Food for Thought

Each week I try to sit down and plan the weekly meals, otherwise I end up eating toast! Every once in a while I pull out my family cookbooks and recipes, some passed down for generations, in order to revisit a meal or two. This made me think of the recipe books and housekeeping diaries in the collections here at the Rhode Island Historical Society.
Many recipe books contain a mix of handwritten recipes and newspaper clippings tucked inside or pasted to pages, such as this recipe book which belonged to Helen F. Washburn. Helen Frances (Abbott) was born in Providence, Rhode Island July 29, 1874. She married Maurice King Washburn in 1897 – the year before she started keeping this book.

MSS 783 sg 1, Washburn Family Papers
Recipe book belonging to Helen Washburn, 1898-1931, MSS 783 sg 1
Breads and cakes feature heavily in the collections I sifted through (pun intended), but there were also recipes for puddings, drinks, fruit desserts, and savory dishes. Gingerbread and rum cakes were particularly popular, such as these found in a recipe book from the Congdon Family Papers. The Congdon Family Papers have been microfilmed as part of the New England Women and Their Families series (HQ 1438 .R45).
Congdon Family Papers, MSS 363
Recipes for soft gingerbread, molasses rum cake, and suet pudding. Unknown author, ca. 1840, from MSS 363.
The Winthrop W. and Harriet A. Aldrich Papers contain several folders with menus, recipes, and the housekeeper’s scrapbook stuffed with menu ideas. There are at least six egg nog recipes in Harriet Aldrich’s collection of recipes, I wonder if she taste tested them all!
Winthrop W. and Harriet A. Aldrich Papers, MSS 983 sg 3
Egg nog recipe from Harriet Aldrich’s collected recipes, from MSS 983 sg 3
Finally, to leave you with something to warm you up before this weekend’s impending storm:
Pea soup recipe, from MSS 363
– Michelle Chiles, Robinson Research Center Coordinator

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