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OP: What to Have for Luncheon

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by Mary J. Lincoln
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Massachusetts native Mary Johnston Lincoln (1844-1921) was one of the more visible figures in the development of “modern” cooking in the late 19th century. A homemaker, forced into writing and teaching by her husband’s ill health, she studied with the prominent food writer Maria Parloa and was among the very first instructors at the prestigious Boston Cooking School, which had been founded in 1879. 

In time she became its principal. There she actively promoted “scientific” cooking with an emphasis on nutrition and food chemistry, wrote an influential book, Mrs Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking (1884), and laid the groundwork for one of her students, Fanny Merritt Farmer, who eventually took over the school and became its most famous principal.

Lincoln herself left the school in 1885, setting off on an active career which produced five further books, including that which we offer here, and a textbook commissioned for use in its culinary programs by the Boston Public School system. Until the death of her husband, David, in 1894, she used the name Mrs. D.A. Lincoln on her writings. After that, she changed over to Mrs. Mary J. Lincoln.

What to Have for Luncheon (1904), addressed to the home cook, is an invitingly written book, quite conscientious in its coverage, devoting a great deal of attention to such topics as planning, table arrangements, menus, and other details. The recipes are surprisingly compatible with contemporary taste—not at all the Gilded Age dishes that might have been expected. Black and white photographs showing plating are scattered through the book.

Our copy is a 1904 first edition. The interior, printed on good-quality heavy stock, is generally clean, with no markings or food stains. Probably from careless storage the good-looking case had become dented, and we were very pleased that we were able to remake it using all of the original panels and the spine. A sound, good looking copy.

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