "foodie," Esther Aresty--an expert cook and eater--read and ultimately wrote books with similar talent and gusto. Her first effort was a work of fiction. Later she wrote books on the culinary arts based on her own collection and cooking experience. "I just loved books; I loved being busy with them." Books found their way into her kitchen and became the basis of a life-long passion for collecting and experimenting with recipes. Mrs. Aresty's meals were eclectic; she loved to try new foods because her family members were "easily bored" eaters and she did not want to limit her culinary repertoire to a single culture. In fact, she augmented the basic meat and potato fare of the 1940s with Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and French cuisines. The family and guests of the Arestys dined well in an atmosphere of elegance. Since she viewed cooking as an art and a source of pleasure, she prepared all of the food served at their table

Esther Aresty's professional life has been equally productive. Among her many achievements, besides a career in advertising and promotion, was her role as writer/producer of the Elsa Maxwell Show. As an accomplished woman in the thick of New York intellectual and cultural life, she developed friendships with the well-known cookbook and magazine writers of the day. These associations enhanced her already outstanding reputation and widened her circle of influence.

After World War II, Mr. and Mrs. Aresty traveled to Europe nearly every year and twice circled the globe. It was on these trips that Mrs. Aresty began her collection of varied and exquisite rare books.

Esther Aresty is herself the author of four books: The Grand Venture (1962), a romance novel; The Delectable Past (1964), a cookbook based on her own collection and one that delves deeply into culinary history; The Best Behavior (1970), a study of the evolution of etiquette and manners from the medieval period to the present; and, The Exquisite Table(1980), an account of the contributions to cuisine of the famous French chefs La Varenne, Careme, and Escoffier.

In each instance, Mrs. Aresty drew largely on the resources of her own collection as the wellspring of her creativity. Her scholarship and insight both foreshadow and contribute to a growing body of research in culinary and social history. Books on the culinary arts explore social history from the vantage point of food and cooking, from the perspectives of men and women whose writings focus on, but are not limited to, the kitchen. The books provide a sensate view from which to observe changes in language, culture, economics, and society from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.

A Curriculum for Ladies

Cookbooks and cooking classes often went hand-in-hand. Schools emerged as secondary livelihoods for popular authors: courses often followed on the heels of successful books or vice versa. The first cooking schools appeared in England in the eighteenth century. Little is known about them or their students. However, notebooks and cookbooks were printed by a school in order to promote its merits, its teachers, and its particular culinary style. The books were used as texts and also as memory aids for the students once they had finished their course of study. 

In America in the nineteenth century, cooking schools in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, among others, continued to offer education and training for housewives, particularly immigrants, in traditional fields of employment for women such as domestic service. The curricula were developed by well-known directors, principals, and teachers, such as Fannie Farmer and Mary Lincoln.

The desire of many nineteenth-century social reformers to elevate the status of women and to dignify domestic labor led to the development of a new academic subject, "domestic science," later "home economics." This subject was meant to provide women with an academic pursuit equivalent to those for men. Moreover, its influence soon spilled over into areas of social reform--children's nutrition and welfare, working conditions, and the education of immigrants and poor people. This curriculum simultaneously emphasized the need for efficiency and scientific expertise while it denigrated the homey qualities of kitchens past as substandard and "unscientific."

As a result, the burgeoning sciences of nutrition and home economics became vehicles for white middle-class reformers to acculturate newly immigrated women and their families to American life. In an attempt to become Americanized, immigrant women transformed their long-established customs to suit their new environment, in turn, altering the cultural identities of their families and communities. The home, like the workplace, continued to be a site for innovation and change.

Later, under the auspices of the home economics movement, the role of schools expanded to include health care as well. Nutritional programs in city schools were established to fill this need and became another field into which women were recruited as teachers and cafeteria personnel.

The reputation of the cooking schools coupled with the fame and personalities of some of its most notable teachers provided American women with domestic advice and guidance into the next phase of the well-documented, if not overly lamented, decline of American cooking and the concomitant devaluation of the housewife. The negative consequences of this curriculum for women led to the trivialization of women's work. Instead of vigilant mother, nurse, skillful cook, competent manager, and educator, women's roles had contracted to become one of an ardent and smart shopper. This new image became yet another stereotype for women to challenge.

Fig. 1: Advertisement from American Cookery Magazine

American Cookery emerged from the Boston Cooking School Magazine which began in 1896 and continued to publish well into the twentieth century. Many of the principals and teachers of the Boston Cooking School were advocates of domestic science and its promise to liberate women from household drudgery. Several of them became spokespersons for the products which they believed would help to accomplish this goal. The magazines are replete with stories, decorating suggestions, recipes, and above all, advertisements. The images frequently contrast the modern homemaker with the "old-fashioned" housewife of the previous era, suggesting a new role for and image of American womanhood. The magazine promoted domestic science both for its usefulness to the homemaker and also for new employment opportunities for women.

Fig. 2: This book was probably produced as publicity for a cooking school specializing in the art of confectionery. It prefigures the later specialized books produced for women who by the early eighteenth century were making careers as suppliers of sweetmeats. Although the introduction does not name her, bibliographers have credited Mary Tillinghast as the author.

There is a more informal tone to this book than many of its kind, often addressing the reader directly, "You may make..." or "You can..." interspersed with the imperative form of the verb, "Take," "Beat," the most frequent opening of these texts.

A Curriculum for Ladies

Cookbooks and cooking classes often went hand-in-hand. Schools emerged as secondary livelihoods for popular authors: courses often followed on the heels of successful books or vice versa. The first cooking schools appeared in England in the eighteenth century. Little is known about them or their students. However, notebooks and cookbooks were printed by a school in order to promote its merits, its teachers, and its particular culinary style. The books were used as texts and also as memory aids for the students once they had finished their course of study. 

In America in the nineteenth century, cooking schools in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, among others, continued to offer education and training for housewives, particularly immigrants, in traditional fields of employment for women such as domestic service. The curricula were developed by well-known directors, principals, and teachers, such as Fannie Farmer and Mary Lincoln.

The desire of many nineteenth-century social reformers to elevate the status of women and to dignify domestic labor led to the development of a new academic subject, "domestic science," later "home economics." This subject was meant to provide women with an academic pursuit equivalent to those for men. Moreover, its influence soon spilled over into areas of social reform--children's nutrition and welfare, working conditions, and the education of immigrants and poor people. This curriculum simultaneously emphasized the need for efficiency and scientific expertise while it denigrated the homey qualities of kitchens past as substandard and "unscientific."

As a result, the burgeoning sciences of nutrition and home economics became vehicles for white middle-class reformers to acculturate newly immigrated women and their families to American life. In an attempt to become Americanized, immigrant women transformed their long-established customs to suit their new environment, in turn, altering the cultural identities of their families and communities. The home, like the workplace, continued to be a site for innovation and change.

Later, under the auspices of the home economics movement, the role of schools expanded to include health care as well. Nutritional programs in city schools were established to fill this need and became another field into which women were recruited as teachers and cafeteria personnel.

The reputation of the cooking schools coupled with the fame and personalities of some of its most notable teachers provided American women with domestic advice and guidance into the next phase of the well-documented, if not overly lamented, decline of American cooking and the concomitant devaluation of the housewife. The negative consequences of this curriculum for women led to the trivialization of women's work. Instead of vigilant mother, nurse, skillful cook, competent manager, and educator, women's roles had contracted to become one of an ardent and smart shopper. This new image became yet another stereotype for women to challenge.

Fig. 1: Advertisement from American Cookery Magazine

American Cookery emerged from the Boston Cooking School Magazine which began in 1896 and continued to publish well into the twentieth century. Many of the principals and teachers of the Boston Cooking School were advocates of domestic science and its promise to liberate women from household drudgery. Several of them became spokespersons for the products which they believed would help to accomplish this goal. The magazines are replete with stories, decorating suggestions, recipes, and above all, advertisements. The images frequently contrast the modern homemaker with the "old-fashioned" housewife of the previous era, suggesting a new role for and image of American womanhood. The magazine promoted domestic science both for its usefulness to the homemaker and also for new employment opportunities for women.

Fig. 2: This book was probably produced as publicity for a cooking school specializing in the art of confectionery. It prefigures the later specialized books produced for women who by the early eighteenth century were making careers as suppliers of sweetmeats. Although the introduction does not name her, bibliographers have credited Mary Tillinghast as the author.

There is a more informal tone to this book than many of its kind, often addressing the reader directly, "You may make..." or "You can..." interspersed with the imperative form of the verb, "Take," "Beat," the most frequent opening of these texts.

"The Handmaidens of Industry"

Fig. 1: The introduction of new foods follows a familiar pattern: first as a medicinal and then as a luxury item. The last few pages of this little pamphlet are devoted to describing the medicinal value of chocolate and cocoa for women and children, as well as for infirm, nervous, and sick people. Just as the still-room books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reflect the interest of Europeans in the exotic products of the new world and their original uses as medicinals, the same logic was used by industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to advertise their new--high standard and easy-to-use--chocolate products.

Cookbooks are avenues into homes and to the women who are their guardians. By reintroducing the nostalgic and familiar form of the recipe book in a new profile, the food industry managed to co-opt cookery and transform the kitchen into the marketplace. Many author-cooks who were allies of social reform and women's rights adapted to the new commercialism and became, in the words of Glenna Matthews, "The Handmaidens of Industry." Their images and voices endorsed the products which were marketed to consumers. The friendly woman-to-woman exchanges which had characterized many cookbooks until this period were replaced by new and impersonal texts. Masquerading as creators of easy and economic cuisine, with efficient, labor-saving products, the manufacturers replaced the author-cooks as experts and guides in household matters. The pamphlets and books that marketed new products and technology, often with introductions by famous women, eventually became household names of their own. The moguls of industry even manufactured "women" such as Betty Crocker and Jane Parker as stand-ins for absent authors. The named products--Jell-O, Baker's Chocolate, Crisco, General Foods--carried as much prestige as the popular cooks and teachers of the previous era. Powerful warnings were attached to these products: "Accept no substitutes."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 3: Written as a little novella or romance with a bride presenting her husband and her parents, friends and family with perfect desserts, this pamphlet is directed to housewifes. It extols the benefits of Jell-O for pleasing others at table. The frontispiece or first page is bordered with illustrations of six famous American authors and cooks who were powerful symbols of American homemaking including Marion Harland, Sarah Rorer and Mary Lincoln.

The introduction of the new technology--everything from chemical leavening to stoves and kitchen gadgets--launched the "de-skilling" of the American housewife and diminished the prestige associated with skilled labor. Advertising campaigns eventually convinced women that homemade foods were not as healthful or desirable as the standardized and uniform products that could be bought at the grocery. A craft tradition--cooking--and the generations and communities of women who had fostered it to its peak was diminished in the name of progress and social reform. The women activists who labored to elevate the status of the housewife ultimately contributed to her debasement. The era of the housewife's anomie had taken hold.

"The Handmaidens of Industry"

Fig. 1: The introduction of new foods follows a familiar pattern: first as a medicinal and then as a luxury item. The last few pages of this little pamphlet are devoted to describing the medicinal value of chocolate and cocoa for women and children, as well as for infirm, nervous, and sick people. Just as the still-room books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reflect the interest of Europeans in the exotic products of the new world and their original uses as medicinals, the same logic was used by industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to advertise their new--high standard and easy-to-use--chocolate products.

Cookbooks are avenues into homes and to the women who are their guardians. By reintroducing the nostalgic and familiar form of the recipe book in a new profile, the food industry managed to co-opt cookery and transform the kitchen into the marketplace. Many author-cooks who were allies of social reform and women's rights adapted to the new commercialism and became, in the words of Glenna Matthews, "The Handmaidens of Industry." Their images and voices endorsed the products which were marketed to consumers. The friendly woman-to-woman exchanges which had characterized many cookbooks until this period were replaced by new and impersonal texts. Masquerading as creators of easy and economic cuisine, with efficient, labor-saving products, the manufacturers replaced the author-cooks as experts and guides in household matters. The pamphlets and books that marketed new products and technology, often with introductions by famous women, eventually became household names of their own. The moguls of industry even manufactured "women" such as Betty Crocker and Jane Parker as stand-ins for absent authors. The named products--Jell-O, Baker's Chocolate, Crisco, General Foods--carried as much prestige as the popular cooks and teachers of the previous era. Powerful warnings were attached to these products: "Accept no substitutes."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 3: Written as a little novella or romance with a bride presenting her husband and her parents, friends and family with perfect desserts, this pamphlet is directed to housewifes. It extols the benefits of Jell-O for pleasing others at table. The frontispiece or first page is bordered with illustrations of six famous American authors and cooks who were powerful symbols of American homemaking including Marion Harland, Sarah Rorer and Mary Lincoln.

The introduction of the new technology--everything from chemical leavening to stoves and kitchen gadgets--launched the "de-skilling" of the American housewife and diminished the prestige associated with skilled labor. Advertising campaigns eventually convinced women that homemade foods were not as healthful or desirable as the standardized and uniform products that could be bought at the grocery. A craft tradition--cooking--and the generations and communities of women who had fostered it to its peak was diminished in the name of progress and social reform. The women activists who labored to elevate the status of the housewife ultimately contributed to her debasement. The era of the housewife's anomie had taken hold.

"The Handmaidens of Industry"

Fig. 1: The introduction of new foods follows a familiar pattern: first as a medicinal and then as a luxury item. The last few pages of this little pamphlet are devoted to describing the medicinal value of chocolate and cocoa for women and children, as well as for infirm, nervous, and sick people. Just as the still-room books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reflect the interest of Europeans in the exotic products of the new world and their original uses as medicinals, the same logic was used by industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to advertise their new--high standard and easy-to-use--chocolate products.

Cookbooks are avenues into homes and to the women who are their guardians. By reintroducing the nostalgic and familiar form of the recipe book in a new profile, the food industry managed to co-opt cookery and transform the kitchen into the marketplace. Many author-cooks who were allies of social reform and women's rights adapted to the new commercialism and became, in the words of Glenna Matthews, "The Handmaidens of Industry." Their images and voices endorsed the products which were marketed to consumers. The friendly woman-to-woman exchanges which had characterized many cookbooks until this period were replaced by new and impersonal texts. Masquerading as creators of easy and economic cuisine, with efficient, labor-saving products, the manufacturers replaced the author-cooks as experts and guides in household matters. The pamphlets and books that marketed new products and technology, often with introductions by famous women, eventually became household names of their own. The moguls of industry even manufactured "women" such as Betty Crocker and Jane Parker as stand-ins for absent authors. The named products--Jell-O, Baker's Chocolate, Crisco, General Foods--carried as much prestige as the popular cooks and teachers of the previous era. Powerful warnings were attached to these products: "Accept no substitutes."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 3: Written as a little novella or romance with a bride presenting her husband and her parents, friends and family with perfect desserts, this pamphlet is directed to housewifes. It extols the benefits of Jell-O for pleasing others at table. The frontispiece or first page is bordered with illustrations of six famous American authors and cooks who were powerful symbols of American homemaking including Marion Harland, Sarah Rorer and Mary Lincoln.

The introduction of the new technology--everything from chemical leavening to stoves and kitchen gadgets--launched the "de-skilling" of the American housewife and diminished the prestige associated with skilled labor. Advertising campaigns eventually convinced women that homemade foods were not as healthful or desirable as the standardized and uniform products that could be bought at the grocery. A craft tradition--cooking--and the generations and communities of women who had fostered it to its peak was diminished in the name of progress and social reform. The women activists who labored to elevate the status of the housewife ultimately contributed to her debasement. The era of the housewife's anomie had taken hold.

British and American Public Voices and The Culinary Canon

Until the mid-twentieth century, public life was considered too assertive for women, and unbecoming a lady. The few courageous women who entered the public arena were often subjected to ridicule or accusations of immodesty. Too public a presence connoted a woman who was not fulfilling her primary duties to husband and family. Nonetheless, some women were compelled to write for publication in order to support their families. A handful were so successful that they became economically independent. They did so often, not by their formal education and training, but by transferring the skills and talents they had developed in everyday domestic life to a public venue--the cookbook. In the nineteenth century, particularly, a woman writer might sign her book, "By a lady," to avoid the notoriety associated with publishing a book in her own name. This reticence signaled her willingness or need to forgo fame for respectability. A few assumed responsibility for their writing but only after the publication of several editions of their books. Others remained anonymous until historians unearthed their identities--often years later. Thus, as early as the seventeenth century in Britain, and a century later in America, a few women achieved prominence through their writing and publication of cookbooks and domestic manuals.

Fig. 1: Written by a pupil of Mrs. Goodfellow's Cooking School in Philadelphia, believed to be the first in America, the author is anonymous. Goodfellow did not write her own cookbook, but this edition copyrighted in 1853 and enlarged in 1855 was reprinted in 1865 as Mrs. Goodfellow's Cookery as It Should Be. There is speculation that the book was written anonymously by Eliza Leslie, one of the most famous students of Mrs. Goodfellow's school. Both Goodfellow and Leslie were admired by the Quaker community for their emphasis on pure and wholesome foods.

The Introduction discusses the "very defective domestic education of American women" and insists that "an intellectual and domestic woman is most attractive." The book is written for middle-class American housewives whom the author sees as "uneducated in domestic matters. . . . The suggestions and receipts here given are the end of a practical housekeeper who has kept a manual and recommends all housekeepers to do the same."

Mary Ashbridge who owned the book has inscribed her name on the front cover and written recipes from other sources on the blank pages provided for that purpose.

A Book of Her Own

Leafing through the brittle and grease-stained pages of cooking volumes is much like peering through a kitchen window: the recipe book alludes to meals and events, people and places, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, lives and deaths of those loved and known. The kitchen is a place where momentous events are recorded; it is a place for recollection.

Fig. 1: Women found ways to create a legacy for their daughters and establish a female lineage. The inscription of this text reads: "Abiah Darby, her book, 1746, given her by her husband, 7th month, 3 :1746. It cost about 6/; [subsequently owned by] Mary Darby & Sarah Darby dated: 1827." Keeping a receipt book was also a way in which women managed an identity of respectability and devotion to family.

Fig. 2: The frontispiece depicts women at their various household tasks and on the flyleaf is a drawing of an animal, perhaps done by a child. The book is a lovely example of the ways in which household books were also memoirs.

Fig. 3: Bailey's Dictionary although "never reprinted in America . . . was everywhere by far the most popular and representative English dictionary of the eighteenth century, the dictionary in common use in this country when Washington was a schoolboy" and still cost 6 shillings in 1761. Written for the populace, its cost as well as its size was well suited for its audience. "This then is the dictionary that during our most formative century stood on the American family's small bookshelf between the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress" (Reynolds n.d.).

A Book of Her Own

Leafing through the brittle and grease-stained pages of cooking volumes is much like peering through a kitchen window: the recipe book alludes to meals and events, people and places, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, lives and deaths of those loved and known. The kitchen is a place where momentous events are recorded; it is a place for recollection.

Fig. 1: Women found ways to create a legacy for their daughters and establish a female lineage. The inscription of this text reads: "Abiah Darby, her book, 1746, given her by her husband, 7th month, 3 :1746. It cost about 6/; [subsequently owned by] Mary Darby & Sarah Darby dated: 1827." Keeping a receipt book was also a way in which women managed an identity of respectability and devotion to family.

Fig. 2: The frontispiece depicts women at their various household tasks and on the flyleaf is a drawing of an animal, perhaps done by a child. The book is a lovely example of the ways in which household books were also memoirs.

Fig. 3: Bailey's Dictionary although "never reprinted in America . . . was everywhere by far the most popular and representative English dictionary of the eighteenth century, the dictionary in common use in this country when Washington was a schoolboy" and still cost 6 shillings in 1761. Written for the populace, its cost as well as its size was well suited for its audience. "This then is the dictionary that during our most formative century stood on the American family's small bookshelf between the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress" (Reynolds n.d.).

A Book of Her Own

Leafing through the brittle and grease-stained pages of cooking volumes is much like peering through a kitchen window: the recipe book alludes to meals and events, people and places, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, lives and deaths of those loved and known. The kitchen is a place where momentous events are recorded; it is a place for recollection.

Fig. 1: Women found ways to create a legacy for their daughters and establish a female lineage. The inscription of this text reads: "Abiah Darby, her book, 1746, given her by her husband, 7th month, 3 :1746. It cost about 6/; [subsequently owned by] Mary Darby & Sarah Darby dated: 1827." Keeping a receipt book was also a way in which women managed an identity of respectability and devotion to family.

Fig. 2: The frontispiece depicts women at their various household tasks and on the flyleaf is a drawing of an animal, perhaps done by a child. The book is a lovely example of the ways in which household books were also memoirs.

Fig. 3: Bailey's Dictionary although "never reprinted in America . . . was everywhere by far the most popular and representative English dictionary of the eighteenth century, the dictionary in common use in this country when Washington was a schoolboy" and still cost 6 shillings in 1761. Written for the populace, its cost as well as its size was well suited for its audience. "This then is the dictionary that during our most formative century stood on the American family's small bookshelf between the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress" (Reynolds n.d.).

"The Delights for Ladies"

Preface from The Treasurie of Hidden Secrets

Cookery books were among the earliest of printed books to emerge in the latter part of the fifteenth century. Until the advent of the printed cookbook, cooks relied on memory and what they learned from others. Knowledge was passed on orally or in manuscript receipt books, relatively few of which have survived for us to ponder. Spawned by large-scale economic and social change, more printed household books, some of which revealed the secrets of preparing "banquetting stuffe," were written by men or women for ladies, gentlewomen, and, increasingly, for housewives and their servants. 'Banquetting stuffe' served both as medicinal aids to digestion and sweetmeats to satisfy the taste buds. Considered a treasure of the nobility, "banquetting stuffe" carried clear implications of status and wealth, and were thus all the more desirable to the middle classes.

"Banquetting stuffe," eventually associated with the last course in the meal, often emanated from a private place called the still-room, a room either within the house or in a separate building which contained a "still" for distillation. A common practice of concealing both medicinal and sugar recipes lent an air of secrecy to the early still-room. There was also a sense of mystery surrounding the preparation of remedies for good health, beauty, and entertainment. The still-room and its preparations: perfumes, beauty creams, liqueurs, syrups of quince and barbarie, cordials, and other sweet delicacies--as well as remedies for curing the sick--were the provenance of the lady of the house.

Thus, the earliest printed books for use in the still-room describe both the methods of distillation and food preparation and the products to emerge from this cloistered part of the manor. As the secrets of the aristocratic still-room were disclosed in these specialized printed cookery books such as The Delights for Ladies, the books were slowly undergoing transformation. At the same time, the social boundaries of the great estates were being expanded by an economically-rising middle class. Acquiring, among others, the foodstuffs and cooking "secrets" of the rich, middle-class women symbolically helped to reshape the boundaries.

Fig. 1: Partridge's book departs from the cookery books of this period in several ways: he introduces experimental science into a field previously dominated by "secret" knowledge as the basis of the receipts; his receipts are intended for entertainment and pleasure and not for medicine; he promises to reveal secrets belonging to the "great estates . . . never before made public" and "for the profitable use of all estates both men and women." The book was extremely popular and in continuous publication until 1637.

Introduction to The Esther B. Aresty Rare Book Collection

Portrait of Elizabeth Raffald

Elizabeth Raffold begins her cookery book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, with a dedication to Lady Elizabeth Warburton after fifteen years of service as her housekeeper. After the publication and success of her book, Raffold's career continued to blossom with both entrepreneurial ventures and public works. Though one of the most popular cookbook writers of the eighteenth century, she also owned and managed two taverns, a sweet shop, and cooking school. She developed directories for her home city of Manchester and also established a post office there. To add to her list of accomplishments, Elizabeth was also a mother. Some say she had sixteen daughters; others claim nine. According to Roy Shipperbottom, in the introduction to the 1997 facsimile edition of The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald had six daughters who were baptised, "only three [of whom] survived their mother."

"The Delights for Ladies"

Beginning in the seventeenth century, if not earlier, women helped to introduce luxury goods for domestic use--sugar, tea, coffee, and chocolate--commodities that were first known to Europeans in public gathering-places such as coffee houses, tea rooms, and chocolate parlors. By emulating the upper classes, affluent, socially-mobile women extended the uses of these expensive and scarce items. The increase of sweets in the diets of the middle classes was led--or at least disseminated--in part by cookery book writers who established published culinary standards and created the desire for the sweetmeats which symbolized the high born. Women, as consumers, were therefore instrumental in the spread and consumption of particular luxury items. What was once a rarity soon became a necessity as the sweet and exotic foodstuffs became embedded in the everyday diets of the middle class.

For an aristocratic or a middle-class woman supporting her aspiring husband's efforts in social affairs, it was important to know how to prepare these sugary specialties. Likewise, for the well being of her household, it was necessary to produce home remedies for the health and welfare of her family. Although a woman might purchase them elsewhere, delicacies made at home were still valued gifts and a hallmark of esteem.

In the seventeenth century, a time of social and religious upheaval, it became increasingly risky for women to engage openly in the craft of healing: activities of this sort intensified the belief in women's potential for witchcraft. Gradually then, cookery books separated medicine from confectionery. Women such as Mrs. Eales, who were adept at the art of sugar cookery, could improve their social and economic standing. The eventual deletion of medicinal remedies from cookbooks reflects the changes in society and women's places in it. The older titles which had revealed the "hidden secrets" of the still-room were slowly replaced by those which taught the "art of confectionery."

Fig. 2: 

A rejected suitor, Joseph Lovett, wrote, or had scribed, this slender volume which he later gave to his lady, Mabella Powell, replete with recipes and a love poem, that serves as an inscription:
a presumption to disstorb yr attractive Eloquence to admit it a loging in yr studdy, but since my indevors cannot lite such delights as my deserve your essteeme, be plesd but to forgive my fall, & I shall acknoligg the happinis two great to him that prayes for your Eternall filycities and remanes Mrs.

The hum(bl)ist of all yr exskommunicated

Sarvants
For Ever Jose: Lovett

Several recipes are in another hand, in pencil, later rewritten on another page in ink. Other instances of recipes on loose sheets, in letters, or scraps of paper written into a cookbook in the compiler's own hand are found in the Aresty Collection.

What is compelling about this book is that the title page is copied from the most popular cookbook of the time, Sir Hugh Platt's Delights for Ladies. However, the recipes themselves stem from another or several other sources.

The Communal Kitchen

These informal mutual-aid networks may have paved the way for the charitable activities organized by women which flourished in their more formal organizations during and after the Civil War. They took the genre of cookbooks and extended their use into a form of communal activity that was geared to social action. Banding together in an effort to help widows, veterans, injured and poor people, they compiled recipes, published them, and finally sold them commercially as well as directly to one another. Profits from these sales were, in turn, funneled into the causes which had generated the books. After the war, the combined efforts of these women raised funds for building schools, churches, and synagogues, fed the poor and the homeless, and contributed to countless other charitable activities which have been called "the benevolent empire."

The community, church, and school recipe collections are archives of local history and of women's activities, frequently illustrated with photographs and maps as well as information-laden introductions. This literature has contributed to the distinctive character of different regions. Recently, the Library of Congress issued call numbers for these home-grown books, which are reminiscent of the limited subscription cookery books of earlier historical periods.

Fig. 1: The book marks a culmination of effort to achieve recognition for women's work and knowledge. At the 1893 Columbian Exhibition a building was constructed and devoted to women's domain; the enterprise led to the development of a Woman's Congress and the National Household Economic Association.

Compiled by a committee to benefit the Minnesota Division of the American Cancer Society using "hand-me-down recipes," the book uses the symbols of women's culture--the image of the patchwork quilt and leftover scraps of fabric--to represent women's legacy and craft tradition. Many of the charity cookbooks explicitly use nostalgic themes to appeal to the public. It is also a composite of the region's cookery, known for its ethnic diversity.

Social Reform in the United States

Cookbook writers were often celebrated personalities. They were "respectable" women who did not flagrantly defy the norms of society, and who forged an image of femininity around which other women could safely rally. In fact, by first codifying domestic life and the moral influence of the home, the writers cloaked themselves in personae of respectability, which permitted them to speak out about other social issues, though granted not in one voice. Indeed, reformers such as Catherine Beecher and her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, disagreed about women's suffrage. Beecher opposed the vote; Beecher Stowe supported it. A nineteenth-century vision of sexual equality, though it embraced several different perspectives, engendered a community of activists who articulated their views in their literary and domestic writings. Through these well-known authors, other women found an opportunity to contribute to social reform with its manifold consequences.

Supporters of universal suffrage had won for African-American men the right to vote. Yet women--including those who had struggled for the abolition of slavery and the right of all people to vote--were excluded from suffrage until 1920. What they had accomplished for others they were themselves denied.

Although cookbook authors and the power of domesticity had played a part in the attempt to advance women's status in a number of areas, the reformers did not realize that the creation of "home economics" would backfire. When women's work received academic recognition with the new discipline, women believed that the long-awaited fight for educational advancement had been won. Ironically, in the coming years, the trivialization of this academic subject would once again devalue women's work and lead to unequal and nearly segregated spheres of influence. Women's careers were most often limited to clerical or secretarial work, nursing, and teaching and as often subordinated to men's roles in the same field. If not at work in these jobs, women remained at home, but the authority which they had once enjoyed was now taken from them: the world of "home" lost power, prestige, and excitement. Not much skill was required of the housewife by the 1930s. Instead, her role had been diminished: to listen to the advice of expert "scientific" practitioners and to submit her will to the needs of her family.

Fig. 1: The New Housekeeper's Manual is the collaboration of two of the nineteenth century's most influential and powerful social reformers, Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Both women exerted profound influence on American letters and on the shape of American domestic life and educational reform. Although they agreed on both the role of education for women and the worth and dignity of women's labor, they disagreed about the extent to which women should engage in political affairs. Beecher Stowe approved suffrage for women; her sister, Catherine Beecher, did not. Catherine Beecher felt that women's domain was home and duty to family. Through this work and self-sacrifice, women could influence and suffuse the larger society with feminine values. Both women's lives were marked by tragedy. Catherine Beecher's life was radically altered by the death of her fiance. Harriet Beecher Stowe was devastated by the loss of two of her children, and it was this tragedy that awakened her to the suffering of Black slaves, often separated from their children. As a supporter of the abolitionist movement, Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, which used the powerful symbols of home and of the kitchen to expose the immorality of slavery.

British and American Public Voices and The Culinary Canon

In addition to the invention and replication of recipes, the authors also alluded to the proper comportment of women and the frugal deployment of household resources. Cookbook writers, as experts of domestic life, raised awareness of women's craft and, importantly, shaped new images of women that served as agents of subtle social change. Women soon dominated the field of cookbook writing, as authors, audience, and subject. In so doing, they influenced more women of diverse social groups. In modest dedications as well as in more elaborate prefaces and introductions, women read about themselves as pivotal figures in domestic life. Such reinforcement of the significance of their social contributions added to the recognition that they were part of a larger and valued community of women. Along with the other forms of women's literature which debated their roles in society, cookbooks magnified women's social and political awareness. At the same time, cookbook writers and their books were contributing to the development of regional and national cultures.

Fig. 1: Eliza Acton was first a poet and, then, lacking success in that genre, a cookbook writer. Unlike her poetry, her cookbooks made her one of the most popular authors of the period. Unmarried and perhaps having a child out of wedlock, Eliza Acton defied the conventions of her times. Although she concealed her connection with the press for awhile, she wrote for a newspaper and signed her name to her published poetry. She was a social reformer who, along with Charles Dickens, believed that bread should be baked at home. They associated processed foods, especially store-bought bread, with the social ills of Britain--child labor, urban blight, poverty, and malnutrition. Dicken's journal, Household Words, was devoted to the political and social issues of the day. Indeed, Dickens asked Acton for a contribution to the journal.

A Book of Her Own

After years of daily use, the cookbook becomes a memoir, a diary--a record of a life. Several of the cookbooks in this collection are manuscripts kept by one woman; others represent the work of "several hands." In their recipe books women shared with one another the secrets of a tempting dish or an efficacious remedy. In these pages they acknowledged one another and their relationships as guests, friends, family. A letter requesting a recipe could initiate a friendship, describe the hardships of families traveling west, incur debts or repay them, signal trust, or simply name and acknowledge others to whom the letter writer was connected. Attributions marked the number and prominence of one's kin and friends, demonstrating the breadth of a social network and one's standing in it. A collection of recipes compiled over the course of a lifetime was emblematic of the social circles through which an adult woman traveled. The handwritten notes were visible tokens of the people who contributed to a woman's personal collection. Letters, poems, and other ephemera were inserted between the pages, in the hope of some day finding a more permanent home. The attributions noted in a cookbook were symbols of affection, esteem, and bonding. Recipes and meals often gave women a common topic for conversation and correspondence despite differences in age, region, or class. And the presence of a handwritten receipt book or a printed cookbook demonstrated to others a woman's commitment to her "sacred duties." Indeed, the receipt book became a representation of the self, a symbol of maternity and femininity, of a woman fulfilling her wifely obligations.

Fig. 1 - Fig. 5:

This is one of the most interesting of the manuscripts in the Aresty Collection. As is customary, several hands have contributed to the collection which comprises cookery, medicinals, confections, and poetry:

Like Swallowes

Like Swallowes when the summers done
that fly and seeke some warmer sun
then wisely chuse one to your friend
whose love may when your beauties end
Remaine still firme by you

One persona stands out above all the rest--the young woman or child who calls herself "Mary Madcap." The daughter of Christian Maddison, Mary uses the book to practice her letters. Her name appears in several places throughout, including the page which lists the clothes that her father bought her. The recipes--cookery and medicinals--are attributed (we speculate) to a range of friends, kin, and guests. Others are from relatives and physicians. Some are aristocratic:

My Lady Widderington ressett for a Looseness

Take hogs dung newly dunged and boyle it in a pint of milke prity well the Straine and drink it off--to make the hog dung you may turne him round severall times and falloe him till he does it--

Indeed one of the medicinals may, in fact, be a coded message for an abortion decoction:

The Lady Rudston, most Incomparable wound drinck which Cures all manner of fistuals Outward and Inward, Sores, Stancheth Bleding Inwardly, drines out all Splinters of bones: takes awaye all Scabbs, it breaks all impostumes, Pureth brokens veines ore Cancers in the breast, taketh a waye all Scalls from the bones and will even Cause Bullets to fall out of the flesh, but it must not be given to a woemen with Child for it playeth ye part of a midwife

Cultural borrowings or allusions to "foreign" flavors and methods, however they made their way into this book, are visible in recipes such as "To Preserve Green Walnuts As They Are Done in France and Germany.

A Book of Her Own

After years of daily use, the cookbook becomes a memoir, a diary--a record of a life. Several of the cookbooks in this collection are manuscripts kept by one woman; others represent the work of "several hands." In their recipe books women shared with one another the secrets of a tempting dish or an efficacious remedy. In these pages they acknowledged one another and their relationships as guests, friends, family. A letter requesting a recipe could initiate a friendship, describe the hardships of families traveling west, incur debts or repay them, signal trust, or simply name and acknowledge others to whom the letter writer was connected. Attributions marked the number and prominence of one's kin and friends, demonstrating the breadth of a social network and one's standing in it. A collection of recipes compiled over the course of a lifetime was emblematic of the social circles through which an adult woman traveled. The handwritten notes were visible tokens of the people who contributed to a woman's personal collection. Letters, poems, and other ephemera were inserted between the pages, in the hope of some day finding a more permanent home. The attributions noted in a cookbook were symbols of affection, esteem, and bonding. Recipes and meals often gave women a common topic for conversation and correspondence despite differences in age, region, or class. And the presence of a handwritten receipt book or a printed cookbook demonstrated to others a woman's commitment to her "sacred duties." Indeed, the receipt book became a representation of the self, a symbol of maternity and femininity, of a woman fulfilling her wifely obligations.

Fig. 1 - Fig. 5:

This is one of the most interesting of the manuscripts in the Aresty Collection. As is customary, several hands have contributed to the collection which comprises cookery, medicinals, confections, and poetry:

Like Swallowes

Like Swallowes when the summers done
that fly and seeke some warmer sun
then wisely chuse one to your friend
whose love may when your beauties end
Remaine still firme by you

One persona stands out above all the rest--the young woman or child who calls herself "Mary Madcap." The daughter of Christian Maddison, Mary uses the book to practice her letters. Her name appears in several places throughout, including the page which lists the clothes that her father bought her. The recipes--cookery and medicinals--are attributed (we speculate) to a range of friends, kin, and guests. Others are from relatives and physicians. Some are aristocratic:

My Lady Widderington ressett for a Looseness

Take hogs dung newly dunged and boyle it in a pint of milke prity well the Straine and drink it off--to make the hog dung you may turne him round severall times and falloe him till he does it--

Indeed one of the medicinals may, in fact, be a coded message for an abortion decoction:

The Lady Rudston, most Incomparable wound drinck which Cures all manner of fistuals Outward and Inward, Sores, Stancheth Bleding Inwardly, drines out all Splinters of bones: takes awaye all Scabbs, it breaks all impostumes, Pureth brokens veines ore Cancers in the breast, taketh a waye all Scalls from the bones and will even Cause Bullets to fall out of the flesh, but it must not be given to a woemen with Child for it playeth ye part of a midwife

Cultural borrowings or allusions to "foreign" flavors and methods, however they made their way into this book, are visible in recipes such as "To Preserve Green Walnuts As They Are Done in France and Germany.

A Book of Her Own

After years of daily use, the cookbook becomes a memoir, a diary--a record of a life. Several of the cookbooks in this collection are manuscripts kept by one woman; others represent the work of "several hands." In their recipe books women shared with one another the secrets of a tempting dish or an efficacious remedy. In these pages they acknowledged one another and their relationships as guests, friends, family. A letter requesting a recipe could initiate a friendship, describe the hardships of families traveling west, incur debts or repay them, signal trust, or simply name and acknowledge others to whom the letter writer was connected. Attributions marked the number and prominence of one's kin and friends, demonstrating the breadth of a social network and one's standing in it. A collection of recipes compiled over the course of a lifetime was emblematic of the social circles through which an adult woman traveled. The handwritten notes were visible tokens of the people who contributed to a woman's personal collection. Letters, poems, and other ephemera were inserted between the pages, in the hope of some day finding a more permanent home. The attributions noted in a cookbook were symbols of affection, esteem, and bonding. Recipes and meals often gave women a common topic for conversation and correspondence despite differences in age, region, or class. And the presence of a handwritten receipt book or a printed cookbook demonstrated to others a woman's commitment to her "sacred duties." Indeed, the receipt book became a representation of the self, a symbol of maternity and femininity, of a woman fulfilling her wifely obligations.

Fig. 1 - Fig. 5:

This is one of the most interesting of the manuscripts in the Aresty Collection. As is customary, several hands have contributed to the collection which comprises cookery, medicinals, confections, and poetry:

Like Swallowes

Like Swallowes when the summers done
that fly and seeke some warmer sun
then wisely chuse one to your friend
whose love may when your beauties end
Remaine still firme by you

One persona stands out above all the rest--the young woman or child who calls herself "Mary Madcap." The daughter of Christian Maddison, Mary uses the book to practice her letters. Her name appears in several places throughout, including the page which lists the clothes that her father bought her. The recipes--cookery and medicinals--are attributed (we speculate) to a range of friends, kin, and guests. Others are from relatives and physicians. Some are aristocratic:

My Lady Widderington ressett for a Looseness

Take hogs dung newly dunged and boyle it in a pint of milke prity well the Straine and drink it off--to make the hog dung you may turne him round severall times and falloe him till he does it--

Indeed one of the medicinals may, in fact, be a coded message for an abortion decoction:

The Lady Rudston, most Incomparable wound drinck which Cures all manner of fistuals Outward and Inward, Sores, Stancheth Bleding Inwardly, drines out all Splinters of bones: takes awaye all Scabbs, it breaks all impostumes, Pureth brokens veines ore Cancers in the breast, taketh a waye all Scalls from the bones and will even Cause Bullets to fall out of the flesh, but it must not be given to a woemen with Child for it playeth ye part of a midwife

Cultural borrowings or allusions to "foreign" flavors and methods, however they made their way into this book, are visible in recipes such as "To Preserve Green Walnuts As They Are Done in France and Germany.

A Book of Her Own

After years of daily use, the cookbook becomes a memoir, a diary--a record of a life. Several of the cookbooks in this collection are manuscripts kept by one woman; others represent the work of "several hands." In their recipe books women shared with one another the secrets of a tempting dish or an efficacious remedy. In these pages they acknowledged one another and their relationships as guests, friends, family. A letter requesting a recipe could initiate a friendship, describe the hardships of families traveling west, incur debts or repay them, signal trust, or simply name and acknowledge others to whom the letter writer was connected. Attributions marked the number and prominence of one's kin and friends, demonstrating the breadth of a social network and one's standing in it. A collection of recipes compiled over the course of a lifetime was emblematic of the social circles through which an adult woman traveled. The handwritten notes were visible tokens of the people who contributed to a woman's personal collection. Letters, poems, and other ephemera were inserted between the pages, in the hope of some day finding a more permanent home. The attributions noted in a cookbook were symbols of affection, esteem, and bonding. Recipes and meals often gave women a common topic for conversation and correspondence despite differences in age, region, or class. And the presence of a handwritten receipt book or a printed cookbook demonstrated to others a woman's commitment to her "sacred duties." Indeed, the receipt book became a representation of the self, a symbol of maternity and femininity, of a woman fulfilling her wifely obligations.

Fig. 1 - Fig. 5:

This is one of the most interesting of the manuscripts in the Aresty Collection. As is customary, several hands have contributed to the collection which comprises cookery, medicinals, confections, and poetry:

Like Swallowes

Like Swallowes when the summers done
that fly and seeke some warmer sun
then wisely chuse one to your friend
whose love may when your beauties end
Remaine still firme by you

One persona stands out above all the rest--the young woman or child who calls herself "Mary Madcap." The daughter of Christian Maddison, Mary uses the book to practice her letters. Her name appears in several places throughout, including the page which lists the clothes that her father bought her. The recipes--cookery and medicinals--are attributed (we speculate) to a range of friends, kin, and guests. Others are from relatives and physicians. Some are aristocratic:

My Lady Widderington ressett for a Looseness

Take hogs dung newly dunged and boyle it in a pint of milke prity well the Straine and drink it off--to make the hog dung you may turne him round severall times and falloe him till he does it--

Indeed one of the medicinals may, in fact, be a coded message for an abortion decoction:

The Lady Rudston, most Incomparable wound drinck which Cures all manner of fistuals Outward and Inward, Sores, Stancheth Bleding Inwardly, drines out all Splinters of bones: takes awaye all Scabbs, it breaks all impostumes, Pureth brokens veines ore Cancers in the breast, taketh a waye all Scalls from the bones and will even Cause Bullets to fall out of the flesh, but it must not be given to a woemen with Child for it playeth ye part of a midwife

Cultural borrowings or allusions to "foreign" flavors and methods, however they made their way into this book, are visible in recipes such as "To Preserve Green Walnuts As They Are Done in France and Germany.

A Book of Her Own

After years of daily use, the cookbook becomes a memoir, a diary--a record of a life. Several of the cookbooks in this collection are manuscripts kept by one woman; others represent the work of "several hands." In their recipe books women shared with one another the secrets of a tempting dish or an efficacious remedy. In these pages they acknowledged one another and their relationships as guests, friends, family. A letter requesting a recipe could initiate a friendship, describe the hardships of families traveling west, incur debts or repay them, signal trust, or simply name and acknowledge others to whom the letter writer was connected. Attributions marked the number and prominence of one's kin and friends, demonstrating the breadth of a social network and one's standing in it. A collection of recipes compiled over the course of a lifetime was emblematic of the social circles through which an adult woman traveled. The handwritten notes were visible tokens of the people who contributed to a woman's personal collection. Letters, poems, and other ephemera were inserted between the pages, in the hope of some day finding a more permanent home. The attributions noted in a cookbook were symbols of affection, esteem, and bonding. Recipes and meals often gave women a common topic for conversation and correspondence despite differences in age, region, or class. And the presence of a handwritten receipt book or a printed cookbook demonstrated to others a woman's commitment to her "sacred duties." Indeed, the receipt book became a representation of the self, a symbol of maternity and femininity, of a woman fulfilling her wifely obligations.

Fig. 1 - Fig. 5:

This is one of the most interesting of the manuscripts in the Aresty Collection. As is customary, several hands have contributed to the collection which comprises cookery, medicinals, confections, and poetry:

Like Swallowes

Like Swallowes when the summers done
that fly and seeke some warmer sun
then wisely chuse one to your friend
whose love may when your beauties end
Remaine still firme by you

One persona stands out above all the rest--the young woman or child who calls herself "Mary Madcap." The daughter of Christian Maddison, Mary uses the book to practice her letters. Her name appears in several places throughout, including the page which lists the clothes that her father bought her. The recipes--cookery and medicinals--are attributed (we speculate) to a range of friends, kin, and guests. Others are from relatives and physicians. Some are aristocratic:

My Lady Widderington ressett for a Looseness

Take hogs dung newly dunged and boyle it in a pint of milke prity well the Straine and drink it off--to make the hog dung you may turne him round severall times and falloe him till he does it--

Indeed one of the medicinals may, in fact, be a coded message for an abortion decoction:

The Lady Rudston, most Incomparable wound drinck which Cures all manner of fistuals Outward and Inward, Sores, Stancheth Bleding Inwardly, drines out all Splinters of bones: takes awaye all Scabbs, it breaks all impostumes, Pureth brokens veines ore Cancers in the breast, taketh a waye all Scalls from the bones and will even Cause Bullets to fall out of the flesh, but it must not be given to a woemen with Child for it playeth ye part of a midwife

Cultural borrowings or allusions to "foreign" flavors and methods, however they made their way into this book, are visible in recipes such as "To Preserve Green Walnuts As They Are Done in France and Germany.

Esther Bradford Aresty: Her Book

Trussing Illustrations

Esther B. Aresty wrote The Delectable Past based on her collection of rare cookbooks and household manuals. Like the manuscript presented in this case, the Madisson and Morison Families Manuscript Receipt Book as well as others found throughout her collection, the process of compiling a cookbook is similar whether for personal use or for presentation to a wider public. Both draw on the works of cooks and cookery books which preceded them; some include recipes that are modifications of those found in other collections; some are unchanged from the original.

The inclusion and modifications of the recipes in The Delectable Past are the result of Mrs. Aresty's idiosyncratic vision, literary talent, and culinary experimentation. They are transformed to suit the palates of a contemporary audience. In the tradition of cookbook writing in every historical period, Esther Aresty borrows and alters recipes from the works of other author-cooks in the same manner as women who wrote by hand and kept their own private or family cookbooks. In each book, there are also visual representations and illustrations indicating that "several hands"--past and present--have contributed to its production. The versions differ in several ways: Mrs. Aresty analyzes the historical shifts in cuisine and then reflects on the choices she presents to the reader; the Madisson and Morison Families Manuscript simply presents the recipes, without commentary. The latter also includes many medicinal receipts among its offerings. The Delectable Past, in keeping with its era, completely separates cookery from medicine.

British and American Public Voices and The Culinary Canon

During the colonial period, both sides of the Atlantic shared a cookery tradition, at least in print. Women relied on memory and experience--past and present--or used the manuscript and printed cookbooks they brought with them to the new world. When cookbooks were finally published in various American urban centers such as Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, and Boston, it was British writers who were commonly reprinted. The first cookbook authored by an American was not published until 1796, more than 150 years after the first immigrants arrived. Until then, several recipes using new world ingredients had been incorporated into a few of the standard English repertoire cookery books printed here and abroad either for the curious English cook or for the newly-developing American market. Since published cookbooks lag behind what is actually done in the kitchen, and the boundaries between oral tradition and printed books are fluid, it is not clear what women actually cooked in their homes.

Fig. 1: This work by Eliza Smith, originally published in 1727 in London, has the distinction of being the first cookery book printed in America by the printer William Parks, who came from Shropshire, England. Though not written here, nor making use of American resources, Parks first printed and published this work in 1742 in Williamsburg, Virginia. The first edition of The Compleat Housewife was published under the initials "E. S." Smith identified herself only as a woman who had been "constantly employed in fashionable and noble Families . . . for the Space of thirty Years and upwards . . . ."

In England, Smith's work was directed to the gentlewoman and the eighteenth-century urban housewife whose need "to maintain the family and provide guidance for publlick spirited women" reflect the growing trend to write for a widening audience composed of women from different classes.

A Book of Her Own

After printed cookbooks became more available to a wider public, women used published texts in much the same way as their predecessors had used the handwritten receipt book. Housewives edited, compiled, pinned, and pasted on to the existing printed pages the recipes they had received, clipped, or otherwise collected from various sources. The women inscribed their names on the front cover or the flyleaf and bequeathed the book to the female next of kin. In this way, they created their own lineage--to pass on what they knew and what was theirs--a book owned, a life lived, and a legacy passed on--never to be forgotten.

Fig. 1: One of the ways in which women converted printed cookery books into a facsimile of manuscript receipt books was by clipping and pasting recipes from other sources to the front and back covers. Often straight pins were used to affix a recipe to a page. At times, the holdings were kept according to category or type of food in the fashion of the day. At other times, placements of these appended recipes appeared to be random; however, they reflect, in some measure, the organization of a woman's work. Marginal commentary or bolder strikings in the text itself indicate the women's editorial changes as they rendered books their own.

British and American Public Voices and The Culinary Canon

Slowly, the intermingling of British and American cooking developed into the distinctive and innovative regional cuisines of the American continent, heavily influenced by African, Dutch, French, German, Native American, Spanish, and other culinary traditions. In spite of the diverse regional character of American cookery, by the nineteenth century the written cookbook and its authors were establishing the urban northeast as a flourishing center for culinary America.

Fig. 1: American Cookery by an American Orphan, later identified as Amelia Simmons in 1812, was the first cookbook authored by an American and published in the United States. Although Simmons had many English recipes in this collection, it is the first book to introduce native resources--cranberries and corn products, for example--into the cooking repertoire. She also used American colloquial expressions in the titles: Jonny Cakes, Indian Slapcakes and Indian Pudding, among them.

This copy of American Cookery was owned and inscribed by Mary Lincoln Wollaston, President of the Boston Cooking School. Although Simmons did not directly bequeath her book to Mary Lincoln, these two key figures in American cooking symbolically shared a book and a legacy.

Selected bibliography

  • American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating and Drinking New York: American Heritage Press, 1969
  • Anderson, Bonnie S. and Judith P. Zinsser A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present Vol. II of 2 vols New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1988
  • Aresty, Esther The Delectable Past New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964
  • Aylett, Mary and Olive Ordish First Catch your Hare: A History of Recipe-Makers London: Macdonald, 1965
  • Bitting, Katherine Golden, comp Gastronomic Bibliography San Francisco: 1939
  • Braunstein, Susan and Jenna Weissman Joselit, ed Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950 New York: The Jewish Museum, 1990
  • Brown, Eleanor and Bob Brown Culinary Americana: Cookbooks Published in the Cities and Towns of the United States of America During the Years from 1860 to 1960 New York: Roving Eye Press, 1961
  • Crellin, John K. and Jane Philpott Herbal Medicine Past and Present Durham: Duke University Press, 1990
  • Cook, Margaret, comp America's Charitable Cooks: A Bibliography of Fund-Raising Cook Books Published in the United States (1861-1915) Kent, Ohio: 1971
  • DuSablon, Mary Anna America's Collectible Cookbooks: The History, the Politics, the Recipes Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1994
  • Ehrenreich, Barbara and Deirdre English Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers New York: Feminist Press, 1973
  • Hess, John L. and Karen Hess The Taste of America New York: Penguin Books, 1977
  • Hole, Christina The English Housewife in the Seventeenth Century London: Chatto & Windus, 1953
  • Hunter, Lynette 'Sweet secrets' from Occasional Receipt to Specialized Books: The Growth of a Genre 'Banquetting Stuffe': The Fare and Social Background of the Tudor and Stuart Banquet Ed. C. Anne Wilson Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991. 36-59
  • Joselit, Jenna Weissman 'A set table': Jewish Domestic Culture in the New World, 1880-1950 Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950 Ed. Susan L. Braunstein and Jenna Weissman New York: The Jewish Museum, 1990
  • Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara Kitchen Judaism Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950 Ed. Susan L. Braunstein and Jenna Weissman New York: The Jewish Museum, 1990
  • Longone, Janice B. and Daniel T. Longone American Cookbooks and Wine Books, 1797-1950 Ann Arbor, Mich.: Clements Library, 1984
  • Maclean, Virginia A Short Title Catalogue of Household and Cookery Books Published in the English Tongue, 1701-1800 London: Prospect Books, 1981
  • Matthews, Glenna "Just a Housewife": The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America New York: Oxford University Press, 1987
  • The Rise of Public Woman: Woman's Power and Woman's Place in the United States, 1630-1970 New York: Oxford University Press, 1992
  • Mintz, Sidney W Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History New York: Viking, 1985
  • Murphy, Lamar Riley Enter the Physician: The Transformation of Domestic Medicine 1760-1860 Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1991
  • Oxford, Arnold Whitaker English Cookery Books to the Year 1850 London: Oxford University Press, 1913
  • Peterson, Sarah T Acquired Taste: The French Origins of Modern Cooking Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994
  • Quayle, Eric Old Cook Books: An Illustrated History New York: E. P. Dutton, 1978
  • Reynolds Newspaper clipping enclosed Bailey's Dictionarium Domesticum 1736 Aresty Collection, Special Collections, University of Pennsylvania Library
  • Root, Waverley and Richard de Rochemont Eating in America: A History New York: William Morrow and Company, 1976
  • Schivelbusch, Wolfgang Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants New York: Pantheon Books, 1992
  • Schoonover, David E., ed Receipts of Pastry and Cookery for the Use of His Scholars, Edward Kidder Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1993
  • Shapiro, Laura Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1986
  • Simon, Andre L., comp Bibliotheca Gastronomica: A Catalogue of Books and Documents on Gastronomy London: The Wine and Food Society, 1953
  • Sklar, Kathryn Kish Catherine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1973
  • Theophano, Janet A Life's Work: Women Writing from the Kitchen Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein Ed. Roger D. Abrahams Bloomington, In.: Trickster Press, 1995
  • Weaver, William Woys, ed A Quaker Woman's Cookbook: The Domestic Cookery of Elizabeth Ellicott Lea Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982
  • Weigley, Emma Seifrit Sarah Tyson Rorer: The Nation's Instructress in Dietetics and Cookery Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1977
  • Willan, Anne Great Cookbooks and Their Recipes from Taillevent to Escoffier London: Little, Brown and Company, 1977
  • Wilson, C. Anne, ed 'Banquetting Stuffe': The Fare and Social Background of the Tudor and Stuart Banquet Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991

Contributors

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Hints for Healthy Li
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I am indebted to many people for their contributions and support during the preparation of the exhibition. Several students have facilitated my research by making the rare cookbook collection the basis of their independent studies. Karoline Wallace has worked on the exhibition with me as diligently and as thoughtfully as if it were her own. It has benefited from her ideas, insights, and enthusiasm, in particular, the section on still-room books. To her I also owe my first experience with a computerized data base with all of its delights and woes. As she said to me, "Computers do what you tell them to, not what you want them to." Dana Plansky researched the area of domestic medicine and parts of the exhibition reflect her interests and data-gathering. Jerry Drew read and researched many of the manuscripts in the collection and provided an historical context. Evelyn Feldman, of the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, graciously shared with me ideas and bibliographic data. For tracking down sources in American culinary history and selecting sumptuous menus for the reception and dinner, I am grateful to Suzanne Weltman.

I have been deeply influenced by scholarship in the fields of culinary history and women's studies. Most notable among them are the works of Mary Anna DuSablon, Lynette Hunter, Jan and Daniel Longone and Glenna Matthews.

The texts have benefited from Katherine Pollak's keen critical eye and relentless search for "the perfect word." Her suggestions made clarity inevitable. For their thoughtful readings and comments I would also like to thank: Regina Bendix, Lynne Farrington, Margaret Kreusi, John Pollack, Nancy Shawcross, Lisa Ratmansky, Elisabeth Rozin, Katherine Schultz, Dan Traister, Nancy Watterson, and Yael Zerubavel. Greg Bear provided expert guidance in the design of the cases and the catalogue. To Regina and John Bendix I am grateful for the translation of Anna Weckerin's cookbook and for stimulating discussions about these texts.

I am grateful to Michael Ryan and Dan Traister for the invitation to curate the exhibition and to Richard Hendrix for his generosity in allowing me time to work on the project. A special thank you to Denise Miller for tending the MLA program and its students while I was tilling other gardens.

A never-ending thank you to Jeff Shultz who read and reread the text, fixed Word files and printers, and who provided support, encouragement and food throughout the months of the project.

Janet Theophano
Department of Folklore and Folklife
Associate Director, College of General Studies
University of Pennsylvania