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A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, by Malinda Russell Published by the author Printed by T.O. Ward, Paw Paw, Michigan, 1866 Facsimile edition, Detroit: Inland Press, 2007
A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, by Malinda Russell Published by the author Printed by T.O. Ward, Paw Paw, Michigan, 1866 Facsimile edition, Detroit: Inland Press, 2007

Spend Some Time With These African American Cookbooks From History

A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, by Malinda Russell Published by the author Printed by T.O. Ward, Paw Paw, Michigan, 1866 Facsimile edition, Detroit: Inland Press, 2007
A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, by Malinda Russell Published by the author Printed by T.O. Ward, Paw Paw, Michigan, 1866 Facsimile edition, Detroit: Inland Press, 2007

Between the founding of the United States and the year 2000, only 200 or so recipe collections published in America bore the names of black authors. Before the 20th century, there were only four. This, despite the fact that an overwhelming number of professional cooks in American history have been black. Especially in the South, middle and upper class households left the cooking to slave women, and later, black domestic servants.

The Jemima Code honors the culinary contributions of those often overlooked and disparaged chefs, highlighting 200 African American chefs and more than 150 cookbooks, most rare and out of print. Author Toni Tipton-Martin spent a decade researching the role of African American cooks in food writing, and many of the books featured come from her extensive personal collection.

Tipton-Martin’s research traces the African influences intertwined in Southern cooking, as well as the cultural impact of racist stereotypes of black cooks as simple and untaught, working solely by some innate instinct. In it, Tipton-Martin writes: “Throughout the twentieth century, the Aunt Jemima advertising trademark and the mythical mammy figure in southern literature provided a shorthand translation for a subtle message that went something like this: ‘If slaves can cook, you can too,’ or ‘Buy this flour and you’ll cook with the same black magic that Jemima put into her pancakes.’” The cookbooks presented in The Jemima Code reveal a more complex picture of African American culinary professionals and their techniques and recipes across two centuries. 

Here are just some of the recipes and cookbooks featured, which date from the early 19th century into the late 1980s. 

This one instructed readers on how to run a 19th century New England home:

The House Servant’s Directory, Robert Roberts, Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1827; New York, Charles S. Francis, 1827. Facsimile edition, Waltham, Massachusetts; Gore Place Society, 1977

Malinda Russell's A Domestic Cook Book is thought to be the first complete African American cookbook.

From Domestic Cook Book (1866, top photo above)

All the recipes in this manufacturer’s cookbook were made with sorghum syrup, an inexpensive sugar substitute popular during the Great Depression:

The Farmer Jones Cook Book. Issued by Fort Scott Sorghum Syrup Company, Kansas, 1914

According to the foreword, Aunt Caroline was a "Dear Old Southern Mammy" who this cookbook's editor grew up with.

Aunt Caroline’s Dixieland Recipes: A Rare Collection of Choice Dishes. Compiled by Emma and William McKinney, Chicago: Laird and Lee, 1922

This 1927 volume is a collection of 450 recipes credited to Sallie Miller, the childhood cook of the book’s editor. It’s rare in that the recipes are credited to Miller, rather than claimed as “family history” by a member of a plantation family.

Mammy’s Cook Book, Katharin Bell, 1927


Though this book's cover makes it look like it might be full of simplistic, stereotypical recipes, “the publisher’s preface acclaims [author Lessie] Bowers as a trained professional whose book was the result of ‘long practical experience, a lively curiosity, and a real love for cookery,’ adding ‘The gourmet will find innumerable suggestions to spur her (or him) on,’” Tipton-Martin writes. 

Plantation Recipes, Lessie Bowers, New York: Speller and Sons, 1959

Soul food cookbooks arose in the late ‘60s. Author Bob Jeffries explains in this cookbook that “the word soul, when applied to food, means only those foods that Negroes grew up eating in their own homes; food that was cooked with care and love—with soul—by and for themselves, their families, and friends.” 

Soul Food Cookbook,. Bob Jeffries, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969

[h/t: Co.Design]

All images from The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (University of Texas Press, 2015), courtesy of Toni Tipton-Martin. 

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7 Lost and Rediscovered Literary Works by Famous Authors
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A number of literary works by famous authors that were once thought lost have recently been rediscovered. Some were found in private collections, others within vast archives, and one was even uncovered in an attic. A few of these works have delighted readers and scholars alike, while others may have gone unpublished for a reason—yet all offer fresh insight into the development of the writers who wrote them.

1. “TEMPERATURE” // F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

In July 2015 Andrew Gulli, managing editor of The Strand magazine, was searching through the rare book archive at Princeton University when he uncovered a previously unpublished short story by Princeton alum F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gulli makes something of a habit of searching for lost and unpublished works by famous authors, and in the past has uncovered a story by John Steinbeck, which was also published for the first time in The Strand. Fitzgerald's 8000-word short story, entitled “Temperature” and written in 1939, features a hard-drinking writer with a heart problem. In a sad echo of real life, just a year after he wrote it Fitzgerald himself died of a heart attack.

2. WHAT PET SHALL I GET? // DR. SEUSS

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) seated at a desk covered with his books
Library of Congress, Wikimedia // Public Domain

In 2013, the widow of Ted Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) rediscovered a pile of manuscripts and sketches that she had set aside shortly after her husband's death in 1991. The papers contained the words and illustrations for What Pet Shall I Get?, which was published by Random House in July 2015. It is thought the book was likely written between 1958 and 1962, since it features the same brother-and-sister characters found in Seuss’s 1960 bestseller One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

3. “SHERLOCK HOLMES: DISCOVERING THE BORDER BURGHS AND, BY DEDUCTION, THE BRIG BAZAAR” // ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

Portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sitting at a table in his garden, Bignell Wood, New Forest, 1927
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A Sherlock Holmes short story supposedly written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was uncovered in the attic of historian Walter Elliot in 2015. The strange little story was written by Conan Doyle to be included in a collection of stories entitled The Book o' the Brig, which aimed to raise funds to rebuild a bridge across Ettrick Water, near Selkirk in Scotland, which had been destroyed during floods in 1902.

No sooner had the story been rediscovered, however, than some were expressing doubts about whether it had been written by Conan Doyle himself, especially since the flowery language doesn't seem in keeping with the renowned author's pared-down style. The full text of the story can be read (and puzzled over) here.

4. "THE FIELD OF HONOR" // EDITH WHARTON

Photo of author Edith Wharton, wearing hat with a feather, coat with fur trim, and a fur muff
Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Alice Kelly, a researcher from Oxford University, was studying Edith Wharton’s papers in the Beinecke Library at Yale University in November 2015 when she discovered a previously unpublished short story. The unfinished nine-page story was stuck to the back of another manuscript, and is entitled "The Field of Honor." It centers on the First World War and is critical of the women who only superficially helped with the war effort, perhaps explaining why it was not published at such a sensitive time.

5. "POETICAL ESSAY ON THE EXISTING STATE OF THINGS" // PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

Crayon drawing of poet Percy Shelley circa 1820
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When Percy Bysshe Shelley was in his first year of university at Oxford in 1810/11, he wrote and published a poem critical of the Napoleonic wars under the pseudonym “a gentlemen of the University of Oxford.” The 172-line poem was printed in a 20-page pamphlet entitled “Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things” and was not attributed to Shelley until 50 years after his death. All copies were thought lost until 2006, when one was found amidst a mysterious private collection and offered for auction. Only scholars had access to the poem until 2015, when it was purchased by the Bodleian Library in Oxford to add to their world-famous collection of Shelley works and papers. The poem became the library’s 12 millionth book to be acquired and is now available online for all to read.

6. EARLY STORIES // TRUMAN CAPOTE

A black-and-white photo of a smiling Truman Capote
Evening Standard/Getty Images

A Swiss publisher poring over Truman Capote’s papers at the New York Public Library several years ago rediscovered a variety of short stories and poems the author had written before the age of 20. While four of the stories had been published in Capote’s school literary magazine, The Green Witch, the majority of the pile was brand-new to the reading public. In October 2015, Penguin books released the stories as The Early Stories of Truman Capote.

7. THE TURNIP PRINCESS

While looking through the archives of the city of Regensberg, Germany, researcher Erika Eichenseer uncovered 30 boxes containing more than 500 German fairy tales, which had lain unnoticed for 150 years. The stories had been collected by historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, who traveled around the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz recording folktales, myths, and legends in order to preserve them. He published the results of his research in three volumes between 1857 and 1859, but his matter-of-fact accounts of the stories were somewhat overshadowed by the more artful stories of his contemporaries the Brothers Grimm, and his book fell into obscurity. The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales contains 72 of the lost tales and was published by Penguin in February 2015.

A previous version of this story ran in 2015.

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History
The Time the Oxford English Dictionary Forgot a Word
Sir James Murray in his Scriptorium
Sir James Murray in his Scriptorium
Oxford English Dictionary // Public Domain

When the complete edition of what would become the Oxford English Dictionary debuted in 1928, it was lauded as a comprehensive collection of the English language, a glossary so vast—and so thorough—that no other reference book could ever exceed its detail or depth. In total, the project took seven decades to catalogue everything from A to Z, defining a total of 414,825 words. But in the eyes of its editor James Murray, the very first volume of the dictionary was something of an embarrassment: It was missing a word.

Looking back, it’s impressive that more words were not lost. Assembling the OED was a nightmare. Before the first volume—an installment consisting of words beginning with the letters A and B—was published in 1888, multiple editors had taken (and abandoned) the helm, and each regime change created new opportunities for mayhem. When James Murray took command in 1879, the Oxford English Dictionary could best be defined by the word disarray.

The irony of making this massive reference book was that it required millions upon millions of tiny, tiny pieces of paper. Every day, volunteers mailed in thousands of small strips of paper called “quotation slips.” On these slips, volunteers would copy a single sentence from a book, in hopes that this sentence could help illuminate a particular word’s meaning. (For example, the previous sentence might be a good example of the word illuminate. Volunteers would copy that sentence and mail it to Oxford’s editors, who would review it and compare the slip to others to highlight the word illuminate.)

The process helped Oxford’s editors study all of the shades of meaning expressed by a single word, but it was also tedious and messy. With thousands of slips pouring into the OED’s offices every day, things could often go wrong.

And they did.

Some papers were stuffed haphazardly into boxes or bags, where they gathered cobwebs and were forgotten. Words beginning with Pa went missing for 12 years, only to be recovered in County Cavan, Ireland, where somebody was using the papers as kindling. Slips for the letter G were nearly burned with somebody’s trash. In 1879, the entire letter H turned up in Italy. At one point, Murray opened a bag only to find a family of live mice chewing on the paperwork.

When Murray took over, he tried to right the ship. To better organize the project, he built a small building of corrugated iron called the “Scriptorium.” It resembled a sunken tool shed, but it was here—with the help of 1029 built-in pigeonholes—that Murray and his subeditors arranged, sorted, and filed more than a thousand incoming slips every day. Millions of quotations would pass through the Scriptorium, and hundreds of thousands of words would be neatly organized by Murray’s trusty team.

One word, however, slipped through the cracks.

Oxford English Dictionary entry slips
Oxford English Dictionary entry slips
Media Specialist, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Bondmaid is not the kind of word people drop during conversation anymore, and that’s for the best: It means “a slave girl.” The word was most popular in the 16th century. Murray’s file for bondmaid, however, reached back even further: It included quotations as old as William Tyndale’s 1526 translation of the Bible.

But then bondmaid went missing. “Its slips had fallen down behind some books, and the editors had never noticed that it was gone,” writes Simon Winchester in The Meaning of Everything. When the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1888, bondmaid wasn’t there. (That volume of the OED does miss other words, but those exclusions were deliberate matters of editorial policy—bondmaid is the only word that the editors are known to have physically lost.)

When the slips were later rediscovered in the Scriptorium, Murray reportedly turned red with embarrassment. By 1901, some 14 years after the exclusion, he was still reeling over the mistake in a draft of a letter addressed to an anonymous contributor: “[N]ot one of the 30 people (at least) who saw the work at various stages between MS. and electrotyped pages noticed the omission. The phenomenon is absolutely inexplicable, and with our minute organization one would have said absolutely impossible; I hope also absolutely unparalleled.”

All was not lost for the lost word, however. In 1933, bondmaid made its Oxford dictionary debut. It had taken nearly five decades to make the correction.

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