KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
American Thumbprints by Kate Stephens


AMERICAN THUMB-PRINTS
by
KATE STEPHENS


"THE GULLET SCIENCE"

A LOOK BACK AND AN
ECONOMIC FORECAST


Cookery is become an art, a noble science; cooks are gentlemen.
                                      ROBERT BURTON

Sir Anthony Absolute.--It is not to be wondered at, ma'am--all this is the natural consequence of teaching girls to read. Had I a thousand daughters, by Heaven! I'd as soon have them taught the black art as their alphabet!
                                      RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN

THE cook-book is not a modern product. The Iliad is the hungriest book on earth, and it is the first of our cook-books aside from half-sacred, half-sanitary directions to the early Aryans and Jews. It is that acme of poetry, that most picturesque of pictures, that most historical of histories, that most musical and delicious verse, the Iliad, which was the first popularly to teach the cooking art--the art in its simplicity, and not a mere handmaid to sanitation, jurisprudence, or theology. Through the pages of that great poem blow not only the salt winds of the Ægean Sea, but also the savor of tender kid and succulent pig, not to mention whole hectacombs, which delighted the blessed gods above and strengthened hungry heroes below. To this very day--its realism is so perfect--we catch the scent of the cooking and see the appetiteful people eat. The book is half-human, half-divine; and in its human part the pleasures and the economic values of wholesome fare are not left out.

No, cook-books are not modern products. They were in Greece later than Homer. When the Greek states came to the fore in their wonderful art and literature and the distinction of a free democracy, plain living characterized nearly all the peoples. The Athenians were noted for their simple diet. The Spartans were temperate to a proverb, and their sussitia (public meals), later called pheiditia (spare meals), guarded against indulgence in eating. To be a good cook was to be banished from Sparta.

But with the Western Greeks, the Greeks of Sicily and Southern Italy, it was different--those people who left behind them little record of the spirit. In Sybaris the cook who distinguished himself in preparing a public feast--such festivals being not uncommon--received a crown of gold and the freedom of the games. It was a citizen of that luxury-loving town who averred, when he tasted the famous black soup, that it was no longer a wonder the Spartans were fearless in battle, for any one would readily die rather than live on such a diet. Among the later Greeks the best cooks, and the best-paid cooks, came from Sicily; and that little island grew in fame for its gluttons.

There is a Greek book--the Deipnosophistæ--Supper of the Wise Men--written by Athenæus--which holds for us much information about the food and feasting of those old Hellenes. The wise men at their supposed banquet quote, touching food and cooking, from countless Greek authors whose works are now lost, but were still preserved in the time of Athenaeus. This, for instance, is from a poem by Philoxenus of Cythera, who wittily and gluttonously lived at the court of Dionysius of Syracuse, and wished for a throat three cubits long that the delight of tasting might be drawn out.[218-3]*

"And then two slaves brought in a well-rubb'd table.

                                      . . . . Then came a platter
                              . . . . with dainty sword-fish fraught,
And then fat cuttle-fish, and the savoury tribes
Of the long hairy polypus. After this
Another orb appear'd upon the table,
Rival of that just brought from off the fire,
Fragrant with spicy odour. And on that
Again were famous cuttle-fish, and those
Fair maids the honey'd squills, and dainty cakes,
Sweet to the palate, and large buns of wheat,
Large as a partridge, sweet and round, which you
Do know the taste of well. And if you ask
What more was there, I'd speak of luscious chine,
And loin of pork, and head of boar, all hot;
Cutlets of kid, and well-boil'd pettitoes,
And ribs of beef, and heads, and snouts and tails,
Then kid again, and lamb, and hares, and poultry,
Partridges and the bird from Phasis' stream.
And golden honey, and clotted cream was there,
And cheese which I did join with all in calling
Most tender fare."

The Greeks used many of the meats and vegetables we enjoy; and others we disclaim; for instance, cranes. Even mushrooms were known to their cooks, and Athenæus suggests how the wholesome may be distinguished from the poisonous, and what antidotes serve best in case the bad are eaten. But with further directions of his our tastes would not agree. He recommends seasoning the mushrooms with vinegar, or honey and vinegar, or honey, or salt--for by these means their choking properties are taken away.

The writings of Athenæus have, however, a certain literary and, for his time as well as our own, an historic and archeologic flavor. The only ancient cookbook pure and simple--bent on instruction in the excellent art--which has come down to us is that of Apicius, in ten short books, or chapters. And which Apicius? Probably the second of the name, the one who lectured on cooking in Rome during the reign of Augustus. He gave some very simple directions which hold good to the present day; for instance--

"UT CARNEM SALSAM DULCEM FACIAS

"Carnem salsam dulcem facies, si prius in lacte coquas, et postea in aqua."

But again his compounds are nauseating even in print. He was famous for many dishes, and Pliny, in his Natural History, says he discovered the way of increasing the size of the liver of the pig--just as the liver of the Strasbourg geese is enlarged for pâté de foie gras, and as our own Southern people used to induce pathological conditions in their turkeys.

The method of Apicius was to cram the pig with dried figs, and, when it was fat enough, drench it with wine mixed with honey. "There is," continues Pliny, "no other animal that affords so great a variety to the palate; all others have their taste, but the pig fifty different flavors. From this tastiness of the meat it came about that the censors made whole pages of regulations about serving at banquets the belly and the jowls and other dainty parts. But in spite of their rules the poet Publius, author of the Mimes, when he ceased to be a slave, is said never to have given an entertainment without a dish of pig's belly which he called `sumen.'"

"Cook Apicius showed a remarkable ingenuity in developing luxury," the old Roman says at another time, "and thought it a most excellent plan to let a mullet die in the pickle known as `garum.'" It was ingenuity of cruelty as well as of luxury. "They killed the fish in sauces and pickled them alive at the banquet," says Seneca, "feeding the eye before the gullet, for they took pleasure in seeing their mullets change several colors while dying." The unthinkable garum was made, according to Pliny, from the intestines of fish macerated with salt, and other ingredients were added before the mixture was set in the sun to putrefy and came to the right point for serving. It also had popularity as a household remedy for dog-bites, etc.; and in burns, when care was necessary in its application not to mention it by name--so delicately timid was its healing spirit. Its use as a dish was widespread, and perhaps we see in the well-known hankerings of the royal George of England a reversion to the palate of Italian ancestors.

But garum was only one of strange dishes. The Romans seasoned much with rue and asafetida!--a taste kept to this day in India, where "Kim" eats "good curry cakes all warm and well-scented with hing (asafetida)." Cabbages they highly estimated; "of all garden vegetables they thought them best," says Pliny. The same author notes that Apicius rejected Brussels sprouts, and in this was followed by Drusus Cæsar, who was censured for over-nicety by his father, the Emperor Tiberius of Capreæ villas fame.

Upon cooks and the Roman estimate of their value in his day Pliny also casts light. "Asinius Celer, a man of consular rank and noted for his expenditure on mullet, bought one at Rome during the reign of gaius Caligula for eight thousand sesterces. Reflection on this fact," continues Pliny, "will recall the complaints uttered against luxury and the lament that a single cook costs more than a horse. At the present day a cook is only to be had for the price of a triumph, and a mullet only to be had for what was once the price of a cook! Of a fact there is now hardly any living being held in higher esteem than the man who knows how to get rid of his master's belongings in the most scientific fashion!"

Much has been written of the luxury and enervation of Romans after the republic, how they feasted scented with perfumes, reclining and listening to music, "nudis puellis ministrantibus." The story is old of how Vedius Pollio "hung with ecstasy over lampreys fattened on human flesh; "how Tiberius spent two days and two nights in one bout; how Claudius dissolved pearls for his food; how Vitellius delighted in the brains of pheasants and tongues of nightingales and the roe of fish difficult to take; how the favorite supper of Heliogabalus was the brains of six hundred thrushes. At the time these gluttonies went on in the houses of government officials, the mass of the people, the great workers who supported the great idlers, fed healthfully on a mess of pottage. The many to support the superabundant luxury of a few is still one of the mysteries of the people.

But in the old Rome the law of right and honest strength at last prevailed, and monsters gave way to the cleaner and hardier chiefs of the north. The mastery of the world necessarily passed to others;--it has never lain with slaves of the stomach.

The early folk of Britain--those Cæsar found in the land from which we sprang--ate the milk and flesh of their flocks. They made bread by picking the grains from the ear and pounding them to paste in a mortar. Their Roman conquerors doubtless brought to their midst a more elaborated table order. Barbarous Saxons, fighters and freebooters, next settling on the rich island and restraining themselves little for sowing and reaping, must in their incursions have been flesh-eaters, expeditiously roasting and broiling directly over coals like our early pioneers.

This mode of living also would seem true of the later-coming Danes, who after their settlement introduced, says Holinshed, another habit. "The Danes," says that delightful chronicler, "had their dwelling. . . among the Englishmen, whereby came great harme; for whereas the Danes by nature were great drinkers, the Englishmen by continuall conversation with them learned the same vice. King Edgar, to reforme in part such excessive quaffing as then began to grow in use, caused by the procurement of Dunstane [the then Archbishop of Canterbury] nailes to be set in cups of a certeine measure, marked for the purpose, that none should drinke more than was assigned by such measured cups. Englishmen also learned of the Saxons, Flemings, and other strangers, their peculiar kinds of vices, as of the Saxons a disordered fierceness of mind, of the Flemings a feeble tendernesse of bodie; where before they rejoiced in their owne simplicitie and esteemed not the lewd and unprofitable manners of strangers."

But refinement was growing in the mixture of races which was to make modern Englishmen, and in the time of Hardicanute, much given to the pleasures of the table and at last dying from too copious a draught of wine,--"he fell downe suddenlie," says Holinshed, "with the pot in his hand"--there was aim at niceness and variety and hospitable cheer.

The Black Book of a royal household which Warner quotes in his "Antiquitates Culinarie"[228-4]* is evidence of this:

"Domus Regis Hardeknoute may be called a fader noreshoure of familiaritie, which used for his own table, never to be served with ony like metes of one meale in another, and that chaunge and diversitie was dayly in greate habundance, and that same after to be ministred to his alms-dishe, he caused cunyng cooks in curiositie; also, he was the furst that began four meales stablyshed in oon day, oprly to be holden for worshuppfull and honest peopull resorting to his courte; and no more melis, nor brekefast, nor chambyr, but for his children in householde; for which four melys he ordered four marshalls, to kepe the honor of his halle in recevyng and dyrecting strangers, as well as of his householdemen in theyre fitting, and for services and ther precepts to be obeyd in. And for the halle, with all diligence of officers thereto assigned from his furst inception, tyll the day of his dethe, his house stode after one unyformitie."

Of Hardicanute, "it hath," says Holinshed, "beene commonlie told, that Englishmen learned of him their excessive gourmandizing and unmeasurable filling of their panches with meates and drinkes, whereby they forgat the vertuous use of sobrietie, so much necessarie to all estates and degrees, so profitable for all commonwealthes, and so commendable both in the sight of God, and all good men."

Not only to the Danes, but also to the later conquerors, the Normans, the old chronicler attributes corruption of early English frugality and simplicity. "The Normans, misliking the gormandise of Canutus, ordeined after their arrivall that no table should be covered above once in the day. . . . But in the end, either waxing wearie of their owne frugalitie or suffering the cockle of old custome to overgrow the good corne of their new constitution, they fell to such libertie that in often feeding they surmounted Canutus surnamed the hardie. . . . They brought in also the custome of long and statelie sitting at meat."

A fellow-Londoner with Holinshed, John Stow, says of the reign of William Rufus, the second Norman king of England, "The courtiers devoured the substance of the husbandmen, their tenants."

And Stow's "Annales" still further tell of a banquet served in far-off Italy to the duke of Clarence, son of Edward III., when, some three hundred years after the Norman settlement, the lad Leonell went to marry Violentis, daughter of the duke of Milan. It should not be forgotten that in the reign of Edward II. of England, grandfather of the duke, proclamation had been issued against the "outrageous and excessive multitude of meats and dishes" served by the nobles in their castles, as well by "persons of inferior rank imitating their example, beyond what their station required and their circumstances could afford."

"At the comming of Leonell," says Stow, "such aboundance of treasure was in most bounteous maner spent, in making most sumptuous feasts, setting forth stately fightes, and honouring with rare gifts above two hundred Englishmen, which accompanied his [the duke of Milan's] son-in-law, as it seemed to surpasse the greatnesse of most wealthy Princes; for in the banquet whereat Francis Petrarch was present, amongst the chiefest guestes, there were above thirtie courses of service at the table, and betwixt every course, as many presents of wonderous price intermixed, all which John Galeasius, chiefe of the choice youth, bringing to the table, did offer to Leonell. . . And such was the sumptuousnesse of that banquet, that the meats which were brought from the table, would sufficiently have served ten thousand men."

The first cook-book we have in our ample English tongue is of date about 1390. Its forme, says the preface to the table of contents, this "forme of cury [cookery] was compiled of the chef maistes cokes of kyng Richard the Secunde kyng of nglond aftir the conquest; the which was accounted the best and ryallest vyand [nice eater] of alle csten ynges [Christian kings]; and it was compiled by assent and avysement of maisters and [of] phisik and of philosophie that dwellid in his court. First it techith a man for to make commune pottages and commune meetis for howshold, as they shold be made, craftly and holsomly. Aftirward it techith for to make curious potages, and meetes, and sotiltees, for alle maner of states, bothe hye and lowe. And the techyng of the forme of making of potages, and of meetes, bothe of flesh, and of fissh, buth [are] y sette here by noumbre and by ordre. Sso this little table here fewyng [following] wole teche a man with oute taryyng, to fynde what meete that hym lust for to have."

The "potages" and "meetis" and "sotiltees" it techith a man for to make would be hardly more endurable to the modern stomach than some old Greek and Roman seasonings we have referred to. There is no essential difference between these and the directions of a rival cook-book written some forty or fifty years later and divided into three parts--Kalendare de Potages dyvers, Kalendare de Leche Metys, Dyverse bake metis. Or of another compiled about 1450. Let us see how they would make a meat.

"Stwed Beeff. Take faire Ribbes of ffresh beef, And (if thou wilt) roste hit til hit be nygh ynowe; then put hit in a faire possenet; caste therto parcely and oynons mynced, reysons of corauns, powder peper, canel, clowes, saundres, safferon, and salt; then caste thereto wyn and a litull vynegre; sette a lyd on the potte, and lete hit boile sokingly on a faire charcole til hit be ynogh; then lay the fflessh, in disshes, and the sirippe thereuppon, And serve it forth."

And for sweet apple fritters:

"Freetours. Take yolkes of egges, drawe hem thorgh a streynour, caste thereto faire floure, berme and ale; stere it togidre till hit be thik. Take pared appelles, cut hem thyn like obleies [wafers of the eucharist], ley hem in the batur; then put hem into a ffrying pan" and fry hem in faire grece or buttur til thei ben browne yelowe; then put hem in disshes; and strawe Sugur on hem ynogh, And serve hem forthe."

Still other cook-books followed--the men of that day served hem forthe among which we notice "A noble Boke off Cookry ffor a prynce houssolde or eny other estately houssolde," ascribed to about the year 1465.

To the monasteries the art of cooking is doubtless much indebted, just as even at the present day is the art of making liqueurs. Their vast wealth, the leisure of the in-dwellers, and the gross sensualism and materialism of the time they were at their height would naturally lead to care for the table and its viands. Within their thick stone walls, which the religious devotion of the populace had reared, the master of the kitchen, magister coquine or magnus coquus, was not the man of least importance. Some old author whose name andbook do not come promptly to memory refers to the disinclination of plump capons, or round-breasted duck, to meet ecclesiastical eyes--a facetiousness repeated in our day when the Uncle Remuses of Dixie say they see yellow-legged chickens run and hide if a preacher drives up to supper.

Moreover, the monasteries were the inns of that day where travellers put up, and in many instances were served free no price, that is, was put upon their entertainment, the abbot, or the establishment, receiving whatever gift the one sheltered and fed felt able or moved to pay.

Contemporary accounts of, or references to, the cooking and feasting in religious houses are many--those of the Vision of Long Will concerning Piers the Plowman, those of "Dan Chaucer, the first warbler," of Alexander Barclay, and Skelton, great satirist of times of Henry VIII., and of other authors not so well remembered. Now and then a racy anecdote has come down like that which Thomas Fuller saves from lip tradition in his "History of Abbeys in England." It happened, says Worthy Fuller, that Harry VIII., "hunting in Windsor Forest, either casually lost, or (more probable) wilfully losing himself, struck down about dinner-time to the abbey of Reading; where, disguising himself (much for delight, more for discovery, to see unseen), he was invited to the abbot's table, and passed for one of the king's guard, a place to which the proportion of his person might properly entitle him. A sirloin of beef was set before him (so knighted saith tradition, by this King Henry), on which the king laid on lustily, not disgracing one of that place for whom he was mistaken.

"`Well fare thy heart!' quoth the abbot; `and here in a cup of sack I remember the health of his grace your master. I would give an hundred pounds on the condition I could feed so heartily on beef as you do. Alas! my weak and squeazy stomach will badly digest the wing of a small rabbit or chicken.'

"The king pleasantly pledged him, and, heartily thanking him for his good cheer, after dinner departed as undiscovered as he came thither.

"Some weeks after, the abbot was sent for by a pursuivant, brought up to London, clapped in the Tower, kept close prisoner, fed for a short time with bread and water; yet not so empty his body of food, as his mind was filled with fears, creating many suspicions to himself when and how he had incurred the king's displeasure. At last a sirloin of beef was set before him, on which the abbot fed as the farmer of his grange, and verified the proverb, that `Two hungry meals make the third a glutton.'

"In springs King Henry out of a private lobby, where he had placed himself, the invisible spectator of the abbot's behavior. `My lord,' quoth the king, `presently deposit your hundred pounds in gold, or else no going hence all the days of your life. I have been your physician to cure you of your squeazy stomach; and here, as I deserve, I demand my fee for the same!'

"The abbot down with his dust; and, glad he had escaped so, returned to Reading, as somewhat lighter in purse, so much more merrier in heart than when he came thence."

The "squeazy" abbot stood alone in proclamation of his disorder. Archbishop Cranmer, according to John Leland, king's antiquary to Henry VIII., found it necessary in 1541 to regulate the expenses of the tables of bishops and clergy by a constitution--an instrument which throws much light on the then conditions, and which ran as follows:

"In the yeare of our Lord MDXLI it was agreed and condescended upon, as wel by the common consent of both tharchbishops and most part of the bishops within this realme of Englande, as also of divers grave men at that tyme, both deanes and archdeacons, the fare at their tables to be thus moderated.

"First, that tharchbishop should never exceede six divers kindes of fleshe, or six of fishe, on the fishe days; the bishop not to exceede five, the deane and archdeacon not above four, and al other under that degree not above three; provided also that tharchbishop myght have of second dishes four, the bishop three; and al others under the degree of a bishop but two. As custard, tart, fritter, cheese or apples, peares, or two of other kindes of fruites. Provided also, that if any of the inferior degree dyd receave at their table, any archbishop, bishop, deane, or archdeacon, or any of the laitie of lyke degree, viz. duke, marques, earle, viscount, baron, lorde, knyght, they myght have such provision as were mete and requisite for their degrees. Provided alway that no rate was limited in the receavying of any ambassadour. It was also provided that of the greater fyshes or fowles, there should be but one in a dishe, as crane, swan, turkey cocke, hadocke, pyke, tench; and of lesse sortes but two, viz. capons two, pheasantes two, conies two, and woodcockes two. Of lesse sortes, as of patriches, the archbishop three, the bishop and other degrees under hym two. Of blackburdes, the archbishop six, the bishop four, the other degrees three. Of larkes and snytes (snipes) and of that sort but twelve. It was also provided, that whatsoever is spared by the cutting of, of the olde superfluitie, shoulde yet be provided and spent in playne meates for the relievyng of the poore. Memorandum, that this order was kept for two or three monethes, tyll by the disusyng of certaine wylful persons it came to the olde excesse."

Still one more tale bearing upon a member of the clergy who would set out more "blackburdes" than "tharchbishop" is told by Holinshed. It has within it somewhat of the flavor of the odium theologicum, but an added interest also, since it turns upon a dish esteemed in Italy since the time of the imperial Romans--peacock, often served even nowadays encased in its most wonderful plumage. The Pope Julius III., whose luxurious entertainment and comport shocked the proprieties even of that day, and who died in Rome while the chronicler was busy in London, is the chief actor.

"At an other time," writes Holinshed, "he sitting at dinner, pointing to a peacocke upon his table, which he had not touched; Keepe (said he) this cold peacocke for me against supper, and let me sup in the garden, for I shall have ghests. So when supper came, and amongst other hot peacockes, he saw not his cold peacocke brought to his table; the pope after his wonted manner, most horriblie blaspheming God, fell into an extreame rage, &c. Whereupon one of his cardinals sitting by, desired him saieng: Let not your holinesse, I praie you, be so mooved with a matter of so small weight. Then this Julius the pope answeringe againe: What (saith he) if God was so angrie for one apple, that he cast our first parents out of paradise for the same, whie maie not I being his vicar, be angrie then for a peacocke, sithens a peacocke is a greater matter than an apple."

In England at this time controlling the laity were sumptuary laws, habits of living resulting from those laws, and great inequalities in the distribution of wealth. On these points Holinshed again brings us light:

"In number of dishes and change of meat," he writes, "the nobilitie of England (whose cookes are for the most part musicall-headed Frenchmen and strangers) do most exceed, sith there is no daie in maner that passeth over their heads, wherein they have not onelie beefe, mutton, veale, lambe, kid, porke, conie, capon, pig, or so manie of these as the season yeeldeth; but also some portion of the red or fallow deere, beside great varietie of fish and wild foule, and thereto sundrie other delicates wherein the sweet hand of the seasoning Portingale is not wanting. so that for a man to dine with one of them, and to taste of everie dish that standeth before him. . . is rather to yeeld unto a conspiracie with a great deale of meat for the speedie suppression of naturall health, then the use of a necessarie meane to satisfie himselfe with a competent repast, to susteine his bodie withall. But as this large feeding is not seene in their gests, no more is it in their owne persons, for sith they have dailie much resort unto their tables. . . and thereto reteine great numbers of servants, it is verie requisit and expedient for them to be somewhat plentifull in this behalfe.

"The chiefe part likewise of their dailie provision is brought before them. . . and placed on their tables, whereof when they have taken what it pleaseth them, the rest is reserved and afterwards sent downe to their serving men and waiters, who feed thereon in like sort with convenient moderation, their reversion also being bestowed upon the poore, which lie readie at their gates in great numbers to receive the same.

"The gentlemen and merchants keepe much about one rate, and each of them contenteth himselfe with foure, five or six dishes, when they have but small resort, or peradventure with one, or two, or three at the most, when they have no strangers to accompanie them at their tables. And yet their servants have their ordinarie diet assigned, beside such as is left at their masters, boordes, and not appointed to be brought thither the second time, which neverthelesse is often seene generallie in venison, lambe, or some especiall dish, whereon the merchant man himselfe liketh to feed when it is cold."

"At such times as the merchants doo make their ordinarie or voluntarie feasts, it is a world to see what great provision is made of all maner of delicat meats, from everie quarter of the countrie. . . . They will seldome regard anie thing that the butcher usuallie killeth, but reject the same as not worthie to come in place. In such cases all gelisses of all coleurs mixed with a varitie in the representation of sundrie floures, herbs, trees, formes of beasts, fish, foules and fruits, and there unto marchpaine wrought with no small curiositie, tarts of diverse hewes and sundrie denominations, conserves of old fruits foren and homebred, suckets, codinacs, marmilats, marchpaine, sugerbread, gingerbread, florentines, wild foule, venison of all sorts, and sundrie outlandish confections altogither seasoned with sugar. . . doo generalie beare the swaie, beside infinit devises of our owne not possible for me to remember. Of the potato and such venerous roots as are brought out of Spaine, Portingale, and the Indies to furnish our bankets, I speake not. "

"The artificer and husbandman make greatest accompt of such meat as they may soonest come by, and have it quickliest readie. . . . Their food also consisteth principallie in beefe and such meat as the butcher selleth, that is to saie, mutton, veale, lambe, porke, etc.,. . . beside souse, brawne, bacon, fruit, pies of fruit, foules of sundrie sorts, cheese, butter, eggs, etc. . . . To conclude, both the artificer and the husbandman are sufficientlie liberall and verie friendlie at their tables, and when they meet they are so merie without malice and plaine, without inward Italian or French craft and subtiltie, that it would doo a man good to be in companie among them.

"With us the nobilitie, gentrie and students doo ordinarilie go to dinner at eleven before noone, and to supper at five, or betweene five and six at afternoone. The merchants dine and sup seldome before twelve at noone, and six at night, especiallie in London. The husbandmen dine also at high noone as they call it, and sup at seven or eight. . . . As for the poorest sort they generallie dine and sup when they may, so that to talke of their order of repast it were but a needlesse matter."

"The bread through out the land," continues Holinshed, "is made of such graine as the soil yeeldeth, neverthelesse the gentilitie commonlie provide themselves sufficientlie of wheat for their owne tables, whilst their houshold and poore neighbours in some shires are inforced to content themselves with rie, or baricie, yea and in time of dearth manie with bread made either of beans, or peason, or otes, or of altogether and some acornes among. . . . There be much more ground eared now almost in everie place than hath beene of late yeares, yet such a price of corne continueth in each towne and market without any just cause (except it be that landlords doo get licenses to carie corne out of the land onelie to keepe up the prices for their owne private gaines and ruine of the commonwealth), that the artificer and poore laboring man is not able to reach unto it, but is driven to content himselfe with horsse corne I mean beanes, peason, otes, tarres, and lintels. "

Books had been written for women and their tasks within--the "Babees Booke," Tusser's [250-5]* "Hundrethe Good Pointes of Huswifry," "The Good Husive's Handmaid"--the last two in the sixteenth century; these and others of their kidney. A woman who thought, spoke, and wrote in several tongues was greatly filling the throne of England in those later times.

Cook-and receipt-books in the following century, that is in the seventeenth, continued to discover women, and to realize moreover that to them division of labor had delegated the household and its businesses. There were "Jewels" and "Closets of Delights" before we find an odd little volume putting out in 1655 a second edition. It shows upon its title-page the survival from earlier conditions of the confusion of duties of physician and cook--a fact made apparent in the preface copied in the foregoing "forme of cury" of King Richard--and perhaps intimates the housewife should perform the services of both. It makes, as well, a distinct appeal to women as readers and users of books. Again it evidences the growth of the Commons. In full it introduces itself in this wise:

"The Ladies Cabinet enlarged and opened: containing Many Rare Secrets and Rich Ornaments, of several kindes, and different uses. Comprized under three general Heads, viz. of 1 Preserving, Conserving, Candying, etc. 2 Physick and Chirurgery. 3 Cooking and Housewifery. Whereunto is added Sundry Experiments and choice Extractions of Waters, Oyls, etc. Collected and practised by the late Right Honorable and Learned Chymist, the Lord Ruthuen."

The preface, after an inscription "To the Industrious improvers of Nature by Art; especially the vertuous Ladies and gentlewomen of the Land," begins:

"Courteous Ladies, etc. The first Edition of this--(cal it what you please) having received a kind entertainment from your Ladiships hands, for reasons best known to yourselves, notwithstanding the disorderly and confused jumbling together of things of different kinds, hath made me (who am not a little concerned therein) to bethink myself of some way, how to encourage and requite your Ladiships Pains and Patience (vertues, indeed, of absolute necessity in such brave employments; there being nothing excellent that is not withal difficult) in the profitable spending of your vacant minutes." This labored and high-flying mode of address continues to the preface's end. . . ."I shall thus leave you at liberty as Lovers in Gardens, to follow your own fancies. Take what you like, and delight in your choice, and leave what you list to him, whose labour is not lost if anything please."

In turning the leaves of the book one comes upon such naive discourse as this:

"To make the face white and fair.

"Wash thy face with Rosemary boiled in white wine, and thou shalt be fair; then take Erigan and stamp it, and take the juyce thereof, and put it all together and wash thy face therewith. Proved."

It was undoubtedly the success of "The Ladies Cabinet" and its cousins german that led to the publication of a fourth edition in 1658 of another compilation, which, according to the preface, was to go "like the good Samaritane giving comfort to all it met." The title was "The Queens Closet opened: Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chyrurgery, Preserving, Candying, and Cookery, As they were presented unto the Queen By the most Experienced Persons of our times. . . . Transscribed from the true Copies of her Majesties own Receipt Books, by W. M. one of her late Servants." It is curious to recall that this book was published during the Cromwell Protectorate--1658 is the year of the death of Oliver--and that the queen alluded to in the title--whose portrait, engraved by the elder William Faithorne, forms the frontispiece--was Henrietta Maria, widow of Charles I., and at that time an exile in France.

During this century, which saw such publications as Rose's "School for the Officers of the Mouth," and "Nature Unembowelled," a woman, Hannah Wolley, appears as author of "The Cook's Guide." All such compilations have enduring human value, but we actually gain quite as much of this oldest of arts from such records as those the indefatigable Pepys left in his Diary. At that time men of our race did not disdain a knowledge of cookery. Izaak Walton, "an excellent angler, and now with God," dresses chub and trout in his meadow-sweet pages. Even Thomas Fuller, amid his solacing and delightful "Worthies," thinks of the housewife, and gives a receipt for metheglin.

And a hundred years later Dr. Johnson's friend, the Rev. Richard Warner, in his "Personal Recollections," did not hesitate to expand upon what he thought the origin of mince pies. Warner's Johnsonian weight in telling his fantasy recalls Goldsmith's quip about the Doctor's little fish talking like whales, and also Johnson's criticism upon his own "too big words and too many of them."

Warner wrote, "In the early ages of our country, when its present widely spread internal trade and retail business were yet in their infancy, and none of the modern facilities were afforded to the cook to supply herself, on the spur of the moment". . . it was the practice of all prudent housewives, to lay in, at the conclusion of every year (from some contiguous periodical fair), a stock sufficient for the ensuing annual consumption, of. . . every sweet composition for the table such as raisins, currants, citrons, and `spices of the best.'

"The ample cupboard. . . within the wainscot of the dining parlour itself . . . formed the safe depository of these precious stores.

"`When merry Christmas-tide came round'. . . the goodly litter of the cupboard, thus various in kind and aspect, was carefully swept into one common receptacle; the mingled mass enveloped in pastry and enclosed within the duly heated oven, from whence. . . perfect in form, colour, odour, flavour and temperament, it smoked, the glory of the hospitable Christmas board, hailed from every quarter by the honourable and imperishable denomination of the Mince-Pye."

In the eighteenth century women themselves, following Hannah Wolley, began cook-book compiling. So great was their success that we find Mrs. Elizabeth Moxon's "English Housewifry" going into its ninth edition in the London market of 1764. All through history there have been surprises coming to prejudiced minds out of the despised and Nazarene. It was so about this matter of cook-books--small in itself, great in its far-reaching results to the health and development of the human race.

Women had been taught the alphabet. But the dogmatism of Dr. Johnson voiced the judgment of many of our forebears: a dominant power is always hard in its estimate of the capacities it controls. "Women can spin very well," said the great Cham, "but they can not make a good book of cookery." He was talking to "the swan of Lichfield," little Anna Seward, when he said this, and also to a London publisher. The book they were speaking of had been put forth by the now famous Mrs. Hannah Glasse, said to be the wife of a London attorney.

The doctor--possibly with an eye to business, a publisher being present--was describing a volume he had in mind to make, "a book upon philosophical principles," "a better book of cookery than has ever yet been written." "Then," wisely said the dogmatic doctor, "as you can not make bad meat good, I would tell what is the best butcher's meat, the best beef, the best pieces; how to choose young fowls; the proper seasons of different vegetables; and then how to roast and boil and compound." This was the plan of a poet, essayist, lexicographer, and the leading man of letters of his day. His cookbook was never written.

But good Mrs. Glasse had also with large spirit aimed at teaching the ignorant, possibly those of a kind least often thought of by instructors in her art. She had, forsooth, caught her hare outside her book, even if she never found him in its page. "If I have not wrote in the high polite style," she says, with a heart helpful toward the misunderstood and oppressed, and possibly with the pages of some pretentious chef in mind, "I hope I shall be forgiven; for my intention is to instruct the lower sort, and therefore must treat them in their own way. For example, when I bid them lard a fowl, if I should bid them lard with large lardoons, they would not know what I meant; but when I say they must lard with little pieces of bacon, they know what I mean. So in many other things in Cookery the great cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves, that the poor girls are at a loss to know what they mean."

Mrs. Glasse's book was published in 1747--while Dr. Johnson had still thirty-seven years in which to "boast of the niceness of his palate," and spill his food upon his waistcoat. "Whenever," says Macaulay, "he was so fortunate as to have near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat pie made with rancid butter, he gorged himelf with such violence that his veins swelled and the moisture broke out on his forehead. "But within forty-eight years of the December his poor body was borne from the house behind Fleet Street to its resting-place in Westminster Abbey, a thin volume, "The Frugal Housewife," written by our American Lydia Maria Child, had passed to its ninth London edition, in that day sales being more often than in our own a testimony of merit. This prevailing of justice over prejudice is "too good for any but very honest people," as Izaak Walton said of roast pike. Dogmatism is always eating its own words.

Since the master in literature, Dr. Johnson, planned his cook-book many cooking men have dipped ink in behalf of instruction in their art. Such names as Farley, Carême, and Soyer have been written, if not in marble or bronze, at least in sugar of the last caramel degree--unappreciated excellencies mainly because of the inattention of the pubic to what nourishes it, and lack of the knowledge that the one who introduces an inexpensive, palatable, and digestible dish benefits his fellow-men.

The names of these club cooks and royal cooks are not so often referred to as that of the large and human-hearted Mrs. Glasse. A key to their impulse toward book-making must, however, have been that offered by Master Farley, chief cook at the London Tavern, who wrote in 1791, a hundred and fourteen years ago: "Cookery, like every other Art, has been moving forward to perfection by slow Degrees. . . . And although there are so many Books of this Kind already published, that one would hardly think there could be Occasion for another, yet we flatter ourselves, that the Readers of this Work will find, from a candid Perusal, and an impartial Comparison, that our Pretensions to the Favour of the Public are not ill-founded."

Such considerations as those of Master Farley seem to lead to the present great output. But nowadays our social conditions and our intricate and involved household arrangements demand a specialization of duties. The average old cook-book has become insufficient. It has evolved into household-directing as well as cook-directing books, comprehending the whole subject of esoteric economies. This is a curious enlargement; and one cause, and result, of it is that the men and women of our domestic corps are better trained, better equipped with a logical, systematized, scientific knowledge, that they are in a degree specialists--in a measure as the engineer of an ocean greyhound is a specialist, or the professor of mathematics, or the writer of novels is a specialist. And specialists should have the dignity of special treatment. In this movement, it is to be hoped, is the wiping out of the social stigma under which domestic service has so long lain in our country, and a beginning of the independence of the domestic laborer--that he or she shall possess himself or herself equally with others--as other free-born people possess themselves, that is.

And closely allied with this specialization another notable thing has come about. Science with its microscope has finally taught what religion with its manifold precepts of humility and humanity has failed for centuries to accomplish, thus evidencing that true science and true religion reach one and the same end. There are no menial duties, science clearly enunciates: the so-called drudgery is often the most important of work, especially when the worker brings to his task a large knowledge of its worth in preserving and sweetening human life, and perfectness as the sole and satisfactory aim. Only the careless, thriftless workers, the inefficient and possessed with no zeal for perfection of execution, only these are the menials according to the genuine teachings of our day--and the ignorant, unlifted worker's work is menial (using the word again in its modern English and not its old Norman-French usage) whatever his employment.

In verse this was said long ago, as the imagination is always forestalling practical knowledge, and George Herbert, of the seventeenth century, foreran our science in his "Elixir:"

"All may of thee partake:
    Nothing can be so mean,
Which with this tincture for thy sake
    Will not grow bright and clean.

"A servant with this clause
    Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
    Makes that and th' action fine.

"This is the famous stone
    That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
    Cannot for less be told."

Present-day, up-to-date books on housekeeping stand for the fact that in our households, whatever the estimates of the past and of other social conditions, all work is dignified--none is menial. For besides intelligent knowledge and execution, what in reality, they ask, gives dignity to labor? Weight and importance of that particular task to our fellow-beings? What then shall we say of the duties of cook? of housemaid? of chambermaid? of the handy man, or of the modest maid of all work? For upon the efficient performance of the supposedly humblest domestic servitor depends each life of the family. Such interdependence brings the employed very close to the employer, and no bond could knit the varied elements of a household more closely, none should knit it more humanly.

The human, then, are the first of the relations that exist between employer and employee, that "God hath made of one blood all nations of the earth." It is a truth not often enough in the minds of the parties to a domestic-service compact. And besides this gospel of Paul are two catch-phrases, not so illuminated but equally humane, which sprang from the ameliorating spirit of the last century--"Put yourself in his place," and "Everybody is as good as I." These form the best bed-rock for all relations between master and servant. There is need of emphasizing this point in our books on affairs of the house, for a majority of our notably rich are new to riches and new to knowledge, and as employers have not learned the limitation of every child of indulgence and also polite manners in early life.

It is after all a difference of environment that makes the difference between mistress and maid, between master and man. The human being is as plastic as clay--is clay in the hands of circumstance. If his support of wife and children depended upon obsequiousness of bearing, the master might, like the butler, approximate Uriah Heep. If the mistress's love of delicacy and color had not been cultivated by association with taste from childhood, her finery might be as vulgar as the maid's which provokes her satire. It is after all a question of surroundings and education. And in this country, where Aladdin-fortunes spring into being by the rubbing of a lamp--where families of, for example, many centuries of the downtrodden life of European peasant jump from direst poverty to untold wealth--environment has often no opportunity to form the folk of gentle breeding. Many instances are not lacking where those who wait are more gently bred than those who are waited upon.

In their larger discourse, then, up-to-date household books stand for the very essence of democracy and human-heartedness--which is also the very essence of aristocracy. After the old manner which Master Farley described, our women seem to have given their books to the public with the faith that they contain much other books have not touched--to stand for an absolutely equable humanity, for kindness and enduring courtesy between those who employ and those who are employed, the poor rich and the rich poor, the householders and the houseworkers--to state the relations between master and man and mistress and maid more explicitly than they have before been stated, and thus to help toward a more perfect organization of the forces that carry on our households--to direct with scientific and economic prevision the food of the house members; to emphasize in all departments of the house thorough-going sanitation and scientific cleanliness.

Of questions of the household--of housekeeping and home-making--our American women have been supposed somewhat careless. Possibly this judgment over the sea has been builded upon our women's vivacity, and a subtle intellectual force they possess, and also from their interest in affairs at large, and again from their careful and cleanly attention to their person--"they keep their teeth too clean," says a much-read French author. Noting such characteristics, foreigners have jumped to the conclusion that American women are not skilled in works within doors. In almost every European country this is common report. "We german women are such devoted housekeepers," said the wife of an eminent Deutscher, "and you American women know so little about such things!" "Bless your heart!" I exclaimed--or if not just that then its German equivalent--thinking of the perfectly kept homes from the rocks and pines of Maine to the California surf; "you German women with your little haushaltungen, heating your rooms with porcelain stoves, and your frequent reversion in meals to the simplicity of wurst and beer, have no conception of the size and complexity of American households and the executive capabilities necessary to keep them in orderly work. Yours is mere doll's housekeeping--no furnaces, no hot water, no electricity, no elevators, no telephone, and no elaborate menus."

Our American women are model housekeepers and home-makers, as thousands of homes testify, but the interests of the mistresses of these houses are broader, their lives are commonly more projected into the outer world of organized philanthropy and art than women's lives abroad, and the apparent nonintrusion of domestic affairs leads foreigners to misinterpret their interest and their zeal. It is the consummate executive who can set aside most personal cares and take on others efficiently. Moreover, it is not here as where a learned professor declared: "Die erste Tugend eines Weibes ist die Sparsamkeit."

To have a home in which daily duties move without noise and as like a clock as its human machinery will permit, and to have a table of simplicity and excellence, is worth a pleasure-giving ambition and a womanly ambition. It is to bring, in current critical phrase, three-fourths of the comfort of life to those whose lives are joined to the mistress of such a household--the loaf-giver who spends her brains for each ordered day and meal. Moreover, and greatest of all, to plan and carry on so excellent an establishment is far-reaching upon all men. It is the very essence of morality--is duty--i. e., service--and law.

The French aver that men of the larger capacity have for food a particularly keen enjoyment. Possibly this holds good for Frenchmen--for the author of Monte Cristo, or for a Brillat-Savarin, of whose taste the following story is told: "Halting one day at Sens, when on his way to Lyons, Savarin sent, according to his invariable custom, for the cook, and asked what he could have for dinner. `Little enough,' was the reply. `But let us see,' retorted Savarin; `let us go into the kitchen and talk the matter over.' There he found four turkeys roasting. `Why!' exclaimed he, `you told me you had nothing in the house! let me have one of those turkeys.' `Impossible!' said the cook; they are all bespoken by a gentleman up-stairs.' `He must have a large party to dine with him, then?' `No; he dines by himself.' `Indeed!' said the gastronome; `I should like much to be acquainted with the man who orders four turkeys for his own eating.' The cook was sure the gentleman would be glad of his acquaintance, and Savarin, on going to pay his respects to the stranger, found him to be no other than his own son. `What! you rascal! four turkeys all to yourself!' `Yes, sir,' said Savarin, junior; `you know that when we have a turkey at home you always reserve for yourself the pope's nose; I was resolved to regale myself for once in my life; and here I am, ready to begin, although I did not expect the honour of your company.'"

The French may say truly of the famous "high-priest of gastronomy." And a story which has lately appeared in Germany tells of a sensitive palate in Goethe: "At a small party at the court of Weimar, the Marshal asked permission to submit a nameless sample of wine. Accordingly, a red wine was circulated, tasted, and much commended. Several of the company pronounced it Burgundy, but could not agree as to the special vintage or the year. Goethe alone tasted and tasted again, shook his head, and, with a meditative air, set his glass on the table. `Your Excellency appears to be of a different opinion,' said the court marshal. `May I ask what name you give to the wine?' `The wine,' said the poet, `is quite unknown to me; but I do not think it is a Burgundy. I should rather consider it a good Jena wine that has been kept for some while in a Madeira cask.' `And so, in fact, it is,' said the court marshal. For a more discriminating palate, one must go to the story of the rival wine-tasters in `Don Quixote,' who from a single glass detected the key and leather thong in a cask of wine."

But that great capacity means also discriminating palate could hardly be true for Americans of the old stock and simple life. Judge Usher, Secretary of Interior in Lincoln's Cabinet at the time of the President's death, said that he had never heard Abraham Lincoln refer to his food in any way whatever.

From a consideration of women's cook-books springs another suggestion. Heaped upon one's table, the open pages and appetiteful illustrations put one to thinking that if women of intelligence, and of leisure except for burdens they assume under so-called charity or a faddish impulse, were to take each some department of the household, and give time and effort to gaining a complete knowledge of that department--a knowledge of its evolution and history, of its scientific and hygienic bearings, of its gastronomic values if it touched upon the table--there would be great gain to the world at large and to their friends. For instance, if a woman skilled in domestic science and the domestic arts were to take some fruit, or some vegetable, or cereal, or meat, and develop to the utmost what an old author-cook calls, after those cook-oracles of ancient Rome, the "Apician mysteries" of the dish, her name would deserve to go down to posterity with something of the odor--or flavor--of sanctity. Hundreds of saints in the calendar never did anything half so meritorious and worthy of felicitous recognition from their fellowmen.

Take, for example, the democratic cabbage and its cousins german, and their treatment in the average cuisine. What might not such an investigation show this Monsieur Chou or Herr Kohl and his relations capable of?--the cabbage itself, the Scotch kale, the Jersey cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, and broccoli, and kohl-rabi, and cabbage palms, and still other species! Looked at in their evolution, and the part they have played in human history as far back as in old Persia and the Anabasis of the Greeks, and so late as the famine times of Ireland, these succulent and nutritious vegetables would be most interesting. And, even if chemically their elements vary, the fact that all the family are blessed with a large percentage of nitrogen might be shown to have increased their usefulness long before chemists analyzed their tissues and told us why men who could not buy meat so carefully cultivated the foody leaves. Under such sane and beneficent impulses every well-directed household would become an experiment station for the study of human food--not the extravagant and rare after the test and search of imperial Heliogabalus, but in the best modern, scientific, economic, gastronomic, and democratic manner.

Since making this foregoing suggestion I find this point similarly touched by the man who dissertated on roast pig. "It is a desideratum," says Lamb, "in works that treat de re culinaria, that we have no rationale of sauces, or theory of mixed flavours: as to show why cabbage is reprehensible with roast beef, laudable with bacon; why the haunch of mutton seeks the alliance of currant jelly, the shoulder civilly declineth it; why loin of veal (a pretty problem), being itself unctious, seeketh the adventitious lubricitv of melted butter--and why the same part in pork, not more oleaginous, abhorreth from it; why the French bean sympathizes with the flesh of deer; why salt fish points to parsnips. . . . We are as yet but in the empirical stage of cookery. We feed ignorantly, and want to be able to give a reason of the relish that is in us."

In speaking of modern household books one cannot have done without adding still one word more about the use of the word "servant" as these books seem to speak of it. Owing to an attempted Europeanizing of our ideas, and also to the fact that many of our domestics are of foreign birth and habits of thought--or of the lowly, velvet-voiced, unassertive suavity of the most loyal negro--the term has gradually crept to a quasi acceptance in this country. It is a word not infrequently obnoxious to Americans--employers--of the old stock, and trained in the spirit which wrote the Declaration of Independence and fought its sequent War. "From the time of the Revolution," says Miss Salmon in her "Domestic Service," "until about 1850 the word, servant, does not seem to have been generally applied in either section [north or south] to white persons of American birth."

The term indicates social conditions which no longer exist and represents ideas which no longer have real life--we have but to consider how the radical Defoe published, in 1724, "The great Law of Subordination consider'd; or, the Insolence and Unsufferable Behaviour of Servants in England duly enquir'd into," to be convinced of our vast advance in human sympathy--and a revival of our American spirit toward the word would be a wholesome course. In the mouths of many who use it to excess--those mainly at fault are innocently imitative, unthinking, or pretentious women--it sounds ungracious, if not vulgar, and distinctly untrue to those who made the country for us and desirable for us to live in; and untrue also to the best social feeling of to-day. It is still for a genuine American rather hard to imagine a person such as the word "servant" connotes--a lackey, a receiver of tips of any sort--with an election ballot in hand and voting thinkingly, knowingly, intelligently for the guidance of our great government. It would not have been so difficult for the old douloi of Athens to vote upon the Pnyx as for such a man to vote aright for us. And not infrequently, in the ups and downs of speculation and the mushroom growth and life of fortunes among us, the "servant," to use the old biblical phrase, is sometimes greater in moral, intellectual, and social graces than his "lord." The term belongs to times, and the temperamental condition of times when traces of slavery were common, and when employers believed, and acted upon the faith, that they hired not a person's labor but the person himself--or herself--who was subject to a sort of ownership and control.

Let us remand the word to the days of Dean Swift and such conditions as the tremendous satire of his "Directions to Servants" exhibited, in which except perhaps in Swift's great heart--there was neither the humanity of our times, nor the courtesy of our times, nor the sure knowledge of our times--which endeavor to create, and, in truth, are gradually making trained and skilful workers in every department, and demand in return for service with perfectness as its aim, independence of the person, dignified treatment and genuine respect from the employer.

All these things the women's household and cook-books will be, nay, are, gradually teaching, and that which Charles Carter, "lately cook to his Grace the Duke of Argyle," wrote in 1730 may still hold good: "'Twill be very easy," said Master Carter, "for an ordinary Cook when he is well-instructed in the most Elegant Parts of his Profession to lower his Hand at any time; and he that can excellently perform in a Courtly and Grand Manner, will never be at a Loss in any other." When this future knowledge and adjustment come we shall be free from the tendencies which Mistress Glasse, after her outspoken manner, describes of her own generation: "So much is the blind folly of this age," cries the good woman, "that they would rather be imposed upon by a French booby than give encouragement to a good English cook."

Economic changes such as we have indicated must in measurable time ensue. The science and the art of conducting a house are now obtaining recognition in our schools. Not long, and the knowledge will be widespread. Its very existence, and the possibility of its diffusion, is a result of the nineteenth century movement for the broadening of women's knowledge and the expansion of their interests and independence--this wedded with the humane conviction that the wisest and fruitfullest use of scientific deduction and skill is in the bettering of human life. Behind and giving potence to these impulses is the fellowship, liberty, and equality of human kind--the great idea of democracy.

Already we have gone back to the wholesomeness of our English forebears' estimate that the physician and cook are inseparable. Further still, we may ultimately retrace our ideas, and from the point of view of economics and sociology declare that with us, as with the old Jews and Greeks, the priest and the cook are one.



Previous Next
KanColl  Return to Books