Friday, November 4, 2011

The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887) Cooking, Toilet, and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care of the Sick, Health Suggestions, Facts...Cyclopedia of Information for the Home

I have heard several people comment about having free Kindle books for free downloads, but haven't even bothered to check it out because (((gasp))) I don't own a Kindle or any other digital reading device. At present, I'm one of those readers who enjoy holding the book in my hands. However, since I write historical fiction, I'm always on the look out for research material. My fellow blogger, Sue sent me a link for a free Kindle download from for the book, The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887) Cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care for the Sick, Health Suggestion, Facts...Cyclopedia of Information for the Home by Fanny Lemira Gillette.

I followed the link to find that has a download for people like me who aren't ready to commit to purchasing a Kindle. It is called Kindle for PC. Readers can use this download to install a Kindle program on their computer and voila!!! Readers can enjoy any Kindle book on

After having downloaded Kindle for PC, I then noticed that the cookbook link my friend sent me wasn't the only free book on Most all the popular classics, such as Pride and Prejudice, Aesop's Fables, Treasure Island, and so many more books are free.

The Whitehouse Cookbook was an interesting read and one I can use for development of my stories and maybe even useless information that I find amusing. Did you know since I have downloaded this treasure trove of information that I now possess the recipe for Squirrel Soup? Green Turtle Soup? What I'd really like to know is what in the world are the finer parts of the turtle and where exactly is the green fat found? There is even a recipe for Frogs Fried and Frogs Stewed. Only the hind-legs and quarters are used.

I have even discovered a recipe that has been used my mother's family for generations which we seemed to have shortened over the years. We have enjoyed Salmon Croquettes (I'm supposing southern-style) and have passed the recipe on to our children. The recipe I received from my mother was 1-canned salmon, bread crumbs, and egg. Mix together. Form patties. Fry them in hot grease. Serve with milk gravy. However, here is the 1887 version of the same recipe but I think probably more richer with more calories.

Salmon Croquettes

One pound of cooked salmon (about one and a half pints when chopped), one cup of cream, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one tablespoonful of flour, three eggs, one pint of crumbs, pepper and salt; chop the salmon fine, mix the flour and butter together, let the cream come to a boil, and stir in the flour and butter, salmon and seasoning; boil one minute; stir in one well-beaten egg, and remove from the fire; when cold make into croquettes; dip in beaten egg, roll in crumbs and fry. Canned salmon can be used.

I had no idea salmon came canned in 1887. Who knew? The same recipe is used for every meat listed in the cookbook: salmon, lobster, crab, oysters, chicken, and beef. The beef croquettes adds hot mashed potatoes.

The book also teaches the housewife to cook all manner of organs. Beef hearts, beef liver, boiled beef and tongue. I'm not quite certain about all the recipes of which meat is used to make pudding. In my mind, I'm seeing vanilla and chocolate pudding, perhaps even fruit flavored puddings, but meat? Veal pudding sounded almost promising with its addition of bacon, but I'm not sure what a suet crust is or what a pudding cloth is either? Maybe I need a dictionary to go along with my reading? But by far, the worst pudding I read was Black Pudding. The main ingredient is coagulated blood of a pig. Yep, those plucky pioneers didn't let anything go to waste.

Here's a recipe that will really wake up your appetite. Calf's Head boiled. I won't give you the details of the recipe because after that Black Pudding recipe I'm a feeling a little nauseous. But think Calf's Head equals Spam.

Ooh, did you know that ketchup or as pioneers called it, Catsup was around back in 1887? The recipes say that if you bottle your catsup immediately while hot, and tightly sealed it will keep good for years. But red catsup wasn't the only one they had. There's a recipe for green tomato catsup too. That reminds me of the green or purple ketchup Heinz came out with years ago. The cookbook also lists walnut catsup, oyster catsup, mushroom catsup, and other flavors like gooseberry, cucumber, currant, apple, celery, and spiced vinegar catsup.

As far as helpful information, the cookbook has planned menus for the holidays and a sample menu for a White House State Dinner...think French food. A menu for Mrs. Cleveland's wedding lunch June 4, 1888 is also listed...again think French food or French words I cannot pronounce or even try to spell. Etiquette for the White House is listed as well with the disclaimer: Etiquette as observed in European courts is not known at the White House.  Funny? I didn't know Rednecks were around then. Information is then listed on how to check your coat in at the cloakroom as well as where to sit. Then the menu is given. The first course is French style (no surprise there), second service is sweet dishes, third service includes desserts, fruits, ice, cakes, and all principal dishes are presented to the President before serving the guests. I was disappointed to learn that the fancy folding of napkins in 1887 was considered out of fashion. A plain square folded napkin with the monogram in the middle was preferred.

For treating the sick, the cookbook cautions housewives to consider the needs of the sick first. Don't serve an invalid milk for this may constipate the patient. As a rule, invalids should be served their food in small, delicate pieces in dainty dishes. Some recipes for ailments include serving an alcoholic beverage of Blackberry Cordial to infants to relieve pain from teething and summer diseases. Yeah, I bet they didn't feel any pain. Colds are due to men sealing the house up tight during winter. The family can stave off suffering from a cold if they drink a whiskey or a glass or two of beer before supper. After a few glasses, I'm sure they didn't suffer from anything.

A toothache can be cured by saturating a piece of gauze and lying it on the tooth. Follow that with a mixture of Alum powder and salt. To cure an earache: puff tobacco smoke into the sufferer's ear. For a burn, use butter and if that doesn't help add baking soda, the yellow of an egg, and apply with a feather. Of course, with a little flour and sugar and vanilla they could also make cookies to keep the burn victim's mind off the pain. For a sore throat, gargle with hot, salt water with a little alum and honey. Follow this with bacon soaked in hot vinegar applied to the throat as hot as possible. The sick can even gargle with equal parts of borax and alum. They can gargle and do their laundry at the same time.

One last recipe for the sick. A cure for felons: take a common rock, heat it in the oven, pound it fine, and mix with the spirits of turpentine. Put it in a rag and wrap the felon. In twenty-four hours you are cured and the felon is dead. My question is how can you convince the felon to allow you to wrap him in turpentine? That or maybe nineteenth century folks defined felon different than we define it.

Toward the end of the book, there are helpful laundry hints like how to wash black lace and how to wash feathers. Who said 19th century brides were prudish? Did you know that washing feathers required ironing too? Adding alum to the rinse water will keep dresses uninflammable.

I leave you today with a few facts worth knowing:

To Prevent Oil from Becoming Rancid - Drop a few drops of ether into the bottle containing it.

Slicing Pineapples: - The knife used for peeling a pineapple should not be used for slicing it, as the rind contains an acid that is apt to cause a swollen mouth and sore lips. The Cubans use salt as an antidote for the ill effects of the peel.

Choking: - a piece of food lodged in the throat may sometimes be pushed down with the finger, or removed with a hair-pin quickly straightened and hooked at the end, or by two or three vigorous blows on the back between the shoulders.

Table Etiquette: - Be careful to keep the mouth shut closely while masticating the food. It is the opening of the lips which causes the smacking which seems very disgusting.


  1. Calf's head boiled - no thanks, Debra. Glad you were able to upload a book on your computer from Amazon. I got one downloaded from Smashwords. On the previous post, notice, too, that one of those authors can show you how to publish a book on Amazon. I don't own a Kindle either, but it's the wave of the future.

  2. BTW, I forgot to tell you, that was a tremendously informative post. Thanks.


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