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OP: The Picayune's Creole Cook Book

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by The Picayune
Regular price $250.00

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The Picayune, New Orleans, 1910. Hardcover. Good Plus.

Originally published by the New Orleans newspaper in 1900, The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book was instrumental in establishing a record of Creole home cooking. Despite a tone deaf introduction lamenting the loss of antebellum “bandana and tignon”-clad “mammies,” as depicted on the frontispiece, there was a very real concern over losing knowledge as formerly enslaved cooks were dying of old age. 

Printed with a two column format and small type, an enormous number of recipes and menus fill the 400-odd pages. Exact measurements and itemized ingredient lists are employed. Opinionated commentary often accompanies the recipes, offering a deep cultural perspective, though sometimes also betraying a nostalgia for an Old South that was not so quaint as imagined. 

Chapter subjects include the likes of Creole coffee, soups, sauces, meat, game, seafood, eggs, and dairy. Salads, grains, and vegetables receive thorough attention, as well, a proud nod to the region’s agricultural bounty. Of course Louisiana rice merits its own section separate from other cereal grains. Here you will find the expected pilafs, jambalayas, pilous, and calas, in addition to some surprises—rice waffles, rice meringue, and rice dumplings (an elaborate preparation consisting of cinnamon sugar-stuffed apples coated with milk-boiled, thickened rice).

We note ten variations on gumbo and a three column description of the king cake tradition preceding its recipe. Syrups, beverages, preserves, candies, and all varieties of baked goods are covered, in addition to suggested menus, notes on produce seasonality, and tips for housekeepers. 

The multitude and breadth of recipes and remarks is a treat. We have had a hard time putting it down. Thoroughly engaging for anyone interested in historical cookery.

Our copy is a 1910 fourth edition. Printed on high acid paper, the pages are yellowing about the edges. Signs of use—splatters, sticky pages, pencil marks, small tears—are present but do not inhibit legibility. There is a sweet dedication dated March 11, 1916 pasted on the front free endpaper, and a couple of recipes—handwritten and typed—are found laid in. Both the dedication page and the frontispiece show heavy creasing and suggest a previous repair. They lie flat now. A manufacturing error has resulted in the repeating of pages 57–72 where 345–360 should be. Overall, a sturdy example of a scarce and excellent resource.

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