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OP: Cooking in Old Creole Days (1904)

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by Celestine Eusits
H. Russell, 1904. Hardcover. Very Good.

    We offer here one of the “grandmother” books, significantly contributing to understanding of Creole cuisine at the turn of the century. 

    It was assembled and published in 1903 by Celestine Eustis (ca 1836–1921), who was born and raised in Paris and later settled in New Orleans where her mother was descended from a prominent Louisiana Creole family. The book, fittingly, bears a second title: La Cuisine Creole a L’usage des Petits Ménages, and some of it, including the author’s introduction and one 22-page chapter of recipes, is in French.

    The recipes—in prose form with no ingredient lists but with suggested quantities—are wonderful. From familiar (gumbos, of course, and “jumballaya” à la Creole) to many less broadly known: oyster and peanut soup, couche couche (a breakfast dish prepared from sweetened corn batter), a range of lively salads, and special takes on pastries. 

    Fair warning: not surprisingly, the book reflects the attitudes and usages of the era and locale. The language and many of the illustrations, each accompanied by a song of the time printed on cover tissues, are racist in nature. In many ways this book is an attempt by the white upper-class Eustis to record the recipes of Black cooks in the kitchens of the Old South. Credit is given to these cooks, but the condescension is undeniable.

    This copy is in overall Very Good condition, the interior impressively fresh and clean, the 3-piece case (printed paper front and back, cloth spine) is often seen in disrepair. Ours is no exception, and we’ve had it rebacked and the endpapers replaced to sturdy it. Shelfwear and chipping to the board edges. Published without dust jacket. The book is scarce; a significant addition to any American collection. This is a later printing distinguishable by the dishes on the cover bearing the 1904 printing date: first printings show 1903 on the cover.

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