Friday, June 30, 2017

Mystery Cookbook

Recently volunteering at the museum and working in the archives I came across a manila envelope that had writing on it that stated, "very old cookbook w/out cover, binding, title or author".  So of course I had to check it out!

Inside I did indeed find a very old cookbook, in fragile condition.  No cover, no title or author, no publisher, no date, no anything to identify it.

I was intrigued by it.  Obviously very old, the recipes were not written in the form we are so used to in contemporary times with a list of ingredients and then the instructions, these recipes are in paragraph form with all of those items intertwined.  But as I was gently browsing the cookbook's pages I discovered the clue(s) that would help me identify what cookbook this is...


Obviously this book is related to the Presidents or the President's was a very quick Internet search that led me to "The White House Cookbook".

The first White House Cook book was published in 1887 and the author was Fanny Gillette.  Frances Gillette Hern was an enslaved cook at the White House at age 18 working there with her sister-in-law Edith Hern Fossett.  They learned French cooking under the hand of the White House chef.  They also were President Jefferson's cooks at Monticello after he retired.

The next edition was contributed to by the White House Steward, Hugo Ziemann who was steward to President Chester Arthur.  He included  recipes, menus, and cooking techniques he had used while serving as the official White House chef.  The cookbook also included proper housekeeping methods and information on preparing items such as hair dye, lip salve, shampoo,  toothpaste, and perfumes from scratch.   Here are a couple of pages of the weekly menu:

The following are some interesting recipes - nothing I would eat - but interesting:

The cook book was published up at least through 1967, and a Centennial Edition was published in 1987.  Here are a couple of other websites that have interesting articles or history about this.

and from the "Kitchen Sisters"

During my research I also found a photo on Google of what the cover possibly looked like:

I didn't have time to dig through the files to see if we have the info on who donated it or where it came from.  If I find it I will add that information to this post.

Just another fun treasure and adventure at the Apache County Historical Society Museum!


  1. I know that book, my grandmother Reba Pulsipher Plumb used it and our family still has it.
    Ken Plumb

    1. Ken, that is wonderful! I had never seen one or even heard of it before. Thank you for sharing. Dolly Patterson

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