Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Cook a Husband

The most incredible things can be found in turn-of-the-century fundraising cookbooks! I've since discovered versions of this treatise on other blogs and online recipe collections, as well as quoted in a book by Elizabeth Worthington Strong dated 1898, now in public domain. So if this seems 100 years old to you, please bear with me. Indeed, it is at least 100 years old, but it's definitely new to me.

This particular version was printed in the closing pages of the Jackson Circle Cook Book, put together by the grand ladies of the Fountain Street Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Undated -- but printed at a time when a kitchen cabinet, complete with two flour bins, two drawers, and a moulding and cutting board, could be had, according to an advertisement therein, for $3.85. The "recipe" is again unattributed, but, taken in the context of those pre-feminist, extremely chauvinistic times, remains some clever woman's resounding roar, which I echoed when I read it over a century later.

"How to Cook Husbands.

"A good many husbands are utterly spoiled by mismanagement. Some women go about it as if their husbands were bladders, and blow them up.

"Others keep them constantly in hot water; others let them freeze by their carelessness and indifference. Some keep them in a stew by irritating ways and words. Others roast them. Some keep them in pickle all their lives. It cannot be supposed any husband will be tender and good managed in this way. But they are really delicious when properly treated.

"In selecting your husband you should not be guided by the silvery appearance as in buying mackerel, nor by the golden tint, as if you wanted salmon. Be sure to select him yourself, as tastes differ. Do not go to market for him, as the best are always brought to your door.

"It is far better to have none unless you will patiently learn how to cook him. A preserving kettle of the finest porcelain is the best, but if you have nothing but an earthen-ware pipkin, it will do, with care. See that the linen in which you wrap him is nicely washed and mended, with the required number of buttons and strings tightly sewed on. Tie him in the kettle by a strong silk cord called comfort, as the one called duty is apt to be weak. They are apt to fly out of the kettle and be burned and crusty on the edges, since, like crabs and lobsters, you have to cook them alive.

"Make a clear, steady fire out of love, neatness, and cheerfulness. Set him as near this as seems to agree with him. If he sputters and fizzes, do not be anxious; some husbands do this until they are quite done. Add a little sugar in the form of what the confectioners call kisses, but no vinegar or pepper on any account.

"A little spice improves them, but it must be used with judgment. Do not stick any sharp instrument into him to see if he is becoming tender. Stir him gently, watching the while lest he lie to flat and close to the kettle and become useless. You cannot fail to know when he is done.

"If thus treated, you will find him very digestible, agreeing nicely with you and the children, and he will keep as long as you want, unless you become careless and set him in too cold a place."