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Women Under the Culinary Influence - August 2016


Women Under the Culinary Influence - August 2016

by Ron Skaar

In 1747, The Art of Cookery was published in England “By a Lady”. The lady was Hanna Glasse and her cookbook was a best seller for a century. She significantly updated culinary practices and her book became the standard in English and American homes. Hanna shared her skills for safety in the kitchen and was considered the “mother of the modern dinner party”, and the “first domestic goddess”!

Amelia Simmons, an orphan and woman of modest means, was the mother of the American cookbook. Her American Cookery, published in 1796, heralded native ingredients, like cranberries, and had a heavy reliance on corn in recipes, especially cornmeal. She coined the words “shortening” for a mix of butter and lard, and “cookie” from a Dutch term. Amelia’s innovative use of leavening agents became standard practice, even back in Europe.

Mary Randolph, a cousin of Thomas Jefferson, published The Virginia Housewife in 1824. This cookbook contained the first recipes for fried chicken, and macaroni & cheese; originally made on a pasta machine with parmesan brought back from Italy. She advocated an eclectic mix of recipes, from gazpacho to East Indian curry.

In 1894, the first printing of Fannie Farmer’s The Boston School Cook Book fulfilled the American woman’s need for a clear, thorough manual on how to cook basic, nutritious meals. The Joy of Cooking added a sense of humor and has been in print continuously since 1936.

Helen Evans Brown was known for changing the way people thought about food in the Pacific North West during the 50’s and 60’s. Her West Coast Cookbook invigorates the history of eating local with recipes making use of the native ingredients of Washington, Oregon and California. “Nowhere in the world is there a region so cultivated to delight the cook,” asserted Brown.

The west coast also gave birth to Brown’s cohort James Beard and, on August 15th, 1912 to Julia Child. Julia was too tall to enlist in the Woman’s Army Corps or the U.S Navy during World War II (However, she was able to serve in the OSS!). Perhaps that height helped propel her past the glass ceiling of the male dominated culinary world.   

Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the culinary bible when I started out in the catering business. Julia’s first TV show, The French Chef, made her a star while inviting us into her kitchen to catch her delight in the pure pleasure of cooking. Incidentally, this show was also the first on TV to be closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

In 1993 Julia Child was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America.

Julia’s height would not of kept her out of this place – the C.I.A. is the “nation’s premier culinary school” but women were not allowed in their program until the 70’s! Today, forty-four percent of the 3,000 students are women.

There are eighteen cookbooks penned by Julia with recipes to suit any occasion. Included is one from The Way to Cook, an easy way to celebrate something special.

Photo by Jon Russo

The Multi-Layered Ice Cream Cake

3 cake layers, 9 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch thick

3 quarts ice cream, such as 1 quart each strawberry, chocolate and vanilla

1 cup chilled whip cream. Whipped and sweetened with confectioners sugar

Your choice of decorative items including fruit, nuts and crumbled cookies

Use a 9” spring-form pan for assembly. Let the ice-cream soften to spreadable consistency in refrigerator, about 20 minutes. Cut the cake into three levels-you can use any kind of sponge-cake (Julia uses a store bought yellow cake). Line the pan with plastic wrap and fit one cake layer into bottom of pan, spread on a layer of ice-cream, cover with another cake layer, then another layer of softened ice-cream, and so forth, ending with ice-cream. Release the spring-form pan and peel the wrap off the sides. Transfer frozen cake from pans bottom disk to a platter. Decorate top with swirls of whipped cream and any other embellishments. Cover and store in freezer, let soften 20 minutes in refrigerator before serving. Serves 12 to 16 guests.