Mary Martha Godwin of Fincastle and her daughter, Nannie Figgat, collected recipes from family, friends and newspapers. This is no different from the way most of us operate, except Godwin and Figgat lived more than 150 years ago.
Their manuscript cookbooks are part of a larger collection of fascinating old documents purchased by Virginia Tech in 2000. In this past Sunday’s Extra, we shared what Figgat’s diary and family correspondence revealed about her life.
But the recipe books are just as interesting to researchers Gail McMillan and Jean Robbins. McMillan, director of digital archives at Virginia Tech, transcribed as many of the recipes as possible. It was a difficult task because some of the writing is so faded, and some pages are stained or torn.
Robbins, a retired dietitian and founding member of the university’s Peacock-Harper Culinary History Friends committee, studied the recipes in an effort to fill in the gaps. To unlock the hidden words, she referenced cookbooks from the same period, such as Mary Randolph’s 1824 “The Virginia House-Wife,”one of the earliest known American cookbooks.
As a result of their work, we are able to peek inside the household of a 19th-century Fincastle family.
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Here are a few of the recipes from Mary Martha Godwin’s manuscript cookbook. What do you think of these?
Four pounds of suet, four pounds currants, two pounds raisins, three pounds sugar, eight lemmons, one-fourth pound of candied peel and a few apples.
Boil the eggs until very hard; when cold, shell them and cut them in halves lenthways. Lay them carefully in large-mouthed jars, and pour over them scalding vinegar, well seasoned with whole pepper, allspice, a few pieces of ginger, and a few cloves of garlic. When cold, tie up closely, and let them stand a month. They are then fit for use. With cold meat, they are a most delicious and delicate pickle.
Rice Chicken Pie
To 1 large chicken 1 large cup of rice boiled together with a little salt until the rice is entirely done, remove the fowl, season the rice with a lump of butter the size of an egg, beat 3 eggs add to the rice alternately with a sufficient quantity of milk to reduce it to a thin batter, add pepper & salt to your taste, fill the dish alternately with a layer of batter then chicken, commencing and finishing with batter, bake until nicely browned.