Sunday, May 08, 2005

625 Choice Recipes, 1886.

Welcome to the updated HolyokeMass page! This is an ongoing process that will hopefully provide easier access to the various history and genealogy resources located on the site.

The latest addition is a transcription of a book from my personal library: "625 Choice Recipes From The Ladies of the Second Congregational Church, of Holyoke, Mass."

With few exceptions, each recipe in this cookbook was submitted by a female member of the Second Congregational Church in Holyoke. The Second Congregational Church was founded about 1853 and during the era in which this cookbook was published had an elevated social status in part because of the geographic area where parishoners resided, and partly because many of Holyoke's leading families were members. The less affluent families held membership in the Grace Church (which was closely affiliated with the Second Congregational) and were located "down the hill" as my grandmother used to call it. Closer to the manufacturing centers and serving the many employees who worked there. So, as you look through the name index in this cookbook, you will see families such as Allyn, Newton brothers, Skinners, Lyman, Loomis, Taft, Prentiss, and many others easily recognized if you are familiar with Holyoke. Although the women are cited through their husband's name — Mrs. J. S. McElwain, for example — most can be determined fairly easily by using the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

Looking though the book is fascinating. Consider food preparation with a measurement of ingredients in a manner such as "butter the size of an egg." It is amazing to contemplate what the process of cooking for a family was like in 1886.

Lastly, take a moment to browse through the recipes in the "Food for the Sick" chapter. Most of these recipes were submitted by Holyoke physicians of the time. I expect they were commonly used, though not necessarily appealing.