I had a reply to my cake-baking post from my cousin saying she had our grandmother’s White House cookbook from 1910. It made me remember that I too had a White House cookbook so I began pawing through our library, and found a 1922 edition of the same cookbook.
Mine had not belonged to our maternal grandmother, but to the stepmother of great-aunt Hazel on my father’s side of the family. Her name, Mammie Whipple, was unfamiliar to me, so I began reading my father’s geneology, written by a cousin of my father. There was no mention of her except the line on the first page of the book, stating her relationship to a known relative.
Every blank page in the book was filled with her handwritten recipes—all of which strangely enough, are recipes for booze! One side of my family were teetotal, the other was not, so that explained why Mammie was on my father’s side! There are recipes for every kind of fruit wine imagineable, also a very detailed recipe for 15 gallons of beer, which included boiling 3/4 pound of hops!
I once picked hops in Grants Pass, Oregon during the war when field help was unavailable. The entire town closed down until the crop was in. School was delayed, banks and retail stores closed for several days. It took a very large amount of hops to weigh 3/4 pound!
Whether Mammie was a good cook I cannot say, but she certainly knew her liquor! Since Prohibition began in 1920, it would not be a stretch to imagine that there were many households brewing their own in that period.
Alongside the White House book I found another I had not looked at for some time—The Perfect Woman. It is a large, musty volume dated 1903, with my grandmother’s name in it. I imagine it is a book which I suspect may have been given to a young lady to guide them in the ways of womanhood. It announces itself as “Perfect Womanhood for Maidens, Wives Mothers,” and as a book giving full information on all the mysterious and complex matters pertaining to women. A voluminous subject covered in 448 pages.
It includes subjects such as “The Body, the Temple of the Soul”, on through the wedding night, Heredity and How it May Be Overcome” , “Graceful Development of the Body”, child rearing, constipation, and how to cure unimagineable ailments. A few letters are tucked in here and there from friends giving home recipes and remedies for various childhood indispositions. One very long letter of 8 pages explains how to cure worms! Her child, Ralph. suffered terribly from the malady, and when she described what she gave that poor child I wonder if he ever grew to adulthood.
With all those terrifying and unseen dangers lurking for a poor innocent unsuspecting woman, maybe Mammie had the right idea for curing all our ills!