Friday, March 26, 2010

How it all started...or a trippy trip down Memory Lane

I remember my first cookbook.  It was called "The Mary Frances Cookbook". 

I got it from my mom when I was very young - perhaps 5? It was an old book back then.  I can't remember if it was my mom's, and maybe her godmother's before that, but all I know is it was published in 1912. Ayup.  1912...It's in pieces now, but I've kept it.  I leafed through it the other day, and thought you might get a kick out of some of the pictures.

This is what all well-dressed little girls wear
when they cook in the kitchen - an apron and a cap.

The plot:  This book is about the adventures of a little girl that loves to cook.  Her mom is making her a "first" cookbook, but she falls sick with an ambiguous illness - it's really never mentioned, but suffice to say mom is bedridden, doesn't do any housework, and gets waited on hand and foot (hrm...could *I* get that ambiguous illness too? just for about 3 days - and oh...the housework and dishes would not pile up during that time, because my family would also come down with an ambiguous illness that would make them do all the cleaning and cooking whilst I was wasting away), so the little girl (aptly named "Mary Frances") gets a few helping hands from the kitchen utensils/pots/pans.

Notice the first recipe is for toast - also notice that the directions do not say "Pop a piece of bread in the toaster with your mom or dad watching" Nooo...instead, your young child can just take a very sharp knife and slice a couple pieces of bread off the loaf,  put the slices in one of those old fashioned toasters and hold it over an open fire until the bread is golden brown (The open fire being a burner on the stove).  They did things differently back in 1912.

Each chapter has a different recipe, and deals with a different adventure - There's "Mary Frances Cooks Breakfast" followed by "The Breakfast Burns Up" (I bet you can guess what happens) then there is "The Tramp", where Mary Frances learns it is never a good idea to open your door to strangers. (although this was a nice tramp).  As with every story, even ones with recipes and talking pots and pans, there has to be a resident witch, and Mary Frances' is in the form of her Aunt Maria:
"Well" said Aunt Maria, "you may turn out of some account, after all.  It's about time to call for a ref-or-ma-tion."
"Yes, ma'am" said Mary Frances, not un-der-stand-ing the big word - "Do you want me to call for it now?"
"Don't be saucy!" snapped the old lady.
Then she set about washing the little girl's hands and face, rubbing so hard it made the tears come, finishing off with the towel until Mary Frances felt her face shine.
"I wonder if she thinks I'm a stove?" she thought.
Meanie!  She comes to rule the roost while Mother "goes away" for a while (remember, she was sick?) but have no fear, Mother returns! Meanwhile, while she is away, Mary Frances learns ALL the recipes in the cookbook her mother gave her - with the help of the "Kitchen People".  There's a Tea Pot, a Coffee Pot, Aunty Rolling Pin, and  a Sauce Pan that speaks in bad rhymes:

"Eggs and toast and tea,
That doesn't mean me.
Coffee is better--
Though not wetter--
For breakfast
Than tea, tea, tea!"
That little rhyme made Coffee Pot cry!  I think Sauce Pan was a bit of a bully.  He ran away when Mary Frances came in.  I don't know why Coffee Pot cried, because Sauce Pan is saying that Coffee is better - why should that make Coffee Pot upset?  I can understand if Tea Pot was bawling, but it looks to me like Sauce Pan was giving Coffee Pot a compliment...maybe Coffee Pot is just a bit tempermental...

There's recipes for all kinds of eggs (boiled, hard boiled, omelettes) and potatoes (boiled, baked, mashed and soup), cakes, puddings, cookies, candy, and toast, and milk toast.  I had no idea what "milk toast" was, until I read the cookbook - It's toast that you put a white sauce over that's made with milk, flour, and butter.

I think they gave it to you when you were not feeling well, though I think it would sit in your stomach like lead.  Perhaps that's why Mother had to "go away" for a while - Mary Frances made her Milk Toast.

It was fun to leaf through that book and see how life was almost 100 years ago.  A big difference socially, but they got their eggs from the chickens in the back yard, and their veggies from the garden.  The meat was bought from a local butcher who probably got it fresh that morning.  They ate fresh, unprocessed foods.
I guess it wasn't THAT different, although I'll stick with the menus I make for dinner - "boiled mutton" just doesn't sound that good to me :-)

1 comment:

  1. hahaha that is the weirdest/cutest thing ever. i like mary frances.
    have you ever made anything from there?!