To follow up on that last post about oatmeal, here are a few US newspaper ads from the 1890s/early 1900s that touted its supreme benefits. This seems to be when oatmeal really took off in the US as a breakfast food. Better late than never, our Irish, English, and Scottish cousins were probably thinking!
Food: Family Recipes & Favorites
An image of Madame De Ryther has at last surfaced.
It’s not the best image, but I’ll take it. I have to thank Bill Simpson of Charlotte, NC, for pointing out this image’s existence to me (quite a long time ago, actually). Because he found it on newspapers.com, he did not feel he could share it for me to post, and of course I agreed with him on that. While the copyright has expired, sites like Newspapers.com and Genealogy Bank have user agreements that prohibit users from sharing their finds willy-nilly. Some get around this problem by finding articles on those sites and then looking for those same articles on free digital archive sites. But this particular Ohio newspaper—The Hamilton Evening Journal (published between 1908-1933)—was only available on newspapers.com.
So I had put this image out of mind—until recently, when I decided to take a closer look at the user agreement and discovered that “public domain content” can sometimes be used in very small quantities publicly if proper permission is obtained. So I sent off an email to ask newspapers.com for permission to publish on a non-commercial family history blog.
As you can see, fortunately for me, they said “yes.” Timing-wise it’s kind of spooky since Jule is discussing cleanliness and germs (albeit bacterial); on the other hand it’s good to see such discussions were in the news at that time. Forewarned is forearmed. We all know what happened in 1918/19.
Jule, who was born in Little Falls, NY, died in NYC of pneumonia on March 14, 1915, at age 69, so this article’s publication came towards the end of her career. She was living in a hotel at the time. Bill told me that he had discovered information indicating that she had been evicted from her home of 30 years prior to her death. A very sad end for a woman of such tremendous talent.
This may well be the only image ever published of her. I hope I am wrong about that. If anyone ever comes across another one, please let me know.
Past posts on Madame De Ryther:
- Madame Jule A. De Ryther—Early-20th-century American food writer
- 1904: “Some Dainty Luncheon Dishes” by Madame Jule De Ryther
- 1906: Food writer Madame De Ryther journeys to Jamaica & comments on ship cuisine
- 1904: “Two Good Cakes” from Mme. De Ryther, “the best gentlewoman cook in America”
- 1904: Madame Melba prompts Madame De Ryther to write about puddings
- 1903/1904: Quince jam, plum jelly, and salad recipes from Madame De Ryther
- Jule & Juliet, 1896: Madame De Ryther’s “Roast Saddle of Venison” — a recipe from the Adirondacks
- “Family” recipe Friday: 1904—Madame de Ryther writes about custards and blackberry pie
This 1845 article appeared in The American Agriculturist* before making its way into the newspapers. The Augusta (GA) Chronicle and Sentinel** is where it caught my eye while I was looking for articles on a different topic.
I’d forgotten that here in the US, oatmeal hasn’t always been considered an acceptable and even desirable food for humans. Back in 1845, oats were for horses and other animals, and farmers were focused on wheat and rye for human consumption. Today, many Americans appreciate its nutritious value, but it is still nowhere near to enjoying the popularity it experiences in a place like Scotland where it has been a staple for hundreds of years. The US is not among the world’s top oat producers, which include Russia, Canada, Australia, Poland, China, and Finland. Soybeans and corn are more profitable.
Perhaps, this article, which pulls on material published in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh and London), got some Americans talking about this subject especially since a challenge of sorts was laid down. Whether anyone took them up on that, I don’t know. Of course today, somebody would—you’d see Americans of Scottish descent loading up on “oatcakes, porridge, bannocks, and brose” and those of English descent getting their fill of “wheaten abominations” before fighting it out on YouTube or Instagram.
As superior and tasty as oatmeal may be, I did enjoy reading through the rather vast list of “wheaten abominations”, most of which sound delicious ;-):
- home made bread
- baker’s bread
- household bread
- leaven bread
- brown Georgies
- fancy bread
- raisin bread
- Bath buns
- Sally luns
- tea cakes
- saffron cakes
- slim cakes
- plank cakes
- soda cakes
- current cakes
- sponge cakes
- seed cakes
- girdle cakes
- singing hinnies
- short bread
- currant buns
Having lived in England a number of years, I recognized the baps, Bath buns and Sally Lunns. But some, like “brown Georgies” and “singing hinnies,” left me stumped. Turns out that singing hinnies are a kind of scone-like griddle cake that is popular in Northern England. Girdle cakes are thin scone-like griddle cakes cooked atop a stove rather than in the oven. I guess rusks are something you dip in your tea—like biscotti? No idea about plank cakes or brown Georgies. Please illuminate me, if you can.
Well, strangely enough, while I did enjoy oatmeal for breakfast this morning, I am suddenly feeling the need for a “wheaten abomination.” Best wishes to everyone for a safe and productive week. 🙂
*Volume 4, page 163.
**Published 10 July 1845.
Update 5/21/20: Meanwhile, another curious article from a test undertaken across the pond in 1852:
The Food of London by George Dodd (London: Longmans, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856) – click here
“Is Oatmeal Healthy? Hear What the Experts Say” by Markham Heid, TIME online, published August 15, 2018 – click here
I’ve written so much about opera-singer-turned-food-writer Madame de Ryther, she almost feels like family, so I think it is safe to include her thoughts and recipes in this Friday’s post.
But before I do that, I wanted to mention that quite some time ago, blog reader Bill S., who also developed a bit of an obsession with Jule, alerted me to the fact that he’d come across information proving that Madame de Ryther had indeed once been married. Prior to that, I’d wondered whether she had adopted the name because it sounded somewhat exotic and would have been useful for her singing career.
Bill sent me a couple of obituaries for Jule’s husband John de Ryther, who died “at home” in his room at the Arlington Hotel in Rome, New York, on September 30, 1884. He was roughly 50 years of age. The cause of death was given as lung congestion and “asthmatic difficulty.”
The Rome Citizen article indicates that John had not been well for a number of years. I wonder whether a fall he’d taken in an elevator shaft the previous year had perhaps hastened his demise. Surely it could not have helped.
The Utica Morning Herald, April 18, 1883, reported under the heading “Rome Matters”: “John De Ryther. who fell thro’ the elevator well at the Arlington yesterday, is much more comfortable this evening.” I found another article in the Rome Citizen dated July 13, 1883, that mentioned a little girl had fallen the same distance as John down an elevator shaft (24 feet), but that she came away unscathed, while he had been “disabled for weeks”. Such a fall certainly could not have helped someone who already had a history of health problems.
In any case, it’s clear from the obituaries that John was a highly beloved and popular citizen who had held many important positions. At the time of John’s death, Jule was in her late 40s and living in New York City, where her singing career was still going strong.
Bill also sent me a ton of links to loads of Jule’s food and recipe articles, and he even managed to find an image of Jule’s face in an old newspaper he found on Newspapers.com. Unfortunately, I cannot display it here until I find it on a website like Fulton History that places no restrictions on usage. Bill wondered why, given Jule’s success in life as an opera singer and food writer, that he could find no bona fide photos of her anywhere. I find that quite strange too. But hopefully one or more surface some day so I can include them here.
I found the two Jules De Ryther articles below on Fulton History; they are from 1904. The custard article, which includes instructions and ideas for custard pies and baked and boiled custards, would have been good to include in the post I did with my great-grandmother’s custard recipe, but, alas, that ship has sailed.
As for the blackberry pie recipe, it really sounds heavenly. I am going to give it a whirl when blackberries are in season and at their best (and the price is reasonable). Her recipe calls for 1.5 quarts per pie, and she insists that no lard be used for the crust and that the pie should be eaten immediately and never refrigerated.
Finally, for anyone planning to try Jule’s recipes that require baking, a reminder that oven temperatures were referred to differently back then:
- Slow Oven = 325°F (163°C)
- Moderate Oven = 375°F (191°C)
- Hot or Quick Oven = 425 °F (218°C)
- Bread or Pastry Oven = 360°F (182°C)
While Jule De Ryther, a famous concert soprano, found a second career discussing and sharing her knowledge about food, Juliet Corson (1841-1897) spent her whole career trying to educate the public about food and cookery, and healthy and economical eating, particularly among society’s poorest. She was a proponent of letting nothing go to waste and making the tastiest and most nutritious meals possible no matter how small the budget. At 35, she founded the New York School of Cookery and operated it for seven years before ill-health forced her to close it down. She traveled the country, between bouts of ill-health, to promote the need for cookery classes in public schools. The French Consul General in NYC even consulted with her to see how her methods could be adapted to France.
Miss Corson’s numerous publications included Fifteen-Cent Dinners for Workingmen’s Families, published by the author for free distribution to working-people earning $1.50, or less, a day (New York, 1877), Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six (1879), and Practical American Cookery & Household Management (1886); for links to other publications, click here. I’ve not had time to read any of them, but I am sure she has plenty of tips that could apply to us today. Many of us are always looking for economical ways to feed our families and maximize our resources. One can only speculate what else Corson may have taught us had her life not been cut short at age 56 by a debilitating tumor (NYT obituary – “Death of Juliet Corson; The Well-Known Writer and Teacher of Cookery and Dietetics Expires Almost Alone”).
By the time Miss Corson penned this article in 1896, she was near her life’s end. You can tell from the article how passionate she is about food, and how knowledgeable. I was going to include just the portion about Madame De Ryther, but decided to include the entire article since it contains so much interesting information on the history of food and the preparation of game, an art that was already being lost in this country back then when venison was “the only wild meat ever seen freely in the New York market,” and is now in most places a great rarity, which is understandable of course, but it’s still interesting to get a sense of how our ancestors lived and worked, and what they ate. And how they may have prepared it.
Have a good Monday, all!
PS: Receipts = recipes; frumenty = thick wheat porridge usually served with venison (in Medieval times).
Growing up, I had heard of quince (Cydonia oblonga), but never actually tried this “exotic” fruit until I was studying Russian in Moscow several decades ago. I was having tea at the apartment of two elderly ladies I’d befriended, and they gave me a jar of homemade quince jam (варенье из айвы – “varen’e iz aĭvy”) to take back to my dorm. It was delicious, and a tinge of sadness crept over me when it came time to scrape the last remnants off the sides and bottom of the jar. After that, I started noticing quince in Moscow’s big city markets. Much of that quince hailed from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, areas within the quince’s native territory of SW Asia, Turkey, and Iran. And during a subsequent trip to Tbilisi and Yerevan, serendipitously at harvest-time, I saw quince everywhere—along with an abundance of grapes, apples, and other fruits.
Per Wikipedia, today’s top producers (in order) are Turkey, China, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Iran, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Spain, Serbia, and Algeria. Most quince you find in the US, if you can find it, comes from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. While, it can be found in orchards in places like Oregon, its general scarcity in the US is allegedly related to the reluctance of commercial growers to cultivate quince due to its susceptibility to ‘Fire blight’ disease.Can you eat quince raw? I bought a kilo at a Moscow market, and quickly discovered that they are very tough, sour, and generally unpleasant that way. That said, I’ve since learned that some cultivars do exist that are okay to eat raw, e.g., ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Kuganskaya’ from Russia, and ‘Mellow’ from Ukraine.
On the surface one might think that jams, jellies, butters, and preserves are the formats in which the highly aromatic quince shines most brightly. However, enterprising cooks have come up with other uses, e.g., syrups, liqueurs, butters, and wine, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you search for quince-related blog posts around the web, you’ll find dozens of recipes from just the past few weeks–for pies, tarts, stews, curries, breads, cakes, and more, demonstrating that this fruit has fans worldwide. While how often you run into the actual fruit offline, in the real world, seems largely to depend on where you live, via online shopping the quince can come to you in the form of jam, jelly, paste, relish, balsamic vinegar, chutney, marmalade, and even throat lozenges.
Our ancestors living in Colonial times would have been very familiar with quince trees. Jefferson had one in his gardens at Monticello. Quince seeds are an excellent source of pectin for making preserves so it was considered essential to have at least one on your property. But the appearance of Knox gelatin toward the end of the 19th century changed all that, and the quince’s decline began. For an interesting and entertaining article that includes those little factoids and much more, read the May 2, 2012, New York Times article: In Praise of the Misunderstood Quince.
Today’s blog post includes a 1903 column by Madame De Ryther on making quince preserves and plum jam, and a 1904 article on salads. Obviously, 110 years ago, the quince still had a place in mainstream American cuisine. The article on salads appeared in spring, but I thought I’d include it here in the run-up to Christmas, since it’s always nice to include something lighter on the table during this season of heavy eating. I’d hoped to try making quince preserves, but no grocers in this area sell the fruit; one of them offered to special order some for me, but I did not want to deal with the added expense.
As for the salads, Madame De Ryther has tons of interesting ideas and tips on combinations I’d never considered. The one recipe that stood out to me the most was the one for cucumber salad since that is the way my father always made his cucumber salad, and I am sure he picked up his technique from his mother (b. 1882) who was a passionate cook and baker and would have followed columns like Madame De Ryther’s with great interest. Or perhaps that is just the way her own mother made cucumber salad. So much that goes on in the kitchen is passed down from one generation to the next.
If you end up trying any of Madame De Ryther’s recipes, please leave a comment! Best wishes to all for a good week ahead.
Quince – some resources: