Catering, to the past in the future
I have a cook book that I really enjoy. Of course I have a lot of cookbooks, but this particular cook in my favorite. When I am feeling like I am exhausted in my thinking or feeling like I am defeated in my aspirations, I just put my eyes on this book and my perspective changes, quickly.
The book is very small, probably the smallest cookbook in my library. The author is Abby Fisher and this book was first published in 1881. This book is just so profound to me. In the introduction, the author makes an apology for not being given the advantage of an education, but she finds it her duty to figure out a way to present this information. She states that she has been in the cooking profession for over 35 years. Even though she has not been afforded the opportunity for education, she is insistent on presenting a book that would give "perfect satisfaction" and in a manner that " a child can learn the art of cooking".
The cultural importance of this book in my opinion is immeasurable. When I did some research on Abby Fisher I was amazed at her story. She catered to many different types of people. When she moved to the west coast (from the south) she carried her particular style and flare for cooking with her and successfully introduced it to the citizens there. Ms. Fisher was a wife and mother. Matter of fact she was the mother of 11 children. She even provides a recipe for the Pap diet and references that she nursed all 11 of her children and used that infant diet. She was able to distribute her products, which included preserves, jams, and pickles under the name Mrs. Abby Fisher & Co.
Now to me the most fascinating part of the book was the research that I had to do in order to understand the recipes in the book. Mrs. Fisher's writing in unique and purposeful and it is definitely dated. For example, she references that you will use sour milk. Initially (in my ignorance) I figured that was just buttermilk. However, I later learned that sour milk is "soured" by adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk. True buttermilk is the left over liquid (that is squeezed out)from making butter. Another unique reference is that she measures four by the pint. I found it easy to follow the recipes using pint jars instead of converting the recipes to cups or ounces.
Mrs. Fisher provides many different cuisines in her cookbook. She give instructions on making cream patisserie, fricassee chicken, and even suet pudding. Mrs. Fisher was so versatile in her cooking. She was able to sustain her family with her food business which of course is the greatest accomplishment for any cook.
Reference: Fisher, A. (1881) What Mrs. Fisher knows about old southern cooking, soups, pickles, preserves, etc..