I posted a photo yesterday of my copies of "Four Great Southern Cooks" and "The Memphis Cookbook". The latter is a spiral bound production of the Memphis Junior League, circa 1952. The contributors, unless they are the rare Miss Mary Robinson, identify themselves as Mrs., followed by their husband's first and last name. Did any of these women work? Possibly. Did any of them cook? Perhaps a few, but I suspect their maids and cooks came every day by bus from lesser parts of town.
The book's Foreword, which the League Ladies say was borrowed from an 1800's cookbook, gets right to the point. And I quote.
" In selecting a husband you should not be guided by the silvery appearance as in buying a mackerel; nor by the golden tint as if you wanted salmon. Do not go to the market for him as the best ones are always brought to the door. Be sure to select him yourself as tastes differ. It is far better to have none unless you will patiently learn how to cook him".
The heart of Memphis Junior League cooking was the can opener. I am no stranger to canned broth, or corn, or tomatoes, but I could not compete with these women and their cooks.
Take Seven Can Soup, for example. I have read the recipe over and over , and only see six cans. No matter. A 3 ounce can of mushrooms, canned tomatoes,canned whole potatoes,canned chicken broth, canned chicken gumbo, canned beef bouillon. I assume the one package of frozen mixed vegetables was considered an honorary can.
There is also the found everywhere recipe for asparagus casserole with "nippy cheese". Made with two Number 2 cans of asparagus.
This begs a question. Was this food good? Someone must have eaten it and passed these recipes from church to church and luncheon to luncheon. No Memphis lady would send in anything other than a crowd pleaser.
Last night at work, one of the men I work with described his mother's cooking.
"It was the best. She used cream of mushroom soup and asparagus soup. I could open a restaurant and make a fortune selling the kind of food I grew up on".
Food snobbery and fashion aside, it must have been tasty. All those Memphis husbands ate it. I should try it. Maybe I will start with Mrs. Edward W. Cook's Boula Soup. All I need is 1 can of green pea soup, one can of green turtle soup,sherry wine to taste, whipped cream , and Parmesan cheese. All I need to do is place the soup mixture in a casserole dish, spread a one inch thick layer of whipped cream over it, sprinkle it with cheese, and bake it for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees "until the whipped cream is crusty".
But where would I buy Turtle soup? I might have to go down to the Little Harpeth River with my long handle net and catch my own soft shell turtles. I know where they are. But I am being facetious. The Park Police would arrest me.