I think I found my soulmate…

Her name was Maria Parloa, and her Appledore Cookbook has me spinning. She was probably the very first cookbook author, and I have spent a good portion of my afternoon buried in her recipes, extracting a base few that I intend to modify, personalize, and publish here.

I pulled this from our baker’s rack (read: cookbook shelf). It belonged to my Great Aunt Sadie, who was a spiritualist. I often suspect her involvement at times like these.

In her book’s notes, Miss Parloa writes:

“The preparation of food should be made more a matter of conscience, with the housekeeper and cook,than it is at present. In planning the preparation of a dish, the question should not be, Is it convenient, and will it please? but, Will it be healthful, mentally, morally, physically? for the food we eat affects all three natures. Then food, to do its highest and best work, must be of the best quality, prepared carefully (but always to retain its simplest form), partaken of regularly in a cheerful room and in cheerful company.”

Words written in 1883, and relevant more today than ever.

I’m not sure what charms me more: the language of the book, or the thought of Aunt Sadie cooking from it. It is definitely a well-loved thing, with notes and scribbles throughout. Fun fact: the W. Broadway that Aunt Sadie lived on is now home to Stephen King.

The recipes are written in paragraph form, with the list of ingredients spattered throughout in the order of their necessity. Even the words are aged- most of the cake recipes call for “saleratus,” a very early form of baking soda. The reader is routinely instructed to put the food to be cooked “on the fire.” Cakes are baked in “quick” or “rather quick” ovens.

“Spinage,” anyone? And what in the world is it doing for an hour and a half? This is all from so early a time, and it’s making my knees weak.

I think being hailed as a gifted cook held a lot more weight in a time without oven thermometers and timers. Good bakers not only had a talent for producing the right flavors, but also for knowing how hot and how long to cook their foods. It makes simple bread baking a real art.

Here we have instructions for constructing a whip-churn, which can also “be made at a tinman’s for a trifle.” The book covers just about everything an aspiring cook of that time would need to know, including how to prepare different animals to be cooked. I’ll spare you the play-by-plays of removing a chicken’s feathers. There is also a recipe for “Another Beef Tea.”ANOTHER, as though one beef tea were not enough.

Soap and black-walnut stain, for all your household needs. P.S. can you see the raised letters from the print on the other side of the page? Magical. I can’t wait to try out some of these recipes- modified, of course. Most of the cakes call for at least four eggs (some as many as eleven!), which obviously will have to be tweaked. I’m going to focus mostly on baked goods, since they sound so Old-New England and would make remarkable holiday gifts. I’m bursting with inspiration! Clearly, Aunt Sadie had some ideas of her own:

There are papers scattered throughout the book, yellowed folds of scribbled ingredients from so many years of cooking. Apparently Aunt Sadie loved to cook- remind you of anyone? I am so looking forward to sifting through all of these bits and pieces that have been left behind. Aunt Sadie took these recipes and made them her own.

Now it’s my turn 🙂

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