Alice Electa Pickard recipe book, 1868

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Manuscript Location
University of Iowa Main Library, Special Collections, Szathmary Culinary Archive
Manuscript Cookbooks Survey Database ID#
Place of Origin
United States ➔ Illinois ➔ Chicago
Date of Composition
1868-c. 1890
Alice Electa Pickard inscribed this book with her name and her address (142 Park Avenue, Chicago, Illinois), and dated it Christmas, 1868. Before beginning to write, she numbered the notebook to page 192 and marked off chapters according to dish type, allocating as many pages for each chapter as she anticipated she would need. She gave meat and fish, the first two chapters, 30 pages altogether; breads and griddle cakes 18 pages; pies and puddings about 25 pages; and cakes, including cookies and fried cakes, 34 pages. Six chapters at the end of the book were given 10 to 12 pages each: "custards" (desserts); preserves; pickles; "side dishes" (wines, omelets, and vegetable dishes); sauces; and household products, mostly for cleaning. As it turned out, Alice Pickard recorded only a handful of recipes for meat and fish. In contrast, her breads, pastry, and pudding chapters are nearly full, and her cakes chapter is filled to the brim. Twenty or thirty years after Alice Pickard compiled her recipes, several additional writers (one principal) added recipes of their own. The principal writer may have been a granddaughter of Alice Pickard, for this writer credits several recipes to "grandma" (and many others to "Aunt Addie"). This cookbook illustrates the great changes in American cooking that occurred around the time of the Civil War. The majority of the meat and fish recipes, for example, are attributed to Pierre Blot, the proprietor of a French cooking school in New York in the 1860s and the author of a popular cookbook, who probably did more than any other single figure to bring French cooking into middle-class American homes. The author's many recipes for cakes reflect the near-total adoption, by the 1860s, of the enclosed iron stove, whose convenient oven made cake-baking far more practical than in the days of hearth cooking. The book contains both antebellum and modern recipes for many dishes: old-style muffins griddle-baked in metal rings versus modern muffins oven-baked in cup pans; old-style chess-like baked puddings in pastry crusts versus modern baked "puddings" that we today would call cream pies; old-fashioned yeast-raised fruited "loaf cakes" versus modern "soda cakes" of various kinds. The book also includes a handful of uncommon recipes. A particularly intriguing example is "tombstone pie," whose filling is a sort of coconut jam that is studded with twenty blanched whole almonds stuck upright.