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OP: A "Calendar of Dinners" with 615 Recipes

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by Marion Harris Neil

For a prolific and popular writer of the early 20th century, not much is known about the life of Marion Harris Neil. Her most well-known book—The Story of Crisco (1913)—however, was instrumental in launching that product to its dominant position in the world market.

Proctor and Gamble, producers of Crisco and publishers of the book—originally issued The Story of Crisco as a staplebound paperback of 250 recipes—but later expanded the work into a hardcover retitled, A “Calendar of Dinners,” boasting 615 recipes followed by 365 daily menus.

The fore material lauds the versatility, nutrition, and economy of substituting Crisco for lard or butter before launching into the usual advice for ingredient selection, cooking methods, and time and measurement tables. All 615 recipes, unsurprisingly, include Crisco as an ingredient.

The result is a truly stellar cornucopia of dishes that speak distinctly to the era—hearty, courageous, and sometimes questionable. We spot a fish pudding, for which both the custard and the sauce begin with a Crisco roux; rice sandwiches—requiring no explanation, the name tells all; curried ox-tongue served with fried bread and brown gravy; and, of course, many variations on fried chicken.

The calendar of menus speaks to an upper-middle class household, likely one that includes hired help in the kitchen. You may, on February 18, enjoy cheese canapes, lamb chops, French peas, baked potatoes, artichoke salad, and a Russian Charlotte. In late June, cream of cucumber soup, grilled salmon, lamb cutlets, green peas, mashed potatoes, and a fruit souffle. Or a Thanksgiving dinner of oyster bisque, broiled smelts, roast turkey with the fixings, stewed celery, romaine salad, and hot pumpkin pie.

Curiously, each menu only includes a recipe for one of the dishes, and the other suggestions don’t seem to correspond with any others in the book. Kitchen proficiency is assumed.

Our copy is a 1915 printing in Very Good shape with the occasional blemish and some discoloration affecting the handsome Crisco-themed endpapers. Light shelfwear. A previous owner’s name is penciled in.

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