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Release: Nov. 21, 2000

18th century cooking manuscripts offer holiday meal ideas

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Two 18th century cooking manuscripts recently acquired by the special collections department at the University of Iowa Libraries offer insight on America's culinary history and provide recipe ideas for the holidays.

In 1762, James Doak, a New Englander, perhaps anticipating that year's holidays, recorded a recipe "To Roast Geese & Turkies":

"When you roast a goose, Turkey or fowles of any sort, take care to Singe them with a Piece of white paper and Baste them with a piece of butter; drudge them with a little flour, and then when smoke begins to draw through the fire and they look plump: baste them again and drudge them with a little flour and take them up."

This is one of dozens of handwritten recipes in a 52-page pamphlet entitled "The Art of Cookery," which carries Doak's name and dates around 1762. There are recipes for preparing beef, mutton and lamb, veal, pork, pheasants and partridges, larks, venison, and several sauces and dressings. The methods of preparation include ragouts, fricassees, boiling, broiling, etc., and directions are given for these methods as well. Artichokes, morels, rice and vermicelli, truffles, lemons, and oranges at least are mentioned, and spices are used freely.

David Schoonover, curator of rare books, says it is impossible to know in what capacity Doak worked, but he was obviously knowledgeable about American foods. It is possible that Doak was a cook himself or he may have managed the kitchen for a large private household.

A second untitled manuscript of 33 pages, compiled around 1790, contains 89 recipes for cooking fowl and other meat dishes such as pork, lamb and beef, but also breads and desserts such as gingerbread, custards, mince pie and (sweet) potato pie, florentines, marmalades, preserves, and jellies. There are several recipes for pickling, including ones for cucumbers, oysters, salmon, and peaches. There are also directions for making wines and beverages, such as mead, syllabub, possets, and wines from currants, elderberries, cherries, etc., plus sauces, broth, and puddings, including one for Irish or white potatoes.

Schoonover says the second manuscript, signed by Joseph Forbes, bears no actual date but is thought to be from the 1790s.

"We don't know why Forbes compiled the recipes. Again, he may have been a cook for a private house. He used a good hand-made paper of the time, and he probably bound the manuscript in the plain cover in which it still exists, nearly 250 years later," Schoonover said.

These manuscripts join an important group of handwritten recipe collections donated by Chef Louis Szathmary. The recently acquired manuscripts are earlier than any of the manuscripts Chef Louis collected, Schoonover said.

"The manuscripts broaden the collection of print materials substantially. They provide
insight into the culinary history of America and how tastes have changed and evolved. They give researchers an opportunity to note differences in preparations and food sources," Schoonover said.

Acquisition of the manuscripts was made possible by the Homer L. Calkin Memorial Fund, established by Mary H. Calkin.