When COVID-19 hit and Missouri History Museum employees were sent home, assistant librarian Magdalene Linck had a new opportunity to pursue her intellectual interests. She stocked up on cookbooks from the Missouri Historical Society’s library and threw herself into food research. “Everyone is so familiar with ‘Joy of Cooking’ [by Irma S. Rombauer] and how big and important that cookbook is, but there’s so many other great cookbooks that were written by women from St. Louis,” Linck says. She even tried her hand at remaking some of the historic recipes she found, like “transparent pudding,” which Linck says turned out similarly to chess pie. “You’re literally able to taste what the past tasted like, to some extent,” she says. You can explore Linck’s three recommendations by visiting the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center on Skinker Boulevard during its open hours.
“St. Mary’s Guild Cook Book: A Collection of Tested Recipes” compiled by St. Mary’s Guild of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 1915 | “There’s a recipe for Russian dressing in there, and it’s credited to Mrs. Vincent Price, who’s Vincent Price’s mother, the actor; they were a member of that church. The other thing I really like about church cookbooks, aside from the fact that most of the recipes are submitted by female congregants, is that oftentimes they’re some of the only ways that you get parish histories. [Church] cookbooks are the only places that have information about certain immigrant groups, which I don’t think people think about at all.”
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“Delicious Dishes” by the Women’s Traffic Club of Metropolitan St. Louis, 1965 | “Their goal was to educate women in the field of traffic, industrial transportation and transportation in general. I didn’t realize that such a thing existed, but I’m glad it does. I think it still is an operation as well. But what’s really fun about this one is that it has all sorts of different important female politicians and political figures at the time. So like Lenore K. Sullivan, who was a representative; the First Lady of Missouri is mentioned in there; Senator John Danforth’s wife Sally is mentioned in there.”
“Household Memorandum Book” by Julia Clark, 1820 | “It was kept by and written by Julia Clark, who was the wife of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame. It’s a pretty interesting snapshot of what people were eating in St. Louis at that particular point in time – right as Missouri was gaining statehood. While it is obviously representative of an upper class family, it still is a really interesting cookbook, and there’s about 50 recipes in it.”