I sit down in front of the computer;

My coffee cup is to my right,

pens and pencils and pads of paper

are to my left

and a stack of scribbled notes

are piled up on either side

with recipe cards scattered here and here

awaiting attention.

A bookcase is on the right

of my chair

offering dictionaries, thesauruses,

and a host of titles such as








Nearby are two more bookcases

filled with food related books,

books of poetry,

books on various topics

I have more at my fingertips than

many libraries have to offer and


Waiting, waiting,

for inspiration

for my muse to take charge

for an idea.

Maybe another cup of coffee

will help.


Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted June 12,  2009





Al Sicherman, author of an entertaining little book titled “CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE” published by Harper & Row (1988), queries, “I don’t know why anybody would feel the need to make apple pie with Ritz crackers, since there is seldom a great apple shortage.” He proceeds to devote an entire chapter on mock foods, which includes the recipe for mock apple pie. The recipe, he says, came from a box of Ritz crackers.

Of the Mock Apple Pie, Sicherman says it looks like apple pie, which he considers rather amazing, but he doesn’t think it tastes anything at all like apple pie. If you were blindfolded, says Al, you would say it was lemon pie.

I think Al missed the point with mock apple pie and I wrote about it years ago in the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. Mock apple pie can actually be traced back to the American Civil War and the years of the great western pioneer migration that took place in the 1800s. Apples weren’t always cheap or plentiful way back when. It’s thought that mock apple pie was created during the Civil War by some enterprising chef, when apples and almost everything else imaginable was in short supply. It was made with ordinary crackers (although I think the crackers back then were a lot different from the Saltine crackers we eat today).

As a matter of fact, as I was sitting here asking myself how come I know this and was I sure, I found confirmation is Jeffrey Steingarten’s book titled “THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING”. Steingarten notes, “In her FANNIE FARMER BAKING BOOK, Marion Cunningham includes a version based on soda crackers that, she writes, antedates the Civil War: American pioneers could transport and store sugar and crackers more easily than apples…” My guess is that I read this historical tidbit somewhere while researching the material for “Kitchens West”, published previously in the pages of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. (I didn’t find mock apple pie in the eleventh edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook but what I did find were recipes for mock Foie Gras, mock Hollandaise, and mock Maple Syrup).

The irony, of course, is that apples are cheaper today than a box of Ritz crackers so if you are going to make an apple pie, it might as well be the real thing. (For the record, I checked out the prices of these two items earlier this week at my favorite local supermarket.   A couple varieties of apples are on sale several pounds for a dollar, while a box of Ritz crackers is over $2.00. Never mind how inexpensive a frozen apple pie is, or how easy it is to pop one of those into the oven).

Al Sicherman is (or at least was, at the time his book was published in 1988), a columnist for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and the series of chapters in “CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE” is based on articles about strange foods that appeared in his newspaper column. The first chapter is titled “THE MOCK FOOD MEAL” and appears to have been inspired, in part, by the sheet music to “Mockingbird Hill”.

Mockingbirds, of course, have nothing whatsoever to do with mock foods, but Al Sicherman is my kind of guy; he goes off on tangents and digresses almost as much as I do. His Mock Food Meal includes a recipe for Mockaguole, a mock recipe for guacamole that calls for two sticks of butter. I can feel my arteries hardening just reading the recipe. Al’s logic for the mock guac is that no body buys avocados well enough in advance so they will be ripe when you need them and he felt that buying the frozen kind of guacamole ranks right up there with frozen dinners. Well, I have to disagree—there are several excellent varieties of frozen guacamole available but this was written some years ago, so maybe the good stuff wasn’t in supermarkets back then. And, I have to admit—I live in Southern California where avocados are available almost year-round. I can even buy them in the local thrift bakery. Occasionally, a friend’s father sends me a shopping bag of avocados from his back yard. In our back yard in Arleta where Bob & I lived for almost 20 years, we had a huge, ancient avocado tree- that bore NO fruit until Bob & my son Kelly chopped down a massive dead tree branch. Shortly after that, we began enjoying a glut of avocadoes – over 200 that spring; I was making guacamole in large bowls to freeze for later.

(For the record, health-food and diet cookbooks often offer a recipe for Mock Guac made with peas. I just came across a Mock Guac recipe in a book called The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond, and it’s made with frozen petite peas. Diamond also offers a recipe for Mock Goat Cheese Dressing that actually sounds pretty good to me. Better than real goat cheese, anyway).

Included in Sicherman’s Mock Food Meal is his “MOCK MOCK TURTLE SOUP” which made me laugh. Guess what the principal ingredient is in every recipe Al found for mock turtle soup? To Al’s horror, it was a calf’s head. Al says he’s not cooking a calf’s head. However, some hundred years ago, people did cook calf’s heads as well as a lot of other strange animal body parts, and cookbooks from the 1800s are replete with instructions that begin with the instruction “take one Calf’s head”. As I recall from one of these old books, you held it by one ear as you dropped it into a pot of boiling water. My cousin, Renee, found a recipe in our maternal grandmother’s cookbook for mock turtle soup that starts out with the instructions, “Clean a calf’s head well and let it stand in salt and water two or three hours…”. Grandma also had a recipe for Mock Terrapin Soup that was made with calf’s liver. And, in Henrietta Nesbitt’s cookbook “THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK/or FEEDING THE ROOSEVELTS AND THEIR GUESTS, there is a recipe for Calf’s Head Soup that starts out “Scald head to remove hair but leave on the skin. Have it sawed so that brains and tongue can be removed…” ew, ew! With it, she served brain dumplings.

Incidentally, my facsimile copy of the 1896 Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Farmer contains a recipe for mock turtle soup that starts out with…you guessed it….one calf’s head. It also contains a recipe for Mock Mince Pie that is made with “common crackers”.

In Cincinnati, my hometown, you can still buy mock turtle soup, made by the Worthmore Company, which is actually made with beef.   In fact, I have a copy of my Aunt Annie’s recipe, which is made with a pound of ground beef. As for why calf’s head instead of real turtle—go to an old cookbook and read the instructions for killing a turtle—most of which are, I think, now endangered species. Ew, ew.

Sicherman’s recipe for Mock Mock Turtle Soup actually sounds really good to me.

He comments on mock chicken legs which, in the 1940s and 1950s, were made with veal—presumably veal was very inexpensive at the time. The meat was cut into pieces and pushed onto wooden skewers; then breaded and fried. Al suggests that we substitute sliced turkey or chicken breast for the veal. So if mock chicken legs (which we called “City Chicken” when I was a little girl in Cincinnati), are made with turkey or chicken instead of veal, wouldn’t they be mock mock too? And if you use turkey breast instead of veal to make Scaloppini or Wiener Schnitzel, would that make it mock Scaloppini or mock Wiener Schnitzel?

Incidentally, Sylvia Lovegren, in her fabulous book “FASHIONABLE FOOD”, published by Macmillan in 1995, provides a recipe for mock drumsticks, under the chapter heading “THE FORTIES”, and notes that, considering the reversal of prices since the 1940s, a thrifty cook would be much more likely to use chicken or turkey to make mock veal. So, now we should make mock drumsticks out of real chicken?

Lovegren quotes Mary J. Lincoln in her 1904 BOSTON COOK BOOK when she expressed the Anglo-Saxon horror of eating baby cows, stating “At its lowest price veal is never a cheap food when we take into consideration the small amount of nutriment it contains, the large amount of fuel to cook it, and the danger of being made ill by its use”.

Lovegren explains that veal had never been an American meat staple. (I don’t think I have ever eaten veal—unless my mother passed it off to us as something else, like chicken – the way they convinced me that fried rabbit was actually chicken one time when we were visiting her friend, Vera.)

Veal, however, was considered an inexpensive substitute for the “desirable high-priced chicken or turkey” which, in the 1940s, were not yet being raised in huge numbers by poultry factories.

Al Sicherman also provides a recipe for Mock duck which he found in a number of older cookbooks. This sounds like something that my sister in law used to make, that she called Dutch Turkey. Dee made a stuffing and rolled meat around it (I thought it was round steak; she says it was beef or pork ribs).

Sicherman finishes off his Mock Food Meal with Mock Hollandaise Sauce, a Grape-Nuts Mock Pumpkin Pie and the famous (or infamous, however you want to look at it) recipe for Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie.

While leafing through some older cookbooks, I found a recipe for mock ham that’s made with leg of lamb. This turned up in a copy of “MORE FOOD FOR THE BODY FOR THE SOUL” published by Moody Press in 1948. I can’t even begin to explain this one, unless it was to disguise leg of lamb with cloves, pineapple rings and brown sugar so that the people eating it would really think it was ham. You think? Maybe not. I told my son Steve (when he was about three years old and gullible) that the skillet of liver and onions cooking on the stove was Salisbury Steak. He never ate Salisbury Steak (much less liver and onions) again. The question is, would someone be fooled into believing that leg of lamb was really baked ham? People can be fooled into believing that Ritz cracker pie is apple pie, so who knows?

Curiously, I found a recipe for something called Mock Giroles in Jeanne Voltz’s “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK”; it took searching through three dictionaries before I found Giroles defined in Larousse Gastronomique. Giroles is a kind of mushroom, specifically the popular name for a mushroom also known a chanterelle. Jeanne’s recipe for “mock” Giroles calls for half a pound of small mushrooms and doesn’t specify any particular kind. I am left to assume (knowing full well the dangers of assuming) that this was called “mock” Giroles since, perhaps, real Giroles are not readily available. On the other hand, it seems to me that a mushroom is a mushroom is a mushroom.

There is an interesting little book called “THE COOK’S TALES” by Lee Edwards Benning, published in 1992. The subtitle is “Origins of Famous Foods and Recipes” and each chapter is a letter of the alphabet. Under “M” I discovered “M is for Mock”.

Benning sheds quite a bit of light on the subject of mock foods, and says that the practice of creating mock versions of foods dates back to Apicius, the fellow from the first century who wrote the first cookbook and spent a fortune on food before he was twenty-three years old.

Writes Benning, “Apicius gives as his third recipe the methodology of making mock rose wine without rose leaves, substituting citron leaves and palm leaves and sweetening with honey. His fourth recipe is for making a mock expensive oil from a cheap one: Use inexpensive Spanish oil, add spices, stir frequently for three days, and then let stand…” Apicius assures us that everyone will believe it is Liburnium oil. Apicius also provides a recipe for making white wine out of red by adding bonemeal or three egg whites or the white ashes of the vine to the flask to bleach the wine. Benning asks why would Apicius resort to such ingredients – and comments that it certainly wasn’t for lack of money. More likely, writes Benning, Apicius experimented when ingredients or foods that were needed were either out of season or in short supply. “In fact,” says Benning, “when one examines the history of mock foods, one usually uncovers strong motivations for their development. Unavailability of ingredients is typical”.

As an example, Benning explains, “Britain’s green sea turtle soup is considered one of the world’s great delicacies, the aristocrat of soups. Here in colonial times, when turtles were readily available at any fish market or wharf, the American housewife began her turtle recipe by buying a live sixty-pounder that she took home in a wheelbarrow or wagon and dumped near the chopping block. She then began the soup by chopping off his head, a task not often performed easily. Retractable heads have a tendency in strange surroundings to stay retracted. If the head could be enticed out of the shell, it took a quick whack with an axe or a 2-by-4 between the jaws to keep the head extended. Remember, 60-pound turtles have jaws that can crush a human arm. Obviously, making turtle soup was neither for the fainthearted nor the weak . And I’m not sure but that women welcomed the news that it was becoming more and more difficult to get sea turtles. (I believe all turtles are now on the endangered species list).

Unfazed,” continues Benning, “the British came up with a mock turtle soup made from the liver, heart, and head of a calf, which, when cooked and cut up, has a gelatinous, meaty texture and a flavor that tastes deceptively like turtle meat…”

Benning goes on to explain that substituting a calf’s head for a sea turtle was no easy matter, either and goes on to explain what it entailed. I will spare you the grisly details. Benning also notes that even today, making real mock turtle soup requires a calf’s head and observes that this is not the easiest item in the world to find nowadays.   Therefore, says Benning, because of the unavailability of a crucial ingredient, we now have mock mock turtle soup made, according to Benning, with meaty veal bones instead of the calf’s head. (All of the recipes I grew up with in Cincinnati used ground beef).

Benning notes that, if you search through very old cookbooks, you are likely to find more recipes for mock food dishes. Unavailability of ingredients was always a problem prior to widespread canning and freezing. People ate what was in season—or made up a substitute dish. “For example,” says Benning, “mock coconut pies were made with potatoes and mock cherry pieces were created from raisins and cranberries….”

Benning observes that Mrs. Beeton’s 1859 cookery book provides more than half dozen mock food recipes including one on making mock goose out of one ox heart or two calves hearts. I can go one better—an old copy of the Settlement Cook Book offers ten mock recipes including a mock champagne punch, mock crab on toast, mock duck, a couple of recipes for mock turtle soup (which start out with one calf’s head) and a mock venison, made with lamb.

Benning has quite a bit more to say on the subject of mock food recipes but what intrigues me most is her observation that I bet most of us haven’t thought about: The world is full of mock foods—the strawberry is a mock berry; botanically speaking, it’s really a rose. The banana really isn’t a fruit—it’s a berry and grows on the tallest herb in the world. The sweet potato mocks a potato in appearance but is really a flower, the morning glory. My favorite vegetable, the asparagus? It’s actually a flower and belongs to the lily family. And, imagine this—deadly nightshade and the narcotic mandrake are botanical cousins to the eggplant and the chili pepper. So, you see, the world is full of things that aren’t quite what you think.

Researching for mock food recipes sent my friend Sue Erwin scurrying to the computer to see what she could find on the Internet—you’d be surprised! One article from the Post-Gazette offers, by popular demand, mock crab cakes, made with (who’d have guessed?) grated zucchini! (I can’t wait to try this one out on some crab cake friends!). The Post-Gazette’s column, “In the Kitchen” also offers a recipe for mock deviled eggs (made with egg beaters)) and from the Search Engine, “ASK JEEVES”, Sue found mock cheese souffle, mock hollandaise, mock pecan pie (made with oatmeal), mock tuna salad (made with garbanzo beans), mock salmon loaf (chief ingredient—peanut butter!) and mock chopped liver (made with mushrooms).

There is also mock pea soup (made with string beans and canned asparagus), mock butterfingers (cornflakes and peanut butter), mock oyster casserole (eggplant), mock clotted cream (cream cheese), mock turkey and dressing (made with something called FriChik, which I have never heard of before) and mock dogs (apparently, hot dogs made from baked beans and cheddar cheese).

There were also recipes for making mock orange julius, mock peach daiquiris, mock pink lady cocktails and a mock sangria.
If you are not yet converted to mock foods, there is still something called mock peanut brittle, which is made with peanut butter and cornflakes, and mock chicken legs (cheaters- they’re made with beef roast and pork roast, when everybody knows it should be veal).

In this quest to find as many mock food recipes as possible, I learned an important lesson that is no laughing (or mocking) matter. Some of the least appetizing-sounding mock food recipes can be found in a book called “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” by Marguerite Patten, in association with the Imperial War Museum. “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” is a collection of recipes from the war years (World War II) when the folks in Great Britain suffered a great deal more than we did from the pangs of rationing, making do or doing without. This little book, originally published in 1990, serves as a reminder to us all just how serious rationing was in England, and how difficult it was for mothers to keep food on the table. Included in the book are recipes for mock oyster soup (made with fish “trimmings”—presumably this could mean any part of the fish), mock apricot flan—made with carrots (the author notes the carrots really do taste a little like apricots), something called Poor Knight’s Fritters (actually nothing more than fried bread), mock cream, mock crab (made with reconstituted dried eggs and a little bit of cheese), mock goose (the main ingredients are potatoes and apples), and mock sausages, made with oatmeal. “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” is really what inventing mock food dishes is all about. And while WW2 ended in 1945 – and ended rationing for us, in America, rationing continued in England for years afterwards.

Since I know you are all just itching to rush out to the kitchen to make some mock recipes, the following two recipes may pique your interest. One is the most-requested Mock Crab Cakes which, rumor has it, people won’t believe doesn’t contain crab.


2 cups coarsely grated zucchini, unpeeled (about 1 medium)

1 onion, finely chopped (we grated it also)

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl (we grated the zucchini and onion into a colander so some of the liquid could drain out). The texture can be adjusted—if it’s too dry, add another egg; if too wet, add more bread crumbs (we had to add a couple extra tablespoons of crumbs). Heat some oil in a skillet; form mixture into patties and fry over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Makes 4 big or 6 medium cakes.

The following is a recipe for mock turtle soup. I will spare you the recipes that start out with “take one calf’s head…”


1 pound ground beef (uncooked)

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon A-1 sauce or Worcestershire sauce

1 cup brown flour (this is made by browning flour in a dry skillet)

1 can beef gravy (10 ½ oz)

1 bottle Catsup (14 ounces)

3 beef boullion cubes

1 tablespoon pickling spices (tied in a cheesecloth bag or in a tea caddy)

2 ½ quarts water

2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

1 lemon, sliced thin

Combine all ingredients except the eggs and lemon; simmer 2 hours. Top soup off with sliced hard-boiled eggs and sliced lemon.

Sandra’s Cooknote: Mock Turkey soup, like authentic Cincinnati chili – may be an acquired taste.   This could be “You know you’re from Cincinnati….if you like Mock Turtle Soup….You know you are from Cincinnati….if you eat chili with spaghetti.




If I say “sauce” to you, would you automatically think of the little 8 ounce cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce? Or would you think of tartar sauce that you buy, already made up, in a jar at the supermarket?  Or maybe the bottle of A1 steak sauce comes to your mind. Or what about Worcestershire sauce? (Speaking of which – Worcestershire sauce, which we Americans tend to mispronounce, is a prime ingredient in many other recipes. First made in Worcester, England, by two chemists, John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, the Lea & Perrins brand was commercialized in 1837 and has been produced in the current Midlands Road factory in Worcester since 1897. It was purchased by H.J. Heinz Company in 2005, who continue to manufacture and market “The Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce”, under the name Lea & Perrins, as well as Worcestershire sauce under their own name and labeling. Other companies manufacture similar products, often also called Worcester sauce, and marketed under different brands.)

For many Americans, “cranberry sauce” comes in a can that you chill in the refrigerator before opening, Thanksgiving Day, and plop out on a dish. (Personally, I don’t care for this kind of cranberry sauce—but I really enjoy making cranberry relish with fresh cranberries). And what about apple sauce? We had a single apple tree at our old house—it produced enough apples to convert into at least 30 quarts of applesauce a year. The apple tree we planted at the new house about 7 years ago is not as prolific as the other, but it’s getting there—I think I had about 12 quarts of apple sauce last year. Then I began making sauce out of our pear tree produce. Some of the little children in my extended family like the pear sauce very much.

And getting sauced” whether you live in the USA or Canada means something else entirely and starts with drinking too much of an alcoholic beverage.

I found some great information about sauces in a book titled “RARE BITS” by Patricia Bunning Stevens. “Rare Bits” is a book ABOUT food, not a cookbook – and even though I have managed to fill 3 bookcases with books ABOUT food, “Rare Bits” is one I often come back to when I am searching for background information. Stevens starts the chapter on “Sauces” out with: “The Romans went to the ends of their earth, searching for new, exotic meats, and then made them all taste the same by dousing them all with the same sauce. The sauce, known as garum or liquamen was actually more of a condiment, to be added by the diners as desired at the table…” (Sort of like A1 sauce perhaps?)

Stevens continues, “The scale of the Romans’ consumption of GARUM can perhaps be judged by the fact that they produced it in factories. Small fish such as anchovies and the offal of larger fish, such as tuna were put into a large trough and thoroughly salted; sometime shrimp or oysters were added. After twenty-four hours, the concoction was transferred to an earthenware vessel and set in a sunny spot to ferment for two or three months. The resulting liquid was clear and golden in color, with a salty, mildly fishy, and somewhat cheesy flavor. It was sealed in small pots, much as mustard is today; one of these pots was found in the ruins of Pompeii, bearing the legend, “Best strained liquamen. From the factory of Umbricus Agathopus….”

Stevens also notes that “the sauces favored in the early middle ages were sharp and acidic, deliberately made so by the addition of vinegar or verjuice, the juice of sour crab apples or sour grapes. From these medieval dishes come our words “saucy” or “sassy” meaning sharp, pert, or impudent…”

“Cooking changed tremendously   in the seventeenth century,” Stevens writes, “especially in France, when French chefs began using sauces” (I was always under the impression that their use of sauces was to disguise rancid meat).

But, Stevens explains that it was the great French chef Careme who first tried to bring order to this plentitude (i.e., that of having dozens and dozens of sauce recipes) early in the 19th century. Careme’s idea was to classify the sauces of the time into four families, each headed by a “mother” sauce (espagnole, velote [velvety], allemande, and béchamel from which numerous variations could be devised. A century later, Escoffier followed the same sort of arrangement but sensibly omitted “allemande” which is itself only a variation of “veloute” and added hollandaise and tomato. (Irma Rombauer, author of Joy of Cooking remained true to this classification of sauces).

It may surprise you to learn there are many different recipes for making sauces, many of which may be becoming lost arts. I wonder how many cooks make their own shrimp cocktail sauce or tomato sauce, from scratch…ham sauce or steak sauce or chili sauce or just your basic cream sauce?

The basic sauces are brown, butter, white or cream sauce—none of which are hard to make. Hamlyn’s Illustrated Cook’s Dictionary by Marion Howells, (published in London) provides the following definition for a sauce:

“Sauce: a sauce is used to add to the food value of a dish or to enhance its flavor and appearance. It can be hot or cold, sweet or savoury (sic). The liquid for a savoury sauce can be water, stock or milk. It is thickened in various ways according to the nature of the sauce…”

Frieda Arkin, author of “KITCHEN WISDOM” published in 1968 by Holt, Reinhart and Winston, devotes several pages to sauces—including a lot of simple tips that will have you wondering why you didn’t think of doing that.

But as I delved into my cookbook collection searching for sauce recipes, I was most non-plussed by Marguerite Patten’s “AMERICAN EVERYDAY COOKBOOK” which struck me as absurd—on a par with me trying to write a book about British cuisine—until I began reading American Everyday Cookbook and had to acknowledge – not bad, Marguerite. Not bad at all. Not only that, but pages and pages have been devoted to sauces in Marguerite’s book. She starts out with directions for making a perfect sauce, followed by recipes for white and brown sauces, with numerous variations. For instance, Anchovy sauce, Béchamel, caper, cheese, horseradish, and tartar sauces are all variations of the basic white sauce. Madeira sauce, Espagnole and Poivrade are all variations of brown sauce. These are followed by recipes for all the sauces you can imagine, from apple sauce to barbeque sauces, Bearnaise and Hollandaise sauces—even chocolate and lemon sauces. (I wish I had discovered Marguerite Patten sooner…I wish I could have written to her when I began collecting her books, some of which are treasures in my cookbook collection. I was saddened when I read she had passed away).

(Some time ago, we were heading for the mountains to visit friends Mary Jaynne & Steve, and MJ asked me to bring along some Hollandaise sauce as she was serving fresh spring asparagus for dinner. First I couldn’t find it on the supermarket shelves and to request assistance. Then I was shocked to find such a SMALL can with such a BIG price tag. I vowed I’d make my own Hollandaise if ever I want any. I will admit, it was good on fresh cooked asparagus).

Everybody’s cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, lumps salad dressings, sauces, gravies, marinades, glazes and seasoned butters all together but offers many sauce recipes – horseradish sauce or Cumberland sauces, a blender vegetable sauce to serve over bland foods, cold veal, or hot or cold fish. She also offers recipes for cocktail sauce and a cold mustard sauce, Remoulade Sauce and Sauce Louis which is to be served with stuffed artichokes, shrimp or crab. But don’t stop there – Rombauer offers many more recipes for sauces.

I thought you might find it necessary to turn to older cookbooks to find a great assortment of sauce recipes rather than cookbooks being published nowadays—but I stand corrected. If you are the proud owner of a copy of Ruth Reichl’s cookbook GOURMET TODAY, published in 2009—it contains a decent amount of sauce recipes, which have been divided into two groups –savory and sweet. And, Gourmet Today contains a few I wouldn’t have thought of. Of course, you can always Google a recipe and find dozens of recipes from which to choose.

Meantime, I would like to share with you a few of my own favorite basic sauce recipes.

White sauce, or Béchamel, according to Wikipedia, is the mother of French cream sauces. According to Larousse Gastronomique, the sauce is named after the “marquis de Béchamel”, actually Louis de Béchameil, marquis de Nointel (1630–1703). According to Larousse the sauce is an improvement upon a similar, earlier sauce, known asvelouté. Béchameil was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to Louis XIV. The sauce under its familiar name first appeared in Le Cuisinier François, (published in 1651), by François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678), chef de cuisine to Nicolas Chalon du Blé, marquis d’Uxelles. The sauce originally was a veal velouté with a large amount of cream added. (And now you know why it’s also called Béchamel sauce).

To make cream sauce, or Béchamel, you will need the following:

2 TBSP butter

1-2 TBSP all purpose flour

1 cup milk

Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan; gradually add the flour and stir, cooking over low heat, 3-5 minutes. Then slowly stir in the milk; continue stirring until the sauce thickens.

To make a thicker cream sauce use 3 TBSP butter, 3 TBSP flour and 1 cup of milk. Add salt & pepper to taste.

If you make cream sauce regularly, you might want to make up a batch of cream sauce mix; this recipe is from Joy of Cooking:

1 cup butter

1 cup flour

2 cups powdered milk

Mix together the butter and flour – the butter should be cold and it should be real butter, not margarine or a spread. When you have the butter and flour mixed together evenly, stir in the 2 cups of powdered milk. Keep refrigerated. To make a sauce, stir to a paste in a saucepan 1/3 cup of the above mixture with 1/3 cup water or stock; then add 2/3 cup water or stock gradually over low heat and stir constantly until the sauce thickens.

Many other sauce recipes can be made with cream or Béchamel sauce, such as Mornay sauce (good on fish, egg, or vegetable dishes), Nantua sauce, Newburg sauce or oyster or anchovy sauces. A good horseradish sauce can also be made with a cream sauce base;   to make horseradish sauce, you will need:

1 cup of basic cream sauce as indicated above (2 TBSP butter, 2 TBSP flour, 1 cup milk)

3 TBSP prepared horseradish

2 TBSP whipping cream

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp dry mustard

1 TBSP white vinegar

Remove the cream sauce from the stove, then add remaining ingredients; reheat but do not boil. Serve immediately.

Joy of Cooking provides the following recipe for making 2 cups of cheese sauce:

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP flour

1 ½ cups milk

1 cup or less mild grated cheese or diced processed cheese

½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp paprika

A few grains cayenne

½ tsp dry mustard

Melt the butter in a saucepan; stir in flour until blended. Slowly stir in milk. When the sauce is smooth and hot, reduce the heat and stir in the cheese, salt, paprika, cayenne and mustard. Stir until the cheese is melted.

What surprised me was not finding a basic cheese sauce in “Gourmet Today”; author Ruth Reichl does offer a recipe for Penne and Chicken Gratin in this cooking bible, which includes a cheese sauce but the recipe is a little more involved and might not be for families with young children-and I know that my reading audience has a lot of mothers with young children. Consequently, I lean more towards the kind of recipes, especially sauces, that I know my own children would eat—and believe me, we had some picky eaters in the family when my sons were growing up. Their father was the pickiest eater of all.

I make my favorite “from scratch” cheese sauce, to add to cooked macaroni, by making up 1 or 2 cups of basic cream sauce, and then adding shredded cheddar cheese to it. If you have some cheese on hand that has dried out a little, you can still shred and add it to your cream sauce. Other cheeses can be added—if nothing else is available, I will toss in some slices of American processed cheese. If you are making this for children, they usually don’t care for anything too spicy or zapped up too much—one reason, I imagine, why the Kraft macaroni & cheese in the blue and yellow box is so popular with children…but trust me, it’s really easy to make up your own mac and cheese. To make it a little fancier, you can poured the macaroni & cheese into a baking dish and top it off with a little more grated cheese or some cheese slices cut into triangles…bake until the top is crusty and golden. Yum!

Getting back to sauces –Before I close on white sauces, I wanted to add that I came across another recipe for Béchamel Sauce that I copied from a magazine. THIS béchamel contains some thinly sliced onion and a bay leaf – plus a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. It also calls for a dash of ground white pepper; I like the idea of the freshly grated nutmeg – and I use  ground white pepper almost exclusively in my cooking. AND I want to mention one more thing – both my sister Becky and I would tell you that anytime we ever made a white sauce (often for creamed peas) – we used evaporated milk instead of ordinary milk.   I buy evaporated milk by the case at Sam’s Club because I like it so much in creamed peas and mashed potatoes.

Brown sauce or Sauce Espagnole is the basis for many other sauces and dishes. Curious about the name, I learned this on Google: “In cooking, espagnole sauce is one of the mother sauces that are the basis of sauce-making in classic French cooking. In the late 19th century, Auguste Escoffier codified the recipe, which is still followed today. Espagnole has a strong taste and is rarely used directly on food. As a mother sauce, however, it serves as the starting point for many derivatives, such as Sauce Africaine, Sauce BigaradeSauce Bourguignon, Sauce aux ChampignonsSauce Charcutière,Sauce ChasseurSauce Chevreuil and Demi-glace. There are hundreds of other derivatives in the classical French repertoire….”

Irma Rombauer advises us to always stir, never whip, a brown sauce and to use good, strong, clear beef stock. “The flavor,” writes Rombauer, “comes from the gradual ‘reduction’ of the sauce by a very slow simmering which, if you are a perfectionist, can be 8 to 12 hours”. (I don’t think most people would be willing to invest that much time in making a stock –personally, I don’t mind but have to confess, I have taken to cooking scraps of beef and the bones, such as those from a 7-bone roast, in my pressure cooker for an hour. Then I strain and chill the stock in gallon jars—next I cook it down after removing any solidified fats. Maybe Irma didn’t have a pressure cooker! Here is her short-cut recipe for making Sauce Espagnole:

To make Sauce Espagnole, you will need:

½ cup beef or veal drippings

1 cup Mirepoix*

½ cup flour

10 black peppercorns

2 cups drained peeled tomatoes or 2 cups tomato puree

½ cup coarsely chopped parsley

8 cups good beef stock

In a heavy saucepan, melt the beef or veal drippings. Add 1 cup Mirepoix (recipe follows). When this begins to brown, add ½ cup flour and stir until the flour is a good brown. Then added the peppercorns, tomatoes, and parsley. Stir well, and then add the 8 cups of good beef stock. Simmer on the stove   for about 2 to 2 ½ hours or until reduced by half. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat as it rises to the top. Strain the sauce and stir occasionally as it cools to prevent a skin forming. The sauce should be the consistency of whipping cream, no thicker.

Before I continue, I want to explain Mirepoix – what it is and how it’s used:

Mirepoix is one of the simplest food preparations in the world – a combination of celery, carrot and onion. That’s all. However, this “holy trinity” is an essential ingredient in dozens, if not hundreds, of traditional French dishes, and knowing what it is and how to make it is essential.

Basic Mirepoix Recipe

1 c. diced white onion

1/2 c. diced carrot

1/2 c. diced celery

When dicing the separate ingredients, try to make the dices as small and uniform as possible, because it looks nicer but also because the small pieces will cook more uniformly. (A Vidalia onion dicer is ideal for making uniform diced vegetables. Although it’s used primarily with onions, I have found it works well dicing carrots and celery as well).

So what’s the deal? If it’s that simple, why is it so important? Well, these three basic ingredients, in this perfect ratio, provide a deep, earthy flavor that gives so many French dishes the recognizable flavor that sets them apart from, say, Italian or Spanish cooking.   On  the TV shows broadcasting the Food Network programs, I have heard chefs referring to Mirepoix as the holy trinity.

Back to brown sauces! Your basic brown sauce, or Sauce Espagnole, can be used to make Bordelaise Sauce, a quick brown sauce or gravy, Madeira Sauce, Mushroom sauce or Marchand De Vin Sauce—or many other sauces. For now, let me share with you a favorite of mine, Mushroom sauce. And it’s so easy!

To make Mushroom sauce you will need

1 cup brown sauce

¼ lb fresh sliced mushrooms

2 TBSP butter

Sauté the mushrooms in the butter. Set aside. Remove the beef or chicken when it is finished cooking, and add flour to the drippings to make a thin paste. If necessary add a little water to get all the bits of meat or poultry loosened. Then add your brown sauce and when it is hot, add the mushrooms.

Or, just cook your mushrooms in butter and add them to a cup of brown sauce. Heat until hot and serve. Sometimes I cook fresh sliced mushrooms in about 2 cups of beef stock (no butter) – and just serve it on the side as a gravy to go with any kind of beef roast or steak. We love mushrooms!

Brown Sauces

I really like a good sauce that has wine in it (and also like to make beef gravy with some Burgundy wine added to it). The following is called Marchand De Vin Sauce and some dry red wine goes into the recipe. The Marchand de Vin (French for “wine merchant”) is a classic red wine reduction sauce.

To make Marchand De Vin Sauce you will need:

1 cup finely sliced fresh mushrooms

2 TBSP butter

½ cup hot beef stock

1 cup brown sauce

½ cup dry red wine

Sauté the mushrooms in the two tablespoons of butter. Add ½ cup hot beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup brown sauce and ½ cup dry red wine. Continue simmering another 20 minutes. Then taste and correct seasoning if necessary.

There’s a rosemary wine sauce in Joy of Cooking – and I do love rosemary. But the instructions start with “Serve with Calf’s head or turtle meat…” and I don’t know which is the greater turn-off – the thought of eating calf’s head or an endangered species such as turtle. It brings to mind instructions in a very old 1800s cookbook for making use of a calf’s head. I recall it starts out with “hold the calf by one ear to dip the head into boiling water….” Ew, ew! And I will readily admit, I grew up in Cincinnati where mock turtle soup is still a regional favorite (mind you—it’s MOCK turtle soup; it was made with ground beef).

Well, what the heck – maybe you will find another interesting use for rosemary wine sauce. To make rosemary wine sauce you will need:

½ cup good Madeira or dry sherry

1 tsp mixed dried marjoram, rosemary, sage, bay leaf and basil

1 cup hot brown sauce

Heat to boiling the Madeira or dry sherry and the mixed dried herbs (which is known as a tortue in France). Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Strain off the herb-flavored wine and add it to one cup of hot brown sauce.    ***


Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolk and butter, usually seasoned with lemon juicesalt, and a little white pepper or cayenne pepper. In appearance it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy. The flavor is rich and buttery, with a mild tang added by the seasonings, yet not so strong as to overpower mildly-flavored foods. Hollandaise is one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine sauce repertoire. It is so named because it was believed to have mimicked a Dutch sauce for the state visit to France of the King of the Netherlands. Hollandaise sauce is well known as a key ingredient of Eggs Benedict, and is often paired with vegetables such as steamed asparagus.

Irma Rombauer offers several hollandaise sauces, including a never-fail Hollandaise and a mock Hollandaise. She also suggests few tricks to make sure your Hollandaise doesn’t fail; for one, she says, don’t make Hollandaise on a very humid day unless you use clarified butter (I am reminded that it’s important not to make divinity on a humid day, either). She also advises that it’s best to use a wooden spoon or whisk when making Hollandaise.

To make never-fail Hollandaise sauce you will need:

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 ½ TBSP lemon juice, dry sherry or tarragon vinegar

3 egg yolks

1 TBSP boiling water

3 more TBSP water

¼ tsp salt

A few grains cayenne

Melt slowly and keep warm the ½ cup butter. Barely heat 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice, dry sherry or tarragon vinegar. Have ready a small saucepan of boiling water and a tablespoon with which to measure the water when you are ready for it. Place in top of double boiler over hot but not boiling water 3 egg yolks. Beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk until they begin to thicken. ADD one tablespoon of boiling water. Beat again until the egg begins to thicken. Repeat this process until you have added 3 more tablespoons boiling water; then beat in the warm lemon juice. Remove the double boiler from the heat; beat the sauce well with the wire whisk. Beat constantly while adding the melted butter slowly and add ¼ tsp salt and a few grains cayenne. Beat until the sauce is thick. Serve immediately. Makes 1 cup.


1 cup sour cream

Juice of one lemon

2 egg yolks

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp paprika

Mix the above ingredients in top of a double boiler. Stir over hot water until thick. Makes 1 ¼ cups.

After searching through a stack of my cookbooks, it occurred to me to find a recipe box that contains all sauce recipes. My penpal Betsy sent this box to me years ago—it was a promotion from French’s and designed to hang on a kitchen wall. So, the following are sauce recipes from my personal collection—the following are divided into two categories – sweet and savory!   First are some of my sweet sauces:


To make brandied butterscotch sauce you will need:

¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

Dash of salt

½ cup water

1 can (15 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1 TBSP instant coffee powder

¼ cup brandy

1 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, salt and water in a small heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Empty sweetened condensed milk into a medium size bowl; stir in hot syrup and mix until well blended. Stir in instant coffee, then brandy and vanilla. Pour into hot sterilized containers for gift giving. Serve warm or cold over ice cream, pudding or sherbet.


To make Vanilla sauce you will need:

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

4 egg yolks

½ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp vanilla

Scald the cream and milk. Beat the egg yolks until light and add the sugar. Combine egg sugar mixture   with the hot milk and cream and cook over boiling water stirring until it is the consistency of custard; strain and cool.


To make lemon sauce you will need:

1 cup sugar

1 TBSP cornstarch

¼ tsp salt

1 cup boiling water

½ cup lemon juice

1 tsp grated lemon peel

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Stir in boiling water; cook and stir until clear and thick and at a boil. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and peel. Serve warm. Makes 1 2/3 cup.


You will need:

1 (6 oz) package chocolate chips

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup peanut butter

¼ cp corn syrup

½ tsp vanilla

Heat all ingredients except vanilla over low heat in a saucepan. Bring to boil stirring constantly. Remove, stir in vanilla. Serve warm over ice cream.

Makes 1 ½ cups


You will need:

3 squares (1 oz each) semisweet chocolate, broken up, OR ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cream

½ cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium glass bowl or measuring cup, combine chocolate and heavy cream. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds Stir, microwave an additional 30 seconds, then stir until smooth.

Add corn syrup, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. Microwave an additional minute or until heated through. Serve immediately or refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 1 month. Heat briefly before serving.


You will need:

2 ¾ cup raspberry jelly

1 ¼ c. cranberry sauce

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP lemon juice

½ cup whipping cream

Combine jelly, sauce, vanilla and lemon juice in mixer and blend until smooth. Add whipping cream and blend well. Chill before serving. Serve sauce with fruit salad or as a topping for crepes or pancakes, or as a relish for pork or turkey roasts.


2 PACKAGES (10-12 oz each) frozen raspberries

Sugar (optional)

Thaw raspberries; drain and reserve juice. Puree berries briefly in a food processor or blender. Sieve puree to remove seeds. Thin with some of the reserved juice, if desired. If puree seems too tart, sweeten to taste. May be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen 6 months or longer. Makes 2 to 2 ½ cups.


You will need:

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

½ cup evaporated milk

1 TBSP light corn syrup

½ stick butter or margarine*

Combine all ingredients and boil 5 minutes. Makes about 6 (1/4 cup) servings.

Sandra’s cooknote: when using margarine in a recipe, be sure to use a solid stick margarine that can be used in cooking. Don’t use a soft spread. To the best of my knowledge, Imperial is a solid stick margarine that can be used in cooking or baking. Or do as I do, and just cook and bake with solid stick BUTTER.


You will need:

5 oz bittersweet chocolate

¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup sugar

1/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

Dash salt

Cook the chocolate, butter, sugar, milk and cream in the top of a double boiler set over but not touching gently simmering water, stirring often, until smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat; stir in the vanilla and salt. Serve warm. (This can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 1 month. Gently reheat in the microwave oven at 50% power or in a double boiler over boiling water until warm and flowing. Makes 1 ¼ cups.


All you will need is:

4 OZ bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 2/3 cup)

1/3 cup milk

2 TBSP coffee-flavored liqueur (such as Kahlua)

Melt chocolate in milk in a microwave oven or over low heat, stirring often until smooth. Stir in liqueur. Serve warm. Makes ¾ cup.

Sandy’s cooknote: You may notice that a lot of sauce recipes, especially the sweet ones, require the use of a double boiler. If you don’t HAVE a double boiler, you can often make one up using something like a stainless steel bowl for the top part; a saucepan for the bottom. Don’t put too much water in the bottom half; most directions call for the water to be simmering, not boiling, and you don’t want the top part of the boiler to come in contact with the water boiling underneath. If you burn or scorch chocolate, it’s ruined. Ditto cooking eggs for a recipe – if it gets too hot, the recipe will be ruined.

But keep in mind, a double boiler is a great investment. Back in the day, you could buy glass ones to keep a good eye on the water boiling underneath. Joy of Cooking often recommends the use of a glass double boiler. (I haven’t seen one of these since I was a child).   **


You will need:

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 TBSP cornstarch

¼ cup water

½ cup half-and-half or light cream

2 TBSP light corn syrup

1 TBSP butter

1 tsp dark rum

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water, then cream and corn syrup. Cook and stir until bubbly. Cook and stir 2 more minutes and remove from heat. Stir in butter and rum. Serve warm or cold. Makes 1 cup.


There must be over one hundred sauces just for tomatoes; there are so many variations. But keep in mind, once you find a basic tomato sauce recipes that you and your family like, you can adapt it to suit yourself. This first recipe is a fairly simple fresh tomato pasta sauce recipe.

To make Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce, you will need:

1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cored and chopped

1 TBSP olive oil

¾ tsp EACH: salt, sugar

½ tsp ground black paper

1 ½ to 2 tsp balsamic vinegar

4 ounces pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a blender or food processor, combine and process tomatoes, olive oil, salt, sugar, pepper and vinegar to make a rough-textured sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Return pasta to pot and add sauce. Toss together over low heat for about a minute to heat through If desired serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 1 ½ cups sauce.


*add ¼ cup chopped fresh basil;

* ¼ cup chopped olives and 1 ½ tsp grated orange peel;

* ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and ¾ tsp rosemary;

*3 TBSP capers and 2 TBSP chopped parsley.


You will need:

2 large onions, to measure 2 cups chopped

1 TBSP minced garlic

2 cans (28 oz each) crushed tomatoes

1 TBSP olive oil

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

1 TBSP plus 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sugar

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a 4 ½ quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Meanwhile, peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the pot as you chop. Add the garlic. Let the onion mixture cook while opening the tomato cans, until the onions just start to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot and stir well to combine. Add the Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and sugar and stir well to incorporate.

Cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes, lifting the lid to stir from time to time. (If the mixture reaches more than a slow boil, reduce the heat). Cool any sauce you don’t use immediately and freeze in 2 heavy-duty zipper top plastic bags. Makes 8 ½ cups.


Handy for casseroles, rice dishes and stews—or flavor to taste with herbs such as oregano and basil, and use as a pasta sauce.

To make Basic tomato Sauce you will need:

5 ½ pounds tomatoes

2 onions, quartered

2 Anaheim chiles, stemmed; seeded if desired

4 cloves garlic

3 bay leaves

Salt, optional

Peel and quarter tomatoes. Puree in batches if necessary, in food processor or blender. There should be about 11 cups of pureed tomatoes. Pour into Dutch oven.

Add onions, chiles and garlic to processor or blender used for tomatoes, and puree. (There is no need to rinse processor or blender between steps). Add onion mixture and bay leaves to tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and remove bay leaves. Refrigerate if not using at once. Can be frozen.


You will need:

2 cloves garlic

2 pork neck bones

1 beef short rib

4 ounces hot Italian sausage with fennel

4 oz pepperoni, sliced

2 cans (28 oz each) chopped tomatoes

1 can (8 oz) tomato paste

2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce

1 TBSP black pepper

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2 oz sliced mushrooms (optional)

1/8 cup fresh parsley, minced

2 bay leaves

2 TBSP grated Romano cheese

2 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese

1 TBSP Italian seasoning

Slice garlic and lightly sauté in hot olive oil for about 1 minute. Place in small dish.

Brown neck bones and short rib in a small amount of olive oil. Remove to side dish and sauté pepperoni. Remove, set aside. Sauté hot Italian sausage. Place garlic and all of the meats in a large saucepan. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, mushrooms, parsley, sugar, bay leaves, salt, pepper, cheeses, Italian seasoning and 4 quarts of water.

Stir in all ingredients and bring to a rapid boil. Boil about 1 minutes and reduce heat to low so sauce simmers gently. Cook on low heat about 10 hours* or until meat falls off the bones, stirring occasionally. If desired, chop meat into small pieces and return to sauce. Serve sauce with cooked spaghetti or other pasta.

*Sandra’s Cooknote: I would suggest when you reach the point where you are going to cook the sauce on low heat for 10 hours that you transfer it to a crockpot so that it doesn’t burn).


You will need:

4 tsp cornstarch

1 cup cold water

½ cup distilled white vinegar

½ cup sugar

¼ cup tomato paste

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients, mixing well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove and set aside until ready to use, or cover and keep in the refrigerator up to 8 hours.


You will need:

¼ cup chopped shallots or onion

2 TBSP butter or margarine

1 can (13 ¾ oz) ready to serve beef broth

1 can Port or red wine

Salt & pepper (optional)

Cook shallots in butter in medium saucepan over medium heat 2-3 minutes or until shallots are tender. Add beef broth and port; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; boil gently about 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced to about 2 cups. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Makes 2 cups.


You will need:

2 LBS tomatillos, husked and rinsed

2 large white onions, coarsely chopped

5 cloves garlic

5 or 6 jalapeno or Serrano chiles, stemmed

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 TBSP corn oil or lard, melted

¾ cup chopped cilantro

Place tomatillos, onions, garlic and chiles in roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add oil and mix to coat all ingredients. Roast at 450 degrees 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Put in food processor and pulse to coarse consistency. Add cilantro and blend. Add water if too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into saucepan and keep warm while preparing enchiladas. Makes 2 1/2 cups sauce.


You will need:

Use this sauce to baste vegetables, such as eggplant or zucchini, while grilling

2 TBSP honey

2 TBSP grated ginger root

¼ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

Place all ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake well to mix. Makes about 1 cup.


You will need:

Measure drippings from the ham. For 2 TBSP drippings you will need 2 tablespoons flour. Cook, stirring until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice or 1 cup apple cider. Boil. Add ½ cup raisins; simmer 10 minutes.


You will need:

1 cup sugar

1 cup raisins

2/3 cup apple jelly

3 TBSP white wine vinegar

2 TBSP butter

1 TBSP lemon juice

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp mace

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

In a 2 to 3 quart pan over medium heat, stir sugar and half cup water until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add raisins, jelly, vinegar, butter, lemon juice, cloves, mace, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until raisin sauce is reduced to 2 ¼ cups, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Sandy’s Cooknote: good with ham OR roast turkey.


I have the date 12/29/94 written on this recipe card.

You will need:

½ CUP sugar

1 TBSP plus 1 tsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

1 cup hot water

2 TBSP butter at room temperature

2 TBSP whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP dark rum or 2 tsp rum extract

½ cup raisins

In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently and constantly with a rubber spatula, about 3 minutes or until mixture is thick and clear. (Overbeating or overcooking thins the sauce).

Remove from heat. Add butter and stir gently until it has melted. Stir in cream, vanilla, rum and raisins. Serve warm, at room temperature or refrigerated. Makes 2 cups.


You will need:

¾ cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 TBSP olive oil

1 pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

2 cans tomatoes (1 lb, 12 oz size each)

1 cup red wine

¼ cup parsley flakes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp crushed red pepper

½ tsp oregano

2 bay leaves

Cook onion, garlic in hot oil until tender; add meat, brown. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Serve over spaghetti. Serves 6-8.


1 TBSP butter or olive oil

3 green onions, with tops, thinly sliced

1-2 cloves garlic

½ lb fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp ground thyme

¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup zinfandel wine

Salt & pepper

2 TBSP minced parsley

In a frying pan melt butter over medium heat; add green onions and garlic; stir until onions and garlic are soft, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until mushrooms are soft 3-5 minutes. Pour wine into the pan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce onto or alongside meat. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.


3 TBSP vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup catsup

1 cup American style chili sauce

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

2 TBSP steak sauce (such as A1)

2 TBSP spicy brown mustard

2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

In heavy   bottomed medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often until onion is golden, about 8 minutes.   Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. To store, refrigerate in airtight food container up to 1 week. Brush onto food during last 10 minutes of grilling. Makes about 2 cups.

One more! This is clam sauce – I had no idea how much I would fall in love with clam sauce and spaghetti until it was served to me at a dinner party.

To make Jan’s Clam sauce you will need

6 cans chopped or minced claims (6 ½ oz)

3 blocks butter

Salt to taste

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ to ¼ tsp garlic powder

2 large or 3 small bay leaves

½ cup chopped parsley

¾ cup water

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Cooked Pasta

Melt butter over low heat. Add clams and juice. Add pepper and cayenne, garlic powder, bay leaves, chopped parsley and water. Cook slowly for ½ hour. Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese and cook slowly, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Rinse cooked pasta with hot water, then put into pot with the claim sauce and add ½ stick butter. Serve!

Sandra’s Cooknote: Jan says All ingredients are to taste—if you want more of something, put it in! The really great thing about this recipe is that – if you keep cans of clams in the pantry along with spaghetti—this is a dish you can whip up for unexpected company.

sandy’s cooknote: my apologies for the length of this post. Originally I posted it on my original blog in two parts. Maybe I should have done this again but I thought some of you may want to make copies of the various sauces. — sls





CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE?” Subtitled American Women and the Kitchen in the Twentieth Century is yet another treat published by the University of Massachusetts Press. (I am very partial to books published by various university presses. They are responsible for many of the best books being published in recent decades about food.

This is not a cookbook. It is a book that takes you, the reader, on a long and winding road showing the evolution of women and our kitchens. From Fannie Farmer to Julie Child, new challenges arose to replace the old.

The title itself is taken from an old song – remember “Billy Boy”? Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy, can she bake a cherry pie, charming Billy?” – noting a time when much of how a woman was rated had to do with her skill in the kitchen. “Beauty, charm and intelligence in a wife were very fine,” notes the author Mary Drake McFeely, “But a good cook was a treasure…”

I am pea-green with envy with the author’s acknowledgement that two fellowships provided her with the “time, resources, and stimulating colleagues” while she was working on this book. A fellowship at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College allowed McFeely a year of immersion in their cookbook collection. Next to cooking, writing about food, and collecting cookbooks, I can’t think of anything more fascinating and rewarding than research.

“CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE?” traces the evolution of women in the kitchen, nothing “In the nineteenth century well-off Americans were quite content to have servants do the actual work of marketing and cooking. Finding and training a good cook was a subject of much anxious discussion but the woman of the house was more likely to supervise than to work in the kitchen.

In the twentieth century, technology began to alleviate the hard physical labor in the kitchen and even showed potential for eliminating the need to cook for an individual household at all. But if economic forces (in the shape of opportunities to work in factories, offices and stores) drew domestic servants away from middle-class familiar, a moral imperative seemed to surround the obligation of the woman of the house to prepare dinner and breakfast—and sometimes lunch—herself. New, less arduous but still time-consuming tasks accompanied the new labor-saving appliances and new reasons were found for keeping women in the kitchen…”

Cookbooks, explains McFeely, “have acted as agents of society, delivering expectations of women that may conflict with or support women’s own goals. We still think of domestic cooking as gendered, as female, even while more and more men step up to the stove. That choice, in fact, might be seen by women as a clue to an often unrecognized value of a feminine art. Despite the men’s awakening, however, middle class women remain the primary audience for cookbooks and the book necessarily focuses on this large group. Most cookbooks project mainstream expectations and assume a middle-class lifestyle but they are not labeled ‘for the middle class only…’

“Reading between the lines of the recipes and surrounding texts of cookbooks”, says McFeely “reveals much about societal expectations and how they change.”

One particular cookbook which figures prominently in “CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE?” is a club-and-church cookbook published in 1928, called “THE NAPTON MEMORIAL CHURCH COOK BOOK”. A friend loaned McFeely his treasured copy of THE NAPTON MEMORIAL CHURCH COOK BOOK which is from a small community in Missouri.

I am not altogether certain, as a reader and a cookbook collector, whether the intent of the author was to carefully and completely dissect a regional cookbook to show us just what life was like, in the 1920s, or whether it received a great deal of attention because it happened to be an old cookbook that the author had at her disposal Certainly, I think, those of us who have been collecting cookbooks for many years and have a wide collection of books for various decades, appreciate the in-depth look that McFeely takes with THE NAPTON MEMORIAL CHURCH COOK BOOK.” I would have thought dozens of similar cookbooks would be available at the Schlesinger library.

“CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE” is easy to read, and well-written. As noted by Anne Bower, the editor of RECIPES FOR READING: COMMUNITY COOKBOOKS, STORIES, HISTORIES”, “This book is an enjoyable excursion, bringing together history, cookery, narrative, women’s studies and biography/autobiography in ways that will help readers make new connections and will give them new interests and insights…”

And, as an added bonus, those of us who love bibliographies, will be delighted with the one found at the back of CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE? – like Internet links, it leads us on ever divergent paths to finding out all there is to know about food, cooking and cookbooks.

“CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE?” by Mary Drake McFeely, was published in 2001 by the University of Massachusetts and originally sold for $24.95. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a listing on this book on but I DID find copies available and listed on, starting at $1.49.

Review by sandyscookbookchatter







Jo Brans captivates me in the first chapter of her book, “FEAST HERE AWHILE” as she writes “…many Americans of my generation, for better or worse, no longer eat the food they grew up on…instead, over the years, we have radically altered our menus. With typical American curiosity, we peer into each other’s carts at the supermarket, crane to check out the steaming dish being brought to the next table, read the food pages in the daily paper, pay attention to what television characters eat…my friends grapple, as I do, with memories of the admirable or reprehensible attitudes at their family table, the best and worst meals of their lives and their own triumphs or catastrophes in the kitchen…”

I’m hooked. I want to sit down and write a letter to Jo Brans. She has written a book I think I COULD have written, that I wish I HAD written. I want to share with her my foodlore stories, explain to her that, although she praises her own southern mother’s culinary skills, MY mother was really a godawful cook who boiled everything—even canned vegetables –for hours until the foodstuff, whatever it was originally, ended up a soggy unrecognizable mess. I want to tell her how my sisters and brothers and I all grew up believing we HATED cabbage HATED rice, HATED beets, when the truth was, what we hated was the way our mother cooked it. What we DID have, however, was a European grandmother who was a culinary genius, whose Dobos torts and goulashes and Paprikas, Wiener Schnitzels and flaky strudels were all works of art. No wonder we all vied for any opportunity to go to Grandma’s…but I digress. This is Jo Brans’ story, not mine.

Ms. Brans goes on to state that in 1950, most households had one cookbook (My mother’s was an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook that I wore out and spattered with stains as I learned how to make brownies and hermits and salmon croquettes) Ms. Brans acquired her first cookbook, the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, in the late fifties. My first cookbook was a little Methodist Church cookbook that my father bought from a coworker for one dollar – he bought several, one for me, my mother, and my older sister. The one after THAT was Meta Given’s “THE MODERN FAMILY COOKBOOK”. (That Methodist church cookbook was what made me start wondering if there were other cookbooks like it “out there”. There certainly were!

Jo Brans writes “Americans love reading about food, even if they never plan to go near a stove. In bed at night, cookbooks, like travel books or novels, soothe us to sleep, where we dream of other places, other lives, other meals. Browsing at libraries and bookstores across the country, in communities as dissimilar as Minneapolis, Dallas, and Manhattan, I have observed all kinds of people, men and women, young and old, sitting at a table and reading cookbooks, sometimes for an hour or more at a time…”

Ah, yes, we know what she is writing about, don’t we? How many cookbooks might be found at our bedsides, on any given night? How often do we borrow cookbooks from libraries and Xerox all the pages we find “interesting” with no particular intention of going into the kitchen to MAKE all those interesting recipes.

Jo Brans says she thinks about food all the time. I can relate to that. I think most of us, cookbook and recipe collectors, know what she means. I have been thinking about food, recipes, and cookbooks—not necessarily in that order—all of my life.

“Feast Here Awhile” is a food odyssey; it carries you along, with the author, from her Southern roots and early childhood foodie experiences, to a widely diversified adult life that traversed from Texas to New York. You will chuckle over her lamentable “farm life” experiences and you will nod understandingly when she explains that a successful menu was likely to be served over and over again. You’ll love her Texas chili story and the Cod Rotterdam story. Personal experiences blend with food history—an interesting account of the Betty Crocker story—her interview with Julie Rosso, co-author of the Silver Palette, personal, sometimes hilarious accounts of Ms. Brans and her husband as restaurant critics.

I may not agree with everything Jo Brans has written about. I am grateful to her for the statistics she has provided for me regarding community cookbooks but I have the sense that she doesn’t appreciate them as much as I do –but I can easily relate to her Lafayette Park cookbook story, as it reminded me of my Beachy School PTA cookbook experiences.

There are NO recipes in “FEAST HERE AWHILE” – this is not a cookbook…excuse me, I am mistaken – there IS a recipe for Best Ever Rum Cake for which Ms. Brans credits the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Olive Branch, Mississippi. However, may I say that – if you like talking about food and recipes and cookbooks, if you like thinking about them and reading about them, I think you will enjoy this book. It’s sort of like sitting down with a good friend over coffee and cinnamon rolls, and talking over your favorite culinary experiences. As for Best Ever Rum Cake, this “recipe” has been making the rounds for years. I first saw it in a daughter in law’s homemade cookbook created by her mother as a wedding present.


1 or 2 quarts rum

1 cup butter

1 tsp sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup dried fruit

Baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Lemon juice

Brown sugar


Before you start, sample the rum to check quality. Good, isn’t it? Now, go ahead, select a large mixing bowl, measuring cups, etc. Check the rum again. It must be just right. To be sure the rum is of the highest quality, pour one level cup of rum into a glass and drink it as fast as you can. Repeat. Now, with electric, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one seaspoon of Thugar and beat again. Meanwhile, make sure rum is of high quadidy. Add 2 argeleggs, 2 pucs fried druit, and beat until high. If druit gets stuck in the veaters, pry it joose with a drewscriver. Sample the rum again checking for highest conscisticity. Next, sift 3 cups pepper or salt (it really does not matter which). Sample the rum again. Sift ½ pt lemon juice, add 1 babblespood brown thugar (or whatever you can find) . Wix mell. Gease oven and turn cake pan to 350 gredees. Now, pour the mjole wess into the boven and ake. Check the rum again and go to bed.

Bon Appetit!

FEAST HERE AWHILE by Jo Brans originally sold in 1993 for $18.95. It is available at for $6.99 new, or as low as $1.50 and up for a preowned copy with over 48 copies from which to choose. there are several listings for this book–much to check out.

review by sandyscookbookchatter



My love affair with diners dates back to my early childhood, where, in South Fairmount in Cincinnati, Ohio, there was a place on the corner of Queen City Avenue and Beekman Streets, called the Twin Trolley Diner.  I loved that restaurant!

It was a favorite place to stop and have a bite to eat after going to the movies at the West Hills Theater in South Fairmount. We lived in North Fairmount and everyone either walked or took the streetcars, also known as trolley cars, to get where they were going. Buses replaced streetcars while I was still very young. Even so, children walked everywhere. To have an adult drive you someplace was simply unheard of. We walked to and from school, the library, movie theaters, the Dairy Queen, bakery, drug store, or the corner mom & pop grocery store –

unless you were going Downtown; then you took a streetcar or the bus. The Twin Trolley Diner was also right on the street car/bus line. (It might surprise you to learn, too, that when women or girls went Downtown, they wore high heels, hats, gloves, and stockings—the works! People didn’t go Downtown in casual attire, even if it meant walking all around Downtown in uncomfortable high-heeled shoes!).

There was another place in Cincinnati that enjoyed enormous popularity, one I didn’t even think of as a diner until I read about it in a cookbook called “ROCK & ROLL DINER” by Sharon O’Connor. The diner is a place called Camp Washington Chili and the restaurant has been at the same location since 1940. It was just about a mile from our house, just across the Hopple Street Viaduct. Camp Washington Chili was always open 24 hours a day and very often, when I was a teenager, someone would get a yen for “Coney Islands” or “White Castles” and we’d make a late-night quick trip to both places. I think this happened mostly when I was babysitting for my older sister and she and her husband would come home from their evening out on the town.

“Coney Islands” are specially made small hot dogs on smaller-than-average buns, loaded down with hot dog, Cincinnati chili, chopped onions, shredded cheese and mustard. Cincinnati chili is a special blend of chili, originally created by a Greek chef and a “five way” is a plateful of spaghetti topped off with chili, kidney beans, chopped onions and finely shredded cheese—with oyster crackers. Nearby was a White Castle restaurant, also a chain of diner eateries popular in my hometown. Their hamburgers were smaller than regular-size hamburgers – a really hungry person could easily eat about three Coney Islands and three White Castles. (When I was a little girl, the Sunday paper often featured a White Castle coupon—you could get 5 hamburgers for twenty-five cents! I think we clipped a lot of those coupons). Another memory from my earliest childhood is coming home on the street car with my grandparents, after spending a Sunday at their “lodge” downtown near Findlay Market. When we transferred streetcars at Hopple and Colerain Streets, Grandpa would go into the White Castle and get a bag of hamburgers for us to take home and eat.

And, even though Camp Washington Chili has been at the same location since 1940, it’s no longer the same building. When the City wanted to widen Hopple Street, they wanted a slice of the land on which the original Camp Washington Chili building was located. The owners obliged and now Camp Washington Chili is in a new—albeit very art-deco-ish building. The owners and the food are the same, however, (although the menu has expanded). A few years ago, I visited my hometown and my nephew and his wife and I enjoyed lunch at Camp Washington Chili. All of the walls of the interior of the restaurant are decorated with tributes that have been appeared in numerous books, magazines, and newspapers about this most famous Cincinnati eatery.

There are, now, many chili “parlors” throughout the city of Cincinnati, most either Skyline or Empress. Camp Washington Chili was one of the earliest, however and is so famous that the mayor declared June 12 to be Camp Washington Chili Day. When I go to visit relatives and friends in Cincinnati, usually the first thing we do is head for one of the chili parlors. There is even one in the Greater Cincinnati airport (which, incidentally, is located in Kentucky—but that’s another story!)

“Diner history”, writes Sharon O’Connor in “ROCK & ROLL DINER” (published in 1996 by Menus and Music Productions, Inc) “began in 1872 when Walter Scott drove a horse-drawn freight wagon filled with sandwiches, boiled eggs, buttered bread, pies, and coffee down Westminster Street in Providence, Rhode Island. Late-night factory workers couldn’t purchase anything to eat after 8 p.m. when all the restaurants in town closed for the evening, so the enterprising Scott brought the food to his hungry customers…”

A few years later, a man by the name of Samuel Jones noticed some of the lunch wagon customers standing outside in the rain eating and he had an inspiration – he would build a lunch cart big enough for people to come inside.   In 1887 at the New England Fair in Worcester, Massachusetts, for the first time ever, customers entered a lunch cart on wheels. “Jones’ cart had a kitchen, fancy woodwork, stained glass windows, standing room for customers and a menu that included sandwiches, pie, cake, milk, and coffee,” writes O’Connor. “The idea of eating inside a lunch cart was an instant success.”

Before long, lunch wagons were being mass-produced by a man named Thomas H. Buckley, who became known as the “Lunch Wagon King.” Buckley added cooking stoves to his lunch wagons, which allowed expanded menus. These lunch wagons, O’Connor explains, underwent a number of changes and gradually evolved into the roadside diners of the 20th century. Curiously, early in the 1900s, when street railway companies were beginning to electrify, enterprising wagon owners converted many of the discarded trolley cars into permanent restaurants.

Soon after, several other entrepreneurs went into the diner manufacturing business and began shipping pre-fabricated miniature restaurants that were approximately thirty feet long and ten feet wide to various parts of the country. Sometime between 1923 and 1924, the name “lunch car” evolved into “diner”.

“In 1922,” writes O’Connor, “diner manufacturer Jerry O’Mahony’s catalog pictured ‘lunch cars’; two years later, it showed many models called ‘diners’…”

“This new name,” explains Sharon O’Connor, “linked them with the fine dining experience offered on Pullman trains, and it also better described the expanded fare of breakfast, lunch, and dinner available twenty-four hours a day…”

Richard Gutman, author of “AMERICAN DINER, THEN & NOW” delves a great deal deeper into the origins of the diner, and the life of Walter Scott and others who came up with the original food carts. Gutman’s book also offers many illustrations and photographs of diners from their inception on.

It was during the mid-1920s that diner owners also began to make a bid for female customers to come into their restaurants. Initially, most women wouldn’t set foot into a diner. The Diners’ early days as late-night lunch carts gave them a reputation of being for men only. Now, ladies were invited to come in; flower boxes, shrubs, and frosted glass were added to the décor. In addition, the menus began to offer salads. The bid for female customers also led to another major innovation. Writes O’Connor, “Because most women didn’t feel comfortable perched on counter stools, manufacturers began to offer diners with table or booth service. By the end of the decade, diners were regarded as inexpensive, respectable places to eat and this reputation served them well during the 1930s…” (It was also during the 1930s that the term “Luncheonette” came along. This had, I suspect a more respectable ring to it for the ladies rather than something like “hash house” or “Lunch Counter”).

In 1928, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. However, diners made it through those difficult years—people still had to eat, and diners offered inexpensive meals.

The popularity of diners peaked in the 1950s, when an estimated 6,000 of these small, family-owned businesses were in operation. In 1962, along came McDonalds and the advent of the fast-food chains caused a major decline in the diner business. The 1982 movie “Diner” inspired a revival in diner mania – but then, in the 1990s, baby boomers became fascinated with the Retro look – and everything old was new again. New versions of the 1940s and 1950s style diners are being re-created and the older diners are being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, a lot of places, like the Twin Trolley Diner, are gone forever.   And, one of life’s ironies about this entire story is that now, again, we have “food trucks” that go around to office buildings and factories during break and lunch hours, so that workers can go out and grab a bite to eat—what goes around certainly does come around!

Diners, I discovered, have their own “lunch counter lingo”. This is a sort of shorthand slang used between servers and the cooks in traditional diners and luncheonettes. John Mariani, author of “THE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN FOOD AND DRINK”, published by Hearst Books (originally in 1983, but updated and revised in 1994) provides a sampling of terms if you are interested in Diner Lingo. Says Mariana “lunch counters have provided etymologists and linguists with one of the richest stores of American slang, cant, and jargon, usually based on a form of verbal shorthand bandied back and forth between waiters and cooks….”

Some of these terms, such as a “BLT” for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, have become a familiar part of American language. H.L. Mencken, published in 1948, incidentally, culled Mariana’s list, from several other sources, notably “the American Language”. Mencken, in turn, found some of his sources dating back to a writer for the Detroit Press in 1852. Waiters, he says, developed most of it, in the 1870s and 1880s.

Here are a few Diner lingo terms:

ADAM AND EVE ON A RAFT: two poached eggs on toast.



BIRD SEED: cereal

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL: A dish of meat, potato and vegetable served on a plate (usually blue) sectioned in three parts

BOWWOW: A hot dog

BOSSY IN A BOWL: Beef stew, so called because “Bossy” was a common name for a cow


CROWD: Three of anything (possibly from the old saying ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd)

DRAW ONE: Coffee

EIGHTY-SIX: Translates to “do not sell to that customer” or “the kitchen is out of the item ordered”. Might be traced to the practice at Chumley’s Restaurant in New York City of throwing rowdy customers out the back door, which is No. 86 Bedford Street

FIRST LADY: Spareribs, a pun on Eve’s being made from Adam’s spare rib


There are many other terms, most of them completely outdated in 2003, such as ZEPPELINS IN A FOG which were sausages in mashed potatoes. How many young people today even know what a Zeppelin was? (No, it wasn’t a rock group!)


“Now…” writes author Sharon O’Connor, “diners are flourishing across the United States, from nostalgic prefabricated booth-and-countertop models to custom-designed spots that seat hundreds and gross millions. Colonial- and Mediterranean-style places are being redone with less stone and brick and more polished granite, marble, glass, and stainless steel. New versions of classic 1940s- and 1950s-style diners are being re-created, and older diners are being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Menus across the country are diverse `and include traditional diner fare as well as more eclectic and regional selections….”

Some diner historians dispute what really constitutes a diner, however, and point out that many of today’s so-called diners are really imitation diners, or wannabes.


As noted in a magazine called “Roadside”, “if your diner is a storefront, or built into a shopping mall, or into a strip plaza, it is not a diner. If it sits anywhere within the boundaries of an amusement park, it is not a diner. If it serves $8.95 cheeseburgers and requires reservations, it is not a diner….”

Since I embarked on a mission to find out more about the diners of my childhood, I have discovered there is a wealth of published material on the subject! Whether you want to know the history of diners or how to cook comfort foods such as the diners were famous for serving, someone has written about it.

Diner cookbooks are a lot of fun to read and they are usually packed with nostalgic comfort recipes.

Cookbooks such as “ROCK & ROLL DINER”, and “BLUE PLATE SPECIAL” offer photographs of diners throughout the country and provide recipes featured at these restaurants (although nothing quite compares with actually visiting a fifties-style diner, sitting in a red-vinyl booth and ordering your favorite comfort food while selecting songs from the wall juke box. Food and atmosphere have always been key elements to the success of these diners. And, isn’t it ironic that the fast-food chains which once threatened the existence of the diners—are now in competition with them?

Want to learn more about diners, their specialties and their history?

You may want to look for the following:

“ROCK & ROLL DINER” by Sharon O’Connor, published 1996 by Menus and Music Productions, Inc.

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL/THE AMERICAN DINER COOKBOOK” by Elizabeth McKeon and Linda Everett, published 1996 by Cumberland House Publishing Inc.,

THE STREAMLINER DINER COOKBOOK” by Irene Clark, Liz Matteson, Alexandra Rust, Judith Weinstock, published by Ten Speed Press, 1990.

DINER” by Diane Rossen Worthington, published 1995 by Sunset Publishing Corporation

THE ROUTE 66 COOKBOOK” by Marian Clark, published 1993 by Council Oak Books

AMERICAN DINER, THEN & NOW” by Richard J.S. Gutman, the John Hopkins University Press, paperback edition 2000 *

“RETRO DINER/COMFORT FOOD FROM THE AMERICAN ROADSIDE” by Linda Everett, published 2002 by Collectors Press, Inc.

“DINERS/AMERICAN RETRO” published by Sourcebooks, Inc.

“WHAT’S COOKING AT MOODY’S DINER/60 YEARS OF RECIPES & REMINISCENCES” by Nancy Moody Genthner, published August 2002 by Dancing Bear Books


and something for the kiddies, a children’s book on the subject,

“MEL’S DINER” by Marissa Moss, 1994, by BridgeWater Books

*Dedicated to Howard & Linda







EAT MY WORDS by Janet Theophano

“Women have conserved a whole world, past and present, in the idiom of food. In their personal manuscripts, in locally distributed community recipe compilations, and in commercially printed cookbooks, women have given history and memory a permanent lodging. The knowledge contained in cookbooks transcends generations…” – Janet Theophano

Janet Theophano is the author of a fascinating book titled “EAT MY WORDS”/Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks they Wrote”.

Published in 2002 by PALGRAVE, a fairly new global publishing imprint of St Martin’s Press, EAT MY WORDS presents a new and entirely different slant on cookbooks.

How it came to be written is just as interesting as the subject matter itself, for Ms. Theophano discovered what so many of us cookbook and recipe collectors ourselves have learned, that there is a lot more to be learned from a manuscript cookbook or a collection of recipes, in a small wooden box, than just recipes.

“Over the past ten years,” Ms. Theophano writes in the Introduction, “I have been researching manuscripts and printed cookery books from the United States and England from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries and finding myself constantly amazed by the richness of these sources…”

“Few of these materials,” she acknowledges, “are readily available to readers today; some have been kept in families as purely private documents, while others have languished in archives in manuscript form. Even those that were published are no longer widely known and now are generally available only in historical collections…”

Janet Theophano’s purpose in writing this book was first to make these materials known both to scholars and general readers, but also to open a window into the lives of women of distinct classes, cultures, and historical periods, who would otherwise be unknown to us.

What intrigues me most about the writing and publishing of EAT MY WORDS is the author’s description of a spectacular find. So many of us, cookbook collectors, writers, and researchers alike, have experienced similar events that have charted a course for us. I know I have.

Theophano writes, “My interest in cookbooks began with a chance discovery over a decade ago when I was browsing in an antique shop and stumbled across a book of writings. When I opened it, I realized I had discovered a manuscript. At first glance, the handwritten book reminded me of a journal of poetry. When I looked more closely, I discovered that it was a collection of household advice: recipes for Lady Cake and Parker House Rolls, for instance, and folk remedies for flushing the colon and dyeing hair. Inserted between the pages were newspaper clippings of other recipes as well as a poem and a letter dated August 3, 1894, and addressed ‘My Dear’ and signed ‘kiss the babies for me. John.’ The volume also contained a section of clipped recipes pasted onto the pages of an early telephone directory…”

Janet Theophano bought the book for a dollar (be still my heart!) from the shop owner, she says, reluctant to ask for even that much money, which reinforces my belief that many such treasures are thought to be worthless and are thrown away. Ms. Theophano returned home and began to search her new treasure for clues to the identity of the owner.

“I was struck,” she recalls, “not only by this book’s recipes with their titles and ingredients but other information contained within its covers. There were letters, poems, loose recipes on scraps of paper, devotional texts, and a list of books and rhymes…”

Even so, she was unable to learn the name of the author of her treasure, and she wondered how many books like this were anonymous and how many had been discarded, lost, or destroyed because they were considered unimportant. How many were intended for publication? Or were they meant to be kept in families and given as legacies to children? Did women compile the keep these books as symbols of wifely and maternal devotion? Or as a way to give themselves identities apart from those roles? Were these books read? If so, by whom?

And so an idea was born, and since that time, Theophano has searched and bought a few nineteenth and early twentieth century published cookery and household books which in turn led to the writing of EAT MY WORDS.

One of my earliest articles on my original blog that I started in 2009  was about “Helen’s Cookbook” which was the first manuscript cookbook I acquired more than 40 years ago in a dusty, crowded used bookstore on Western Avenue in Los Angeles, for $11.00. I will always remember the price; it was the first time I spent that much money on something that wasn’t actually a published cookbook. Helen’s cookbook was a small-ring bound notebook with leather binding (now nearly worn away) with most of the recipes written in beautiful penmanship with a fountain pen, but also with recipes pasted on pages. The difference between Janet Theophano’s $1.00 find and mine is that I DID discover the name of the author of my manuscript cookbook and a great deal more as well. I wrote about Helen’s cookbook for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and then on my blog. Writing on Sandy’s Chatter about Helen’s cookbook led to an exchange of emails and letters with a woman in England – who knew something about genealogy and with the bits and pieces of information I had found within the pages of the manuscript cookbook, my new friend Anna identified the woman– now my favorite handwritten cookbook had an identity. But the acquisition of Helen’s cookbook so many years ago led to a new quest for other handwritten cookbooks. And although I have acquired a number of manuscript cookbooks over the years, mostly with the assistance of friends and penpals, I have discovered that they are really hard to find and as a result, I began searching for old recipe boxes—the ones that contain recipes from someone else’s collection. It can also be difficult finding recipe boxes with the contents intact- I think most dealers considered the contents of the boxes worthless and that no one would be interested in them so the recipe cards and clippings were often thrown away. [as a note of interest – I discovered, a few years ago, that filled recipe boxes have become a hot item on Ebay.]

But I digress, for this is Janet Theophano’s story, not mine – but I wanted to share with you what excited and thrilled me with the publishing of EAT MY WORDS. Some one scholarly has finally recognized what so many of us have appreciated for a long time.

At the time my original article was written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, Janet Theophano was Associated Director of the College of General studies and adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Program In Folklore and Folklife and in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She was, I think, just the person to write EAT MY WORDS.

“First,” she writes, “I want to recapture some of these women’s previously undiscovered stories and the sensibilities of women whose lives would otherwise remain obscure—for some of the women who kept these books were only partially literate—and to demonstrate the richness and complexity of their experiences…” She says she also wanted to expand the significance we usually ascribe   to cookbooks by considering them as worthy objects of serious and textual analysis. And, as a folklorist training in an appreciation of aesthetic forms, she looks for the continuities in cookbooks as well as the transformations.

“Consequently,” she explains, “Women’s cookbooks can be maps of the social and cultural worlds they inhabit…”

The chapters within the pages of EAT MY WORDS cover a lot of ground, with titles such as “Cookbooks as Communities” and “Cookbooks as Autobiography”. There are numerous fascinating illustrations, including a copy of a letter found in a nineteenth century manuscript receipt book, which I think you will also find interesting. Readers who are also interested in bibliographies will be delighted with the one found in EAT MY WORDS.

The author writes, “There is much to be learned from reading a cookbook besides how to prepare food…for me, leafing through a cookbook is like peering through a kitchen window. The cookbook, like the diary and the journal, evokes a universe inhabited by women…the stories cookbooks tell are about life and its sustenance in different eras and in different places, they    are about enjoyment and change the contentment and longings of lives lived in worlds remote from our own.” (From the Introduction to EAT MY WORDS).

EAT MY WORDS by Janet Theophano is from PALGRAVE publishers. The original review for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange was in 2002.   You can find a copy of for $15.65, new or starting at $3.48 for a pre-owned or new copies with 56 copies from which to choose.

Happy Cookbook collecting –while this isn’t a cookbook per se, it has much to offer to cookbook collectors.



My friend Mandy was visiting one day, sitting at my yellow 1950s Formica kitchen table as I tossed chopped vegetables into the Wok, preparing chicken stir-fry. We began reminiscing about some of the foods of our respective childhoods.

I think the conversation actually began when she asked if I had a copy of Gertrude Berg’s Jewish cookbook. “Funny you should ask,” I responded, and then launched into a long story about Myra Waldo, whom I had just finished writing an article about for a cookbook newsletter.

I found my paperback copy of the Gertrude Berg cookbook for Mandy to look through while I continued to stir-fry, and she began exclaiming over some of the recipes of her childhood.

“Brisket!” she exclaimed, “Oh, how I loved brisket!”

I replied, “We never had brisket or roast beef or steak of any kind when I was growing up. We ate a lot of organ meats,” I said. “I think it was primarily because kidneys, brains, liver, and sweetbreads weren’t rationed, but it was most likely also because those meats were really cheap.” Those were, after all, War years and the stringent period following World War II.

My friend said she had never eaten kidneys or brains or sweetbreads but that she loved tongue, until she saw a raw one in a butcher shop. (ew, ew).

“I liked my mother’s kidney stew when I was a child,” I replied. “That was before I knew what kidneys DO”.

Americans (probably more than any other nationality) have a lot of funny (as in weird) ideas about the parts of the animal that they eat.

M.F.K. Fisher wrote about this particular American quirk in her book “HOW TO COOK A WOLF”, published in 1942 (which just goes to show how far back our aversion to funny meat goes).   Actually, quite a few cookbook authors have written about our distaste for eating “the less desirable” cuts of meat.

Fisher wrote the following, “One way to horrify at least eight out of ten Anglo-Saxons is to suggest their eating anything but the actual red fibrous meat of a beast. A heart or a kidney or even a sweetbread is anathema.   It is too bad, since there are so many nutritious and entertaining ways to prepare the various livers and lights. They can become gastronomic pleasures instead of dogged voodoo, so that when you eat a stuffed baked bull’s heart or a grilled lamb’s brain, or a “mountain oyster” you need not choke them down with the nauseated resolve to be braver or wiser or more potent, but with plain delight.”

Fisher goes on to explain that she was no exception, “I must admit that my own first introduction to tete de veau was a difficult one for a naïve American girl. The main trouble, perhaps, was that it was not a veal’s head at all, but half a veal’s head. There was the half-tongue, lolling stiff from the neat half-mouth. There was the one eye, closed in a savory wink. There was the lone ear, lopped loose and faintly pink over the odd wrinkles of the demi-forehead. And there, by the single pallid nostril, were three stiff white hairs.

At first,” Fisher continues, “I thought the world was too much with me, and wondered how gracefully I could leave it. Then what I am sure was my good angel made me stay, and eat, and finally ask for more, for tete de veau when it is intelligently prepared, can be a fine exciting dish…”

Fisher goes on to ask, perhaps rhetorically, “Why is it worse, in the end to see an animal’s head cooked and prepared for our pleasure than a thigh or a tail or a rib? If we are going to live on other inhabitants of this world, we must not bind ourselves with illogical prejudices, but savor to the fullest the beasts we have killed.

People who feel that a lamb’s cheek is gross and vulgar when a chop is not are like the medieval philosophers who argued about such hair-splitting problems as how many angels could dance on the point of a pin.   If you have these prejudices, ask yourself if they are not built on what you have been taught when you were young and unthinking, and then if you can, teach yourself to enjoy some of the parts of an animal that are not commonly prepared….”

Fisher goes on to provide recipes for liver, calves’ brains, heart, kidneys (in sherry), and pigeon – although, she remarks, “It is not easy to find pigeons, these days. Most of the ones you know about in the city are working for the government”. (Presumably, she was referring to carrier pigeons).

Another 1940s cookbook author, Margot Murphy (at that time a food editor for the New York Times), published a book called “WARTIME MEALS” in 1942. Introducing her chapter on Meats, Murphy writes, “Some women have the oddest conception of the anatomy of a cow. They apparently visualize it as a petite little animal, made up entirely of prime ribs to be roasted, and sirloin or porterhouse steaks to be broiled. In the same way, they think a pig as constituted exclusively of chops or roasts, and the other members of the barnyard fraternity as being similarly composed of only two or three well-known and constantly purchased cuts”. Murphy goes on to offer recipes for Lamb Neck Slices with Vegetables, Liver Stew, Potted Veal Tongue as well as an assortment of other veal recipes. (Strange to think that veal, offered up as a cheap entrée during World War II is one of the most expensive cuts of meat today).

Another Wartime writer, Marjorie Mills, published “COOKING ON A RATION” in 1943 which offered recipes for veal kidneys with tomatoes, calf’s brains saute  and broiled sweetbreads.

Betty Wason*, who wrote many books throughout her long career, published “COOKING WITHOUT CANS” in 1943. She offered some recipes for beef, but included recipes for dishes like oxtail ragout, beef kidney A La Diable, beef tongue with cheese, Calf’s Brain Maitre d’Hotel, Brain Fritters, Calf’s Head or Mock Terrapin, Grilled Calf’s Feet, and (surely everybody’s favorite), Lambs’ Tails. It should be noted that there are also numerous recipes for oysters, crab, lobster and shrimp – sea-foods that were, during the War, inexpensive and un-rationed.

Now, I am sure that neither you nor I will rush right out to the local supermarkets because we can’t wait to try Grilled Calf’s Feet or Brain fritters. And even if we did rush out, – when’s the last time you saw a calf’s head in your supermarket meat section? Although, our local supermarket does carry sheep’s heads periodically, for presumably, special Mexican feasts. I searched through a dozen or more Mexican cookbooks and couldn’t find anything that starts out with “Take one sheep’s head…”

My guess is that all of these odd parts of the animal that we stick our noses up to are either ground up for dog and cat food or made into hot dogs.   You see, I am not criticizing anyone about the American distaste for eating odd animal parts, for I am as guilty as anyone, despite growing up on kidney stew, brains, sweetbreads, and, most especially, my mother’s dreaded hasenpfeffer.

Hasenpfeffer is rabbit, soaked for 3 days in a sweet and sour mixture of vinegar and spices, then cooked something like a stew. My mother’s Hasenpfeffer was wild rabbit that my father had killed, hunting. Dad cleaned the rabbit at the kitchen sink and occasionally, you found a bb in the stew pot.

No one else in the family abhorred rabbit. Just me. It was the bane of my childhood; when you came home from school and smelled it cooking, you knew we were having HASENPFEFFER. And don’t think for one minute that you could eat a grilled cheese sandwich instead. What my mother cooked, everybody ate. Hasenpfeffer was right up there with my mother’s boiled cabbage, which she put on to cook at 9 O’clock in the morning. (Dinner was at 6 p.m. every night).

I don’t want my fish to look like something that swims in the river or the ocean; give me some innocuous looking fish sticks any time. We don’t want any of our meat to look anything like the original cow or pig and we are equally distasteful towards anything that sounds peculiar, such as brains and sweetbreads. Give us a T-bone steak any day.

All those World War II cookbook authors went to great lengths extolling the virtues of what I refer to as organ meats but what my penpal Eileen, in Australia, calls Offal. Even so, I think as soon as the War was over, we went right back to hamburgers and steak and fried chicken.

And we were lucky. Rationing continued in Great Britain until 1954. Cookbook author Marguerite Patten, in “OUT OF THE FRYING PAN” explained at length how the English got by in the decade following World War II and tells about trying to get people to eat whale stew. She recalls, “I remember preparing whale meat and the smell was pretty awful; a cross between liver and rather strong meat, with a very fishy and oily smell as well….” Ew, ew!

Americans don’t like eating funny meat. Hmm, maybe that’s why the Australian’s call it OFFAL.

 Happy Cooking and may all your family dinners be delicious!



Something that never fails to amaze me throughout the years is the synchronicity of articles or ideas that come to my attention.

Do you remember COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS,” by Betty Wason? My article about Ms. Wason first appeared in the Jan-Feb-March, 2002 issues of the CCE (Cookbook Collectors Exchange, a cookbook newsletter for which I wrote articles and cookbook reviews throughout the 1990s—it folded, regrettably,  around 2003.)

Wason’s book, “Cooks, Guttons & Gourmets” came to my attention particularly while I was working on “PEEK INTO THE PAST”, which I posted on this blog recently.

“This is the first and only book,” claimed Doubleday, the publishers of Cooks, Gluttons & Gourmets “which traced the history of cookery “from the days of primitive man up to the present day of the Four Seasons Restaurant and gourmet supermarkets…” After searching through my bookshelves of food-related non-cookbook publications, I concurred. Betty Wason may have been one of our first authentic food historians. But I can tell you with authority that quite a few food history books have been published since Betty Wason opened that door. When I first read COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS nothing else was available! (Betty’s timeless history of cookery is still available on and there are hardbound copies available starting at $1.00 each, with 20 copies available from preowned sources).

And since then, numerous other food history sources have become available–from A HISTORY OF FOOD published in 2008,  to the Cambridge World History of food, a two volume set  with many copies available, AND  THE  OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD, a best seller in 2000.

I was working on a review of  a book titled “FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES” by Barbara Haber and what the author had to say about the history of food struck a chord.  Haber acknowledges that food history is a relatively new and unexplored field. At the risk of sounding repetitious for I’ve written about this before, Haber explains that this field took off at the end of the 1960s, when academic women who have been activists in the civil rights, antiwar, and women’s rights movements came to realize that women in general had been excluded from the historical record. By way of setting the record straight, the resources of the Schlesinger Library, where Barbara had been Curator of Books for many years, were called upon by faculty members, students, and independent researchers from all parts of the country and abroad who came to research and write about women’s history.

However, the cookbook collection of the Schlesinger Library was generally ignored during this period. Haber explained, “Women’s studies specialists were more immediately intent on bringing visibility to the public activities of women and downplaying their kitchen duties, which seemed to symbolize women’s subordination and oppression by the patriarchy….”

All of this began to change when women’s history came of age. However, she states, scholars in the traditional fields such as literature, psychology, and sociology were late to the scene of culinary history and the important part women have played in this field.

“Well before food became a legitimate and exciting area of investigation in colleges and universities,” explained Barbara, “groups of nonacademic culinary historians were laboring in the vineyard of food history”.

Barbara recalls that it was these groups, especially, which had been using the library’s cookbook collection for years, that nurtured her inclination to see food as a way of understanding not only individual and group behavior but whole civilizations and major world events…”

While digging through my files for material on the history of fruitcakes, (which, incidentally, many culinary history books completely ignore), I happened to come across an article by Times Staff Writer Charles Perry, which appeared in the February 21, 2001, issue of the Los Angeles Times food section. The title was “OLD FOOD, NEW BOOKS”.

Perry explains how, twenty-five years ago, he realized that a lot of Indian dishes had the same names as Persian, Arab and Greek dishes, concluding there must have been a medieval cuisine extending from the Mediterranean at least as far as India. And he wondered where could he go to read about it?

It occurred to me that perhaps Elisabeth Rozin was on a similar trail…her cookbook “THE UNIVERSAL KITCHEN” wasn’t published until 1996, however, Rozin admits, as a food historian, she has long been fascinated with the universal activity called cooking.

In “The Universal Kitchen” Elisabeth Rozin focuses on the similarities rather than differences on the structures and techniques shared by cultures throughout history. Her publishers write, “Rozin takes us on a gastronomic odyssey…to show how the food of people all over the world has evolved along similar lines…”

Recalling how his search began years ago, Charles Perry writes, “At the time, I found,” “about the only people writing about food history were flaky journalists and cookbook writers* who happily quoted each other’s Marco-Polo-brought-spaghetti-to-Italy stories without ever thinking to check their accuracy. (*Italics mine – sls)

But it turned out there were also some inquisitive souls out there with higher standards of food scholarship, and over the years these once-marginal amateurs have become almost mainstream….”

Perry notes that “The Oxford Companion to Food” made it to the [Los Angeles Times] Food section’s best seller list in 2000 despite being a “daunting 900 pages and costing $60”. WELL!!!

I ordered food historian Andrew F. Smith’s 2009 book for $1.99. – so you can look for an update on this topic.

Not to be outdone, in 2001, Cambridge University published a two-volume “World History of Food” that runs more than 2,000 pages and originally cost $150. (*Note that on, this book STILL costs $50.00 for new and pre-owned copy but there are a lot of listings so you might want to do a little shopping around.

Getting back to Charles Perry’s article, both books were selling quite well, Perry observed, and notes that at the time of this article (2001) both books were outselling the latest version of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Personally, I think this is like comparing apples with oranges—Fanny Farmer’s book is a cookbook while the other two books are works about the history of food….in any event, back in the 1970s, Perry continues, “academic historians just didn’t consider cuisine worthy of study. It wasn’t a serious subject—not like, say, 14th century toll road records…”

The remainder of Charles Perry’s article deals with his searches and travels abroad; in 1980, he scraped together as much money as he could and went to Cairo and Damascus to collect medieval manuscripts, and he describes early symposiums on food history as “pretty chaotic”. He says that most people who present papers at the symposiums are not academics—for that matter, writes Perry, “The academic world continues to doubt that food is worthy of its attention…”

However, he continues, “This sort of event (the symposiums) couldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a widespread burgeoning interest in food—not just in cooking or nutrition but in every aspect of food. It was going on before the Symposiums and it has flourished independently of them as well…”

And, while I suspect Charles Perry’s article contains a trace of snobbery with condescending comments about “flaky journalists and cookbook writers”, the subject matter is nonetheless vitally important to us—would he have even written this article (much less found it published in the Los Angeles Times) ten years earlier?

What conclusions we can draw from all of this is that the subject of culinary history is going mainstream, as more and more books, such as Barbara Haber’s “FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES”, Janet Theophano’s “EAT MY WORDS”, James Trager’s “THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY” OR Michael Symonds “HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING”—not to mention the Cambridge World History of  Food and others like it finding publishers and an appreciative market.

The Los Angeles Times article presents a respectable list of “Recent Works of Note” which includes the following:

Food: A Culinary History,” edited by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari; English edition by Bert Sonnenfeld (Columbia University Press, 1999-$39.95);

“The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy” by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban and Silvano Sirventi, translated by Edward Schneider, (University of Chicago, 1998; hardcover $32.50, paperback $16.20);

“Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece” by Andrew Dalby (Routledge, 1996, $24.99;

“Art, Culture, Cuisine: Ancient and Medieval Gastronomy” by Phyllis Pray Bober, (University of Chicago, 2000, $50.00)

“Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789” by Barbara Wheaton (Touchstone Books, 1996, $21.00)

“All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and Frances from the Middle Ages to the present: by Stephen Mennell (University of Illinois; 1996, $17.12)

If the history of food interests you, don’t over look some of the older books published in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; these are the authors we really have to thank, for pioneering in this field when no one else was interested in something like “culinary history”. Some titles to search for at your favorite used book stores or on the Internet would have to include:

(I should also note that Reay Tannahill’s “Food in History”, published in 1973, for many years was my “bible” and can be found on Amazon for many different prices, including $1.92 and up for new and preowned copies with 122 copies available.

You can also look for the following:

“SIX THOUSAND YEARS OF BREAD,” by H.E. Jacob, Doubleday, 1944

COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS/a History of Cookery” BY BETTY WASON, published by Doubleday in 1962

“THE DELECTABLE PAST” by Esther B. Aresty, published by Simon & Shuster, 1964

“SEVEN CENTURIES OF ENGLISH COOKING” by Maxime de la Falaise, published 1973 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

“TO THE KING’S TASTE” (Richard IIs book of feasts and recipes adapted for modern cooking) by Lorna Sass, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975

“TO THE QUEEN’S TASTE” (Elizabethan feasts and recipes adapted for modern cooking) by Lorna Sass, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976

“THE JOY OF EATING” by Katie Stewart, published 1977 by Stemmer House Publishers

“AMERICAN FOOD/THE GASTRONOMIC STORY: by Evan Jones, published by Random House, 1981

“FOOD/AN OXFORD ANTHOLOGY” edited by Brigid Allen, Oxford University Press, 1995

“THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY” by James Trager, copyright 1995, Henry Holt and Company,

“RARE BITS/UNUSUAL ORIGINS OF POPULAR RECIPES” by Patricia Bunning Stevens, Ohio University Press, 1998


“A HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING” by Michael Symons, University of Illinois Press, 2000

You may have other titles in your collection. If not, you may want to look for some of these books, as well as the titles listed by the L.A. Times in Charles Perry’s article. And you have only to type in one of the food history titles, such as the Oxford Companion to Food on Amazon or Alibris for their computer system to begin listing other volumes they are sure you are going to like and want.

Isn’t it exciting to realize that we have been on the thresh-hold of an awakening in culinary history? Those of us who have collected cookbooks and books about the history of food for decades realize how momentous it is for historians to “discover” this fascinating field.

Bon Appetit! … and Happy Reading!







Beautiful soup so rich and green

Waiting in a hot tureen!

Who for danties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

(From The Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland)

Is there anything quite like a bowl of hot soup? It nourishes and sustains us on a cold and wintry day. Nothing restores us quite like a bowl of hot soup, that COOLS us off, and what could be tastier, then, than a chilled bowl of gazpacho? Another soup served cold long ago was Senegalese Soup, made with chicken broth.

French peasants, for many centuries, recognized the value of having a soup pot simmering on the back of the stove every day. Any leftover bits of meat or vegetables were tossed into the soup kettle—nothing was ever wasted, A bowl of nourishing soup was available, then, at any time.

Decades ago, housewives knew the value of feeding a nourishing beef bouillon or chicken broth to an invalid. A pot or kettle of soup can be very simple—beef broth, for instance, can be very simple, or it can be hearty, like clam chowder or beef stew. Today’s thrifty cook knows she can toss bits and pieces of leftover meat and vegetables into a plastic container or zip lock bag and FREEZE them; when she is ready to make a pot of soup, she can just toss the leftover bits into a soup pot.

If you think of soup as just something that comes out of a can, you are in for a surprise! Homemade soup is one of the easiest, most nourishing foods you can possibly serve to your family…and it can be very, very inexpensive made from odds and ends of leftovers in your refrigerator from leftover pot roast or a ham bone—or simply by chopping up some fresh vegetables, adding a few beef or chicken bouillon cubes and whatever other seasonings you like.

When I was a little girl, vegetable soup was served at dinner (called supper when I was a child), first as a broth, sometimes with homemade noodles Then as an entrée, we had the potatoes, carrots and meat from the soup pot—while my father and brothers spread the cooked marrow on saltine crackers.

It may surprise you to know that many American presidents were very partial to soups—enough so that history has left us a legacy of their soup preferences!

Our first president, George Washington, loved seafood and was especially partial to Martha Washington’s crab soup. According to Poppy Cannon in her book “The President’s Cookbook” it also became a favorite of FDR’s and President and Mrs. Eisenhower.

Many decades later, Martha Washington’s Crab Soup was served at the Senate Wives Red Cross Luncheon; First Lady Mrs. Ford like it so much that the recipe was sent to the White House chefs who were able to reproduce the crab soup to Mrs. Ford’s satisfaction, whereupon it became a Ford Family favorite.

(I would imagine that President Washington, with his ill-fitting dentures, found soups easier to eat and digest, too! George Washington had a favorite vegetable soup recipe also).

To Make Martha Washington’s Crab Bisque, you will need the following:

Enough crab to make ½ pound crabmeat

1 TBSP butter

1 ½ TBSP flour

3 hard-cooked eggs, mashed

Rind of 1 lemon, grated

Salt & pepper to taste

2 ½ cups milk

½ cup sherry

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Boil enough crabs in salted water to make ½ lb crab meat. Combine the butter, flour, eggs, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Put the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour it slowly into the egg mixture. Now combine the crabmeat with the milk mixture and boil gently 5 minutes. Add the cream and take it off the stove before it comes to a full boil. Add sherry and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Serves 4-5.

Martha Washington also favored a Mexican black bean soup; these recipes found their way into Martha’s manuscript cookbook. Quite possibly her recipe was given to her by President Jefferson, as he, too, had a favorite Mexican Black Bean Soup recipe. Martha obtained recipes from other notables of her times. Many years later, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and  Richard Nixon were also partial to Black Bean Soup.

(*I think we have had a resurgence of black beans in the past few decades—I don’t recall seeing it—or any recipes calling for black beans when I was raising my children—sls)

The Martha Washington Cook Book offs quite a few other soup recipes, from making French Broth, to Barley Broth, French Pottage to a Gruel of French Barley.

One of our first presidents, Thomas Jefferson, was so fond of soups that he wrote an essay, “Observations on Soups”. Which reads “always observe to lay your meat in the bottom of the pan with a lump of butter. Cut the herbs and vegetables very fine and lay over the meat. Cover it close* and set over a slow fire. This will draw the virtue out of the herbs and roots and give the soup a different flavor from what it would have been putting the water in first…when the gravy produced from the meat is almost dried up. Fill your pan with water when your soup is done, take it up and when cool enough, skim of the grease quite clean. Put it on again to heat and then dish it up. When you make white soups never put in the cream until you take it off the fire. Soup is better the second day in cool weather. (“cover it close” may have meant with a tight fitting lid.)









Wash beans and add to the water with the short ribs and seasonings. Boil over low flame 3-4 hours or until beans are soft. Remove meat, pour remainder through colander, pressing beans through. Remove to pot with small pieces of meat and stock; simmer about 10 minutes longer. Take from stove, add wine and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with croutons browned in butter. Serves 8-10.

President Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and fittingly one of his favorite soup recipes was Gumbo. Another favorite soup of President Jefferson’s was potato soup, as prepared by his cook at Monticello.

Yet another well-liked soup recipe of President Jefferson was pea soup, made, of course, with peas from his own garden. Every Monday at Monticello, tomato soup was served. Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, who shared his interest in recipes (called “receipts” back then) gave the recipe to Martha Washington. Yet another favorite recipe written by President Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph was a recipe for okra soup.

John Adams, like all early pioneering Americans, learned to use corn in many different ways. It was a legacy given to us by the American Indians. A favorite soup of President Adams was corn soup. Another favorite dish was succotash soup. Perhaps the Adams’, who spent some years living in Philadelphia, developed a taste for the Pennsylvania-Dutch corn soup. The following corn and tomato soup, with dumplings, is credited with Ohio origins…but it might have originated in Pennsylvania.








Cover bone well with cold water. Add seasonings and onion. Shave off the grains of corn and also scrape out the pulp. Add to soup pot. Peel, then cut up the tomatoes. Add. Let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat and cook slowly 3 hours.







Beat egg slightly. Stir soda into milk and add. Mix in enough salted flour to make a very stiff batter. Drop into boiling soup from a teaspoon. Cover, and cook 20 minutes. Serve at once.

(*I take it for granted that everybody knows these things—but in case you don’t—to make sour milk, just add a teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice  to regular milk…wait a little bit and it will become “sour” milk).

Many presidents have enjoyed turtle or terrapin, according to White House history. One of the first presidents to receive a gift of turtle was President John Adams. A friend bestowed a 114 pound turtle upon the president.

In his diary, his son—John Quincy Adams—mentions that on a July 4th dinner served at the White House during Tyler’s administration, turtle soup was made from a turtle weighing 300 pounds, a present from Key West*

It is said that John Quincy Adams never failed to mention with whom he dined or how often, so that when he mentioned in his diary having eaten turtle at a dinner, it must have been an impressive occasion.

*More about turtles later!

Dolley Madison, considered for many decades to be the quintessential Washington hostess, served as hostess for Thomas Jefferson, who was widowed. Dolley, who left neatly handwritten notes containing her favorite recipes and home remedies, treated visitors—even drop-ins—with a bouillon laced with sherry. To make Dolley Madison’s hospitable bouillon, you will need:

4 lbs beef 1 veal knuckle

3 small carrots

2 turnips

1 pot hot pepper

3 small white onions

1 bunch parsley

5 quarts water


Place all ingredients except the sherry in a large pot and simmer for 6 hours. Cool and strain.

Chef Rysavy, in a TREASURY OF WHITE HOUSE COOKING, tells us that Dolley liked to let her bouillon stand overnight before skimming off the fat. She would store the bouillon in a cool place and heat a portion of it as needed. Just before hot bouillon was served, a little sherry was added. Serves 20.

President Fillmore may not be well remembered by American historians (or school children) but he DID install the first real bathtub with centrally heated running water. His wife installed the first library in the White House while President Fillmore also installed the first real STOVE in the White House kitchen. Prior to that time, all the Fillmore cooking was done over open fireplaces. There is a story that the Fillmore cook was horrified at the idea of cooking on such a “thing” (the stove) and that the President had to go visit the patent office to get detailed directions for operating it. But, like all new contraptions, once the white House staff got used to it, they couldn’t imagine getting along without it.

President Fillmore was a thrifty man – it seems only natural that one of HIS favorite soup recipes was an old fashioned vegetable beef soup which was more like a stew. Again, according to Ms. Cannon’s book “The Presidential Cookbook”, when President Fillmore’s soup was “…ready to serve, the solids were removed from the soup kettle to a platter. The soup was served first, consumed, then the soup bowls were re-filled with the meat and vegetables from the platter. (I wonder if my mother ever knew that her soup was served exactly the same way as the Fillmore presidential administration—I read that the president’s wife saw no reason to switch to clean plates after the broth had been eaten).

A favorite soup of Andrew Jackson’s was “Old Hickory Soup”, also a local favorite with natives of Jackson’s North Carolina. The recipe begins “Crack one gallon hickory nuts…”

Julia Tyler, wife of President John Tyler, seems to have been partial to a “torup” stew, torup being a variation of huge turtles that were native to the Eastern Shore of Long Island, where Julia grew up. (Julia was President Tyler’s second wife, and many years younger than he. The marriage created something of a stir in Washington. The “torup” stew was said to taste a lot like chicken. (I’ve heard that said about alligator, too—that it tastes like chicken.

Oyster stew and terrapin stew were listed amongst many other dishes listed on President Lincoln’s second inaugural ball menu. This was a bit of a far cry from President Lincoln’s first inaugural at which mock turtle soup was served. While most food historians claim that President Lincoln had very little interest in food, it seems a fair assumption that turtle soup was a favorite dish, being served at both of President Lincoln’s inaugural celebrations. The President even planned the menu for his second inauguration. And even though historians claim that Mr. Lincoln was not interested in food or eating, it seems that he loved fruit pies and some of the ladies in Springfield shipped fruit pies to him—no small feat in the mid-1800s. (I sometimes wonder if the president just didn’t like the way most foods were prepared for him. I grew up thinking I hated rice. I hated cabbage, I hated stewed rabbit. I didn’t really hate those foods; I hated the way they had been cooked. I was an adult living in California before I ever discovered that rice didn’t have to be cooked to a gluey-lumpy-pasty ball of gunk! I didn’t hate those foods; I hated the way my mother cooked them. One of the best rice recipes served to us at a friend’s house was a rice pilaf that was outstanding. It was long after I met Bob that I discovered how delicious corned beef and cabbage could be, cooked gently in a slow-cooker, wedges of cabbage added in the last hour of cooking.

The Benjamin Harrisons were a soup loving family, with corn soup and fish chowder amongst their favorites. Another favorite served by Mrs. Harrison was “amber soup” which was a hot clear soup that she served at White House teas and receptions. It was made from both chicken and ham, along with assorted vegetables.

Teddy Roosevelt’s family, having a special interest in India and the Far East, were partial to a chilled Senegalese soup, made with chicken stock and curry but they also enjoyed a corn chowder. I did some searching for Senegalese Soup and found a recipe from 21 Restaurant, stating that theirs is one of the few places in this country where you can still find it. The classic garnish is diced poached chicken; this version substitutes chutney; to make Traditional Senegalese Soup you will need:

3 tart apples, such as granny smith

2 TBSP unsalted butter

2 carrots, chopped

1 large white onion, chopped

¼ cup raisins

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 TBSP curry powder*

2 TBSP all purpose flour

8 cups chicken broth

1 TBSP canned tomato puree

½ cup heavy cream

Garnish: bottle mango chutney or poached chicken, diced

Peel and core apples and chop. In a heavy kettle, heat butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and cook apples, carrots, onion, raisins and garlic, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 10-12- minutes. Add curry powder and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth and tomato puree and simmer, covered, 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Stir in cream and salt to taste, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Cool soup and in a food processor or blender, puree in batches until smooth. Strain soup through a sieve into a large bowl and chill until cold, 2-3 hours. Garnish each serving with about ½ tsp chutney (or a small amount of diced, poached and chilled chicken cubes.)

*Personally, I’m not crazy about curry powder, so 3 tablespoons of curry powder would be too much for my palate —I would reduce this to one or two tablespoons curry powder, tops. – sls

President Taft (from Cincinnati!) the biggest and heaviest of all American Presidents, was also partial to turtle soup. Terrapin soup was one of President Taft’s favorite luncheon recipes, but when it was served at State’s dinners, a special cook was hired for the $5.00 charge to cook just the soup—given what I now know about killing and cooking turtle, I’m willing to bet that the reason a special cook was hired to cook the terrapin wasn’t so much the cooking end of the job as it was –first kill one turtle.

Mrs. Taft was a great one for invading the White House kitchens to peek into the pots and pans and undoubtedly did so even when the special cook was in attendance. Mrs. Taft kept three cooks in the kitchen but seems to have “gone through” them one after another, possibly due to her habit of invading the White House kitchen to taste what was in the pots!  **

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s family LOVED soups. Throughout the many years of the Roosevelt administration, soup pots and kettles were kept simmering on the White House stoves. One of the President’s favorite was pepper pot soup, while Cream of Almond was one of Eleanor’s favorite soups. They also favored fish chowder and something called Mongole Soup (made with yellow split peas and tomato juice) which was an inaugural day favorite. Poppy Cannon tells us that Mongole Soup was also a hearty midnight snack for the Roosevelt’s guests.


Yellow split peas

Tomato juice


Salt & pepper

Soak ½ cup of yellow split peas overnight. In the morning, drain the peas and set over low heat with 2 cups tomato juice. Simmer several hours or until the peas disintegrate. Seasons with 1 tsp grated onion and salt & pepper to taste. Serves 6.

However, a favorite Roosevelt soup story involves turtle! Like so many of RFD’s predecessors, the president loved turtle and terrapin soup. Shortly after his inauguration, some terrapin were sent to him as a gift. The creature roamed around the White House cellars, terrorizing Mrs. Nesbitt, the housekeeper.

When she ruined the first terrapin after it was cooked, the President was furious so that the next time terrapin arrived at the White House, the president hired someone from the Metropolitan Club to prepare it (it should be noted there is a RITUAL to killing and cooking turtles. (I will spare you the details…trust me, you don’t want to know!)

“In the end,” writes the History Channel on Google, “turtle soup became the victim of its own overwhelming popularity. It migrated from presidential dinners down to railway dining cars, and finally to the red and white Campbell’s can in the 1920s. by World War II, harried cooks had long tired of dressing their own turtles, and cheaper and tastier canned options to turtle became available. Newfangled convenience products like TV dinners and Spam were the final strikes against the increasingly unfashionable turtle soup and by the 1960s, it had gone the way of the pepper pot, served only in certain regions of America…” (from The rise and Fall of Turtle Soup on Google.)

The Roosevelt Family enjoyed Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup, Chicken Soup Amandine, and Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Fish Chowder (Sara was FDR’s mother) as well as Green Gumbo, a luncheon favorite of FDR’s along with Crab Gumbo.

Moving on to the Truman administration—Mrs. Truman was a very private person and resisted any attempts to divulge favorite recipes. That said, Mrs. Truman made herself popular with all the staff in the White House. She knew what she wanted, she knew how things should be done, and how to give orders in a pleasant way. A household employee who said “this is not how the Roosevelts did this” was quickly replaced. Poppy Cannon doesn’t name names in the Presidents Cookbook and it has been eons ago, so I think it’s safe to say that the person who made that remark was undoubtedly Mrs. Nesbitt, who was hired by Mrs. Roosevelt and came to the White House with them from Hyde Park. (During Mrs. Nesbitt’s reign, it was undoubtedly her way or the highway).

The Truman ways were not the Roosevelt ways. Mrs. Truman took the household bookkeeping in hand and ran it herself. She ruled out breakfast for the daily sleep-out employees, to cut the huge food bills. Every day she sat at her desk and tried to run the White House like a business.

Mr. Truman was a senator prior to becoming Vice President going into FDRs fourth administration and enjoyed Senate Bean Soup, a recipe that has appeared in numerous cookbooks but I discovered that the recipe in Poppy Cannon’s cookbook is made with CANNED SOUP – so I am a bit nonplussed where I found the canned bean soup recipe—the following is an authentic copy of Senate Bean Soup:













*I made this soup exactly as directed and decided it needed more color; so I added a small can of tomato sauce and a couple carrots, diced or sliced, to the soup. Back where I come from, we don’t add lemon slices; we DO add a tablespoon of Apple Cider vinegar to our individual bowls of bean soup, just before eating. Yum!

The Eisenhowers were partial to soup, too. Oxtail soup, cream of almond and cream of celery were a few favorites, along with Stone Crab Bisque, and cream of Artichoke soup.

It was well known that one of President Eisenhower’s own specialties which he prepared himself, was a vegetable beef soup. President Eisenhower was an amateur chef and enjoyed thumbing through cookbooks and experimenting with recipes. The President prided himself on his homemade soups but this detailed recipe for a plain vegetable soup was more than two pages in length! He began with some practical instructions for preparing chicken broth but ended with a rather unusual suggestion for garnishing the soup:

“The best time to make…soup is a day or so after you have had fried chicken and out of which you have saved the necks, ribs, backs, etc.—uncooked. As a final touch, in the springtime when the nasturtiums are green and tender, cut them up in small pieces; boil them separately and add them to your soup. (I have never seen nasturtiums mentioned in a recipe before!)

According to Poppy Cannon in THE PRESIDENT’S COOKBOOK, President Eisenhower enjoyed making an old fashioned beef stew for sixty, with directions calling for 20 pounds of beef in 3 gallons of beef stock–You may not want to make a beef stew for sixty people (does anyone have a soup pot big enough?) but you might enjoy experimenting with President Eisenhower’s beef stew scaled down to feed six—so to make President Eisenhower’s Beef Stew:

Beef for stew (1-2 pounds)

Butter or other shortening

Canned bouillon (or packaged beef bouillon cubes—1 beef bouillon cube with 1 cup of water equals one cup of beef stock)


Bouquet Garni*

Small Irish potatoes


White onions


Salt and pepper to taste


Brown 2 lbs beef cubes in 2 TBSP shortening, then add 2 cans bouillon and 1 can water. Simmer, covered, until meat is nearly tender. Add bouquet garni* and 12 potatoes, halved, 1 bunch carrots, cut in 1” lengths, 12 small white onions, 2 large tomatoes, cut in eighths, salt & pepper. Remove bouquet garni and drain off liquid. Return gravy to pot and cook over low heat until well thickened.

(Watch for sales on any cut of beef, such as 7-Bone or round bone roast. Cut the meat into cubes—its much easier than buying beef that has already been cut into cubes. Cook the bone-in in a pot of water to make your own beef stock.

*To make a bouquet garni (not Eisenhower’s instructions—these are my own—sls) I consulted the Grand Dame of cookbooks, Irma Rombauer who advises in JOY OF COOKING that a Bouquet Garni can vary in makeup but usually includes a bay leaf, thyme and parsley, basil, sweet marjoram, summer savory, celery or chervil. Tie the fresh or dried herbs in a bouquet made with 4” squares of cheesecloth. Tie the ends together and bind securely. Bouquets of dried herbs can be made in advance and kept in a tight fitting container, preferably one that is light-proof. You never use a bouquet garni more than once and add it only in the last half hour of cooking. Don’t be afraid to experiment and use herbs that your family enjoys.

Another similar bouquet garni is Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook calls for:

3 sprigs parsley

1 sprig celery or small stalk celery

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

9 peppercorns

2 whole cloves


The Kennedys were also soup eaters and one of t heir famous favorites was Hyannisport Fish Chowder which all of the Kennedys were said to enjoy. According to Francois Rysavy, who was the French Chef to the Kennedys, “The President was a ‘soup, sandwich and fruit’ man for lunch. His luncheon was almost bound to be soup.

To make President Kennedy’s Favorite New England Clam Chowder, South of Boston Style:

4 dozen medium hard-shelled clams

5 cups cold water

1 2-inch cube salt pork, diced*

1 large onion, chopped very fine

4 medium potatoes, diced

Salt & pepper to taste

2 cups milk, hot

1 ½ cups heavy cream, hot

Wash clams thoroughly. Place them in a deep pan with the cold water, covering the clams. Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes or until shells open. Strain the broth thoroughly through cheesecloth and reserve. Remove clams from their shells; clean and chop. Combine salt pork and onion in a saucepan. Cook gently over low heat, about 3 minutes, do not brown. Add broth and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are render. Add clams. Remove from heat and slowly add milk and cream which has been heated. Serve immediately.

One of the recipes frequently mentioned in connection with Mrs. Kennedy was Boula Boula soup which contained (surprise!) turtle. Mrs. Kennedy’s Boula Boula soup was served at the White House on United Nations Day. (However, the days of 300 pound turtles being presented to the White House are a thing of a past. White House Chef Rene Verdon provided a recipe for making Mrs. Kennedy’s Boula Boula soup substituting peas along with 2 cups canned green turtle soup but I don’t think you can find turtle ANY where anymore–Fresh, frozen or otherwise. Most turtles are an endangered species. In my own family, mock turtle soup—at one time (many years ago!) was made with the head of a cow—back in the days when the head of a cow was something you could order from the butcher; at some point in time, ground beef was substituted for the head of a cow.

To make President Kennedy’s favorite onion soup you will need:

3 medium onions, finely sliced

4 tbsp butter

1 TBSP flour

2 ½ pints beef stock

Salt and pepper to taste

French bread

Shredded Swiss cheese

Additional butter

Cook the onions and butter in a heavy pot. When they are browned or translucent, sprinkle with flour. Allow to brown a little longer, then add the beef stock, salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes. Slice the bread ¼” thick. Butter lightly and then brown in oven. Put the onion soup in casserole or serving dishes.

There are numerous published books written by the employees who worked in the White House; in the 1960s, I began collecting White House BOOKS, specifically memoirs by white house employees—not just those compiled by the White House chefs. One of the first that I found was Henrietta Nesbitt’s “The Presidential Cookbook”, published in 1951. Many of these books have a tendency to overlap with other White House cookbooks (sort of shades of which came first—the chicken or the egg). That being said, the Martha Washington Cook Book does NOT contain a recipe for her Crab Bisque although Henrietta Nesbitt’s Presidential Cookbook contains a recipe titled Martha Washington’s Crab Soup (1951) repeated by Poppy Cannon, in The Presidents’ Cookbook (1968), repeated again by John R. Hanny in his Secrets from the White House Kitchens in 2001.

Henrietta Nesbitt was invited by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to go with them from Hyde Park to the White House as their housekeeper. Mrs. Nesbitt was at that time was well into her fifties and she would remain housekeeper for the next 13 years for the Roosevelts and one year with the Trumans.

I started searching for books by White House employees after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—there were numerous memoirs by JFK’s friends and employees close to him, as well as those who worked for Mrs. Kennedy (despite by being required by Mrs. Kennedy to sign an agreement NOT to write any memoirs about them.

Then once I really got underway in my search for White House memoirs, I discovered numerous published works by those employed by FDR or those who were personal friends of FDR and/or Eleanor.

Recently, I began to notice re-writes of those early books—presumably the copywrites have expired on those early memoirs. I purchased, from, “White House Diary” by Henrietta Nesbitt, originally published by the author in 1948. I had an original edition of White House Diary and lost it somehow, so recently I ordered another copy from for my home library. I also ordered President Jimmy Carter’s “White House Diary” to supplement my original White House library. **

Poppy Cannon’s “the Presidents Cookbook” ends with the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was vice president at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. As vice president, LBJ was sworn in while on Air Force One flying back to Washington DC. No soup recipes are in Cannon’s final segment of presidents.

At the completion of the one term Johnson fulfilled as president, he announced he would not be seeking another term as president; he and Ladybird returned to Texas. Perhaps he felt those shoes of Kennedy’s were too big for him to fill.

My reference material is taken from books in my own library. Some years ago (1990s) I wrote a 4-part article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange on the White House, primarily by White House Employees. When it was complete and had been printed in four issues of the CCE, I then had the idea of compiling an article based on soup recipes favored by presidents and their wives.


THE MARTHA WASHINGTON COOK BOOK (Recipes from the personal cookbook of Thomas Jefferson, by Marie Kimball, originally printed 1940

THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK, feeding the Roosevelts and their guests, copyright 1951 by Henrietta Nesbitt

THE MOUNT VERNON COOKBOOK compiled by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association copyright 1984

THE PRESIDENTS’ COOKBOOK, by Poppy Cannon, copyright 1968, covers presidents from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson.

SECRETS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHENS, by John R. Hanny copyright 2001


THE WHITE HOUSE CHEF COOKBOOK, copyright 1967 by Rene Verdon, over 500 recipes and menus by the man who was White House chef during the Kennedy years