Cooking in Old Creole Days by Celestine Eustis circa 1903 - Rare First Edition Antique Cookbook
The strength of the nation is in the hands of the cook...
Written by prominent Southern socialite Celestine Eustis (1836-1921) Cooking in Old Creole Days is a collection of traditional Creole recipes that was first published in 1903. Over the course of the 20th century, it became a sourcebook for authentic Creole cuisine and cooking techniques that were mostly prepared by African-American cooks in the southern households of Louisana.
Illustrated with drawings of street vendors by American artist Harper Pennington (1854-1920) and augmented with sheet music of songs sung by many house cooks while preparing various dishes that are included here, this is a unique, very rare cookbook, that highlights both heirloom recipes and the music that surrounds them.
Written partially in French but mostly in English, it is an interesting cross-cultural study of the domestic arts of the early 20th century as seen through Creole culture. Many of the recipes are credited to the original cook - an important distinction and point of pride when it came to recognizing the contributions of African-American cooks in both the regional and national food landscape of the United States. Recipes from some famous kitchens include those of James Madison and Henry IV along with contributions from Celestine's own household.
Like so many other antique recipe books, reading about the cooking techniques and practices of many of the dishes listed here is fascinating. They not only illustrate how our ancestors cooked but shed light on the tools they used, the serving dishes that were involved and the additional foods that made up a complete meal at the table. In addition to music and recipes, there is also a section on hints for housekeepers and several advertisements for popular non-fiction food-themed books of the day.
Interesting recipes include Herb Gumbo, Pot Au Feu, Cucumber Catsup, Blanquette of Veal, Okra Soup, Fried Carrots, Asparagus in the Oven, Jumballaya, Hopping John, Biscuits Made Over Night, Couche Couche, Bonne Femme Soup, Cream a la Celestine (a handmade version of chocolate ice cream), Porcupine Pudding (made with baked apples - not porcupines!), Hominey Bread, Edge Hill Cooked Apples, Molasses Gingerbread, Cafe Parfait, Claret Punch and Sweet Wafers.
More adventurous recipes include those involving calf brains, terrapins, canvasback duck, quail, calf's feet, rabbit, tongue, and various organ meats. While this adventuresome list of more exotic foods may not be top of menu in home kitchens today, it is interesting to read how these more primitive dishes were prepared and the level of skill and creativity it took to turn them into something delectable.
Influences from French, Spanish, and African cuisines form the basis of many of the recipes included here as well as the local flora and fauna cultivated in the natural landscape of the American South.
In addition to being a cookbook author, Celestine lived a long and multi-faceted life that took her on travels up and down the Eastern seaboard, the Southern US and Europe. She was most known as a philanthropist, a hostess, a rescuer of old houses and the sole guardian of her niece and two nephews following the death of their parents at a young age. She dedicated this cookbook to them, her nieces and nephews, in hopes that it would prove useful at one stage of their lives or another. In doing so, she preserved a collection of recipes from an era of African-American kitchen history that may have been completely lost to time.
Information on the original owner of this book, Jane Coffin Childs (1875-1937) is included in the special features section below. It's possible that Celestine and Jane may have known each other as they both seemed to have traveled in the same social circles.
Photo of Celestine Eustis courtesy of facebook.com/storiesoftherichandfamous
Portrait painting of Jane Coffin (see note below) courtesy of Yale University Library
A Note to Readers: This book contains some sensitive material that alludes to slavery and stereotypical characterizations. It also praises the unmatched talent and skill of African-American cooks in the 18th and early 19th centuries. We chose to include it in our shop collection for its important place in culinary history and for its attribution to the many African-American cooks who shared their recipes.
- 1903 First Edition published by R.H. Russell
- 113 pages not including advertisements
- Illustrated with eight black and white bookplates by Harper Pennington, each accompanied by tissue guards featuring sheet music
- A small bookseller's sticker from W.B. Clarke Company, Boston is pasted on the front endpaper
- The original owner's name (Jane Coffin) is written in ink on the front endpaper and dated July 27, 1903. Jane's father was one of the founders of General Electric and her husband was an investment banker and philanthropist who was active in the Yale alumnae community. When Jane passed away from cancer in 1937, her husband and sister founded the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research at Yale University in her name, which still awards fellowships for medical research today.
In lovely antique condition. The spine is tanned due to age. There are two small water spots on the front cover never the author's name. the back cover contains a black smudge that is 2" inches in length. The inside front and back endpapers and a few interior pages contain light foxing, but otherwise, all pages are clean and right with no marks, spots or cooking stains. The tissue guards and illustrated bookplates are in great condition - crisp and clear - with no rips or stains. The outer spine is fraying a bit at the top edge but is fully secured to the binding. The original owner's name is written in ink on the inside endpaper and there are two small illegible pencil markings. Please see photos.
Measures 8.25" inches (length) x 5.5" inches (width) x .75" inches (thickness) and weighs 13 oz.