Housekeeping in the Blue Grass

A New and Practical Cook Book

 Published in Cincinnati in 1875, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection is a classic example of a mid-nineteenth century charity cookbook, compiled by local women from family recipes and published in service of a particular benevolent goal, in this case, the Missionary Society of the Southern Presbyterian Church in Paris, Kentucky.

The category of “charity cookbook” is a favorite in American culinary history. Funds raised by sales of these cookbooks, with recipes donated by women’s groups and church societies, were used to aid a wide variety of local causes and charities. Housekeeping in the Blue Grass belongs in this category—an excellent example of regional cooking styles of the post-Civil War Midwest.

 Several hundred recipes compiled by the Ladies of the Presbyterian Church in Paris, Kentucky, to raise funds for the Missionary Society include a complete range of dishes from soup to nuts. The introduction notes that the Blue Grass region of Kentucky is “considered the garden-spot of the State. It is celebrated for the fertility of its soil, the beauty of its pastures . . . and last, but not least, for the hospitality of its people and their table luxuries,” which are then richly described in the book. Over forty women who contributed recipes are acknowledged by name at the beginning of the book, and throughout, many of the recipes are attributed to their donors. The book also includes over 40 ads for local commercial establishments that, presumably, contributed funds for publication of the book.
This edition of Housekeeping in the Blue Grass by Ladies of the Presbyterian Church, Paris, Kentucky, was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.

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