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OP: Macy's Cook Book

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by Mabel Claire

One prominent voice of the new, modern cuisine of the early 19th century was sculptor, painter, and writer, Mabel Bechdolt (1890–1933), who took the pen name Mable Claire. She addressed the burgeoning middle class with such books as The Busy Woman’s Cookbook and Shortcut Cookery (both published in 1927). 

In 1932, Claire’s books were appropriated and repackaged as promotional material for local department stores. Among these are the Woodward and Lothrop Cook Book (Washington, DC), the Carson Pirie Scott Cook Book (Chicago), the Emporium Cook Book (San Francisco), and New York’s Macy’s Cook Book, which we offer here.

The food is seldom adventurous and leans into “convenience” ingredients—as well as the kitchen appliances and tools carried by all of the large department stores. Every recipe is written with exacting instructions, each move calculated to require the least exertion, the timings reckoned to yield a perfectly coordinated performance. Claire even goes so far as to describe the serving process: “Arrange a mound of creamed potatoes on the plates. Dust with Paprika. Next the sliced Tomatoes. Then the lamb chops and green peppers. Decorate with sprigs of mint. Serve immediately.”

Our copy is in Very Good Minus condition, the green clothbound case showing some cracking along the spine edges and fraying at the head and foot. Light stains to the front and rear. The interior, however, is largely clean and unmarked—save for a penciled recipe dated 1938 on a front flyleaf—the binding sound. This is a book that well reflects a nation at a particular time in its development; contemporary readers and collectors interested in culinary history, alike, may find it eye-opening.

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