I got a message from my neighbor Steve the other day, he was cleaning out his mother’s things and was I interested in some old cookbooks and loose recipes he wanted to see to a good home?
Among the gems were:
I’m thinking one of my owl-crazy January birthdays might just get themselves an Owl cake this year.
A mint condition “The Velvet Blend Book: Milk-Rich Carnation Recipes”. From what I can gather, this was published in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s.
But it was the discovery of this tome that really has my cookbook/history geek flag flying high:
“Virgina Cookery – Past and Present Including A Manuscript Cook Book of The Lee & Washington Families Published for the First Time.” Published in 1957 by the Women’s Auxiliary of Olivet Episcopal Church of Franconia, Virginia, this cookbook features recipes not just from the Washington (as in George) and Lee (as in the General Robert E.) families, but recipes collected from all over the state. It clearly was well used by Mrs. Dawson, as evidenced by the notes and stains:
In addition to noting which recipes were ‘delicious’ and which ones could be split into two smaller pies was this:
Mrs. Dawson’s note disputing what was originally on the site of The General Washington Inn in Fredericksburg. A little bit of googling and I realized she might be correct – the old General Washington Inn in Fredericksburg was on the site of the home owned by Mildred Washington – who is listed as George’s aunt on that particular website, although a further search of Mildred Washington discovered Mildred Thorton Washington was a Washington cousin as well as George’s brother’s Charles wife. Huh. (The preceding paragraph is brought to you by a full hour long rabbit hole I found myself in this morning.)
There is history scattered throughout the book as well as recipes. There are references throughout of not just the legendary influential 1824 “The Virginia House-wife” by Mary Randolph, but also that book’s predecessor, Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife”, the first cookbook published in the US in 1727. Recipes are noted as being copied from Mrs. Gen. R. E. Lee’s own hand. And then there was this:
Handed down directly from the daughter of a Captain wounded at Chancellorsville.
I’m so touched that Steve thought to share this particular cookbook with me. It’s had me babbling quite excitedly about it over the last few days as I continue to pour over it. It’s culinary,family, state & American history in one book – it’s exactly what I love about a good, well-used cookbook. Thank you Steve.