Adirondacks

Memories of a Madame de Ryther recipe lead to a fun eBay discovery

John George Brown (American, 1831-1913) Claiming the Shot – After the Hunt in the Adirondacks

A long time ago, I did a post about 19th-century food writer Madame Jules de Ryther‘s recommendations on how to prepare “roast saddle of venison” from deer killed during hunting expeditions in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Perhaps you remember that post.

Well, I was scrolling through some antique postcards on eBay last week, and one in particular caught my eye–it was of two men in a canoe arriving at the side of a lake with at least a couple of dead deer in their vessel. The title was: “Adirondack Mountains. Bringing in the spoils.”

That Madame de Ryther post came to mind, so I paused to take a closer look at the scene. On the front right side was a small note written by the sender, someone named Ripley Watson: “Am up at Lake George, having a fine time. Remember me to your brothers, please. Ripley Watson.”

Adirondack Mountains. Bringing in the spoils

Then I turned the postcard over and was absolutely shocked to discover that the recipient was someone I knew from my family history research and had actually met over a half century ago when visiting my late grandmother in Plainfield, NJ. I was only a few years old at the time and don’t remember the visit, but I do have a photo to prove that I was there!

How amazing! I am still pinching myself. Life is full of strange little surprises. I felt compelled to buy the postcard, and it arrived the day before yesterday from Pennsylvania.

Postcard addressed to Miss Cecelia Russum, postmarked 10 July 1906

Miss Cecelia Bell Russum (1090 East Jersey Street, Elizabeth, NJ) was the postcard recipient, and she would have been 18 at the time. Some of you may know who Cecelia was. For those who do not: she was the only daughter of Cecelia Bensley Angus (1855-1933) and Thomas Bayley Russum (cir. 1850-1938) of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who also had four sons (Thomas; Charles, who died before Cecelia was born; Frank; and William).

Cecelia Bensley Angus was a daughter of James Angus & Wealthy Ann Jaques and one of my great-grandmother Wealthy Angus Woodruff’s younger sisters.

These two Angus sisters were five years apart, but each gave birth to a daughter in 1888: Cecelia Bell Russum was born in June, and Wealthy’s daughter Bertha Woodruff in October. They all appear in the below group photo taken, I believe, in 1892 on the occasion of the funeral gathering for Wealthy Ann (Jaques) Angus. (Note: I have posted this group photo before. I think I have the Russum kids shown incorrectly apart from William and Cecelia, but plan to fix that label soon.)

William and Wealthy Woodruff with extended family, Elizabeth, NJ, circa 1893 (Photo from my family’s personal archives)

I took a quick look to see who Ripley Watson may have been. Cecelia’s brothers all went to Rutgers College (classes of 1895, 1902, and 1910), and I found a Ripley Watson who was in the class of 1908. A few tidbits I found about him indicated that he was gifted academically and played varsity football (6′ tall, 186 pounds). Published almost a decade after his graduation, The Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Rutgers College… 1766 to 1916, published by Rutgers, gives the following information about Ripley: Born at Jersey City, NJ, Mch. 15, 1886. Lawyer. L.L.B. (N.K. Law School,1910). A.M. (Rutgers, 1911).

So here was Ripley in July of 1906 sending Cecelia a postcard from the Adirondacks. Perhaps, he had romantic intentions? If he did, nothing came of it. Cecelia remained single, living at home with her parents, into her early forties, when she met and married the much older Reverend George Rutger Brauer (b. 1871) in 1931. Unfortunately the marriage was short lived as George died in 1935 of a cerebral hemorrhage. His Find a Grave memorial has some photos of him as well as a long obituary that appeared in the New York Times. Click here if you are interested in seeing that memorial page (and here if you want to see the page for his first wife Eugenia Lathrop Brauer, who died in 1929).

Back to Cecelia. She died in Los Angeles in 1981 at the age of 93, outliving her cousin Bertha by almost a decade. Remarkably, we have the photo showing the two as young children and another showing them some seven decades later, sitting on the front porch at my grandmother’s house—with me and my sister the young children this time around. The ladies had remained good friends. I don’t know what happened to Cecelia after this or why she moved to California. But, how amazing is it that 114 years after that postcard was sent to Cecelia, it’s ended up here with me!

Circa 1964: Bertha Woodruff (left) and Cecelia Russum Brauer (right) with two little mischief-makers in between

Cecelia Bell Russum and her cousin Bertha Winans Woodruff back in their mischief-making days

Categories: Adirondacks, Angus, Elizabeth, Union Co., New Jersey, New York, Russum, Woodruff | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Jule & Juliet, 1896: Madame De Ryther’s “Roast Saddle of Venison” — a recipe from the Adirondacks

Hound and Hunter (1892) – by Winslow Homer. Per Wikimedia: Homer’s watercolor sketch for Hound and Hunter showed, lying behind the boy, a rifle that the artist later painted out. When this final canvas was exhibited in 1892, its subject was condemned as a cruel sport then practiced in the Adirondacks. Some viewers believed the youth was drowning the deer to save ammunition. The artist curtly responded, “The critics may think that that deer is alive but he is not—otherwise the boat and man would be knocked high and dry.”

Hound and Hunter (1892) – by Winslow Homer. [image cropped] Per Wikimedia: Homer’s watercolor sketch for Hound and Hunter showed, lying behind the boy, a rifle that the artist later painted out. When this final canvas was exhibited in 1892, its subject was condemned as a cruel sport then practiced in the Adirondacks. Some viewers believed the youth was drowning the deer to save ammunition. The artist curtly responded, “The critics may think that that deer is alive but he is not—otherwise the boat and man would be knocked high and dry.”

One new thing I’ve learned about late 19th-/early-20th-century food writer Madame Jule De Ryther comes from the New York Times, March 1, 1896, article “The Secrets of the Carver; An Early English Dinner. Studies in the Operative Surgery of Animals” by Juliet Corson. It featured a roast saddle of venison recipe, “traceable to Adirondack hunters and guides,” that belonged to Madame De Ryther, “the descendant of a line of hunters and hosts whose forest cookery has long been famous.”

John George Brown (American, 1831-1913) Claiming the Shot - After the Hunt in the Adirondacks

John George Brown (American, 1831-1913) Claiming the Shot – After the Hunt in the Adirondacks

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”).

Juilet_Corson

Juliet Corson (Credit: Wikipedia)

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).

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Categories: Adirondacks, Corson Juliet food educator, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Hunting, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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